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By Charles F. De Lima


The Maritime Union of India (MUI).

It just cannot be that none of you keep imagining about T-H-A-T Charlie since the time he donned on the new tires after his retirement since just over half a decade ago! Well, friends he is back here to stay and kicking around with his pet theory that a retired life is like a bicycle that needs constant pedaling to prevent it from falling by its own weight. Although none may need such a person he must make himself needed by all with the confirmation of the new title `A Senior Citizen’. So it is dear chums at sea, when I say that a seaman is quite a different stuff and species unlike his counterpart man on land (Landlubber) having so baptized in salt water to be at sea for long time preservation! Now it is certain even if I were to have a thousand farms I would have auctioned them all one lot just to be back with you at sea gloriously sailing with the blue canopy of the Lord above, over the blue sea in an atmosphere of uncontaminated fresh air. Now the only impediment being the chronological age while still young at heart and spring somewhere else as per the psychological age. Now let me not delve deep into the anatomy/biological aspect here!

Devil’s Workshop!                                             

They say that an idle mind is the fertile devil’s workshop. May that be so! But there are moments in ones life to long for the place of birth just as the Chinaman ultimately longs to reach Peking before death! My revered grandfather used to say that in Africa all elephants ultimately go to a gorge at a place in that dark continent called `GANDAYYMANAKONARUM’ and die there. Now please do not waste your time to look for this place in the world map. Grandpa himself did not succeed. However he assured me before his own death that all elephants know the place. He also said that is pachyderm’s problem and not ours.

Journey of a thousand miles

The sentimental thoughts of my birthplace stirred me up. What a man he is who has no feeling for his place of birth besides the fact he has to give it up some half a century ago in search of greener pasture. Now the devil’s workshop started functioning, with chain action and reaction resulted. Because of a long spell of 4 decades being at sea there was no opportunity to show off CHAMATKARS on land to merit any national awards like `Padma’, Shri, Bhushan, Vibhushan or Bharatha Rathna. So far I have to be contended only with mere Shri that every male with birth itself gets. There was no question of getting into the pages of Guinness Book of Records though it would be easier for the white ants to be there.  I thought when I read in the press that a person whose name was entered in the prestigious book for the longest moustache, it will be the easiest trick in growing the same. Due to my bad luck I met my competitor/predots Kaiilashnagari Yamaraj Wimawalla who had started doing the same just a day prior to me. I realized however long mine could be it will always remain short by a day and gave up that enterprise too. It has been a clean shave!

Having lost hopes of acquiring any man instituted honor and accolades over a lost youth at sea now at this age the desire grew for the creator, to be bestowed titles like SEPTUGENERIAN, OCTOGENERIAN, NON-EGENERIAN and CENTENERIAN. By the physical look the doctor thinks that I am not too far off from the first one. The rest of them depend on God willing and weather permitting. (GWWP) I classified for my own consolation that the Septugenerian is a bit superior to the Padmashree! However the Chinaman in me became more and more pronounced. Yet another Chinaman had said that the journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.

Emotional, Sentimental and Nostalgic

Ha! Barkur of my dream I said. How many sunrises and sets I have experienced over there. There is no place on earth to be found equal to it even after going round and round the globe whole life. A person \who is lucky enough to be rushed to be delivered at Barkur gets the birthright title as BARKURGAAR. No wonder then years ago I have been seeing young mothers used to return for this one purpose to Barkur. Yes I have to be there.

Kindly lend me your ears

Barkur is situated at a remote spot on the globe that cannot be found in the globe on the stand. My nostalgic thoughts took me back by half a century. It was not that I said goodbye to the place for bread and butter. These were there in plenty. It was the greed for Jam and marmalade! At the genesis the good Lord may have even said let there be BARKUR and it was there and in the same state as the Lord created it. People there managed to remain pure and honest as none could venture to come there crossing seven rivers those were too shallow for the boat and too deep to wade through. It was free from pollutions, emissions, solutions etc., If anyone dared to get in the surf boat with shoes on the local people knew only one who contemplates a suicide does so as he is sure to slip on the slippery boat and fall in the water and when that happens none will help pick him up and leave to his desire!

Princely name

The history beyond the legend suggests the place has been the capital city of the kings that there is no doubt and only debatable issue is whether Pandyas or Tuluva. Research is not the purpose of this article. It is said that one of the Pandya king was lucky enough to marry all 12 sisters at a time and the place came to be called           `BARA-AKKA-OORU’ meaning the city of 12 sisters!  Later the British as usual to them shortened it to the present form as Barkur, just as it is in Chatterji for Chattopadhyaya, that simple as that.

Glory that was Barkur

The legend says that the king ordered 12 lakes to be dug up overnight when the rest of the subjects slumbered. He also ordered that the mud excavated from these to be carried off some 7 kilometers away and dumped there in baskets to erase any trace of digging to show these lakes were divinely oriented. Each lake was named after a queen and let her bathe there.  The place where the mud was dumped came to be called Kukkehalli (Basket Village) because of the impression that remained even to this day resembling the basket.

Barkur is the place of some 365 temples and one imposing church. The people said that the house of the Lord should be larger and higher that all the rest and so they built it helped by all religious sects. One will be happy to hear all temples drumming up the drums and clang the bells. It is also said each temple celebrated the feast one day in a year and whole year the festivities continued. It is real boon to the ears to hear early morning the Brahmin Vatus (disciples) humming away Sanskrit Shlokas under the guidance of Gurus. One will get earful all around! Here the only religion is `LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR AS THYSELF....’, Love and nothing else.  Descendants of DEVADASIS you still find here. There are numerous pimpal trees and early in the morning people going round and round around them. Although a few men may be knowing the purer air theory around there, many just go round without knowing why they do so just as their grand parents and parents did.

Instant gold and quick silver

The legend says there is a well with SIDDARASA and anything dipped in that turns to gold instantly. Yet there is another well with PADARASA that turns anything into silver. However none dared to go near there even during the gold control/Gold bond days because of the fear of 10 headed serpent guarding these wells a security problem easily solved by mere bluffs! There are many basadis and stone pendals called Kalchapparas. Go anywhere and dig where you like you are sure to get gold that the kings supposed to have put under the earth for security reasons much before the Modern Godrej safe came into existence. One is sure not to miss various stone inscriptions of the ancient events and forbidding hand on stone wherever a Sati was committed. Again the legend says that the Pandavas came there for their Ajnaathavaasa in a nearby island called Bennekuduru (Island of butter) and hid their armor on a tree that people say still standing!  This belief is imbedded in them much before the serial came on the Doordarshan! In one of the temple’s Santo-sanctorum there is a gooseberry tree (Nelli Mara) under which Markandeya Muni (A sage) got enlightenment.

White Horse and the curses!

Due to an ancient curse it is said no white horse could survive at the place. The whole of the district is a reclaimed land not by the corrupt contractors but by sage Parashuram. It is said when the sage needed dry land for his meditation. He cried out to the Lord and the Lord ordered him to throw his axe as far as he could and that much land shall be dry for his purpose. So the Arabian Sea receded to the present limits by the throw of the axe from the Western Ghats. Looking at these ghats early in the morning from Moodugudde (Eastern Hills) is like looking at Himalayas from Almora! It has been a puzzle to us how the ghats on our East could have been named as Western Ghats. The people on the East side of the Ghats because of earlier sunrise got up a bit earlier and named as Western Ghats while we were still sleeping. So we have still not forgiven them for this sleepy treachery! The cool Sitanadi runs on three sides of our semi island. There is a Masjid called Chinnapalli (Golden Masjid) and a street called Shroff bidi (Gully of Goldsmiths and money changers).

His Lordship’s automobile and our reverend’s bicycle

When I left the place half a century ago there was just one red dusty road and not a single automobile. The rich had twin bullocks per cart and the middle class just one for the mode of transport. How peaceful the place has been without any noise or smoke pollution!  However, once in five years, the serenity of the place was disturbed, by the motorcar of his Lordship, coming there for the pastoral visit in a circuitous route, to avoid all rivers. Earlier these bishops were Italians, later replaced by our natives. The sight and sound of the car and the smell of the petrol have been a nightmare for both people and animals. The bullocks yoked to the cart used to lie down and release themselves and the cattle used to scamper with tails in the air with a question mark formed as if eager to know what’s what! The vehicle itself used to raise lot of dust that used to settle on the laundered clothes drying on the kerb-side. There were some prudent persons who used to sprinkle water in advance to ward off this evil of the Lordship!

The Lordship’s car had a huge painting of Mother Mary on the driver side door. We realized it is to remind the chauffeur of the speed limit for the safety of the Lordship. When the car finally parked under the belfry we as children used to gaze at it intently as a miracle which the Vicar mistook as if we were looking at the Mother Mary’s painting and let us to do so. He was happy so long we did not defile his mango trees.

The Vicar himself had his prized possession a creaky lady’s bicycle and it took us sometime to know why a priest has to ride a lady’s bicycle. At times we were given the privilege of cleaning the same but we never dared to hike a ride, for first of all it was Vicar’s and secondly lady’s. We confused ourselves to the extent of a sin to do so.

Faces, palaces and princes

Whoever ruled Barkur I do not wish to delve in that Babri-Mandal type controversy. But be sure, there were some rulers and umpteen tell-tales are still left over there. There still stands the dilapidated palace worthy of kings with three gun turrents on each side and a water canal all around it to keep the enemy at bay. The water from the 70 feet below tank getting pumped up to these canal itself has been a hydraulic wonder of the solar energy. The water was filled up from the Arasi Kere (Queen’s Tank). 

Within the palace itself there are tanks for the household purpose. There are also Ashwalayas (stables for the horses), Gajaalayas (Elephant stands) etc., The marching gate to the opposite battle field is in the shape of L to ward off direct attack. When I left, this battlefield was used for the cock fight competitions and there stood a toddy shop for the refreshment after the day is done. A bit distance away there is a hill called SIMHASANA GUDDE (Throne hill) where the kings used to hold the open-air darbars in style! 

Vanity and curiosity 

People from far and wide used to come to this tourist attraction. Schools and colleges have been arranging conducted tours. For our guests and visitors without showing off these relics the visit remained incomplete. It was like going all the way to Rome and not being able to see the Pope! When the chicken in the pot boiled at home we as children used to undertake some sort of conducted tour with gusto and fervor explaining away something that we ourselves were not sure of and as if we were the descendants of those who are responsible for all that. We had that Royal household fervor so as to say. The palace itself is in ruins as the stones being carried away stealthily as the stepping stones or for other constructions. We really failed to understand why the Archeological and tourist departments never heard of it and why failed to protect these relics. Now we call the same as the Colosseum of Barkur.

Ship building that inspired

The history says that a Pandya King called Devaraya was fond of ship building. A huge ship that he built and while he was about to launch the same, it just would not move on the slipway despite the facts some 100 tons of ripe bananas were crushed under as the grease in modern days. When the king was perturbed and also humiliated a voice came out of the mast-head saying that the mast used to the ship was the living abode of Kundodhara a deity. The same voice asked for the human sacrifice. Those days kings were just and would not give anyone as a sacrifice. He suggested his own son, that his wife denied and went away to her own house with the child. The king was gin grief stricken with humiliation and frustration, he took to bed and then his sister visited him and offered her son. However, when the child was about to be sacrificed, the voice cried out to stop it as he was pleased with the mere intention and let go the ship. The ship moved that fast and lost sight of. Finally after sometime it was found at a place some 5 kilometers away and with the joy of seeing the lost vessel there, the name of the place came to be called Kallianpura even to the present day. For a reference I may also state this is the exact place where I found my wife!

The king was so pleased with the offer of his sister Sathyavathi and he decreed that his so saved nephew to be the inheritor in place of his son. Even to the present day certain sect follow this mode called ALIYA SANTHANA wherein the property goes to the nephew and not the son. 

By now, you my reader may have been sure of the considerations those made me stay now on the reclaimed land at Cuffe Parade and be a seafarer whole of working life and yet long for the sea. As you now know, my birth place itself is reclaimed from the sea by the axe of Parashuram, then my ancestors were the subjects of a king who was fond of commissioning ships and finally where he found his ship I found my ladyship! 

Now is the time 

No wonder then that I was sorely home sick with all these nostalgic tangles and cobwebs. I decided that it was the time to be back home. I recollected the sayings of another Chinaman that the journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step. My decision was ripe but others at home disagreed and I could not blame them for my birthplace was not theirs. As I am a democrat and let them stay. I was ready with the bag, baggage, parrot and buckler, lantern and mosquito net. It has been a real tedious journey with sentiments wrapped up. Only on reaching I was shocked to find the gory change and nothing that I felt happy about so far was a reality anymore there. Mine has been like Jeremias lamentations over Jerusalem! All rivers have been bridged and crooks come and go at will polluting the hitherto innocent place and people. The automobiles were puffing off fumes as if none there ever heard of the smoke pollution. None of those whom I knew half a century ago to be found and the rest did not just care a damn. The royal palace has been flattened to the level of the ground and the stones carried away and mud filled the canal. The beautiful red dusty road has been surfaced keeping open the gaping potholes. I saw all talk at the same time and none listened to anyone else. It was like building the tower of Babel at beloved Barkur. The talk of the town was the advent of the Konkan Railway with Barkur as one station. The Konkanas a business community was jubilant over this as they assessed quite a few complimentary trips could be undertaken on the rail being their own line.

I was confused and wished to move away. What is most alarming was the people even knew the both changing rates of dollar “worth” and “getting”. Finally to get some fresh air and sanity I moved to the countryside where I noticed a lone farmer at the tiller.

Away from it all

At sea when going goes tough and sea becomes rough how often we repeat the MANTRA that we would go to farms. I felt that the time has come to taste the pudding. The farmer and the farm and his water buffaloes were the same unchanged except a transistor was hung at the horns for music. So, the music has taken over the cursing even in the farm.

I tried to be friendly and questioned about the buffaloes. He had named them KALU and BELLU. I questioned what made him not to go for the tractor instead, by the loan mela. I gave a lecture on the advantages of a tractor over the buffaloes. He agreed and gave me a hint that with all the advantages the tractor does not yield dung that was very essential for the green manure for the green revolution that cannot succeed in brown phosphates and sulfates. The farmer almost introduced me to buffaloes a strange man in trousers and shoes in the field as the farmers are not to have anything above or below the loins.

Hand at the helm

All this much conversation gave me the privilege of putting my hand on the plough-share.  I goaded the water buffaloes on and hardly they moved a kick of the hoof landed right in my groin. Before I could realize the direction from where it came, the smiling farmer explained that the friendly BELLU suggests that i should plough the field and not its hind hoof!  With this excruciating pain I forgot both Chinamen and all that I mentioned thus far. This kick of the water buffalo taught me much more than all professors combined not only on farming but even renewed acceptance of life as it presented. Above all the hoof kick of the water buffalo sent me back flying to the square number one.


Birth             : 04-06-1923 (Barkur)

Schools         : Barkur Board H.E.School,

  Milagres High School, Kallianpur

  Sabrosiddick Technical School, VJTI, Bombay

  Nautical & Engineering College, Bombay


Member of Institute of Marine Engineering, India (M.I.Mar.E.India.)

For a glimpse of the life at Barkur as remembered by Barkurians, check archives

Barkur, located in Udupi Taluk, Karnataka, India. 576 210

Copyright Kishoo, Barkur 2002.