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"Summer Fiesta at Barkur"-II

My vacation only seemed to get better by the day. With delicious food and the entire day loitering in the rice fields this seemed perfect. It was Thursday and I was all excited about the Thursday market. I was told it would be like a mini fair. I was all too excited that I woke up by 4 in the morning. It was dark out but I could hear my aunt steaming the rice paste for sannas to be had for breakfast. “So early?” I asked her. She looked smiling and offered me the hot sanna that I greedily ate. My eyes began drooping again. I was still sleepy and went back to my mat. All the 6 of us slept in a line except my little cousin who had drifted in his sleep and reached near the foot of the cot on which my uncle slept. At around 8 in the morning we went to the market. No, it was nothing like the supermarkets that we have here in Bombay but maybe you can still call it a super market. From fish to meat to honey. Dried fish and pickles. Then there was the bangle seller and those selling shiny earrings of bright golden color and fancy clips. The shops were decorated with colorful ribbons and plastic necklaces. Women flocked to these stalls. Children wailed outside stalls that sold sweetmeats. Everybody seemed to know everyone at the market and were greeting each other. The mood was light and the hot sun hardly mattered to them as they bargained prices. We were tired and the bags were getting heavy. After having some refreshing goti (marble) soda we went home. The sun seemed to get hotter and our bodies sweating we reached home in time for lunch.

It was Sunday morning and we had to get up early for the morning mass. Oh! How much I hated waking up early. Dressing up in our Sunday best we went to church. St. Peter’s was quiet a distance from our house especially for a city girl like me who also drove in cars even for short distances. But the weather was wonderful and the streets covered with gulmohar flowers dropping from trees made a red velvet carpet on the streets. The church was so beautiful. Calm and serene was the place that at once eased my tired body.  It was the most beautiful feeling in the church that cannot be explained in any words but only felt. All through the mass I just kept adoring the statutes. It all seemed so mystical and so enchanting. The mass of course was in konkanni a language which I although understood well seemed quiet alien here. The konkanni I spoke was a good (I would say) mixture of a little bit of Hindi, Marathi and English.  This pure unadulterated language was new for me. Today being Sunday and all the rest of our extended family being free from work dropped over to our cottage. All the cousins and aunts/uncles I had not met for years now came for lunch. The women of the house were busy in the kitchen cooking and of course catching up on the latest gossip. As the meat curries bubbled over the fire the men gave in to “imported” scotch. And then began the singing; all the old songs of their childhood and not to forget the dancing. It was a lot more fun than being at the coolest disc in my city.  Clapping and shouting out loony tunes, we were all enjoying dancing. And as goes the tradition of one being more drunk; my oldest uncle carried on the tradition this time, dedicating songs to an old fling and for a dead cow he cried. My cousins and me went out in the gardens to pluck some ‘aboli’ flowers that of we wore as garlands round our neck and tried the Hawaiian dance. Of this entire group I am sure the cow was the one who didn’t enjoy the party at all. Since we were 3 kids sitting on her back and playing bandits. I am sure that if some animal rights member would be around we would have definitely been in jail. But right now all I thought was of being a cowboy. It somehow got more difficult to state who was the most drunk! The meals were delicious. By the time the last guest left it was late evening. With everybody gone my aunt began clearing the house and shouting curses at us kids who had thrown leaves and flowers in the well to see how they would look floating. Now mom was drawing out the leaves with the water and trying her best at cleaning the well.

Days past by so soon and it was time for us to leave mangalore. After having those delicious gadbad ice creams and lovely masala dosas from the original Kamath hotels at udipi I didn’t want the vacation to ever end. Bags packed of attras (a ginger’n’spice pancake) chilly papads, mangoes and coconuts. Lunch was packed for the journey and after bidding farewell and taking blessings we hailed a rickshaw and left the home behind us. I don’t know why but somehow my heart began to sink. Oh! I wanted to cry so much.  All now I was taking back with me was a dozen photographs and a million of sweet memories. Climbing on the bus I felt I had left my heart behind. While leaving I kept pondering about one thing was I leaving for home or was I leaving from home.

It’s been years now that I had last been there. But it definitely makes me happy to meet someone who is lost here in the city trying to find home just like me. The crisp air seems such a dream in today’s polluted Bombay where our fathers have come leaving behind a home with meadows and ponds of lotuses and beauty that cannot be explained in words. Its so strange that when we come to cities and admire the sky rise buildings, fancy cars, good eateries and the celebrity kind of life. We have everything out here. Basic amenities like taps gushing of filtered water without needing to draw buckets from deep wells where little tadpoles swim and stare.  No need to bear the bad odor of the cowdung patched floor in the verandah where tiny little ants go running between the kitchen and their little hill. We have the pleasure of resting on soft mattresses and lying our tired bodies on feather pillows…yet how difficult it is to get the rest we need.

What keeps man happy I ask? Is it the fancy apartment or the peaceful life in the village cottage? Now away from the maddening rush and sweltering heat we run to the homes of our ancestors that we left for the city trying to find all that we lost. (End of part 2)

Bronia Fernandes, Mumbai,.


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

Copyright Kishoo, Barkur 2002.