Come Diwali and Belgaum suddenly morphs into a stunningly beautiful city that beckons everyone into its warm fold. Potholes are overlooked, people make way for each other, there are colors everywhere and the city is exuding its pleasant aromas of fried Chakli, sweetish smells of Laddoos and that lingering aroma of flowers and new clothes. Look out today and you can feel the weather has changed from that dry, hot October heat to a pleasant windy warmth, synonymous with November in Belgaum. Every home welcomed new shopping bags filled with clothes, diyas, groceries and gifts.
Sunday was a day to be outdoors. Belgaum has got a new shopping district near BIMS college. Can’t believe, but there are scores of newly opened shops jostling for customer eyes with some established ones. There’s the new Soch which really impressed me. Spread across comfortable space, it stocked some interesting prints of elephants and Buddha busts along with chiffon tops and kurtis sporting great cuts and prints, all within a common man’s budget. Then there’s Ethnic Label, there’s the old favourite Global Desi which perhaps needs to stock more pieces, Biba, W, the refreshing new Dori, Aurelia and many more. In-mark is spilling from the brims and so is Mega Mart, but there’s a very everyday-wear feel to the stuff there. The women’s wear seems mass produced, although it’s really attractive. Both these shops had very positive colors and lots of choices for kids and women. Allen Solly, Nike, Louis Phillipe and Van Heusen stores have attracted a niche clientele. These shops offer a better shopping experience with less crowd and an informed and helpful staff. It helps that this area has enough parking space for the four wheelers and hence a big chunk of shopping is now done here. Belgaum city center needs to seriously think about the lack of parking space owing to which shops in the heart of the city may lose out on some key customers. Bogarves is always cramped for space with most cars from Goa and other places. The new Bakri Mandi parking lot is less known and Laxmi Parking is a bit cumbersome to approach.
The Golden Shopping quadrangle of Belagum, Ramdev Galli, Khade Bazar, Ganpat Galli and Maruti Galli, each has something unique to offer. Add to it the street vendors of Samadevi Galli and Kirloskar Road and you have a small Business District, a much leaner version of Tulshibag-LaxmiRoad-Bajirao Road of Pune. Khade Bazar has its own charm with the readywear shops, from Adarsha’s multiple outlets to the new Creasewise, Esquire, Amarcon, Peter England and many more. Add to it the new jewelry dens- Kalyan, Laxmi Gold (Lower Khade bazaar), Joyalukkas and Belgaum’s very own Potdar Brothers and you know how much the transactions could be worth. The new and refreshingly built Suvarn Mandir seems a tad weak in energy though its dishes have maintained its charm. Shoppers are seen snacking at Kalyani, Ajanta, Suvarn Mandir, Ramdev and just about anywhere, with bags in tow and kids running haywire. It’s a joy to see housewives relishing the food with enough shopping done and happiness reflecting on their faces. Samadevi Galli, Khade Bazar, Ganpat Galli and Maruti Galli is sporting small time vendors selling beautiful earthen lamps. Some are so huge that they house more than 10 wicks at a time. Hand painted, decorated with sequins, multiple layers and more. Pangul Galli has some colorful Lanterns, soaps-ubtan, oils, Diwali décor pieces and lots of Rangoli imprints. Ganpat galli is filled with almost everything to be bought and sold during Diwali. Flowers, Rangoli, lamps, fruits, lanterns, kids wear, colorful synthetic and embroidered sarees, savories, fairylights, bags, belts, watches and what have you. Visit Maruti Galli if you want some variety in accessories and décor. It also offers some of the tasty savories like Chaklis, Kadbolis and more at select shops like Lokur and the one opp. Ginde Radio which has good Shankarpali and Chirotas.
Tailor shops are working overtime and are overflowing with ready clothes hung on the hangers. Shahapur market is equally bustling with shoppers with grocery bags. I saw many poha shops stocking on sacks filled with Poha, Phutane, Groundnuts and essentials of Faraal. Kids’ forts are meticulously being constructed at many places. Buckets of water, muddy hands shaping the ramparts, Shivaji’s throne decorated beautifully and cars and planes competing with soldiers on horsebacks are a sight to watch. Kids have already stocked on crackers which they will use loosened for days, something I can only see in Shahapur area. Come noon and women are disappearing in their kitchens with shared recipes of Chakli, Chirota, Karanji, Shev, Chivda, Kadboli, Shankarpali and Laddoos being tried. Families and neighbors are helping with the kitchen work. Mornings will now see non-resident Belgaumites returning with laden bags from Pune, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad where they’ve been working. Home coming for Diwali is a dewy-eyed moment.
Lights, smells, colors and smiles. Textures of flowers, food, lamps and clothes. Joys of spending time with family and endless talking. Contentment of gifting, celebrating, praying and enjoying. The Diwali week is here. It’s not just a festival. It creates memories. Take a deep breath, Belgaum, and smile, here comes happiness to your homes.
About the author:Swatee Jog is the Training and Placement Officer at Bharatesh Global Business School ( MBA Program). She has an experience of 6 years in the media and 4 years in academics. She has written extensively in the English and Marathi newspapers on Career, Technology and Management topics. She has spoken at various forums as a resource person and has published several research papers in management journals as well as 2 books.