Covid, corona, the Chinese virus whatever you call it has ruined the economics of great nations, world leaders have no answers and for the first time, the general population knows what a pandemic is. This pandemic has for us ruined more than the economy and only a true Belgaumite will understand this. We the indigenous Mandi of the city are role models for what we should not do in corona, we are very social and distancing is a crime.
For the understanding of outsiders, in Belagavi it is rude to not sit together in groups and chat once a day. You can see the warmth on the roads, just ask someone for an address, soon you will have a crowd of onlookers ready to guide you, first they will ask you where you are from, then they will give you their opinion about the person who stays at that address and clarify the purpose of your visit.
It is likely that one of them will prove to you that he is related to you through your mother’s or father’s family and even offer to take you to the address, or even better to his own for a cup of tea. A simple act like this can stroke a lively conversation. Groups will sip tea and discuss the state of the nation as if there were no better statesmen.
We are not fans of star hotels, we prefer out tapris, our small restaurant in the street corners or dhabas on the highway, the basic principle is not fine to dine, it’s more gappa gosti dine, we have to catch up, a week’s hard work needs appreciation, the weekly gossip, new scandals and domestic miseries are like android updates, they are of no consequence but unless done life like your phone slows down.
For entertaining outsiders we put up a great show, we fight and argue loudly if you are not from the city you will feel like we will kill each other by the end of the day.
We have Kannada Marathi, this Galli that Galli, this yuvak or Mahila Mandal that mandal and so on. With lots of fights like this at day time, there cannot be peace, basically, we attract crowds and onlookers get very serious about them.
But no we don’t kill each other, it’s just for social interaction, many of these individuals or groups will meet in the evening over a drink and would act as the best of friends, and it’s not the alcohol that makes them forget their differences.
We can go on and on but let’s discuss what happened to all this and how the quarantined world has changed this. Lockdown ohh we hate that word, literally, but we are good citizens and with an exception of a few stray cases here and there we respected the idea for the sake of our health and our country. But there is something to be proud of during this time, the lock down showed that we will never let others alone.
Ordinary Belgaumites showed they cared, nobody was let to sleep with an empty stomach, not even animals and that was most humane. People opened their hearts, organizations worked day and night, everyone contributed whatever they could so that no one would suffer. Groceries were distributed sometimes for a day, sometimes for a week, stray animals were fed twice a day ( never happened before lockdown), hospitals and doctors worked despite the constant threats and politicians by and large stayed home or on twitter not spoiling it or taking credit. This was the time we actually helped each other and even the migrants who had taken refuge in the city, we believe in athithi devo bhava, especially if the athithi works for you.We have to be proud of what we did as a society “cheers to Belagavi” .
The lock down would not have been possible without Facebook, the essential tool to show that we are alive, the oxygen of likes that gives a thrill to the next-gen and the only last straw of social interaction. The interactive sessions started with challenges, yes the challenges were to post your photographs and prove that corona has not consumed your hunger to be noticed.
First, it was your old photos, then black and white photos, then photos with kids, then saree photos, then photos with flowers and fruits, then photos with what you cook, there were so many interesting challenges and we were all gracious to accept the challenges. Accepting these challenges was a way of telling others that yes I care, yes I haven’t forgotten how to dress up and yes I am game for any challenge life can give me.
We never missed seeing our favorite places thanks to Facebook, we had people taking videos of lockdown, selfies with empty streets and flashback photos. We had videos of a crackdown on people who offended the lockdown and were serviced by the police. We had people doing videos on Facebook telling about corona( me included), religion, philosophy, cooking and history which kept us busy while our favorite soaps were out of episodes. Facebook was like the last thin thread which kept our social life alive. Those who don’t have Facebook account missed so much, one wonders whether they have a social life.
Another art that was polished by the lockdown was the art of cooking. We in the city had stopped spending time on cooking, we lost our roots in culinary expertise. We indulged in fast food, Chinese food personifies something which is an insult to the city that has its world-famous dishes like Kunda which take patience and time to perfect. Belagavi has a history of culinary masters who perfected everything from sweets to biryani and all we were looking at was the unfaithful Chinese food which gave us only obesity in return for all our love.
We spent less time on cooking and more on talking, even a marriage proposal revolved around Kandapohe. Well, I have nothing against kandapohe and it is the best test to culinary skills, its like the twenty-twenty of cooking, the right preparation in a short time will have a fan following, but you can’t live your life with kandapohe and you need a test match player to live your life with.
So lockdown gave shanti to the atmas of our “good food” eating ancestors. Everyone was about experimenting and trying out new flavours, sharpening our spice quotient and trying out new dishes. Everyone was home so there were plenty of taste buds to experiment on.
Dalgona coffee the hot topic was like a beginner’s guide to patience on cooking. Those who don’t know what Dalgona is, you take water, coffee and sugar and keep mixing it till you get a good amount of foam and then top it with milk. You need to keep stirring it for eight to fifteen minutes to get the desired results, it is nothing but the demise of instant coffee. Lockdown gave everyone the much desired time to keep stirring, I tried it too. You should try this for anger management.
Then there were cookies, Pies, North Indian, pizzas, cakes, Italian, South Indian, Goan, Maharashtrian, Gujarati and our beloved north Karnataka dishes. We turned atmanirbhar in the skills of pleasing the palate and Chinese (corona country) food took a back seat. Nothing can be more satisfying than a perfect dish, men are the best chefs because they have patience and the lockdown brought them back on track.
The entire operation was not easy, friendly neighborhood grocery shops, secretly selling butchers with desired cuts, the neighbors who had stock of condiments all helped, if you are not aware there was an acute shortage of vanilla essence in the lockdown.
Today thousands of men and women have experienced the joy of learning to cook, we have all put on healthy weight ( ok let’s not touch that ) and our children have experienced the wonderful feeling of eating together on one table. Sometimes we wonder why we needed a lockdown to do this.
The only problem is that after the lockdown is over, there will be thousands of newfound chefs searching for innocent noncooking individuals to test their culinary skills on, we Belgaumites are big-hearted and will eagerly oblige. AAB can put up a list of volunteers.
In the lockdown we had lots of talk time and nothing to do with it, suddenly we were offered what’s app conference calls, we zoomed onto teleconferencing apps and wooh we found a new way to communicate. So effective were these tools that Belgaumites started calling long lost friends, forgotten family members, classmates, unimportant colleagues, their own parents and sometimes complete strangers.
There are in my view two types of people in this world one who likes to lecture and the other who like to listen and learn.
In Belagavi there is only one type of person, those who like to lecture and zoom was their God-given opportunity, you could set a meet and keep talking your heart, the listener can switch off his mike and video and get on with his life. It was satisfying to both the parties, the speaker had a silent audience and the listener had the satisfaction of attending but not listening to the lecture, a perfect world.
So eager were we to meet I ask myself why we do not engage each other when not in lockdown, the lockdown brought us closer, brought old memories. Forgotten faces and good old times were given a nostalgic jog, we actually felt happy together and elated that we are still there, alive and kicking after so many years of drift. Good classic books have been sanitized of the fungus.
We have learned new games like ludo, rummy and donkey. Our kids know what it is to play with their own parents and take classes online in stark contrast to being at school and meeting parents online. Housewives finally found some time to do what actually appeals to them. Question is whether lockdown is necessary to stroke these feeling, can’t we just be like this every day.
The Belagavi of our childhood was not like this, we had time to sit and talk, to have chai together, we never ignored the existence of the other, we cared and asked for the welfare of the other. We attended baby showers, haldi kumkum, birthdays, anniversaries, marriages and funerals, we never missed a friend And the lockdown has been the best way to get us back to knowing each other more even though it is but online.
The lockdown actually taught us what we need to live a life, we lived the lockdown and not merely existed. We did not need luxury cars, nor branded apparel, all we needed was family, good food, friends and a data pack. Do we need another lockdown to cherish these possessions? After the lockdown we will need the same things to be happily discounting the data pack, provided we have our priorities right. All these days we wore masks of happy faces not knowing what true happiness is.
Today we are happy and forced to mask our happiness with N95s. Belagavi can never be locked down, all we need to do is open our hearts and beat the pandemic inside.