Diwali is here. The front pages of the newspapers, all the TV channels, FM channels, handbill insertions in dailies, hoardings, and SMSes, all have pursued you like the much-coveted suitor, just for this weekend when you will make the decisive purchases for Diwali. Yesterday, Belagavi city resembled a wedding pandal- brightly lit, crowded and happy. On other times on other days, we would have smirked about the crowds and the madness of shopping, but the pandemic has taught us the value of being alive and happy and celebrating life to its fullest.
Indians across the world celebrate this festival of joy with much fervor. Lights, food, and shopping form an integral part of Diwali. My God! Belagavi people venture out in hordes days ahead.
The womenfolk are much concerned about turning out the right kind of crunchy Chaklis, Shankarpalis, Anarsa, Chirote, most of which contain the key ingredients- oil, maida, sugar, ghee and besan. Women’s Facebook groups are abuzz with notifications for the most enticing ‘Faraal’ ever.
So their first task is to look around for the best (and easiest) recipe that guarantees the right texture and crunch. Konwal Galli has the best rava pithi, Kawilkars sell the crunchiest poha and such news is quickly passed around. The flour mills are working overtime and streets are turning into dreamy lanes awash with smells of freshly fried chaklis and butter vehemently bent on becoming ghee.
The city’s crowd is seen happily returning home carrying bags of clothes. The city’s epicenter for clothes has somewhat tilted from the erstwhile Khade bazaar, Shahapur and the main market to Civil Hospital road and beyond. But this year, it has somehow turned towards Shukrawar peth – Tilakwadi where the BSC mall is some sort of a magnetic pull. Roads leading to the store are packed with cars leaving residents fuming with the inconvenience.
Parking your vehicle on Khade Bazar or Ramdev Galli is like getting a 3 BHK on Karve Road!!! You need to be a veteran to know the nooks and crannies where you can easily park your bike. I am always amused to see that shops selling related items like sheets, pillows, footwear, bangles, bags and purses, lingerie, paints, etc. also do brisk business during this season. We have had our business in Khade Bazar for 50 years now (even before I was born) and I have seen these streets (Khade Bazar, Ramdev Galli, Ganpat Galli and Maruti Galli) define Diwali like nothing else.
For as long as I know, all that the people of Belagavi have had in terms of sustained entertainment is the pursuit of shopping. With no proper art gallery, zoo, a massive water body or large parks to stroll, Belagavi folks venture out to visit exhibitions ( and spend), go shopping (spend some more), or visit the Dmart, Reliance Smart and every other store ( to spend, what else) to while their time in the evenings and weekends.
This weekend, we visited 5 exhibitions in all and spent some more. So they are well versed with the whereabouts to an extent that they can consult others about the best deals.
Have a look at the colorful tiny kids’ ghagras being sold on Maruti Galli and at Kirloskar Road. Colorful terracotta lamps, packets of rangoli, lanterns, artificial flowers, imitation jewelry and knick knacks are being sold everywhere, bringing on the festive spirit.
The vegetable market may be flaunting just the brinjals and beans but the fruit market is teeming with lots of Indian apples and oranges. The most striking visual in Ganpat Galli and Ravivar peth today are the hordes of flowers – the dahlias, shevanti, roses and marigolds, making the street seem like Holland decked in tulips to me.
The city’s tailors are laughing their way to the banks. All the roads in the city are leading towards the city center. Hotels are feeding the shopping fatigued. Even the odd juice vendor is extremely busy. Any exhibition is greeted with delight and shops, big and small, are bursting at the seams with goods and customers. The traffic policeman is having aching hands while the electricity man is worrying about the endless supply.
Now let’s keep the best for the last. The rains. No day passes without them reminding us of the red topsoil of the city that leaves lasting impressions on clothes and smears vehicles. No no, don’t be irritated, you can do nothing about it. Be prepared to wear your silks on the day of the Puja with a raincoat. Call it the new fashion trend if you must!
But, still, our innocent city knows to celebrate with lots of love. There may not be the extravagant display of wealth and power like Mumbai and Delhi, but there’s lots of love and care. People visit each other, attend Puja at several shops, distribute sweets, wake up early and sit for the early morning Arati.
Shahapur temples still follow the custom of Kakad Arati throughout the Chaturmas (from Ashadhi Ekadashi to Kartiki Ekadashi). Colors everywhere, smiles and hopes floating in the air. That’s why we love our Belagavi!
Let the city prosper, may its folk make merry all through the year. Belagavi is emptying its pockets to fill its heart! It smells Diwali, isn’t it?