If you have seen Bal Shivaji in Azad cinema, and know that Radio was once a movie theatre, you’re probably of the generation that has seen Belagum (Now Belagavi) in the prime of its old-world charm, just on the cusp of the building boom. As you pass through many of its streets and roads and wonder where the old landmarks have gone, there’s another generation who will gawk at the thought that there was a city, as charming as Malgudi, right here. Take a test and see if you have seen the Belagavi that once was loved by all.
Have you walked across Nartaki, all the way behind through the mushy fields and seen the train shunting on that massive shunting circle, traipsing along to see the engine turn its direction?
Have you been to Mitra Samaj and smirked at the old décor while waiting for the sumptuous dishes? Where is it now? Well, tucked in one corner of College Road. Sigh!
Have you ducked down to enter that hole-in-the-wall Chaya Café on Khade Bazar? Well, the staff gladly perched me on the table as I polished off their chutneys more than anything else.
Have you held golden yellow brass pitchers in hand and waited for the bulls to finish their rounds as their owner crushed sugarcane opposite Shivaji Garden and beside Prakash Theatre? Mosquitoes notwithstanding, my mom allowed me to wash down more than one pitcher that came for Rs. 5.
Do you remember the Horse Tonga our city had? Or that three-wheeler curious pod-car taxi at the Railway station? Perhaps it was the Bajaj Tempo Hanseat!
Have you bought a ticket to the circus at the station circle ground? What, ground? Yes, it was, once upon a time. We even heard the lions roar late at night, as far as Shahapur. The first trucks offloading the fence and the tent on the ground brought shrieks of joy from the kids.
Have you learned to ride the cycle on the Military Mahadev Ground? And falling to pebbles below? What, ground? Yes, dearies. It was too, once upon a time.
Have you crossed the Shastri Nagar Nala on that rickety wooden-plank bridge? And felt your heart in your mouth with the gushing waters below in the monsoon? Well, more, perhaps, for the bridge had some planks missing most of the time 😀
Have you been terrified of the rainwater gushing across the railway bridge opposite Mangal metal works? Dreaded as it sounds, it rang bells of impending holidays due to heavy rains.
Do you know what an antenna booster is? Houses that sported an antenna almost always had a booster to strengthen signals.
Have you bent to watch the inside compartments of the Femila/Femina/Perina ice cream carts that came on the streets? I was always curious to know how the ice cream is stored inside.
Have you strained your necks in neighbors’ houses to watch Ramayan or the last overs of a cricket match? Sundays would see silent roads in the evenings when the movie would be screened on Doordarshan.
Have you walked up to the first railway gate simply to devour spicy Balu’s Pav bhaji sitting on the steps of the shut shops of the vegetable market? It was here that the real fast food culture began in the city.
If you have ticked most of the boxes above, I know you have seen the real Belagavi before it became just another city.