by Dr. Madhav Prabhu
‘Shrawan Mase Harsha Manase’, the holy month of Shravan is upon us in Belagavi. This month is so fascinating that poets cannot resist writing on its beauty, sages are so excited that they want to go out and see something new and they want to do it for the next four months calling it chaturmas. The greenery is fascinating, there are so many shades of green that even the best artist will fall short of imagination to describe. Ok for those unromantic people like me, there is a lesson here, green is not merely green and nature gives you a shade card of all of them, there is army garden, asparagus green, pine green, mint green, forest green, turquoise green, emerald green and sea green too, uff I haven’t seen a green sea, yet we have a shade of that green too, I am sure All About Belgaum will put a shade card for you too, so you recognize the many shades of green.
But coming back Shravan offers all this on a platter, you don’t believe me then take this shade card and go to Tillari or even someplace close like Nanawadi. The rivers are full Markandeya, Mallaprabha is overflowing, the falls are at their full glory, chatting loudly with the rocks, gossiping about the tourist as they bathe, collecting the occasional beer bottles hurled on to them. The skies are bluish black and the sun plays hide and seek romancing with the clouds.
Nature will make you fall in love without a doubt, you have to melt, looking at the splendor of mother earth if this does not make you fall in love them perhaps you really do come from Venus or Mars.
But what attracts me most is the caricature of the people we meet in Shravan, no these are not the merely romantic ones, there is a full assortment to offer.
Let’s begin with the Vallya cha Valmiki types, the transforming types. Yupp Shravan starts with gatari amawasya, to those who don’t know about it, in Belagavi we have two festivals which are rare to outsiders one is gatari and the other is undri, still wondering well gatari is where we give respectability to the gutters, you are still wondering right but it’s true the gutters are the most useful infrastructure to us imagine life without them, cities will be chocked, so what’s done here in gatari is that you get so drunk that you have to fall in the gutter and since you are so drunk you don’t mind it at all. Undri is when you offer mutton to the stead of Lord Ganesha Mushak raj, let’s not get to Undri in Shravan we will have time to discuss it later.
But then gatari is a commitment, it’s a silent pledge that the person makes to the night that he or nowadays even she, will not consume alcohol or partake meat for a month. It’s Osho evoked in everyone on that one night where you indulge so much that you do not feel like looking at it for a month. Gatari has undergone a sea change over time, is not celebrated in the desi dukans next to the gutters now, we have gatari parties, gatari get together and gatari dances too. So if you were used to full moon days with milk and all that on Kojagiri, this would come as a no moon day shock right. Well, I am not against this infact I would say we declare this as a festival so the municipal corporation would have to clean the gutters at least once a year and yes before Shrawan.
But my focus is the Transformer, and for those who don’t associate with Valmiki they are like Rahul’s who suddenly transform from Bangkok fame to Shiv Bhakts, people who eat meat by tons and suddenly transform to temple goers. The transformers are many, some don’t like to see meat, some don’t even like to smell, some even avoid seeing advertisements containing meat products.
I have seen people not taking part in birthday celebrations because cakes have eggs, people who stop taking cough syrup because it contains alcohol base, and those who avoid going to bus stand because they can’t avoid seeing Niyaz. Vegetables are in demand and fruits suddenly look nutritious. The need for animal proteins without which there is no life tumbles like the share market. Niyaz, Khyber seem like deserted haunted places. Foods like mutton, chicken are converted to living animals like sheep, goat, and hens. Maneka Gandhi goes suddenly out of business and discussion on which pandhra tambda is best is converted to how vegetarian lifestyle is celebrated and amazing. The transformers are actually the best hibernating animals, they are conscious but their love for nonveg suddenly goes on for hibernation.
Then there are the beardos, people who grow their facial hair in Shrawan. You know what this is not new to Westerners, there is a no shave November, where you grow a bread to attract attention to the cancer victims who lose them before of chemotherapy. But here the reasons are not to create awareness on vegetarianism. I actually asked the reasons for it and they say its to be so pious that you forget your own beauty and think only of the beauty of the Devine. People don’t cut nails too and that’s a little extreme I think. The beardos are actually the true representation of us, the clean-shaven, soft-spoken, white colored gentlemen are merely British virtues, we were forced to emulate to get lucrative jobs, we Indians never bothered about looks is what some justify and on independence day growing beard is like liberation from foreign etiquette. Beards are perfectly justified in shravan, students, office staff, teachers all of them can get away with it in settings which otherwise would not allow them to sport bread, would you otherwise think of going to a doctor with a beard in KLE hospital, well Shravan you will.
Then we have the losers and that included meat shop owners, hairdressers, bar owners and hoteliers, there are simply no takers. Business is run by a few honest alcoholics who never give up on their one true love. These guys are like the saving grace for many businesses. Imagine without these angels, thousands of people in the bars, hotels, pubs would lose their jobs, alcoholics actually save families while ruining their own, have you seen such selflessness. There are also big-time gainers and the best of them are the priests the poojaris, their season starts with shravan, then there is Ganapathi and Belagavi has private and public ones in plenty, then pitrupaksha, then Dasra and Diwali, the market continues to grow till December when the slack season of marriages and occasional poojas begins.
Lastly, there are the foodies, the extremely vegetarians, the ones with a sweet tooth, and Shravan is a delight to these harmless food lovers too.
We start with Tambit, Ladoo and patoli on Nag panchami, there is Naralibhat on Rakhi day, every Monday and Friday there is Shirwale, Kadbu, Mangana, Sakharbhat, Kheer, Puranpoli, Hulgi, Huggi and the list goes on and on.
And if you are in Belagavi you get dishes from Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa provided you have the right friends. A true foodie will wait all year to taste these delicious mouth-watering delicacies. Some of these foodies are actually one who has pledged to fast in shravan, to diet, to lose weight but this world is not fair to them, they are kept tempted by the sweets and the aromas of Khuskhus, Keshar and Kewada mixed with Jaggery and coconut. The diet soon gives way to force feed and the weight involuntarily moves towards the right. The sweet food is what defines shravan for many. The problem is only when eid comes in shravan and you have to limit to sherkorma and give away the biryani. Infact my Muslim friends always thank me for being veg because then they get chicken at prices, they would never expect otherwise, so while they thank me while hogging biryani I get the sweet shirkurma as a consolation. The world revolves around foodies and inflation is invariably food driven.
These are some special people I associate with shravan, I am sure you must be knowing a few too, don’t forget to acknowledge their presence, cheers, let the festivities begin.