Haveri is a town right at the center of Karnataka. I come from Haveri and I was extremely, momentarily though, happy when people began this discussion that the capital city of Karnataka should be changed so that it is geographically equidistant from all parts. It is such a place that I had a difficulty explaining where it is even to Karnataka people. So, my default last resort was “It is in between Hubli and Davanagere”. There is no concept of a seatbelt in Haveri so I would ask you to just come along when I go back to few personal memories and impressions that I have of the place. I should say the memories of the environment that I grew up in rather than memories of Haveri.
I lived in a house that is supposedly more than 300 years old which is part of an Agrahara. People say Tipu Sultan donated it to a few Brahmins then. It is a temple of Lord Venkateshwara with his two wives surrounded by 14 houses built with mud and bamboo around it. There was a veranda in front of all the houses and the temple has a small mantapa. The mantapa and the veranda were our summer playground. Our house had a kitchen as big as most of the 1 bed room houses in Bengaluru these days and amma used to listen to a big old radio every morning to know what is the time and how fast she should finish all the work and leave to school. Everybody knew everything in all the houses and it was like a one big family. All the ceremonies used to take place within the same area as the veranda served as an automatic dining place for more than 200 people. I wish I had taken the pictures of all these places. The houses have undergone wholesale changes now and the people living within them have changed. The agrahara is still there but the charm is lost!
One of things I would like to remember till the end of my life is the Ganesha habba celebrations. Almost everyone got the idols to their own houses. Kids from the houses who did not have the tradition joined their neighbors. I am sure every house in North Karnataka have this tradition of welcoming the god with a lot of firecrackers and an impromptu procession. The immersion day is the most colorful one. We had a well just outside the temple premises which served as the fresh water source for the temple worship purposes. Agrahara bhavi, as it was conveniently called, was where that all the nearby idols would be immersed. It was not like the circular wells that are common everywhere but a huge well where people could swim when there used to be good amount of water. One priest used sit on the side of the well and help everyone with the rituals. As the houses started getting demolished for renovation, the resulting mud was dumped into the well and now the well is no longer a well.
Neighbors were the natural first friends. We always avoided the boring actual names and names like GunDu, Pavvi, Tuppi, Rajju, Subbi, PuTTa, SoTTa et al. There was this guy who was a little ahead of his time and decided that we should play all the sports that come on TV. So I remember playing bowling using some vertical stones and a “shot put” shot and golf with the handle of a J-shaped broken umbrella. I was the youngest kid of my generation. It was very difficult to get into teams for any sport. On one such unfortunate occasion, when I was included, a friend of mine, Rinku (changed to Roshan now), came to invite me for his birthday party. So I, in first person, lied to his face there is no Sameer (my name) here and my name is Chinmay (my other name) just to stay in the game.
There are so many characters which have left the mark on my mind. There were the Hebbars who made dosas for breakfast every single day, without fail, there was Godbole ajji who sang ‘Preeti alli iruva sukha gotte irlilla’ to her infant grandchildren to put them to sleep, Pushpakkajji was always busy protecting her many flavors of pickles kept in those ceramic jars from the cats and other animals (read cricket playing kids), Bhadri Ajji whose all naps of the summer afternoons were spoiled because of our noisy games and wanted us stop playing and Nakhate Ajji who taught us to make kites and paper windmills and support all the mischief we were up to. There have been at least a thousand instances where I thought myself as to be extremely lucky to have a childhood in such an environment.
– Sameer Kolhapur