लोक शाकुंतल

गेला महिना-दीड महिना तीव्र उन्हामुळे, पुण्यात(तसेच इतर ठिकाणी देखील) राहणारा मी अगदी हैराण झालो होतो. काही दिवसांपूर्वी बंगळूरूला जाण्याची संधी मला मिळाली. मी पूर्वी कित्येकदा बंगळुरूला गेलो आहे पण तरीसुद्धा मी मनातून सुखावून गेलो. पहिले कारण असे, तेथील हवामान, इतक्या प्रमाणात शहरीकारण होवूनही बरेच सुखावह असते. तेथील वैशिष्ट्य म्हणजे, बहुतेक वेळेला संध्याकाळी पावसाच्या सरी काही काळ पडून हवेत हवाहवासा थंडावा येतो. दुसरे कारण मला कन्नड नाटकांचा आस्वाद घेण्याची पर्वणी मिळणार होती. पुणे विमानतळावरू विमानाने उड्डाण केले आणि सहज खिडीकीतून खाली पहिले तर, लोहगाव, खराडी ह्या खडकाळ, वैराण, बिलकुल हिरवाई नसलेला प्रदेश नजरेस पडतो. नाही म्हणायला मुळा-मुठा नदी दिसते, ती वरून स्वच्छ, छानच दिसते, पण आपल्याला सर्वांना माहिती असते, की जशी दिसते तशी ती नदी मुळीच नाही. या उलट, जसे जसे विमान बंगळूरूच्या केम्पेगौडा विमानतळाच्या जवळ येते, त्यावर घिरट्या मारते, आणि तुम्ही खाली पहिले तर, छान हिरवाई, नारळाच्या बागा दिसतील, आखीव, रेखीव, शेती दिसेल. आणि मनाशीच आपण म्हणतो की वा! आली की ही गार्डन सिटी!

बंगळुरूमधील काही दिवसांच्या मुक्कामाच्या शेवटल्या टप्प्यावर आलो तेव्हा कुठे नाटक पाहण्याबद्दल वगैरे बद्दल जुळवाजुळव करण्यास सुरुवात केली. पण त्याआधी सिनेमा पाहायची टूम निघाली. सचिन पाहावा की बाहुबली २, ही काथ्याकूट करण्यात २-३ दिवस गेले आणि शेवटी कटाप्पाने बाहुबलीला पहिल्या भागात का मारले हे अजून जाणून घ्यावयाचे असल्यामुळे तोच सिनेमा पाहायचे ठरले आणि पाहिला देखील. आता काही मी त्या सिनेमाबद्दल काही लिहीत नाही, नाही तर जुने ते जुने गुऱ्हाळ ठरायचे. परत नाटकाचे ठरवण्याच्या उद्योगाला लागलो. वर्तमानपत्रात पहिले, तर ७-८ नाटके त्या वीकएंडला होणार होती(शिखंडी, सुयोधन सारखी कन्नड प्रायोगिक नाटकं, The Cut सारखे इंग्रजी नाटक). बंगळूरमध्ये कन्नड व्यावसायिक नाटक असे नाहीच, पण प्रायोगिक नाटकं बरीच, आणि ती प्रामुख्याने वीकएंडला. त्यातील बरीच इंग्रजी नाटके होती. काही कन्नड नाटके होती. पण मला माझ्या सोयीनुसार जाता येण्याजोगे एकच नाटक होते ते म्हणजे लोक शाकुंतल. हे नाटक प्रसिद्ध नाटककार के. व्ही. सुब्बण्णा, ज्यांनी निनासम ही संस्था सुरु केली होती, त्यांनी लिहिले आहे. लोक रंगभूमी जागृत ठेवण्याचे त्यांचे कार्य मी जाणून होतो. त्यातच शाकुंतल नाटकाचे लोक रंगभूमीवरील सादरीकरण कसे असेल ह्याची मला उत्सुकता लागली. सकाळीच BookMyShow वर तिकीट राखून ठेवले. आधुनिक मराठी रंगभूमीची ज्या संगीत शाकुंतल नाटकाने झाली, त्याचा मी लोक रंगभूमीवरील कन्नड भाषेतील अवतार पाहणार होतो!

आणि मी संध्याकाळी निघालो. नाट्यगृह होते बंगळूरुच्या मध्यवर्ती भागात, जवळ जवळ १२-१५ किलोमीटर लांब. मला धडकीच भरली होती. वाहतूक-कोंडीमुळे, गर्दीमुळे, तेथे जाई पर्यंत माझा अर्धा जीव जायचा. त्यातच संध्याकाळी पाऊस पडतो, आणि तो त्यादिवशी देखील पडलाच. कसाबसा वेळेवर नाटकाला पोहोचलो. थोडीफार गर्दी दिसत होती. प्रवेशद्वाराजवळ नाटकाशी संबंधित असलेले काही लोक तिकीट वाटप करत बसले होते. त्यातील एक-दोन जण परिचयाचे निघाले, निनासममध्ये ओळख झाली होती. नाट्यगृह आणि आसपासचा परिसर सुंदर, झाडी असलेला होता. नाट्यगृहाचे नाव गुरुनानक भवन.

त्याच परिसरात National School of Dramaच्या बेंगळुरू शाखेचे शहरातील केंद्र आहे(प्रमुख केंद्र हे बेंगळुरू विद्यापीठाच्या परिसरात आहे). लोक शकुंतल हे नाटक अंतरंग संस्थेने बसवले आहे, आणि दिग्दर्शन केले आहे प्रसिद्ध नाट्य-दिग्दर्शक चिदंबरराव जम्बे यांनी. कर्नाटकातील सुप्रसिद्ध नाट्य-संस्था रंगायन याचे ते संचालक देखील होते. ही संस्था मैसुरू येथे आहे. निनासम संस्थेचे जवळ जवळ २२ वर्षे प्रमुख देखील होते. या सर्वामुळे, एकूणच कालिदासाच्या संस्कृत ‘अभिज्ञान शाकुंतल’ नाटकाच्या ह्या कन्नड नाट्य-प्रयोगाला एक वेगळेच वजन प्राप्त झाले होते.

काहीही सूचना, घोषणा न करता नाटक सुरु झाले, पडदा देखील नव्हता. रंगमंचावर नेपथ्य अगदी माफकच होते. दुष्यंत राजा सैनिकांबरोबर शिकारीला गेला आहे हे पहिले दृश्य होते. दोन काठ्यांनी आणलेला धनुष्य-बाणाचा आभास, एका स्त्री-कलाकाराने केलेली हरिणाची भूमिका हे छान वाटले. दुष्यंत राजा अगदीच मामुली वाटला. लोक-संगीत, यक्षगान नृत्याविष्कारावर आधारित हा नाट्य-प्रयोग नटला आहे. रंगमंचाच्या मध्यभागी दोन वादक(एक पेटी-वादक, आणि एक ढोलकवाला) होते, आणि एक गायक, जो सूत्रधार देखील होता. दुष्यंत-शकुंतला यांची कथा प्रसिद्धच आहे, ती काही सांगत बसत नाही. पण ह्या एक तास पन्नास मिनिटांच्या दीर्घ एकांकीच्या प्रयोगात मला विशेष मजा आली नाही. प्रयोग तसा रुक्षच वाटला. शकुंतलेची भूमिका करणाऱ्या अभिनेत्रीने थोडीसी जान आणली आहे. कन्नड भाषा, तिचा वेगळा बाज, वेगवेगळे शब्द ऐकताना तसे छान वाटले. पण एकूणच ह्या नाटकात जे नाट्य आहे, राग, प्रेम, पश्चाताप इत्यादी भावनेचे प्रदर्शन आहे, जे अगदी कमीच वाटले. प्रयोग संपल्यानंतर सर्व कलाकारांची ओळख करण्यात आली, तसेच ह्या नाटकाचा पुढील प्रयोग पाहण्यासाठी आप्तेष्टांना घेवून येण्याचे आवाहन करण्यात आले.

असो. काही दिवसातच आषाढ मास सुरु होईल. त्याचा पहिला दिवस हा कालिदास दिन म्हणून साजरा केला जातो.  त्या निमित्ताने हा वेगळा प्रयोग पाहिल्याचे समाधान मिळाले. प्रयोग संपल्यानंतर रात्री परत घरी जायचा प्रश्न होता. पाऊस अजून पडतच होता. मनाचा हिय्या करून, हे नाटक पाहून बंगळूरू भेटीचे सार्थक झाले असे मनाची समजूत घालून परतीचा प्रवास मी सुरु केला. वर सुरुवातीला म्हटले खरे की बंगळूरू मध्ये पाऊस पाडून हवा छान होते वगैरे, पण बऱ्याचदा असे होते की पाऊस थोडाफार पडतो संध्याकाळी, पण तो घरी परतणाऱ्या लोकांना काळ वाटतो, कारण, पावसामुळे जमणारे पाणी, जोराच्या वाऱ्यामुळे पडणारी झाडे, फांद्या, यामुळे होणारी वाहतुकीची कोंडी!

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World of cabs and cab drivers

The other morning during my early morning walk, instead of walking on my usual route, I decided to go towards the main road in my area. Near the traffic signal, I noticed at least 5-6 cabs waiting, with their drivers inside them sleeping or resting. It obviously was not a pretty sight. First of all, the cabs were parked inside no parking area, plus the drivers were certainly missing sleep. I work in Eon IT Park in Pune, almost 25 km from home. Until now, I used to drive on my own, or carpool with someone occasionally. Since last few weeks, we got cab facility and I naturally grabbed it by both hands. And a whole new world of cab and cab drivers opened in front of me.

Pune never had taxis or cabs until few years back. All we had was auto rickshaws. As Pune Mumbai express highway opened itself in year 2000, we started seeing taxis in the city. I am sure some of you might remember those blue colored cool cabs providing service between Pune and Mumbai via express highway. With the advent of call center business to Pune, the culture of cab services to employees started. The main reason being that call centers typically operate in evening and night shifts. This requires employees to be transported to ensure they are in on time to take the calls. Let me shed some light on how these cabs operate. Companies would typically engage a travel service company which either owns fleet of cabs or has cabs individuals who are either drivers themselves or others who would lease out them. The employee rosters are created, pick up points are decided, transport desk phone contact is setup. Depending on employees who would be availing cab facility on any days, they are free to optimize number of cabs on the road. Many times, this means drivers ending up working late hours, and I mean really late hours. They virtually live in those cabs. Most of them are addicted to chewing tobacco and/or gutaka, also are habitual of spitting on the road, by open the door of the car in motion. The general hygiene factor of these drivers and cars also is a big question.

As the famed economic reforms of 1991 happened, slowly automobile industry opened up, more models of cars started arriving, more people buying them as well. The private tourist vehicle industry also thrived. These were generally for outstations tours, having minimum requirement of 300 km per day, at the beginning. Later as mentioned above, adopted themselves to the demands of IT companies for city limit transport, round the clock. Then we see the advent cab aggregators, which is the latest trend in the cab business with players such as Ola, Uber. They are aggressively pushing commuters to use their services. While it is causing convenience, but also has been causing social issues, especially from commuters security perspective, and also from drivers’ way of life perspective. The situation is much more severe in the bigger cities such as Bengaluru where driver and commuters alike are traveling length and breadth of the city.

It is certainly heartening to know that more and more people are now car-pooling. I had written a blog on the need for this, few years ago, sighting the problems created by explosion of cars on the road. I believe only time will tell where this is all going to lead, especially, in the shrinked, and cramped city-scapes, with fleet and army of cabs, just few meters away from you, waiting for you, as shown on the Google Map on their apps.

Bengaluru Eateries

I have not done lot of food blogging on this space, barring couple of exceptions. But today I want to take a shot at that, specifically talking of Bengaluru’s eateries. Whenever I am Bengaluru, for that matter any city, I also get on to trying out that city’s food culture. This is one on Bengaluru’s food culture experiences I have had for your eyes.

The moment you land in Bengaluru, you notice two things. One is Hatti Kaapi(ಹಟ್ಟಿ ಕಾಪಿ) shop at the airport, where they serve nice, hot filter coffee in earthen pots. The other thing you notice, as you start driving around the city, at almost every block, the eateries, which are locally termed as Darshini(ದರ್ಶಿನಿ). The wiki has nice history about how it started and how these small eating joints spread all over got name Darshini suffixed to them.They usually would serve popular south Indian snack items, tea, coffee etc at quick eat and go style. These places are hugely popular with employees who want to have a quick bite on the way to work place.

Halli Thindi(ಹಳ್ಳಿ ತಿಂಡಿ) is another specialty restaurant, serving by-gone era foods, and also items from all over Karnataka. That includes foods from coastal Karantaka(karavali, ಕರಾವಳಿ), foods from norther Karnataka such as Hubli, Dharwad, Bijapur(now Vijaypura), food items from other interior areas of Karnataka. These are mostly, snack items. The Kannada name Halli Thindi, in English, literally means snacks from villages. I had gone to their branch in Hanumantha Nagar, when I had gone for a Kannada play at K K Kala Soudha.

Every city has some classic eating places, for example Pune has Marz-O-Rin in Pune Camp area or 81-year old Poona Guest House on Laxmi Road. The MTR restaurant is one of the oldest restaurants in Bengaluru, founded in 1924. The current name is short for original name Mavalli Tiffin Room. For some reason, in Bengaluru, they call breakfast as tiffin.  I have been to MTR restaurant where originally started as well as at a place in J P Nagar which is called MTR Grand Continental.

Benguluru’s Vidyarthi Bhavan, which is another oldest(started in 1943) eating places. As name suggests, it was very popular among the students. It is located in crowded Gandhi Bazar area of Bengaluru. Last year, I happened to experience that legacy, by planning hard, to visit the place well in advance. The place still carries that rustic look and feel. The specialty is, of course, thick dosa. Must visit place.

Maiyas is another classic and fine restaurant. It is located in Jay Nagar area and is having modern look both exterior and interior. Maiyas is also famous for its rava idli. They also have one at the airport.

Vasudev Adiga’s also very famous eating place in Bengaluru, though it is not very old like ones described above. I typically would go every time I visit Bengaluru. The main reason is it is very near to place where I am usually put up with my relatives, of course, I like the food there. I usually relish strong filter coffee almost every morning my stay there.

Adyar Anands Bhavan is another chain of restaurants one can spot across Bengaluru. This is originally from Chennai, started 30 years ago as sweet shop, and then into regular restaurant. I have been to one near Bengaluru airport, but only once. I found their south Indian breakfast thali enticing.

The other place is not exactly in Bengaluru, but outside towards Bidadi near Ramnagara, that is famous for tatte idli and also for masala vada, both of them are extra large in size, and that is exactly their specialty.

My earliest memories of eating out in Bengaluru goes way back more than 2 decades during my maiden visit. I distinctly remember eating frequently at Hotel Chandrika and also Hotel Sukhsagar(which is a chain of hotels). I was introduced to famous Chow Chow Bhat, which is uniqueness of Bengaluru, at Hotel Chandrika, which is located on Cunningham Road in Shivajinagar area. Now Bengaluru has turned out to be a huge metro city, where you will find all kinds of restaurants. For example, I recently learnt that there is a barbecue joint called Absolute Barbecue, which is booked 3 months in advance. My intention on this blog was to cover some of the classic Bengaluru food joints, hope you have enjoyed it. I would love to hear from you, about your experiences.

Narahimha Tirth

A day trip to Mulbagal

Every time I go to Bengaluru, I try to live the city to its fullest, to what it has to offer. There are so many different facets, from the language, culture, sheer travel perspective that one can explore. I have tried sharing those in the past here, and there are many things I have not written, due to sheer laziness. This time I decided to head out of the city for a quick excursion to a holy place called Mulbagal(or Mulubagilu), which is near Kolar, about 80 kilometers towards north-east from south Bengaluru where I was put up. In fact, this town is eastern end of state of Karnataka.

We started off early in the morning, from south Bengaluru, that weekend. Despite early morning of a Saturday, it took good 40 minutes to hit the highway from that famous hanging bridge near Whitefield area, which goes to Kolar and further. The road was nice there on. This highway is also called MBT Road, which is Madras Bombay Trunk Road. One of my favorites things to do while driving in and around Bengaluru is to tune into one of Kannada radio channels. This gives a good taste of finer nuances of Kannada language, which I am not entirely exposed, despite my mother tongue being Kannada, as I don’t live in Bengaluru. I have narrated my fondness to radio here.

Mulbagal is famous for Sripadraya(or Sripadaraja) Mutt and Narsimha Tirtha. It also is famous as second capital of famous Vijaynagar empire of 16th century. Our visit was mainly for these two places. There are other tourists attractions which we did not plan, but one may find more about them here on Wiki. Sripadaraya is part of linage of Madhwacharya, who founded Dwaita philosophy(which is one among  Vedanta or Uttar Mimamsa philosophy systems. Please refer my blog here on this topic.). My family being ardent follower of Madhwacharya, a visit to this holy place was due to for long time. Sripadaraya is also known for his contribution to  Haridasa, which is a Bhakti movement in Karnataka. I am a fan of Haridasa literature.

The monastery complex has shrines of Sripadaraya and his disciples, temple of Narsihma(in fact Yognarsimha), temple of Anjaneya. It also has pond(also called pushkarani) called Narsimha Teerth which has a shrine at the center. I also noticed a colony of bird around that central shrine, but could not recognize the birds unfortunately(They did not seem like bats though, which is what one would usually find at such a place which is not quite easily accessible by humans. I have seen many of them during my trekking days in Sahyadri range, especially on the ceilings of the caves). We attended prayers, and also participated in feast after the prayers. I also was lucky to find a book which is a volume produced during National Haridasa Literature Conference in 2012 organized by the monastery. I hope sometime to also get hold of Dasa Sahitya volumes produced  Project Dasa Sahitya by Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams(TTD). Their volumes are result of research and compilation of sources of scattered Haridasa literature.

Anyways, this trip reminded me of a trip to Kolar which near Mulbagal which I had taken way back during my maiden trip to Bengaluru in 1992. Kolar is famous for now abandoned gold mine/fields. That trip was in a state transport bus. Bengaluru and its outskirts has grown so much. I guess it has started showing its effect on this garden city. I read other days that it recorded a hottest day in the history of the city. I had outlined state of lakes in Bengaluru amidst this concrete jungle. Hope things change before that damage is irreparable. Also,  if you are interested in reading more about my other Bengaluru explorations, feel free to refer this page.

Don’t forget to share your experience and thoughts!