Cornwall via Achara – Nostalgia
Last August, we made a road trip to Tintagel, Cornwall a coastal village in South West of England. Cornwall is renowned for its wild moorland landscapes and its long and varied coastline. Undoubtedly, the road was picturesque and we had more than our share of delicious sea food.
Yet, from the beginning of the trip, I was in a ‘rewind’ mode, a bit nostalgic. For reasons unknown, I was recollecting my innumerable road trips to ‘Achara’, my ancestral village. This was long before the Konkan railway was constructed and a Mumbaikar had to make a long road journey to reach his native home.
As a very young child, I barely remember reaching ‘Achara’ in daylight as the enthusiasm at the start of the trip in Mumbai would have died out in exhaustion at 9.00 p.m. when we reached the village.
My baby sleep would be awoken only by the call of a cuckoo and the gentle rays of sunlight passing through the ‘Criss-cross’ patterned large windows. While the elders relaxed in the front courtyard with a cup of tea, I set myself a task of collecting the ‘Champa’ and ‘Aboli’ flowers. The rest of the day was spent merrily at the water tank and well or spotting a frog or telling a cousin very bravely that I stood still when I saw a snake!
I can safely say that I have spent more time at Achara compared to my cousins. In fact I gathered a lot of facts about Achara and neighbouring areas thanks to my interaction as a child with the ladies at the Pickle factory.
‘’Tu kuthe rahtes?’’ ‘’ Gawde wadi’’ , ‘’Para kade’’ , ‘’Dongar wadi’’…. And then I used to perhaps irritate them with more questions only to be whisked away. The downside of frolicking my time at the factory is that my nose repels to the smell of pickles!!
One of the highlights of the trip was to go to the ‘Nagazari’ and hear about some mystery stories revolving its source. A dip in the water would make you ‘clean’ or a ghost taking you away if you washed yourself at night.
After relishing some Jackfruit Bhajji, Rice and Mangoes, I would sit with my mother near the Shree Rama temple next to our home and she would read a book to me from the Achara library. The Shree Rama temple stands on an elevated slope and it gives an overview of the Coconut plantations and the vast green rice fields. On a hot May afternoon this would be the top place for a cool breeze.
They say that the best things in life come free. The Shree Rama temple is a top seat to listen to the music playing at the Shree Rameshwar temple. Close your eyes and open your ears, it is simply divine!
As a city bred, I used to be amazed at the impeccable talent the local boys and girls have in music. How one could excel so well without any formal training or is it a blessing which comes with the sewa to Shree Rameshwar? No wonder Achara has produced some notable Music artists of its time.
Almost everyone in the neighbouring villages and in Konkan pays their dutiful respects at Shree Rameshwar. One feels a unique spiritual powers just upon the entry to the temple complex. The rest is a very personal experience indeed.
The festival of Shree Ram Navami is spectacular. Thousands of people gather religiously for this distinctive festival which unifies the ‘Shiva’ and ‘Vaishnava’ sect of Hindu way of life. It is an honour to be a part of the family at whose home the original idol of Shree Rama resides at the rest of the year. Year by year, I have closely observed a family member getting ready for the sewa during the festival and dutifully doing the 14 day pooja.
As for the rest of us it was all about having a good time with the family and making most of the simple ‘jatra’ at the festival.
I would also insist on watching the ‘Dashavtari’ at the Shree Rameshwar temple and every year my request would be turned down as it would be held only late at night ! I think, I was taken once to watch it but I fell asleep as the show was delayed. The next morning, cursing myself, I kept asking ‘what happened next’? I have heard that the pomp of ‘Dashavtari’ is dying and I really urge everyone concerned that efforts should be taken to keep the art alive. Dashavtari on Facebook anyone?
Lastly, no trip to Achara would be complete without a walk to the very pristine and virgin Achara Bandar before dusk. After making sand castles, bathing in the water and dancing hop-ti-hop on the coast, my heart sank when it was time to go home. The indulgence in garma garam kanda bhajjis and tea didn’t make it any better.
I love going to a seaside place. The sea speaks to me, inspires me, calms me in pain and adds to the merriment if I am in a good company.
Yet during the Cornwall trip I thought something was amiss. Tintagel has a seaside fort (reminding me of Malvan) and also a so called ‘spirtual place’ to its credit. Achara is much developed village today with colleges and hospital vis-à-vis Tintagel which is a sleepy village. Was it the absence of coconut trees and the dense greenery or the lack of spice from the Crab dish? Was I trying to locate familiar friendly people from Achara?
As a growing teenager in Mumbai, a trip to Achara was a bit overdone. Can’t we go elsewhere? I could not understand why at the age of 80 my grandfather would do a rather uncomfortable journey by a state transport bus. My parents and uncles would be cross with him for doing so. Guess, I may have to reason with my father in the coming years!
There is something about Achara that we all seek. It is not just simple village life of solitude. It is just the magic of the place which has not ceased in three generations. Our family has moved from Achara to Mumbai and from Mumbai to UK and USA.Yet we will keep coming back for more of Achara.