Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sagara Maari Jaatre [part 1 of many]

I was itching to get out of Bangalore for some weeks now. The perfect excuse came in the form of a casual invitation from my good friend Vinaya (featured in the photo. Hero - ain't he one?) to come and witness the Marikamba Jaatre of Sagara. I gladly (and quickly, not giving enough time for him to change his mind) accepted. For lack of week-end tickets, we advanced our trip by a day both ways. I could go on and on about KSTRC's step-motherly treatment towards non-Mysore-Mangalore routes... but that would only steal the focus from such a beautiful place I am going to describe hence forth.

In spite of all the discomfort, I did steal some sleep over night. By day-break we had crossed Bhadra river and approaching Shimoga. Still 70 odd Kms to go. The route from Shimoga to Sagara has good roads despite running through typical forests of western ghats. Forest on either side is deceptively dense. Teak seems to make both economic as well as environmental sense. The forest department has conveniently planted lots of them in the forest on either side.

However, human inhabitation and subsequent deforestation is on the rise as ever. Vinaya was telling how, couple of years ago people stumbled upon (by generous information support from the agri department) a new crop (mette jola, some variety of maize) that requires very less water, effort and fertilizer. With in no time, people were seen sowing seeds on un-utilized government land (read: forest land). Now, there are fences around them. Couple of years later, the same people will approach the government to regularize their 'encroachment'. Yes, agriculture must be provided with all support (monetary and infrastructure). But unscientific, ad-hoc encroachment is not fair. It only gives rise to cartels and thereby hurt the very people it was aimed at helping.

On the other side of the road one can see huge struts carrying some MW of energy from Jog Falls to Bangalore to light up the city. This shaves off a 500 meter wide strip of forest all the way. There are supposed to be no trees growing beneath the wires. For some reason I could not understand, there were 3-4 sets of poles of varying heights. Can they not just add more wires to the existing ones? As additional information, I learned that there is a transmission loss of 60% by the time the power reaches Bangalore. Blame the sub-standard Aluminum wires. Why don't we use copper? Because we can not guard them. Same reason we can not grow sandal wood in our back yard. Same reason why hotels in Bangalore have to close by 11:30. Same reason why women (non-IT, non-BPO) can not work in night shifts....

At about 0930 we reached the city of Sagara. It has a railway station too. In the pre-independence days, there used to be train service from Bangalore to Sagara. Now, the track from Shimoga to Sagara remains in meter gauge while the rest is in broad guage. For some time, they ran a single car train from Shimoga to Sagara that took an awful three and a half hours to cover the 70 Kms. Now, guage conversion is going on... Hence no service. Just like the Bangalore-Mangalore story, even Simoga-Sagara guage conversion story seems to be never ending.

Sagara is a small little quite city with old congested down-town and modern extension areas. It has a beautiful lake at the eastern end called Ganapathi Kere (in the photo). I was told that city municipality got the lake cleaned with lot of efforts over the last 3 years. On the Banks of the Lake is a Ganapathi temple that shares a wall with a Mosque. This has been cited as an example of co-existance as well as brewing tensions between the two communities at various times. Varada river runs right though the city. This is the source of water for the Sagara town, while the lake is the dump (after treating the waste). The down-town of the city is about 2 Kms from here, which was where would be the 'Maari Jaatre'. For a town of its size, Saraga seems to have a large number of Hospitals - 12 medium to big sized ones. Looks like sagarites are very fond of second opinions ;-)

The roads are narrow and patchy. There is an occasional cow or a buffalo on the road (that promptly responds to honking by getting off). But who cares... as long as the traffic keeps moving. I guess, we Bangaloreans will find driving any where else pleasurable. Sagarites get full marks on the environmental awareness. Either by choice or lack of alternative choice, there are many bicycles on road. Hope it stays that way. The next most common vehicle is the omni-purpose Maruti Omni. One rarely finds the ego-feeding 4x4s, SUVs or any other big cars. There are gardens in almost every house. Colorful, fragrant flowers in most of them.

Still to come: Ikkeri, Keladi, Sharavati Back waters and of course, the Maari Jaatre itself. I promise to try keeping them short.

1 comment:

aishu_here said...

Thinking of one motorbike trips I made, the cycles and the buffalos on the road do stand prominent in mind !
Also, the super green scenes en route…was worth all that backache !

Okay, now you have this Ekta kapoor episode style of posting now - far far better than the atte-sosey serials anyways ;-)
Will wait to hear about the ones you mentioned under 'coming soon..' :-)