Lunch & Chanting at Saraswati Vidya Kendra

photos of kindergarten tudents eating lunch at Saraswati Vidya Kendra Kumta by Arun Shanbhag

I have previously written about the mid-day school lunch at the Shanbhag High School and the primary Saraswati Vidya Kendra in Kumta. When I visited Kumta earlier this year, I took a few video snippets of students lining up for lunch and the KG students chanting the blessing.

At the Konkan schools, teachers too have a uniform saree. In the video, you see them helping. Seniors serve the lunch, while teachers help seat the kids and serve seconds. Continue reading “Lunch & Chanting at Saraswati Vidya Kendra”

Kini Hotel, Kumta

pics of chai and breakfast at Kini Hotel Kumta by Arun Shanbhag

This tiny tea shop in Kumta is my main eating and meeting place in Kumta. It’s in the main paent (market) and only a few steps from the Shanteri Kamakshi Devasthan and the Venkatraman Muth/Devasthan. Continue reading “Kini Hotel, Kumta”

Kumta Street Vegetables

In the Kumta market, these women set up shop early in the morning before the crowds got there. Those vegetables look so delicious! It was March, so the variations of brinjals/eggplants were in season. You will also find konkani classics padwal, ghosalae, muLi (radish), tambdi bhaji (red leaves), vaaLi (green creeper leaves), muggae, karate, maskaa sang, jaam and others. If you notice others, let me know.
photos of fresh vegetable vendors on Kumta Street by Arun Shanbhag Continue reading “Kumta Street Vegetables”

Girls making Papad 2

Picture of girls making papad in Kumta, India

A few years back while visiting Kumta I went back to the little shack where I had earlier seen young women making papad (writeup and pics). I was glad to see that this little cinderblock workshop was still active, and women came together to make papad and other eatables to sell in local stores. I like the light in this pic. Continue reading “Girls making Papad 2”

Scholarships for the Needy: 2010 – 2011

Arun Shanbhag Needy students awarded Scholarships  at Shanbhag High School Kumta

That gift which is given to a worthy person, in the right circumstance, from whom we expect nothing in return, is held to be most pure.
~ Bhagavad Gita, 17:20

Here is the list of students awarded the 2010 Shanbhag Scholarships in Kumta, India. I thank the many donors who made valuable contributions, so needy students could gain a good education. Continue reading “Scholarships for the Needy: 2010 – 2011”

Video: Approaching Kumta on the Konkan Railway


Move your mouse out of the video frame to lose the black border.
Music: Mere Desh Ka Salaam, Shobha Gurtu.


Those who have ridden the Konkan Railway can attest, the rural countryside with emerald green fields is mesmerizing. I think of an early retirement in a village, a small house and running a school.

To share the genesis of this madness, I recorded the view. Here is a 67 second snippet, as the train crossed the Aghanashini River and approached the Kumta Train station. I recorded this from the doorway with my flip video, amidst the rain and rumbling of the train. Enjoy and tell me what you think.
Continue reading “Video: Approaching Kumta on the Konkan Railway”

Scholarships for the Needy: 2009 – 2010

kumta needy students

That gift which is given, knowing it to be a duty, in a fit time and place, to a worthy person, from whom we expect nothing in return, is held to be most pure.
~ Bhagavad Gita, 17:20

Several years ago we started these scholarships to support needy girls at the Shanbhag School in Kumta. This year, more friends and family joined in helping us support 48 students (29 girls and 19 boys). We extended beyond our original charter and 40 of 48 students are from other schools in Kumta. With your support we will keep growing and eventually cover ALL needy students in Kumta!
Continue reading “Scholarships for the Needy: 2009 – 2010”

Academic Update from Shanbhag School 2009

Just received results from the recent Karnataka State Board Exams (Std X) for students at the Shanbhag School in Kumta, Karnataka. What a spectacular performance by the students! Congratulations! Our gratitude also to the teachers who do a fabulous job, every day!

Summary of Results:
74 students appeared for the X Std, Karnataka State Board Exams, 2009:

  • Highest score of 96.5%
  • 20/74 students scored greater than 90%
  • 70/74 scored greater than 60%
  • 4/74 scored between 50 and 60%
  • No student in the entire class failed the X Std Board exams

Of the two Shanbhag Scholarship recipients in the graduating class, one received 90.4% and the other 69.9%. Excellent performers and we are elated to have contributed to their studies. I hope they will be equally successful in college and in life.

I don’t expect our needy scholarship recipients to be at the top of the class, but we have given them an opportunity to study alongside the best students, at the best school. And they held their own. The network effects of this alone are worthwhile. This is akin to bringing deserving students to study at Harvard. You wouldn’t expect them at the top of the class, but just being here, they gain tremendously. Exactly that!

I am still collecting funds to support scholarships for needy students at the school. If you would like to make a small contribution, please let me know.

Shanbhag School Related Posts:

Scholarships for the Needy 2008-2009

Shanbhag High School Lunch Kumta

Hope you all had a wonderful “Makar Sankranti.” Now the Sun rises earlier each day and sets later, bringing light and warmth to all aspects of our lives. This year, I celebrated Sankranti in Mumbai with close family and overate “til-gul” and “til ladoo.” Too lazy to ask why this focus on sesame, I simply devour bags of those diminutive sesame balls held together with dark jaggery.

As we gorge ourselves, let’s turn our minds to the less fortunate amongst us and see how we can bring joy to their lives too.

This started as a desire to support needy girls at the Shanbhag School in Kumta, endowed in the name of my grandfather. Each year more friends and relatives joined in, and this year, Shanbhag Scholarships were awarded to 35 students (23 girls and 12 boys). We also extended scholarships to several other schools in Kumta. We hope to continue this trend within Kumta and one day I dream of supporting ALL needy girls in Kumta!

Years back, my graduate advisor retorted at another of my audacious ideas, “there’s nothing wrong with building castles in the air, as long as you build something below to hold it up there.” With all your goodwill, we will build it! Help me make this a very long list!

Scholarships were granted purely on the basis of need and included full tuition and a daily lunch at the school.

Read more about our Scholarships:



Appended are the names of students who received scholarships. The Saraswati Vidya Kendra and the Shanbhag High School are managed by the Konkan Education Trust, Kumta, India. Continue reading “Scholarships for the Needy 2008-2009”

Lunch at the Saraswati Vidya Kendra, Kumta

photos of Students Chanting before Lunch at the Saraswati Vidya Kendra Kumta by Arun Shanbhag
A few weeks ago I wrote about mid-day lunch at the Shanbhag School in Kumta. During our recent visit to Kumta in July, I walked over to the adjacent primary school – Saraswati Vidya Kendra.
Continue reading “Lunch at the Saraswati Vidya Kendra, Kumta”

Lunch at the Shanbhag School


In 2007, the Shanbhag School in Kumta (and their parent, the Konkan Education Trust), started to provide lunch for all their students. In the midst of a long day, the students had previously rushed home during their lunch hour. There are no cafeterias or restaurants near the school.

The school made a significant investment in cooking equipment and prepares a nutritious, vegetarian meal for the ~ 850 primary and secondary school students. Lunch is simply rice, sambar or daal, a lentil curry or vegetable and pickles (see actual student plate above).

During my meetings with parents of Scholarship recipients, and listening to comments at the Parents Teachers Meeting, parents absolutely love the school lunch program. Parents are relieved of the pressure to pack a lunch every morning, or have it ready for the lunch break. Parents are also surprised (and glad) their kids actually eat the variety of vegetables and lentils the school serves. The school subsidizes the lunch and charges students Rs 80 per month (~$2 per month, Rs 4 per meal or ~ 10 cents per lunch!). Students not on the meal plan can eat occasional meals and drop cash in an unmanned donation box.

Kids love the food too. Meals are taken in the company of friends (and associated peer-pressure to finish their plate). Lunch is done within 20-30 minutes, and since they still have an hour break, they get to play around, gossip, or browse the library.

I showed up just before lunch time to “test the quality of the school lunch program.” I always have interesting reasons to be present wherever free lunch is served. Very delicious food and a primary reason why we included lunch as part of the scholarship package for needy students. If your travels bring you to Kumta, you are welcome to join in for a delicious lunch.

Note: In this post from 2014, you can see new pics and video snippets of students in the primary Saraswati Vidya Kendra, lining up for lunch and chanting the blessing.

See pics from the Lunch, below
Continue reading “Lunch at the Shanbhag School”

Scholarships for the Needy

I have previously written about the Shanbhag School, an academic beacon in Kumta and surrounding villages.

The Shanbhag High School, managed by the Konkan Education Trust does not receive any governmental aid. But it follows the state determined academic syllabus and guidelines. While we attract many students who can afford fees, our family wanted to make good education particularly accessible to the poor. Thus last year we gave 16 scholarships to very needy students to attend either the Shanbhag High School, or the affiliated primary school, Saraswati Vidya Kendra. At a new site dedicated to our Scholarship activities, (Shikshan.org), you can browse the list of Scholarship Recipients for 2007-2008.

You can also read about my personal challenges in identifying needy girls: Where are all the needy girls?

We did not rest, last December (2007) during my travels to Kumta I visited most of the scholarship recipients in their homes. The visit served two purposes: (a) to meet the families and convince them of our commitment to support their child’s education ~ and in turn expect them to make education a priority; and (b) to ensure that these were indeed needy families, which I could determine from their living conditions.

They lived in simple 1 or 2 room homes, or with relatives, and it was emotionally overwhelming to experience the gratitude of these families. Below, I share with you some of the scholarship recipients in their home settings. Appropriately I have omitted their names.


We supported the boy in the center, flanked by his father and cousin sister. Being poor, the girl was enrolled in the local government run Kannada language school. She wanted to attend our English school, but being in 8th std (grade) it would have been academically disastrous for her to switch the language of instruction a year before the State Board Exams. This was an important reason why we started giving scholarships to students in primary school!

Continue reading “Scholarships for the Needy”

Tambdo Phovu – Red Flattened Rice

Pics how to make Tambdo Phovu poha, red flattened rice by Arun Shanbhag

Phovu (beaten or flattened rice) freshly mixed with few spices is a staple of Konkanis. Growing up, we’d eat tambdo phovu (tambdo – red) nearly every day for breakfast. If not for the main dish, at least as a side. I prefer it sprinkled with a little sev, or served on the side (see pic below). When visitors arrive unannounced, the women would quickly mix this as a snack. Since this is simply ‘mixed’ it is also called Kalayile (mixed) phovu. Continue reading “Tambdo Phovu – Red Flattened Rice”

Fresh-ground Raagi Flour

Fresh ground Raagi Flour pics by Arun Shanbhag
Raagi Bhakri is a favorite in our home. It’s easy to prepare and very filling. During this past visit to Kumta I replenished our stock of Raagi flour.

A few blocks from our place in Kumta is a little “girNi” (or mill) which grinds various types of flour. It is run by a distant relative ours; apparently everyone in Kumta is related to each other! And fortuitously for me, he was milling raagi flour that day. So here’s a little tour of the making of Raagi Flour.

Above – Shanbhag maam (in Kumta I call all elders by this honorific ~ we are all related, you see) poses with a bag of Raagi flour.
Continue reading “Fresh-ground Raagi Flour”

Academic Update from the Shanbhag School 2007

When I first posted on the Shanbhag School, the upper floor (1st floor) was still under construction. During my visit in Nov, it was a thrill to see students enjoying lectures in the new classrooms. You can see pics of ongoing classes later in the post. But first, an important question: How are the students performing academically?

In a word – EXCELLENT!
Summary of Results of 58 students who appeared in the 2007 X Std, Karnataka State Board Exams:

  • Highest score of 97.7%
  • 3/58 students scored greater than 97%
  • 20/58 students scored greater than 90%
  • 34/58 scored greater than 85%
  • 54/58 scored greater than 60%
  • 3/58 scored between 50 and 60%
  • 1/58 scored between 35 and 50%
  • No student in the entire class failed the X std Board exams

WoW! Congratulations to the students on their excellent performance. Also a big pat on the back for the teachers who did an outstanding job of educating the young. Since the Shanbhag School is a private school, it does not receive any Government subsidies or aid. Thus the teacher’s salary are much lower than at local government-aided schools. The dedication of teachers to teach is thus so much more appreciated. The 2008 exams has recently concluded and it will be some months before the results are out.

Here are a few pics of ongoing classes. Note: I did not know that Thursdays are “casual Thursdays” and students did not have to wear their blue and white uniforms (which you see in this post). Thus the school took on a festive appearance. YaaY!

It was a fabulous November afternoon. Looking towards the front of the school. For comparison, see here for pics from a few years ago.

Continue reading “Academic Update from the Shanbhag School 2007”

Kids on a School Bus

When I asked folks at the Shanbhag School the best way to travel to Kodkani (about 15 kms from Kumta) to see Shilpa’s parents, they recommended that I ride the School bus. On Saturdays, school ends at noon and the bus drops off students in Kodkani. Riding the bus would thus bring me in Kodkani in time for lunch. And another experience to notch!

Leaving the school, the bus was packed! I felt guilty as a seat was saved for me. But gave me a chance to take a few pics.

Little kids from the adjacent primary school got the pride of place next to the driver. At each stop, the conductor would literally carry a little one and hand them over to one of their parents waiting at the stop. Then joyously they would scamper away.

Continue reading “Kids on a School Bus”

Meeting Aayi of Aayis Recipes

Looking for new recipes, you have likely browsed Aayi’s Recipes the uber popular food blog hosted by Shilpa. This is M’s favorite “go-to” site anytime she needs inspiration for her cooking.

During my travels to India, I look forward to visiting our ancestral town of Kumta – Jewel of the Konkan in coastal Karnataka. And when I read that Shilpa’s Aayi (mother) actually lives in Kodkani, a village near Kumta, I had to make the pilgrimage and take darshan of this Devi – the inspiration behind Aayi’s Recipe. I contacted Shilpa and asked to visit her parents. She readily agreed and gave me their contact details.

And on a beautiful Saturday, I hitched a ride on a school bus dropping kids off to kodkani. Now, that in itself needs a separate post.

As the bus pulled up at the designated place, Shilpa’s father was waiting and brought me to their beautiful home! Wow! A traditional style bungalow, which immediately transported me back to the home of my grandparents in Bhatkal. Terracotta tiled roof; an open ‘jagli’ and a tulsi vrindavan in the front yard. The magnificently blossoming tulsi gave me great vibes of the place (see pic later).

And what a joy it was to finally meet Shilpa’s Aayi! Yes, Aayi of “Aayi’s Recipes.” Hundreds of thousands have salivated at her dishes, as shared by Shilpa. Legions have been inspired to try her creations for their loved ones. And so many look forward each day to new posts to titillate the palate. And I was invited to a beautiful konkani lunch made by her! 😀

Look at the spread. I hurriedly captured it before wolfing everything down. By the time I was through, not a morsel was left. What is more beautiful than all those recipes Shilpa posts on AayisRecipes? Eating dishes lovingly made by her Aayi! … and I got to eat it! nyean, nyean, nyean, nyean!

Continue reading “Meeting Aayi of Aayis Recipes”

Shanbhag School in Kumta

photos of CVSK High School Kumta by Arun Shanbhag
Our grandfather is from the village of Chitrigi in Kumta (coastal Karnataka). Since he moved to Mumbai in the 1930s, we all considered Mumbai our home with not much connection to Kumta. About a decade earlier, our family decided to support a High School building in Kumta in memory of our grandfather, but our family remained uninvolved in the school management.

A few years ago when I visited Kumta, I was thrilled to see an institution bearing my grandfather’s name. And ecstatic on hearing eedy students grateful for the fine school in the area. For me this served as a call to action; to serve this area, the students and the school. Continue reading “Shanbhag School in Kumta”

Cashew Nuts: To Your Health

Factories play an important role in India's rural economy. They provide jobs for local men and women, which translates into money to buy food, send kids to school, buy medicines if needed, repair and maintain a house and save some money. Villages and towns in India (as elsewhere in the world) don't need an handout, they need a hand-up! People are willing to work hard, but they need jobs with good working conditions and a decent pay. And customers who are willing to pay a fair price for their products. On every visit to rural india my ears are alert for news of well run companies creating jobs for locals.

In the Konkan town of Kumta, I visited the Sahyadri Cashew Processing factory run by Mr Murlidhar Prabhu. He is a relative of a relative. I was particularly impressed that he hired a lot of women in his factory. Of the more than 250 people he employs, only 8 were men and more than 240 were women. WoW!

“But do they like working here,” I asked. “Most of our new workers are younger daughters, sisters, and relatives of those already working here,” he explained, implying that if the pay was not good, or work conditions onerous, workers would not be bringing other family members in to work. Within a few years of working the women are able to save a decent amount of money. They generally leave when they get married and move out of town. Their ability to earn a living also makes them more marriageable, to a better person and gives them the confidence to seek other jobs wherever they move.

We need more such social entrepreneurs in the villages and towns of India. No! We do not need more television sets, or dainty models selling shampoo, or fancy soaps. Certainly not coffee shops or liquor bars or 'menthol' cigarettes or posh grocery stores. So the next time you munch on the nuts, remember all the folks working in the factories in rural india and elsewhere whose job depends on your choices. Did I mention nuts are actually very good for you?

The hard, gray, raw cashew seeds, perched below the fruit are collected and dried. Seeds are first steamed and allowed to cool in large heaps on the factory floor. The quick heating and cooling causes the kernel to separate from the shell. Operating steam boilers and loading /unloading large bags of cashew seeds was the only tasks in this factory performed by men. Women handled all other jobs here.

After cooling, women on tables with rudimentary cutters expertly position each seed in a v-grip using the hand lever. Then a foot operated lever snips the outer shell longitudinally in half. Cut seeds tumble through a hopper to a basket on the floor.
pics of women working in a cashew nut factory in Kumta Karnataka by Arun Shanbhag

… where another woman separates the whole nut kernel from the shell. The gray shell has corrosive agents and women rub oil on their hands to protect from the corrosive effects. The shells are sold off to companies which extract oils, which are apparently an important ingredient in marine paint used on ships and docks. May explain why most ships are painted gray?
pics of women working in a cashew nut factory in Kumta Karnataka by Arun Shanbhag


Collected nuts are dried in an oven, making the skin brittle and easy to remove. While I suffer at this chore, the women fly through at a dizzying speed. They use a tiny knife to scrape and release the skin on the inner surface of the nut. Then the rest of the skin just falls off. Preliminary sorting of the nuts is also performed at this stage.
pics of women working in a cashew nut factory in Kumta Karnataka by Arun Shanbhag


On these tables the cashew nuts are sorted depending on their size, colour and if they are chipped. Halfs and pieces of nuts are also sorted by size. This grading determines the ultimate price of the cashew nuts.
pics of women working in a cashew nut factory in Kumta Karnataka by Arun Shanbhag


The sorting tables were in a large well-lit area.
pics of women working in a cashew nut factory in Kumta Karnataka by Arun Shanbhag


The cashew nuts undergo extensive quality control before packaging. Nuts are placed on a conveyor belt and inspected. Over a sieve, dust and other contaminants are sucked. Over a magnetic table, metallic contaminants are removed. Cashew nuts are then packaged in vacuum in large packs (greater than 10kg). Most of the cashew nuts from this factory are exported through bulk dealers. They do have their own private label that you saw above. Depending upon the needs of the customer, the factory also does some post processing such as roasting cashew nuts with spices.
pics of women working in a cashew nut factory in Kumta Karnataka by Arun Shanbhag


Note on photographs: All factory pics were shot in Sept 2004 using my Olympus C4040, 4MP point and shoot digital camera, confirming you don't need fancy cameras to take good pics. I do have a dSLR which I have been using more recently. The opening cashew fruit pic was from an indian cashew trade association website.

Kumta: School Kids


Outside my cousin-brother's house in Kumta, these kids were walking back from school. They seemed eager to pose. After shooting this pic, I offered them one of the Britannia cream biscuit packs I always carry in my bag. They grabbed and ran – jumping in joy!


Other Kumta Related Posts:


Kumta: Field of Dreams

pics from Kumta by Arun Shanbhag
The road leading from my cousin's house in Chitragi to the Kumta (paent) market. It's a beautiful 10 minute walk. Here, bicycles serve as family vehicles. Notice how calmly, mom and infant are enjoying the ride on the rack.

The open drains on the side of the roads, carry the heavy monsoon rain water run-off. Ahead, cows resting on side of the road.


And across is this spectacular rice field. Despite having seen this field hazaar times, I am ever in awe. Depending on the time of day, or year, its a different scene. These pics are from an evening in September 2004; the light has a golden tinge and shadows are getting long. Monsoon rains have just ended, and the crop is starting to mature.

In this God-fearing country, the parting greeting is: Dev Bare Karo literally, May God do you good
pics from Kumta by Arun Shanbhag


Other Kumta Related Posts:


Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑