For more than 50 years I have been responding to questions about how the family name ‘Borgaonkar’ came about, to people here in the USA. I was told by my father that he took this family name of Borgaonkar, about a century ago, when he and his cousins came to Pune to continue their High School education at the New English School in English medium, as Gulbarga had Urdu medium instruction in the then Nizam’s Dominions.
He did not like the name Kulkarni, the profession of the family and secondly, in those days the families did not have family name custom as they were called the son of ‘so and so’. My grandfather and his 3 brothers left the village of Borgao, then Akkalkot State (now in Solapur District) and went to Gulbarga in the late 1890s (I do not know why to Gulbarga) for work. They all did very well but 3 did not survive long and only the youngest, Gopalrao did and raised the children of his 3 older brothers as a joint family meaning managing the possessions of them as well.
My father, Shankararo was only 6 months old when my grandfather, Apparao Borgaonkar, died at an early age. As soon as I would tell people this history of our family name, many would ask me, have I been there. I would tell them, no, and that I was born and raised in Hyderabad and that my father had inherited some properties in Gulbarga and that the properties in Borgao were inherited by his other cousin, Narsinhrao. I had been to Gulbarga many times to visit/manage the properties in the 40s and 50s before I left India for higher studies.
When Manda and I were planning the visit of early this year, to celebrate the joint 80th Birthdays of the 6 maternal cousins in Pune and Mumbai, the thought occurred to me to make a visit to Borgao. I thought that was possible because of two things. One, Manda and her 2 sisters had visited Solapur and Tuljapur during her visit in 2010; and two, that my second cousin, Avinash, son of Narsinhrao, has been doing quite well along with his brother’s families in Gulbarga. When I was being introduced for my talk in Aurangabad in 2010 at a conference, the lady professor there had asked me if I was related to one Avinash Borgaonkar in Gulbarga and that a family member of hers was married in that family.
So, I ‘googled’ Avinash Borgaonkar and called the listed work phone number and told the person who answered, an employee, that who I was and that I would call later. He gave the message to Avinash, Gopal (son of the oldest son, Shashi of Narsinhrao) and others. When I called later in the day and talked to Gopal about my intention to visit Borgao in January of 2013, they were all thrilled and a visit was arranged. Avinash wrote very firmly that Manda should accompany me.
I invited my nephews to accompany me and Nitin, my younger sister, Achala’s son and his wife Maneesha came and arranged the train reservations and took all the pictures being sent with this note. Nitin has paternal relatives in Gulbarga as well. A detailed plan was developed with a night’s stay in Gulbarga in the Borgaonkar building with Avinash’s family! Avinash and Gopal came to Solapur train station to receive us and we drove to Borgao, about 90 minutes.
We saw the house of our grandfathers. The road was not paved but OK for the SUV. Town names were written in Marathi, the language of the State of Maharshtra. Apparently the second floor of the house was damaged during the ‘Latur’ earthquake few years ago! We were entertained for a lunch prepared by the ladies, including a very thin bread made from Bajri flour! Manda was given a blouse piece, along with a traditional female greeting. We walked around town and took some more pictures. It was a beautiful sunny day and a most memorable visit. We drove from Borgao to Gulbarga in the afternoon, another 90 minutes drive. The road in Karnataka was paved but not in Maharashtra. I wondered how my grandfather must have gone to Gulbarga more than 100 years ago! We all thought that must have walked! I am very happy that I finally made this visit to Borgao. Now that I have lived and travelled around the world, I can state that human practices are very similar. People have taken family name in many different ways: Seashore meaning they came sea shores, in Iceland: dottir meaning daughter of so and so etc.
Contributed by Bal Borgaokar.