Friday, April 1, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy -4

I wish to discontinue writing about my teachers at this stage for some time. I wish to write the role played by the animals in our daily life in Malnad. I would come back to my school days later.

Each household in those days used to have several cows and a few she-buffaloes. There would be a big cowshed for rearing them. Actually each such animal was a part and parcel of the household. The treatment given was equivalent to any family member of the house in line with their age. The cows were given a separate and preferential status. Each animal would be given a name immediately on its birth.  The names for cows would be like Tungabhadra, Radha, Parvathy and Lakshmi. They were worshipped as God (Gomaatha). The buffaloes did not carry this respect. The fact that their yield of milk was more than four times that of a cow was conveniently forgotten! After all who cares for merit when it comes to looks? It seemed that this discrimination was taken by the buffaloes in their stride. So much so that it was a ‘non-issue’ for them! They simply developed ‘thick skin’ over the whole matter!

 Every year during Deepavali Go-Pooja would be held with great enthusiasm. Each animal would be given a bath in the morning. They would then be fully decorated with flowers and other special items only available in our Malnad. The Pooja ritual was always done by the eldest male person of the house. We children were fully involved in the various Pooja preparations and enjoyed every bit of it. Some of the cows and young calves were extremely troublesome and it required great patience and perseverance to bring them around. The Pooja would end with the offering of eatables to all the animals. I always had a hunch that they were just interested in this eating part only. They would merely suffer the other rituals in anticipation of the final offerings! Thereafter all the animals would be sent for the grazing in the nearby forest land in a procession.

I should make a mention here of two of the great literary masterpieces written in Kannada by unknown persons. One is a poem written highlighting the utility and contribution of a cow to the welfare of humans. The poem in fact challenges the human race to compare themselves with a cow and understand their inferiority!

The second one is in fact a beautiful story of a cow and a tiger. The cow when caught by the tiger requests for permission to go back to its shed for arranging a caretaker for its young calf in its absence. It promises to get back. Believing its assurance the tiger allows it to go back. The cow called Punyakoti keeps its words and returns to the tiger’s place after making necessary arrangements for its young one. This unbelievable act makes the tiger think. It allows Punyakoti to go back freely and commits suicide to mend its past sins! The whole story is told in a long beautiful poem. It used to be a compulsory item in all Kannada text books in those days. The poem was well-known in all households and we children had it by hearted. It also served as a cradle song. It was in fact titled ‘Govina Haadu’, meaning, ‘the song of the cow’.

In those days the fear of tigers in our village was for real. Every year one or two tigers used to visit the forest near our village. There was a big cave on the top of a hill with dense forest. This was the camp site for the tigers. Each household used to lose one or two animals and sometimes more as prey to these wild tigers. We could hear the roaring of these tigers during the nights. We used to pray for the survival of our cows. But there was no guarantee that the cows sent for grazing every morning would safely come back. The evenings used to be tense till all the cows came back to the shed. There were even occasions when some cows were snatched away from the sheds by the tigers during the nights.

Our village had a famous legacy as far as tigers were concerned. It had the proud privilege to be the only village in the erstwhile princely State of Mysore to have caught a tiger live. The philanthropist and big Landlord called Shingappaiah mentioned in the previous episode was highly enterprising. That particular year it seems the tiger which came on its annual visit did not want to return. Its menace went on and on when our Shingappaiah thought enough was enough! He got a special trap made by the village carpenters out of wood. He arranged to leave the same in the forest close to the hide out of the tiger. A calf was kept in a small enclosure within the trap to attract the hungry tiger. The scheme worked well. The very next day loud roaring of the trapped tiger could be heard even in the far away villages.

There was a big stampede when the people from all over the Sringeri and Koppa talukas visited our village to see the trapped tiger. You can call it a festival time. Such was the village atmosphere. The villagers were gratified to see the greatest enemy of their beloved cows trapped in a miserable condition for the first time. But there was a problem. Everybody wondered how to dispose of this tiger in the trap.  But our Shingappaiah had his own plans ready. In those days there was no telephone facility. Hence he sent a special messenger directly to meet His Highness the Maharaja Krishna Raja Vodeyar Fourth at the capital city of Mysore. Such was the clout of Shingappaiah that the Maharaja straight away ordered that a suitable vehicle be sent to our village to transport the trapped tiger to the Mysore Zoo! Accordingly the Zoo vehicle reached our village and the tiger was given a warm send off! For years the Mysore zoo used to send an annual confirmation to our Shingappaiah about the wellbeing of his tiger. This legendary act, as far as our village was concerned, was etched in the memory of our villagers and we the younger generation felt very proud to hear the same repeatedly from our parents. My father was a close associate of this Shingappaiah and needless to say that he took an active part in the whole operation.

Let me shift from the tiger to the great wild boar. For this, I have to introduce to you our late neighbour Kittajjaiah. This great man had his own story! He was in fact called the ‘lottery Kittajjaiah’. There was ample reason for calling him so. He had this strange habit of winning any of the lotteries for which he purchased tickets. We were told that the first lottery to be held was Goa lottery. Kittajjaiah was the first to win this lottery in the first draw itself. He was very selective in this venture but luck favoured him whenever he purchased the tickets. Believe it or not he even won his wife in a lottery!

The story goes like this. Kittajjaiah had attended the marriage of a close relative. In those days, marriage function used to be conducted for four days. In the first day itself the bridegroom had soothaka (some birth or death taking place in the family preventing the function) resulting in the cancellation of the very alliance itself. But the bride’s father was not prepared to postpone his daughter’s marriage. He found out that three of the boys who had come for the marriage were eligible. Our Kittajja was one of these lucky guys! In those days the girls were in short supply and suitors were many! It was virtually a ‘Swayamvara’situation! All the three eligible candidates had their hearts in their mouth!  The bride’s father decided to have a lucky dip (Lottery draw)! When it came to this lottery draw our Kittajja won it hands down, as was his habit always! It was a happy and successful marriage. But unfortunately Kittajja’s wife died after delivering her first child. In those days there were instances of people going for even third or fourth marriage on the death of their wife.  But Kittajjaiah was such a dedicated husband that he never went for a second marriage. Kittajja brought up his only son single-handedly. His house saw the presence of a lady only after his son’s marriage!

Let me come back to the story of the wild boar. Our village forest had all types of wild animals in those days. Some times they would land up in our arecanut gardens in search of their preys. Kittajja had a servant by name Rama. He was an expert in climbing the arecanut trees for different purposes. He was very close to the Kittajja’s family.  He was in the habit of making ‘tamasha’ and left no such opportunity to go wasted. One particular morning he returned from the garden calling loudly for Kittajjaiah.  He invited Kittajja to the garden to see some strange thing. Kittajja went with him along with another young boy called Chandru. Rama took them near a big tank in the far end of the garden close to the forest. There he pointed towards a small bush. The wild boar was in fact hiding there. When these people went close, it straight away jumped and attacked them. The three were virtually defenseless as they had no weapons to protect them. Rama had committed a blunder in the guise of ‘tamasha’for which he had to repent for life! The first to bear the frontal attack of the wild boar was Rama himself! Kittajjaiah being an experienced climber of trees had climbed an arecanut tree within no time. The boy Chandru took to his heels and reached home safely!

But Rama was not an ordinary person. He fought the boar bravely and even though he was wounded and was bleeding heavily he managed to slip out and climbed another tree. You may not believe this. But the boar did not want to allow them to escape easily! It kept its vigil below the trees on which the two had climbed! It waited patiently to teach them a lesson! Now these two had a real problem in their hands. They had to manage to hold on to the trees till the help arrived from home. They were sure that once Chandru reached the house some help would necessarily be forthcoming. But it took a lot of time for the help to arrive. The reader may not be aware. But it is extremely difficult to hold on to an arecanut tree for long as it has no branches. Besides, Rama was already wounded and his legs and hands were shivering with fright. He started slipping down the tree as he lost his grip. But when he was just about to touch the ground the boar jumped on him again. With his life in danger the strength came back to Rama’s feet and hands! He climbed back the tree again!

By this time Chandru’s message had reached the whole village. All the village elders rushed to the place with the available weapons in their hands. The boar fought bravely and ultimately died in the hands of one Manja who was a great hunter.

- (To be continued)-


Narain said...

Very interesting to read about the rural life so close to nature! The animals, whether domestic or wild, have become part and parcel of our lives!!

AVK Murthy said...

Thanks NN.