Chikmatti: Where new dreams take wings

The main road laid in concrete that splices through the Hakki Pikki Dubai proclaims that the community has indeed arrived! A stage has been set up at the end of the road where performances and speeches are going on. Modi’s Swatch Bharat Abhiyaan has brought a 120 team of young NSS volunteers from the Government college of Shimoga to clean up the colony in a week long camp.

The mela like atmosphere is infectious. Already blessed with natural beauty, the girls are resplendent in their attire and make up. What with the outlined lips, the lipstick, the eyeshadow…. they would put any model in the shade. And the young men too are just as dandy. The houses are sparkling  too with walls covered with shiny  tiles or bright almost blinding colours…..a far cry from the deras they used to live in.

Lolki Bai and Giriraju were amongst the first settlers from Hasthapanahalli when they came to look for a space they could set up their tents in the early eighties.  They are indeed the original Hakki Pikkis. In every sense of the term. In conversation with Hari, Chandar, Ragini and the others from Bannerghatta, Lolki Bai tells us the story with  fire and fury as the ex chairwoman of the local panchayat. Pitched battles with the police, the neighbouring villagers who resented the new settlers, their houses being set on fire, them setting the sugar cane on fire, pregnant woman beaten, Giriraju’s fingers crushed… the support they drew from local DSS organisations who stood firmly by and with them and then their slow settling on the 386 acres of government land that had been originally leased to a sugar factory for 35 years; a lease that was running out; accessing of various government schemes including the ”Indra loz” and ”Amblidkar Yojana” .

The building with the legend Hakki Pikki Girijana Jananga Vividhosa Sahakar Sangha Ltd with the jolly red tractor parked in front bears witness to the story of their concerted effort to make the best use of the resettlement initiative that revolved around transforming them into a settled agricultural community.

Jayakeerthi, the new breed of a Hakki Pikki leader who blends better with the contemporary  political dispensation gives us a  legal overview of the status of the land they are currently in occupation of. The 37 acres of gram thana on which the village is built and section 94(C) under which the sites were given. He proudly points out to the huge pile of papers he is submitting to complete the process of acquiring hakku patras for 500 houses. He is hopeful that the land they are culitivating too will be regularised in their names. But his personal crowning glory is undoubtedly the 2.5 crore rupees Ashram School which currently houses the NSS volunteers and us.

Walking through the rather well laid out colony with broad roads we get drawn deeper into the exhilaratingly enterprising lives of the Hakki Pikkis  as we are tentatively welcomed into their colourful lives.  For a  little buzz of resentment  had greeted us thanks to  a recent not very kind report in the local Kannada paper about their suspect  way of life that revolves not only going around the country but also abroad. They calm down after Kumuda explains to them that we are not “media” but friends of the community who are travelling with their own people from Bannerghatta to understand and document how the community has grown in different parts of the State. Or not.

It is obvious here, that living off the land is  woven into their exceptional entrepreneurial skills and their capacity to seek out, generate and sustain their own individual and local markets- be in within the country or abroad. The DNA of the original pre industrial trading and nomadic communities is obviously still raging through their blood!

Families growing, drying and sorting out sacred seeds including (mini coconuts complete with  the mandatory three eyes) that are neatly packed and sent/taken personally to Mathura and then all over the country including even Nepal.

Families like that of Jaymala and Manilal Khandewala who travel all over the country and even abroad with lakhs worth of precious  stones including rudraksh beads  that they not only  know inside out but also know how to sell. They let us in on a little trade secret. Real stones are supplied to jewellers while the fake ones to those who tell Jothisya and those who try to bargain too hard!

Families sitting and diligently turning goat hooves into tiger claws that are also taken around and sold within the country and abroad. One of them, Shakuntala’s young teenage skinny son, Yesudas, aka Sipayi is busy swinging some dumbbells that he has himself inventively crafted with cement blocks and bamboo sticks. But he fails to impress our girls Srivathy and Bhanu who mock him with “ If you are body building with this then where is your body??”

In the midst of this Chandar and Srikant bring the story of  the Andhra couple running the local hotel who want to go back to where they want to come from but whose sons don’t want to leave a community who have converted them into honorary Hakki Pikkis and whose way of life they love.

What is unusual in this Hakki Pikki colony is that it  has lived up it’s cosmopolitan possibilities….traditional Hakki Pikkis, converted to Christianity Hakki Pikkis, converted to Brahmakumari Hakki Pikkis and non Hakki Pikkis….all apparently living together in relative harmony. Since all are busy finding their own intriguing ways to earn a living.

A polite and friendly Hakki Pikki family that looks like they have come from Goa are running a small but neat grocery store that is dressed up to look like a super market. The store front has a big sign that reads “ For Passport Appointments Please Call xxxxxxxx” just below the painted line in red that reads “ The Lord is my Shepherd”  The eldest boy of the family, a school teacher, promises to come back and talk to us but we unfortunately miss him since we had to leave before he returned from Shimoga.

The Brahma Kumari faith is also finding a new home among the Hakki Pikkis aspiring to another kind of gentrification – one sans alcohol but imbued with a strangely calm and enlightened  demeanour. Strange for the happy go lucky Hakki Pikkis!

A pleasant surprise is the unexpected visit from Suresh who has followed us from Hasthapanahalli and insists of treating us to a round of tea in his relative’s house as his farewell. We treasure the warmth and affection as we leave.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: