Kashapura Gate: A doorway to the past

The team that set off this time towards Tumkur and Chintamani was again a combination of the young and old. Ragini joined us again this time along with Vanishree, Gram Reddy’s daughter. Enthusiastic Sameet joined the team again with his inseparable other half, good friend, Akhilesh. The youth brigade included Nanjesh, Yogesh and Manoj. Mamta from Vimochana joins in the journey in the course of which our Sutradhari, Kumuda and her son, are going to be picked up in Tumkur.

After being sent off on a wild goose chase hunting for the Hakki Pikki settlement, Shikaripura near Aashapura gate we finally reach our destination. I guess it is inevitable that most settlements we have been to which have not become as evolved as Pakshirajpura, end up being called the more generic Shikaripura…the abode of the hunters!

As always we gather under a Banyan and Neem tree that hold centrestage in the village where the old are sitting and sunning themselves in the afternoon after lunch. Curious onlookers begin to congregate around us. Kumuda darts around establishing linkages fast and furious.

Old timer, Babu takes on the mantle of historian and tells us the story of how this relatively young colony came to be….about 35 – 40 years ago.  “Orange’s uncle, Ramoji brought us here to this land on which we were living in our deras. Then the DC and Tahsildar came and sanctioned 200 acres. About 45 families got about 2 – 4 acres each. We were given bullocks, mamti, gudli and we grew ragi and jola. Houses were built for us in 1982. We had an ashram school with hostel which is now been closed down”

His own story is interesting. He was proud that he had studied up to the 5th standard. He got a government job and worked in a zoo. He went to Madras, then Gulbarga and then came to Mysore. He eventually landed up with a “grade” job as a doorkeeper in Vidhan Souda.

Government who was sitting next to Babu grumbles about the younger generation. “Nowadays these young women and men just run away without their parent’s permission and then come back and live together by doing Kootke. We have no unity among us” Nageena agrees. Earlier times were better. Now in this nagarika kaala (modern, civilised times) nobody listens to anybody. Mahesh chips in…”yes now everybody is a boss. Nobody listens to anybody else. ” Government concludes sagely “our greatest property are the two legs, two hands and two eyes we have been given.” He has ensured the education of all his five children. One of them, Lakshmibai is the Anganwadi teacher in the village.

As we move into the village we see the striking looking Demalga who was a silent spectator to the conversation busy making a bale/trap for rabbits that he sells to all….including forest employees! Little wonder that Baiyamma, Government’s wife had just made rabbit sambar for lunch!

Orange and Lakshmiah are busy chatting up Vanishree and Ragini…perhaps comparing notes on their respective settlements or tracing kinship.

We discover relatives here too….Jhansi Rani, niece of Japan and Jilliamma from Bhadrapura, near Bangalore! Her newly born hangs in the typical Hakki Pikki sling across her shoulders.

We have another inspiring conversation with Assambi….a dynamic woman who has built a successful Stree Shakthi Sangha over the past 15 years that has borrowed money from the bank and ploughed it back into the many business initiatives of the members. She herself has put up a shop and hotel which is quite the centre of action in the community.

Roopesh, son of Government is one of the few who has completed his Bachelors in Arts from Gauribidnur. He wants to go on and do his MA and PhD so that he could become a lecturer. In the meantime he is busy with his business which is an unusual one that was bequeathed to him by his uncle when he got converted to Christianity. The business revolved around melting metal (brass/copper) supplied by clients, pouring it into pre set moulds of different Gods and Goddesses and then Voila….produce an image in brass or silver! Theirs is the only family doing this business and his uncle seems to have picked it up from the Muslim community in Bijapur that travels around on motorbikes with their family, pitch up tents in different towns and set up the mobile kiln through which they melt the metal and make the moulds.

An organic ”secular” arrangement that accommodates and respects individual faith through the age old equaliser of trade and business.

A young woman with her child stands out among the already striking looking Hakki Pikkis. Young Divya, tall and statuesque…..she is apparently a Pardhi from Maharashtra. She says “we are actually Hakki Pikkis but called Pardhis in Maharashtra.” Her husband, Amit Kumar met her when he was travelling through Nagpur plying his trade.

In our farewell visit to the fields, Ragini, Vanishree and I encounter Thipamma who has a large chicken coup and cultivated land extensively. She starts speaking to us like we are old friends and complains unendingly about her son Vijay Kumar who has got himself converted to Christianity. She asks us to go and help ourselves to the mangoes that are growing in her plentiful orchard that are devoured greedily by all in the Tempo Traveller as we leave.

Rangenahalli, Gauribidnur Taluk, Chikballapur

On the way to Balegowdanahalli, our next stop, we have a brief stopover in neighbouring Rangenahalli, which despite being not even a kilometre away from Ashapura gate is in the neighbouring taluk of Gauribidnur in Chikballapur district.  Here we are introduced by the networker par excellance, Kumuda to Anantaraju with who we have a delightful encounter. The son of another old timer Rahim Singh who was there when the Bannerghatta settlement came up, he remembered with great detail “Dorai” who he said had carried the settlement in the palm of his hands. He went another step forward and said that he thought I was Dorai’s daughter! I presumed he was talking about the grand old patriarch Thirunvandorai till I realised he was talking about Highen the German developmentalist who had made the Bannerghatta settlement his home for a brief time in the sixties! I quickly correct his perception of my lineage.

Rajendra, his nephew spontaneously breaks into a traditional Hakki Pikki song that Anantraju joins in with after some persuasion from Vinod. They have powerful voices that we carry back with us into the van, along with more mangoes, both raw and ripe, that they generously ply us with, as we move on to towards Gauribidnur.

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