Chelur: The sleepy hinterlands

Since everybody is busy with the marriage, we set off in the morning to explore the Hakki Pikki settlement in neighbouring Chelur.

After many hits and misses to catch the right turning we reach Chelur that looks like it has yet to wake up from its slumber. After Balegowdanahalli this settlement seems rather sedated!

Mani, brother of Rajesh, the head of the village tells us its story and its history. They were settled on about 105 acres of forest land about 60 years ago. But sagoli was given to only 15 of the 45 families who have built their houses. There is practically no water to drink here since all the borewells that were sunk have dried up. They grow papaya and groundnuts during the monsoons otherwise their livelihood revolves around doing business with plastic flowers and selling herbal medicine for minor ailments for children and women. They are not obviously as enterprising as their counterparts in Hunsur or Hassan but do travel all around the country like Maharashtra, MP etc apart from other parts of the State.

Venkatesh sits outside his house making the plastic garlands and flowers as his wife, Lalithamma looks on. With visible traces of toothpaste lining her mouth that testify to the fact that morning ablutions have been complete she also shows us all the little items that she trades in the villages that she walks through….kasturi, gorojana, belmuri, yedamuri, kaad samrani, ghalidokadi…most of these medicines for babies when they have a cold, when they cry too much, to cast out the eye, to drive away ghosts……

As we are chatting with Lalithamma and with Prem Singh, an old man and neighbour who is relaxing outside his tent house we have an encounter with Loknath who wants to know what we are shooting and why. It is the first time that we have encountered aggression when he challenges loudly “give me your project so that we can make our own film on ourselves… don’t need to go around on our behalf.”

Kumuda retaliates with a scathing tirade that he does not quite recover from and he sits a more chastened man after which we have a more reasonable conversation! Later on we see him inside a tent at the entrance of the colony which doubles up as a makeshift Church. He is converted to Christianity, become a pastor and come to conduct prayers on a Sunday!

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