Bhadrapura: Life in the raw

If HP Colony in Bannerghatta is the chaotic Buda (core)of the clan that was made to set down it’s roots next to Bangalore city, Bhadrapura and Gowripura are its more settled offshoots. The former is the poor country cousin of the neighbouring Gowripura that we visit later. Both are tucked away from the industrially and agriculturally rich environs of the Mysore road highway, near Bidadi, Ramnagar District. While land has been granted, sold and resold in Gowripura, residents of Bhadrapura remain landless. And will remain so since it belongs to the forest department that is in the process of releasing 114 acres under the provisions of the Forests Rights Act in the name of the tribals. A process, which like in Bannerghatta, seems interminable.

Our last visit to this settlement on February 7 when we began the shooting, had the shadow of a tragedy hanging over it. Unable to bear the harassment and violence, physical and sexual, of her husband who was an alcoholic, a young woman had killed herself by hanging. Our attempts to generate a community conversation with local government and police officials around the increase in this kind of despair and violence had not borne fruit. The day before the meeting, unpredictable as they are, most of them gathered all the thornas and flower garlands they had created, packed their bags and set off enmasse to spread out into other parts of Karnataka to be able to tap all the local markets just before Shivratri. Every festival is a business opportunity not to be missed. Come what may. Death or tragedy.

Life in Bhadrapura in raw. And hard.

In Bhadrapura they work hard. They drink hard. They gamble hard. Life hits them hard. Allowing them no safety nets or cloak of any social niceties.

Today memories of that day have faded. Despite the fact that the husband was arrested and sent to jail pending trial.

We settle down in front of Gurvayya’s house. His wife, Khushboo has just won the local elections. He sends for some sweets and cool drinks to celebrate. Many join into the conversation as always…including many of our brethren from Bannerghatta. Honnikere starts reminiscing about her life. She is the eldest daughter of Hunsanahalli and Chimpanur, most of whose children are settled down in Bannerghatta….Dephone, Pasang, Ladikanne… with the exception of Nana Pasang. She tells us of her stories of travelling through Kashmir, Nepal and other states and of how once she got stuck in Delhi without any help. She talks nonchalantly about how her husband used to beat her…steal avarekai (beans) from the fields and innumerable stories about how they survived by begging. ” The Muslims are most generous”she says “They give us plenty of meat to eat!” she says with a wink. Chinamma adds some more stories. “Earlier when we used to eat food that the forests offered us we were so healthy. Now with  our food contaminated by urea and hindee we have started getting more sick with Sugar, BP “She speak of how they survived on food that was three days old or when hungry they would eat ragi, bite on an onion and then a green chillie. She speaks fondly of her son, Revolver.

Khushboo, of the younger generation speaks of the changing times that have only increased the challenges they have to face. “We leave for work early morning and come back home late in the night when there is no bus, no tempo, no auto. When our people go begging they are caught by the police and put into the beggar’s home. When we go into the forests then the forest department catches us. When we go out for business then people view us with suspicion and we are harassed for not having proper identity cards. It has become really difficult for us to move around the way we used to before. One girl was raped and killed in Kanakpura. Some Hakki Pikkis were blamed.” She grumbles about their current crop of leaders who she says are not bothered about the state of the people but are only obsessed with getting the land.

Gurvayya her husband speaks of how they landed up in Bhadrapura. Like many from here, he too was born in Bannerghatta and then moved on to Guddadahalli where they were granted some sites from where they were chased out after their own greedy leaders sold them out.  There are around 200 houses here that are occupied by not only Hakki Pikkis but also other communities like Gowdas, Kurubas etc. They received Hakku Patras which later turned out to be bogus. Some 70 families are cultivating. They put in their own money to do their business. Banks dont come forward to give them loans since they have no collateral to offer. Selling plastic too has become difficult because of the interventions of environmentalists.

It appears that despite their superior survival skills, the lives and lifestyles of the Hakki Pikkis are destined to remain degraded, marginalised or under the radar. Which is why perhaps perhaps they can continue to fly in freedom. However poor and impoverished they may be.

“Why are our people living so close to the cities not doing as well as people living away from cities” Gurvayya wonders. He answers it himself when he says…”our people here live for the day, they make enough money to eat and drink and they are happy.”

A neighbor, Anjanappa who is not a Hakki Pikki but living with them for the past 35 years “like a brother”  regrets the lack of discipline amongst the community. He feels it is the parents who are the biggest stumbling block to the future of their children who they refuse to send to school. English, who joins into the discussion agrees. ” I tried educating my children but it did not work. When I was young I looked after 10 people. Nobody could match me in cultivation. I used to cultivate atleast 20 bags of ragi but now I am losing strength. I would now like to educate my grandchildren but have given up. In this village, the youngsters have become good for nothing louts” he regretfully concludes.

But not all the youth in the village are good for nothing we notice. Gurvayya’s son in law, Vignesh looks like he is working hard running a tea shop. We see Sunanda Raju coming home on a resplendent TVS laden with plastic garlands. He has obviously been out the whole day. Sudhir, another youngsters approaches us and desperately asks us to help them from stop playing cards! We see a school full of children who look like they are studying and playing hard.

The child in the adult ofcourse refuses to grow up!

 

Kargatta’s daughter Shargi who like many of the older women enjoys her drink comes dancing in front of us. ” Why should I not drink??” she asks defiantly.

Another equally spirited Sunga Rani, the daughter of another matriarch of Bannerghatta, Goni, asks more philosophically as we leave “Huttooru Hange, Hethuru Hange, Yake Shiva?” (The place we were born in was also like this, as is the place we were raised in…why oh Shiva?)

Why indeed we wonder!

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