BIDAR KOTA VENKANNA

Short, fair and strikingly handsome, these features were enough for people to take a second glance at him while he crossed them. That’s the loving impression of my paternal Grandpa. Popularly called as Beedhar Kote Yenkanna avaru, well respected yet equally feared, for he was a man of strong action. One wrong deed, they were sure to invite his wrath with dire consequences. At the same time, people used to flock to him for help and guidance, for he was a very generous man despite his profession. Whenever someone used to beg him to reduce the instalment payments due to difficulties, he used to assess these requests cautiously. If the case was genuine, he would go to the extent of writing off the loan. He was a Money lender with a golden heart. If there was a hanky panky turn observed, then God help the naughty chap!! Skinning them would be an understatement!!

Hunting tools
Grandpa’s hobbies and gaming activities were much more vibrant and well known to all. A great hunter, famous for his sharp shooting skills. We used to wait for his return anxiously. After all , there would  be exotic meats on the dinner table, be it pheasants, wild boar or a deer. Those days there was no restriction on deer hunting. Grandma was an expert in producing dry salted meats from these. He was about fifty during my primary school days. Robust and rippling with sturdy muscles, looking like a champion wrestler in saffron dhotis and red pagris. His Grey handle bar moustache would complement the magnetic persona.

We kids used to visit during the winter holidays, Bidar was too hot in summers. He used to repair and service his hunting tools himself and wouldn’t trust anyone touching them. Hunting was his first love. The variety of arms in his hunting kit were unique and varied, be it the single barrel gun, bows /arrows, catty or traps (quite funny yet dangerous looking ones). There were some interesting fishing nets and rods. One afternoon, I saw him at his repair session and joined to watch the fun. His mind would be so focussed. He was explaining the parts of a trap used normally to catch small animals such as the restless yet furtive baby wild boars. The SOP explained in detail. It had a strange long arm and a short one on the other side with a plate in the centre. Mounted on a small pedestal. The plate would have a bit of food item as a bait. So when the victim pecks on it, the long arm would have flung rapidly, stunning the animal motionless for a minute. Hmm so that’s the working! I was thrilled to gain such exciting knowledge. Must try it out soon.

The opportunity came almost instantly, when he said adjusting his dhoti, “Wait for two minutes, am going to the rest room”. “Yes pa, please go, I will be a good boy, promise not to touch any anything”. I said obediently. The very next moment, I secured the trap, held the long arm in its place, tightened the string and lo, it was ready to strike. Now is the chance to test it quickly. I placed my chin and acted like a little pheasant trying to peck at the plate which was empty! Bang the arm came on my chin, cutting deep. The plate was filled with some good sacrificial blood. I yelled, bringing the house down. You can imagine the commotion, Grandma came running and started shouting at Grandpa, “I say you are killing my boy! That chin mark still remains, an unforgettable gift from Bidar for a life time. Each morning while shaving, it reminds me of the intelligent test.

Krishna Kaka
The usual hunting grounds were the Bidar fort and the Guru Nanak Jhira back yards which were then filled with lush green forests. The famous Narasimha temple located outside the town had abundant wild life on its gentle rolling hills. One had to wade through waist deep water in the long tunnel to gain the Darshan of the lord. Often I was carried by some elder on his shoulder, the thought of something touching my legs would be so scary.

This little story in a story goes thus, many years ago when my own dad was a kid, Grandpa went to the Narasimha forests to hunt. As the typical saying goes, he went further into the forests and got lost chasing a baby deer who was too agile for him. Giving up, he started to get his way back with little success. Thirsty and hungry under intense heat, he was searching for a good shelter. Imagine, a pahelwan (body builder) getting tired!! The situation was quite challenging. Few hours in the hot sun quickly went by, too tired to move, sat down to rest, but he fell into a sleep. He was woken up after an hour by a screaming child cry coming down from a nearby spot by. Behind the dense bushes across, gathering himself up, he went on to find out.

There was a tiny hutment, very tribal yet neatly decorated, very surprising to be right in the middle of the thick forest. The cone shape structure had a little thatch door with colourful bamboo strips. He pushed it and went inside. The child was crying hoarse, he was about three years, saying something in his language. Grandpa looked around the tiny room, there signs of few belongings though. But no one around. Coming out, he noticed a mud Chula and a tattered grass covered bathroom. He walked around a bit more to find out the whereabouts of the parents. Finally, at the edge of the thorn fence, he saw a lady’s silver ankle sticking out of the bushes on the ground. Glittering. Rushing to the spot, he saw a man besides her, lying down motionless. A large swath of foam on their mouths. Dead. He looked around further, he saw the king cobra few feet away, face smashed. The picture was clear, the parents had a bitter struggle. Heart broken, he walked back to the child.

“What’s this? You have brought a little boy instead of deer from hunt return, that too at midnight” Said my Grandma. He narrated the tragic event. We shall call him Krishna, you know he wouldn’t let go off his father’s bamboo flute when I was getting back here. He will match to our Gopal (my dad) in name and deed, raise him well, his parent’s souls will be happy in heaven”.

Krishna Kaka (uncle) was always loving and caring, dancing to my tiny whimsical and unreasonable tantrums. Pampering me to the core. His favourite spot was the Narasimha tunnel temple and the surrounding hills. He used to take me there at every occasion, first he would give me a natural spring bath. The tiny spring was nicely diverted through a man manmade cow mouth giving a mini waterfall effect. Later carrying me on the shoulders while wading through the waist deep waters. It was thrilling, I felt like a horse rider, cheap thrills. Fondly remember the day out cooking picnics thereafter, he was a great chef with game. Supplies from Grandpa of course. The whole family used to spend time tighter sans mobiles, laptops, just the glorious sun rays peeping thru dense trees, making a mesmerising memory on mind. Indelegible.

Cascade in the fort
His favourite space was the fort which was abandoned those days and all the wild boars used to roam freely. Sleep in the fort at night and patrol on the open surrounding wilds in the day, bygone royalty traits still entrenched I guess.  we reached the fort before dusk one day. All the armaments in the kit, fully loaded and ready, I could see the firm expression on his shiny face. We passed the great entrance 40-foot-high dome, a masterpiece of an architecture. The Solah kambah masjid was the next building we passed by, before reaching the huge open court yards. There were remnants of great gardening plans that one could still see amongst the ruins. The Rang Mahal (Colour palace) was adjacent where the Rani ma quarters used to be. He said, “That’s where the game hides at this hour”. He unpacked the kit, took out the rifle, hunter’s knife and a catty. He said, “Wait here, don’t do anything silly. I will be back in ten minutes even if there is no catch”. I nodded like a good boy, waiting for him to go fast, flashing an innocent sweet smile.

I looked around for my own piece of action, had a paper knife tucked inside my shirt. Taking it out gleefully, I walked to the end of the courtyard towards the high wall. I saw the trellis cascade fountain. It looked interesting. Tall and steep. Starting from the ground, it sloped upwards touching the high wall of about twenty-five feet. The two sides had a nice railing kind of a grip while the middle portion had curved lime stone inundations for the water to cascade. This feature must have been a sight then, water gently flowing and bringing joy to all. To me, it looked like a giant play slide, like the one at my convent school. Wow, I must try to go up right till the top and slide down. What fun? I started the climb nimbly holding the rails and used the chipped curves as foot holds. They were actually quite smooth due to many years of neglect and erosion from rain. The climb was getting tough, with the body in an angular form but still fun. A good ten minutes later I managed to climb about twelve feet. A gentle breeze blowing on my face, while the black curls refused to be swayed, which were like stubborn springs, too coily for comfort. I happened to look down, Oh my God, what a great height! Eyes spun. Legs began an immediate tandava Nritya (Celestial Shiva dance). My little hands started to sweat profusely and the rails turned slippery. I slid down a couple of feet, in the melee, face rubbed against the trellis notches, making some nice red designer scratches on cheeks and nose. Phew. I managed to hold tight, unmoving in a frog like positional angle. Mustered little strength to look up to the edge of the high wall, it looked like Mount Everest while the Indian Ocean down was beckoning with its quota of sharks. I better stay put till grandpa arrives, come what may. Salty tears now flushed my chubby cheeks and entered the gashed mouth. It had a funny wild taste, mixed with blood I guess. Fifteen minutes passed by, excruciatingly.  Grandpa, Grandpa, I started yelling, at which I was a champion at. Cursing that I forgot my faithful whistle, a great annoying piece for the neighbours. Neighbour’s curses never go wasted it seemed.

The reply came from below in the form of low growl. I looked down. Teeth barred, it was looking up at me in a much wicked fashion. Furry and ferocious creature. Could it be a wild dog or a fox was the confusion, but nevertheless, legs started trembling, this time aka Michael Jackson’s beat it song.  Finally, the centuries old cascade received some human salt water. Damn again, no diapers. I closed my eyes, with no sign of him; started to pray that the silly animal shouldn’t climb up. I offered my whistle to the God, promising that it’s his keep for life. My predicament was a repeat of the previous week after our fishing trip. The fish bone got stuck in my throat, couldn’t swallow or spit it out.

Bang Bang, the shots were fired. I knew my dear hunter came back. I heard a yelp and saw the fox slump. I was busy kissing his cheeks amidst genuine joy and plenty of Croc tears. He didn’t yell at me.

A half century later I visited my dear fort recently with sister and brother. It has a heritage site tag now, well preserved. The first flash that struck at the parking lot was well? You guessed it right “The cascade”.

I ran. It recognised me instantly, giving that ‘knowing’ smile !
Venu Rao
15th July 2020

 

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