Under the shining Super Moon | Tracing Manteswamy’s Route

Day 3 of the Padayatra
1 February 2018,
Saranamma Tayi MaTha, Sajjalagudda

Starting from Jawoor while the “Supermoon” was still setting, we walked along the high-walled dam area for a good 5km! On the other side of the road were a couple of villages stirring into motion along with the rising sun. Being close to the dam, few crops were grown here, most significantly Paddy, Cotton, Jowar and Chillies.

Our first stop was at a tea stall near a Sai Baba Temple. I won’t get into the details of how we had the best peanut chutney with idly here! What truly caught our attention here is, the handmade cob houses by a Telugu-speaking community from Kurnool. Walls are made of Vitex sticks (which they grow) and then plastered with mud. The floor is also made of mud and thatch of grass harvested locally. These houses last at least ten years and the thatch might need repairs once in five years. This community has migrated to this region and settled  practicing agriculture.

A rather intriguing sight was in store for us, next to the huts. A shepherd had penned his lambs. He mixed milk powder with water and fed them with a huge syringe. Malaria is rampant in these areas and even sheep are not spared. Ewes affected by Malaria are unable to lactate and feed their young ones. The shepherd has found a quick solution for the 18 kids. He feeds 50 ml of milk each, which is cheaper than buying fresh milk. As Gopi noted, thanks to the highly subsided western agriculture, our shepherds have found a cheap solution for his troubles.

Post-Noon, Leaving the irrigated areas behind, we walked along rain-fed farmlands with rich black soil. Cotton companies have made us believe that black soil is best suited for growing cotton and even called it “Black Cotton Soil”. What is often never mentioned is that this soil is best suited for a wide variety of crops. A mind-boggling mix of crops are grown here—Jowar, Sajje, Safflower, Toor, Channa, Jave Godhi (native wheat variety), Mustard, Chillies; and a wide variety of vegetables. Some even following mixed-cropping methods.

Our path was peppered with features of displacement caused by a single dam – from villages to agricultural practices.

After another quick pit stop at a Dargah (a Sufi shrine), we met a nomadic soothsayer who travels for six months in a year, along with his family of five, his dog, poultry, puppies and four horses! He begins his journey from a village near Solapur in Maharashtra to Karnataka and even up to Hyderabad!

An All Women’s Collective – Navajeevana Mahila Okkoota

The most inspiring part of the day was visiting the Nagarhal village. After resigning to the fact that women in this region do not participate in meetings, we were blown over to see what will perhaps be one of the most unforgettable experiences of the Padayatra! An all women’s collective, Navajeevana Mahila Okkoota, has been fighting for their rights and to put an end to alcoholism. They work with women from poor, landless families, and help each other in finding ways of generating income. They collected Rs. 50 from their members, fielded women for the post the of president and vice-president in the panchayat elections and even won! They also cooked us a delicious meal and took us to a farm pond they dug with their own hands. Truly the most humbling experience for us!

Just before departing, we happened to meet the women and children from Durgmurgeyar community whose occupation is to collect hair and sell it to the “companies” in Gadag and other towns. This village of 5,000 people even had different artisans like mat weavers, basket makers, potters, etc.

With our batteries recharged from their energy, and some of them even accompanying us to Sajjalagudda shouting slogans, we reached the Saranamma Tayi MaTha to spend the night. After a meeting with the villagers who gathered to know more about the padayatra, and a sumptuous dinner, we called it a day!

By Jahnvi Pai