Towards Tungabhadra…

Day 9
7 February, 2018
Gangawathi

Just after we set from Kanakagiri early in the morning, we met two Kurubas Jamanna and Lingappa carrying their drums as they were waiting for a bus to their village. They perform drums in village festivals but their regular work is Shepherding, most communities earlier had one or other performing art skills.

On the left banks of Tungabhadra

This part of the walk was a shocking reminder of how dams can disrupt the environmental and cultural fabric of a region. The farms in this region have rich black soil but lying along the left bank canal of the Tungabhadra Dam, have a copious supply of water for irrigation throughout the year. This one reason has made a world of difference. Unlike the rain-fed farms we had seen earlier where a diverse cropping pattern was practiced, all we saw here was only a monocrop of paddy grown all the way to the horizon. Even a graveyard is not spared in this “rice bowl of Karnataka”! Surely, such intensive monocultures also require heavy inputs of fertilizers and pesticides! We spoke to a few farmers and farm labourers along the way about their food habits and were surprised to note that their staple food still remains Jowar rotti and they buy the grains and vegetables from nearby areas.

By the paddy fields

Curiously, we also found temporary houses made of bamboo and plastered with mud. A closer look revealed these villages are also called “camps”. It turns out, these are not really villages but settlements meant for migrant farm labourers who come to these areas for employment throughout the year. (more on this from someone)

We got speaking to a group of women labourers who were taking a short break from work. They told us women are paid Rs. 120 and men, Rs. 150 per day. Even as we were warming up with each other, they were rudely reminded to get back to work by their supervisor. Some of our questions of when they migrated to the camps, what they did in their villages, etc remain unanswered.
Closer to Gangavathi, we found houses with very ornate doors with intricate woodwork.

We met the owner of one such house and he warmly welcomed to his house. Being a theatre person himself, he was intrigued by our padayatra. Inside, the house had granite floor and wooden roof. His wife and daughter were making tamarind hinDi (spiced and pickled tamarind paste), which they use as pickle, using a big grinding stone. As we watched the making of this hinDi, we were told grinding it in a mixer will never give it the same taste and texture and neither will it last. They even gave us enough hinDi made last year for our lunch as the fresh lot is first offered to a priest during Shivratri, pickled for a month and only then used.

At Budamma’s home

For lunch, we made ourselves comfortable at the verandah of a muslim house headed by a Muslim woman, Buddamma, in Heroor (herur). She is a farmer and being a widow, she is a single parent to her son and daughter. A peek into their house revealed that along with Allah they also worship Hindu gods like Hanuman and Lakshmi.
Immediately after lunch, Bharadwaj, activist and union leader, Ramesh Gabboor, few activists and Hampi University faculty and students from Gangavathi. Ramesh sang some revolutionary songs that he composed. One of the songs he sang on “Comrade Basavanna” tickled our fancy. With our new companions, we set off to Ganagavathi, our next destination.

Gangavathi, with a population of 1.5 Lakh is the largest town on our route. As we walked along the main roads striking conversations about our campaign with curious onlookers, we finally reached Neelakanteshwara temple where we were to camp that night. We ended the day with a short informal meeting with the temple office bearers and dinner.

– Jahnavi and Abhilash