They had this lady
in 'Meet the Unsuing Heroes' episode on Doordarshan's Morning Show
the other day. Her claim to fame was her 'batting' score-more than
1200 in the last two years alone. She shot pestilent bats at the
A professional hunter,
she shot these large nocturnal beings and sold their meat, which
she said was medicinal--especially to people with asthma, and mixed
the extract in oil for massaging those with paralysis.
This chance TV viewing
stirred in me memories of a glorious childhood in Mangalore amidst
swaying coconut palms, the roar of waves from the Arabian Sea in
the background and, of course numerous myths and beliefs.
My sister Margaret
was just a babe in mother's arms then and I was not yet nine. The
child took ill day and the local quack's treatment resulted in an
allergic condition. She would never recover and often burst into
large boils of all hues and colours over her tiny frame, which nothing
no earth seemed to cure.
Those were days with
little confidence in modern day allopathy, but full of wonderful
Grandma's remedies for all occasions and ailments. And that's how
Granny decreed that bat's blood and tortoise blood be procured to
massage the little one.
This was more easily
said than done. Tortoise blood wasn't too difficult to come by.
There were Kachuas in our own well and being a coastal place, more
could be bought at the local market. But bat's blood, proved a difficult
cup of tea.
Father, in the meantime,
had made his enquiries and learnt of a bat's resting ground in the
forest of large banyan trees some ten miles away on the banks of
Netravati river. So the next few weekends were spent accompanying
father and his gun, out in our 'Singer' car, to shoot and bring
home Granny's remedy for Maggie's malady.
Now, father was wonderful
Shikari, and so it was great fun going shooting with him. We would
set off in the morning and reach Penemangalur, a satellite-town
in the suburbs, where we left the car. We then took a boat for the
opposite banks of the Netravati and proceeded on the foot to the
forest situated across Farangpet or "Phirangi-pete' as it was
then known in local Kannada.
Being literally night
birds, the bats cannot see during day and rest 'though the hours
of sunlight hanging in an inverted position, with their claws clutching
the branches. Real sitting ducks. And once, my thrill knew no bounds
when six of them came crashing down to father's one single cartridge.
With the help of the local 'mopla' the dead or screeching bats,
often numbering up to a hundred, were put in gunny sacks and ferried
across the river and then to the car.
Yes, the sequence
of events is clear now, especially due to a misadventure on one
such expedition. While jumping from the boat on to firm ground,
I had missed my foothold and falled into the swirling waters of
the flooded river and almost drowned, but for the mopla rescuing
me. And my embarrassment thereafter, travelling all the way back
home minus my wet clothes, huddled in between the front and the
rear seats -- lest I be seen in my birthday suit -- smeared all
over by the 'bloody' bags of bags.
Whether it was the
tortoise or bat's blood, I cannot say. Thanks to grandma's remedies.
Margaret did recover. And, touch wood ! Neither have we known of
illness at home during our childhood, thereafter !
Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can
interact with the author at http://
www.maxwellperira.com and email@example.com
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