A considerable part
of our school holidays, when in my youth, were spent on Magadi,
my father's coffee estate. We children were then in our pre-teen
days, and the estate in Sakleshpur 'midst jungle environs of the
western ghats had opened for us vistas of unlimited adventure and
fun. Of myths and legends that go with forests, and an open door
into the unknown, the chilly nights lit by fire-flies and disturbed
by the screechings of a thousand crickets and other jungle noises.
Among the stories
of valour and courage, hunts and misadventures, dad's tales were
the best. For he would relate them to the tiger skins adorning the
walls, or the bison head high above the mantel-piece, and to the
legends built around local myths or reality. The stories woven around
our own estate caught our imagination, notwithstanding the fact
that parts of it were then beyond our comprehension, at our age.
There was this one
about Anderson, the Britisher, who started coffee in these parts
a long time ago. The worthy soul had fallen a prey to the wiles
of Manju, the comely wench at the local 'gadang' or tavern, beside
the village waterhole. He was easily bowled over, to make her his
companion, a temporary adjustment to ward off his loneliness.
Manju begot the 'saheb'
his offspring Richard and Anthony whom he packed off for schooling
in the Blighty -- as would behove the ones in whose veins his blood
ran. We learned later that they were themselves doddering old planters,
somewhere in the bushlands of Australia.
And Manju, who became
the venerable Manjamma -- being the one favoured with the 'gora
saheb's' affections -- commanded respect as a very special person,
with the area around her father's tavern, named for perpetuity in
local Kanarese as 'Manjammana Golla' or Manjamma's cove. It was
whispered that her ghost still haunted the place on dark nights,
with the beckoning light from her chimney lamp summoning her long
lost sons back to her waiting bosom.
And hence the 'golla'
itself was held in awe, even though the village of Magadi had disappeared,
leaving behind the dilapidated ruins of its temple -- a 'mujrahi'
institution -- and a string of legends to bear witness to its one
time existence. Forests had over-run its lands, sparing only the
fertile stretches surrounding the perennial waterhole at the 'golla',
planted with lush green coffee under the thick foliage of ancient
But bordering so
close to the forest on one side, this waterhole also rewarded those
of us who plucked courage to venture into the dark confines of the
'golla', with rich glimpses of wildlife -- of deer, wild boar and
even jungle cats, drawn to the place to quench their thirst. A veritable
gold mine indeed for a youngster trying his hand at 'shikar'..
And perched atop
the branches overhanging the waters, waiting with my muzzle loader
for game to carry home, I remember trying to conjure up the tavern
on the sloping sides of the 'golla', of the comely Manju ministering
to her fairskinned lord; or at times, of the forlorn Manjamma in
her twilight days waiting for the sons who were snatched from her
side at a tender age. And wondering what really happened to her
Whether in their
distant lands -- wherever that be -- they remembered their days
in the Indian jungles, and the myths and legends surrounding Manjammana
golla. To reminisce in the glow of fireplaces and narrate to their
own grandchildren, of those dream days that they left behind.
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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