“Have you bought a gun?” Kanva asked me.
“Here in Sakleshpur, we don’t talk much. We shoot if things drag beyond a point.”
I have heard such a line many years ago, delivered by Eli Wallach just after he shoots down a too-talkative attacker while bathing in a small wooden tub holding a gun beneath overflowing soap bubbles*. Kanva isn’t the type to watch The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly; besides, Kanva is very young and the movie is too old. I gazed at him and wondered: In Sakleshpur they are unlike in Bangalore: they speak softly even if they are built well; they don’t glare when you come up against them on the road; they don’t thrust accusing hands at you; and they take you into their homes and serve delicious food hot with pepper from their own plantations, and coffee with milk-froth on top, with powder from beans grown in their own vast backyards.
Such a plantation Kanva has sold me, and we were at dinner the night of the purchase (last week) when he spoke about guns. The day before he had taken me to a darkness in the plantation covered over by thick branches, where dark-brown and black old rocks are arranged, and the rocks are pasted over with prayer marks and flowers. Goddess Chowdi: No murthi, just a humbling, mysterious, fearsome presence suggested by the darkness and the rocks and the knowledge that for decades people from the village are sacrificing goat there before Chowdi on severely composted black and wet soil.
And yesterday while Sujaya and I inspected the plantation with our writer, some ten strange young men walked three tracks ahead of us, all within our boundary. “To shoot wild pig,” the writer told us, reading the question-mark on our face. Three of them carried long rudimentary guns, and three or four dogs of poor pedigree but enough discipline went with them and the group disappeared.
I have a task ahead of me: I am vegetarian and I will not have guns and blood on my land in my brand new home. But see the picture above and you’ll know I’ve related only one part.