K M Dayashankar
KARIMNAGAR: A 56-year-old man is leading a life of a recluse in an ambassador car in the deep jungles in the forests of Sullia taluk in Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka state for the last 17 years.
Meet Mr Chandrashekhar, who had converted the car as his home and living in the dense forests amid wild animals for 17 years after detaching himself from the civilisation. He was normal with the society doing cultivation, but his humiliation and ill-treatment by the family members had forced him to retreat into the jungles.
Mr Chandrashekhar owned 1.5 acres of farm in Nekral Kemraje village where he grew Areca nut and was leading a peaceful life. In 2003, he took a loan of Rs 40,000 from Nelluru Kemraje co-operative bank. He tried hard but couldn’t repay the loan. So the bank auctioned his farm which Chandrashekar couldn’t digest. He took off to his sister’s house in Adtale in his ambassador car.
After a few days, he had a rift with his sister’s family and decided to live alone. He drove away into the deep jungle nestled between the villages of Adtale and Nekkare near Aranthodu of Sullia taluk and parked his favourite car there. He put a plastic sheet above to protect the car from rain and sun.
Reaching the man’s abode is a bit tricky. One has to walk 3-4 kms inside the jungle and after a while, a small plastic sheet is visible which rests on bamboo poles. There stands an old white ambassador car with a very old but functional radio on its bonnet, albeit it has lost its colour and identity after all these years of forest-dwelling. A lean man with strong limbs, half-bald head and no shave-no haircut, 2 pieces of clothes and a pair of rubber slippers on him, Chandrashekar has adjusted himself to life in the wilderness.
Thus, Chandrashekar has been living a solitary life for 17 years inside the car. He takes bath in the river that flows inside the forest. He weaves baskets using dried creepers around him and sells it off at a shop in Adtale village and takes the rice, sugar and other groceries in return. His only wish in life is to get back his land. He has safely preserved all documents for the same.
The interiors of the car are his world and he seems content with it. He also owns a very old cycle which he uses occasionally to move to and from the nearby village. He listens to the Akashvani Mangaluru station on the radio and loves old Hindi melodies. On knowing about this man’s self-imposed solitary life, a few years ago A B Ibrahim, the District Collector visited him in his ‘ambassador abode’ and promised to get him a proper house to live in. He even got a house built but Chandrashekar refused it saying the house was in the middle of rubber forest and he didn’t like to live there.
Wild elephants have peeked into his tent several times. Wild boar, antelopes, leopard and bison are also very frequent. Snakes keep crawling around. But he refuses to leave the place. He has never harmed or looted resources from the forest hence the forest department doesn’t have any problem with him staying there. He only takes the wild dead creepers to weave baskets. “I don’t even cut bamboos in the forest. If I cut even a small shrub, I will lose the faith that the forest department has in me,” says Chandrashekar.
He doesn’t have Aadhaar Card but Aranthod Gram Panchayath visited him and gave him his dose of Covid-19 vaccine. Lockdown was a tough time for him as well. He survived on water and wild fruits for weeks during that time. After leading this life for 17 long years, Chandrashekar still dreams of getting back his plot and driving home in his ambassador, although his trusted old ‘abode’ might be a tad too derelict to move around by now.