The Spotted Devil and Permaculture

I have never seen mum so happy to get back from a holiday and needing a holiday from a holiday.

She has been glued to her favorite soaps trying to catch up on what she missed, whatsapping her fav. people, having hot water showers and just putting her legs up.

Grandpa is busy strolling around our house with a wistful sigh at times. He misses the greenery and the cicadas and the sound of silence.

As for myself, I still can’t get over the fact that I actually managed to trace Gummalapur and be a part of this awesome experiment of giving back to nature what rightfully belongs to her, the forests!!

Meet Navzer and Shahnaz Kotawala, the sprightly, bubbly Parsi couple with ever-smiling faces and a warm hug to all their visitors who come to volunteer at their forest farm.

Navzer & Shahnaz An ex-Air Force officer, Navzer is the brain behind this venture, while Shahnaz is its heart.

Located nearly 54 kilometers away from Bangalore at the edge of the Thally Forest Reserve, Navzer and Shahnaz’s forest farm – Gowri Navadarshanam- is a part of the Navadarshanam campus and ideal for people who want to get away from it all.

The reward: you are away from any wisps of modern technology and right in the lap of nature. And you get to taste some yummy Parsi food, home made jams and pickles.

It is back to basics.

You learn to sleep listening to the sounds of the Cicada and the rustling of leaves.

There is no AC or fan. Phones don’t work and neither do laptops and i-pads. The farm is powered by solar energy.

You will not find leaky faucets here nor hot water taps. Every drop of water is precious. Rainwater harvesting is the main source and the farm is monsoon dependent.

Your day starts at 6 am or earlier if you want it to. You can help Navzer in his daily chores around the farm or help Shahnaz prepare the breakfast and clean up the garden.

Irrespective of what you opt for one thing is certain, this is an authentic experience.

The farm itself is spread over 6 acres, of which the couple has inhabited nearly 2 acres with their beautiful English-type cottage, with high ceilings, a huge kitchen, a well-appointed living room, a lovely loft, their sleeping quarters, a guest room and  a room stacked high with carton boxes, groceries and other precious items that makes surviving on this farm easier.

Thanks to Organic Terrace Gardening and Shankary I was fortunate to experience permaculture at close quarters and in a very small way contribute a wee bit to reforestation. Permaculture, a concept propounded by Bill Mollison, Sepp Holtzer and David Holmgren,  is a contraction of the word “permanent agriculture” or “permanent culture.” What Navzer and Shahnaz have tried in their forest farm is be true to the principles of permaculture. They grow their own food, conserve ecology and our precious natural resources.

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If you think it is easy, just think again.

Imagine having to look after poultry, milk cows, feed ducks, fend off poachers who try to lop off sandalwood and teak trees on the wilder part of your estate; lack of water due to 2+ years of bad monsoon means you create your own drip irrigation system, a system for rain water harvesting so your vegetable patch and fruit orchards receive enough water to give you tomatoes, broad beans, french beans, different types of limes, okra, cucumber, lettuces of different varieties, oranges, guavas, pomegranates, pumpkins, papayas, onions and herbs such as thyme, dil, basil, mint, coriander and curry leaves; wash vessels with the precious little water available; tap solar energy to cook and power the few equipments you have on the farm; wake up every morning irrespective of ill health and do all this with a single farm hand to help!!

Incredible, but true. And this is what Navzer and Shahnaz do. You can read more about this dedicated couple here.

They welcome volunteers to help. You can write to them at nfkothawala at gmail dot com or call 86757 88769 (handset) or 92436 04508 (fixed line).

EPILOGUE:

On my last day of the farm I took out ‘In The Jungle’ by Kenneth Anderson, an Indian born British writer who wrote about the Jungles of South India. I was deeply engrossed in Ghooming the jungles when I felt a tap on my shoulder and jumped.

The previous night, mum had said she saw two fiery greenish-gold eyes stare at her from the windows. I told her it must have been the family’s pet calico cat but secretly hoped it was either a leopard or a panther she may have seen.

Anyways recovering from the fright, I looked up to see Navzer standing with a smile, “Wait here, I have something to show you.” I was still trying to recover from the tap when he walks in, holds out a diary, points to an entry and asks, “Who do you think this is?”

In bold script was written the legend, Don Anderson.

I nearly fell off my chair.

The DON ANDERSON, actually stayed at their farm a few years back.

Don Anderson is Kenneth Anderson’s son and features very prominently in several of his stories. In fact, I had completed a chapter in which father and son go hunting a leopard. When I reveal this to Navzer, he smiles indulgently and asks, “Do you remember crossing Gummalapur?” “Of course, I do. How can I forget since you used it as a landmark to direct us to your farm.”

“Well,” he says, “This is the very Gummalapur where his story the Leopard of Gummalapur is set in. In fact, Devinakottai is located close by from here. ”

And to think I had pestered the members of the Kenneth Anderson Society to help with tracing the routes of all KA’s adventure, and here I had, inadvertently stumbled upon one of his maneaters!!!

The Maneater of Gummalapur: The Leopard of Gummalapur, also known as the Spotted Devil of Gummalapur was a maneater responsible for the deaths of 42 people in the villages of Gummalapur and Devarabetta in southern Karnataka. There is a wiki. KA was summoned by the District Magistrate to hunt down this leopard and he was successful in his third attempt.

While I was unable to go to Devinakottai since Bambubhai had to drive us back from Anekal and hates night time driving we plan to make it the next time. Watch out for a post devoted to the KA circuit soon……

Till then, Happy Ghooming 😉

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