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the tall tails


Many a tale that travels through generations and shares the wisdom of simple everyday things, roots itself in nature. We, the human spectators, keenly relate sentiments and traits that we identify in ourselves to animals and elements in nature with ease. The metaphors are old and undisputed over time and across cultures- the cunning monkey, the clever jackal, the guardian serpent and the tenacious ant have taught us in our early years lessons that we encounter daily. Moreover, certain folktales revere the animals that are peculiar to their culture,such as the Indian washermen and their donkeys and the palm reader and his parrot.

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Today,we’re physically distancing ourselves from most living animals. With growing Urbanization, wild animals are deprived of their natural habitat and the domestic practice of rearing animals is almost lost. This book tries to explore the changing relationship between the people of Devanahalli, a peri-urban area near Bangalore and its animals. My conversations with the residents of an old lane in Devanahalli focused on how the change from a village to a peri-urban area has changed the way people interact with animals.

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For the urban child, access to the diverse animal kingdom is mostly virtual. An occasional visit to the zoo or a sanctuary, an aquarium or a pet becomes their medium of physical encounter with animals. In the future, their only reference to most animals will be through representations in popular media which includes animal tales.

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Will animals be perceived as an almost fictional element in these tales? Or will they be perceived as inhabitants of pens and encroachers of city streets? Here’s my interpretation of the stories of Devanahalli’s disappearing animals which may, in the near future, become a tall tale.


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“The bulls looked on as the cows enjoyed a royal treatment. Not one was so much as smacked.....” -The Bull’s Appeal Tamil Folktale

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Sunita’s illustration

Sunita and I had a conversation at her father, Papanna’s tailoring store where she helps him when she is not studying for her Humanities course in the Government College at Devanahalli.

“I’ve grown up around many animals,” says she, “At home, we have 2 cows, 3 goats,2 rabbits and 2 dogs.” “Don’t they fight amongst themselves?” “No, never. There are monkeys that keep visiting our house and I feel that this particular one who is most obedient understands what we say to him.”


How did she have the time to feed so many animals? Especially the cows? “My sister took the cows to the pastures nearby to graze on twice a day. We are very fond of them. But now there are fewer farms around us, the grasslands available are too far for us to drive our cattle to. My sister’s growing older and now we don’t have the time.” “Where did the farms go?” “Most farms are sold as the land prices have risen crazily after the Airport was built 10 km away from Devanahalli. Farmers blindly sold their land for the hiked price and made a temporary fortune. But they lost their source of income....


...but the cows still need to eat.”

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SO what is the solution? “Now we get the grass home for the cattle. We stock up hay for the entire year for them to graze on.” “A whole year’s worth of hay,” says Pappanna, “it’s a one time effort which saves us time and trouble.”


Vijayalakshmi Amma, a vegetable vendor down this lane speaks of how she had witnessed more cattle around Devanahalli when she was younger. She sold her cows as her sons were now running a business and her daughter had moved to Bangalore after her marriage. No one had the time, taking care of a cow is no easy task.

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Cattle hasn’t disappeared altogether, we see stray cows on city streets holding up the traffic or reared in slums,fed on garbage. The royal treatment of take-away grass is reserved for the cows of Devanahalli and those serving in dairy farms or slaughterhouses..


tall tail in progress