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the tall tails of tomorrow

Folktales and Fables Many a tale that travels through generations and shares the wisdom of simple everyday things roots itself in nature. We,the human spectators,easily relate sentiments and traits that we identify in ourselves to animals and

elements in nature.


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

lessons that we still encounter daily. in our early years

revere the animals that are specific to their culture, such as the

Moreover, certain folktales

Indian washer men and their donkeys and the palm reader and his parrot.

This book explores the changing relationship between the people of

Devanahalli, a peri-urban area near Bangalore, and its animals. My conversations with the residents across various age groups of an old lane in Devanahalli Fort focused on growing up with

animals and animal stories. We discussed how the

ecology and new economic practices in Devanahalli can affect the future

of these tales and their subjects.

For the urban child, access to the animal kingdom is mostly virtual.

the zoo or a sanctuary, an aquarium or keeping a pet becomes their means An occasional visit to

of physical encounter with animals.

In the future, their reference to most animals living undisturbed in their natural habitat will be through

representations in popular media.

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?

“The bulls looked on as the

cows enjoyed a royal treatment.Not one was

so much as smacked..” -The Bull’s Appeal Tamil Folktale

Sunita and I had a conversation at her fatherPapanna’s tailoring store where she helps him

when she is not studying Humanities in the Government College at Devanahalli.

I’ve grown up aound many animals.


cows rabbits dogs




Don’t they fight amongst themselves


No, never. Monkeys visit my house too and I feel that this particularly obedient fellow understands what we say to him.

How do you feed

so many

animals? My sister would take the cows to the pastures twice a day.

fewer farms the grasslands available are too far.

But now there are

My sister’s growing older and now we

don’t have the time.

It’s become a huge task. But where did the



...but the cows still need to eat. So what is the


Now we get the grass

home for the cattle. We stock up hay for the entire year for them to graze on. 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.

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

“..and having tricked the poor villagers, the

monkey beat his

tom-tom most triumphantly as he ascended the tree� -The Monkey and His Tom-Tom Kannada Folktale

hello, I’m

Rachana and I study in

the 8th grade in an

English medium school in Devanahalli.

The house I live in is ancient, almost 150 years old! We used to own farmland where the airport stands today, but we sold it at a great price, like many others. Have you seen the monkeys around here? There are so many of them, but I’m scared of most animals.

Animal stories? I don’t remember any...

My grandmother heard folktales about crows in Vijayapura. She tells me stories about the fort, Tipu Sultan and the Venugopal family who built the temples in this lane. This is my cousin Rakshita. She’s . And a little shy.


Play with animals? No, I’m scared of the monkeys!

Where do monkeys live you ask?

On trees?

Ofcourse not.

Monkeys live on temple tops. The ones here live in the Veugopal temple where it’s cool in the summer.

The monkeys steal vegetables from Vijaylakshmi Amma’s shop but she says that the Government captured them and sent them to the forest.

Mr. Ganesh Chaudhury has grilled the windows and balconies of his house because the monkeys steal bags from the neighbourhood.

He says they come here because the trees are being cut and

they’re shooed away from the fruit orchards they would feed on.

What about your food source? Don’t the farms that are being sold grow food for Devanahalli? Where will you get vegetables and grains from? Mr. Ganesh says it’ll come from the market. That’s where food comes from.

I really want a library and a computer centre in Devanahalli.

I want more books on Science, that’s what I enjoy reading.

And yes, Harry Potter!


the tortoise

killed himself While uttering his voice; Though he was holding tight to the stick, By a word he slew himself �

-The Talkative Tortoise The Jataka Tales

Shweta and Tabrez

are the youth of Devanahalli who grew up there, completed their education in the

travel to Bangalore city daily

local schools and now

to study and work.

In their free time they run their family stores. Discussions with the revealed their awareness and concern for the farmers. They spoke about a slow extinction of the animals and stories they grew up with.

Like all kids in Devanahalli, Shweta grew up listening to tales about Tipu Sultan, the building of the Fort and the

Venugopal Temple.

Being an animal lover she grew up playing with cattle,

rabbits and dogs.

And tortoises at her neighbours’ who brought them home from

the lake on his farm.

An d

But now there are almost no lakes.. ore t m ort no ois es

Tabrez read few animal stories as a child, he loved stories of adventure. But he has invaluable stories to share about

the disappearing animals. Farms near Devanahalli were visited by wild boar. We’d hear tales about cheetahs that came to drink from

the lakes near Nandi Hills. There used to be so many

fruit laden trees visited by birds. So many birds were killed by the telecom towers.

Shweta has heard a rumour that

the homes and stores in their lane will be demolished as the Fort

has been recognized as a tourist spot and needs to be

spruced up, but there is

no official notification yet.

The habitat of many species is lost to

peri-urban human settlements.

queue up outside aquariums in the city and bird cages in Russell Market, to bring But children can still

a turtle and a parakeet to their multi storeyed homes. .

A cage within a cage.

. The irreversible truth remains that

the slaying of the tortoise is no longer his own doing.

“Lord Shiva cut the

odd animal’s fifth leg

And put it on its back in the shape of a hump. And then he said ‘utth!’ (get up) Hence the name of came to be Untth.”



-The Creation of The Camel Rajasthani Folktale.


and his friends from the Pali district in Rajasthan are recent Marwari migrants to Devanahalli. They have very interesting stories to tell:

ajasthan we ha R n i k ve c a B

and that’s not all.....

grew up aroun o s l a e d W


foxes the black buck



and the peacock it’s The National Bird.

People presume that Rajasthan is a barren desert, but we grow millets and legumes

His pride is apparent. But doesn’t he miss living around animals?

Sorely! All we see here is monkeys!

And rats. We can’t even keep a cat like we did in Rajasthan.


live in a rented house

in Devanahalli, the landlords might object.

Pavaram’s brother, sister-in-law and nephews live in Yelahanka. What stories are the children growing up with, those of Rajasthan or Karnataka? Have they seen the camels, the black buck and the peacocks?

We visit Rajasthan once a year, the older child has seen camels but he remembers very little of them.

My sister-in-law tells them folktales from Rajasthan and stories about Jodhpur but they mostly watch T.V. or play. They’re learning to speak in

three languages.

The black buck is one of the fastest disappearing animals in India.

Living in Yelahanka, it may be difficult for Pavaram’s nephews to grow up around animals. But peacock feather fans adorn the Cauvery toy store and camels still draw carts on the streets of Bangalore. They will see the animals that their uncle speaks of with great pride and fondness in enslavement and

in an urban habitat.

The tales of tomorrow Story-telling has undergone many changes. Animal tales and folktales are hardly ever delivered verbally to curious ears.

graphic novels, animated films or textual accounts It is the narrative of

that carry forth this invaluable part of our culture and wisdom with

a necessity of visual aid.

Folktales have already begun to

adapt to our generation’s understanding of the world. In a Kannada folktale publication as early as 1985, we read:

with reference to a story written centuries ago. It is only natural for a story to use a monetary measure that we understand. Similar elements such as palaces, kings, the barter system and soup gardens have become almost mythical.

With growing urbanization, our perception of animals and their habitats today is very different

from that described in our folklore. While some animals have strayed onto our streets and our homes, others have strayed far enough to beonly seen through their virtual representations. A change in our interactions and perception of animals may soon reflect in the way our stories change.

The stories in Devanahalli

surely have,from that of lakes and orchards to multi-storeys and telecom towers.

But change can also be for the better. The greedy slyness of youth gives way

to lessons of preservation... the wise old monkey with the tom-tom, who has learnt his lesson well,will tell us.

the end

Aknowledgement This project was possible because of the warmth and the willingness of the people of Devanahalli to share their stories and their time. I’m very grateful to everyone mentioned in this book as well as many others at Devanahalli who helped me in my research. The valuable critique of the classmates and facilitators: Alison Byrnes, Robin King, Vinay Sreenivasan and Tejas Pande helped me develop my ideas and process for this project. My fellow researchers, Rayika, Priyanka and Abhishek made it much easier for me to explore Devanahalli and become familiar with its facts and faces. Thank you.

References: Best Loved Folk Tales of India edited by P.C. Roy Chaudhury Folktales from Tamil Nadu compiled by ki. Rajanarayanan published by Thomas R. Franklin article published by Lalitha Ramadurai Agency for Instructional Technology

Malvika Tewari

Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology 3rd March, 2010

The Tall Tails of Tomorrow  

Animal tales from Devanahalli, located in Peri Urban Bangalore. Tales that are quickly losing relevance because of the disappearing animals.