Chandrashekar, 56, lives in a dense forest area between the villages Adtale and Nekkare near Aranthodu of Sullia taluk, Dakshina Kannada district, where he lives after severing all connections with civilization and fellow human beings. One would say that Chandrashekar ‘cast himself away’ after learning the full story. Getting to his place of abode is a bit difficult. There are 3-4 kms to walk inside the jungle, where a small plastic sheet rests on bamboo poles after a while. There is an old white ambassador car with a very old but functional radio on its bonnet, despite having lost its color and identity over all these years in the forest. With no shave-no haircut and 2 pieces of clothing and rubber slippers on him, Chandrashekar has adjusted to life in the wilderness with his lean physique and strong limbs.
Chandrashekar owned 1.5 acres of land in Nekral Kemraje village, where he grew arecanuts and lived a peaceful life. He took a loan of Rs 40,000 from a co-operative bank in 2003. Despite his efforts, he was unable to repay the loan. Thus, the bank auctioned Chandrashekar’s farm. In his ambassador car, he drove to his sister’s house in Adtale. The rift with his sister’s family led to his decision to live alone after a few days. He drove into the jungle and parked his favorite car. To protect his car from rain and sun, he covered it with a plastic sheet.
Chandrashekar, therefore, has been living in his car alone for 17 years. He bathes in the river that runs through the forest. He weaves baskets from dried creepers around him, selling them in an Adtale village shop and In exchange, he takes rice, sugar, and other groceries. All he wants is to get his land back. To do this, he has carefully preserved all documents. The interior of the car appears to be his world, and he seems content with it. Also, he owns an old bicycle that he occasionally rides to and from the nearby village. Listens to Akashvani Mangaluru on the radio and enjoys old Hindi melodies.
After learning of this man’s self-imposed solitary life, A B Ibrahim, the District Collector visited him a few years ago in his ‘ambassador abode’ and promised that he would get him a proper house to live in. He even got a house built but Chandrashekar denied it saying the house was in the middle of a rubber forest and he didn’t like living there. Several times wild elephants peeked into his tent.
Bison, wild boar and leopard are also very common. Snakes are everywhere. But he won’t leave. As he has never damaged or looted forest resources, the forest department is not concerned with him living there. He only uses the dead creepers to weave baskets. He never cuts bamboo in the forest. ‘I will lose the trust of the forest department if even a small shrub is chopped,’ Chandrashekar says.
Despite not having an Aadhaar card, Aranthod Gram Panchayath visited him and gave him his dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. He also had a tough time during the lockdown. During that time, he survived on water and wild fruits. After living here for 17 long years, Chandrashekar still dreams of getting back his plot and driving his ambassador home, although his old ‘abode’ may be too derelict to move around by now.