His story seems straight from a Hollywood film and in fact reminds one of the well-known Tom Hanks starrer “Castaway”. Staying in the midst of dense forest area lying between the Adtale and Nekkare villages near Aranthodu in Dakshina Kannada district is 56-year-old Chandrashekar, who moved away from the madding crowd to settle in the wilderness.
Meeting him is a bit difficult as one has to walk four kilometres to reach his home which is a plastic sheet placed on a bamboo poles and near it is parked his old white Ambassador car covered with a sheet of plastic to protect it from rain and sunshine. Among his worldly possessions are his old radio which is still working even though one can’t identify the brand, two pairs of clothes and a pair of rubber slippers he is wearing.
His lean figure shows well developed limbs while he is half-bald and sports long hair, beard and moustache, all betraying no hair cut or shave for several months.
Before Chandrashekar sought refuge in the forest he used to own 1.5 acres of farm in Nekral Kemraje village on which he grew areca nut. He took a loan of Rs.40,000 from a cooperative bank in 2003 and that is when his troubles started. Unable to repay the loan, the bank auctioned his farm – a move that he could not reconcile with. He moved to his sister’s home in Adtale along with his car but when he had issues with her family he decided to become a recluse and took shelter in the forest.
Living a life of solitude, Chandrashekar has been living in his car for the past 17 years. Bathing in a river nearby, he sustains by weaving baskets from dried creepers of the jungle which he sells in a Adtale village shop and buys his groceries like rice, sugar, etc.
His only ambition in life is to get back his land and for that he is holding on its documents dearly.
To commute locally he uses his bicycle and for entertainment he listens to Akashvani Mangaluru station and old Hindi film melodies.
Despite being offered a house to live in a few years ago by the then District Collector A.B. Ibrahim, Chandrashekar refused, continuing to dwell in the jungle.
Animals including wild elephants, boars, antelopes, leopards, snakes and bison have frequented his abode but he has refused to move. What is indeed interesting and endearing is that he has never harmed or looted anything from the forests, including the creepers used by him for weaving the baskets are the dead ones lying on the ground.
Talking to news18.com he said: “I don’t even cut bamboo in the forest. If I cut even a small shrub, I will lose the faith that the forest department has on me.”
Though he has no Aadhar card he was given the Covid-19 vaccine doses. The lockdown due to the ongoing pandemic hit him hard as he survived only on water and wild fruits.