Discover Coorg is where a gunshot signifies the beginning and end of life.
Dshoom! The loud gunshot made me get up with a jerk. Half-asleep under the quilt, I was a little confused about where I was. My children, who were fast asleep, got up with a loud scream that made me realise we were holidaying at an estate in Coorg. We rushed out to see what was happening and were surprised to see our host Arun Appachu holding a rifle and sporting a big smile.
A bit shaken — you couldn't entirely blame it on the cold morning weather — I was even more puzzled when he offered me sweets. “For what?” I exclaimed.
“There is a new arrival in my family.” His grin grew wider. “But what is that gunshot all about?” I continued my investigation, unable to share his moment of happiness as my four-year-old daughter clung to me in fear.
“Oh, that is our way of announcing a child's birth in our family. My sister gave birth to a healthy baby this morning,” he said.
“Interesting,” I murmured, and saw him off. After sometime, the journalist in me led to his house on Dream Path, his cottage, to learn more about their culture. At his home, there was a stream of visitors and continuous phone calls congratulating the family. Arun and his wife Kaveri understood my puzzlement, and started explaining the Coorgi culture. “In those days,” he began, “there was absolutely no way of communication, especially in a hilly place such as Coorg. The houses were scattered and it took a very long time to go from one house to another. People started using rifles to announce good and bad happenings in their families: One shot for a birth and two for a death in the family. And it continues even today in spite of better communication facilities.”
His grin was back.
“Moving on their festivals, they say: “We have a hockey festival. During April-May every year, we celebrate it — Hockey Namme — in which around 250 families (belonging to the Coorgi community alone) participate. One family takes up the responsibility of hosting the event. No age restriction. Even girls and women participate. We do not consider it a competition. It is a major festival for us. We get to know more and more people every year and it helps in bonding,” they say with a sense of pride.
“In September, we have ‘Kail Poad' festival. We worship all machinery, implements such as ploughs, knives and axe, thanking them for the help they extend all through the year. There is also the harvest festival ‘Puthari' ( hutri ) in December, during which we go to the paddy fields with our guns, wearing our traditional clothes and jewellery to bring the paddy home and do rituals to thank Mother Nature for the bounty,” they say. Now our lives revolve around our estates, says Arun. “Coffee, pepper and honey. We breathe and live for the greenery around us.”
With so much greenery around and Mother Nature's lavish blessings, this community in and around Murnad and Coorg is leading a happy and contented life. “With Coorg becoming a tourist place now, we get to know more and more people, and are happy to show our culture and tradition to the outside world,” they say.