A Village Called ‘Tiger Cradle’, Where Neelankantesh’s Bees Rule

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By: Kruthika Subramanyam

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Neelakantesh, our honey-entrepreneur lives in a village, 30 km outside of Chitradurga, called Hulithotlu. In Kannada that translates to ‘tiger-cradle’. Intrigued, I asked him if there was a story behind the name. “Way back when, weary travelers would break their journey and rest at the temple porch,” he said, beginning the story after a lot of prompting. “One day, a woman with a tiny baby came upon the village. Deciding to leave the baby in the safe embrace of the temple, she made a cradle out of cloth and tied the two ends to two pillars, and settled the baby within. She then left to make arrangements for food and such, from the village. When she returned, a short while later, she saw the cradle swaying gently… A tiger, with its paw on the cradle, was rocking the baby, now awake, softly back and forth.”

Neelankantesh was very reluctant to tell me the story, keen to dismiss it as a silly fable intended for children, but that’s the thing about stories, they’re meant to be magical and unbelievable. It’s what makes a story, a story.

He took us around his village, and introduced us to his family, both immediate and extended, who were such warm and gracious hosts; intent on feeding us at all times. Cha (chai in these parts of Karnataka) and thindi (snacks) were always at hand. He showed us his bees; told us how he finds and captures bees in the wild, and proudly demonstrated how he looks after them, how he extracts the honey; explained the filtration process, everything. It’s easy to see that he’s passionate about what he does. He doesn’t even think of it as work, he enjoys it so much.

“Patience, and tolerance is key,” he tells me. “I have to wait hours for bees in the wild to make their way to the bee box, there’s no question of giving up because you’re bored, or impatient.
“While handling the frame my attention is focussed completely on the bees. If an ant were to bite me, I wouldn’t react.”

He then took us to meet his friend, he considers Srinivas his role model, and holds him in very high regard. Neelakantesh keeps some of his bee boxes in Srinavas’s thota (plantation), to ensure honey production during summer. Srinivas is full of great ideas himself about expanding the bee and honey business. He too intends to buy several bee boxes, inspired by Neelankantesh’s success, and together they have big plans for ensuring the continued growth of what is currently a very small business.

I’m quite excited to see where Neelakantesh is going to be five years from now.

PS. We managed to squeeze some time to go explore the Chitradurga Fort, a magnificent structure that incorporates massive natural rock formations, rendering the fort unassailable.

Can you spot the tiny baby monkey?

Can you spot the tiny baby monkey?

Neelankantesh’s Wild Honey is for sale in Pindi Fruit Store, Defence Colony Market, so all of our friends in the capital surrounded by a concrete jungle, can taste the sweetness of Neelankantesh’s natural, wild honey.
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