BENGALURU: Do horses and cars mix? Obviously not. What with the modern maddening traffic, the iconic horse-drawn carts in namma Bengaluru have almost become a relic.For Rahamath Ulla (57), fondly called ‘Munna’, riding a Jataka has been both his passion and source of livelihood for nearly five decades. Though he had many fellow workers in the initial years, he is the sole survivor of the profession in West Bengaluru today as the rest have given up.
The upcoming assembly elections, however, mean nothing for Munna, whose community has been let down by all parties. “None of the politicians helped me continue this legacy.To make things worse, a handful of us who were operating horse-drawn carts were forced away from the horse stand in Palace Guttahalli circle, which was built for our usage by the Mysore Maharajas. We are now forced to park at a place opposite a public toilet in the same area,” Munna says. Forced to relocate by the authorities who stated that the space was required for a bus shelter for the public, the same space has now been converted into a parking place, he adds.
This father of two teenaged children says Jatakas are hardly in demand these days. “I get only one job regularly and earn `500 a day.” He usually gets work transporting hardware items from Devaiah Park to Peenya and Yeshwantpur. “People express surprise seeing a Jataka,” he says. However, the unusual sight of Munna atop his horse cart keeps even the police bemused. “The cops never trouble me but comment, ‘You are still riding this!’ ” Out of his meagre daily earnings, he spends Rs 300 daily on fodder for his two horses.
With the city witnessing a huge vehicle boom, there is hardly any space for vehicles, let alone Jatakas. Most cart owners, who used to earlier ferry tourists, have made the shift to carrying goods or chosen other professions. Even carrying goods is becoming rare as Munna says that goods tempos have all but made them irrelevant. “They took away our livelihood and now most of my friends have chosen to become autorickshaw drivers,” he says.
For Munna, this is an option that is often dangled before him by his children. “They say I have a tough life and want me to give this up. How can I give up something which has been a life-long passion and career for me?” he says. His daughter studies in II PU and his son works in a courier company.
The stand now is left with just 7 horses, a far cry from the days of glory when it used to be the transport hub. “The others refuse to ride a Jataka and use their horses only for baraat (marriage procession) ceremonies. I am the only one left who is dependent on the cart for my livelihood. The next generation is just not interested in taking this up as an option,” he says.
“For repairs, we need to go as far as Tumakuru. To buy a new cart, we have to go to Tamil Nadu,” he says.
While other cities in the country as well as in other nations have embraced the heritage value of horse-driven buggies, Bengaluru seems to be eager to leave a part of its history behind. Munna says that development, while good for the city, has turned their lives upside down.