The Assembly elections meant little for Mariyanna, who was grazing sheep in Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s backyard in Siddaramanahundi on Saturday.
Oblivious of the poll brouhaha in Varuna Assembly constituency, from where Mr. Siddaramaiah’s son Yathindra is making his electoral debut, Mr. Mariyanna, a nomadic shepherd from Sira in Tumakuru district, has no plans of casting his vote.
He appeared more bothered about keeping his large flock of sheep, estimated to number more than 1,000, together. Though a few sheep dart off to the adjoining fields, Mr. Mariyanna, who was assisted by a persone named Gowda, said they don’t keep a count of the sheep. “We depend on our dogs to keep the flock together,” he said, whistling and bringing to the scene six dogs out of nowhere. The dogs, who seemed to understand his language, followed his instructions and rounded up a couple of sheep from a nearby field.
Mr. Mariyanna and Mr. Gowda traverse the meadows in the districts in southern Karnataka, grazing the sheep which belong to a Tumakuru-based person.
Their life isn’t easy. “We are always wary of an attack by leopards, which can smell sheep from miles away. We take turns to sleep. Each of us sleeps for two hours at one stretch,” said Mr. Mariyanna.
Unable to spend much on food, they cook rice and broth. “We have utensils and cook our own food,” he said. “My wages for one year are five grown-up sheep and five younger ones.”
Often, agricultural field owners request the nomadic shepherds to fertilise their lands with sheep droppings. “When we spend a night on their fields, we are paid ₹200 and five measures of rice,” Mr. Mariyanna said.
The duo also have a small herd of six donkeys that carry their belongings as they move from one meadow to another. Occasionally, they get requests for donkey’s milk, which is in demand for its nutritional values.