Meet Jyothi Raj,Spider Man of India, who uses merely his fingers and toes for grip to scale 100-feetplus walls. With no rope or equipment, he hangs from sheer rock faces with just his teeth gripping a miniscule rock edge, climbs down walls upside down, and swings 80 to 90 feet in the air using just one hand.
As a huge crowd of small children and adults watch, Jyothi " nicknamed "kothi" ( monkey) by the locals " hangs upside down from a edge for over four minutes. He then shrugs with a cocky grin the moment he"s back on his feet.
An astrologer, according to locals, has claimed that Jyothi is the reincarnation of a monkey which used to hang around a temple in the Chitradurga fort. But the man himself has no explanation for how he can do what he does. "It is just God"s gift," he said.
But divine bounties apart, there is obviously a technique and a very strong body that can maintain the impossible positions Jyothi gets into and manages to hold.
Born in Theni district of Tamil Nadu, he was engaged as child labour by a murukku (South Indian fried snack)- making factory. Work brought him to Chamarajanagar district in Karnataka.
"He used to get dreams of a fort and a temple all through my childhood. So He went wandering from place to place searching for it. He reached Chitradurga few years ago and scampered up the fort wall (which is around 70 feet high). He was so depressed by then that I wanted to commit suicide," Jyothi recalls.
He reached the top of the fort and stood there, ready to jump. "That's when he realised this was the very fort he used to see in his dreams. He came down then next day, he saw monkeys jumping around in the fort and just imitated them mindlessly. Since then, he have been climbing this fort from 6 am to 6 pm every day," he says.
Kiran, an Archaeological Survey of India employee at the heritage fort, adds to the Jyothi legend: "he stopped him from entering the fort the first time he came here as he didn't have a ticket. He laughed at me and said he would just scale the wall. I dared him to. And he did! He has become a permanent fixture at Chitradurga ever since."
The district administration has taken note of Jyothi's exploits and tought to help him. "He was sent to Mumbai where he won the first prize at a rock- climbing competition. They threw open the equipment and facilities available at the sports department but he declined to use it," Chitradurga deputy commissioner Amlan Aditya Biswas said.
Jyothi acknowledges the district administration's offer of help but has set his eyes higher. "His ambition is to represent India in an international event like the Olympics and bring glory. He has the talent and he just need help in terms of climbing equipment. He don't want anything else. The district administration has been gracious, but no one else has done anything to help me reach the heights that I can," he said.