Chikmagalur, a rainy and hilly district in southern Karnataka, draws a growing number of tourists from Bangalore, who come here for spectacular views of the Western Ghats, or to spend a night in Kemmanagundi, the local hill station. But for a few visitors-and I am one of them-a trip to,Chikmagalur, a rainy and hilly district in southern Karnataka, draws a growing number of tourists from Bangalore, who come here for spectacular views of the Western Ghats, or to spend a night in Kemmanagundi, the local hill station. But for a few visitors-and I am one of them-a trip to Chikmagalur is always accompanied by the hope that we might spot its most famous resident, Professor Carvalho. He should be easy to find: He’s a Mangalorean Catholic, somewhat unusual for these parts, sports a silvery beard, and his Kannada, though formal, is interspersed with English phrases like “My dear young man” and “Yesyes”. So we crane our necks out of cars and buses and stare at the locals, wondering if Carvalho is among them-though we know, of course, that he is not.Aravind AdigaHe lives only in a novel. Published in 1980, Poornachandra Tejaswi’s Kannada classic Karvalo is set around the town of Mudugere in Chikmagalur. A typical town in the Western Ghats: The locals grow honey, rear cattle, and live a hard life, which is made harder by police and politicians. They have a stranger in their midst. Professor Carvalho, a scientist posted at a nearby research centre, is a treasury of information on all kinds of agricultural problems, an expert on glow-worms, and a man who receives photographs and letters from around the world. Though the kindly Mangalorean is always ready to help the locals, some of them are suspicious. What is this urbane, prosperous scientist doing in the middle of nowhere? Is he a foreign agent?One day Carvalho confesses. He is on the trail of a very rare lizard, one that can fly. The creature is a living fossil, a relative of the dinosaurs that survived their extinction by growing wings. Though it was last observed a hundred years ago in Africa, Carvalho is sure it matches the descriptions of a creature seen recently in the forests of the Western Ghats. He has written to the Smithsonian Institute and the British Geographical Institute, and they have jointly offered a reward for this amazing lizard-payable in pounds sterling!advertisementNow all the locals want to be friends with Carvalho. A search party, armed with a cook, heads into the woods. Fatigue sets in quickly, and men who are used to coming to the wilderness only for firewood or shikar grow weary of its monotony. The scientist revives them. He makes them see the forest with new eyes: He touches the branch of a tree, and lo!-it sprouts a moustache and legs and turns into a worm. Under the dark cover of the trees, the locals hold discussions with Carvalho. Does God exist? Does He oversee Evolution? If all creatures are subject to Evolution, how has this living fossil alone opted out of the process? At last they find the lizard-or something that might be their lizard-and give it chase as it glides through the trees, slipping past their hands again and again to reach the very edge of the Western Ghats. Now Carvalho and the others think they have got it: The lizard is at a sheer cliff with nowhere to go. The mysterious reptile, however, has one last trick to play on its pursuers.Tejaswi-whose father, Kuvempu, was a celebrated Kannada poet-made his literary reputation in the early 1970s with the short story collection Abachoorina Post Office. Inspired by Ram Manohar Lohia’s call for a social revolution, these angry and poetic stories are as unsettling as anything by Manto. The multi-talented Tejaswi published essays on astronomy and natural history, took photographs of Chikmagalur (where he lived), and translated wildlife books from English into Kannada; by 1980, he had mellowed enough to write Karvalo. The language is simple and precise; the vision, genial and humanistic, rests equally on commitment to one’s fellow men and respect for the environment. If he lacks the nationwide reputation of U.R. Ananthamurthy or cult following of S.L. Bhyrappa-the Mysorean novelist who is a favourite of the Hindutva crowd, Tejaswi, who died in 2007-is adored in Karnataka as no other writer is. Both comic and cosmic, Karvalo expands out of Chikmagalur. Wherever I am in the hills, in Mussoorie or Germany, there are times when leaves rustle behind me and I turn, expecting to find an eccentric Mangalorean scientist in pursuit of a flying lizard that is as ancient as the dinosaurs. -Aravind Adiga is a Booker Prize-winning novelist.