Saturday, December 18, 2010

Two cups of filter coffee, a boring afternoon and a laptop was all that took two women to decide to ride out of the city over the weekend. Rach and I packed our bags and headed out to Kodai. We didn’t want to drive down and neither have patience to manage a hired chauffer. So bus it was. The adventure began even before we could leave Bangalore. It was a rainy evening and the cab did not turn up to take us to the bus station. The poor autorichshaw driver dealt with two cranky women with much aplomb. We reach the bus station only to be informed that the bus will arrive after half hour from then. So we brave the chill winds blowing though the open bus shed on a late evening and wait. Finally, we board the bus and realize the seats are not as we had desired, the bus conductor has a penchant for ignoring any request, the driver loves loud conversations while driving and the inhouse TV only plays Golmaal 3. Swalpa adjust maadi. We try to adjust as best we could and prepare for a sleepless, backbreaking night. The rest of the night was less said the better. At day break the next day, we had reached the hills of Kodai. The thin drizzle and the lush green slopes made it all worth it. We had decided to book a homestay instead of a regular hotel. From whatever we could gather from the net, it seemed to be a comfortable abode with friendly hosts.
On reaching Kodai, we call our host who had agreed to pick us up from the bus station. We meet Bala, our host and he takes us to his home, Cinnabar, on the quieter part of town, on Chettiar Road. There we meet his wife, the vivacious Vasu. With the casual pleasantries over, I only looked forward to a clean loo and to change out of my crumpled clothes. Only a shower and a change can make us feel human again after the nightmarish bus ride. The guest rooms are away from the main house and allows for adequate privacy. The room we were given, was warm, inviting and comfortable. Wooden floor, slanted roof, terracotta floor in the bathroom – clean, functional with a touch of rustic. Everything inside the room had a personal touch right from the patchwork bedspread, the sundried towels, mishmash artefacts to the coffee table books. This felt so much like home. Over breakfast in their cosy dining room, we heard how everything on the table is produced in their organic farm – the spreads, the granola, the cheese, the herbs and the fruits. The bread is oven fresh too! During lean season, the duo runs cooking classes since both are passionate about organic cooking from local resources. With wholesome food in our tummies it was time to explore the town.
So we head out with our host Bala, who was heading to town anyway. Sweetly, Vasu had drawn out a mini map of the hub with all places of interest. For two women that would mean – shopping hotspots and eateries. We assured her that we are not the touristy types who are here to see the waterfalls and the likes. Map in hand we hit the market area. Five minutes into the sojourn, we get invited to coffee at a cafe (a cafe chain I happen to work for) by two local men in strange clothes and one wearing a Stetson. We politely refuse and move on. We do the rounds of local shops supporting developmental causes – one of them is the Re Gift Shop. Looks like a lot of interesting people have settled in this hill town and doing their bit for the rural economy. One would have missed the history of the people if one was just there for the scenic spots.
We are charmed by a local villager, Gauriamma at a cafe names Potluck, perched on a narrow ledge on PT Road. She makes these amazing pancakes and a bright cuppa of cappuccino. She even takes the liberty to suggest honey over maple syrup as a spread for the pancakes. Who would have expected to be served in Ikea cutlery at a quaint old town in the hills. But such is the charm of Kodai. We visit the local haunts – Re (the gift shop), Potters Shed (where an old man sells local rough finished pottery), Econut (the store that sells health food and non-egg muffins), Shalimar (the shawl store run by a Kashmiri gent who is now lived here for generations), Pastry Corner (the local bake shop). We decided to have a vegetarian lunch at a place called Tava, where they were so generous with chillies and pepper that it was a big turn off. Being a Friday, not many tourists abound. Only the famous Kodai International School has its young students roaming around the streets giggling and doing things young things do. We finally head home to Cinnabar with tired feet and charged minds. Evening was filled with fresh coffee, some vodka and many a tale from far and near. It was no different from gathering at a friend’s home on a lazy weekend and sharing the warmth of the wooden fire in the living room. The dinner spread was continental with garden fresh greens in salad, the meat tender and the corn bread well textured. But the home-made cheesecake was the scene stealer of the night. Filled to the brim, we say our goodnights and head to our room only to find it wasn’t easy to fall asleep with my mind jostling with images and experience of a new place. The comforter was warm and the night passed in silence.
The next morning, we got up late and lazed over breakfast. If one is staying for a long time, the breakfast spread might get a bit repetitive. I am not complaining though, since I like some semblance of familiarity every morning. I have no appetite for experimenting right in the morning. We get dressed to go into town once breakfast was done and Vasu graciously gives us a ride to the seven road junction at the heart of town. We ambled about without much of an agenda and ended up shopping some more. We tried a new eatery called Cloud Street. Avoidable completely just in case someone gets inspired reading about my sojourn in Kodai. The ground floor stank of the ill maintained loo. We climbed up to the first floor restaurant to realize we were the only guests. The menu boasted of continental fare and we ordered a soup, a steak and pasta. The potato and cream soup was good. But the steak came on a steel plate. I kid you not. And the pasta was terribly over boiled. Then it started to rain, lashing on the tin roof while we played Scrabble. In due course the rain abates and we wade through ankle deep puddles and steams that had become the road. We trudge to Potluck for a cup of hot cappuccino and cocoa each to keep from freezing. It was silly to have worn summer sandals in the hills which has a penchant for sudden rains.
We get to Cinnabar as the mist envelops the hills. Another evening of vodka and deep thoughts (!) and we get to enjoy the Lebanese fare cooked with love by Vasu and Bala. There was hummus and pita bread along with other goodies. All healthy and super tasty. We retire to bed making plans for the next morning.
Our bus was to leave in the late evening and therefore we had time enough to get to town in the morning, post breakfast. Our first stop was the local market from where we bought carry bags. We needed them to carry the ‘treasures’ we bought in Kodai. Then we walked across to the Carlton Hotel. We prayed for the sun as we parked ourselves in their sprawling velvety lawn. Their property hugs the lake and offers an amazing view of the hills that surround the vale. Mid afternoon the sun peeped out of the clouds and we go shutter happy like two teenage bumpkins. With the sun still playing hide and seek we walk into this dingy looking eatery called Rasoi. Surprisingly they boast of and open kitchen and apparently make their food from scratch after the order is placed. We meet Charlie the head ‘chef’. I have never before seen someone using a pair of pliers as tongs. Charlie kindly allows us to photograph him in action, in return for a promise to send him a copy of his photo when we return to Bangalore. The food that was served was very well made and reminded me of home. Everywhere I go there just has to be one bong connection. The man serving the dishes happens to be from Bengal and we exchanged words in our native tongue with much mirth. There is a secret pleasure in finding someone in a foreign land who speaks your language. Or maybe, I am just getting old.
Towards the afternoon we head back to Cinnabar to finish packing and maybe catch a bit of sleep as we prepare for another sleepless night in the bus. We get done with the packing, somehow managing to squeeze everything in our modest overnighter. Then Vasu gets us tea and we get going with the camera.
Vasu’s garden has avocados literally falling off the trees. Yes, they taste as good as they look. Done with the outdoors, we get Vasu to ‘pose’ for us. We didn’t miss the kingfisher sundial either.
Around 6.45pm we realize the bus would leave in another 15 minutes. Vasu and Bala both came to drop us to the bus station. Vasu, god bless her, thoughtfully packed a goodie-bag of apples and homemade multigrain buns for the journey. She really didn’t have to do that since they were to host us till the breakfast on that day. They also graciously let us keep the room till the evening. All of these thoughtful gestures added up to make this a memorable trip. All was not over yet. The hellish bus ride had to be done yet. The downhill ride at breakneck speed made us sick to the core. Late night the bus stopped at a dingy eating joint and an adjoining dirty loo with red light for illumination. Imagine that. We live through that desperately hoping to get to Bangalore with our sanity intact. The rest of the night remained uneventful and we reach Bangalore at the early hours of the morning. Home and a clean bath later, I head for office munching the apple from the goodie-bag.

Friday, November 12, 2010

come as you are...

Nothing like a large dollop of Nirvana on the way to work. Despite the gloom-doom lyrics, it never fails to make me feel alive. It must be because it reminds me of you. The gigantic boom box that occupied a large part of your room and from which emanated the most distorted cries of obscure rock legends. According to Ma these were screamathons. According to us this was elixir after being raised with genteel, soul stirring, peace loving music of our parents. Therefore, these angst soaked mayhem appealed at a very different level. I remember how we would shut ourselves in your room and listen to our gods and escape to a world of our own. Ma was certain we would impair our hearing sense before we finished college. We both finished college, however, with our hearing intact. She still doesn’t know about the weed we smoked in abandon, inside. On hind sight, those pots of weed kept us so thin and on the go, that it makes me wistfully look at my college pair of jeans and wonder how ever did I get into them! Mind numbing or not, one could not ignore the sheer forceful energy of the music. It is this energy that is infectious and makes you want to scream along and yes, live. Well, Kurt Cobain is no more and neither are you. But the music lives on as does the memories.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

midnight moonlight

There is a certain pleasure in waking up in the middle of night to discover everything bathed in silvery moonlight. Then to watch the moon float across my window to hide behind a sinister grey cloud. I keep the curtains open at night, to be able to fall asleep while watching the night colours play across the wide expanse of the heaven. It is my communion with the world outside of me. I have always hated closed spaces and restrictive geography. Apartment living allows for little space but the thing I love the most is the big window that lets me star gaze lying on my bed. It reminds me of our summer nights when we slept on the terrace of our grandfather’s house. The feeling is the same now, but minus the mosquitoes!

Monday, August 02, 2010


At this crossroad life overwhelms her. She has no lust for money, fame or youth. Only an uncomplicated desire to belong and the security of being understood. At mid life she stands bereft of either thinking she might as well then have pursued what was arguably easier.


When a relationship hits expiry, all that remains are fragments of happy memories, some shared laughter, a fleeting desire for the warm shoulder on a rainy day, a parched rose inside a long forgotten book, an old dinner bill at the bottom of the purse and a small guilt of not having tried hard enough.

Monday, June 28, 2010

you found me

Is the pain more when someone she loves hurts her, or, is it when she hurts someone she loves? She can deal with her hurt. That has never been the problem. In her entire life she has never told anyone in how many ways they have hurt her. In defence, she built a wall. Only a chosen few were allowed in. They were chosen because she chose to love them. And by doing so she allowed them to hurt her. But that mattered little to her. Life has taught her to give more and expect less. So in love, she gave more than she took, and more she gave, more came her way. Sometime it came in form of reciprocation and most other time in form of peace.
But life hasn’t taught her still the ways to deal with the pain when she hurt someone else. She lives her apologies. She means her I love yous. And then she waits patiently for the ache to ebb.

Monday, April 05, 2010

moment of weakness

Sitting in the cramped economy class seat she considered the emptiness welling up inside. The random loneliness that engulfs her at moments like these never fails to surprise. It’s been many months and a year now. She thought she packed all her hurt and longing with a neat little bow and pushed it far away from her everyday reality. She doesn’t miss him in any way. She can listen to their song on radio and enjoy it without the lead dropping in her gut. She eats his favourite dish without feeling the bile rise. She has long stopped rehearsing the conversation they might have if they meet by chance. She has been getting through her cleverly sculpted day for months without ever thinking of him. Infact the regular day leaves her tired enough to sleep through the night without ever having to wonder what he would be up to. She knows she doesn’t love him. He had made it easier to sever him from her life. She knows she doesn’t hate him either. Hate takes effort and she had decided long back not to waste any emotion on him, ever.

In her sterile world, each day folds into the other in a regular rhythm without any disturbing crosswind. She has quietly and methodically killed it all. For the better she knows. This has helped her to be the funniest mom a 10 year old could have, a sensible friend always full of good advice, a witty co-worker reputed to be cool, and a non-interfering daughter who never nitpicks. She has managed to live her life outside of herself where there is no hurt and only a few disappointments that can be shrugged off easily. Thus this stray need to belong, jolts her. Was it that unconscious touching of hands, the tender look and the lingering smile that only lovers know so well. Right now, she likes the sanitized orderliness of her life cause it assures a safe passage. And that assurance gives her comfort. So it frazzles her nerves to suddenly feel this needy. But she knows by the time the aircraft touches down, all will be well again. She will return once more to embrace her tidy world of harmony and yes, peace.