Deep in the soul when my day goes about the usual
Somewhere in the corner embedded was a feeling
A thought, a source where things
Unseen flashed before like they were or would
Happen now or soon or had happened
Only that I did not see them with the same eyes as I see them now”
“Hey bibliophile!!”(My club head was referring to the second part of my email ID, I am not so much of a bibliophile but he found it amusing, we all like his taste for fun anyway) “Are you coming for the field visit tomorrow or not??!” he asked, for I was unsure of my answer. I didn’t have cash to share-pay the cab fare, I didn’t want to miss the Aadhar card procedure either. Dilemma, double mindedness tearing my decisions apart, I decided to attend the College sports meet for Pavitra, whom most people would associate as Shrutthi’s bestie. It was mostly an instinctive decision. .I told her I would come on one condition, that she explores Ketti with me. I won’t have much time in college. It is a pretty lonely road down Palada but it is extremely scenic behind Laidlaw Memorial School as much as Kotagiri and other parts of Ooty, and a cab or bike journey cannot tell you how much scenic and soul cleansing these warmer , lower slopes of Nilgiris are. I didn’t want to lie at home but I didn’t want to miss an opportunity of exploration. Why should boys do all the exploration huh?. Forget that gender comment, I forget I am a girl when I get serious or travel-philic. I packed my back pack. My club head “Tin Tin” was going to kill me if he ever found I was roaming about the valley without attending the field trip. I was supposed to be a responsible recruit.
Reaching college at nine I learnt that Pavitra had missed the bus. I caught the company of my class girls and quickly rang up Pavitra to tell her to reach college. The girls and me hypothesized that if we ever got onto the ground for sports, there was going to be no getting out. Heavy security. We decided to stay off campus during the sports and join the girls who were on their way. The security guard began whistling signaling us to get onto the ground. As everybody walked towards the ground, the six of us eluded the whistling and nervously went the other direction towards “EttaKada Bus stop” which is a little forbidden for girls unless you really need to catch a bus. We waited there until the other girls arrived, I kept scrolling down on my new found love, a popular Tamil novel that I recently took interest in, my phone indicated battery that would last half a day but I kept reading anyway. I proposed that the girls leave, for Pavi and I were to take another route stretching upto Yellanalli. (That didn’t happen anyway).
I had to switch places in the bus stop and keep my face as rigid as possible without looking sinister for boys and staffs frequent the tea shop on the opposite. One of my professors called me enquiring where I was, I thought I was caught for being off-ground but it was to enquire if I was travelling with my club. I told him that I wasn’t with them.
Pavi arrived half an hour later. I told her my plan, she said not to take her home soon. I agreed. We began walking, clearly her adventure mood had died down, she kept talking about everything that upsets her. She wanted to be back onto the ground to watch the march past. I convinced her and steered her away towards Palada. This was one place that was not frequented by any kind of congesting traffic. Its greenery yet an air of a dry paradise would keep you fresh and awake. Pine and Eucalyptus trees carpet the left side of the road down to the valley slopes. The only clearings you would find are those made by small agro-industries from whose gates you would find somebody staring at you.
Once the relatively thicker canopy thins out a rather sparsely tree-dotted valley with winding roads adorning the slopes become visible
. The place is not made rather ugly by concrete buildings and even if there are any it just adds up to its scenery quotient. What is a place if you do not explore it by foot?. We had walked a very short distance and Pavi suggested that we turn back. Now my adventure mood lulled down. I promised her we would turn back with Palada, I was completely unsure of the distance but knew the landmarks .
She believed me anyway and so thanks to her for it. When you have only one travel buddy, all your transit decisions have to be mutual or it is not going to work at all and would get messier than travelling alone( Alone is fun). We crossed mushroom culture units covered in royal blue synthetic covers for roofing and walls. I felt a relatively higher warmth and expansion near my lungs. I suggested a picture in the woods of eucalyptus where here and there sunlight lights up the ground like in a theatrical play. But Pavi said two girls , all alone in the woods, no lets get out of here. Reluctantly but later being convinced we continued onto the sunlit road. Pavi said the place reminded her of our field work village. Hardly would one see houses and one’s eyes would inevitably fall on the cultivation slopes and giant vegetable washing apparatus which was busy with farmers most of the time. We saw a pretty church but it was latched and locked
We reached Palada and found most of the shops shut close. One general store was open and I found cookies and a drink. We decided to turn back around and crossed construction workmen who kept staring at us. Pavi asked me if it was Bob Marley’s picture in my phone and I explained that it was Che Guevara. The journey back made the hills seem even more like heaven. Now we were looking at what actually made the place beautiful, the low lying yet twisted hills of Ketti valley, the world’s second largest valley (that is what the internet says so don’t question me).
I had to cope with Pavi’s guilt trips and didn’t take much notice of the vegetation and other things that would help me document a rather small yet filling journey. Beyond all this I loved her for coming and I will always love her despite the jerk she becomes when pissed.
I found myself complaining about lots of girls. Cynicism leaves a bad taste in the brain. We kept talking about everything that was and was to be. We had neared college when we decided to take a few selfies. Some two guys on a bike joked about our selfie as they crossed us. I assumed he was pissed because he wasn’t in the picture. We reached college, I convinced Pavi to get onto the ground through a short cut. I decided to go home hoping nobody would question me. I walked upto the upper bus stop and waited wondering if my plans of today were actually ruined. I heard the distant engines and was just in time to catch the mini-bus to yellanalli. I decided to take my favorite walking route back home and quitted taking the mini-bus to Odhanatty.
The place is weird for I often had dreams resembling the landscape with closely knitted yet very organized houses of the two or three villages one had to cross. It is a neat landscape with houses away from the noise of the Ooty-Coonoor Highway. It gave me a connected feeling with the mountains yonder that seemed to zoom into view with every step one took into the road down the valley. There was a temple and I cannot yet describe the powered up feelings of even just looking at hill-side temples. Yonder was Mynala and then Dodabetta though they are technically not visible to the traveller.
The hills are special for the slopes are grassy and the tree line is not much thought of as you only see grass, shrubs and other outgrowths and hardly ever trees. I had a very remember worthy dream of the place recently but it was an evening in my dreams. I was travelling exactly at noon. But the landscape was highlighted at every nook due to the overhead sun. I crossed a residential area where I often looked at a 2 storied house which had Chinese bells hung in the corridor.
They were different from the most that I had seen since childhood. The silence of the afternoon broke by the clanked ringing of the bells as though from a Buddhist temple. Mum called me and said she was in Karakorai and I was to join her. Suddenly I realized I didn’t know where Karakorai was, I could remember the name board but not the village or the specific bus-stop. I decided to walk on until I see the board. Just to be sure , I enquired two men where Karakorai was and they pointed in the direction that I was travelling.
I kept clicking pictures, joined mum, dreamily stared at the giant tree by a temple, walked up the slope where she had parked the two-wheeler and got home. What did I learn from the journey?. When time comes, I’d understand. Like Steve Jobs said, “YOU CAN CONNECT THE DOTS ONLY BACKWARDS”.