Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Coorg Chronicles - Chapter I

It is 22:20 on the 3rd of June when S and I arrive at Kempe Gowda Bus Station (a.k.a Majestic Bus Depot), in the heart of Bangalore. It's cold, it's wet, the weather is glorious - and I am throughly annoyed. Why, you ask?

Well, primarily because S, beloved soulmate and now favourite travel-mate has me trekking over and under smelly, slovenly, sleazy archways, carrying a heavy bag and my tripod, searching for cigarettes. Even when I smile sweetly at a conductor and ask where to buy them AND receive accurate directions, S still knows better - having gone to Majestic twice in three years in Bangalore. Never mind, I tell myself, as we buy smokes at the conductor-directed tea stall. This, too, shall pass.

Back at Majestic and we're trying to figure out where platform 7 is to board the "luxury bus" that will take us to Coorg. We locate the platform and S now goes about the business of being a man - finding the right bus. I am both nettled and amused by his telling me "Stand here, on the side, and wait. I'll find out about the bus - don't go anywhere!" But I decide not to argue and stand quietly in my corner because this is going to pass, remember?

Oh alright, alright! In all fairness, S means extremely well since about 5 different men have tried to rub up against me in the 200 foot walk from the entrance to the platform. Bombay or Bangalore, street harassment doesn't seem to change, now does it?

In short order, settled into the bus and beginning to unwind, I am impatiently waiting to toast our trip with a dose of Avomin each, being motion sick as both S and I are. At 23:05, we are now officially on holiday. On our way to Gonicoppal and then Kutta, South Coorg. To five self-indulgent days of pork curry and homemade wine. To rain, coffee estates, and the middle of nowhere. To serious quality time with S and clearing up head space - for the both of us.

The first crater on the "highway" reels me out of my soothing soliloquy. I close my eyes and attempt sleep, and finally settle into an uneasy, fitful dozing which the rain imitates. I close the window only to nearly break it open five minutes later. The fetid breath and sweat of 35 other people necessitates braving the rain and cold all night. No matter. I'll be in Coorg soon.

All of sudden, it is 05:00 and we get off, bleary-eyed, at Gonicoppal Bus Stand. S, standing surrounded by me and the luggage, is on the phone with the taxi driver, Dharamaja. He informs S that we got off 35 kilometers too early and we should now take another bus to Kutta. It seems we were to get to Gonicoppal and inform Dharamaja to expect us in 90 minutes. Informing him did not involve getting off at Gonicoppal. Small detail, I presume.

Now usually, I'm not at my best even at 11:00 if I've just woken up. At 05:00, after a bad night and faced with championship like this, I'm not likely to be anybody's best friend. S, knowing this, is smiling at me almost coquettishly in an attempt to placate me. But he doesn't need to. I smile (!), climb into the main hall and sit down to wait... and watch a town wake up.

I am still taking it in when the 06:40 bus arrives. S and I clamber on and find ourselves a seat . I place S's bag between us on the seat and S just stares. Apparently his bag was taking up the place of another person and he'd be damned if he'd just watch. I try reason - if someone needs to sit, we'll put the bag into the rack. Or bitchy and tired as I am, we'll let them stand.

But no! The bag must go and it must go now. Fine. With little further ado or ceremony the bag is dumped onto the rack and S and I are now taking in the road to Manchalli, where we must get off. Unfortunately, I don't remember very much because I kept nodding off. The snatches I see look like the South India I encountered in Kerala with huge white-washed houses with red tile roofs.

I finally wake in Manchalli because Dharamaja stops our bus in the middle of the road to ask if "Datta" was on board. That's us! Now what happens next is priceless. The offending bag, relegated to the rack? S lifts it off only to find that it is soaked through. The rack, you see, had a layer of standing water, which S neglected to check on. It is all I can do not to howl triumphantly but I settle for a smug smile.

It is only a three kilometer ride to the Chilligeri Estate Home Stay. But it is a ride through mile upon mile of paddy fields steeped in water and tract upon tract of terraced agriculture stretched out in all directions. The only word to describe this place is green - and not just beautiful. I smile as the fact that I'm truly on holiday sinks in.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Of Firsts

This is my first post ever. On vacation. Since I started E Vestigio, I've been on three vacations but I haven't had a first birthday on any of them yet. That's what makes this post different.

One year.

I didn't think I'd make it this long. I've been writing since I was eleven - journals, letters, short stories, botched attempts at poetry, and little scraps of nothing at all. And I've never sustained anything beyond a few months. But through all the Houdini acts, I've somehow always known that I'd get back to the Drafts folder. And that, for me, is an entirely different experience.

It's been a year since I began to...
... learn how to speak in a new voice.
... understand myself through my writing.
... see everything old and known through new eyes - my camera.
... share my world so intensely.

It's also been a year (or nearly) since I've known incredibly special and generous people who did not once give up on me - no matter how many failed promises to post or mail.

These are people....
... whose friendship means more than "bits and bytes on a screen."
... who mean wonderful memories at Lemon Grass and Oh! Calcutta in Bombay and the German Bakery and Aloha in Pune.
... whose imaginations have allowed me non sequitur and dream journeys into the arts of expression and writing.
... who have taught me how to understand people and reached out to me despite time-zones and personal restrictions.

How can my words begin to be enough? I can but say thank you. Such an inadequate phrase, though.

The word cloud, which I've been meaning to try for a while, seems a good way to celebrate E Vestigio. The wonderful thing about the cloud is that it seems a state of mind - like this blog. The one that I created when Geetanjali posted hers was quite different and I think that's quite wonderful. :-)

Courtesy Snapshirts

Before I go, I'd like your opinion on how to write about my trip to Coorg. Should I deal with it daywise or "as-a-whole? Please to advise. As always, many thanks!