Monday, October 31, 2011

A 'THINK-AGAIN -TRIP'

A trip can be said as beautiful by the way it makes you feel, after it ends. And, this is the part I love most about any trip, more than the trip itself. If the moments’ can stay in our thoughts for more than three days, certainly call it as ‘magical’.
Recently I had such a ‘THINK AGAIN – TRIP’ to Attapady, very much unexpected, unplanned and unforeseen, may be that’s what makes it special to me. There are lot ways to keep it treasured. Though photographs can be one of the ways to THINK AGAIN and smile at it, but is not the BEST. To me, the best is to pen them down and get it archived somewhere so that one day, I can show it to my kids and tell them, “here are the magical moments of mummy’s life...” (If God wills)
One lazy Sunday morning, my mobile rings. Hysterically, reaching out my mobile under my white soft pillow, I saw it was Nagaraj sir (My Guide) calling.It was his random impulse to hit the Coimbatore – Anakkaty – Attapadi roads. And I tweeted “YES”, with no idea about duration or ‘destinations’. We didn’t plan it  rather it happened. We all gathered at HOD sir’s house by 9.30am and started in two vehicles.I, Lee (the Chineese student), Charly (M.phil scholar) are in Nagaraj sir’s vehicle; and Jaya mam(HOD sir's wife), Padmanabhan sir (Professor) and Hod sir in his own vehicle. 
Now a ‘must-known point’ to be known - Attapady is the educationally most backward pocket in the state of Kerala and  here is where I conduct my Research study. So remember, this is not my first visit to the place. Yet, I don’t feel much difference. Each journey to Attapady is a different experience, very much new and unknown so far. And I believe that, it would be the same feel, even when travel at my 90’s to the place.
Nagaraj sir is leading the road as all the others are first time visitors to the place. He drives as if driving to home. I love his acquaintance to my Research region. It gives lot happiness to the scholar in me. As soon as we started, I handed over a cd to Sir and he immediately turned the music player ON.  All of us are silent, immersed in music deep, apart from the few ‘questions’ rose by Lee (Chineese student of the Department). She has everything to ask about including houses, trees, cows and people, whom all we passed on the way. But I don’t think that any of us could fetch her convincing answers on anything she asked. I doubt if Lee’s middle name is a ‘WHY’. She always has a ‘WHY’ question to ask beneath each answer. 


Though this is going to be a narrative, these adjectives or sentence may not be enough to describe you the beauty of the place. So if you really want to know, I suggest you, after reading this, catch a bus and come down to the place. (But only after reading this :P)
Lee’s stock of questions has almost come to an end  and she also began listening to the music. Yet, in between she has some doubts on the movies and actors, while the songs went on. As we passed, the scooping down clouds caught my eyes.  The distance from the dreamy mountains to these clouds seem to be too small that I felt to measure it with a drawing scale. The roads led to panoramic 360 degree view of the hills. The Western Ghats stood tall amongst all of us….then hills, hills and hills; some carpeted by grass, some by rocks…some are barren, some are fertile…some are near and some are far. All of us were deeply into these ‘go views’ on the way. 
By 11.30 am, we reached the school, where I conduct my Research study.  As soon as we reached, I gazed at all our members including Lee to know what their expression is. All had smiles on their faces and I realized they are falling in love with the school atmosphere. This is our meeting point with Sindhu teacher.  From there she also has joined us and at last, we reached her house, the hexagonal castle. I felt a sense of belonging and pride taking the Guests to the place. Yes, it is very much my 'second home'


Can you guess the first sight that waited for us there?? Here, is it
A garden in which, Sindhu teacher has never planted all these. It is born very much natural. Knowing the story of Sindhu teacher that she is a person, who shifted to Attapady leaving her own city, out of her passion to serve the nature and land of Attapady, I can’t stop deriving the below lesson from the context… “Love Nature & She will love you back” . Sindhu teacher’s hexagonal castle is a place which anyone would fall in love with. Manu & Vava (Teachers kids) are happily playing. Whenever I see them, I envy them a lot. I would say they are the ones, who are most privileged because of Sindhu teachers’ migration to Attapady. Being on the mother lap of Nature, they enjoy lot than the happiness that any Pogo or Pizzeria’s may offer.
Absorbing the fresh flawless air and the very sight of vast green hills situated around, the visitors couldn’t get into the house.All got hooked up on the portico corner seat. Look at this picture. Isn’t it a habitat approach?


Know it. If you come to the land of Attapady, she will make you feel home


After having a wonderful tea session at Sindhu teacher’s home, we started to a Hamlet (where the tribal settlement live), which is quite nearby.
The Hamlet is a one more question to be asked on the welfare and culture of Tribal community, yet it has lot virtues of its own. I wonder how people can lead a social life in so much of peace and harmony. Moreover, Attapady is a mine of medicinal herbs. I imagine how they collect all these herbs from the forest and mix up everything in the right proportion, with no documentation, at all. This is perfectly a skill, the true science of life.    
Every time, I go to such hamlets, I stop by their tiny huts. They are too simple and handy that I felt like covering them inside my palm. However difficult, it might be to live in such a hut, we can’t stop admiring as it has a charm of its own.
We interrupted the children, who are happily playing in the heart of the hamlet. More than upon any of us, their eyes hit Lee. Perhaps, they might be blinking at the fair lady from another land. They surrounded around us like bees too curious, at the same time, too shy to stand with us for photographs. And see, this is their immediate response, when I pulled the camera out of my bag.


Somehow, Charli managed to catch them and we could get few clicks




The Tribes still try to preserve their arts and folk lore untarnished from the urban winds blowing.  They have a collection of their musical instruments stored in one of the huts. The person who took in-charge of it is missing and hence we couldn’t get the doors opened to the ‘history’. However, a good old man of the village could provide us little information about them.
 They use drums to accompany their dances. Though I had lot days spent in the place, I didn’t get a chance to watch Tribal dance. *Sigh sigh*, but then, there is always a Next time. However I know little bit about it from my students, who are from such hamlets. Each time, I ask them to sing their folk songs; they wanted a stick to make drum beats on the desk. From there on itself, I realized their obsession towards Drums. A drum is so much an indispensable instrument of their culture that it beats more than their heart beats. 

 Now, take a look at the below picture.Yes, my Guide Nagaraj sir with a ‘Beauty’ of the hamlet.  Look at her pretty bangles, silver chain and finger ring. Ask me the question; is it possible to make an old woman blush?? I will say, YES here.
Despite her floating white hair, she seems to be extremely fit and agile. Nagaraj sir asked her the age at which she could still blush and hide it. She said that she never counts her age, although we heard from Sindhu teacher that she is more than 90’s. Those wrinkles are only to the skin.At her heart, she is still a sweet 17.
Since long I have started my research, each time walking to the corners of hamlets, I have noticed something particular about the older ones. Most of them have only one lament, “Everything has changed!!” 
We spent a few more time talking to the locals, who are amused for the attention given to them. Then we reached for a fine lunch at one of the ‘Vazhiyoram’ restaurants, filled the hunger enough to setoff  for more of the Attapady Expeditions.Now, we are back in cars driving to a river side spot, Mulli. The picturesque road has taken me to another world which showed me some ‘mysticism’ in and around Attapdy. The word means many things to many people, I know it is difficult to fathom. Yet, something which I have been experiencing right from the Day 1 of my research and that pulls me fixated to the place (as well as my work). Yes, the grass is always green on the other side.
 As we were exchanging lot thing about the place and people, myself and Jaya mam had lot to speak about elephants as we heard from Sindhu teacher that elephants are frequent visitors to the place. We passed trees, huts, green hills, mountains, rivers, bridges, women, children, dogs, cows, goats and everything of a pastoral side. The drive is not just beautiful, but it took us to the heart of rustic life. An old grandfather Tree is sindhu teacher’s landmark of the spot. It seems Manu, (her son) has squiggled his name on this tree,once. I loved Manu for doing this as I do it often. The tree looked quite eerie and long.I wanted to reach out near the tree to write even my name on it. But the very presence of my respectable Professors tuned me back from doing it. 






The vehicles are parked on the road side. We had to take few slushy steps down to reach the river. I gave helping hands to Lee, who found it difficult to climb down. It is truly a breath taking sight. The water ebbs leaving foam behind, and the branched trees whose roots are in the river,stood in the happiness of getting itself wrapped up in the warmth of waves. I loved the chemistry, the trees and waves made…a feel of togetherness and I imagined them as a lovely couple who stays together forever. Sometimes, nature tells us better tales about relationships than humans had. The rocks on the shore stood as mute spectators to this spectacle. 

All of us stepped down into the river and the happiness at its best, when the waves made curls around our ankles. Jaya mam and Lee discovered and shared themselves a rock seat to rest and wet their feet. Padmanabhan sir has also seen to be on a fine rock where Nagaraj sir, tried to occupy a space on it but quite in vain, as his obsession to shoes never allowed him to do all that.
  More than any of us, Vava & Manu are the ones who enjoyed it utmost. They are quite familiar to the place. The rocks and waves seem to be their best buddies... The Attapady life has grown them adventurous to climb trees, talk to animals and swim on the river. Now, they know the nature beats more than any one of us.



Here is another beautiful moment, a positive vibration, which cannot be felt elsewhere. I am very much in love with this picture. 
As always, Vava lost in her own world, looking for stories in every stone and telling those stories to the waves. I am sure Hod sir had absolutely enjoyed her activities and this is an unearthed moment of child in him. The silence tells me that I am also a part of them.
I never thought that a trip would amalgamate Charly and Vava so close together. If there is anything to call as magic, I believe this is it. And I loved it.
 When we started back, it was around 6pm. While Nagaraj sir and Charly went on to drop Sindhu teacher and family, rest of us spent our time in a petty chai shop in one of the junctions. Yes, I remember the tea stall’s name, Malabar. By the time, the rain has started and after all what is a tale without some rain!!?
Occupied on the corner of  tea shop, we had lot things to rave about, including ‘atta’ (leech), ‘paddy’ and ‘attapady’ . When Nagaraj sir was back to the junction, I and Lee joined him. In our way return, it rained considerably heavy and that has made the aroma stronger.   The return of a journey is neverth the same as its beginning.
To me, the trip is not just about long walks, watching mountains or getting lost in the many birds that were fluttering high, but discovery of lot more sorts; a feeling of togetherness in a bliss of solitude, complete abandon of everything including ego, anger, hatred and my own identity.  A kind of surreal and abstract feeling that me and charly realized it later as “haunting”.  It is indeed fascinating to look back to it and retrace the steps in words. I lam in love with these moments, when I pen this. I wonder if things can be so simple and yet so beautiful in life and probably this is what is called happiness. I loved the journey more than destination.
However,the essence of this trip lies in the smiles of those kids, in the 90 year old beauty whom we met, in the smile of that Waiter who took our lunch order, in the cuddled pups on the street who ran behind our vehicles, in the letter we read on those unknown boards, in gazing at a dense canopy of green forests, in washing the face and feet at a small gushing stream, in watching the outline of mountains from a distance, in the downpour that hit on the window pane while returned, the songs that was played again and again and above all, in just doing and thinking nothing at all.It would stay in memory forever and definitely, would be a tale, I narrate to my Grand children at my 70’s.
 P.S:  Charly is my inspiration  behind writing this


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