Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Revisiting the beautiful past

I cannot believe myself that I could do what I had dreamt of doing in the past six years. Or should I say? I took the decision finally to walk over it. Whatever it may be, it is still a puzzle to me that I somehow managed to do it this time. Better late than never!
Six years back, during my college days, we used to live in the jungle more than the city. Till date, other than the Sarpass, the trek that has given most satisfaction is the trek we did to Agumbe. It was a five day trek, eight of us started at some place and eventually ended at Agumbe. We did not know our destination. We just walked, walked and walked in that thick evergreen forest for five days. Camped wherever we felt like camping, cooked our own food, slept in the silence, and enjoyed being in the nature. On the 4th day of our trek, we were walking through the villages Shuntihaklu, Bhuvanaodlu, Nidagudu, and reached a village called Kokkodu. In Malenadu region, typical village will be consisting of hardly 4-5 houses. Since we were very thirsty, we landed up at one such house that looked big enough and asked for water. Usually, Malenad people will not send you by just giving water. They always give enough buttermilk to drink. They looked at the way we were drinking and they got a big steel drum full of buttermilk. Looking at us finishing whatever they got, they seriously thought, we are very tired and they made us rest at their home for some time. By then we had become a bit closer to all of them by sharing our experiences and listening to their culture and stuff. They showed us their arecanut farm and by the time we came back, they had prepared hot upma. Till date, I have never had that kind of upma. It was that tasty. After our hogging time, they asked us to sleep; we said we will get late to reach the next destination as it takes another 1 day to reach Agumbe. We were bowled by their hospitality and care. We wished them well and departed from there. They offered us to visit them regularly for which we had told them, “yes, every year!”
Well, that’s the six years old story. Every year TS and I keep thinking of going to that place again and end up not doing that. But, this time, I decided to visit Kokkodu. I actually was ready doing it alone as I had plans of doing a trip alone. But since Srivathsa was also checking for some trip because of the long weekend, I decided to take him with me. We left on 11th evening, drove and reached Shimoga by 2 am. We rested at Shivu’s place and left in the morning at 11.30 am on 12th – the Shivaratri day. Our destination was to reach Kokkodu.
Now, I was not even sure that we will visit the same house and I was not even sure that they would allow us to stay there for 3 days this time. It was only because I was so confident about Malenadu people that I was sure of a good time. Not knowing the challenges that we would encounter, we zoomed our way and reached Thirthalli. Kokkodu is around 25 km from Thirthalli. We had to take the Agumbe road and make a right turn at the village Nalur enroute the Megharvalli. From there Kokkodu is 4 km. We reached the Kokkodu bus stop and entered the village. There were a lot of changes compared to what I had seen six years back. But felt excited once we reached the village.
Now, I had forgotten names of the people of that house. I did not even remember anyone’s face properly. All I knew was to reach the last house of the village with the big Iron Gate. Because I give some tough time to Google every day, I had searched for Kokkodu when I was at office. It had given me a link of wikimapia where I could see a big corner house. The name given to that house was ‘Sreenivas Murthy Bhattara Mane’. I was so happy knowing the name that as soon as we entered the village, we kept asking for Murthy bhat’s house. We landed up at a big gate that looked familiar to me. An elderly person walked out of the gate and we straight away asked for Murthy bhat’s house. We also told him that we had come to his place six years back. That person looked puzzled and he said this is not the house you are looking for and he asked us to reach to the first house at the entrance of the village. I was shocked and confused as I somewhat remembered the gate and the house. But thinking that most of the houses will be similar, we drove back to Murthy bhat’s house.
As we parked our car, looking at the house (without a gate) I was not sure whether that is the house I am looking for. And when I knocked the door, I saw totally new faces. I thought I have forgotten their faces as well. When I explained the old lady about our visit six years back, she looked puzzled. Then I said the young person in that family was working as LIC agent. She said her son is the LIC agent. There was a sense of relief on my face. But still, we all were so confused that nobody could remember things. Her son came out and stood in front of me; he was not the one I was looking for. I told them about the upma, they did not seem to get it. I thought we have landed at the wrong house. Srivathsa looked equally puzzled and I think he started worrying about our stay already. Then I remembered I had taken my laptop which had the old scanned photographs of our earlier visit. I opened it and showed it to them, there was a sudden laughter on their face. They said it’s the Thammannayya’s place (he is also known as Venkataramana Bhat). The same place we had gone in the beginning. I got my senses and breath back. There was a greater sense of relief to me. We had 2 glasses of buttermilk each and left that place.



We parked our car outside the gate and went inside the compound. We saw the elderly person again and he was quite shocked that we would come back. I told him that it is the same house that I visited six years back. He said even he had that doubt in his mind as he had heard his wife and daughter in law telling him about our visit. But he was not there during my earlier visit. That created the confusion. But, finally, I saw his wife and daughter-in-law smiling at me and enquiring about me and my friends. I expressed my regards in a sense of ecstasy. She even said she cannot forget the way we ate upma during our earlier visit. That made Srivathsa relieved that we finally started seeing the good time. In any case, to be more on a safer side, I showed them the photograph and they confirmed all their names. It was Raghavendra, Thammannayya’s son with his twins in the photograph. And we saw bigger version of those two cute twins - Srirama and Sriraksha. As soon as I looked at them I gave all the chocolates that I had taken for them. Raghavendra was not at home and they said he would return from his work in the evening.
Even before we had our lunch, the first thing we were cautioned about is regarding the naxalite problems in and around the village. Thammannayya explained us about the problems and the everyday enquiry from the police man in the village. So any new entry into the village will be enquired and if required they would take the guests to police station for the enquiry. And to get into the forest was out of question. We were strictly asked not to go beyond a certain limit. I wanted to take Srivathsa to the Dodda Gudda (Kappe Kal Gudda) near to the village but because of these naxal problems, we were not allowed to climb that peak. But, anyway my purpose of visit was not to stress ourselves with the heavy treks; but to relax in the forest. So after this entire adventurous introduction, we got to start our good time with a heavy malenad cuisine lunch.

After the delicious lunch, Srirama and Sriraksha took over our visit completely. It was their tour and we had to follow them. To begin with, they took us to their farm and made us see whatever they showed us. I kept asking them questions about plants, flowers and questions related to general knowledge; they seemed to know more than me. So, in a way, it was a learning experience for me. I loved the nose ring of Sriraksha. When I checked her who did it, she said, she herself asked her parents to do it. She looked very adorable with the nose ring. They both are the double refined form of the cuteness on this planet. Heard this expression? Greek Gods of Cuteness - It is both of them. Ahem! I like girls with nose rings!


During our trek six years back, we had also camped on the Dodda Gudda peak. While we were trying to be heroic about the fastest climb to the peak, our excitement did not sustain long after looking at the people who had already reached the peak; before us. And they were not Professional trekkers too. It was Malathi aunty, her daughter Meghana and Subbanna from the same village. We were stunned looking at them at the peak. They were about to climb down and they looked surprised looking at us. They did not believe when we said we are camping on the peak. At least, then, we tried to prove something better! But however, we got to know them very well. All of us remembered her name very well because she gave us something to eat which was very tasty. And this time, I wanted to visit her place too. Twin toys took us to Malathi aunty’s place. We walked for about 2 km and reached her place. She was shell shocked after hearing me out and knowing the fact that I went all the way to meet them. Coincidently, even Subbanna was at her place. She made us Malenadu Kashaya, bajjis and a sweet made of coconut. She also made us visit to a nearby beautiful spot known as ‘Puttayyana Kattu’. It is a check dam built over the river stream. It was a really beautiful place and we had some good time there. Srirama, Sriraksha and Meghana were at their best to entertain us enough. This place looked heavenly with the evening colors and the flowing water over the check dam. The reflection of a dead tree that had fallen in the river was simply out of the world.


After the terrific malenadu treatment at Malathi aunty’s place, it was already dark and we had to leave. She asked us to visit again for the lunch the next day. What else can we say? What is the main purpose of our visit anyway?
We came back to our home stay. Food was ready; kids slept off without eating; without even giving an impression that our stomach is full of nice snacks at Malathi aunty’s place, we hogged the dinner and the Kashaya to dessert with it! Since we were tired, we could not watch the TV with Thammannayya for long and also we did not wait for Raghavendra who was expected to return home in the night. I fell asleep. Like a tiger in a brand new cave.
My eyes opened up to see my nose getting attracted to a very nice aroma of Malenad coffee. Raghavendra greeted us with ‘Good Morning’. I had to give him an update of all that happened to us and all that we did till that moment. He was very happy of me visiting them again. Raghavendra helped us planning our stay effectively. Because we were so good and looked like alien kids from a different planet, twin toys decided not to go to the school and stayed back at home giving some silly and cute reasons. Sriraksha had a pain in her neck and Srirama had head ache. Funniest part was that in their class these two are the only students (yes! 5th standard class has only 2 cute twin students). So in a way, they decide when to go to school and teachers should come accordingly. Because they were acting sick in front of their parents, they did not come with us until afternoon just to prove that they are really sick. But we had promised to take them to Kundadri peak and Kattina Madike waterfalls.
We were supposed to meet Subbanna at 9 am; he had promised to take us to a small hill behind his house called Huli Gudda. Subbanna was kind enough to take us there. Raghavendra accompanied us to all the places. After the mini trek, we wanted to take bath at ‘Puttayyana Kattu’ so we went back to that place again. Taking dip in the water there was worth the whole visit. And I found some interesting orchids there. I even got a few plants to one of my friends who is a member of Orchid society.

The water was so good that I started swimming and made Srivathsa also to get into the water. It was a very long time since I got in to the deep water. I wondered whether I could swim or not. But I was swimming, swimming like a new born fish in the gorgeous water heaven.


Grand lunch at Malathi aunty’s place followed our swimming session. After the lunch, it was time for us to leave to the waterfalls and reach Kundadri peak for Sunset. Twin toys and Raghavendra’s mother were ready and were waiting near the car by the time we reached our home stay. Without wasting too much time, of course after having malenadu Kashaya, we climbed on to the motor. Motor will not go all the way to the waterfalls; we had to walk about 3 kms to reach the waterfalls. It was a splendid place. There were about 6-7 levels of waterfalls ranging from 3 ft to 15 ft height in a huge space of about 50 ft wide. We had good fun there; Raghavendra, his twin toys and his mother enjoyed playing with the colorful plants which they called as ‘petle kayi gida’ (I am yet to dig out the English version of its name). We did not have too much time so we started from there and started driving towards Kundadri peak. It was about 18 km drive from Kokkodu. We packed hot bajjis on the way and reached the peak at 6 pm. We reached there on time for the sunset. We had some time to experiment our photography on kids and it was followed by the splendid sunset. We saw the sun, setting far away from all of us like a light taking a dip in the ocean.

After the sunset, we visited the temple and left from there before we started shivering out of cold. We had to visit the temple at the Huruli village 2 km from Kokkodu. Raghavendra’s father was the chair person of the temple trust and he had made some significant developments to the temple. It was a good visit and worth watching the huge temple that looked brand new.
It was almost time to end the day. As we reached our home stay, we had the delicious dinner followed by Kashaya and followed by a snoring sleep without mosquito bites. The plan for the next day was to take the kids to the ‘Vanachetana’ campus near Thirthalli.
It was the last day of our visit. We packed our bags and loaded them inside the car. Twin toys were ready and they were looking gorgeous. Raghavendra made a smart decision to take his bike and park it in the Nalur village. This was just to avoid us coming all the way to drop them back home. We had no problem to drop them back but still he insisted that he would take the bike. We took a group picture with all the family members and I conveyed my wishes and told them how happy I felt to visit them again. They were equally happy about my visit and they asked me to visit them every 3 months.
Twins, I and Srivathsa zoomed our way following Raghavendra’s bike till Nalur and his directions from Nalur to our next destination. We stopped by a place called Chipligudde. There is a Ganesha temple in this place and this place also has a river next to the temple. Fishes in the river are similar to Shringeri temple. Very huge in size and would jump to the rice being thrown by the people who visit the place. Kids enjoyed playing with fishes and I enjoyed looking at their play.
After the play, we reached a place in a village called Heddur. This place is known for a campus called ‘Vanachetana’. It is a well thought out and creatively designed campus to promote nature conservation. Something like making waste into use; In Kannada ‘Kasadinda rasa’. The whole campus is amidst the beautiful forest with a lot of bamboo trees. And the best part is everything is constructed or created using the waste materials. The founder Mr. Nagesh has a very good taste of using the waste and putting it to use effectively. It is about 1 acre campus and a very good model for visitors to follow. The only problem is the maintenance as the founder is the only person looking after the campus and there are not many supporting him. Before it gets spoilt or discontinued, it is worth a visit to the place. Twin toys enjoyed their time at the kids play area and we enjoyed their play.


Well, it was time for us to return to our actual home stays. We drove back to Thirthalli, took them to a good hotel, made them eat whatever they liked to eat and dropped them off to the bus stand. Wished the twin toys well and asked them to study well. They are so bright now, and I wish they get good education in the future wherever they go. I was a bit emotional while dropping them off. It was a good time spent with them and the three days went un-noticed being in a heaven on earth. And I was an alien in a new planet.
That was my three day exciting adventure and my version of ‘Malgudi Days’ in the beautiful and mighty malenadu!
A visit to the village Kokkodu, in malenadu, in the deep forest, in a village house, authentic malenadu cuisine, twin toys to play, divine people, experiencing silence, without mobile networks, without connectivity to chaos, breathing fresh air, seeing new grass, a new flower and a new life! How does it feel? I could not ask for more.
I revisited my past in such a beautiful way.
Srik

10 comments:

Narasim said...

Great story well told. Thank you for sharing.

The hospitality of people you and Srivathsa met is admirable. It is good to relearn that there are still such people left. Your description of their conduct brought back fond memories of what used to be known as Old Mysore Culture.

Malnad cuisine is distinctive. It is such a contrast to Bangalore/Mangalore Udupi cuisine. If my memory serves me right Malnad cuisine is as distinctive as Kodagu and Konkani cuisine.

The sights that you have described make me want to visit the place to bathe in the aesthetic delights. The excellent photographs you and Srivathsa sent me earlier testify to the accuracy of your description.

Delighted that you two and your hosts had a wonderful time together.

Srivathsa said...

Nice writeup sri.. Reading it was like revisit to kokkodu for me.

Vaishnavi said...

Each time I read a blog post of yours about your treks, it only makes me want to travel more. I don't know when I am going to start!

People plan holidays abroad, in resorts, fancy hotels, et al. How much of that place will one be able to soak in really? But your home stay has given you a glimpse into what is life like for these people and they have taken you to the places they know are worth seeing. Plus, their hospitality, food, all of this just goes to show the kind of people they are.

I'm only jealous (in an absolutely good way!) of your experience! May you have many more!

shailu said...

Nice Experience!!!!!while reading I was feeling my presence in the scene

Manjunath Byadigere said...

Nice write up Srik.Story well told in your own descriptive style.May you visit more such places and tell more stories of great experiences.

T S said...

Finally you made it and I missed it..!!

I can feel the beauty of your "revisited your past" trip...

Still I remember the statement of malnad guy in the forest in our trek...saying" Nav malnad jana sullu helolla..." (Malnad people don't lie) and I replied " Naavu bayalu seeme jana ashtu bega Nambolla.."

Its really true they don't lie (Especially those who stay in the deep forest and those who do not have more contact with the outside people).

Still I remember that day when we went to their place in Kokkodu to ask way towards Agumbe, they offered drum full of butter milk by looking our faces and condition.
Finally we ended up with eating very very tasteful Upma. I think that is the last time I had such tasteful upma.

We were wondered and pleased by their hospitality and innocence. We also enjoyed more because those days we had very less baggage's in our minds and we were in our control because we were studying in degree. No worries about the classes so extending the enjoyment in the forest for few more days if we like..

Srikanth is right, before Himalaya (Sarpas) trek this was the trek we enjoyed more with all kinds of feelings and emotions like more thrilling in the forest, more excitement, most peaceful (no mobiles expect one BSNL which saved our lives by showing the right direction towards our destination through signal), more comfort with less luggage's, more freedom with less restrictions, more time with less plans, less money with more spending etc.,

Total 5 days trek in the forest without prior plans, staying in tents without fear and enjoyment without tension, no worries about pending work at offices.

This trip you restricted to kokkudu. Suppose if you would have extended up to Bhuvanodlu(Mahabalaiah Bhat) the ending story of your blog would have changed, and I was suppose to expect 3 people while coming back to bangalore.

Still we can revisit Bhuvanodlu and Shuntihaklu Ravi's home and enjoy like this again...!! because Malnad people offer more buttermilk for strangers also..

In the expectation of buttermilk..!!

Cheers..!!

T S

Raghu said...

Good write up Sri.

I am really happy to know that our Malnad culture has still remained the same despite the effect of Globalization and urbanization. May be it is a good example to show that, it is we, who create and maintain culture. If we are not influenced by external factors, we remain as we are.

Kudos to Malnad culture and people.

Sudhi said...

Thanks Sri for sharing such a wonderful experience that you had in Kokkudu!

There is no match for hospitality of people in Malnad.

It reminds me about tasty malnad foods that I was used to have when I was visiting my grandmother's house in Koppa every year on summer vacation holidays.

I missed this trip and still missing tasty Malnad foods....!

Soumya Bhat said...

Hey great write up!! Kokkodu is my native place and it is indeed a very beautiful place. It actually felt very good when I typed in Kokkodu in google and I found your blog. Its great that people visit such remote villages as well!!

Sujana Udupa said...

Hello,

The place you just described is my native and i am grand daughter of thammannayya! I felt really happy after reading your blog, it was like a revisit to my native. Thank you so much! Do visit us again.