Tuesday, 29 December 2020

And then sometimes you just get lucky!!!

 Lucky enough to be able to see Raja Ravi Verma’s Paintings in a distant city which you are visiting for just a day on work!

The year was 2009, even before we moved to the farm.  Our office work involved quite a bit of travelling.  Vivek being the seasoned traveller, always looked for flights that would minimise our time out of Mumbai, and me being the dreamer, always wanted to linger on a day or two extra and take in the sights of the cities hitherto unseen.  So when we were called upon for a meeting  in Trivandrum – Thiruvananthpuram – I jumped at the chance.  Thiruvananthapuram -  such a grand name for the capital city of Kerala – I was born in Kerala (Calicut) and hence always have a special longing to visit this state .

Now what else could we possible do in Trivandrum – ………….? 

 Visit the museum which houses the paintings of Raja Ravi Varma of course!  We could not travel all the way there and not see the paintings – that would be terrible. So I did all the research and found out all the details about the place- location, timings etc and dreamt about  spending an entire  day there.

  Ah,   but Vivek had other plans – Our meeting was scheduled for 11 am – we had a very convenient flight which would land there by 8.30 and a return flight at around 7 pm.  We need not even stay overnight he explained, while I had the most disappointed look on my face.

 But...but...Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings...I wailed!  But the flight bookings were already done.  “Don’t worry”, Vivek consoled me,  “I’m sure the meeting won’t take long - as soon as we are done, we  can go  spend all afternoon at the museum and then go directly to the airport” he said.  Meetings  getting over quickly.......I might as well sail to the moon and back....hmmmmpf!!!

All along in the flight, my thoughts were on only one thing – the museum.  Only if we finish our meeting by 1.30, we could rush to the museum .... but invariably, there would be lunch served and the prolonged discussions.   So I put away all thoughts of visiting the museum and got down to concentrating on my work.

We  hired a car for the day and as we drove out of the airport we could see people putting up flags and barricades along the roads.  When we asked, the driver informed us that there was a huge morcha/rally  in the evening and probably a lot of roads would be blocked and traffic would be diverted.  The chances of visiting the museum seemed indeed very bleak.

We reached the department at 10 am, a whole hour earlier, but  it would be better to wait there rather than some place outside.  We sat in the reception area and I got my laptop out and resumed my work  while Vivek got talking to some person who was enquiring about  our reason for being there.  There seemed so be some serious language issue and some confusion. I could hear  ‘No Meeting – …….. Sir is on leave’  

Well, well,  this kind of sounded preposterous – after having travelled all the way from Mumbai on a date and time that was conveyed to us a fortnight in advance!  The person having realised the gravity of the situation, reluctantly phoned his boss whom we had travelled to meet.  A lot of head nodding and a one sided conversation which we could not follow, the person finally turned to us and said ‘Meeting postponed to 2 pm’   

Well, well,well.......that  really sealed off any chance of visiting the museum....unless....unless ...we go right away. 

“Yes?”  I asked Vivek. 

“How far is it?”  I rattled off the exact kms – I had it down pat. 

“We’ll be back for the meeting”  he said to the person at the counter and out we rushed to the cab.  The driver not expecting us to come out so soon had wandered off , but came back as soon as we called him. He was confident that we could go to the museum and get back before 2 pm as the rally was not expected to start before 4 pm.  It was a bit risky,  but then off we went.  Half an hour later we were at the entrance of the Trivandrum Zoo. Yes the Sree Chithra Art Gallery is within the premises of the zoo.  We quickly got our tickets and went into the quaint museum.

Pic taken from the Internet  

The museum was inaugurated in 1935 by the then Maharaja of Travancore Sri Chithira Thirunal.  A beautiful bungalow built in the traditional Kerala style of architecture with sloping tile roof and polished red floor.  The masterpieces adorned the walls and I could just not have enough of looking at them.

Pic taken from the Internet  

 Two and half hours can scarcely do justice to a museum,  but still it was totally worth it. Soaked in the sight of some really marvellous Raja Ravi Varma originals and then it was time to get back to work.  We scarcely had time for a lunch so grabbed a snack at a tea stall and reached just in time for the meeting.  This time, everything was different.  The Head of the Department had arrived and a whole team was present and the meeting went off well. 

Back in the cab on the way to the airport, the diversions and road blocks made it seem that we would not reach the airport in time.  But the taxi driver sure knew the roads well and cut across through some non-existant road and got us out of the city onto a newly constructed  - or rather under construction road and raced to the airport – just in time for our return flight to Mumbai.  I leaned back into my seat my head still filled with visions of those paintings.......Just this morning I was doubtful whether I would get to see them, and in spite of all the seeming hurdles, we had still managed to visit the museum.

Sometimes, you do get lucky!

Pic taken from the Internet  

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Homes without doors!

 Our farmer friend Sonnu is by now used to our requests to take us to some relatively unknown portions of this beautiful land.  He has taken us to a Village called Hudil, yet another remote village to see Jaggery being made,  Abre whose claim to fame is the Medicine man and so on.

Recently we made yet another request to him – take us to a place where we can trek  up a hill we said.  And he happily agreed.  This time he suggested  a place called Uttara Koppa.  So on the appointed day, he came with Jaiman– the lad whose village we had visited to see jaggery being made. 

We set off in our car and a little before  Murudeshwar we turned  off the highway to travel into the interiors.  The road was – as usual – beautiful, the scenery as captivating as ever and soon  the village homes with the areca plantations gave way to dense forests on either side.  Every now and then we would see one or two homes scattered far – It is amazing how these people live so far from all the amenities  that we city people are so used to!  We surround ourselves with shops, malls, bus-stops and railway stations.  Every  advertisement for new homes in the city newspapers screams out how close everything is- 5 min walk to  xyz  Station, 2 mins from abc  Mall and so on……and not to mention a ‘Stones throw from the great Big Hosptial’ too!!!

Well here the nearest shop would be easily 15 to 20 kms away.  Are the people ever worried about running out of stuff – never.  Their homes are easily the sparsest that I have ever seen. 

So after a very pleasant ride, we reached a dead end, where we parked the car and set off walking into the forest with Sonnu leading the way. It was a beautiful walk, the silence of the forest, the ocassional call of birds, a few gurgling brooks and a small waterfall – an ambience to soak in and carry back home in your heart!

It was uphill most of the way and after about an hours trek we reached a flat level land which had a well maintained Areca plantation.  It was a surprise to see it in such a remote location.  We asked Sonnu about it and he said there are a couple of homes here and the plantations belong to those farmers.  And sure enough a little further we came upon the unmistakable signs of a village home.  A few dogs started barking to announce our arrival, a cock crowed loudly and we came upon a  mud house  with a small vegetable patch outside and a couple of coconut trees around it. 

The house seemed empty.  It had a little sheltered porch with a whole lot of hens and tiny chicks running all over the place.  The house was open, there was no door at all!   Sonnu stopped and started looking around for something – and soon spotted it -  a Sickle.  He picked it up and started towards the coconut tree.  We had a conversation like this

Me :What are you doing? 

S :  Plucking some tender coconut for you’ll. 

Me : Oh please don’t bother….and besides there is no one in the house,  won’t the owner mind?

S : Oh no he is my friend.  He must be somewhere around,  He will be back any moment.

Me : Is this the end of the trek or are we walking some more?

S :  Yes we could walk further up for a while and then return.

Me : Ok then maybe your friend will be back by the time we return and maybe he will make us some tea, I joked  - more to prevent him from plucking 2 precious tender coconuts than for the consideration of having tea!   So please don’t pluck any tender coconuts for us. 

He agreed and we set off again on the path.  Rough, uneven and uphill.  Giant towering trees, the kinds we had never seen before.  

A relatively rare fruit - White Kokum as the locals call it - Garcinia cambogia

And then another clearing and another small house.  This one too without a door.  But yes it had a bright coloured curtain and I could not resist getting a pic clicked on the doorstep.

 Finally we reached the end of the traversed path and it was time to turn back.  We reached the home of Sonnu’s friend, but he had not yet returned.  Just then there was a sudden downpour.  When it rains in these regions, it really pours!  We stood in the shelter of the porch and watched the front yard turn to slush. 

There was no point in trying to continue in the down pour and we decided to wait it out.  The chicks and the mother hen all scurried into the porch for shelter.  Sonnu went  into the house.  We could hear him rummaging around and went in to see.  He had already lit a small wood fire in the ‘choolah’ and kept a small vessel of water to boil.  He had taken my jestful mention of tea very seriously and was looking around in the dark kitchen for tea leaves!  He found it in a small tin in a a dark corner of the mud floor  next to another small tin of sugar. He found 4 steel pails and poured out the decoction.  Sweet black tea!  How refreshing.  We watched the rain sipping the tea.  

The neatly woven coconut frond sheltered us from the rain.

And then just as suddenly as it had started, the rain stopped, and the sky cleared up.  Time to leave.  We put on our shoes and just then the owner of the house returned.  At first he saw just Vivek and me as the others were sitting inside the house and I guess he was startled to see 2  strangers sitting on his porch.  Just then Sonnu came out and his face broke into a relieved smile.   We thanked him for his in-absentia hospitality and continued our down-hill trek.  The water fall which was a small one on the way up was now gushing mightily.  We refilled our bottles with the deliciously chill water and returned home.

What an amazing trek it was!


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