Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bagamandala Diary

Bagamandala a small village in the far end of Coorg was where I was born and spent a significant amount of my childhood. Like an island surrounded by water on all sides, Bagamandala is a small cluster of houses surrounded by thick forest and tall mountains on all it's sides; often covered with thick mist Bagamandala looks like a large white dot on a dark green paper.
With sparkling waters of river Kaveri, paddy fields now cut down to brown and rich green vegetation spread generously all over the village, Bagamandala is a delight to the eye.

A bunch of shops, a few hotels, a coffee curing works and an old temple form the centre of the village. Facing them all stands my grandfather's house.

Solar Eclipse

I entered the verandah to be greeted with mantras coming from the pooja room. My grandfather's strong voice and the familiar shlokas told me 'I was home'.
A warm smile on my grandmother's face, loud cheer from my little cousins and a proud pat on the back from my uncle all welcomed me in unison.

The breakfast was a quick affair with the solar eclipse starting at 11:00 we had to finish eating before 9:00.
I walked out to the verandah after filling in on grand mom's upma to my hearts fill. I stood in the verandah looking at the accolades my grandfather had received over several years placed proudly on the crumbling verandha wall. The latest a recognition and an award from Kannada Sahitya Parishat caught my eye, grandfather joined me with the morning newspapers, Deccan Herald, Praja Vani (Kannada news daily), and Shakthi (Local news daily).
'So you have gone back to Deccan Herald or Drunken Herald like you used to call it' I asked with a chuckle
'He has improved a lot over the past year' he handed me the paper
'I changed backed to The Hindu from Times' I added as I took the paper from his hand.
Grand dad is a big fan of The Hindu but the sad part is the local news agency has no tie up with the paper hence he is struck with Deccan Herald the only newspaper that is available in the village. He takes reading newspapers very seriously, spends almost two hours a day reading the newspapers.
A phone from an old friend of my grandfather interrupted our talk and I walked out to the back yard to see my cousins climbing the mango tree and grand mom urging them not to; I went straight to my room and fell asleep on the inviting warm bed.

I was rudely awakened by my cousins shouting
'Come anna (elder brother) see the solar eclipse, come quickly'
I ran out shouting 'Idiots don't look at the sun its dangerous' but was surprised to see my cousins and grand mom looking into a wide vessel filled with dirty looking water.
'What is this?' I asked still a little surprised
'Its cow dung mixed with water. You can see the image of the sun in this water very clearly, this is how people looked at solar eclipse before the safety glasses and telescope' grand mom replied with a proud smile
'Seriously you can see the eclipse' I peeped into the vessel to witness quite a spectacular sight. The radiant sun hiding behind a dark black circle and different shades of yellow circling the dark spot.
'Don't look up' grand dad came running out warning us all
'We won't' we shouted back and stood there silent spellbound by the beautiful sight.


A trek to Nishani mountain one of the tallest in Coorg was planned by Ashoka mava (Uncle), the challenge was to sneak out without getting caught by my cousins; the eight kilometers trek was not something five year olds could handle.
A short drive to Venu anna's (Uncle's best friend) home was the first task of the day. Venu anna who runs a home stay often takes his foreign guests on trek to Nishani.

With a heavy bag which my uncle transferred onto my shoulders smoothly calling me 'young blood', we were off to conquer Nishani.
Steep muddy and rocky pathways were our first obstacle, with our speeds reaching new lows with each step I knew the road ahead was no rosy path I had imagined it to be.
A kilometre walk and the muddy pathway gave way to light green grass lands; two feet tall grass covered the whole area. With no exact pathway ahead and thick forests on both sides of the grassland, fear took birth deep down in my stomach.
Elephant droppings and a rare tiger paw mark just made things worse. I stayed right behind the pack and let Venu anna lead us forward.

We stopped mid way to rest and I stood looking at the tall mountains that stood majestic with different shades of green running all over them. Far away a road running around a mountain and a moving white speck on it, may be a bus, villages and houses away from sight, the strong silence broken by a small bird chirping and leaves rustling. Standing there a wonderful feeling of peace and serenity hugged me tight.
'You see that mountain tip there, behind that tall mountain' Vennu anna interrupted
'That one far away' I pointed at the tip
'Yes, that is Nishani' he spoke to my shock
We had not even come half the distance I was already panting, my legs were shouting out with pain and my shoulders had given up all hope.

The sights around were a visual delight, we walked through tall grass, cut through strong wines and climbed slippery rocks. Half way through and we came across a make-shift shelter built by Venu anna, the small shelter was a cabin like structure built with wooden poles, dried leaves and hay. It also housed a bench built with thin branches tied together and four strong branches as it's legs.
'Afternoon lunch' my stomach grumbled. Out from the bag on my shoulder came a packet of Maggie a small vessel and a bottle of water. A stove was built by Venu anna with rocks placed on top of each other. I was instructed to find some dry wood for fire and I quickly walked to the nearest tree which had a few branches lying near its roots.
Maggie had never tasted better and tea was just water with a flavour but we relished it like never before.

With strong determination to climb to the top first and an immense ego to not let myself down in the eyes of Venu anna and Ashoka mama I walked with swift pace stopping only to take pictures and then moving to take my place ahead of the pack. Venu anna confirming elephants and other wild animals come out in the open only after sun down killed my fear and boasted my spirit and confidence.
An hour later and I led the pack and put a small distance difference between me and the two. Venu anna and Ashok mama stopping to light up their bedi and pipe also helped me take a bigger lead.

Our last stop and I could see the peak clearly it lay only a few more minutes away and I was anxious to stand on top of the impressive peak. I ran towards the peak leaving behind the two.
I stepped onto the peak and ran around shouting with joy. A sense of achievement and a flavour of victory danced with me.
It took me a couple of minutes to catch my breath. I was joined by my uncle and Venu anna at the top. My uncle pulled out his pipe while Venu anna lit another bedi. We sat on the edge of the mountain looking down at the thick forests, the mountain peaks, small dots that the villages had taken shape.
A strong cold wind roared on the top of the peak, Ashok mava let out a cloud of smoke and said
'May be if we are really quite, we can mostly hear the Gods talk'

I am someone who is against adding pictures to an essay or short story but if anyone is interested in viewing the pictures from the trek then please click on the below link, it will take you to my facebook album.


Neha said...

Harsha, I was travelling with you thru this post..and I am feeling so jealous..wish I could visit these places too..

I was not aware that eclipse was seen this way too..very interesting..I am off to your album..I hope to see eclipse pics there too..:)

if not; then why you didn't click?

Harsha Chittar said...

hey Neha,
Finally a comment on the post, thank you for reading the post and the nice words :)
I couldn't click pics coz i was not allowed to by my grand parents, they are kinda orthodox and have some strict n silly rules:)
You should visit the place sometime it is heaven on earth for me :)

Neha said...

hmmm, it for sure sounds like a swell town..

I can understand about those rules..and they are logical too; most of the times..anyways, we missed a great scene - is all I can say :)

rajeshwari said...

Hey Harsha,

Good one! I really enjoyed reading it. Solar eclipse is the one part, that I loved the most. I could even see the expression of my athe as I was reading it. Thanks a lot for this post :)

grace said...

Not jealous, not excited to visited Bagmandala or Nishani, just happy to take the flight with your essay...
And the last line just did it for me.

Philip said...

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