I had been fond of exotic songs since childhood. The melody would matter more than the lyrics. I would never mind listening to Hebrew, Greek, or African music for hours on end. I’d often try to pick up Marathi, or Odia, or Santali songs on my recorder flute. Quite early in my life, I had learned to accept otherness, that too in their unadulterated forms. That’s why the blaring radio of a tiny makeshift tea-shop at Salem, which was tuned to the local station, did not bother me at all. I was rather enjoying the meditative beats of the Pakhawaj.
I was out on an escapade, inspired by a book I had recently read. The book drew before me an image, that of dark green hills, small, lonesome villages, tea plantations, hidden lakes, dense forests, wildlife on the roam, gushing waterfalls and breathtaking views. No sooner had I finished reading the final line of the book than I was determined to go on a solo trip.
I was so desperate for the trip that I was left with no option but to avail a car rental in Salem, and after having to wait for about an hour at the tea-shop I set off on a five-hour journey to Ooty. I could have easily journeyed to Bangalore and then booked a cab from Bangalore to Ooty, but as I said before, I was desperate and therefore couldn’t wait.
Musafiri: Musafiri is a beautiful word. Its true meaning can be grasped only by an amalgamation of many meanings–traveler, the urge to traverse, journey, or the time of journey, and the feeling of becoming a sojourner.
I know this for certain that I’m a Musafir and perhaps that’s why it gets extremely difficult for me to stay put at one place and not travel for a while.
I have my own sense of travelling. I prefer offbeat places than so-called tourist attractions. Corresponding to this is my musical preference. I like popular music, but I prefer unknown, unheard music more, music from far away, foreign lands.
I like to hitchhiking and travelling on foot. This practice helps me to discover a certain place better. Walking through alleys, and nooks and crannies, getting lost in unknown places, then asking directions from complete strangers and making new friends in the process has almost become an obsession over the years.
Into the Blue: I could have easily gone boating at the Pykara lake but I chose not to. It would have been far too crowded for my own good. Instead, I went to Emerald lake.
This lake, hidden from the grasps of the fussy tourists, is a gem for the peace-loving introvert. If you ask for meditative silence, then Emerald lake is your destination.
I dipped my feet into the chilly crystal clear water and sat at the bank, reading my Palgrave.
Soon enough I was filled with an overwhelming feeling of ecstasy and I put my Palgrave and other belongings at the bank and went into the silky water for a swim.
‘Chai… Chai…’: Heading towards Kotagiri from Emerald Lake through a thick plantation of gigantic eucalyptus trees I could see the great Nilgiri hills, full of dark green tea gardens at the horizon. Huge hanging clouds tainted scarlet by the setting sun were lustily floating through the tops of the eucalyptus. I picked up a few eucalyptus leaves and put all but one into my book as bookmarks. I broke and rubbed the one remaining leaf on my hand, which now smelled of the fragrance of eucalyptus.
I stopped at a tea-house and ordered first flush. Since I was the only person around, apart from the owner, we quickly broke into the conversation. To my surprise, I was invited to a session of tea tasting and soon ended up with quite a number of cups on my table and loads of brilliant stories in my heart.
‘Bhaiyaa, can you drop me at…’ : I was out again. The owner of the tea shop, my newfound friend, was accompanying me to the nearest highway.
Breeze, blowing through the dry eucalyptus leaves made a strange melancholic sound. A bird cried somewhere at a distance. The majestic Rangaswami peaks divided the otherwise blended horizon. The tea gardens and the hanging clouds, which now wore a blue-grey hue, had diffused into each other. It seemed as if the somber Rangaswami had paused in meditation moments before it was supposed to facilitate the union of the sky and the gardens.
My friend broke into a hum. Once again I failed to grasp the meaning of the lyrics. What attracted me now, like always, was to the melody. I imagined it to be a love song. A song about the sky’s love for the gardens, their pain, their pining for each other, their unquenchable, unvanquished passion…
We were standing on the highway. Both of us were mesmerized by the strange wild beauty of the Nilgiri mountains. Our trans broke when a flash of headlights blinded our eyes. I raised my hands, the truck stopped, ‘Bhaiyaa, can you please drop me at…’
A bird cried for his beloved at a distance.
The breeze made the dry eucalyptus leaves sound in a strange way.