Whoever said small towns don’t come with their share of adventure? If this weekend was anything to go by, I should have no problems keeping myself busy getting to know this part of the world.
It all started yesterday, with the school working on the first and third Saturdays of the month. After the end of a staff meeting at about 5 PM, we all traipsed back to our rooms and sat around wondering what to do. Just that morning, I had met Kali, a theatre artist from Chennai, who had come to the school to do a session of drama with the kids. And just because I can see her cringe that I’m saying it, I must mention that Kali Akka has also been to Cannes as a part of the cast and crew of Dheepan, a French movie that went on to win the Palme d’Or. I just had to put that out here. But coming back to the point, Kali Akka and I decided that the Chennai spirits in us could not let such gorgeous weather go to waste and we headed out for a walk, me in chappal and her all geared up in shoes. The rest of this story is, well…
Roughly ten feet into this “walk” of ours, Kali tripped and fell, and after pausing for a minute to make sure it wasn’t a fracture, we obviously decided to keep going. Soon a decision point arrived – dirt path or tar road? And of course, dirt path it was. We climbed up and discovered a brick kiln, did the rounds there a little, promised to come back next time to discover the trail that was leading up the hillock and headed back to the road. A short while and a similar decision later, we trudged through a rather rocky path and found ourselves at a stream. Both of us had left our phones behind, didn’t have any source of artificial light on us and the sun was starting to set. Should we have turned around? Perhaps. Instead, we gave ourselves another five minutes and headed downstream, just to see where it would go. The minute we found a little waterfall, we sat down and made ourselves comfortable, getting our feet wet and resting on the mossy rocks. Just as we were talking about how this is the life and things equally romanticized, two men on a motorbike came up behind us and said one simple sentence. “Inge elaam yaanai varum ma.” (“The elephants will come here, ma.”)
And we ran.
The way back was a blur. With no light, no means of reaching people and alone in the bushes, we told ourselves our best bet was to get to the main road as fast as our legs could carry us. The threat of elephants and the very real fear of the groups of men trudging towards the rocks for what we assumed was their evening dose of fun provided the fuel for our rather tired selves. And how we ran. Every shadow was a potential threat, man or animal. Every rustle was the possible announcement of tusked visitors. Every breath could be one movement too loud. Passing a bull on the way, we wondered if they could smell fear the same way dogs can and resolutely acted cool, or tried at the very least. By the time we got back to the school, our hearts were pounded from the fear just as we were laughing in an effort to seem/be calm. And with that, the two Chennai girls came back from their first scout of the neighbourhood.
Come Sunday, after a rather laid back morning, a fellow teacher and I decided a Sunday afternoon off was too much to spend sitting in our rooms. So we set off to say hi to our neighbours across the state border. Getting on a bus, using my oh-so-fantastic Malayalam (Chetta, ivvade ATM undo?) and getting lost in the snaking lanes of Goolikadavu, we discovered quaint bakeries and local textile outlets that would put our urbanity to shame. Two coffees, one cream bun and a vegetable puff later, we could barely believe our Rs. 40 bill, and armed with our stock of Rs. 100 kurtis that could compete with the FabIndias and Kalpastrees any day, we headed back to Anaikatti.
All set for Week 2.