One needs to control his or her mind to do anything in this world. Even the most enlightened of us all, Plato, Seneca, Marcus, Aristotle, Buddha, Socrates, valued this virtue. I do not possess this quality, yet, and hence couldn’t sleep the Saturday night before the Sunday drive. At 4 am, when I disabled the alarm and dragged myself out of bed, I felt as if a hundred pins pierced my eyes.
Determined to hit the road, we packed our country-egg-omelet and Amul-butter-pasted sandwiches, that I had already prepared the night before, in tiffin boxes and then in a backpack, along with bananas, water bottles, and Unibic protein bars. We wanted to hike the world. Soon, we sped on the road in search of a green and sunlight-lit golden Sunday in some distant hills or next to a lake or a dam, may be accompanied by an elephant or two.
As the sky started turning orange with the rising sun, we forgot about the night before and marveled at the vermilion-red Gulmohar-studded smooth gravel road, that seemed to swirl in front of us infinitely, while the warm breeze that wafted through the car windows played with our cheeks.
Ignoring the blue arrow of our GPS, we frequently stopped at colorful village temples which stood under the shades of big banyan and pipal trees and were guarded by plaster of paris and brick made snakes, tigers, and mythological gods and demons. With our heads tilted upwards constantly, we admired the roadside fruit-laden jackfruit and mango trees and the Indian rollers and the kingfishers that were perched on electric cables.
As we were looking at one such Indian roller, happily resting on a tree, we were awestruck by the sight of a swampy lake on whose bank stood the tree. The lake, which was essentially a collection of many small shallow pools, was bedazzled with dark-pink lotuses that bloomed in all of its puddles. And above, the Indian roller hopped on the branches of the tree and then flew to a different one when we approached her admirably. My heart bid me adieu and flew away with her when she flapped her sapphire-blue wings and cut through the wind. I was almost sure that an artist had first painted her ink-blue on his canvas and she had then come alive, only to fly out of his canvas, into the distant sky.
We descended onto the mud path to get closer to the lake whose other end was fringed with coconut trees and colorful huts beneath them. The lotus-studded muddy lake glistened with sunlight and black buffaloes and their calves bathed in it blithely. Stout men fished in the water, which could only reach their bulging waists, and fishes, as big as our forearm, throbbed against the green plastic net next to the lake. As parrots and Indian rollers flew over, we forgot which way we came and time stood still.
Having turned into our child-like chirpy versions, we drove away, only to stop at a scented mango orchard laden with green, pointed and curvy mangoes, some of which were coral at the top. As the orchard was only guarded by the sharp sun, that played hide and seek from behind the dark clouds the whole day, and some dry barbed-wire-like branches of an unknown tree, I jumped and plucked many and ran to our car.
Then the road passed through the dense enticing Aiyur forest (Cauvery north wildlife sanctuary is a part of it) in which wild elephants are known to trumpet freely, though we didn’t hear any. As we drove through the silent wilderness, which was only buzzed by the cicadas and the crickets, we craved a glimpse of the mighty one and scanned for elephants through the tiny gaps left between the rustling leaves.
Feeling fresh from the cool jungle breeze, we arrived in the rural village of Bettamugilalam, which is at a height of 3000 metres. Vast open pastures and small hills, on some of which sat big pipal trees, surrounded the village. Green agricultural fields sprawled throughout the village, beautiful temples and mosques stood every few hundred meters, and unmanned goats and cows wandered and grazed freely on the almost-dry but still-breathing summer grass.
Lungi-wrapped men, with large grey mustaches, manned chicken shops and strolled the streets gossiping away. Dark, slender young girls with well-oiled, pleated hair, in which a jasmine garland or rose had been put in carefully, adorned bright salwar-kameez, and chatted and smiled in groups outside their houses. Hibiscus and rose bushes ornamented their courtyards. Women washed their colorful saris in these sunlit courtyards and fed the little ones. A few girls and boys cycled while avoiding cows which mooed in the middle of the street and refused to move away even when the young cyclists tinkled their bells or when we honked and their owners hushed them.
It was as countryside as it could get.
My pompous-self had thought that the village had a dam, and as we asked the villagers for one, they laughed and told us there was none. Though some pointed us to a dam.
We drove back from that village to drive through the forest again and stopped at Semieri lake in the forest to refresh ourselves with the crisp breeze that rose from its shiny water. Tall bamboos fringed the other side of the lake and dense jungle thrived behind the bamboos. We walked through the spiky bushes, bending our head down, to reach the bambooed end of the lake with our sandwiches and water bottle in hand. As we walked through the black ashes of burnt bamboo and fresh and semi-dry elephant dung, which looked like bundles of dry hay patched together, swamps of dark-blue, honey-orange, and pastel-brown butterflies fluttered around us on the otherwise unmanned lakeside.
While we were enjoying a sitting siesta, a man, who claimed to be a forest worker, shouted at us that we shouldn’t have been where we were. After a bit of a rash argument about the etiquette of conversations, we drove away while I spanked a brown cicada which had sneaked into the car and had freaked out my friend. If only, the thought of an approaching elephant had scared him that much.
Morose but guilty of having wandered in the forest unguided, we drove through the town of Denkanikottai, devoured a thali meal at Saravana Bhavan, enjoyed a fun wheel Amul ice cream, and plonked into our car, determined to drive to the Panchapalli dam.
As we drove to the dam, we found ourselves looking upon a wide green pasture, surrounded by dense forest and hills, and lambs grazed through the pasture on its wet olive-green grass. My heart settled on this valley which blossomed with life while the road was stuffed with rude and rash drivers who hurried to reach where, we didn’t know. The swampy valley was actually the backwaters to the dam, which was almost dry now, and we merely drove by it in search of a trail to go down. We did find a trail, and parked our car next to a temple, behind which ran the mud path.
Unlike the city cows which never fear men, the hundreds of blue-horned cows that ran back home by this trail stopped and stared at us as they heard us whispering behind the bushes where we were sucking on fresh polos. As they finally left, we stumbled through liquid cow dung which was of a cow suffering from some serious diarrhea, unquestionably.
We trod downhill through spiky bushes, balancing ourselves on slippery rocks, carefully stepping beside the millipedes resting on the path, and dodging the spiders that webbed in the branches and leaves that shadowed the path. When we looked around we saw that we were in the middle of the jungle we had so aspired to go inside. Assured that we wouldn’t be able to reach the pasture, I had fixed my eyes on the trail, when my friend told me to look ahead, and I saw that the lush pasture sprawled in front of us.
We walked down and ran into its arms.
While driving back, the rain pelted down on the car windows and soft romantic songs filled the car. Humming with the music, I laid back in my seat, looked at my friend, and we both knew that we have had a great day.
We rejoiced this journey even though things weren’t close to being ideal. The dam and lakes were dry or shallow. The rainy streams had evaporated. The afternoon was sunny. But we couldn’t have enjoyed them more. Thanks to my ever wandering eyes and thanks to the best traveling partner one can ever hope for.
Nature is never that far away, if only, you look around. Don’t just hustle to your destination. Let the fresh breeze rising from the hilly slopes and the brisk water of the gurgling, rainy streams play with your hair, like your lover’s fingers. Wander out of the city, whenever you can.
Never having had enough of nature and its inhabitants, I prepare for further travels and for more blue-winged birds while gorging upon the sour mangoes splashed with lemon, salt, and red chilly.
This is the route that we took: Bangalore – Hosur – Denkanikottai – Aiyur Forest –Bettamugilalam – Aiyur Forest –Denkanikottai– Panchapalli dam – Denkanikottai–Bangalore. The total distance covered was around 230 km. You can find the map for the drive here.
What do you enjoy the most about nature? Let me know in comments.