The overall idea of this holiday to Coorg was to unwind.
My wife, Jyothi, appreciated a much-needed break. Managing a bustling home efficiently is a 24×7 affair. I have also been exceedingly busy on my work front for the last few months.
Busy does not mean stressed!
I have been busy but I was not stressed. Over time, I have come to appreciate this difference. A heavy workload does not necessarily mean high stress. This aspect is particularly true in my case as I am madly in love with my work. To me, more work means exactly that – more work! Therefore, in my case, unwinding only meant not doing what I had been doing in the past few months – engaging in Coaching, Training, Consulting & Speaking assignments.
Hitting the road
The drive was great. We were in our new SUV.
Our first coffee on the way to Coorg today was at Paakashala on the highway at Solur. At this restaurant, we were recognized by Salman, a waiter, who had seen us at the other Paakashala at Yediyur, further down the highway during a prior trip. After he served us, he whispered into my ear to give him a 5-rating on Google. We happily complied.
From Bangalore, it took us a little over 6 hours to reach our destination. We had been advised to take the Nelamangala route to avoid the construction-ridden Bangalore-Mysore highway. Except for some odd patches, the condition of the road was good. It was good advice.
A call that made my day
On the way, I received a call from the HR Head of one of my MNC clients. The call was also to pass on some glowing feedback to me on the Coaching work that I had conducted recently for some very senior folks there. Given that more of such work is in the pipeline with this client, the call certainly made my day.
Our car was a fully loaded version in more than one sense. An overflowing bag of eats from the famous Warrior Bakery of Bangalore sat on the rear seat. The bag contained Masala Bun, Bun-Butter-Jam, two varieties of Potato Chips, Fruit Cake, and Congress (spicy peanuts).
Music to the ears!
Jyothi could connect our music system to Spotify for an unlimited supply of playlists. Over the years, we had graduated from a clunky cassette tape recorder in our Premier Padmini car to shiny CDs to tiny pen drives, and now to the invisible Spotify. What an evolution!
The brilliant Tamil music maestro, Ilayaraaja, kept us company through this entire duration. It also told us how prolific the maestro has been. Even after 6 hours, the playlist had many more songs listed. For both Jyothi & I, every single song evoked fond memories – we had something to share – about the song, actor, film, or singer. Some memories took us to the era when we were newlyweds. We recollected the era when we watched some of these movies on open ground in New Delhi. During those days, our local Tamil Association arranged for an open-air screening of popular Tamil movies on the grounds of the Tamil school. We savored the anticipation of watching the movie, met friends and relatives there, and sat through projector breakdowns and power cuts.
I have realized that acquiring or achieving something with some degree of difficulty or hardship makes the acquisition or experience even more valuable and memorable.
Ah! The destination!
We reached the Little Jungle Homestay by lunch. While on the way, the host had checked with Jyothi if we would be there for lunch. The reason: they cook fresh food based only on need.
At the Homestay, we were met by two enthusiastic boys – Vijay & Rohit. Their welcome with a Namaste was very warm & inviting. They carried our bags to our room.
True to its name, the 9-year-old Little Jungle Homestay is not big. It has 11 guest rooms spread across four cottages. The owners’ home is just behind the guest cottages.
The owners were attending to a family health emergency and were not available at the location. Even before we reached the Homestay, we were informed of this emergency and reassured of the staff’s commitment to serving us in the absence of the owners.
As we headed to our room, we were treated to an arboreal feast for the eyes. The Mangalore-tiled property was surrounded by swaying tall trees. Trees, shrubs, and plants vied for our attention. A tiny, compact garden was in full play – splashed with colors.
We entered a tastefully decorated lobby before entering our room.
It was a clean and bright room with an attached balcony. A shaft of bright light fell from the lone glass tile on the Mangalore-tiled roof. Fragrance from the burning Sambrani in the room transported me back to our Kerala village. The Sambrani smoke met the shaft of light for that surreal feeling. Incidentally, we use Sambrani at our Bangalore home quite regularly.
As we settled down in the room, lunch was announced.
The buffet lunch was a simple spread. Those who have been to any of the Jungle Lodges and Resorts properties in Karnataka would know what I mean by a ‘simple spread’. It was clean, hygienic, healthy, and wholesome. Nothing excessive!
It was also a fully vegetarian fare. I think that was because there were only three guests including us and all the three were vegetarians.
One of the highlights of the buffet lunch was Idiyappam with sweet Coconut gravy.
On Day One, we chose to do nothing.
For many travelers, ‘doing nothing’ constitutes a poor return on investment. Their idea would be to roam about during the day and return to the resort or hotel only at night. This way, they get to tick all the boxes of having visited the nearby tourist attractions.
Honestly, ‘doing nothing’ is also ‘doing something’. For instance, just spending time together means having conversations. Being married for 33 years provides enough opportunities. We have so many perspectives to share on so many matters that one lifetime of conversations doesn’t seem enough.
We slept post-lunch.
In the evening, we made a crucial decision – that we would ‘do nothing’. We hung around at the resort and made a few calls back home. I also captured some pictures of some exotic plants and flowers in the well-maintained garden. Among many others, I spotted the dazzling yellow Wyethia flowers and the light purple Spathoglottis. I may be sounding like a botanist to you but let me reveal the secret. There is a feature on my phone that uses my phone camera to identify the scanned image. I got to know the names of these flowers using that feature. Sh! Let’s keep it a secret. Shall we?
Later in the evening, it rained in typical hill-station style. Rather, it was a fine spray. We sat under the gazebo amidst birdsong and insect chatter. When our own chatter was getting drowned in the insect chatter, we decided to return to our room.
The dinner was again simple. The highlight was Rice Balls and spicy Potato Gravy. I was reminded of something made at our home during the New Delhi winters. At home, it was simply called, ‘Winter Sabji‘ and we had it with hot Paranthas fresh off the griddle.
Our favorite pastime
We returned to the room and I went after my book while Jyothi was watching a movie that she had downloaded on her phone. She was using her colorful headphones – an advance purchase before she heads to Cambridge, UK, in July to spend some time with our son, Siddharth, and daughter-in-law, Prerana. Given my mother’s advanced age, between Jyothi & I, we have decided that only one of us will be out on such long travels at any given time. This time, it is her turn to travel to the UK.
I finished one of the books that I had been reading for some time now and picked the next one. This one was Declan Walsh’s ‘The Nine Lives of Pakistan’. It seemed such a contrast to choosing the tranquil and serene setting of Coorg to read about the complex, warring, and radical society that is Pakistan. As if to sharpen the contrast further, I spotted about half a dozen ducks happily going around in a procession in the pond overlooking the room’s balcony. I recalled my experience watching the Black Swan at Western Springs, Auckland, during one of our splendid vacations. At regular intervals, these Coorg ducks would climb onto the rock feature and dry themselves, plucking lazily at their feathers. This was Peace on show. And I was reading about a variety of conflicts.
Between Jyothi & I, we have another contract – being the more spontaneous type, she watches many movies and recommends the ‘right’ ones to me. I am a little choosy – she wouldn’t agree with me on the ‘little’ part, though! At the Homestay, after watching the Malayalam movie, ‘Jana Gana Mana’, starring Prithviraj & Suraj, she is recommending it to me.
I have a habit of lying on the bed and reading a book without my spectacles on. The advantage of this posture is that I can seamlessly glide into sleep mode, most often involuntarily.
I realized it was morning only when I was woken up by some aggressive birdsong. Jyothi was still asleep.
I went out and captured the break of dawn as a video on my camera.
After the morning dose of authentic Coorg coffee, our breakfast was Pa Puttu with Kadala and Dosa with Coconut Chutney and mildly-sweet Jackfruit pods.
We went on a short trek picking a trail behind the property. The trail to the nearby Golf Course passed through wicker fences, some electric fences, and bright yellow boards cautioning us of passing elephants. All along the way, we heard incessant birdsong and insect chatter. I saw dark rain-bearing clouds against patches of the blue sky that lent such a striking contrast to the pictures. I was carrying my camera tripod so that I could take pictures of both of us – it would have been impossible to find someone along that trail to help us with the camera.
We returned for lunch. The highlight was fried Aloo Sabji and mildly-spiced Dal along with Chapathis. The curd was very special. I helped myself to 2 bowls.
After the trek and a delicious lunch, we caught some sleep.
As we were served tea, we took out our pack of Potato Chips to munch.
And then it rained – steady and intense. Very monsoon-like. We had been missing the monsoon throughout this trip. Except for an occasional drizzle, the Rain Gods had disappointed us. But when it rained, we were awash with joy. I watched the show from the balcony of the room overlooking the pond. The ducks seemed very pleased and as if in celebration, they took to the water and went around the pond. Was it a show meant for us? We wouldn’t know.
Dinner was served. Since there were very few guests at this Homestay, they sought to know our preferences. Accordingly, we were served Fried Rice – a simple, non-oily affair. With it was Dal and some sauteed Beans. The whole fare was quite tasty. I often wonder if it is our mood that elevates the taste or is it the fresh farm-grown vegetables and the local water that is in use. Or is it the simple village folks who work in the kitchen? I am sure it is all these factors combined.
Our vacation was drawing to a close.
Both Jyothi and I had been unwound sufficiently. We were raring to take on the world…again.
As we were leaving, I spotted the tiny lily pond in the lobby and a dazzling red fish in it.
Like us, the fish was in its own world. It knew its boundaries and the features of its world. We too have our own world in which we operate. Within the entire Universe, it is our own version of the world that ultimately matters. Contemplation! A byproduct of unwinding, perhaps!
My Quote #214 says, ‘Travel in as much as you travel out.’
It is critical to take such breaks at regular intervals. Apart from the obvious reasons for rest and recuperation, there is one more reason.
Contributing to a cause
We need to get the hospitality industry of our country back on its feet. The industry suffered a lot during Covid. Many players have gone out of business. Those who are surviving are relying on people like us to help them recover and reclaim their glory.
We can make our own contribution to this movement in our own small way. Jyothi & I have decided that we will not negotiate rates with such properties. If the rates appeal to us, we will take them. Given that this is more of a weekend business, we know that the expenses to maintain the property accrue all year around. If we end up paying a little more, let it be towards a ‘Reclaim Our Glory’ fee for such properties.
While we unwind, let’s ensure we offer some tailwind to them.
We will then have tales to tell. Like this one.
PS: Before we left the property, I went to our room balcony and clicked a souvenir picture.
For those who are looking for nothing to do in Coorg at a small place with highly personalized service, you could visit http://www.coorglittlejungle.com/. Highly recommended!
Did you like this travel story? Well, I am a travel storyteller. You could read more of my travel stories under the tab, ‘Sights’, on my website. How about beginning with my Postcard from Auckland & Queenstown by clicking here?