Once at prayer, I asked for empathy and set out to travel…
We were downhill at Kodai town and after withdrawing money, we rushed straight to Subway. I always wondered why people don’t try out local cuisines and stick to the food that they would easily get back home. It’s actually the sense of familiarity that they look for. Unbathed and unkempt, we entered Subway searching for the same sense of familiarity. It wasn’t the great food that attracted us. It was the assurance that in an unknown place and in an unknown situation, this is where we would be taken care of.
There are several attractive parks, lakes and waterfalls in Kodaikanal. Given the set of vagabonds we are, we went straight back to Vattakanal to just wander listlessly. On the way back, we halted at a roadside stall selling exotic fruits that certainly weren’t native to Kodaikanal. Like this weird one – pink and green on the outside and white with black seeds on the inside.
We got some plums for the mystery man, for the generosity that he bestowed upon us the previous night. After clearing our dinner debt and thanking him, we headed towards the Dolphin nose point. You have to follow the stairs right next to Altaf’s cafe and walk downhill until you reach a point where you will hear idiots screaming their lungs out. That is the Echo point. Close to it is a hill in the shape of a dolphin’s nose. Yes, right there with the loon in red standing on the edge.
If you ever find a quiet moment, you will be able to hear the grunts and huffs of animals far below in the jungle which will soon fade because the only sound you will now hear will be of your heart, pounding against your chest such that it might explode.
Statutory Warning: Please refrain from behaving foolishly and clicking pictures while at the edge and for goodness sake, DO NOT CLICK SELFIES, unless you want to plummet to death.
Keep the camera aside and walk around a bit. You will find that every tourist attraction is much more than what they show you in the maps and guides. Kodaikanal has different paths for tourists and villagers, which is why you will seldom encounter a local who is not directly involved with tourism. Keep a day aside for clueless walks, anywhere you go.
That night’s dinner was at Mohan uncle’s place. The wife served us warm and tasty dal-roti and while we ate, she entertained us with her stories.
The hills of Kodaikanal are notorious for their hallucinatory mushrooms. Most youngsters visit the place solely for them and that is what displeased the wife. She tells us that Kodai gained traction decades ago due to foreigners, mostly Israelis. Many years later, men from the cities of Bangalore and Chennai started visiting and lately, women have been flocking along too. All was well until young people became a little too sure of themselves.
A young girl who arrived with a group, after ingesting an overdose of mushrooms, couldn’t keep it down. She climbed the roof of the very cabin we were staying at and screamed bloody murder! It became increasingly difficult for them to calm her. At about midnight, they had to forcefully lock themselves up along with the girl. Soon after everyone dozed off, trouble took a hike when the girl somehow broke out and ran for the hills. The jungles of Kodaikanal house animals like oxen, bisons, wild boars and leopards and the visibility is pretty sparse during fog. Poor Mohan uncle had to inform the police and a search party set out to find the girl. At dawn, she was found unharmed but still in a delusional state and was later taken to the hospital.
The wife seemed visibly upset while recollecting the horrifying experience. Such incidents draw unwanted attention. Most homestays don’t run on a license. They just do it for the extra cash and avoid getting into anything business-like. The family has been worrisome since.
Nights in the city are false. You’ll have some source of light, however distant, ruining it. Nights in the hills are pitch black. A flickering oil lamp and a now dying phone torch guided us back to our cabin. The rain had ceased. Cold, wet and solitary in a wooden cabin, up in the hills with no sense of time, sound or light – blank. Sleep crept in like there won’t be another day after this pause but like every dream, this too had to end.