Sunday, June 27, 2010

Come to Coonoor……………..

Its 12 midnight and I am sitting in a large bedroom of a bungalow called Wallwood which sits in a place that’s tucked away behind a very heavily guarded army cantonment. Also to add to this - please also consider that this place is I am guessing 5000 ft above sea level. Welcome to Coonoor. Its nice, simple, reasonably commercial and not in your face and very very pretty.

Its midnight when I have started writing this blog. I am tucked away for the next three nights in this paradise called Wallwood Garden, a 100 year old bungalow ( an indian term for a big house but comes across more as the famous british hangover). This place we stayed in is a few miles (three to be precise) away from oh so pretty coonoor, which itself is another gem. Thanks to its big cousin Ooty getting all of the attention and being over commercialized Coonoor manages retains its old world charm. Am unsure whether this is about coonoor or about how wonderful a place, we stayed wallwood garden is !!

The trip:

A six seater Innova (Toyotas contribution to making indian families come together and have six or seven people travel at a time irrespective of the fact that the person sitting in the cramped last row is tall or short). A dvd player (another must have in indian vehicles that are taken on hire for long distance travel). Some of the popular ‘family value enhancing movies’ are always played on such trips. We saw the movie 3 idiots. Actually, not exactly something u can watch with the family as the male protoganist has actually proclaimed chase excellence and not academic success. For the average middle class south indian boy there was one motive in school. First rank always and if I did badly maybe second rank. Hence, the movie was a lil ‘bold’ may I add.

The journey:

I. Bangalore to mysore – 142 kilometres. On the way one sure has to eat at any of the following places and they come in the way in the following order

• Kamat Abhuruchi – about an hour from bangalore
• Indira Dhanush - about an hour and a half and has a coffee day so the Phoren Cousins in case you are travelling with any will feel easy
• Adiga – about two hours from bangalore.

II. Mysore to Bandipur – 80 kms - you will go past nanjungud, gundulpet. Eat nothing on this stretch. Enter the reserve……

III. Bandipur being a forest reserve is an excellent drive and looks gorgeous.
• We drive in the bandipur range and then cross over into the tamil nadu area. The first stop that we come across is the office of the forest department in the Bandipur post. As we proceed on the we come to Theppakaddu.
• From here two routes can be taken to ooty.
o At theppakaddu take a left – goes thru masingudi and a very steep route take you to ooty. Take this if you are a young couple or just a group of friends travelling. This drives through the heart of the forest and in case the any one travelling with you feels sich, stop midway offload them and carry on.  That advice though would primarily apply to a group of boys travelling though. Masingaudi is very nice place to have a holiday. Its below a nice mountain range.
o At theppakaddu continue on the road – longer but less treacherous route. Take this if u have a family and elders. This is the one that goes through Gudalur to ooty.

IV. Ooty – from ooty there are sign board showing directions to coonoor. You go past wellington and then enter coonoor form there. The scenery on this route especially from Bandipur is breathtaking. No regrets on the views on display.

The parties: The father, my wife`s father in law, my wife`s parents, my in-laws, her sister, my sister in law. We all went.

The place we stayed:

Wallwood The ‘non hotel’ hotel:

This place is not a hotel and thank god for that. If ure going to coonoor then I suggest that avoid hotels and thank fully there are not many in its true sense. The place three miles before the coonoor town. It’s a bungalow with rooms which people can stay in. The bigger ones which are two rooms in total with a smaller one as you enter leading to a master bedroom and toilet comprise a quite. The place is a bungalow in the true sense. Nice high walls, red oxide flooring, big bath rooms (and depending on the weather its get cold. It is cold in winter but we loved it. ). The place has 9 rooms and 2 suites. The suite rooms are enough for three people and being spacious are ideal for families. Ure Parents, ure inlaws and you guys. Works perfect for all.

The main building has seven rooms and adjacent to this bungalow (about ten steps away) is where the other rooms are. The main area has a common tv room, a dining area with a huge dining table that seats six and also another rooms with glass one one side which also can be used as a dinner room. Dinner breakfast and lunch is normally from a set menu. They have veg and non veg choices. Sometimes if the intake is good continental as well as indian is there to choose from. Don worry about the taste of the food here. My mother in law who is an excellent cook (eats only veg but cooks non veg also) herself admitted the food was excellent. And my father in law who has eaten what she has cooked rather may I add sheepishly added the food is good. Repercussions for such bold statements by any man always await him back home one once the trip is over .

Throughout the day some snacks can be ordered from the kitchen. Coffee/tea is served generously. The area in and around Wallwood are excellent for taking a walk. Being on what I call the outskirts has its advantages. As for what all u can do in and around this place.

It starts with the fact that as this place is on the way to the biggest reason why u goto coonoor. The drive though the tea plantations and just do as they do in the movies (that by the way if u did not get it was meant to be sarcastic).

Kothagiri – is the place that you will see boards leading to and you will as most tourists try to go but will never get there for the following reasons. On the way the following difficulties will be faced.
• The breathtaking scenery and the drive through the tea plantations will make sure you stop as frequently and ensure that you will never actually get to knowing what kotagiri is. Some of the sights that you will see include clouds over the mountains or between them. Tucked away between these mountains are the tea plantations at a lower level or higher level of the plantation are the houses of the workers. It will leave u wondering for that moment …………that u wish u stayed there. That minute your career growth prospects, the selfish ness of your careers, the job insecurities will all take a back seat. We bot team from a place which was located at some insane altitude. We took snaps form where we could actually see mountains, yeah mountains below. see the snaps to trust me on that.
• Dolphins nose : this place is tucked away somewhere between the Adderley tean plantation. The scenery to get to this point is worth the drive. This guest house/homestay is worth paying for. The website is self explanatory.
• Walks : just around almost everywhere. Absolutely anywhere is fine.
• Explore: I firmly believe as that a place has to be known by best just driving around and talking to the locals. I did just that. when the family retired to the room on the pretext of a quick smoke (being a social smoker has its advantages – for starters holidays are social ocassions) the driver picked up his friend form what coonoor calls a mall. We just drove around and got a flavor of the local look and feel. He told us how much price was paid for the houses that were sold. How the sale actually takes place. We also got to see some very nice interior places. We randomly picked the names of the plantations to enquire if they offered to have homestays. The point about being well dressed and having a command over English with a cigarette in your hand is that one does come across as the arrogant, well off and I know what I am doing person. So the manager of the plantations treats and speaks to you with respect. I saw the home dale plantations (no stay allowed here), the tiger hill cottages which are privately owned, the tantea factory (the one owned by the TN government).

So there u go. By reading till here u have realised that if u want to unwind and detox ure mind and like to read books, ure in the right place.

Why Coonoor…..
• Wallwood : elegant, excellent, a nice cold and damp bed (when raining outside makes it possible to sleep all the time). The food is excellent. Read in your room and when bored walk down to the t shop at the SIMS park. Have a cup of tea and come back to your room. The other roads lead to nowhere and therefore u wont be lost. U will come back to where u started and that’s why this is the place to stay. Am glad it not a hotel. They allow u to carry ure alcohol and keep it in their fridge. The kitchen shuts at ten so u will inculcate some good habits.
• Ooty is 20 kms away. For all of the commercialization that Ooty is accused of its has some sights. Some of the wonderful things that it has to offer are the following
o Have a meal at the kings cliff.
o Walk around the charring cross
o Shop at modern stores for some of the best combinations of the chocolates and some local jams
• Coonoor has a coffee day, sit there and read the whole day and no one will care. I was only told to smoke outside and that’s a fair request
• Wellington: the army guys have a great life. If u want to know how that great life is taken to the next level, see it at wellington. This army camp in wellington is not just an army camp. It’s a lil piece of heaven. There is nothing exceptional about this army camp but the place where it is located makes it picture perfect.
• The laid back coonoor teaches u to be content. I like laid back holidays and this place taught me more.
• As U2 said walk on…………………….

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Y Pondy u ask and i say…i dunno but still LOVING IT

Sometime in April, 2002

Before I get into the next few pages of writing why must you visit and give you an overdose about Pondy, let me get this straight. I am horribly biased in favor of Pondicherry, will always be and I would at any given opportunity run back there and just lounge around doing yes…………absolutely nothing.

There are always two kinds of holiday seekers in my opinion. One the kind who just like to do nothing and will take it as it comes and the other who go there wanting to ‘see’ places. I belong to the first category of travelers who plan very well to get to the destination and plan even better to find a nice place to stay there. But from there I like to be just left to be …….just. The concept of a holiday simply means a detox of the mind where the mind is so at ease it seeks to do nothing. The nothing state in the mind is for me the ultimate nirvana.

It all started one evening while walking home, I say the billboard about pondy by the tourism department which said ‘pondy - give time a break’. Something told me that this is the place I have to see cos when a place can give time a break, I wanna see and feel that moment. And so came the most important part of the trip. The finances..!!!!

The fourth year law school student albeit at the best law school in the country need not necessarily have all the money for the trip and as a ordinary middle class boy I dare not ask dad for the money, yes, I has that contingency fund which I thot I must not touch. But that’s just what I did not do. I touched my contingency fund.

This is the chain of events which lead to landing in pondy.

Saw the ad on a Wednesday and I feel for the forbidden fruit i.e my contingency fund. Spoke to my friend who convinced me it was the place to go. What my friend also told me and smartly at that was that I am the sorts who does not believe in the ‘any acco is fine for me’ approach. I saw the truth in that and knew she was right but I ignored it; knowing that was the last time I would have to visit the Citibank atm on cunnigham road. The simple reason – all the money from the account would be removed.

Thursday involved two hours of corporate laws class which was spent wondering if I go where will I stay, how will I travel around there and will I be robbed, stabbed bla bla bla…… Oh not to mention that corporate law classes also had one interesting element about them. The teacher. NOPE..!!! stop the thought right there that we are talking a hot young attractive teacher wearing a sari. We are talking 65 years of age of which 45 years have been spent sleeping around with corporate law, its attractive appeal, its vicious control of the mind bla bla bla bla. YUP..!!! the guess is right. The teacher was male, was 65 and was obsessed with corporate law and it’s the only thing in the world that turned him on. To add to it he was a malyali and his accent was perfect….i meant the mallu way. And as it happens in every institution there are the usual set of morons in class for whom such perverse corporate thoughts give the ultimate orgasm so they encourage this person to dwell into certain aspects called jurisprudence (for the lay common man like u n me this means tracing the history and seeing why what is the way it is). I can barely recollect a section from the companies act or more so know what it means and here we are tracing its origins (oops… sorry I am to call it jurisprudence). LAW SCHOOLS……….never mind..!!!!!

The other two hours on Thursday were spent in labour law class where I learnt that if u use a trawler then oysters and prawn don’t grow or get mutated or don have sex or some other shit like that. That’s labour law classes for you. Oh oh yes, how can I forget that shrimp farming was really bad for the soil or some other things like that. I don even wanna get into that cos otherwise I wont end.

Left college at two and proceeded towards home by bus (the pocket money does not allow the luxury of auto everyday) Shivajinagar to vasanthnagar by auto costs 15 bucks and that’s the most dreaded route I realize now as I saw the pondy hoarding again

Reached home by four and as dad was leaving home for his evening work when I not realizing what I did; just told him I was going for an excursion and dad, the ‘you should be independent’ guy that he is said take care.

I sipped coffee at home and washed up by five and picked up the book ‘Selected Books of Kahlil Gibran’ which was top agenda to finish. Till six the book was peaceful and made sense. I just woke up to get to take a pee when I saw my little brother, all of 12 had my Jansport bag on his shoulder and playing with it.

His truck, remote control car and also the lego set made it`s way into the bag. It was a sign from the lord.

20:00 hours: The jansport bag was full and sitting pretty on my shoulder. Toothpaste and brush would not cost much but finding a place for it in the bag was a tough task. As usual told ajji (stands for ‘grandmom’ in kannada) that there is a bday party. Sister has way to many doubts for anyone`s good so she is better of missing me.

Who will hit pondy on thursday, I asked myself ? I got the slap on my face when I was offered for 250 bucks to sit by the driver. I took it.

So there I was in Kalasipalyam, waiting for the bus to come. The quick calls to some friends had some important information to be passed in like

Tell the librarian not to show cause me for not returning the books. I also added that it was not
returned for a month. Tough job..aigh!!!!!

Told Ashwin that I was sorry I cant meet him at the adda. Yeah ADDA was something I could not miss for a day. Those smokes were so critical in building our friendship and making it stronger. Project submission, or preparing for a viva by reading a project which I had no clue about, or just meeting in casa, no matter what ;;;;; everything had to culminate in meeting at ADDA.

Anyway boarded the bus and the best way to spend the journey on the second most uncomfortable seat (first being that of the cleaner) on the journey was to chat the driver, act ignorant, fake the I am NRI and am seeing India the hard way act and viola,,,,,,,,, the trick worked.

Pondy arrives between 3.30 and 4 and on the way there is time for a cuppa tea in thiruvannamalai.

The best part of the journey to pondy is the fact that its 7 hours away. I see the trip like this….if I was sitting in a regular seat, I would take an hour to become drouzy and try to sleep. I might doze off and before I know we land in hosur and the lights and the traffic etc would wake me up. Try sleepin again and around one of half past, the stop for tea is taken. Then the excitement of getting to pondy sort of gets to u. so there I was right in front by the driver with the best view of the road enjoying the seat and the various aspects of pondy, not one bit sleepy.

‘Padinanj minutes saar’ (in tamil means 15 minutes) the driver said and the little drousiness also went flying outside the window.

Before I even knew what I did or said I just got off at the Jipmer medical college. So this is how it goes, I end up at a bus depot to goto pondy without a ticket, hopin to buy one there, I sit beside the driver and finally I land up in pondy get off a jipmer (have till date no idea why I got off there). It could have been the bus stand or the mg road (every city , town district has an mg road and invariably it had to be centre of town or an important)

So why still Pondy

Now for elusive description about pondy that’s been pending for sometime. It’s a small sleepy faint town that has 2 parts to it. It has the tamil side which is called town and the other is the ‘french side’. Yup……..the French side. The little streets with strange as well as good restaurants, shops selling artefacts, small shops for chai (tea) and cigarettes. Accommodation is available for as small as 100 bucks to about 5 thousand to up to 7 thousand in and around the outskirts.

Top five reasons why for me pondy is pondy


The food is cheap and good. For the average south Indian fare to the north Indian and continental, the places offers all food at all budgets. Some top picks here are the beach facing Promenade hotel and Rendezvous, which is close to the beach. Located in the very pretty French part of town lanes are various other non flashy but very tasty restaurants. The best suggestion for the food in pondy is to let the feet do the walking and just go with it. Once tired, there will be some restaurant in sight which will serve you good food.


Though like every city the spaghetti top will attract attention, this place has a great mix of tradition, simplicity, western renegade influence, Indian affluence and yet manages to blend it all at the same time. The beach road which is a walking only zone towards the evenings is a prime example of this.

This city has a very strange characteristic which pisses most people off but its exactly the same reason why I like it. Often I get asked by some friends or my wife who wanna know ‘whats there to do in Pondy. Its so boring. They don have a night life/ there are no pubs/ there is no crowd.’ That’s just what turns me on. The fact that this place make u value time. The tag line of the tourism department reads “GIVE TIME A BREAK” and aptly so. The place is commercial yet is horribly basic, there are no malls to shop and absolutely no pubs and night clubs. This suits the actual book reading crowd.


There are coffee shops of all kinds for all pockets. The small little restaurants also pass of as coffee shops. These places allow you to spend the day there reading and just chilling. I will say no further but walk into any street on the French side try to spend ure day there. U will enjoy it.

This is one place in this world u have to see to believe in the concept of ‘its not the place but the people who make the place’. Simply put, this is a different world altogether. There own lil coffee shops, their own pace at which life moves their own world.

Situated on the outskirts of the city of pondy, this place is unique. The temple and centre of learning, the people (dare I say foreigners although they are all people from different origins) all make this some place to see. At a juncture like this, its hard and I wonder what actually do I call these people from the different parts of the world who have made auroville their home. I will simply call em the ONES.

There are playgrounds for the ONES and they with the localites get together and have a blast. Education and it in the formalized form is not the order of the day here. And GLAD AM I WITH THAT. We are all doctrinated to study for 10th, 12th then degree then post grad then apply for job and (maybe get it) then marriage as a necessity comes along. Somewhere down the line the individual seems to be lost in this predetermined plans for the us humans. Auroville and its very unique life teaches one to be sensitive and more than anything human.

If ure in PONDY check out the band EMERGENCE and their organic farm of the lead singer. It’s the sorta place u will ride into, stop by have tea, smoke and move along and somewhere in between have a nice muffin at the bakery. Suddenly u will realize that u have given time a break and its has moved along.

I wish for once I had a nice home in the French side of pondy,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,I would have been a perfect host with horrible culinary skills but great hospitality and passion which will get people back……..again and again.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Why should you be part of the global warming movement………

I am the average selfish human walking around the streets of Bangalore ensuring that me and my family are happy comfortable and needless to say the immediate loved ones are also cared for. I live my life clean and nice, I swear not to cause harm, don wish bad for other and off course……… not befall tragedy for even my most immediate competitor. So I would in most books fall within the harmless and ‘does his own thing’ guy. So why am I critical and harsh on myself with the words.

Lets see that step by step. Picture, I am watching tv and rush to the other room cos my wife calls me. I leave the tv on and run to see what she says. I obediently get a glass of water for her from the kitchen and in doing so I use the services of a source of light. While I am going back to get the water to her soon I just spot some piece of paper and I put it into the bin. Oh yes that black plastic cover which is just tied up and disposed. Anyway the paper is in the bin and the water is gulped down. This small 5 minute exercise seems too inconsequential only till you get to seeing the following, namely
The tv was not seen for the while I was out
The light was not switched off and in all probability it wont be for sometime
The plastic cover I dispose off every morning takes ages to be recycled

So there was go precious energy was wasted and one small piece of junk called plastic was thrown to be treated. It does not take much to realize that the 16 apartments where I stay or the 160 apartments on the road probably do the same. In such a situation I wonder who will stem the rot.

It not about waking up one morning and cycling to work and saying I made a difference. We don need it ………thanks very much. What we need is a small concerted effort on behalf of all to do that one small bit to make that large difference. Its not about being branded a pseudo or an alternate thinker that must put you off. Its about paving the way fpr your kid to still be able to enjoy the things you did.

What is call the jelly fish theory is something I will explain. I read the other day about why jelly fish are off late found near the shores where people swim. I was a witness to this in Ko Samui where the excessive damage to the environment is causing the otherwise silent and non interfering creatures to come up to the shores. Lets not blame the odd sting caused by these creatures considering how many times we have taken their homes away. I wonder why we all do this again and again.

Its rain a lot, its very hot, the animals loosing habitat, the snakes and leopards are found in urban areas. I may not have scientific back up or figures to substantiate but know enough to say that we are going out of our way to make that the nature and the environment is completely being depleted. We waste energy not realizing that we ultimately get stuck in that same loop and someday sit in the dark while our fav game is on tv. All cos sometime back we wasted some energy.

Do whatever you can, irrespective of how small. You not hold back from doing it thinking that it is insignificant. Do it and do it proudly and watch the people around you get conscious. There are many ways we can make a difference. The smallest is the most important one and that step could be yours.

Use that one tissue less, switch that comp off when u don wanna use it, don needlessly charge your phone just cos you spotted a charger, the next time you shop ask for lesser plastic covers, use less elec.

Trust me with any of these small steps you have made a right start. Maybe its strange to blog about this but its my small step and I wanna make sure it happens. Once the damage the millions that was all will have , will be useless and count for nothing.

Monday, June 30, 2008


Not many places would do justice to the phrase 'a walk in the clouds'. Kabbe does more than justice to the phrase. The place Kabbe is located in Cheluvara village, in Cheyandane in the Virajpet district of Coorg. Nestled at the top of the plantations just before the Kabbe hills begins this place is all of one home stay belonging to Dilip and Vidya Chengappa, who redefine the term hospitality. You can stay with them or in the two cottages or the tent around their home. The view in this place is to die for. They will ensure that by the time you leave they will leave you wondering why did they pamper us so much that the place is being missed even before one has left it.
The sightseeing location in this area include the clouds who will walk all over you, the moss covered mountains and the pathways which accompany every step you take, the hill which invites you everytime to come and grace its abode and finally the plantation themselves which are an experience in themselves. The walk through them leave you wondering mother nature is fascinating. Inside the plantation there are streams which accompany you for the sound of the pitter patter.
Take the road to mysore and then form there proceed towards Coorg. In the alternate take the KSRTC Volvo bus up to Virajpet and then a cab can be arranged by the homestay to pick one up for a nominal price. It takes 22 kms to get to Kabbe and the drive is bumpy but then you pay a small price for beauty. The best part about this trip is that by the time you get to the homestay its 6am in the morning and the morning breaks out. After a short night out in the bus, the dawn accompanies you all the way to the homestay.

Dilip vidya and their sons Carun and Dev..... u run outta words to express. they are very hospitable and humble and nice and warm. just the kind of people u wanna run away to to feel good.