"He was in awe of salesmen while he was a student. Just like as a little boy, he was wanting to be a truck driver when he grew up. In short, he used to envy whoever had this job of wandering from one place to other. So in his resume as a fresh graduate out of the college, traveling figured prominently as a hobby and interest.
Little did he knew then that, exactly like the moon which looks romantic and alluring during a full moon light, but is full of craters and extreme temperatures when you go anywhere closer to it, traveling jobs also had its pitfalls, many of them indeed. Reaching the middle-age, after having gone through the puffing and panting of extensive traveling, he had started dreading the word traveling.
So that day when his boss asked him travel to Erode, he as usual cursed his destiny. He wanted to travel to Rhode islands and Erode is where he was travelling to. Erode, without an airport had to be connected either through Coimbatore or a further faraway Bengaluru. When his Mumbai flight landed in Coimbatore on a late night, he was not in a frame of mind to explore the various hoardings in the airport. He had to somehow grab his check in luggage and reach the guest house. The cab driver must be waiting with a placard, he thought.
To his dismay, the cab driver was not there to welcome him, the under-construction flyover bridge had created a traffic havoc, and the driver was yet to reach. With sleepy eyes he was wondering what to do till the driver comes, whether to have that fabled south-Indian filter coffee. It was accidental that his eyes struck a hoarding welcoming the tourists to Kodaikanal – the princess of hill stations. The hoarding took a dig at Ootty, which was commercialized and therefore spoiled, by describing Kodaikanal as the only pristine hill station of Tamilnadu.
Filter Coffee kept him awake till he reached the Guest House. Soon after the warm and plush bed took him into its refuge. Finalising the orders had become a piece of cake for him, after having interacted with umpteen customers over his career. Hence the usual high he used to get after walking out of the customer’s office with that coveted Purchase Order, was waning over the period of time. Law of diminishing returns, if one had to explain in Adam Smith’s language.
Back to the Guest House and sipping that Kingfisher Premium Beer over the Masala of a Rajanikanth Movie on the small screen, he was pondering over the gradual boredom that was setting in over his life. Greying hairs, tiring limbs and monotonous lifestyle. Suddenly the beckoning princess among hill stations came into his mind uninviting as if she understood the middle aged crisis he was going through. He succumbed to her charms and took a spontaneous decision to climb up to Kodai.
The white Ambassador (Amby), the legacy to be found only in Tamilnadu and also in some parts of neighboring Kerala, resembled him in many ways. Like him, it was also a model soon on its way into the sunset and subsequent oblivion. It also struggled to climb the mounting pathways ahead, much like the way he puffed and panted during his daily jog. Then again, Amby had an old world charm, so had he with his typical old fashioned spectacles, Kurta, Pyjama and Kolhapuri chappals.
His company had a holiday home atop a hill. The caretaker’s welcome was more hospitable than required, and his continued smile indicated the need for a tip, something very much prevalent, shamelessly though in this part of the country. Only a 50 Rupee note could mitigate the artificial smile with a more genuine query about what he needs for dinner. The sun sets early on these mountains and though it was only six in the evening, the dusk had set in. The Holiday home was well furnished and protected too from the Mosquito attacks. He settled in the outside veranda, not heeding to the caretaker’s warning about the Malaria threat across the place.
Mansion House Brandy was a popular brand down south in India, and his taste glands fully complimented his choice gobbling up each drop of it. Two shots with ice cubes floating amongst the effervescence of soda, gave a quick relief to the travelling woes. Chettinad chicken with its spicy gravy served along with Dosa made a perfect match for the Brandy.
“But it’s something about the way you look tonight,
Takes my breath away” – Sang Elton John long back.
What awaited him the next morning was something like that. He felt like he was the monarch for a day. From the terrace of the holiday home, sipping a hot cup of tea, he savoured this invaluable moment. With mist surrounding him, but the glare of the morning sun cutting across it like a surgeon’s shrapnel, the beauty of the valley was mesmerising. The slight aroma of the Eucalyptus trees around added to the experience. Well demarcated, Green tea gardens were already full of working women, all of them carrying those headgear with the basket suspended behind from it. Down under a small water fall was visible followed by a rivulet, which seemed like a white thread woven around to patch up the cracks between the mountains.
He felt in total unison with the nature, and wanted this moment to continue forever. For a moment he thought dying this moment carrying the image of nature at its best would be the ultimate virtue of human life. As his mind became philosophical, far in the horizon the heavy mist had suddenly moved away and he could spot that cross. Lutheran church was indeed clearly visible to him, and the caretaker’s local origin helped him to get the whereabouts of the church.
Steaming idlis and a couple of sunny-side up eggs stood him in good stead to climb the small hill on way to the church. Though he wanted another cup of filter coffee, Kodai stuck to its reputation of being non-commercialised, there were no tea stalls visible anywhere. Being a slack season, he was more or less alone to climb up, with a few tourists here and there.
The church was phenomenal in its grandeur. The solitude and serenity added to its European charms. If not for the abundance of sunlight and a sporadic crowd, he would have mistaken it for a Bram Stoker’s Church from where the Duke alias Dracula would have emerged. The church stood as that one epitome of Kodaikanal, having encapsulated all its beauty and essence.
“Is there a priest here?”, the question in a heavily Russian accent took him by surprise. What he could see behind was a pair of thick glasses, concealing partially a pair of blue eyes. He felt that the glasses were worn deliberately to deny unwanted access to those mesmerising eyes. The intensity of those eyes for a moment sent shudders across his spine. “Was she one of those ladies who cohabited the duke?” , he pondered for a while.
Who would want to miss the chance to further look into those eyes? He brushed aside the unwanted thoughts and answered her that he too was a first-timer there. “Let us find out about the priest together”, he said. There was no priest to be seen. A Tamilian Christian family resided behind the church. He reached out to them and tried to find out about the truth.
An old lady in a frock lackadaisically responded to him. To his question about the priest, she questioned back, who asked you about the priest? He turned back to point out the spectacled girl, but she was not to be seen anywhere. As if reading his mind, the lady asked whether he was looking for a bespectacled girl with a Russian accent.
He was gasping for breath after having ran down the hill. No, this time he was not looking for a cup of filter coffee, but for a fellow human being with whom he could share his agony.
Holiday home never looked the same, and he never dared to look out into the valley next morning. Those blue eyes kept on haunting him, for once he thought he could dissolve into them."
My Precious Readers, this is a lovely Guest Post by V T Rakesh of #BlogBuddy group #WriteOn of #BlogChatter and its a pleasure featuring him on Truly Yours Roma. You can many more such beautiful pieces on his blog AUTHORRAKESH .