Monday, May 09, 2011

When I Went for a Walk this Morning

When I woke up this morning at 5.30 AM, (unheard of for me even a few weeks ago) it was almost misty! A cold breeze crept in when I opened the window a crack in my room upstairs. It is summer in Madikeri and every year it gets hotter than I can remember it being, yet early in the mornings, the sun decides almost never to turn himself up on full blast. I snuggled another 30 minutes and as always, hating having to wake up, I zipped up my jacket, unlocked the gate and stepped out. It’s my first day in a slightly long haul stay at home.
There is a new road to get to the town these days, through the land we donated to the municipality. I take the old one that takes me to Dr Nanjundeshwara House Street, named after my late grandfather. All the old houses, with yellow and pink summer flowers, wooden awning and cars up front, stand quiet in the morning light. A hint of the sun’s rays fall on a window here and onto the ears of a dog tied to the gate there. There are no people on the road, save for a policeman getting back from his night beat and an old woman wrapped up in a white sweater slowly limping down the road.
This is the road I have taken for years, first to get to the junction from where I would board the school bus and then later when I walked the kilometer to college. Rains in Madikeri can be very fierce, falling from all directions, following the direction of the wind that changes its mind every fifth second. This was the road where I have got my books and clothes dripping wet and got cheeks broken by the harsh winter winds. The houses look familiar, some have extensions now, cars are longer, gardens smaller. The little room that the old woman let out to boys, one of whom used to give me the eye, a very long time ago, is no longer standing.
A little further down is the row of houses, all identical, with small white on black boards with the name of the reserve policeman living there. That’s the District Armed Reserve (DAR) quarters. Further up is the huge sewage line that makes its way to Abbi Falls, a good 10 kms away. The water at the Falls is NOT holy water, for the nth time! Tourists think so and fill up bottles with water that is in fact the entire sewage from the town! The stream of mucky water floods and overflows on some days during the monsoon; on its banks is where I first saw two snakes in their mating dance, one afternoon on the way back from school.
I cross the ITI junction and take a left, past the police community hall from where you can often hear the valaga at a Kodava wedding on late evenings when I open the windows of my room. ITI is the old Industrial Training Institute, the road to whose dilapidated building passes by a relocated British cemetery, relocated from the tourist magnet Raja Seat. On the right side is where I used to wait for the school bus, walking on the edges of an un-used fish culturing pond behind a dirty bus shelter.
On the way to my old college there are more police quarters. In fact, my house is surrounded on three sides by the police and on one side by Stewart’s Hill. To my right is a farm, green and stretching far into the sides. To the left further ahead is the rural police station. At about 6.30 in the morning, not a soul is stirring there. Opposite that is a deep violet abomination that stands next to the tiny little room that sells photo copies at 50 paise a page, Skei ice candies and small chocolates. It was where we used to buy ice candies at Rs 3 a pop every single day of college, by turns one person buying those for the rest of the 5-6 people group. Walking on I come across the stone bench where we used to bunk classes and come to sit, to gossip and watch a world go by in slow motion. The college is in a quieter part of the town, there is never much traffic. It reminds me of a time when I was 18. I don’t want to think how long ago that was.
The road ahead is not too familiar territory. I have never gone there too often, except rare walks and many drive-throughs. These days, I never walk without music, the city is way too noisy, I can’t bear the cacophony first thing in the morning. Plus I absolutely love my new Skull Candy headphones. Astronomically highly recommended, those. But today, I don’t need any. The birds provide my entertainment.
The road opens up soon after, to views of tall hills (though I want to call them mountains) with just a wisp of the morning mist clutching tight on to the clumps of trees. Before long though, their grip slips and the white fluffy veils melt away. As I walk on the quiet road, the path raises over the homes, each with large compounds, beautiful gardens and the aforementioned old wooden awnings. Typical houses in Kodagu, I would like to say. I have stopped counting by then just why I so love Madikeri.
Life is just about stirring up. The nursing college hostel is waking up. The white uniformed girls are waiting with pails to get water from the tap outside. A taxi driver is wiping the front glass of his car. An auto whizzes by, thankfully he doesn’t splice the air with a loud honking of his horn.
I am going one round around my old college campus. It’s a large one. To my right are the old buildings and classrooms, most of them from 1949. I don’t look at them today, I am saving their sights and the memories they will trigger to the morrow’s walk. Behind the buildings, the tall trees catch the rising sun and his rays in a wink now. Starved of such quietitude in the city, like some citiots, I take pictures with my poor phone camera. Citiots are city+idiots, a term from the series Royal Pains, meaning those who come to a place during weekends, act largely irresponsible, and go back, to say they have “done” the town. (Don’t even get me started on those that descend every weekend from Bangalore, shudder!!!)
There was a woman walking three dogs, one was the cutest ever, some sort of mixed Pomeranian, I think. On the way back, I stopped to say hello to my college Economics lecturer whose wife was my most favourite teacher, she taught Accountancy. My old school principal’s son-in-law waved a hello, he on his morning walk. In a small town, you also know such people as the son-in-law of your former school principal.
I cannot help but hum Miranda Lambert’s ‘Everybody Dies Famous in a Small Town.’

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