Memories that cheer while fighting the Corona
Humanity has been systematically caged by nature’s fury unleashed by the crowned viral particle. The routine machinery has screeched to a halt. It has taken me a couple of days to get used to the sudden inertia. Nostalgia has been my doorway of escape. Here, I narrate one precious and memorable day in the lap of Mother nature.
It was the summer of 1982. Uncle Robert was posted in Hosmar, a village nestled in the thickly forested hills of Kudremukh in the Western Ghats. I was a sweet sixteen. Looking at world through rose- tinted glasses and ideas that popped out of the novels like Mills & Boons. “Summer holidays would be spent at Uncle Robert’s place”, mother announced. Along with my two brothers and little sister, we boarded the bus to Hosmar. My boisterous cousins from Bangalore would also land there and we would spend a week together.
My first sight of the peaks of the mysterious Kudremukh is still etched indelibly in my mind. I had told myself that I would never forget the first sight of my love. Yes, I am a nature lover. I had a strange feeling of going back to my lost love. Deja vu. The rickety bus entered the shady by lanes lined by thickly branched trees. The trees were getting denser. I felt excitement creep up my being. My heart skipped a beat, fascinated by the raw beauty of glistening green leaves; shimmering in the sunlight. Villagers were as earthy as they came. Lean and trim, they walked and cycled on the muddy roads, carrying their produce to and fro the farmer’s market. Their brown skin had a healthy sheen and eyes sparkled with pure content and simplicity. Do we see such happy sight these days?
My aunt Irene welcomed us with the enthusiasm of footballer. “How did she achieve such life energy in the midst of the forest, away from civilization?”I wondered. She was my favorite aunt. Petite and active, she darted all around the place. Her white teeth sparkled when she smiled, which she did often. Her olive skin had a golden sheen to it. Every word she spoke was loaded with affection and excitement as though something miraculous was to happen the next moment. She was now chasing that hen which was to end up on the table for lunch! My three cousin sisters, Asha, Sonia and Sophia welcomed me with shy smiles. They had long oiled and plaited hair which I admired. I looked forward to hearing their stories.
I walked into the typical tiled Manglorean house. My aunt has always been house proud. Her simple home was spic and span. The utensils were scrubbed until they lighted up in neat rows on the shelf. The floor was polished with deep red oxide.The walls were white-washed with a skirt of black tar. The wooden windows had wide iron bars and the porch had concrete benches on which I knew I would settle comfortably with a book in hand and a radio blaring Akashvani, meaning ‘the voice from the sky’. The house was cocooned in the shade of wide trunk-ed trees. I exulted at the thought of spending a week in the lap of mother nature.
In an hour, my boisterous cousins, Ivan and Vincent arrived with their sister Sunita. Now, the house was packed with ten cousins. My grandma, looked at her brood with pride. More were to arrive tomorrow. It was lunch time and the aroma of chicken curry and boiled rice assailed our nostrils. We sat in a row on the floor with our plates as aunt began serving us. We wiped the last morsel off the plate lest, Aunt Irene would spot that solitary grain on the plate and send us back to finish it off!
After lunch we assembled in the porch. Settled ourselves in the cane chairs scattered in the front yard. Twiddling our thumbs we were wondering what next. My cousin Ivan who had gone scouting, came back excitedly with information that there was a beautiful pond surrounded by rocks and that we should spend the noon there. All of us began marching towards the pond through the path between the perfectly planted coconut-palm trees. It was shady and cool and I wondered how nice it would be, if noon's were as cool and shady back home!
We emerged into a sudden clearing and laid our eyes on a lovely green pond with clear sparkling water flanked by rocks. To my delight, I sighted a little waterfall in the corner. We were thrilled at the discovery of this adventurous place. A scene from Enid Blyton had come alive. My boisterous cousins were the first to leap in. The rest followed one by one. They said it was safe and persuaded me to join in. Being the oldest, I took upon myself the responsibility to watch them. But they insisted that I join in. I hesitantly entered the pool. I felt the cool water touch my skin and linger there in shining droplets. I gingerly felt the pebbled sandy bottom with my toes. I liked the wiggly feel of stones moving under my feet and the water flowing between them. With bated breath, I took two more steps. And lo, it was simply magical. It was the most beautiful experience of my life to surrender to the sparkling waters.
We played in the pond for about half an hour. We imagined ourselves to be hero and heroines of a movie. One cousin became a director, another became a singer and as we swam together, we enacted dance sequences, splashed water, pulled each others feet, laughed aloud, squealed to our heart’s content. Yet, there was silence all around. I did feel there were some unseen eyes watching us. I brushed it off as hypersensitivity on my part. An occasional rustle of the leaves was the only disruption as the breeze swept through the beautiful landscape.
Suddenly, I sighted my boy-scout cousin Ivan waving his arms from the far end of the pool. He was wading towards us. I shouted out to everyone to stop the cacophony of noises. He seemed agitated. We were were in the middle of a song sequence and were skirting the pool. We sensed he had something important to tell us. He made a sign. “Does he mean a snake”, I gasped as I asked my cousin Sunita who was next to me. Wide-eyed and alert, we waded through the water towards him. He pointed out at a place under the waterfall. A rocky ledge jutted out there. Beside it, we saw the unmistakable projection of the head of the water snake. Its eyes fixed on us. Daring us to venture any further.
We squealed in horror as we turned back and raced for the shore. We fell over each other and dragged ourselves out till we landed on dear land safely. We grouped up and hugged each other after making sure all of us were out of the pond. We waited there and watched as the reptile emerged out of the hiding. It reclaimed its territory and began swimming freely having frightened the bratty intruders away.
Such was the wonderful summer adventure on day one at Hosmar. Unforgettable.