The many moods of monsoon.

It is finally monsoon again. After playing truant for nearly a month, it has started pouring cats and dogs. And how the landscape changed! Trees that were wilting have suddenly sprouted green. Stone paved paths suddenly have grass nudging from their edges. The skies are grey, waiting to open up at any moment. Suddenly, there are cranes aplenty pecking their way through green expanses of paddy without a care for the poor soggy scare crows, farmers working in the rain with plastic raincoats and sheets of rain making the road gleam.

The earth smells fresh and green. Forests look lush and waterfalls erupt onto roads as if to please us. Clouds float low and make travel seem dream like.

I love rain in its many forms. I love the slight drizzly kind, when the wind blows chill and you get rain in your hair, and you can walk in the rain without getting fully drenched. Long walks in such rain rejuvenate me. I also love the angry kind when the sky suddenly decides to open up and pour barrels on poor unsuspecting me, and before I realize it and can open my umbrella, it is done. I am soaking wet and still standing with the umbrella half open! It used to happen all the time in Mangalore, and used to come at the end of a hot spell which made me hot, sweaty and irritable. And there is also the insistent, consistent middle of the path rain which keeps on for hours at the same speed, neither too much nor too less. Granted, life becomes depressing then, but on the positive side, this is the best for plonking myself on the ledge of a window with a hot cup of tea, a great book and roasted corn.

If there is anything I enjoy more than rain itself, it is the opportunity of travelling during monsoons. This time, I had the pleasure of traveling along the almost virgin forests of Gerusoppa in Uttara Kannada district for the upanayanam of my nephew. I was so zapped by the natural beauty around me, that I did not want to blink for the fear of missing out something more beautiful. No words can do justice to what God, or nature or some supreme power out there decided for the world during the rains.

Hence the photographs. Enjoy the many moods of monsoon.

The elephant camp at Sakrebail, was wet and beautiful. The elephants seemed to be good spirits with the cold weather, and did not mind visitors.

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Sudden rains marooned a motor boat in the water. Looks exciting, like a wreck with treasures, waiting to be explored.

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A sudden burst of green along a paved path.

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The sight of the grey skies. The silver lining behind the clouds. donotwanttoblinkable!

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The back waters of the river Aganashini.

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Can you see the water fall on top, between the trees? A lovely view of Gerusoppa ghats.

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A walk in the clouds…

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There is small, old, slippery, mossy stairway leading to a lookout point just at the beginning of the mountain road. The top is really filthy, but the view more than makes up for it!

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Green carpet of paddy for miles and miles.

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DSC_0220A lovely temple pond with still mint green waters.

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RIP Padiyaar mam

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The beauty of the Western ghats is unparalleled. The different shades of plush green, the cold chilly wind, the clouds taking a walk with you, the mist shrouding the trees and the gushing sounds of a hidden waterfall somewhere close by. If this picture makes you yearn to take a trip right-away, hold on, this is not all! At the beginning of the ghats, there is a small quaint police station across which a lovely lake and a garden exist. Just across the garden, the aroma of hot vadas frying in hot sizzling oil, wafts towards you and pulls you along towards the ramshackle cart. Hot vadas, spicy chutney and hot milky tea – now we are talking heaven!

Since my childhood, whenever we would climb down the Agumbe ghats to enter hot sultry Mangalore, we would have a customary, compulsory stop at Padiyar mam’s vada stall. Through globalization and commercialization, the stall, which actually is rather a fancy name for a tin pushcart with plastic sheets hung across to prevent the drizzle, remained the same. Rows of cars, bikes and buses would be parked across the already small, winding road. Weary passengers who would climb down to stretch their legs would invariably be drawn towards the stall and the tasty aroma emanating from there.

The USP of the stall though, was without doubt its owner. Mr. Padiyar, who knew each and every customer by name, somehow with great clarity remember where each one’s child was studying or getting married. It somehow made you feel as if you had wandered into an indulgent uncle’s house in your neighborhood.

And the vadas. Exactly the same taste year after year, decade after decade. No expansion of the menu, no fancy improvements of the stall and no HR people. It was a sort of niche place, with only one item which was world class. Whenever we would go, he would en quire about our education, how our parents and far flung relatives were faring, and introduce us whomsoever around was interested in listening to his banter. As a teenager, this used to embarrass me greatly, but not enough to forgo the vadas! I would mutter under my breath as to why he could not just leave me alone. Every single time when we passed the ghats by bus,(which was, I am ashamed to say, was quite often, given the extent of my homesickness!), I remember, I wouldn’t go home, without the vadas sitting comfortably in my stomach.

After my MBBS , I went to Mangalore quite less. Though the trips were less frequent,when we would occasionally pass by for a wedding, a meeting or a conference, we would eagerly look forward to the stall being open. Padiyar maam (mam,which meant uncle in Konkani and kannada) would always remember. It was like homecoming. What was irritating earlier, seemed like warmth later on. He would have ten conversations side by side with different customers, but still manage to remember them all! We got to know that with this tiny business, he had managed to educate his son and daughter, who were in excellent positions. When a patron questioned him as whether he would close down to go and stay with his son, he nixed it aggressively. This is what he loved, he said, and what he would do till the end!

I met him about a fortnight ago, on my way to Manipal. Little did I know that it would be the last time. A week later he was admitted to a hospital in Shimoga with fever and delirium. It was so sad to see him and realize that he was unable to recognize anyone, let alone the thousands of friends he had made over the years. In a span of one week, he deteriorated, was diagnosed to be having a rare disease, and died. It was unbelievable. Someone whom I had seen hale and hearty, and in the pink of health , suddenly disappeared.

I never imagined that I would experience a deep sense of loss about his death. After all, he was not related to me, nor was I in constant touch with him. But feel sad, I did. I could not shake off that heavy feeling through the day. Later on, I happened to see  condolence messages on whatssapp and facebook, and realized that so many more must have felt the same about him.

He was an integral part of the travelling experience. Somehow the forest and the landscape feel incomplete without him, the hungry traveler bereft. The eager wait for a few minutes respite, a soul warming snack , and comforting conversation is no more going to happen. Padiyar maam, we miss you. RIP!

a whatsapp pic of padiyar maam
a whatsapp pic of padiyar maam