“Bloody hell” I swore.
10 pairs of eyes stared at me with a clear sign of utter disgust. I wondered what made them stare at me. After all I swore. Yeah, swearing is bad but not as bad as drunken driving or two timing isn’t it? I smiled subtly trying to avoid my embarrassment and marched out of that room.
This is not my kind of holiday. Wait, what exactly do I mean by ‘this’? Well, the ‘this’ is Wayanad, Kerala. I am utterly clueless on how to pronounce the name of this place (trust me, even Google didn’t help). My lovely family planned to take a summer vacation after a really long span of 10 years. I totally forgot how my summer vacations used to be. Yeah, 6 years of engineering (not that I kept arrears, I did M.Tech too) and you will exactly end up in my situation. For me, summer vacations well I can’t call them as vacations, let’s rephrase them as “Summer Study Holidays”, which is the time where I sit back in my hostel room, read novels, rant on my college blog, watch movies, cook food, sip tang, and try to study.
“This year is going to be a different experience” my sister said. It was partly her idea to end up in this place. My first reaction about this place was ‘how can people survive here’? There is no Wi-Fi. My nephew and I knew on the very first day itself that this is going to be the worst vacation ever. I don’t know why my parents chose to stay in some uncle’s cousin’s aunt’s brother’s place while we could have gone to Goa or even Cochin for that instance and stayed in Taj group of hotels.
“Eco tourism” my mom said. “What the he…” my nephew stopped at the right moment. We stole glances and continued to hunt for signals across the house. Those ten pair of eyes belonged to my relatives, distant relatives, and extended family members. Day 1 into the trip and I already regret visiting this place.
“The weather is cool, that’s the only advantage”, my nephew said.
“Hmmm, did you get signal?” I asked.
“Nah, I don’t get Airtel signal in my campus itself where will I get it in such a remote Vaa-ya-naa-dh area.”
Lunch time came and it was as if adding more fuel to the fire. As soon as we reached the dining hall we saw plantain leaves spread across on the floor evenly and we gasped.
“No plates?” I asked
“No dining table?” he quizzed.
Everyone stared at us as if we asked for some vodka or worse condoms. My mom and my sister gave a reproachful look and we sat silently in front of the boring looking leaves.
“Wait” my nephew yelled.
There was grave silence in the dining hall and I shot a reproachful look towards him.
“They are serving some dirty brown food.”
“What is this?” I asked at the cook who was serving us.
“Kali, Kepankali.* Even in Tamil Nadu this is famous.”
“We are not from the proper Tamil Nadu, we are Chennaites. We don’t eat these.” I said.
“Sri, just because I don’t make these at home doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t eat them. They are good for health. Try it”, my mom said as she rolled her eyes.
“No, get us some roti.”
“No roti” he said scratching his head.
“Curd rice?” my nephew questioned.
After explaining all the concerned people in the dining hall that we will be perfectly alright by eating curd rice alone, we finally ate the curd rice. Even the curd rice eating seemed to be a herculean task as my nails constantly scratched the plantain leaf and making me feel uncomfortable.
The whole 20+ population of the house seemed to have dozed off except for my nephew and me.
“Sri, how come people survive here?”
“They are habituated this way”, I said without gazing up from my smartphone.
“What are you up to?”
“Bet my high score?”
Crash. I fell to my death in temple run.
“Damn” I swore.
We sat on the wooden swing and chatted about why Sunny Leone is a better actress than Katrina Kaif and how pathetic Indian politics is.
“Where is Sha?” he asked.
“I too wonder where she is.”
“Yeah, she wasn’t there in the dining hall too. I didn’t see her since we got down from the train.”
“If we feel so uncomfortable here then imagine her state.”
Sha aka Sharmista is my 13 year old niece, Rahul is my 18 year old nephew, and myself Sri, their 23 year old meticulous yet modern mausi*.
After 10 minutes of frantic search in the big house, I gasped “The only advantage of staying in this house is that everyone gets a separate room. Such a huge house it is.”
“Yeah, I am tired.”
A bottle was burdened into my hands and I turned to see Sha. “Hey, where have you been?”
“I was outside with Kaushik Mama*.”
“Who is that?”
“He is some distant relative. He is mama relation to us.”
“Us or you?”
“I don’t know.”
I opened the bottle and took a sip. It was heavenly to drink a juice after an exhausting run around the house. I passed the drink to Rahul and he happily emptied the drink and asked, “New flavour of Tang?”
“No, it is Nannari Sharbath*” she said in a chirpy yet proud voice.
“What is that?”
“Kaushik says it is some healthy substitute to the beverages like Coke and Pepsi.”
I wondered from where she learnt words like substitute and beverages. I smiled at her and asked what she had been doing.
“Come, I will show you.”
“What is that in your hands?” Rahul yelled.
I panicked and immediately took her palms to see that her fingers were in reddish orange colour.
“Mehandi*?” I asked.
“Marudhani*” she replied.
“What is the difference? Both are yucky” Rahul retorted.
“This is made from the leaves I guess, Rahul” I said.
She marched in front and we followed her.
She stuffed two keys into our hands and said, “We should cycle to that place.”
“You know routes? Rahul, get my cell phone. We need navigation.”
“Damn, we forgot our phones” Rahul yelled and was about to enter into the house but Sha stopped him.
“Kaushik mama says there will be no signal in there and it is waste to carry a cell phone.”
“Safety, my sweet behen*” he said.
“Trust me. Cell phones won’t do much help over there except for clicking pictures and for that I already took camera from mom’s handbag.”
I smiled at her cleverness and felt proud that my small girl is growing up. We cycled our way through NH 212 Kozhikode-Kollegal road and Sha lead us through the twists and turns (there weren’t many).
“Whoa, you are improving in Topography unlike your mausi” Rahul teased. I sneered.
She pointed to a tree and we saw scribble marks on it.
“I scribbled there on my way back. It was Kaushik’s idea. He told that if I ever want to comeback, this might help. However, he warned me not to come alone. That’s why I got you people.”
“Sha, do you have more of that drink nannare or what it is?” he asked.
“It is Nannari Sharbhat and I don’t have it but wait” she stopped her cycle and led us to a nearby hut.
“Sri, you know Malayalam?”
“A little bit.”
“Tell them we want tender coconut and we will pay.”
“What is tender coconut in Malayalam, I don’t know that.”
“Karikku* I guess or is it same as Tamil? Ilaneer*?”
“Ilaneer only I think. Ask.”
We got three tender coconuts, drank them happily, and we continued our cycling expedition. As we went further we lost ourselves in the exotic trees and equally intriguing sounds of animals. Everything around us was green. I could see some 15 shades of green; Sha sat down and started painting while Rahul was clicking pictures of the outlandish flora and fauna.
Time flew by, as if like a painting the blue sky turned reddish orange that matched the colour of Sharmista’s Marudhani and we witnessed the sunset which was brilliant. As it started to darken, we got back on our cycles and rode it back by following the scribbling that she made on trees. The chirping birds were busy and excited as they flew in unison to go back to their nests. The squirrels squeaked cheerfully, and the monkeys gibbered and whooped. We were little afraid but we were enjoying.
On our way back we saw a lovely white peacock that was dancing. Isn’t that a brilliant sight to witness?
“White peacock, white peacock” Sha singed and we stopped our cycles to watch the peacock dance.
Suddenly, very suddenly yet slowly we felt the first few drops of rain fall on us like a tear drop and as we gazed up in unison the rain started to downpour. For the first time, very first time neither I worried about my lee cooper jeans, nor Rahul worried about his Nexus phone because neither of us wore or carried them. We were nature’s kids totally lost in nature. We jumped, danced, hopped, and sang.
After a while we reached home and again 20 pairs of eyes stared at us.
“You both spoiled Sha now?” my sister yelled as she wiped Sha’s wet hair.
She threw two dry towels in our direction.
“Where the hell have you guys been?” my mom yelled. We were too happy to yell back. Thanks to Kaushik’s interference and explanation, we were spared from further lecture. We changed and headed directly to the dining hall. This time neither Rahul wanted chairs nor I wanted plates. No, we didn’t start loving plantain leaves or floor. Eating in plantain leaf is still tough but then we just realized that to live with nature is a big gift and when we get a gift we should never say no.
Dinner consisted of adai*, avial*, ethakka thoran*, kali (oh s***, not again), pazham pulisherry*, nenthram chips, rice, and some other tongue twisters. We ate them off, not everything tasted awesome but then trust me 90% of the dishes (Kali is bad, no matter what) were tastier than the tastiest pizzas I ever had. Finally to end up this sumptuous meal Sha fed curd rice to us. Wait there is a cliché – Neither thick nor watery curd rice with pomegranate and green grapes placed on plantain flowers’ petals and fed with a hand that has marudhani – that’s heaven! Do you think I am lying or kidding? I would have thought the same if someone told me this but then try it out and you will know what I mean!
For the next 4 days, we never knew where our phones were. Neither we bothered to charge it, nor did we complain about the sukku kaapi* and elephants’ trumpeting. We started to love the nature and enjoyed the Nature’s trail. Water falls, ghats, wild animals, exotic birds, fruits, wild flowers – Name it and you will find it! Trust me, this was the best ever vacation!
Greatest Learning is the Lesson Learned From Nature ~ Stri
- Nannari Sharbhat is addictive, tasty, and good for health; so is nungu*, padhaneer*, ilaneer, and chaas*.
- An eco-tourism (like the way my mom says) or nature trail (the way, I and Rahul say it) is the best ever summer vacation one can ever have.
- No matter what you do (good or bad, eat or not eat, love nature or not) mothers always give reproachful look to us. We should learn to overcome it and continue being naughty.
- Sometimes what a 13 year old teaches can actually change our perspective about life.
- Never forget to take Sunscreen lotion, even when you are on Nature’s Trail.
I have used certain words in Hindi, Tamil, and/or Malayalam in order to maintain the authenticity of the story. I am sorry for the inconvenience and the translation for the same can be found here.
*Kepankali or Kali – A traditional South Indian dish that is made out of Ragi (Tamil).
*Mausi – Maternal Aunt (Hindi).
*Nannari Sharbhat – A refreshing drink made of water, sugar, and sarasaparilla herbs extract.
*Mehandi – Mehndi or Henna – Green coloured paste that is used to create designs that resemble temporary tattoo in one’s body (Hindi).
*Marudhani – The green leaves that are used to make the henna powder or paste, more authentic and has no chemicals added to it (Tamil).
*Mama – Maternal Uncle (Tamil).
*Behen – Sister (Hindi).
*Karikku/Ilaneer – Tender Coconut.
*Adai, avial, ethakka thoran, pazham pulisherry, and nenthram chips – Kerala Cuisine.
*Sukku Kaapi – A beverage made of jaggery, water, and dry ginger.
*Nungu – Palm Fruit, Ice Fruit or Borassus Flabellifer.
*Padhaneer – Palm Drink, Ice Fruit Juice, or the drink made of Nungu.
*Chaas – Buttermilk.
Pic Courtesy: Google – The Boss 😉
Love & Cheers,
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