The New Mountains : Nilgiris ( Coonoor Hill Station)

Tripoto

Nilgiris  The Blue Mountains

Photo of The New Mountains : Nilgiris ( Coonoor Hill Station) by akanksha siwach

While I was trying to cope up with my Himalayan hangover, Nilgiris in her own way made it easy to get over it but only with time…Though the pines smell same…flowers are as pretty as the Himalayan Blue Poppy and the sprawling tea gardens make a perfect emerald blanket but all this while something had been missing…I’d always tell Thomas that i have no stories to tell..I have no tribes to sit and share a cup of tea with…I’ve got no streams to quench my thirst when famished…..Until Today!! Until Gundada happened to me ( doesn't that sound like such a villainous name..i have this funny way of remembering the village names since some of them are such tongue twisters….For this particular one I told myself its gundon ka adda so Gundada…and even though it sounds ridiculously stupid but my formula worked…Little.. did i know that the gundas would turn out to be the kindest souls and the source of my very first story from the Blue Mountains…..The Nilgiris..!!

Somewhere in that valley is my balcony…Tripti my friend with one of the village girls

Photo of Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, India by akanksha siwach

Every evening while sitting at my balcony i’d sit and stare at the mountain that stood few miles away..One would see a whole lot of bright colorful houses lit up at the bottom of the hill…and as you’d go higher the civilization shrank and you’d see just a tiny bunch of houses lit up on top..During rains those houses would play hide and seek amidst the clouds and it all looked so inviting…Every time i’d tell myself ‘i want to go to that village’ and after a whole lot of finding out from my maids and even the tailors here in Wellington i decided to ride to the lower village called Jagathala and eventually find a way to Gundada on top…I wasn’t too sure of doing a solo hike for i didn't know the men here too well…Strange how i was never unsure in an alien land though… I asked my friend to accompany me and she like always since the Himalayan time readily agreed!

Jagathela…the village we started our hike from

Photo of The New Mountains : Nilgiris ( Coonoor Hill Station) by akanksha siwach

The late riser in me was somehow motivated to be up by 6:30am…We drove down to Jagadela and started our hike by 7:45am..The villagers were already out on the farms harvesting crops like carrots and beans…some women were on the fields working with the men of the family while some were seen at the village temples…While quite a few villages here are Christian settlements, this one looked like a Hindu dominated hamlet…Most of the houses were painted bright and displayed a streak of superstition with black masks hanging on the doors to ward off the evil..We parked our bike and started to climb up…It all felt like DejaVu….We hit the narrow trails hugged by pines from either sides… If you want to know the contours of the place up close, there’s no better way than doing it on foot…After a climb of forty mins we finally hit the tea gardens on top..All those evenings i stared at the village from my balcony and now it were just two kms away…basking in all its glory it seemed to call us out..

Gundada on the hill top…as seen from below

Photo of The New Mountains : Nilgiris ( Coonoor Hill Station) by akanksha siwach

So after leaving two villages behind Jagathala and Vordonity we finally were on our way to the adda of gundas GUNDADA….The tea gardens sprawled all the way up to the village…Just when i was thinking that i’d not had any sherpas yet an old lady emerged from the tea gardens…Perumai…Perumai was carrying a sack of freshly plucked vegetables ..Like most of the local women here, both sides of her nose were pierced…It isn't easy to communicate here with locals since Hindi is almost a foreign language this side..Perumai was old and she didn't know English either…It took us good about ten mins to get her understand that we were asking her for her name..Its only after we gave her some examples of random names like neha..sangeeta..rani..basanti etc that she realized we wanted to know her name….

Perumai

Photo of The New Mountains : Nilgiris ( Coonoor Hill Station) by akanksha siwach

She kept giggling and talking in Tamil…We giggled back without getting the hang of anything she said….She then put her sack down and took out some radish for us..Deja Vu yet again…She made me feel closer to Himalayas…She seemed to be on her way to the market to sell the veggies..We said our byes and moved on..While walking one could only hear the sparrows chirping and the leaves rustling….

While climbing up to Gundada…endless tea gardens enroute

Photo of The New Mountains : Nilgiris ( Coonoor Hill Station) by akanksha siwach

Leaving all the men and machines behind we finally reached the top..There was no concrete road to this village…

Photo of The New Mountains : Nilgiris ( Coonoor Hill Station) by akanksha siwach

The villagers had parked their bikes in a make shift garage made of tin sheets down at the tea gardens where we met Perumai..We went around wishing people, yelling Vanakkam with all our might..The first house had some shy inhabitants….They were taken aback on seeing us and didn't talk too much…

When we reached on top…flowers at the villager’s courtyard looking down at the valley

Photo of The New Mountains : Nilgiris ( Coonoor Hill Station) by akanksha siwach

A little disappointed we decided to call on the next house…An old lady sat at the porch with her young grand daughter..They were ecstatic to have visitors and immediately got some cold water for us…Ramya,the granddaughter made us some tea and we sat down trying to chit chat with her inspite of the language differences…I opened the google page on my phone and showed her the tamil words to make a conversation..Ramya is a botany student and everyday catches a bus from Jagathala to her college in town..One felt happy seeing how girls even in such cut off places made an effort to continue their education…Since her semester break was on, we were lucky to find her home…

Blue Skies…Blue Mountains…Blue Houses…and the prettiest pink flowers!

Photo of The New Mountains : Nilgiris ( Coonoor Hill Station) by akanksha siwach

She then took us around to her farms where a variety of crops like garlic, beans and radish were planted…I was to make sarso ka saag and makke ki roti for lunch and that radish looked perfect for the afternoon salad…but I was being too greedy… We had already got our share of radish in the morning from Perumai…The entire village had about just five houses and everyone looked like family to us…Some worked in the farms while one or two ladies plucked leaves in the tea garden..I absolutely loved the mud hut which happens to be their Chulah or Kitchen area..It took me back to my visits to Dad’s village where Granny used to make delectable bajre ki roti with saag and the best ever mango pickle…

The Choolah Ghar

Photo of The New Mountains : Nilgiris ( Coonoor Hill Station) by akanksha siwach

The ladies insisted that we have brunch with them and that they’ll make dosas for us…We were touched by their kindness and warmth..During all my hikes, the villagers never ceased to amaze me….So little they have yet they’re ready to give it all…Perhaps that’s what makes me want to wander in the unknown…And its amazing how all these random faces get etched in your mind..like they’re an integral part of your life…I checked the time and it was 10:30am already..and even though i was tempted to stay back for brunch but i had to leave for my fur babies had to be fed..While leaving Ramya told us to come again and to stay with them the next time…I told her that i take such offers very seriously..She smiled though am sure she didnt get a word of what i said..

With Ramya and her grandmother

Photo of The New Mountains : Nilgiris ( Coonoor Hill Station) by akanksha siwach

As i sit in my balcony and write today’s tale, Gundada sparkles on the hill top with clouds hovering around..Another few mins and it would disappear into the fog but every blue, pink & green house and every anna and amma we met today are sure to stay in my yet another jar of mountain memories!!

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