21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
Politics & Living
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Reviews & stories

The International Writers Magazine: Mysore to Karapur: India

Nature and Nostalgia in Nagarhole
Aruna Purohit

It was the beginning of monsoon season in the southern region of India. Frequent rain and flooding are the essence of that season. It was one of those days that had continuous downpour from the gloomy grey sky, which threatened to cause pell-mell in our family reunion. We had planned a reunion of my two sisters and our families at Karapur, a small town close to Mysore, India.

I had come from Boston to my younger sister Dr. Anitha and her husband Vallesh’s house at Mysore. My older sister Vijaya and my brother-in-law, Gopalaswamy joined us from Bangalore.

We left Mysore for Karapur, in the wee hours of the morning in a green minivan and the rain had just given a break. The van was quite spacious enough to hold six adults and four children. The minivan started plying on the wet, and messy roads with its constant humming. When I looked through the side window, saw some people taking their morning walks. A middle aged man with his white lungi* folded and tied up at the waist and a half sleeve brown checkered shirt hugging snugly to his pot belly, bands of slick oily hair plastered to his glistening bald head, was walking slowly on the edge of the tar road. After we drove for quarter of a mile, couple of hefty ladies in their cotton saris with their salt-and-pepper hair braided and swirled in buns at the back of their heads, were doing their rituals of morning walk. The lady with the green sari who had crossed both of her hands at the back was walking leisurely and talking profusely. I, rather involuntarily, made a comment about the changing life style in India.
"Look! The old ladies are also taking walks."
My younger sister gave a short response "Yeah! People are changing. Lifestyle is changing and they are becoming health conscious. "

As we traveled further, on the way there were roadside cart shops selling juices. Near one of those shops a young man with white sweatband around his head with a pair of blue pants and blue jersey was still doing his stationary jogging. A few men and women were also assembled around the juice shop. I just stared at them with bewilderment. My sister noted my expression on my face and told me casually that the cart shop was selling bitter gourd and fresh vegetable juices and also lemon juice with honey. Bitter gourd juice is a well-known herbal remedy for diabetes and lemon juice-honey is a universal home-remedy for several ailments. I clearly saw the changing trend there. People were becoming more health conscious and sliding back to herbal and home remedies. Not many people used to go for walking during my school days. People who were rich or retired use to go for walking in those days, but I see lot of middle class and younger people taking morning walks and jogging.

Our vehicle was moving very slowly because a herd of sheep was passing in front of the vehicle and a man in his soiled shorts and a ragged sleeveless T- shirt was trying to control the herd. Every morning people from the near by villages takes their herds of sheep and cows for grazing in the nearby meadows passing through these suburban roads. But they are least bothered about the vehicular traffic and take their own time to cross the road. However, my daughters were excited at the sight of cute little lambs. Three white little lambs were following their mothers with their wobbly gait; especially one with a black patch on its back was very cute. It reminded me of my first encounter with a little lamb. The flashback unraveled rapidly in my mind. It went to several years back, my childhood days at my parent’s house in my native town, Nanjangud. It was a laid back tiny town fifteen miles south of Mysore.

It was Sunday morning, and my younger sister and I had had our butter Dosa and chutney for breakfast. We had started playing in the courtyard adjacent to the kitchen. A few minutes later there was a commotion at the front entrance of the house. We all ran to the front door. It was a big surprise for us. Our servant Madhi was holding a little lamb in her arms, which she had brought from her village to show us. We swarmed around her and started tugging at her hand to hold the lamb. She handed over the lamb to us. Its soft skin tickled against my arm and face and its warm body made me feels so cozy and pleasant. Then it was my sister, Ani’s turn to hold the lamb. She was wearing her favorite red and yellow pullover "halchel" dress. She loved animals and most of her leisure time was spent with our two dogs at home. She started hugging the lamb and carried the lamb to the terrace. She played with the lamb for the entire morning. I barely got another chance to play with it. A few weeks later Anitha had to go to a friend’s house so she wanted to put on her favorite dress again. When she held the dress in her hand the room was filled with the strong odor of lamb, smelled like a mixture of wet wool and old sweat. Later my mom tried half a dozen methods to get rid of the lamb smell from that dress but nothing worked. Finally, my sister kept that dress in her closet as a souvenir. Suddenly, I got the urge to ask Ani whether she still has that dress, but I did not want to bring that up in front of everybody. Instead, I tried to look through the window, but I got worried gazing at the grey sky.

As we continued our journey to Karapur, it started raining again. It rained all the way to Karapur, but the journey was not worrisome. When we arrived at Karapur, the cool wind and rustling noise of the surrounding trees seeped inside the vehicle, which dissipated comforting and calming all of us. The menacing rain had already receded. The droplets of water on the windshield were joining each other and trickling down to the bottom. We got out of our vehicle and stepped right into a puddle of muddy water, splashing water in all possible directions. When all the children came out of the vehicle, they were excited and jumped in the muddy water, making a raucous noise. The sticky dampness in the air was not pleasant. However, the sweet redolence of the tropical forest washed away all my discomfort.

We checked into Kabini River Lodge on the banks of Kabini River a few miles from the Rajiv Gandhi National Park, Nagarahole, Karnataka, named after the late prime minister of India, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi.

We unloaded our luggage in the colonial style spacious rooms furnished with two cherry finished queen size beds, an off-white ceiling fan, a small refrigerator, an air-conditioner, and a classic rotary telephone. There was a long and narrow porch in front of the rooms with white wicker chairs lined along the white wall of the building. It was the perfect spot to sit and watch the surrounding lush green forest vegetation, but we did not have the patience to sit and watch around. Our growling stomachs goaded us towards "Gol Ghar," a gazebo styled restaurant surrounded by a variety of skyscraping trees the Mahogany, oak, Teak, Neem, Eucalyptus and many more.

The surrounding infinite greenery and the mellifluous forest music attracted us like a magnet. We almost forgot that we came there to whet our appetite but our hungry stomachs hauled us back towards the buffet breakfast parlor. Mouth watering spicy and savory items beckoned us. Soft and fluffy idlis, spicy coconut chutney, Dosas with onion-potato curry and Upma were all lined up on the wooden tables. We could not resist anymore and we grabbed the heavy white porcelain plates and filled them with assorted food. We sat on the rough wooden benches around an unpolished heavy wooden table along the edge of the open Gol Ghar and enjoyed the feast. Later, with our heavy stomach, we proceeded towards the next item on our agenda, the safari rides.

The main attraction in the national park was the safari rides, either in a Jeep or an Elephant ride and since we wanted to cover the major part of the national park we chose to go in a Jeep. Three sides of the jeep were open to facilitate unobstructed view of the surrounding wild fauna and flora. We all huddled together inside the Jeep, which made us feel cozy. The journey was quite an adventure on that rough and muddy road. We were tossed and turned frequently, but it was fun. Our curiosity and eagerness reached its zenith as we entered the Nagarahole National Park, children were all excited and at the same time some of them were nervous to see the animals in wilderness.

As our Jeep rolled ahead, we spotted some Spotted Deer. Our Jeep stopped to make way for the herd of Deer to cross the road. One of the Deers, in one gallop crossed the road from left to the right, right in front of our jeep. We were all stunned by that phenomenal jump. We had only seen this in wildlife movies, but to watch it in reality was breath-taking.
A few meters away a herd of huge and black wild Bisons were grazing and seemed to be relaxed and undisturbed by the passing visitors. Our Jeep moved ahead slowly to give us enough time to look around. There were many Rabbits and Jackals wandering in the wilderness. The dancing prince of the jungle, the Peacock, with its long slender blue neck, cocked its head to one side with its sharp beak and the fancy head crest. The million eyed, beautiful, iridescent blue-green colored plumage, the "peacock tail", was swaying charmingly. He was seriously involved in courtship with his mate, the Peahen.
It was an unforgettable visual experience of the trip. We took video and pictures, tried hard to capture the moment in its entirety and to retain the live picture in memory as much as possible.An hour later we came on the banks of the Kabini River. To our left was the thick, dark and slow flowing river and on the right side was the swamp surrounded with bamboo grove. This arborescent grass is the staple food of elephants. We stopped our Jeep for a few minutes to watch the elephants. To our left was the thick, dark and slow flowing river and on the right side was the swamp surrounded with bamboo grove. This arborescent grass is the staple food of elephants. We were fortunate to see a herd of elephants; one with a pair of big tusks who arrived to munch on the tender bamboo shoots.

Elephants did not pay attention to the passing jeep; they got on to munching those juicy bamboo shoots. We slowly moved forward, even though we wanted to spend lot more time watching those remarkable creations of nature. A few yards away we saw a tiny temple, small brick walled room with an idle of God at the centre, under the tree. A few villagers were offering their prayers to the God. I cannot recollect which particular Hindu god it was. The forest crew told us that this was the temple that appeared in the famous Kannada (language spoken in Southern Indian state of Karnataka), movie "Gandada Gudi"; the famous cine-actor, Raj Kumar was the hero of that movie. I remembered seeing that movie with my grandfather however; I could not recollect the exact scene, where this temple appeared. As we moved further we passed civet cats, sloth bears and boars. We arrived back at the restaurant for lunch. The aroma of the food stimulated our gastric juices.

I walked to the buffet table to collect my lunch. I filled my plate with chapattis, mutter paneer, couple of vegetable curries and vegetable pulau. I did not miss the piquant and spicy rasam. It was a rejuvenating meal for the corroded taste buds. After the sumptuous meal, we headed towards the river to take a boat cruise.

The boat cruise gives an opportunity to watch the crocodiles, aquatic birds and wildlife on either side of the banks of the Kabini River. There were paddleboats, sailboats, and motorboats. Most of our group members chose to go in a motor boat, but my husband, Prakash and my older daughter, Prerana decided to take the Coracle, an ancient style boat made up of round wicker frame covered with hide. It needs special skills to maneuver in the water. It can capsize very easily. I could still visualize my coracle ride, which I took during my college days.

Those were the carefree days of my life. I miss them very much. I was the member of the "Natural Science Club" during my undergraduate years. Now and then from the club we used to go for day trips to explore nature. It was one of those trips that we went to the nearby SriRangapatna, a small historical and temple town near Mysore, India.

Near SriRangapatna, Dodda Gosai Ghat on the Shore of Kaveri River is a popular picnic spot. Kaveri River, unlike Kabini River, is known for its swiftness and ferocity. Boating and Coracle rides were the attractions of that place during those days. Some of us decided to go on a coracle ride. Even though many of us were non-swimmers we were not bothered much. There were no lifejackets to protect us during those days. The assurance of the boatman or "coraclier", a young, well-built man that he could save people from drowning was the only hope. When we reached the middle of the river coraclier made the coracle to turn in swift circles. It was quiet fast and the scenery around me was hazy and trailing. I was not scared, but I was a bit concerned about the idea of drowning in the middle of the river.

However, it was only for a few minutes, we were back on the shore and safe. It was a memorable and thrilling experience and it left an indelible impression on me. The situation this time around was different, Prakash and Prerana are good swimmers, but I made sure that they wore lifejackets and several times cautioned them to be careful. I was perplexed at my own nervousness and apprehension compared to my adolescent adventurous and carefree nature.

As our motorboat moved forward on the slow and dark river, it started raining, but since we had a roof, I did not bother much. I started showing all the trees and animals to my little daughter, Archana. She was all excited to see so many animals in a day. Even though she was tired and exhausted, she still was curious to look for more animals. A few minutes later a spectacular event happened. On the right side of the riverbank, a wolf was chasing a spotted deer. The deer came running and jumped into the river and swam to the opposite bank of the river for safety. Surprisingly, the wolf did not get into the river. It stood on the bank jetting his tongue out and panting. That was the first time I ever saw a wild animal chasing its prey in reality. It is hard to paint the picture of those lightning gallops of the deer and the maddening rush of the wolf. Even though, I had my video camera, I was engrossed so deeply in watching the rare scene that I totally forgot to capture the event. I was still ruminating about that surprising event, when we arrived at the shore.

Later that day we went to take a look at the tree observatory. The observatory was a bamboo tree house built on a huge tree. To reach it one has to climb up a wobbly rope ladder. The tree was quite tall and took a good amount of effort to reach the top. I was always looking for something adventurous. It brought back nostalgic memories of my youth days. I used to pester my parents to permit me to join the "Adventure Club". I had spent hours dreaming about rock climbing, skydiving and even climbing Ice Mountains during my student life, but none of those dreams had come true so far.

It was worth the extra effort we took to come to the top of the tree observatory. We had a panoramic view of the entire forest on one side and the Kabini river on the other side. A half submerged tree was standing somberly a few yards from the bank of the river. A hawk was sitting on a branch of that tree waiting for its prey. Green patches of exposed land on the river added a romantic beauty to that wild river. The other side the seamless profuse greenery was a feast to the eyes. Sun had already gone out of sight, but the diffused light was still there. We reluctantly climbed down the tree and started walking towards the Gol Ghar.

It was already 4:30 in the afternoon, it was a great relief that the rain had stopped, but the weather was becoming cooler. We headed for a warm cup of coffee in the Gol Ghar. A blazing fireplace in the centre of the gazebo attracted the children and they started playing around it. We enjoyed the aroma and the taste of the freshly percolated coffee in the cozy comfort of the fireplace. After the coffee break, as we walked towards our rooms, we all exchanged our excitement about the animals and events we watched that day. Since all the children were tired we had our early dinner. After dinner we all sat in the front porch to relax, but children were little too tired and they started whining. Then my husband and I took our daughters, my nephew, Rahul and niece, Surabhi to the viceroy hall.

In the middle of the lodge was the viceroy hall. It accommodates about 40 people and is used for conferences and meetings. In the evening wildlife movies are screened in that hall. Adjacent to the hall was the bar, which served beer. Children gazed at the screen for a few minutes, since they were all tired and exhausted, they could not hold out longer. We had to return to our room soon. They all fell asleep without their bedtime ritual of storybook reading. Later I walked outside the room into the dimly lit porch.

It was dark and pleasant outside, and the trees were spotted with sparkling fireflies, it appeared like the stars from the sky had descended to the earth to decorate those trees. It looked like every night was a Christmas night. Isn’t nature a wonderful gift? Of course it is, and it needs to be protected and nurtured so that our baskets will never be empty. The terms like global warming, green gas pollution and our carbon footprint so on should not just be the slogans of party leaders. It is worth looking into the meaning of those terms and does something about it. We can change our life style a bit to go a bit greener. Hope we all can join hands to bring back the balance in nature. I know preaching is easy, but practicing is hard, but it doesn’t hurt to try. While my thoughts were rolling down the hill, my two sisters joined me in the porch and brought me back to reality.

I sat on one of the wicker chairs in the porch and started talking with my two sisters, later my two brothers-in-law and my husband joined us. Even though I was exhausted with the eventful day, I was too excited with the thrilling experience and was reluctant to go to bed. My sisters and I were exchanging our nostalgic memories of our childhood, our days with parents and grand parents in Nanjangud. We all remember very well the story of our grand father’s dog "Rovi". Our grand father was obsessed with his dog "Rovi". What a name! I am sure it was the corruption of some good name. Our grandpa was a "Shanbhog" (village accountant) of Nanjangud; whose job was to keep record of the agricultural lands in the town.

The dog was to follow my grandpa everywhere; to his work, errands and his social visits. One day our grandpa and Rovi both were attacked by a big stray dog, but Rovi was brave and strong, he jumped on the back of the dog and bit his neck and drove the dog away. Our grandpa was proud of Rovi; he was also a good swimmer. Both had lot of fun near the Kabini River.

Quite often Kabini River in Nanjangud was to swell during rainy season. The water level of the river was to rise to the top of the embankment. My grandpa took Rovi to the river, when the river was up to the brim. Standing on the embankment he swung and tossed Rovi to the river. With full force he swam back to my grandpa. They repeated this several times and it was fun for both. We use to make fun of his stories, but we loved and respected him. Memory of this story brought ripples of laughter among us.

It was getting cooler, but we did not show any signs of getting back to the rooms. A night bird fluttered in the near by tree and flew away. That made my older sister to unravel her childhood memory about how she rescued an injured pigeon. She was seven years old then. They were four in the family, my parents, sister and brother. My mom and sister used to do gardening in the front yard. It was one of those evenings.

The sky was turning crimson red. It was the time for all the birds to head back to their nests. Flocks of birds in their V shaped configuration were flying in the sky. There was a sudden thud; a blob from the sky fell on the ground in the front yard. My mother and older sister rushed to the object, which fell from the sky. It was a bird, an injured pigeon. Its left wing was torn and bleeding. My sister took the bird in her hand and brought it inside the verandah. With help from my mom cleaned the bird, wrapped it in a warm cloth, and laid it on a mat. She waited for my father to come home from his clinic. Our father was a physician and he practiced medicine at his private clinic. She narrated the whole story to him and got some ointment from him and applied it to the bird. She fed the bird with soaked grains and water, took care of the bird for a week and then the bird was able to fly. Both my mom and sister took the bird outside and let it free to fly. My sister still cherishes the satisfaction and the joy it gave to her.

Oh! The memories make the soul complete. It is like Kevin Arnold quotes "Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose." It is very true. Our nostalgia would not have ended, lest our husbands reminded us about the time. It was already one o’ clock in the morning. We rose unwillingly and started towards our rooms.

Family reunion is fun especially in a place where nature is at bounty it is soothing and rejuvenating to body and mind. It spurted new energy in all of us and was invigorating. Finally, we receded to our rooms and I curled up in the bed listening to the soothing nighttime symphony of the forest. I didn’t want to fall asleep because the thought of another wonderful day to look up to with my family, in the natural wonder on the banks of Kabini, was too tempting but I never realized when I fell into deep slumber.

© Aruna Purohit December 2008
Aruna is a scientist and her articles have been published in scientific journals.
Rajiv Gandhi National Park, Nagarahole, Karnataka

More Travel


© Hackwriters 1999-2008 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility - no liability accepted by or affiliates.