International Writers Magazine: Mysore to Karapur: India
and Nostalgia in Nagarhole
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 Valleshs
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 parents 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,
Anis 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 friends 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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. Isnt 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 doesnt 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 fathers 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
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 didnt 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.
Purohit December 2008
Aruna is a scientist and her articles have been published in scientific
Rajiv Gandhi National Park, Nagarahole, Karnataka
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