It was another Monday at work, you know one of those days you wish you were elsewhere, clubbing in Rio, Skiing in the Alps, Skinny dipping in....ah yes, you get the picture. Anyway it was one such day, and regrettably both those corporate tools - the Email Inbox and the mobile phone were witnessing unpreceedented activity. It was the latter, which was more frenetic, calls poured in, Muthukumar who insisted on offering me more credit to a credit card I never knew I owned, Palani Swamy who couldn't believe his ears, when I told him I didn't need a personal loan and Murugappan who was adamant that I explain to him, why I conferred only a '7' upon him in his customer service appraisal. Yes it was another regular day in the office, until the phone rang again with it this time reading 'Kiruba', 'Kiruba'. Kiruba Shankar, blogger, entrepreneur, journalist, consultant, I sometimes wonder if there is not one but two Kiruba Shankars, anyway one of them was calling me, must be something important, I thought.
So, I said, " Hi Kiruba, What's happening?", he replied " Not much Sudhir, would you like to come on a trip to Coorg?". And I was like, " Hmmm, Hmmm... Errr, I have to check my...", he interrupted, " It's an all paid trip sponsored by Club Mahindra."
The next time I met Kiruba was in the airport, boarding pass in my pocket. Smiling palpably as you can see...
I mean, you would too right, a fully paid holiday to the land of beautiful women, flying Kingfisher and staying in one of the best resorts in the land. You probably would've smiled wider.
It was around this time that I learnt that I was to join a group of some of the best travel bloggers in the country. Imagine that, it was only later in the piece that a part of me inferred, that I was only enlisted to maintain the required balance. To maintain the right formula, the group apparently required both the traveller and the 'tourist', the subdued and the 'loud', the punctual and the 'not so', needless to say, I fitted in perfectly at the extreme end of the latter side of those descriptions. The group was hence now a balanced one.
So, there we were then, a motley crew, as you would expect, each figuring out 'who' or 'what' to expect as company for this momentous journey. Soon enough the group began to take shape, with there being a clear demarcation between the intellectual 'traveller' and the 'gawar tourist'. The 'intellectual traveller' easily identified with his manner of speaking. " Have you been to Leh, , 25 Kms south-east of 'Namcha Barwa Himalayas , 890 Kms north of the tropic of capricorn filled with Azure skies and that rarified aroma !". The gawar traveller would look on, looking forward to his next meal, to him the word 'Leh' took on a slightly different meaning.
Another one at the forefront of the pack of 'gawar' tourists was Marketing Head Honcho Dev Amritesh. Dev like me thought he had seen all that life had to offer, but when he came across cameras styled like 'Bazookas' and patience greater than that of the Buddha in awaiting that perfect snap, he too scratched his head, shaking his belly in amazement asking, " Arrey! Kahan ponch gey yaar hum!!?"
Soon enough we arrived, and what awaited us was a true Coorgi reception.
The dance symbolizes the onset of the harvest season.
It was then the turn of our official tour guide, Mr. Joy E. Patel to make his entry.
Ever smiling, fun-loving, effervescent and with immense knowledge of Coorg, Coffee and the 'Kodagu' culture, Joy always had a story to tell. Not least of which, was how he acquired his surname. " Actually, you know, in our community, we only have initial and no surname. But, when I was in the registrar's office, he insisted that I give him a surname, so dada thought for a while and said, "Patel! Let's just go with Patel". As simple as that, and here in the 'city' we hear of couples spending months and years on end in trying to find that perfect name for their pet poodle.
By now, I had become well acquainted with the whole group. It was an interesting bunch indeed, we had Mridula, one of India's top travel bloggers. It was quite clear that she had primarily 2 great interests, Travel and T.T. The latter of which she was so menacing in, that soon enough but for the wall, she had none to play with. Another exceptionally creative person from the group was Anil, for Anil a camera was not something you just went click, click and discard with. For Anil, it was the entire reason for his existence, so much so that we often saw more of his camera than we did of him. The photos on his blog stand testimony to this.
Our first stop on our trip the next day was TalaCauvery, the birth place of the river Cauvery. Set amidst, the mountains, the Tala Cauvery is the spring from which the Rivery Cauvery originates. Truly picturesque, as Dev pointed out it was in many ways ironic to see that the river Cauvery, and all the controversy and heartburn that come along with it, all originated from a spring which is no more than than 3 by 3 feet in dimension.
Didn't someone once say, "Big things come in small packages"
Inspired by Anil, and his long talk with me on Apertures, Shutter speeds and hues, I took the one photograph, I am actually more than just a tad proud of.
To the most of you, this is just a random photo of a few people in front of a bell. But, the discerning few of you would notice how, the sadhu in white looks towards the water, while a man stands next to him on his mobile phone. Is this the oxymoron i.e the new India? A bell is positioned in the center such that it balances and aportions the hues and contrasts, shutter speed - high, aperture - wide, camera focus at an angle of 67 and a 3/4 degrees.
Anil, has quite clearly rub off on me.
An evening of much revelry awaited us. Guitaring, our voices and Simon and Garfunkel, thankfully there was enough liquor to make us all believe that we sounding incredible. The next day, saw us making a trip to the Elephant sanctuary, where the Elephant bath is the chief attractions.
A photographic journey:
Here comes Mr. Elephant
Down goes Mr. Elephant
Scrub, scrub, scrub
Time to eat some chow
Our trip came to an end that evening, with a sit-down dinner around a bon-fire. From a group of absolute strangers, thrown together from various parts of the country, we had become one group, and the cameradrie built was overwhelming. There is something about a traveling group which brings it together, maybe it's the feeling of togetherness, maybe it's the feeling of going through the same journey, or maybe a holiday is the one time, a person can truly be oneself with little or no pretensions. The group itself, may never meet one another again, but those few days spent together will always remain special.
A big Thank you to Arun of Club Mahindra for making it all happen.
And then en route back to Bangalore.
The Tibetan Monastery. I guess we could all do with some enlightenment from time to time...