Remember a time when a vacation meant travelling to Ooty? Or Mysore? To me, these were places I went to in between holidays, when I was still in school and college. They were never holiday destinations; not to me. To me, a vacation meant driving to Wayanad. That’s the place I’ve holidayed in the most. I’ve lost count of the number of times I vacationed there in the past 3 decades. Be it summer holidays or winter vacations, that was where I went.
Now let me tell you about an incident that happened a few years ago. I was working with a mainstream newspaper in Bangalore then. One day I was talking to a PR person about scheduling an interview with one of her clients when I told her that I was going home for a few days and that we’d do it once I was back. She casually asked me where home was, so I said, Wayanad and was waiting for her to suggest a new date when she exclaimed, ‘What!’ like I’d said something preposterous. I almost jumped out of my skin. Now something like that never happens when people in the PR business talk to journalists. They’re usually on their best behaviour, if you know what I mean. Just as I was wandering what I had said for her to cry out like that, she said, ‘We pay thousands to book ourselves into resorts there and you just go home to Wayanad?’ So that was it. I’m sure I looked relieved and let that ain’t-I-lucky-smile cross my face. I remember proudly telling her that when I needed a vacation, I just needed to go home.
Yes people, envy me. Wayanad’s home. Now that’s not how people always reacted when I gave them this piece of information. There was a time when people I spoke to knew nothing about Wayanad. Not even some schoolmates of mine who said they hailed from God’s own country. Then there were the people who sounded scornful when talking about Wayanad, like it was some god-forsaken place. These days, everybody who knows Wayanad wants to holiday in this green paradise on the Western Ghats.
If I were to tell you a little something about this place, it might sound like a travel brochure, but it’s not my fault — it’s the way Wayanad is. Sitting snug in that part of Kerala where God’s Own Country rubs shoulders with Tamilnadu and Karnataka, this hilly district is coloured in the greenest green you can think of. With plantations blanketing its hills, and paddy fields spread over its valleys, this idyllic place is a feast for those eyes that are sore from the sight of concrete jungles, blinding city lights and traffic signals. The air is fresh. The scenery is picturesque. It’s got enchanting peaks, a breathtaking ghat section, pristine waterfalls, an exotic river island and a lovely man made lake. It even has some aboriginal groups of people who have been able to preserve their tribal traditions to some degree. Wayanad is also home to some remnants of the neolithic age.
Today it might be a place where techies from India’s Silicon Valley getaway for a quiet weekend or some adventure. There are resorts and home stays and tree houses and everything else to welcome both domestic and foreign travellers. Yet, Wayanad has not lost its charm and rusticity to the last 10 to 15 that put it on the tourist map of the country.
My friends who had come down for my brother’s wedding reception a few years ago fell in love with Wayanad and didn’t want to leave. Who would want to, you might ask. Believe me, I once spent a whole afternoon putting up with a snooty relative who was looking for reasons to find fault with the place, complaining about everything you can think of. Oh! things I wanted to say in response. Alas! I had to be a good host. That day, I secretly wished I would never have to end up with a person who disapproved of my home on the range, which really is a synonym for natural beauty. Fast forward to a couple of years, I have a better half who loves spending his special mornings there listening to the chirping of birds and watching the mist lift off the coffee plantation and disappear behind the mountains in the distance. No points for guessing where this Mr. and Mrs. hope to spend their days of retirement. Now that we’re parents, we wish the proverbial fruit does not fall far from the tree.
*Fresh and Original Entry. Written for The Kissan 100% Real Blogger Contest