All of us have that one friend who is enthusiastic about reunions. That one person will do the research, list out options, work the expenses, arrange the transport, take care of the booze and even book the tickets for everyone. More importantly, they shall be the founders of a WhatsApp group created after personally calling up each person and convincing them to join the reunion for simple reasons as well as emotional ones.
For me, Arun is that friend. So when he added me to a Whatsapp group titled ‘Reunion’ where he unleashed his plans of a get-together in Kodaikanal, it was difficult for me to come up with a story of how I was burdened by office workload or tell him how sceptical I was with the idea of 12 grown men (including Deepu), spending 3 days together in a romantic hill-station often referred to as – The Princess of Hill Stations. The plan was set and people had come in from Bangalore, Chennai, Madurai, Kochi and as far as Delhi. Some of us braved several bouts of motion sickness through the ride while others bravely sat through repeated tales of college, life after marriage and after effects of consuming peculiar foliage.
We reached Kodaikanal around 7:30am. Our bus from Bangalore dropped us near the Coakers’ Walk viewpoint from where we caught a taxi to our homestay; Kodai House. Single bedroom cottages with attached bathrooms that were clean but had coloured water (Apparently this is common in the hills, so don’t be taken aback). None of our cottages was air conditioned but that wasn’t a problem as the weather was lovely. The biggest attraction, of course, was the view of the valley that the cottage offered when the mist rolled in. I’ll let the photographs below, captured by my friends Mahesh and Santosh to give you an idea of our view for the next three days.
If you are a food blogger, you would understand what it means to eloquently capture intelligent plating and the vibrant colours of the food. You would perfectly relate to getting up close and personal with balls of kofta and succulent pieces of chicken breasts for those unique titillating money shots hashtagged #foodporn.
But we did not. We were more like hungry hippos; gobbling up every morsel of food that came right out of the kitchen. And why wouldn’t we be when our caretaker akka, despite being entrusted with the task of feeding 12 men with an enormous appetite, prepared delicious food customized to our tastes and requests, all from her modest kitchen.
Breakfast was usually incredibly soft idlis and large tasty dosas that remained crisp, only for ten seconds, accompanied by two types of chutneys and some good ol’ brown sambar. We were also served omelettes every day and anyone can guess how many eggs we consumed over a span of three days.
Meals for lunch and dinner mainly comprised of home cooked chicken curry, Fried quail, fried fish, fish curry, sambar, curd, poriyal (boiled and seasoned vegetables), way too many chapatis and lots and lots of rice.
1. Bryant Park/Market: Your typical park with fancy flowers. There is a market with a big lake in the centre, right outside the park and it is filled with hawkers and tourists who choose to cycle around. I suggest visiting the lake early morning when it is less crowded to capture some good photos.
2. Dolphin’s Nose: A breathtaking viewpoint that gave us an adrenalin rush after an arduous downhill trek climbing across long and winding roots. This isn’t for the faint of heart. If you aren’t too excited about the climb, then halfway into the descent there’s a nice pitstop that is a great viewpoint with a lovely tea shop.
3. Oh-so-many-waterfalls: The waterfalls aren’t enormous but they dot so well into the green Kodaikanal landscape that you would definitely want to stop by, to take a few pictures. Some of them are on the roadside while others, like the one we visited, need a 20-minute hike through a forest. It’s good fun but be careful as the hike is slippery.
4. Guna Caves: So this is where Kamal Hassan starrer Guna was shot. But people now visit it for the viewpoint up above and the roots of the tree that sprawl across the ground. There is an eerie vibe around here and perhaps that’s why this place is also called The Devil’s Kitchen. The caves themselves are uninspiring and in fact, have plastic trash left by humans.
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This is the place where Kamal Hassan's movie Guna, a "mystical romantic drama" was shot. Also, they say this place has a sinister, dangerous feel to it with huge menacing boulders, pitch dark treacherous pits, eerie silence and a sudden whoosh of bats flying past you. Some have seen ghosts here, and many couples took their lives over failed love. Hence The Devil's Kitchen. For me, it's just a beautiful cave with brilliant ramification of roots like none other I've seen, located between rock pillars waiting for the mist to flow in while the flowers blossom purple once in 12 years! . . . #kodaikanal #devilskitchen #gunacave #rockpillars #dolphinpoint #weekendvibes #nitdgp #reunion #roots #treeroots #teampixel #mypixeldiary #pixel2photography #naturelove #tamilnadutourism #ydiary #asiwalkalong #keepexploring #Y
5. Pine Forest: Regular pine forest. Visit it for a few great pictures for your Instagram and or just because you are the running-around-trees type.
6. Coakers’ Walk: A short walking trail, right inside the city which gives you breathtaking views. An extremely popular tourist attraction that we chose to skip.
7. Mannavanur Lake: This is one gorgeous lake but we ended up skipping it. I’ll come back for this one some other time. If you have a drone, be sure to visit this serene spot.
1. Relax: We were on a break from the boring schedules at work and the never-ending list of to-do’s at home and so were the others. So much of Day 1 was spent in ‘catching-up’ with each other over chai.
2. Enjoy the mist: To be honest, I could have done this all day long. As I sat on the terrace with my legs stretched over the parapet, I watched the mist rise and roll in, slowly engulfing the pretty houses, the step farms and eventually me and my senses.
3. Magic Mushrooms: Locals talk of a rare breed of mushrooms, which when consumed cause hallucination and cause you to see colours that transport you to a different state of mind where you begin to closely observe and question everything around you; from the flowers, the mist, the clouds and eventually to the passage of time and your position in it. Try it at your own risk but I do not recommend walking into the market asking for these.
4. Let the spirits rise: As the nights set in, we would gather around the bonfire setup by our ever kind caretaker anna. Our spirits rose in cheap plastic glasses while the temperature dipped. On one night we argued over classic celebrity fights such as Vijay vs Ajith while listening to alternative Malayalam rock music from a different time and on the other, we celebrated our friend Mojo’s birthday and cut cake.
You know, I used to dread reunions as I found them clichéd. And no-one would really do clichéd stuff if it wasn’t for their alter-egos on social media platforms. After all, why would I go through the trouble of taking a day off from work, move around my personal schedule and travel all the way to catch up with people and crack the same stupid jokes from many years ago? What is it about reunions that made people say yes to?
My first trip to Kodaikanal was a reunion. It was chilled out and anything but boring. Yes, we did form yet another WhatsApp group that is no longer active and we took way too many ‘group photos’. We still trolled each other with the same stories from years ago and complained about how it sucked to grow up and have responsibilities. But this did not feel cheesy or clichéd. It felt familiar and personal with a whole lot of good; Almost like a home from another time.
Perhaps that’s why reunions are seldom about the photos you click, the places you see and the resort you stay in and instead are more about the memories you create by just being there, together, sharing that space and time.
Reunions are fun but require so much more than WhatsApp groups and superior planning prowess. And that’s true even for the smallest ones. With Arun moving out of Bangalore, I wonder when we all shall meet again to discuss those silly stories.
But Arun is that friend with so much more. So I won’t be surprised when he pings me on WhatsApp about another hill station with a bigger waterfall for another reunion, halfway across the world. For when he does, I’ll have my bags packed.
He will still have to book the tickets though! 🙂