Monday, December 26, 2011

Weekend at Siddapur

A short weekend trip to Siddapur [Karnataka] was a perfect retreat from the busy life that we have got so used to being in a city like Bangalore. Krishna, my friend and colleague, calls Siddapur his hometown. It was his idea to spend the weekend there. After having known me and my preferences of spending time in peace, he was quite sure that I would find his place and the stay quite interesting. I couldn’t have agreed any less. The time spent was not only relaxing but a lot rewarding as well… Krishna’s parents are true gems and I was glad that I was able to know more about them.

We embarked on our journey on a cool Friday evening in December 2011. We were to travel via VRL Transports in what would take us about 10 hours or so to reach Siddapur, with a halt at Chitradurga where VRL has got a pretty big junction. It was there that both of us had our favorite upma and coffee at about 2:30 AM in the night. The route was quite good and having a sleeper seat with a clear view of the stars above kept me awake. We reached Siddapur bus stop at around 5:30 AM and 10 minutes from there the same bus took us to a point on the road where we were able to see the tail-lights of a waiting car; it was still dark out there when I met Krishna’s dad for the first time. A narrow route with fences and vegetation on both sides and about 200 meters from the place where the bus dropped us, we reached the entrance of Krishna’s home. We were greeted by hot tea served by Aunty –Krishna’s mom. Half an hour after alighting from the bus, it was still dark outside but we weren’t sleepy at all .In fact, I was quite excited to venture out to explore the farm. Later I realized that because of the fact that we were in the middle of a farm , with no busy automobiles or factories to pollute the air, I felt quite fresh throughout my stay.

Krishna’s home has got a pretty generous layout in terms of the space available. There’s this huge shaded verandah right behind the entrance gate that has a long running extension along the wall of the house. This extension is where we spent a lot of time talking and discussing about a lot of topics right from education to farming to investing… and not to mention that this is also the place where we had our small naps anytime of the day. On one side of the verandah is a small flower garden while on the other you’ve got a few smaller coconut trees. The backyard has a shed for the cow and a biogas plant which ensured continuous supply of cooking gas. Further away from the backyard is a huge four and a half acre farm of coconut, areca nut, pepper, mango and a few other fruits and spices. All these have been planted by Uncle over a course of 28 years or so since he had bought this land. Behind the house a few steps away from the back verandah is a nice little bathroom inside which a big metal pot is cemented in such a way that the base of the pot is accessible from outside where firewood is lit to keep the water warm and a tap inside to keep the pot filled. I loved the concept. Inside the house just after the first room are a series of steps which take you to the first floor where Krishna spent his study time as a child. Now the same room dons a shelf with a lot of amazing books –all collected by Uncle.

Later in the day Uncle, Krishna and I ventured into the farm where he educated me on the nuances of farming. When this land was bought about three decades back, there was absolutely nothing growing on it. Little by little, after his day job in the college, Uncle would till the land and plant coconut and areca nut saplings, maintaining enough distance between them to ensure healthy growth. He also dug up a well and watered the plants for seven long years without any sellable crop. I found thin black pipes running everywhere in the farm. I was informed that those pipes form the network of drip irrigation and have been there for as long as the trees are. I also sniffed on fresh cinnamon bark, cardamom and pepper. I also saw the nutmeg tree with the nutmeg and mace spices. The fruit -I was told and we had to search for a specimen as well- is something similar to a peach which when ripe, opens up with a seed in the center along with a red colored aril. The aril forms what we know as mace [or javitri] while the seed is the nutmeg [or jaiphal].

While we were still in the farm there were a few fresh coconuts up in the tree. Krishna handed me a long stick with the top end tied to a sharp C shaped curved knife which I used to bring down three of the largest coconuts I’ve ever laid eyes on. Later when we had it, the sweet water content was simply too much to finish in one go. We also walked till the end of the farm where we came across a well. Uncle told me how this was dug up, how the concentric rings were laid down and eventually how the water is pumped out of the well. I found a few fish in the well too. Uncle also walked us through the layout of the farm… the distance of one tree to another, the mix of trees, the alternate crop that  can be planted, the electric fencing, the drip irrigation technique adopted and the problems that arise – spoilt crops, disease and the troubles from the birds.

Back at home Aunty was busy cooking one wonderful dish after the other. Our breakfasts, lunches and dinners were just awesome! Knowing that I love kara-bath, she prepared the best chow-chow bath [kara and kesari bath] that I have ever had in my life. The idlis were soft and warm and along with chutney and sugarcane syrup made an irresistible combination. The masala dosas –crisp and thin… the sambar was so yummy that I might not need anything else with it… a kind of butter milk with some spices… how can I forget the curd… simply superb and last but not the least the generous mix of ghee and sugarcane syrup. The two days that I spent there were filled with food… and the icing on the cake was having them on banana leaves… the traditional way. Aunty is so sweet that though we did not have a common language to communicate in, we were still able to understand what each of us wanted to convey.

Later in the evening our communication drifted to a lot of topics. Talking to a man as educated as Krishna’s dad was a great honor. Uncle retired from college as a Principal and that is evident from his personality and command over various subjects that we touched upon. We spoke of days gone by… about the simplicity of life being replaced by the mad rush towards success… about the days when there were very little options available but still being satisfied with them… about our success, our failures, about our limitation, about work, about spirituality, about something simply known as… life.

In this short vacation, Krishna took me to the famous Jog Falls which though at this time of the year was not gushing out but nevertheless the flow was there. We saw the waterfall from a couple of different places but preferred not to venture down to the feet of the fall. On our way back from a particular crossroad Krishna took us along an isolated road which had a huge water body. I had no idea what or where that place was but was surprised to find the water the pristine clean such that the base of the lake or reservoir is visible to some extent. No dirt, no litter –not even on the road and absolutely no people other than us. I later checked that this place is the Talakalale Balancing Reservoir. To be honest, this is the cleanest water body I have seen in India till date.

Coming back to the main road, we walked a foot deep into a stream. Here we could see those small guppy fish, scared initially but bold later, clear away dead skin from my feet. It was fun observing these creatures. I could have spent a much longer time there watching the activity of these tiny beings.

For a short duration we also went into the main market of Siddapur. Krishna is quite known here, thanks to his dad’s towering personality. The city, rather the town, still reminds you of the old India, the India untouched by MTV and StarTV… the old India, the India a couple of decades back –which I miss so much.

Our two days got over a lot quicker that what I had anticipated… and finally it was time to go back. I got a lot of spices for my mom right from the farm. I also learnt a lot from Uncle and I’ll always remember where to go for the best chow-chow bath, idlis and dosas. The ghee-sugarcane syrup combo is at the top of my list! What an amazing trip!

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