Last weekend of December 03, and I realized that I have not seen anything new in India this year. Except for a trekking trip to Sakleshpur (have to write about it sometimes). So I booked myself in KSTDC (Karnataka state Transport Development Corporation) 4-day tour to Ooty Kodaikanal via Mysore and Brindavan Gardens.
Travelogue – Ooty Kodaikanal
This trip was unusual in a way that this was the first time I was taking a 4 day long tour in India and traveling on my own, without anyone. I had done no. of trips before this. But they were all at most a day-long trips and I was always home to sleep. As with most of my ‘on my own’ trips, I had no expectation. I thought these 3-4 days will be total to myself. As soon as I boarded the bus, I found myself sitting next to an Australian lady, who was vacationing in India. And like me was traveling alone. Her name was Christine and by the end of the tour, she became a good friend of mine. And now keeps inviting me to Australia.
Brindavan Gardens, Mysore
I had been to Mysore and Brindavan Gardens earlier so I was freaking out there. Instead of trying to grasp everything around when I visit the place for the first time. The first-night halt was in Mysore. I was sharing the room with a Japanese girl, who I discovered worked in my company only. And was doing her training here. In fact, there was a group of 6 Japanese all of whom worked in my company. And had an Indian couple playing buddy to them and helping them understand everything around. Slowly I started interacting with everyone else also on the bus. There were a few honeymooning couples, few people on the annual vacation with kids. A couple on their last LTC trip before they retire. And few parents traveling with their kids who have landed up in Bangalore for work.
A Sri Lankan couple with their infants exploring India. And if I leave the contingent of my colleagues, most of these were the people I would have never interacted if I had not taken that trip on my own. Have you ever noticed, when we travel in a group, we tend to be so much engrossed in ourselves? We miss the opportunity to have the new experiences that the new place and the people there have to offer. That is why I love traveling alone, it lets me be myself. And lets me let go of any hang-ups if any and let me interact with different kinds of people. And know the worlds that I would never come in touch with in my normal course of living.
By the second day of the trip, I knew most of the people by name. And almost everyone knew me, I started making people talk to each other. Like this girl from Nagpur, who was too fascinated to be traveling along with a foreigner. And wanted to talk to her, but could not gather the courage to do that. I asked Christine to initiate the talk with her and they had a small conversation, which made her very happy. And gave her some confidence to speak to her rest of the trip. I became a natural guide for Christine, a bargainer for anything she wanted to buy, a dish selector for almost every meal. She would simply order whatever I have ordered. I gave her a lot of Gyan on what all places she should visit.
Next night halt was at Ooty and we were split into multiple hotels. With me and Christine sharing a room, which was as pathetic as it could be. Wonder why ITDC is wasting their properties by not maintaining them. But the view of Ooty as you come out of the room, was breathtaking. There was a valley right in front of the room and when we got up in the morning, the whole valley was filled with clouds. Playing with each other, with trees and the peaks of the small hills surrounding it.
We started our journey towards Kodaikanal, through Nilgiri forests. The tall columns of eucalyptus trees surrounding you make a beautiful painting. And while your vehicle is running through the roads surrounded by these trees, you wonder if you are running past the trees or the trees the running around you. In the meantime, we all started playing Antakshari. A game where you sing songs in series, the next song starting with the last letter of the previous song. Using the guide’s microphone on the bus and this brought together everything like nothing else would have. It started with a few enthusiastic people singing and slowly everyone, young and old were singing. And I almost was just managing the queue of who will sing next.
Last night halt was at Kodaikanal, and we all were in the same hotel. We all sat down in a hall and started formally introducing ourselves. Japanese girls and guys surprised us by introducing themselves in Hindi. I still remember the awe on everyone’s face when they did that. Is this a sign of emerging India, where people from the first world country are coming to India for work. And are trying to learn the Indian ways to make themselves more acceptable and to understand it better. We left that hall feeling close to each other. And I could see an appreciation in everyone’s eyes for me. They all thought that the flow of this goodwill for each other was the result of my efforts.
The Kodaikanal trip brought me one of the best compliments in life. When an about to retire lady from Delhi said that I had been a thread in Mala, which kept all the pearls together throughout the trip. No wonder this trip gave me lots of insights into my behavior and human behavior in general.
Next day while on our way back to Bangalore, we all exchanged addresses and phone numbers. Everyone got a picture clicked with me, the irony being, I lost all the photographs of that Ooty Kodaikanal trip in a hard disk crash. And that is when I must write this travelogue to keep the memories of the trip intact.
Moral of the trip: Try traveling alone and you will make more friends than you can ever imagine….:-)