A rainy day in Chikmagalur


Mist

Thick and swirling, they come rolling over the hills and engulfs us. The grove of tall silver oak trees bordering our path disappears from our view, hidden behind the thick white veil. A light drizzle dots the windshield with tiny droplets. I lower the window of the car, letting the mist come inside, a light chill embracing us. I take a deep breath, inhaling the cool fresh air of the woods. 





The mist brings along with it the faint fragrance of some unknown flower. I remember seeing a bunch of flowering orchids some time back, nestled cozily in the nook of a shady tree, the bough overgrown with soft moss and ferns. Can it be the orchids, do they smell, I ask myself. 





Or maybe we are passing along an unseen plant nursery, the budding flowers imparting their fragrance to let us know of their impending debut. In my mind, I take a handful of the sweet floral essence and save it in my memory. Maybe one day I will take it out and take a whiff of it.


The eucalyptus trees


Tall, willowy, graceful. Rows of them show their slender frames by the side of the road, the mist lifting slightly. Flashbacks appear of the lone eucalyptus tree in my grandparents’ garden, on whose ‘fair’ body we had written letters to the ‘blue-bird’ from a fairy tale we had read.




“They serve no purpose,” say birders like us scornfully, today. “Insects don’t like them and so there are no birds.”


Not always did we say this. A know-it-all kid had once said, “It smells of Vicks. This is what Vicks is made of.” 


That kid is me. 


Coffee


Dark green stretches of coffee plantation as we wind our way through them, the plants shaded by the elegant silver oaks. 






Later, the heady aroma of coffee emanates from the homestay kitchen. The mistress of the homestay comes out with proud smile, bearing a tray of delicate cups.

“Coffee from our own plantation,” she says, offering us the steaming cups.


The wind picks up outside as we sip our coffee, the rain drumming overhead. Memories of winters, of childhoods, and of Maa come rushing by. Of times when coffee was a novelty, a treat for two little girls.


“I will make you hot cups of coffee if you wake up early to study,” Maa had promised.


We wake up and hear Maa pottering about in the kitchen at 4.00 am on a dark wintry morning, preparing the promised beverage.  We slurp on the hot coffee, the books lying open by our side, and promptly go off to sleep. I remember the cries of dismay from Maa on discovering her daughters’ betrayal. 


Moments that we cherish now, bound by the aroma of coffee.


Lemon


I spy her, in all her green glory in a quiet nondescript corner of the sprawling estate. The lemon tree. 



Image source: groundtoground.org

I run my fingers over the plump fruit, tempted to pluck it. Instead, I tear off a leaf. I crush it slightly with my fingers and hold it close to my nose, inhaling its citrus smell. Refreshing, invigorating, tantalizing. It takes me back to the narrow serpentine roads of Shillong, of childhood trips to the blue hills. Tumbling over each other on the backseat of our jeep at every sharp hairpin bend, laughing till we go green in the face. And then, turning to the magic lemon leaves, the ones my granny had sneaked into our hands, telling us of its spell.


“Take a whiff of it when you feel queasy,” she had whispered. “And it will remove all that uneasiness.”


I press the leaf now against my palms. Perhaps I will be able to keep some of the fragrance with me, just the way I have kept memories of my granny and her magic spells with me.


Honey


Sweet, golden and inviting. 


“Can you smell the honey?” I ask the husband.


“Can you actually smell honey?” he asks me in response, a little bewildered.


I can. I do. 


Sure enough, we stop on our tracks during the coffee plantation tour and the estate owner points towards an earthen pot hidden in the base of a shady tree. The pot of gold. 


“Honeybees” he relays gently. “They come here every year and settle down in that pot.”


I inhale deeply and go back to my corner room in Manas, the window overlooking a huge bee-hive on a mango tree. 




Every summer we would have a bounty of pure, unadulterated honey, the bottles gleaming of the golden syrup on the kitchen shelf. A gentle cough and out comes a spoonful of the thick liquid, soothing our throats with its velvety touch.


I smile at memory. Bliss.


Another aroma to safe keep.



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A rainy day in Chikmagalur. A treasure trove of aromas.



(This was written for http://www.godrejaer.com/)





Comments

  1. i was transported there. lovely post! great captures!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Divsi. I loved your post a lot, too!

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