There is an expression – about fuckin’ time – & after two months of traipsing around the dusty libraries of the busy Tamil plains I have finally found a poet’s paradise. Writing in India is a weird experience – most of the time it’s just like London, where you can’t hear yourself think, but on occasion she throws up situations & scenery to send the soul searing supersonic. I feel like 2 months of literary graft are finally being rewarded as I set about making the final corrections of the Kural on the hard copy I printed out in Coimbatore.
I arrived in the hill-station of Coonoor a couple of days ago, 10 miles south of its much more famous sister, Ooty, but better by far. The nights here are nowhere near as cold as Ooty or Kodaikanal, there are hardly any tourists & the scenery is just a tree or two short of Eden. The town is stacked against steep slopes, & is busy but not buzzin’ – a bit like Hyde Park on a sultry summer’s day. The view from my decent hotel looks over the theatrical centre of town – including the clock-tower which has formed my first time-piece since I got to India. Best of all, there’s no fuckin mosquitos!
On my first night here I took an evening stroll, feeling completely safe & unphazed. I don’t really wander about Indian streets at night, you’re always watching out for dodgy fuckers. However, this walk was inestimably peaceful, taking me to a wee suburb of Coonoor that clung to the sides of a deep river valley. Feeling my spirit relax for the first time in ages I sat down to soak in the atmosphere, just as the minaret of a wee mosque nearby lit up & a local Imam began praising Allah. It was lovely to hear, especially as the holy song echoed around the vale. I wander’d about a bit more, the rivers rushing filling my ears, along narrow streets, past wee one floor houses with corrugated rooves & satellite dishes – then saw a sight I probably won’t forget ‘til I die. It was basically Siamese twin-dogs – joined at a buttock & just standing there doing fuck all – one with 3 legs & the other with 4. I went to stroke them, but the 4-legged one freaked out & began to drag the 3 legged one away. I watched all 7 legs kinda scamper away & mused upon God’s acid-taking.
Yesterday was a great day. It began by taking the Niligris Mountain Railway up to Ooty – at a max speed of 33 KPH. It is very famous – & deservedly so – & has UNESCO world heritage status. For all its fame it only cost me 4 rupees (5p). At Ooty maybe fifty people got off – so that’s 200 rupees or so, or three quid. The tube fare for just one person from Leytonstone to Leyton is 4 quid, so it shows how bum-raped the British really are by the railways. The journey was very pleasant, being very high up in the mountains, & as we broke out over the sheer drops it gave the sensation of flying through the air.
Ooty itself was a bit of a dump, but the walk back to Coonoor was glorious. I followed the train route, sometimes on the tracks, sometimes on little paths by the side, & didn’t get run over once. The journey was glorious, forest & vistas everywhere, punctured by the occasional cow or guy hacking at eucalyptus with a scimitar. That shit always freaks me out, however, very Hotel Rwanda. The highlight of the walk was the epic expanse of the Ketty Valley, where little clusters of pastel houses trickle off toward the shadowy peaks far in the distance. It was very Scottish, like Avimore but sunnier. Every few kilometers of the 17 I had to walk, I came across a wee station which refreshed me with chi. At one of these, Lovedale, I had a great time, from playing on some kid’s fullsize drumkit to meeting some genuine Todas.
There are only 1000 Todas alive today, & up until relatively recently were left to their little mountain kingdom. Then, 130 years ago, some British geezer saw the tea-growing potential of the climate & bought vast swathes of land for a rupee an acre. They are buffalo herders & trinket makers, their main settlement being 10 miles away from Lovedale. But, having my amateur anthropologist hat on, I checked out the three families that lived at Lovedale. One guy was a carrot farmer & as his wife fed us coffee (& tried to sell me knitted mobile phone holders). I discovered he made 800 quid a year but didn’t have to pay the government any taxes at all, what with him being a rare endangered tribe & all.
Today was even more rewarding. I set off early again, hopping on a bus & bantering away with loads of friendly school kids. The bus dropped me off 2k over Coonor & I then set off on a hike to the fabled Lambs Rock & Dolphins Nose, for apparently they had spectacular views. Unfortunately a thick cloud had fallen & I could see fuck all apart from the waterfall-dotted forest all about me. Then when the road broke out of the trees I found myself crossing the slopes of a massive tea plantation. I’d never seen tea growing before, & there wasn’t a drawstring bag to be seen. The teabush is 2 foot tall, with green leaves 3-4 inch long & 1-2 inch wide. Somehow 3,500 years ago some of them fell into Chinaman’s cup of boiling water & hey presto, the magic brew. I also had a similar epiphany involving this magic herb. I needed a dump, so did one among some teabushes. Then wiping with aforementioned leaves, I found them the smoothest I had ever used, better even than andrex extra-soft!
Further along the walk I came acros a series of shops selling assorted teas – I tried a few, including a very delicious chocolatey one. One of them was by a wee village, very Italian, & clinging to a hilltop with the now clearing views of the Coimbatore plains far, far below. My gut instinct was to stay, & within half-an-hour had found a guy whose family are on holiday for ten days. He’s agreed to rent me a part of his bungalow, & even cook for me – so my colonial dream has finally come true! I move in Monday after the Chelsea-Man United game, my last piece of modern media bullshit before I hit my poet’s paradise.
10 / 1 / 09