The wedding was to take place on the 21st in Kumta, a town in North-western Karnataka, 800 kms from home, a region of India where I’ve never been to. Long, unplanned, sudden, exciting and a whole bunch of other adjectives kept popping up in my mind when I thought about the trip. I asked two of my friends (who I thought would most probably join me) for company. Ramya, whose hometown, Sagara, happens to be right along the route to Kumta, was busy, but she insisted that I halt at Sagara and meet her family. Akarsh, the astronomer, was enthusiastic, and he saw the possibility of combining this trip with an observation session near Kodachadri, a peak in the Western Ghats, west of Shimoga.
We raced off to Kumta early in the morning, a distance of around 100 kms through the Western Ghats in 3 hours. We arrived just in time for the wedding, sneaked into the wedding hall and quietly took our seats. Vinay, being the bride’s brother, was quite busy. We blended into the crowd and waited for him to notice us, when he did, the reaction was priceless! “Why did you guys come here!?“, he said, not being able to control his laughter and excitement.
We got introduced to Vinay’s family. Incidentally we came to know that one of our other friends, Prateek was related to Vinay and was also present at the wedding. We witnessed the wedding and had an amazing lunch. To get rid of that after-lunch yawn, we decided to explore the surroundings a bit. Though the temperature was not very hot, the laterite soil all around us gave us a feeling of standing in the middle of a red hot pan, and spotting dry carcasses of frogs didn’t help either. The terrain was hilly with houses snuggled inside dense canopies of coconut trees.
Akarsh wasn’t in a great mood, mainly because of the cloudy skies, and he wanted to head back home. But Vinay and Prateek persuaded me to stay back for the night. So, after waving goodbye to Akarsh and the car, I became a part of the wedding family and all of us went home! The ride along the Muroor Ghat road to the home town, Kallabbe, was a little bumpy, but very scenic! When we reached Kallabbe, I was surprised by the compactness of the village. It seemed like the whole village was just a collection of around ten buildings, one of which was a school, another, a temple and another a small shop. All the others were houses and the people living in them were not just neighbours but also relatives in most of the cases! I was reminded of all the stories I had heard from my grandparents about their native villages!
Leaving the newly-wed and their family alone to do their rituals at home, Prateek’s cousin Pramod offered to take Prateek and I on a guided tour around Kallabbe. We got some cola from the shop and started walking towards a hill. Prateek had brought along some heavenly delicious raw mango pieces sprinkled with salt and chilli powder! I gobbled up an unfair share of mangoes, which I tried to compensate by plucking berries for the other two along the way. We quickly climbed onto the hill, though this was my first climb in more than two years! We sat on the black rocks on the other side of the hill taking in the view of the meanders of the river Aghanashini as it flowed west into the Arabian Sea. Also my mobile phone sprung into action taking help from the altitude (there was barely any network signal in Kallabbe). I used the opportunity to inform my parents I was safe and to update my facebook status 😛 It was getting dark, and we left for home with mixed feelings, not wanting to leave the hill but looking forward to good food! This was the first time I had dinner at someone else’s family home and with so many family members together, but never during my stay did I feel like an outsider! And of course, my broken kannada which I used to bond with the elders of the family was of great help!
The highlight of the trip, surpassing the raw mangoes, was the next morning’s breakfast! Jackfruit idly served with unprocessed liquid jaggery! I really didn’t want to leave now, but I had to be home for a family function in Chennai the next day. I got a ride from Pramod’s father on his M-80 to the nearest bus stop, Basavanakere, on State Highway 48. I boarded a bus to Sagara, and the trip was complete with another visit to Ramya’s home, this time with her presence! On the buses back to Bangalore and finally back to Chennai, all I could dream about was the jackfruit idly with liquid jaggery!