Being a solo female traveller has more advantages than risk in South India. I drove alone for five hours, lived my own honeymoon, went to every romantic spot, got upgraded to a honeymoon suite and fell in love with me all over again. I can really marry me again after this trip.
It all started with one bus journey that eventually turned into a car ride, in-between I faced a major mental conflict whether to make Chennai my pit-stop or Bangalore as I was in Coimbatore at that decision-taking moment. Ultimately, I decided to go to Mysore and then reach Bandipur from there, but then the absent minded laid back writer got lost only to find myself in Kerala. Deciding to sit in the lap of luxury, I booked a car to take me to a small hill station called Munnar in the Western Ghats.
The darkness is not as mysterious as the North; silence here is key to privacy, and the smiles are courteous and concerned. The eyes adjust to becoming small and lower with shyness instead of lustfulness. You’re not beta or didi, you’re just madam and your wish is their command. The greenery is either patterned and planned tea estates or the irregular shrubs and trees. Unlike the north, they don’t whisper to you, the trees have their own family, and they converse among themselves as you pass . This story is not an itinerary or a travel guide it’s a story that pleads you to save money, build courage and just leave. Just leave without thinking too much and definitely avoid over planning. There are a gazillion places to visit in the south, a few being Coorg, Bandipur, Munnar, etc. The Back water is just like desi Venice. The hill stations and beaches are the perfect ingredients of the dream holiday we imagine.
However, there is nothing called a perfect trip. I had no clothes, leave alone warm clothes or too much enthusiasm to splurge. But it was perfect in every way simply because I was myself and no two people like to vacation exactly in the same way. Already off my mind since a while, I wanted to run away, to write and to stay quiet. Most importantly, I wanted to be left alone and that’s why I won’t whine about Airtel being the usual pain in the… But after returning in one piece and without a hole in the pocket I told my mother that now I have proved I don’t require a companion in my life, to which she said she’s not allowing me to go anywhere now. This trip did not necessarily start with fast track permission from the perfect epitome of Indian parents of a young (attractive) unmarried girl. But I forced the blessings out of them and left.
From strolling in the sandalwood forests, riding elephants, perched on the tip of the cliché echo point and breath-taking boat ride, I did everything in three days and managed daily blog updates.
I also stocked my hotel fridge with Kingfisher Ultra and fresh apples to keep me going while writing. Every morning I would set sail at 7 am after a moderately full breakfast of dosa with South Indian filter coffee. I would then fill my bag with books and leave depending on local directions and guidance. If I was in the mood to read I would make my station at the edge of the echo point, bundle up my shawl and read till the end of the book. But if I wanted to write, I would lose myself in the forest and allow my intuition to find me a clean and cosy spot. How I missed silence. How I missed taking in full gasps of breath right from the stomach. It drizzled every 45 minutes, and rain gazing is also one of my favourite pass times, especially when your path is lined with purple bell flowers.
I had just come out of my hot, hard core Ayurveda oil massage with hot oil dripping over my head slowly relieving off a 100 kilos magically. Followed a long foam tub bath I had ordered a beer and fish fry to my room and then remembered my Malaysian friend I had met during my visit to the tea estate. She was travelling alone too, the only difference was she had started her journey with somebody but due to personal differences he went on to Kovalam instead. I invited her over and we first sat in the garden munching on the fish, but as soon as we ordered another round of fried snacks it started drizzling and we rushed to my villa. She was amazed to see the miniature suitcase half open revealing a truck load of books. She just laughed and picked up one. I asked her if she liked reading and she said “If I ever read anything, it will only be your articles.” Touched and flushed I pulled out one thin book and gave it to her. I insisted she would like it and in return she gave me her visiting card and told me to visit her in Dubai. “But I thought you were from Malaysia,” I looked puzzled. She said “No, I’m coming from Malaysia, but I live in Dubai and you must visit my club, it’s one of the most famous night clubs in the world.” When I told her I had already been there two years ago, we both almost yelled with excitement. I also complained it was a pain to get myself on the guest list and she promised I wouldn’t have to complain again.
Too much human interaction tires me, so I went for an oil massage where as I lay, hot oil dripped on my forehead slowly, releasing all my exhaustion and clouded thoughts. Followed my favourite reading spot. The empty temple-like space inside a gigantic empty space surrounded forests.
My journey back started early morning and it seemed as if it had been drizzling all night. The rough roads were washed and shining and the complimentary breakfast included fresh hot pakodas and masala tea. When I was checking out the manager and the bell boys looked at me with sadness, I thanked them profusely for upgrading me and they handed me a wrapped sandwich for the ride. I requested them to include it in the check-out bill but they didn’t. My adorable Kali charan (couldn’t pronounce my driver’s name properly) was as usual ready before time with a distinctive smile. I asked him if he had had breakfast but he said he doesn’t want to make me late. I gave him my sandwich and told him to stop whenever he wanted to. I reached Coimbatore three hours earlier and decided to go back to my old hotel for a quick swim and a parlour session to look like the blogger before the start of the unplanned trip. I reached Chennai feeling brave, liberated, at peace and happier with myself than ever.