the Western Ghats in their bad hair days

Kadumane Tea Estate in January

Kadumane Tea Estate in January


I went again to Kadumane Estate Saturday this week, and went up to the high peak to see the mountains of the Western Ghats that surround it. The green I saw during the monsoons two years ago is gone on a good number of these low mountains, and in place of green, sandy dry lemon-grass stand straight out, giving the impression that the mountains have been subjected to a military haircut. In the crotches where the mountains fold unto themselves, and where the mountains nestle into one another, there green persists—like pubes on the human. Now at home, with that image not leaving my mind, I am wondering if man is shaping nature in the manner in which nature shaped him, and I am telling myself—rubbish!

I was with colleagues—first time visitors in Kadumane—for whom I had painted a terrific sight the night before, of the view from the high point, and I had told them about champion trekkers who have perished in the jungles that cover the ghats. While I withered in embarrassment in the morning, before great size shorn of beauty, my companions began to describe the similars they have seen that are better. One has been in a twelve-kilometer drive through Mont Blanc, while another has stood on a high precipice and bent over the sheer drop somewhere near Ooty. I was silent, not wishing to make further descriptions, not sharing my realization that the glory of these ghats is during the monsoons. In these cool dry months, under a bright sun, the ghats should go through the part of their cycle that holds no allure for the eyes of man, and afterward, they should endure the harsh part that will come in summer, when, even as they swelter they wait to be created anew by the monsoons.

But the gift of time that these environs give, that blessing is never denied, and down in the valley which is still a dazzling green in man's capable hands, there among the perennial tea, I wandered without aim and arrived where children were playing in a yard. A boy and a girl came over and the girl asked me to take a picture of the boy and the boy recoiled and said no, but she insisted, all in Tamil, which language I don't have, so when I raised my camera and urged them in their language to laugh a little, even the boy, who'd been so grim, couldn't help laughing at me and my Tamil. When I had finished, the girl was still laughing, but the boy had gone back into himself.

After I left them, I thought maybe I could've tried Kannada, maybe they had Kannada, and I could have gone a little into their world. I envied Rasheed who came to my mind, and who can enter anyone's mind, any home, in any community, and find humor there, and if he should encounter tragedy, Rasheed knows to tease humor out of the core of suffering. I feel sorry for those who love reading but do not know Kannada, because they cannot enjoy Rasheed's account of life in Malnad, which is the home of Kadumane, and Rasheed's home, and also the home of all Indian coffee.

By the school at Kadumane Estate

By the school at Kadumane Estate


Read also: A Giant Theater: from my last visit there.