29 July 2015

How to travel with Facebook: Huffed at by elephants, screamed at by monkeys

I want to tell you the last story first: we had just returned from dinner and were using our phone torches to climb up the small hill back to our cottage. It was pitch black and in the night we heard the crickets and the rustling, and then we heard a great big crash. Instantly, we both paused. The sound had come from fairly near us, but we still couldn't see beyond our feet. "Might be monkeys," I said, giggling nervously and she said nothing, only began walking again, and this time the noise grew closer, it made a HMPHH and it was above our heads and everywhere, and then there was a trumpet, and she said in low urgent tones, "RUN!" and we turned around and ran and the next morning we saw the trample marks not quite two feet away from where we had been, so close to being killed by wild elephants, driven to our hill by dynamite on the hills above us, chasing them away from the villager's crops.
Who lives somewhere pretty I can come visit for week?

Come see me. 

Okay! What shall we do? 

Swim in the river, go for treks, eat organic vegetarian food, read. 
 
My friend teaches at a school near Kodaikanal. It's a small school student-body-wise, only 60 students, but it has acres and acres of land, and the kids are taught to work with their hands, growing their own veggies, building bridges and houses and furniture, being One with Nature. They were all away for their break, so it was just us and a handful of other teachers on campus, but up in her quarters, it was just us and two cats--one the sweetest little kitlet you ever did see.
I spent a lot of time cuddling this kitten, but I also read four, five, six, seven books, sometimes more in one afternoon. My friend fell ill and so for two days, I stayed completely housebound, but we had no food because we hadn't picked any veggies, and the cats--wild, feral cats who developed a yen for boiled eggs and milk--yowled at me for their dinner so I explored the village looking for something and only came home with milk powder which they rejected with insulted looks on their faces.
There's something amazing about eating the food you grow. The avocado and the limes were from the school garden which went into our guacamole, we made egg salad sandwiches using chives and parsley and hot red chillis picked from a bush outside the kitchen, and the same red chillis went into a potato vindaloo I cooked with red rice. We'd sit out at night, the dim solar bulb barely lighting up our silhouettes, and we'd chat about everything: Delhi which she left behind, the school she joined, books we were reading, and when we grew tired we'd go to bed at ten pm and wake up at 7.30 the next day and begin again. Perhaps it's not everyone's idea of a vacation--the slow just-being of sitting still and reading and being in a place where everything stuns you with the green and the clean air and the food you're eating and the kitten you're holding captive, so soft! And after a while, your phone runs out of charge because solar power needs a converter to produce electricity and so you get used to using your phone for about 2 hours a day if you're lucky, but mostly you just sit or walk or plan your next meal, and it's not exciting but it's good.
Maybe I'm growing old, but I need a recharge every now and then. Thanks to the internet, I've figured out I'm an extroverted introvert, and so for all the socialising I do, I need time to just plug myself in and not talk to anyone and just enjoy the silence in my head. That way, her being sick was a two day meditation for me, I only spoke when she emerged from her bedroom for tea, and then I went back to being quiet and alone and meditative.

It was only seven days that I went away after all, I realised on the plane home, but it was enough. Fully charged, the battery bar above my head maxed out. I came home ready to meet people again, ready to deal with shit, and it's been a good few weeks for me at home too--I finished writing another book, a YA one called Split, about a girl whose parents are getting divorced but also about so much more than a girl whose parents are getting divorced. I have TWO books out this year, can you believe it? Book four and book five--approximately in September and November, and I can't wait to have all of you read them and tell me what you think because it's been seven years since my first book came out, and I am able to accept compliments and criticism, and you know what? I have an open invitation to go back to the hills, and to the school whenever it all gets too much.


3 comments:

  1. Sounds lovely, the vacation. And yay for your upcoming books!

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  2. Lovely post! :) The beautiful setting of Kodaikanal and the leisurely schedule with a bit of wild elephant adventure (that thankfully did not turn ugly) sound so enticing!

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  3. Very well written...:) While i was going through the article i could find a reflection of mine especially searching for a recharging mode for mind, staying in silence with the nature for few days..getting fully recharged and back to face the our current world mess...ready to interact with people....me too is an extroverted introvert. Thanks Meenakshi :)

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