Kodaikanal, a hill station in south India, is my happy place. That sweet spot halfway between the gutter and the stars. Her songbirds, smiling faces, street food and silhouettes of trees have filled me with warmth.
She births unsupervised fires in me. Whenever I climb up her turquoise thighs, she holds me in a vice-like grip. She cradles me until I submit to her providence and charm.
Kodaikanal found me when I was lost and without a hill to wander upon. I ended up pressing my nose against her grassy knolls, inhaling the soy-milk clouds drifting down her neckline. Now, we tear apart truths and turn them into poems.
I used to think that life only had two doors open for me, at any given point. I could either learn how to grin and bear through it. Or I could smile and walk away from it.
I just had to pick one and barge through its wooden frame.
Behind door no. 1 breathed the fire of compromise and success. Behind door no. 2 rested, comfortably numb, integrity and failure. It was like being asked to choose between disappointment and sadness.
After visiting Kodaikanal fortnightly for close to six months, I started to notice that there was another door. A large and awkwardly bright yellow one without padlocks. The first time I saw it, I inched forward while making sure that nobody else was around.
I looked through the keyhole.
There seemed to an uphill road ahead, flanked by tall trees on either side. It seemed to lead to a shola forest – bathed in turquoise, watched over by misty mountaintops.
It was all the information I needed to take a decision. And so, I kicked down door no. 3.
Since then, life hasn’t felt daunting. As tough as certain things may continue to be, I want to fight and remain on this side because of how much it all means to me.
I didn’t expect a bed of roses. I am happy that I don’t have to walk on a plank of nails to reach nowhere.
I look forward to newer journeys. I know that there will be tea shops along the way in which love is served to me in little paper cups. There will be fruiting trees that bear not wisdom, but ecstasies. Plenty of birds. In different shapes, sizes and colors. And I will sing along with each one.
Eventually, I will reach a bed of sand, a pine forest or the razor’s edge of a cliff, where I can lay down and disappear into the night forever. The wind may not hum pleasing melodies in my memory. The mountaintops may not remember my name. But while alive, I would have known that I was truly alive.
And no matter how many times I, inconsolably, leave Kodaikanal – a part of me always remains with her when i return home.
She tickles my toes,
tonguing my heartbeat
to the trickling of pine cones
down her peaks.
She forms a puddle
as we exchange kisses
like separated lovers do
when their knees go weak.
She’s a meadow, a valley;
a gathering of hills.
She is the story of my life
when time stood perfectly still.
(Photographs – Kodaikanal)