Can a travel writer appreciate a place objectively? Come, let us see.
The room sucks!
One can hardly spit through the window without hurting the dull green tea buds down below. I paid 3000/- for a room in Gruenberg resort in Chithirapuram. And see what I got! Spacious I admit. But…
What do you call a room which has more windows than walls for its borders?
The whole building – you must see it – lean and tall like a clock-tower, is as annoying as a pimple grown overnight on the face for a teenager. It hurts the very earth where it stands. Add to that the drudgery of the engulfing green. It’s like…mmm…green carpet, no no no, green sea, no…green saree… NO. …ehm…how could I describe!
There is this fucking tea estate all around the building where I sit.
Ah, despair. Even the expanse of tea does not continue uninhibited. Grimy electric posts and trees cut in wherever the monotony of the colour grows too much a pain in its own ass. Fuck the green earth. Fuck the grey sky. Fuck the sun which, like a filthy beggar lays bare its festering wound in the west, spraying its yellow pus into my transparent room. From the dull mountains at the distance, icy and mannerless buffets of wind come uninvited; they cut through this wall-less room and my body, cut through my soul and scramble it, cut through my thoughts and scatter them.
Damn me! I am trapped in the middle of a tea estate with my family. Or is it that I am trapped in a family in the middle of a tea estate?
Can’t say in this mood.
“You don’t have anything to say, Manu chetta? We have come all the way from Trivandrum and now your daughter tells me she wants to remain in the room!”
I take my eyes off the book I have been holding before me for long. Listening to the heated arguments between the mother and the daughter I haven’t read a single word till now. Poor woman, I see my wife almost in tears. She has worked a lot behind this journey; packing and unpacking and repacking our clothes and bags for a whole week. And now she is despair incarnate. I catch my daughter in one of her obstinate selves.
I draw a long breath, muster enough courage and turn towards that frozen volcano lying on the bed, tapping her fingers rhythmically on the headstand to some distant music only she could hear.
The air hangs heavily inside the gloomy room.
Ammu crosses her legs and buries her head deeper into her book, her fingers tapping more impatiently on the headstand, a corner of her mouth curves in half-contempt.
I take another long breath and confront my daughter who had been my playmate until recently. “Mole, why shouldn’t we take a stroll outside? It’s evening. Let’s explore the place. After all, your mother deserves a break after such tedious work in our home, don’t you think so?” A muffled silence now fills the room. She raises her eyes finally and says in a clinical tone.
“Acha, I explained it to my mother. To each, his own journey. That’s what I believe. I am enjoying this trip my own way. I want to read. You people can take a stroll if you like to.”
Spotless argument, I nod like a robot; I curse the greenery around for my embarrassing withdrawal from the war front. The room sucks! The earth sucks! The sky sucks! So fast and so shamefully I retreated. Without a reply. Who said defeated fathers turn back to mothers with a stupid smile?
“How can you say that! What is the point in enjoying if you are not with us? We are a family,” here goes my wife, blowing out a fuse.
You can’t blame them when infuriated mothers flip out a laundry list of their thankless services at times, especially when they are spurned. Here she talks of how she used to iron our daughter’s uniform when she was a little child, of how she bathed her, of how she dressed her up and prepared her breakfast for school (What was her bloody husband doing then!), of how much she panicked when her daughter fell and got her knee bruised when she was only three, of how she fed her, of how she used to carry her around as a baby for a whole day without showing any signs of tiredness, of how her daughter used to miss her whenever she went home, of how she trotted obediently behind her mother, of how she…
Sorry dear. We don’t have even any walls listening in this damned room. Ammu has long tuned herself out of the annoying frequency.
Meanwhile a man in white uniform knocks at the door with a plate of chicken 65 and roti, that we have ordered. The arguments stop midway. “What is this?” I bark after tearing a bit of flesh and feeling it in between my fingers. “It sucks! Why is it so hard? It tastes like timber.” The bearer retires to the kitchen sullenly. A trail of despair he has picked up from our room follows him closely.
“Don’t you have anything to say on this, Manu chetta?”
“About Chicken 65?”
“No, about your daughter’s attitude.”
“Oh, that,” I take a long breath, put my book away and beckon my wife to my side.
“Leave it,” I whisper, holding her wet eyes with mine. “You must ask my amma how difficult I was at Ammu’s age. I hated my parents like anything for their hopes, expectations, advices and tenderness they lavished on me. But you are lucky. Haven’t you noticed how sweet and loving your daughter is when we don’t address her wayward moods? She’s not even a quarter of what her father was in his days. Dear, this is the time when her character takes its final shape. It’s just like a new tooth cutting in. She could be suffering a lot inside trying to find a grip or a handle in the darkness. Be with her, but give her space to grow. Listen to her, but give her freedom to think her thoughts. Parents must also grow along with their children.”
*** **** **** **** *****
Peals of laughter wake me up next morning.
I lie on the cozy bed without a stir. I lie there for almost half an hour with a smile pressed down to the soft pillow relishing the music of my wife joyfully chatting with Ammu. Just don’t stop, but play on, I plead in half-wakefulness. The weather won’t hold for long I know, still I cherish the present moment. I enjoy the summer rain, however patchy it comes.
Then I slowly stretch my limbs, rise, prop myself up on my elbows and smile to them with my eyes still closed.
I survey the landscape around. How sweet! Roll on to my right there is green; roll on to my left there is green; beds of velvet tea leaves wait below the windows to hold me only if I let myself go. I find myself like a feather blissfully abandoned on the crest of a green wave.
With every breeze laden with dew and pollen I quiver in ecstasy. I clutch myself on to the warm handle of a coffee cup.
And what a room!
In my sixteen years of travel I have never spent a night in such a splendid place. A television is mounted against the only wall which is black. There are Bluetooth speakers ready to sponge up music from my mobile phone. Far below the window I see a fluffy patch of morning mist, hanging in limbo over the tea leaves, too heavy to soar up, too light for a smooth touch down. The morning sun hasn’t yet laid its orange spread on the green, as the purple mountains still hold their precious jewel in their hope chest.
“What do you want for breakfast sir?” The bearer comes.
“How about a few chappathi and chicken 65 ?” I ask looking away. “It was delicious.”
Gruenberg is a posh resort in Chithirapuram on the way to Munnar. You have to drive 10 kilometers from there to reach the popular tourist destination. You can contact the manager (9446 225533) or visit the website http://www.gruenbergmunnar.com/ to get further details.
Teenage mood swings are infectious! 😛
Yes. You know better
Wow! It was a good read. I enjoyed every bit of the story. The way you mirrored the intricacies of teenage is truly appealing. I too have a teenage boy. So I could empathize the feelings. 🙂
We must build a team – Parents of teenagers Anonymous
Manu, I too had, and still am going through such experiences with my 2 daughters. mums are always like that. Anyway very good presentation, and the shift of mood and language… wah!
Thank you teacher. It is indeed a tough phase for parents. I thought it was over, when I got through it. This is now my second teenage.
I was also like this and still I am, though i passed teenage….. really beautiful sir…. 🙂
🙂 Thank you Baishi. At least you realize it, Baishi.
Exactly what I am going through, an almost teenage son. And as usual, reminded of something that I read recently, “our kids turn teenagers, along with that our husbands revert to their teenage as well”