Friday, July 17, 2009

The Nilgiris.

I have always loved the Nilgiris. As a child, it was the wooded mountains, the smell of eucalyptus as we climbed and then the chilly weather that fascinated me. It used to trigger off my childhood imagination which identified this place, so different from my Kerala, with places that I read about in the fairy tales. It was like an imaginary world come true.

I have never lost that fascination for Ooty and Coonoor. And in the last week that I spent in Coonoor, I had the same stirrings in my heart that thrilled me in my childhood days.

What is it that fascinates me about this place, I asked myself.

The incredible scenic beauty, I guess. As my brother and I drove through the Coonoor Kotagiri route, I looked out of the window of the car, thrilled by the sheer beauty of blue tinged mountains upon mountains, playing hide and seek behind the clouds and mist. The slopes were either heavily wooded or covered with tea plantation. Oh! It was simply beautiful and the feelings it evoked transported me to times and places I have visited only in the books. Was Camelot like this, I wondered. As a child so full of the stories of the Knights of the Round Table, I was convinced that King Arthur’s magnificent capital was somewhere in those distant blue hills which kept popping up thru the clouds. This time too, I couldn’t get Camelot out of my head. Silly and stupidly romantic, you might say. But the fact remains that Nilgiris makes me both silly and romantic.

I love the remoteness of the place. It seems to be so far from the busy world I live in – and so different. Wrapped up in warm clothes, the people too look so different. Move away from the crowded little town of Coonoor, and you are among the most incredibly beautiful hills. And the lovely chilly weather adds to the ambiance.

I visited Rev. Father Patrick who was the parish priest in a tiny area where the church going people consisted of factory workers. Wearing a sweater, muffler and a cap, he came out of his little house to welcome us. WE had some tea and biscuits with him while he spoke of his God and his parishioners. The gentle soul reminded me of Chaucer’s Poor Parson. He then took us to the church which stood in the adjacent compound in the midst of a garden full of flowers. My God! Everything straight out of the fairy tales!

The growth of the little town made me feel sad. As I stood outside the cottage on Quail Hill where I stayed and looked at the medley of buildings and the shanty shacks on the hills across mine, I wondered where the town planners were when this virgin landscape was disfigured by structures which were ugly as they did not fit into the profile of the Nilgiris.

God has made this world so beautiful, I thought as I visited two old people who lived in a cottage in a 10 acre land through which bisons walked around as though they owned the place. Real estate agents are overactive here making transactions for city dwellers who are pouncing on this paradise to gobble up the land to build hotels and guest houses to attract tourists – or small houses into which they can steal away from the hustle and bustle of life.

How long will it be before this lovely place is transformed into a crowded city, its trees cut down, its slopes covered with ugly buildings, and the tea estates vanish to give way to small holdings that house monstrous pieces of architecture that distort the very character of the hilly Nilgiris?


  1. Ooty is where my heart is. I bought myself a place there as I go there often, like 20 times a year. Ooty getting urbanized may not happen as people who bought holiday homes realised that it is difficult to maintain homes in Ooty unless you live there year round or for a reasonable period of time. The place being cleared for agriculture is the biggest threat!

  2. Nilgiris...i find the name itself very beautiful.....I have been to the Nilgiris several times...used to be a regular stop during the tours from school...and then from college...and finally part of regular sojourns from mysore when i used to work there...every time i have seen the rot the time we did the tours from mysore, we started sticking to places on the way rather than the tourist hot spots....I have very fond memories of Ooty trips....and the train ride too...btw the mouch in my profile picture was bought in once such trip to the hill station..;-)

  3. true... true... may be the only solution i see, (usually done in developed countries), is to have such areas taken and protected by the government. In our country when the govt itself is the "kallam in the kappal", we are left with little choice,,

  4. I would imagine that it is a hard proposition to convert Ooty into a crowded city. Simla is a similar example in Northern India, and in the 6 months of Summer, it was the capital of India all throughout British India. Even after all that, Simla cannot be called a crowded city.


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