Ooty IV

I went to Ooty for the first time as a student. I brought back two very sharp memories, or images, which have come back to me repeatedly:

1. We stayed at the Anandagiri YWCA. It was autumn, so the weather was much cooler than it is now. I wrote, “I am sitting in bed with my ferenand knee socks, with four blankets on the bed. In the morning a servant brings a pot of tea in a cozy on a tray, with warm milk and hot water in the cup to warm it. Shortly thereafter the bucket of hot water is brought to the bathroom. Some time after the bath we go out to the terrace for breakfast -- it's warm in the sun -- and eat porridge, egg, toast with real marmalade, and coffee (bliss after six months of nothing but idli-dosai-chutney).” Here’s the memory:
I'm sitting at the wooden writing table in my cold room, by the window outside of which I can see a hillside with fir trees at its base, then terraced vegetable gardens, then some stucco houses with red tiled roofs, then a steeply slanted green field with a red horse grazing, finally more houses and a strip of cloudy sky. It is quite close, this hill, and the fir trees are so tall that they go from the bottom of the window to the top, cutting across garden, field, houses, sky. The picture seemed quite still and flat a moment ago, but now the horse has been joined by another, both switch their tails as they graze, a man walks in a diagonal line up the hill, a bird flies across the top of the picture, I hear caws and twitters, and the sound of a car in the distance.

2. We took a bus to Kottagiri, a very small town slightly lower in altitude than Ooty. I wrote: “The road was full of hairpin turns and brief flashing views of valleys, all covered, from top to bottom, with terraced fields. The bus was full of the local people -- so silent! The men with their heads wrapped in scarves, the women often in what looked like a short sleeved blouse and two dhotis -- one wrapped around like a skirt but covering the breasts and tied with two wool sashes, one at the waist and one under the breasts -- the other dhoti being wrapped tightly at the head and then draped over the upper body -- the whole being covered with a wool shawl. The jewelry looked more "primitive" too -- big round discs in the nose, etc. The bus dropped these people off here and there, in the middle of nothing but fields and a cottage or two.” Here’s the memory:
Kottagiri, a very small town, steep streets surrounded by fields and tea gardens. The sun warm on our faces. We set off on a path which wound down past tiny shops, then houses, then cultivated fields, then tea gardens -- and seemed as if it would continue so forever -- down, down, down, past one lovely view after another. The path was covered with green grass, a stream ran beside it. Tea gardens really look like gardens, the tea plants are like box hedges dotted over the slopes with trees planted at regular intervals. I had such a desire to keep going forever, but time was getting on, so we sat on the grassy path beside a tiny waterfall and bathed in the sun. I wanted never to leave.

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