Coonoor I

Overheard on the plane: "You have to look at the details, and only then you understand what life is. The basic principal, like, goes for a toss."

Coimbatore: We stepped out of the plane into light sprinkles of rain - I'd forgotten that expression: "It's sprinkling." Grey clouds, breeze. Hills rose in the distance, behind coconut groves.

A crucifix was wrapped around the car's rear-view mirror. On the bumpy stretches the wooden beads clacked slightly against the glass, as if raindrops were spattering on the windshield.

1:55 p.m., Mettupalayam; 2:10, "GHAT SECTION BEGINS" - a series of hairpin curves heading up into the hills; 3:00 arrival in Coonoor.

from the ghat road to Coonoor

We stayed at the Taj Garden Retreat in Coonoor. It was built in the mid-nineteenth century as a priory for the All Saints Church next door, and converted to a hotel in 1908. Bits and pieces have been added on ever since.

We had an enormous suite: a foyer big enough for a sofa and chairs; a living area with creaky wooden floors (the first wooden floors I have walked on for many years) and a fireplace; a bedroom; a smaller bedroom; a bathroom larger than the second bedroom. All of it was furnished with what looked like gleanings from someone's attic -- hill station style.

We ordered tea and sandwiches, and sat at a low table in the foyer to eat them. We kept the door open to let the cool damp air - it was drizzling lightly - inside. There was a basket of fruit on the table. I looked out the window and saw a furry brown monkey squatting on the roof of a nearby building. I said, "Look - a monkey!" Before R could even reply, if he had planned to, the monkey was inside. It was the size of a small dog. I was sitting on the floor; it was almost at my eye-level. I shouted, "No!", but it hardly glanced at me. In a flash it went to the fruit basket, grabbed a bunch of bananas, and was gone.

After dinner, a fire in the fireplace, made of "jungle wood."

In the night, the lights went out just as we were getting into bed. I thought I touched a stranger's warm leg there, and recoiled, but it was

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