Coonoor V

The Nilgiri Mountain Railway, familiarly known as the toy train, travels from Mettupalayam on the plains up to Ooty - a four-hour journey - and back every day. There are several websites with pictures and information about this train, which has just been declared a UNESCO world heritage site - here and here and here and here. One day we picked up the train at Coonoor and rode Ooty, a one-hour trip. My notes aren't very interesting, and my photographs are blurry. It was lovely, though - slow enough so that cows could saunter across the track in front of us without fear -- about 10 kph. A couple of tunnels, many wonderful views. A hoopoe flew across in a flash of black / brown / white.

We had lunch at the Savoy, in Ooty. I browsed through an old book - Ootacamund: A History - while we waited for lunch. I read about the second western 'discovery' of Ooty - the first, brief encounter, was in 1602, but this was the one that led to British settlements in the Nilgiris: in 1818, two English civilians reached Ooty - they might have been pursuing "a poligar who had been misconducting himself... they found the man they were in search of, in a hut. He was exceedingly polite in offering refreshments to the gentlemen, and pretending to go for some milk, took the opportunity of making good his retreat." In pursuing him they discovered the excellent climate, etc.

colonial kitsch: tripods of lances (for pig-sticking?)
hung with pith helmets

After lunch we went to look at a house that was for sale. We have a recurring fantasy about buying a second house here, or even resettling in the hills somewhere - but we haven't been sure enough to go through with it. The house was up a steep driveway - most of the property was steeply sloped and forested. It was charming on the outside; but we peered through the windows and found it very old-fashioned, rudimentary. There was an outbuilding for the caretaker and his family, a garage and, slightly up a hill, a small cottage.

The caretaker's wife, Mageshwari, showed us around. She was tiny, barefooted, slim, with a beautiful face, a sweet smile, very polite - we felt that we could almost buy the house in order to have her work for us. In the end we felt that the house would have to be gutted and modernised, and it seemed too big a project for us to take on. But the next day I felt a little guilty - austerity is good? the house looked cold because it was empty? Mageshwari's delicate bare feet, while I shivered in my sweater.

Morning: Crows squabble on and nibble the grass, a monkey steals a sugar packet from someone's room.

At the gate, the watchman chats with a sweeper in sari and brown sweater. She laughs.

A woman walks by with two bounding dogs.

A goods carrier grinds down the road.

Cloudy, with a very light drizzle.

I've made this guy look cheerful, when actually he's pensive and moth-eaten and sad.

Lunch: a child bangs his spoon on a table. The parents are unconcerned. Finally a waiter goes over and tells the child, "Don't! If you do that, monkeys will come."

This is a cubist goat, because I kept sketching it, even as it moved

The goats like to stroll across the road just as a truck comes barrelling down it, causing the truck to come to a halt. The woman who appears to be the goatherd says to them "Where are you going?" but idly, as if it is a casual conversation.

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