This is one of the few diary entries I wrote on the batch trip. This simple night walk in Ooty will always remain with me as one of the fondest memories of the batch trip.
Walking on the hill streets in the night is like, in many ways, reading a book. Everything comes to you in black and white, and it’s left up to you to fill in the colours.
It is a reader’s delight, though. As you wonder off into the night to scale the streets of upper Ooty, the Enid Blyton novels savored in the long gone years of childhood come alive in front of your eyes. The British architecture gels so well with the natural beauty of the hills that after a point it becomes difficult to tell one from the other.
The road snakes through the hills. On one side, the sloping hills end in a grey stone wall, and on the other, the valley is protected from the road by an ivy covered wire railing which looks as old as the British rule itself. On both sides of the road stand oak, deodar and chir trees. Stalwart, yet humble sentries, tilting a bit on the top to meet each other over the narrow street, as if forming a canopy to welcome you to their home.
Walking away into these upper streets is like delving deeper and deeper into your Enid Blyton. The lights from the valley keep peeping in every now and then from behind the ivy and deodar curtain, carry with them the British style sloping roof houses and white churches located down there. Narrow streets, little more than metaled footpaths actually, occasionally digress from the main road to end in gates marking the entrance to some age-old colonial property. Attempting to follow them, one ends up encountering address plates which say something like Kel Marsh, Haydock House, Colson Street, making one wonder if one really was in India, and not in some British rural idyll. Not infrequently, these properties, to mark their entrance bear two pillars surmounted by entrance lights, and nothing more. The ways of the world, it seems, will still take a while to catch up with this place.
It’s 3 o’clok in the night, and the next action packed day starts at 6. Inhaling the perfume the earth has prepared after the evening’s rain, you start walking back to the lodge. Crickets and warts are having a ball in the surrounding woods. Down in the valley town, a few dogs are barking. An occasional truck passes by on the highway a few kilometers further ahead.
You keep walking, and looking at the trees, the ivy, the hills and the barely visible sky, you try to figure out what color they would look under the sun, from the different shades of grey they give off under the half moon. Walking down the same street you walked up five minutes ago can be lonely, and to pass time, you think of adding some more music to this black and white movie unfolding before you. You play the music in your mind. And then you break into the tune.
But as soon as you listen to the sound of your own voice, for the first time in all these years you are disappointed. Because you realize that unfolding before you is one movie which has been provided enough music by nature itself, and can do without further human intervention. Having committed the cardinal sin of breaking the stillness of the night, but having taken your lesson nevertheless, you proceed towards your lodge.
Half an hour later, as you snuggle inside your sleeping bag, you realize that things are somehow not the same. The some part of this precolonial night time Ooty has followed you home, to probably stay with you forever.