I have spent most of my life in large cities, floating amidst a sea of people and vehicles, everyone rushing to meet ever-moving targets. It was life in the wild, however, that came naturally to me; childhood recollections are of us taking off as a family, during vacations, to famous wildlife resorts across the world, from Masai Mara to Nagarhole. As I grew older, I went on adventure camps to the Himalayas and revelled in activities ranging from hiking to river rafting—some of nature’s earliest imprints on my personality. But as I approached my twenties, my priorities shifted towards academics and career planning, and I had less time to escape into nature.
After living for five years in the United Kingdom, studying film-making, I returned to India. Instead of returning to an urban home, I found myself living with my family (father, mother, aunt) in a remote village called Thadiyankudisai, 35 kilometres from the closest market in Batlagundu.
Over the last eight months, I have been living on a pepper, coffee and hill-banana estate. It has taught me that everything has a routine, dictated by nature; life cannot be fast-forwarded for immediate gratification.
The cacophony of crowds has been replaced by chattering monkeys, barking deer, herds of bison raiding the plantation, wild boar, and the chirping of various species of birds. Studying hoof prints and understanding their relative freshness as an indicator of wildlife nearby has now become a favourite pastime. A family friend is gracing me with lessons in the nuances of running a plantation. I am observing and learning the process from nursery (the womb of the plantation), to harvest, to selling to traders. I have discovered that when the coffee shrubs begin blooming in March and April, the whole land is bathed in white, as if covered in snowfall. This is also when bees swarm the property.
The Palani Hills have also revived my passion for trekking. I have explored gems such as Rat Tail Falls and the surrounding areas, with friends. The uniquely exhilarating feeling of arriving at a peak only to discover the wavy outlines of further waves of mountain ranges ahead is unparalleled.
I also rediscovered my love for mountain biking thanks to a friend on a neighbouring plantation. Riding around, we made friends in nearby villages and discovered little-known areas like Pula Velli; this pristine little waterfall is located 20 kms away from where I live. One memorable day, we cycled a total of 50 kilometres! Cycling around is very different from driving a car in the hills—you take in so much more of the surrounding forests, plantations, and villages.
On one of our cycling jaunts, we came across two adorable yet abandoned indie pups! I took them home, and after some initial drama from my shocked mother, the pups were soon part of the family. Life without Alfie and Coco is now unimaginable. Our house is like a zoo, consisting of my family, my two pups, and my parents’ cat, Sylvester.
Perhaps the only downside of this life is the absence of delivery apps with which to order and indulge in comfort or junk food. But the occasional power outages are no longer a hassle; for convenience as well as sustainability, we have shifted to utilizing solar energy. After eight months of this life, these things no longer matter.