Unlocking the holiday spirit
By Priyan R Naik
With the COVID-19 pandemic going on and on, we have almost forgotten what it is like to go on a holiday. Earlier, travelling to the destination was a delight in itself, the joy of getting away from it all, the pleasure of arriving, of being greeted at your destination is now forgotten as one pines for a holiday, trying to unravel which edition of the ‘Unlock’ makes it safe to travel.
Treating yourself to a holiday always has its own charm and everyone looks forward to something exciting, especially when you have spent several months cooped up at home, washing hands frequently and maintaining a social distance with all your friends and acquaintances.
Finally the precautions and the waiting get simply too much, and with the unravelling of the Lockdown you decide to simply take your car out and to drive away. Drive away where? Once your mind to get away, is made up, choosing a destination in COVID times, is a tough call indeed.
At your destination, there should be no crowds, very few people, somewhere to put memories of the pandemic on the back burner. If your destination means quiet and solitude, with the nearest neighbours over 20 Kms away, so much the better.
So you heed to a tea plantation where you can watch a river flow lazily by, where jackfruits grow and squirrels play, where you can watch tea leaves plucked and processed and black pepper and cardamom being harvested.
Since the COVID pandemic requires you to maintain a social distance , it is left to Princey and Monty , two German Shepherds to welcome you on arrival with woofs and barks as only long awaited relatives can, ears large and erect, pulled back with excitement, their domed forehead, strong jaws and black nose eagerly wanting to be petted.
Despite the pandemic, life on the tea estate seems to go on unperturbed, with the owner daily negotiating the winding paths lined with pepper vines, silver oak and teak trees, using his walking stick to negotiate very steep slopes, exclaiming loudly when you spot black woodpeckers, gray hornbills, bulbuls, gray pigeons, kingfishers and parrots , recollecting stories of past encounters with buffaloes, barking deer, wild boar, porcupines, and even bears! All this while both Princey and Monty alternately follow you or come rushing towards you ! It is very heart warming to see how much planters love their plants, treating them like children.
Throw a plant and it grows, they say while pruning an odd plant that has its leaf or stem astray, picking up the odd cigarette pack carton or gutka wrapping thrown carelessly by plantation labour who had picked tea leaves much before the pandemic had started.
There is lots of history too, the names of blocks that demarcate the tea estate is passionately done - one block is named the ‘Tapal Shinde’ block , named after a diligent postman, while another is named the ‘Lobo’ block, after a supervisor who nurtured the plantation outside his working hours! It seems to get dark very quickly when surrounded by the tea plantation and soon enough you can spot fireflies amidst the trees, the chirping of birds starts sounding different, even Princey and Monty seemed eager to get home.
As the evening hours slip by, it is time to congregate (with your masks), in the estate owner’s stone walled drawing room with its inbuilt fireplace, to partake of a hearty dinner followed by chocolate chip ice cream, while fresh firewood is continuously inserted into the fireplace to have a sizzling display of burning logs.
Princey and Monty have their medium-sized brown eyes half closed as they lounge about, least bothered about the proceedings. A holiday amidst immense tranquility, gives you the time to recharge your batteries, while the company of Princey and Monty, the ‘life goes on’ attitude of the planter, the solitude you find amongst the tea plantation, brings about a relaxed and a composed state of mind. You realise COVID-19 will not last. The good times will surely be back again!
Priyan R Naik is a columnist and a freelance journalist living in Bengaluru. He has had several op-eds and articles published in the Deccan Herald, Hindustan Times, Hindu Business Line, Times of India, Navhind Times, Daily Star of Dhaka and on on- line websites. His Twitter handle is @priyannaik