I sit and listen while Ganapathy uncle and his father speak about their land. It seems their ancestors used to live in a vast forest area called Bheemeshwara. Pepper was the main produce and it probably reached the kings of then. The grinding stones can be found in the forests even now. But nobody lives in the deeper forests now. Those were abandoned long back. Nevertheless, Gundimane feels just as remote to the normal city dweller. When you reach here, you immediately feel that you have reached the land of trees, spices and kings.
A few decades back, a temple village called Sigandur was about 5 miles from Gundimane. People used to walk and reach the place. About 60 years back, the river Sharavathi was checked by a huge dam and the backwaters submerged large swathes of land and Sigandur suddenly became 75 Kms by road. Now, mobile phones have decreased the distance by catching signal from Sigandur’s towers. How strange is the abstract concept called distance! Talking of distance, Gundimane is about 20 kms from Jog falls.
I sit here in the balcony and try to separate out the bird songs from one another and from the sound of insects. I realize that this is an incredibly difficult task. I give up after every 5-6 minutes. Some sound like chimes, others knock on the wood. The peacock though is loud distinct and clear. This musical play happens here every day.
A short walk from the house towards the hill brings the entire stretch of Sharavathi backwaters in front of us. At one end is the dam and at the other end are the tree lined shores. The islands surrounded by the blue waters are a beautiful sight.
A few minutes after sunset, just when the sky turned dark, there was a faint glow at the top of one of the hills. First, it looked like someone lit a campfire on top of the hill. After a few seconds, it looked like a tree was burning red. Then slowly, the circular shape of the moon became visible. A stunning sight but I do not have the poetic words to describe this.
The food cooked by Ganapathy uncle’s wife is priceless. It has all the culinary history of the place and the priceless ingredients of the region embedded in it. To this, if you add the amazing love and hospitality of the hosts, you get food unlike any other in the world.
Ganapathy uncle’s father took us to the local village temple through the forest road. The priest’s wife treated my wife like she was a queen who had come down from the city. Probably it is normal for them to treat guests as Gods but we started wondering if we had travelled back in time by a few centuries. The temple’s idol being a few centuries old, the simplicity of the people and there being so few people around the place definitely gives the impression of a place lost in time.
Evening, sitting in the train, I was already planning about my next visit to this land where time stays still.