The day is here finally.We have been planning for months, for a memorable summer vacation.We have finally landed in Ooty, after a hectic 3 hour drive through the maddening seasonal traffic jam, in the Mettupalayam Ooty ghat section .Every hair pin bend presented an unguessable driver’s surprise.No police seen anywhere to regulate.I was feeling pretty tired and exhausted after the long taxing drive. ”Guys! I am hitting the sack ! Need some rest ya”I announced ,as I we reached Ooty and entered the posh Hotel ,where we have booked our room 3 months in advance .Yes,its season,you know!Nothing will be available without advance booking.Even the air you breathe needs advance booking !
At the reception there was perceptible chaos with 2 families already waiting for their turn to check in. ”Please,Sir ! Can you wait for some time”the reservation lady put up an artificial smile as she showed the waiting lounge to me and my gang.Two little children playing around there ,were seen to be yelling and shouting as they enjoyed the spacious lounge,sporting a cute little acquarium.I was getting a little impatient as the check-in was taking unduly long time.Thought a tea and snacks would refresh me a little.As I peeped into the glass doored restaurant there ,carrying a fancy French name,I found a huge crowd of people waiting to be served .The waiters were flying around but every one seemed unhappy with the speed of service given.No one gave me any attention as I was shouting ‘Waiter !’So busy was he,he wouldn’t even turn back and ask me to wait !I knew his response was not purposeful but due to the multiple demands placed by so many sitting task-masters simultaneously.’Oh.this is draining me more ‘ I thought as I returned to the Reception.
Atlast our check-in over but my thirst for a hot tea not yet over.I hit the sack ,reached for ‘Room Service’ number ,but no one would pick up.Not that the Hotel was bad but the ‘season’ seemed to be culprit !Crowds every where ,be it a park,or ice cream joint,boat ride or botanical garden or an urgent piss at the rest room!People ready to stampede you every where to heaven! People,people every where ! As we thought of taking a stroll near a beautiful paved walk,we found no place to park our car.
We spotted an abandoned sort of house near by and parked our car in front of the locked gate.When we returned to our parked car after our walk,we found both our rear tyres flat !Some one had pulled off the air ,probably for our ‘offence’ of parking in front of the gate! We got into distress mode not knowing what to do.Some passers by suggested that one of us can go to a particular place by auto and fetch a car mechanic.Idea was fine but all autos plying were full.It was getting darker and chill as well.Finally we could get an auto who agreed to help for hefty amount.By the time the flat tyres were changed,it was 9 p.m. and we rushed for our dinner ! Our vacation in the end turned out to be ‘memorable’ one though for different reasons !Parking problem,one way traffic regulation and all such sort of made it ‘memorable’!I returned home more exhausted after the vacation than refreshed !Could I have avoided all these problems while vacationing ?I thought for a while.
There is a way out!
Eureka ! There is always an easy way out ! How?
The Hindus in India get married only on identified auspicious days in a year.These days are called ‘Muhurtham’ days and are at the most 70 days only in a year.It is estimated that 10 million weddings take place in India per year.The total number of towns and cities in India are around 8000.Assuming that there are an average of 5 wedding halls per town ,the total capacity for conducting marriages per day will be only 5×8000=40000 maximum.Since only 70 days are auspicious days,the total annual capacity for conducting marriages will be just 70×40000=2800000 ie 2.8 million only.The balance 7.2 million marriages struggle to find halls on the appointed days ,though the halls are available free for the rest 295 days in a year !During the 70 auspicious days there is bound to be utter chaos in every thing ,from traffic conditions to availability of any service.One has to book the wedding halls 6 months in advance to make sure of the availability.Only 1 out of every 4 demanding ,can manage to get a hall.
To avert this problem of rush etc, the clever Brahmins of Tamil Nadu devised an ingenious plan.Using their priestly authority,they declared that the Tamil month of ‘Aadi’ is unfit for marriages of non-Brahmins !This single stroke of belief freed all available wedding infrastructure to the free use of Brahmins alone.So all the wedding halls,services etc. in the town are all available free to Brahmins only ,during the month of ‘Aadi’!The entire town and services are theirs,with no one competing !It hit to me ,’why not I use the same idea for hassle free vacation?’
Welcome to the world of ‘off-season’ vacations !
Imagine an entire resort,a town,a lake,lane or a walk-way made available ,all for yourself and your family, at a dirt cheap price !Yes,that’s what it could turn out to be ,if you opt for ‘off-season’ tourism!For our Coral (35th)Wedding anniversary ,we decided to give it a try.As I explored the offers and deals available in the net,I hit upon some attractive offers that one would not like to refuse.We chose a Hill Resort ,7 km off Kotagiri in Nilgiris at Rs 3100/- a day ,otherwise costing Rs 4000/-.We drove from Coimbatore in a Skoda Fabia through Annur road , stopping here and there for refreshment and relaxing.
The traffic was noticeably thin,with a few trucks carrying vegetables occasionally booming by.On our way we met a woman managing a petty shop in the highway all alone.We stopped by ,said’hello’and struck a conversation with her.We also gave her some used clothes we were carrying in our dickey for her family along with some money.’ Let our anniversary be a blessing for some’we thought. .She was overwhelmed by our gesture.After driving up around 30 km in the ghat section,we stopped for a tea and hot chilli bajji in a way side shop .By the time we reached Aravenu ,it was around 1.00 pm ,right time for lunch.We took a diversion on the right and rode through a narrow village road enough for a car and may be a bike in the side.The moment you spot a vehicle coming in the opposite direction ,look out for a siding and wait till it passes.A truck carrying baby carrots crossed us ,as we noticed some monkeys in the truck pulling out carrots and enjoying.We negotiated a sharp upward slope carefully and reached our resort.
Tucked inside a sleepy Badaga village, with occasional herds of bisons and deers roaming in the aisles of the rows of tea plantations,the resort had no one except us that day ! We got 100% of every thing the resort could offer.The care-taker family residing there,prepared every food item ,as per our taste.As we look out from the exclusive balcony of our villa, we found an ethereal silence prevailing occasionally disturbed by the little sparrows chirping around.Darting from branch to branch ,tiny birds smaller than sparrows,locally called ‘Thean chittu’ stole all our attention.A sense of owning the entire place filled us,as we ventured to explore the village armed with our Nikon handy camera.”Have you come to the guest house?’ a group of charming women tea-pluckers ,with baskets on their back enquired us.We stopped and had a chat with them for some time.We were surprised to see them more happy and contented with Rs 180/- per day,than the Forbes star Mukesh Ambani earning Rs 5,94,720/- per day.
Kotagiri is known for the verdant tea plantations.So we did not want to miss the aromatic tea served in our resort .The beautiful Catharine falls at Coonoor is around 14 km from Kotagiri but we would not like to miss our lazying around to visit the falls.A day passed off as an hour ,we enjoying every minute.With the weather hovering around pleasant 23 Deg C,the sleep was cozy and pleasant.The speciality of Nilgiris is the notable absence of aerial attacks from mosquitoes.The mosquitoes there seem to be always on vacation ,thus allowing us to enjoy our vacation peacefully.The next morning as soon as we woke up ,we went to the balcony and had fresh whiff of chill mountain air ,sipping freshly brewed Kotagiri tea.We had a nice breakfast of iddli,pongal and vadai prepared with love and care by the care-taker family.
Our return journey was through picturesque Coonoor ,down to Mettupalayam .We stopped a while near little Laws Falls and at Burliar for a cup of tea.As we returned home after 3 hour drive,all that we carried was pleasant thoughts of our stay in Kotagiri,the easy journey and delicious food! We ,sure were more refreshed than when we started,thanks to off-season tourism!
By Sundar A.S.