As a pleasant surprise, all of us are actually ready to roll out at 7.30 in the morning. We even have finished our breakfast too. We leave the resort at 7.45 sharp. The kids are particularly most enthusiastic, but that is understandable because our first halt is going to be the elephant camp near 'Dubare' town.
If one wants to exit 'Medikeri' city, he has to invariably cross the 'General Cariappa square.” A life size statue of this legendary general can be seen in this square. General Cariappa was the first Indian chief of army staff of independent India and had taken his charge in 1949. There is yet another square, which one needs to cross, before approaching this particular square. I find a life size statue of someone unknown, erected in this square too. I find that the statue is fully covered up, perhaps waiting for the inauguration by some political big wig. My guess is that the this statue is of another general of Indian army, General Thimayya, who was chief of staff from 1957 and had resigned in 1959 because of the differences with V.K.Krishna menon, then minister of defence. The resignation was not accepted first, but he had eventually retired, before India-China war of 1961. 'Medikeri' people are extremely proud of the fact, that their small town has given tow distinguished generals to India's armed forces. I think that this should not be much of the surprise really to any one because indigenous people from this area, known as 'Kodagu' were always known as a martial community and many youth from here prefer to join armed forces even today.
We have crossed once again the hilly part of Coorg-Mysore road with its continuous ups and downs and are back to leveled road near 'Kushalnagar.' Here we branch off on a small feeder kind of road, which is so narrow that if we see a vehicle approaching from the front, one of the vehicles has to look for a shoulder behind, reverse and then park there. On both sides, I see emerald green coffee farms. These farms usually plant Silver Oak trees along the fence and let Black Pepper vines climb on them. I see almost continuously, such black pepper vines along the road sides. After travelling about 8 Km on this narrow road, the driver stops the vehicle and I can see a river bed ahead.
Compared to river bed of Kaveri river at 'Bhagmandaleshwar,' which we saw yesterday, the bed of the same river is much wider here (near 'Dubare' town). It is easily possible to cross this river by jumping from one rock to another, projecting out in the middle of the water. We decide to take an easier way to cross by using a motor launch. On the opposite bank, is the training camp for elephants, run by the Government of Karnataka. I can see at least 10 or 15 elephants of various ages slowly swaying and munching tender grass. This is supposed to be their bath time and they would be brought to river bed, one after another.
Two of the smaller elephants, prefer to lie down in the water and the entire lot of 40 or 50 kids that are collected here this morning, are absolutely delirious with joy and laughter. Kids go near these small elephants, direct water jets at them and scrub their bodies with brushes. The elephants seem to enjoy the ritual as they also look happy: at least I feel so after looking at their small squeaky eyes. The elephants also are spraying water jets at the kids, once in a while, with their trunks. Every time this happens, all the kids shriek with great joy. After bath, elephants are fed with giant sized cooked flour balls, many of the kids are helping to feed the elephants.
After the rituals are over, the mahouts take away the elephants for training and we realize that sun by now is blazing at the zenith. Everyone turns to a coconut water vendor nearby. After finishing off the cool coconut water, we cross the river once again and get back to the car. Our immediate destination is a Tibetan refugee camp nearby.
Few years after Chinese forcefully took over Tibet, the Dalai Lama, sought political asylum in India. Following him, Tibetan refugees in thousands came to India. These refugees were settled at many places in India by the Government. One of the large settlements of Tibetan refugees, exists at 'Bayalakuppe' village near 'Kushalnagar' town. The refugees have set up here a huge monastery known as 'Great Gompa of Sera Je' or 'Sera Mey.' The monastery has a huge golden dome on the top and can be seen from a distance. This monastery and a huge prayer hall of Mahayana Buddhist University, which is near by, are worth visiting. This prayer hall is a giant assembly hall, which can accommodate easily about 400 students. Near one of the walls, huge golden hued statues of Goutama Buddha and two of his disciples, who had also attained a state of Buddha later, are installed.
In the nearby colonies, where the Tibetan refugees stay, they have started their own businesses of making incense sticks, carpets and artifacts. These are sold in nearby stalls started again by some refugees. The perseverance with which these people, uprooted from their ancestral lands, have re-established their life in this foreign land, is most commendable. The Tibetan monastery at 'Bayalakuppe' is definitely worth a visit.
We are back at the resort by lunch time. We decide to go back to 'Medikeri' town for a shopping trip. However the town trip turns out a complete disappointment. There is hardly anything to see or buy in this town. Our driver tells me that I can buy some spices and condiments from an wholesaler here. I buy black pepper, coffee powder and some dry fruits and return to the resort. The kids are playing video games in the resort. I decide to relax in an easy chair. Even before knowing, I am fast asleep.
( To be concluded)
21 February 2013