Shaun Mehta

An informative blog that provides insight of my sometimes mundane, sometimes wacky life as a writer and teacher. To learn more, please go to:

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Travel Log #2 - Southern India

Exchange at Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB)
November 2001

I am an East Indian born and raised in Toronto who traveled to Southern India for the first time. As an aspiring writer the dynamic subcontinent fascinated and inspired me. During my 8-month stint in the country, I completed an exchange at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB), an internship at Infosys Technologies in Mysore, and found some time to travel and write. Through my journey, I grew to love the people and land, despite having a few misadventures along the way. I hope you enjoy some of my travel logs:

After 5 weeks of recovering from my last trip – which included a 9 hour train ride in each direction on a second class non-air-conditioned where the squatting bathrooms were covered in human refuse and I shared a sleeping compartment without a pillow or blanket with 72 of my newest Indian friends – I gathered enough courage to leave the verdant school campus and traveled to the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

I visited Hogenakkal Falls, spectacular cataracts that make Niagara Falls look like a leaky facet. Unlike Niagara Falls, there was absolutely no commercialization and my European friends and I were completely surrounded in wilderness. And because I am in India, and safety is rarely a concern, I actually was encouraged by my guide (who received his payment in advance) to stand on the rock and peak over the edge of the cliff to admire the raging descending water. I actually took a photograph of my feet hanging over the edge—cool!

To get to the waterfalls we had to take circular skin-hide boats called coracles. Every few minutes we would reach an island and have to carry the boat across it until we reached another river as if we were living in prehistoric times.

The final leg of the journey to the falls was a huge sea of jagged rocks and pools of stagnant water that we had to cross before we reached the main river that plummeted to the major swirling chasm below. During this hike, I slipped off the mossy-covered rocks several times and into the pools of water until my socks and shoes were soaking wet. Thinking I was very smart, I took off my shoes and socks, and decided to go barefoot like a true adventurer! That was when I discovered that the rocks absorbed the rays of the sun like the inside of a car in the midst of a heat wave. By the time I reached the falls my aching blistering feet felt as if they had walked over a path of burning coal.

Despite being the end of November, it was 35 degrees and brilliantly sunny, so my friends and I also went for a refreshing dip in the streams 50 feet from the edge of the falls. One of my European friends stayed ashore and was confronted by a band of aggressive monkeys who methodically harassed him and stole our bananas. I watched with amazement as each monkey would grab a banana and throw a perfect quarterback type pass to its companions perched on the branches of the surrounding trees.

On the way back from our daytrip, the tire of our rented van blew and we were suddenly stranded in the middle of the night at a Punjabi Dhaba (little hut in the middle of nowhere that serves Punjabi food and is roughly equivalent to a truck stop).

For an hour we sat waiting for our driver to repair the damaged tire. During that time, I had a staring match with five South Indians. The five locals gawked at my European friends and I as if we were from another planet. Actually, I am not being completely honest. Two live chickens tied together and sitting in a cardboard box beside me were also staring at me. The one good thing about the situation was that if we had ordered chicken curry, I knew that it would have been cooked fresh.

Oh, if you are wondering, the Indians won the staring match.


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