Thursday, May 18, 2006

Coonoorian couch potatoes

(Wrote this piece, Nov.2002, when I was based Coonoor and hosting a weblog – The Coonoor Connection’. Which is now in a state of total disconnect. It died of neglect, when I shifted base to Mysore)

Ideas move the world, they say. This might be the case elsewhere, but not in Coonoor. I can claim to speak from experience. Take this 'couch potato' idea I floated in my homepage, 'The Coonoor Connection.' I thought Coonoor could do with an outfit like the Long Beach (California) Society of Couch Potatoes.I promptly posted a message on the web site about the Long Beach society and its ten-point exercise programme for members - 1) skating on thin ice, 2) casting aspersions, 3) throwing caution to the wind, 4) bending the truth; 5) digging up dirt; 6) flogging a dead horse; 7) going the extra mile; 8) jumping to conclusions; 9) lashing out, and 10) marching to a different drummer.

It has been a year since this message was posted . And I have yet to hear a word from anyone by way of response. Not because of our inadequacy. It is my firm belief that Coonoorians are in no way less accomplished than Californians on any of the ten counts. My own favorite is flogging a dead horse.Coonoorians, with their web silence, convey a message. That they are one better than Californians. Our couch potatoes are much too lazy even to organise themselves on the lines of the lazy ones of Long Beach.

Our plus point is the Nilgiris weather. As Kalyani, my friend from Ooty, put it, weather here for much of the year is just conducive to laziness, warm blankets, hot tea and pakoras, and, of course, good books.Speaking of Coonoorians' propensity to stonewall ideas, the very idea of my starting a homepage was to try and put our heads together to break this stone wall and promote online interaction on life in Coonoor, the feel and flavour of the place, its people, their lifestyle, its flora and fauna.

I opened an 'Ideas' page to which those who believed in bettering our quality of life could send their input. I made it a point to mention that we prefer ideas that are weird and wild. Never mind if they think you're crazy. I can't think of anyone crazier than that Newton bloke who played ball with an apple, instead of eating it. And we all know what he came up with.

Some people see sausages and think of Picasso. We could do with those who think on such lines in Coonoor. Who knows, some such crazies might even think of starting an art gallery in town. In 'The Coonoor Connection' I have had people posting even some sensible ideas. But till date none of the ideas or the issues raised in the web site has made a difference to Coonoor. My homepage remains firmly stuck at home.

"We live in our own cozy world," says Thomman Kuruvilla, a public-spirited youngster, "if change is the rule of life, Coonoor has been an exception". According to Sangeetha Shinde, a Coonoor girl doing MBA in London, Coonoorians are status-quo-happy - "I can't see the peers in Coonoor allowing a Mcdonald's or Pizza Hut to set up shop anytime soon." On a more serious note Sangeetha says it was time we decided whether we need to produce more of our tea that has lost its market or shift focus to tourism, cottage crafts and other sectors with exports earning potential.

It is input from the likes of Thomman and Sangeetha that makes our day in the Coonoor Connection team - myself, son, daughter-in-law and my wife, without whose tolerance and tendency to ignore mounting dial-up internet bills, this site would have folded up a long while ago. I would like to share with you samplings of the mail we get at the Coonoor web site.Marshall Gass who left Coonoor over three decades back to settle in New Zealand has this to say: "So many mates from the old school days have made contact since my e-mail went on your web site - Hindley, ramamurthi, natarajan, Francis Mathews, Eates. Amazing. It was the best fun in the world catching up with those guys I played marbles with 35 years ago."

Of his old school, Lawrence, Edwin Good from Melbourne said: "Lovedale was tough, but there is little doubt in my mind that I would not have achieved what I did, only on a junior Cambridge certificate, without the grounding and character-building that went with it in Lovedale. The motto 'Never Give In' has always stood me in good stead in times of adversity." Edwin was a student in 1943-48, of what was then the Lawrence Memorial Royal Military School, Lovedale.

Son of a locomotive driver, Edwin, on finishing school, moved to Nairobi and spent the next 40 years as an oil company executive in Dar-es-Salam, Kampala, Lagos and, finally, Melbourne. Happily retired now, Edwin has a wish to fulfil - "God willing, I intend to take Margaret to India on a sentimental journey."

A Londoner, Agnes L'hostis, wrote that Coonoor by night resembled a Swiss Alpine resort. However, daytime Coonoor was a picture of, what he called "Indian urbanity of jostling market-place, throw-it-anywhere (usually in the river) untidiness and a predictably chaotic bus station." The picture doesn't deter Warren Ezekiel, who lives in Melborune and "is still not tired of travelling to Nilgiris once every 18 months."

From Delaware, US, a non-resident Coonoorian, Susan Grandy posted a message on the web site saying that she was rather distraught after her last Coonoor visit. The Ooty flower show brought back memories of the good old days when the Kuriens of Strathern used to walk away with the prize. She could not accept the fact that they charged an entry fee at Sims Park - "I remember we used to go there in the evenings for a walk." Raiding the Sims Park orchard used to be the favorite pastime of Nina Varghese, a Chennai-based journalist who grew up in Coonoor; even though one ran the risk of getting caught by the mali.

A retired army officer who was once posted at Wellington wrote us to compliment the Nilgiris people for their ban-plastics campaign. Said Colonel (retd) A Sridharan, VSM,: "We were pleasantly surprised in not being handed out any plastic carry-bags wherever we went. Yes, we did see an odd carry-bag here and there on the roadside and these were, presumably, the ones left behind by tourists from the plains." The colonel was being charitable to Nilgiri folk.

And then we have Navin Williams who makes periodical trips to Coonoor from Mumbai to visit grand-parents. They keep telling him about how Coonoor has grown in all the wrong ways - traffic, the noise, dirt and the general downward slide of what was once a quiet and elegant town. What Navin would like to know is: "Since we have such a large populace around the world that is in love with Coonoor, can't we find ways that we can all contribute to improve Coonoor?"


Comment: You are too unkind to us. Beaches are WARM and you have to get up and do things. We are cool people and believe that life is in being, not doing. Thanks for quoting me. Makes me feel I've written something worthwhile if someone can remember it - Kalyani


gita said...

It's sad to know that your web site is'nt functioning any more.As an ardent fan of Coonoor,I was on cloud nine
when I saw this site.
It's nice to know that Marshall Gas a good friend of mine {with whom I lost contact} is now settled
down in New Zealand.
With Regards

Uday said...

I am just wondering if it is the same Sangeeta Shinde that I know off whose Dad was in the MH-Wellington and who was my school mate in BPS Wellington...

Agree with the other comment that it is sad that there is an entry fee at Sims Park..used to love going there as a kid.

Phewwwwwwww lovely memories when I think of my days in Coonoor and Ooty..


Uday (

shoba said...

Even I was disappointed when I found out we had to pay to get into Sims Park. Throughout my 23 years that I spent in Coonoor I could just jump skip and hop to Sims Park and raid the pomological station with my brothers. My maiden name was Shoba Narayandas from St. Josephs Convent. Anyone who is from my batch please write and let me know where you all are.