The dust settles, and two wide grins behind the windscreen of a Mahindra Bolero welcome us. We pile in, luggage and all. Gears shift and we are off bumping up the road and it looks like we must mandatorily pay our respects to all the craters visible and invisible. Intermittently snapped up by the dark when Mr A switches off the headlights, we are headed to Craigmoore Estates in Polibetta. Wiki says that Polibetta has an excellent 9 hole golf course. I am more into 9 course meals and such like, a liberal dose of spirits before the meal included.
A neatly trimmed hedge with the board proclaiming the estate’s Scottish descent greets you at the gate. A rubbly path leads you down; over a rectangular strip of grass trimmed by the underside of the wagon; onto a wide area dropping you off at the rear entrance. Saddam, the “One Eyed Dalmatian” stands guard along with “Bingo the Canine Baring”. A whine escapes its throat, and it’s reassured of our credentials.
The sun smiles down on the red esplanade and matching mansard roof. Tea in one hand (bear in mind we are in a coffee estate), nicotine stick in the other, mundane talk happens. The call is heard and we flock to the breakfast table like the faith full. Rice rotis, chicken fry, a delectable fish curry and mutton gravy stare at you from behind covered plates and pots. Our own plates filled, liberal helpings of ghee heaped on to the rotis, we settle in for a journey where the taste buds are taken for a gentle spin much like on a coracle. Cells refurbished, we open the board, for a game of Monopoly. Freshly squeezed lime juice washes down the remnants of breakfast. As the others progress to build houses and hotels on Mayfair and Strand, money and sites mysteriously vanish from my portfolio, as mysteriously as a chilled beer landing in my hand.
Lunch was another cell bursting explosion of chicken biryani and other meaty dishes. Some of us retire to the esplanade conversing under an open canvas parasol. The others head to their beds. Afternoon siesta over Mr A groups us like a mother hen gathering her young. Walking (more like prodding others backside) sticks cut off from trees the estate walk starts off.
Parallel paths made by the wheels of a wagon, cut through the Arabica branching off in all directions. Balls of pepper, young and green, peep sheepishly from behind vines. Huge conifers bend matronly, over the coffee, providing shade. Crickets chirp as cameras click, suddenly going silent as we pass close to their hide-outs. Mr A and CEO G, deep in their own triumphs and worries of looking over coffee estates lead us through copses and grasslands till we reach a narrow mud path hanging over emerald paddy fields. Suddenly Mr A says we need to back track and leads us up another grassy slope, to a dilapidated structure, below which lie the estate deities, adorned by flowers and other votive offerings. A strange tranquillity descends on the soul, as hands are joined and silent prayers emanate from the devotees lips.
The walk continues, this time finally settling at the banks of a largish pond. Guava trees sprout from the muddy banks, fruit hanging waiting to turn ripe and be picked. An abandoned shed waits in anticipation for people during an unexpected downpour. A bench made of planks makes a good photo opportunity for the cameras accompanying the nature walkers. We continue and are almost back home as the auburn sloping roof comes into view.
Bath and other ablutions complete, it is time for the spirits to take over for the night. Bottles of varied hues and shapes appear, as does a dusty unused hookah. Poisons chosen, the hookah turned out to be a bummer and was quickly replaced by the ever dependable Gold Flake Kings.
A short précis of the eventful night could be written thus- pole dances, more imbibing of spirits, pulling down of pajamas, raunchy jokes, all round debauchery, et al.
The next morning found me with a chainsaw splicing the head. While the others played another round of Monopoly I preferred the comfort of my bed, resting the aching cerebrum. Lunch, this time starred a cashew rich ghee rice, ably supported by mutton fry and yellow tadka dal. The bed beckoned again and I followed like a moth to a flame. Hours were passing, and soon after a 'pick me up' for the previous night’s escapades and dinner, we were all packed and delivered to the bus stop.
As we wait for our bus a magical mist envelopes us, trees appear ghoul like, adding to the eeriness. A sudden feeling of indebtedness comes over me, a feeling of thank fullness to Hazrat Dada Hayat Mir Kalandhar, the Sufi mystic who noticed an uncharacteristic burst of activity in goats which consumed a particular seed. He returned to India with seven of these seeds snugly tucked in his robes and planted them in the Baba Budan Hills. The descendants of this strain were later transferred to other locations, including the Arabica through which we walked the previous evening. I close my eyes and the magic seeps in, quiet and peace reigns.