There’s nothing like visiting a new place to remind us of who we are.
In my heart I know that this is what being in Kodai did for me. I mean, prior to the trip I knew I was burnt out exhausted, was demoralized by the on-goings in one of my favorite places in the world, was not the perfect candidate for the master cleanse diet and lived to talk about having gone three days of the supposed ten-day ordeal. It was clear to me that I needed to slow down, take a real break and breathe; even if it meant doing more work, work I love (leading workshops), to get there. Ironic, I know. But welcome to my world of full plates and multi-tasking. Take a seat and stay awhile.
Anyway, so, I did know all that before getting on the plane, that I was tired and grumpy and not myself at all. That’s why I was so excited to get out of the city. I needed some distance and perspective but boy did I receive so much more. Because clarity comes when you least expect it and sometimes, the you that’s truer than true, appears behind the lens, beside new friends, while getting head-butted by a brown cow, in a breathtaking, unassuming, unsuspecting super place.
The best part about Kodaikanal was that not only did it remind me of who I was, it made the best version of me quietly and without drama, appear. Being there, being away from what I knew, being submerged in a different culture, pressed to collaborate and work with 52 strangers, forced to detach and not have easy access to the reassurance and comfort of the grid, I exhaled and well, just let everything be. I mean, we were ready for the workshop; there was nothing to worry about. I trusted Stu and he trusted me. In the process, we worked as we communed with nature and brainstormed and planned as we ate, met people, took pictures and happily experienced Kodai’s unique culture and identity.
In the end, the workshop was a success, which was a good thing. That was why we were there in the first place,right?
But there was something else. I began to notice that I had a huge smile everywhere I went. That I talked to everybody, it didn’t matter who. That I made mental notes of what felt different but gave a voice to everything that was somewhat like home. I noticed that I listened more intently to what people were saying and had nothing but nice things to say. And it’s not like I didn’t do these things before. I guess it was what was happening inside me. There was a bearable lightness of being. It was refreshing and relaxed and I knew that this was what feeling happy and contented meant. It was pure appreciation and gratitude real time. Nothing taken for granted; nothing left unnoticed. I saw as Kodai saw me. Hello, Pau. Welcome back.
Anyway, the road trip felt like the old way to get to Baguio pre -SCTEX. There’s a 4-hour route that leads to a zigzag road and just like Kennon Road, would be closed sometimes due to landslides. Fortunately, it was newly opened again, which allowed us to skip the alternate 6-hour route up the mountains. I remember thinking, aside from the WindFarm, that it was like driving through Pampanga, Tarlac, Pangasinan, then La Union before getting to the foot of the mountain. Same narrow streets, overtaking and vast landscapes. Then, Kodai was like Baguio and Sagada mushed together; from the weather, to the horses and the pedal boats in the lake. Just add the spicy vegetarian food, women and their beautiful saris and 90% of their population wanting their picture taken…and there you have it, the complex combination of a familiar yet different place. It’s like a warm fuzzy cum culture shock and the best after taste in your mouth. Kodai really took me by surprise and it will always have a special corner in my heart.
Thanks again, G, for allowing me to discover South India in the most interesting, most productive and most fulfilling of ways.
Yes, I was there. Exactly where I needed to be.
Next: The Palani Murugan Temple and our trip back to Coimbatore en route home…
grateful slice: recognizing myself and liking it, Indian food and an awesome visit to a wonderful place