Noise vs quiet. Streets vs open agricultural land. Hospitable hosts. And friendly, bouncy, boisterous doggies. This and more made last weekend a heavenly experience for me.
I used to (and still) tell my American friends embarking on their first trip to India, “Nothing prepares you for India! It’s a full-frontal assault on all your senses all at once. Whatever you know about India, the complete opposite is also true … at the same time! India is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach.”
I was born and raised here. Still, there are many Indias that I don’t get to experience all that much or all that often.
Over my years in Bengaluru, I have seen the city grow in what are called ‘leaps and bounds.’ This growth, alas, has not been well-thought-out, nor well planned. It has been very hap-hazard. The result is an extremely chaotic city where we have to actively shut out large parts of the landscape.
The Bengaluru of the !ncredible !ndia (that’s the tourism slogan) era is rife with opportunities for creative people. However, it is also very oppressive with its noise, dust, traffic, and so on.
For some time, I had been noticing the effects this day-to-day chaos was having on me. I had been trying to find a way to get away from the urban and experience a little rural landscape. However, this did not involve my wanting to live in an old traditional rural house. I have stayed in some at different times in my life. I wanted something different.
Recently, I got to meet some wonderful people from Mysuru. They and a group of their friends have agricultural land in the rural areas near Mysuru. One of them invited me to spend the weekend at their farm house so I could, as some people say, chillax (chill out + relax = chillax).
After a lot of hemming and hawing, I finally decided to go this past weekend. I am glad I did.
The place I stayed at is in the middle of agricultural fields where various types of vegetables are grown. Also, coconut, avocado, and other species. I was treated to amazing and exotic food. Great company, great conversations, etc.
And the doggies. They were most welcoming. They greeted me like I was a long-lost brother … well, if not brother, certainly a long-lost acquaintance.
Throughout the day, the place was exceptionally quiet. Except for assorted insects buzzing around, birds gossiping out in trees, other birds standing around looking down on the world around them (“Oh, great! Another human! Just what we need! Tchah!”), and of course the resident dog running around chasing imaginary things, occasionally stopping by to see if I was okay and needed a wag and a kiss.
My host regaled me with many tales of her travels and adventures. I heard of distant lands I have not (yet) visited and saw photographs of the locales she had visited (both cultural features and natural features of the places – together, they constitute what we call site features in geography), and people she had met. This is oxygen for the geographer’s soul!
The home I stayed in is surrounded by lush green grass (not a lawn, mind you), and several other plants that will some day grow up to be mighty trees. A pair of small ponds with water lilies housed some fish and frogs.
Nights were even quieter. The skies were not clear enough to see the Milky Way (the thing in the sky, not the chocolate bar of the same name!), but still …
Throughout the entire weekend, what struck me most was the soundscape – landscape created by sounds. It was unhurried … no frantic sounds of any kind … double-decker motorbikes revving their engines, autorickshaws with faulty exhaust systems, people shouting, and, of course, the incessant honking of horns! Almost all of the sounds were coming from natural rhythms and activities, not from human-made gadgets or activities. The only exceptions were the kitchen appliances when food was being prepared.
The visual and aural (sound) landscapes were very soothing precisely because of their pace … very slow. Such a change from the frenzied and hectic daily landscape of a city, to the slow rhythms of that environment in a rural setting was especially relaxing.
I also wondered … at its seemingly unhurried pace, nature around me was accomplishing a great many more things than the harried activity of the city did in its pursuits.
But this could well have been my romanticizing the comfort that I was experiencing. I was feeling so tired of the pace of urban life that this brief respite in a rural setting was so soothing, and I thought this is the better choice of life between rural and urban.
This brings me to another point. The meanings of a landscape are very subjective – we can’t define them, we can’t directly measure them, they are not the same for everyone. Nor do they remain the same even for the same person. So, my enjoyment of my weekend rural sojourn might have been more a result of my contrasting my usual urban life and the special treat of being away from it for a weekend. If I were to live in a rural setting without urban conveniences in the household, would I love it or loathe it?
So, the next time you feel like having a ‘change of place’, reflect on why you might be desiring it. What are the factors in your current place that make you want to go somewhere else? What are the factors in that ‘somewhere else’ that attract you to want to go there? Geography concepts such as site features can help you understand this.
And may be enjoy it even more.
Thanks to my gracious hosts for making my visit so memorable.
A version of this article appeared in the Deccan Herald Student Edition on 24 October 2018