Monsoons had set in along the coastal regions of Karnataka and to this, Padubelle, a small village in the temple town of Udupi was no exception. The roads, trees and goats were awashed by the recent downpour. The bus dropped me off at Padubelle bus stop. As I turned around, across the road, I saw an elderly man in white dhotis folded up to his knees and red shirt, waving at me expectedly. I crossed the road in quick steps and joined him. We exchanged smiles and walked a few meters before turning right on to a narrow, muddy path bullied by rains.
It was a slushy path ahead. I exercised multiple long jumps with timed precision following the elderly man who trotted away without looking back. My strategic hipping and hopping must have seemed strange, because men and women, en route, stood observing me, clearly distracted from the work at hand. A few last, short steps brought me in front of a red-brick house.
A small tulsi plant was growing out of a saffron mud pot in the open courtyard facing the house. To the right, was a well with long green pipes snaking in and out. On widening the frame, I could see that the house itself was amidst an expansive coconut farm set against a series of hillocks spread intermittently providing the perfect backdrop. Some visible boulders, having soaked in rains, were of greyish black as opposed to the sun-kissed brown. The distant trees and shrubs adorned a cloak of dark green.
As I stood there in front of the house, even with dry feet and clothes, dampness in the air seeped through me. Grey clouds from above casted a shadow. Crickets in unison orchestrated the same tune over and over again. Before the weather-induced sluggishness could set in, Ganesh, my host, emerged from the red-brick house – a short man, square-faced, probably in his late twenties.
Ganesh introduced his family members to me and offered a tour of the house. It had two bedrooms with mosaic flooring and minimal furniture. The prayer room was as big as the bed room with pictures of gods neatly lining the floor. Fresh red flowers at the foot of each picture frame, and the fragrance of agarbathi that filled the room, sanctified the place as in a temple.
Ganesh reminded me, “My family is awake by 4 am and we thereafter pray, practice yoga and meditation. During this time, we sing Hare Krishna Kirtans (Bhajans) accompanied by drumming and chanting. So, your sleep might get disturbed after 4 am.”
Ganesh’s family was highly spiritual and traditional. They worshiped Lord Krishna and followed religious practices strictly. On a traveller-hosting website, I had read about Ganesh’s family and their everyday routine before arriving in Padubelle. So this notification did not come as a surprise. In fact, the village of Padubelle being the birthplace of Shri Madhavacharya, the great Hindu philosopher, I could expect nothing less.
The orientation tour continued…
The kitchen had an unpainted, grey, cement slab upon which was pitched a stove made of clay. Ganesh’s father was preparing breakfast. “He is preparing ‘Pathrodi’ – a dish made of selected leaves that grow in the wild behind our house,” informed Ganesh.
The Kitchen gave out to a backyard which in turn led to a cowshed. The shed was dimly lit by a yellow bulb and was divided into two by a brick-wall partition that ran vertically. To the right, were cows lazily munching on straw and to the left was a small, dark, barricaded area around the corner. On approaching closer, I saw an earthen pot filled with water to the brim, heated by burning firewood. Looking at my puzzled face, Ganesh helped, “This is the bathing area.”
We walked towards the hillock, behind his house through the backyard. A few hundred meters away hiding behind trees and bushes was a stream. The running water was crystal clear. I could see my reflection and the color of pebbles at the bottom. “Come here for a swim if you like just that the water might be cold owing to the weather,” Ganesh said.
By then, I was convinced that I had found the right place to stay in Udupi – a place where nature and people effortlessly blended into each other creating sustainable future, a place where self-sufficiency was followed with vigor, a place where the roots of cultural practices ran deep.
I categorically prioritized a visit to the stream above all activities of the following day, although…I think, there was a mention of snakes in the stream which I might not have paid attention to!