November 18, 2013


At first I thought I would walk through the grass to the hut cresting the gentlest of inclines before deciding to skirt the shimmering blanket along the road instead.

It did not seem proper to leave a trail of bent grass in my wake, exposing their proud, erect midriffs to the glare of an unrelenting sun following us around ever since the four of us rode into Malvan on the west coast early this month.

A light breeze coasted in from the Arabian sea we were riding along as we made for Vengurla through Chippi along a narrow slip of a road cutting through a vast, empty plateau, the kind that draws you into its emptiness and fills it out with serenity before releasing you back into the bustle of the everyday.

I lingered awhile taking in the outline of the sloping roof, likely storage for cattle feed, and grain while the trio I was riding with stayed back on the road, waiting. Silence had settled about the place. And I had settled into the silence.  

In the distance, low hills outlined the blue sky, tracing the path a meandering finger fashioned here millions of years ago. Nothing much has changed between then and now. But everything will change soon.

Large earth movers line the flanks of the plateau in battle formation. Red flashes scar the golden hue where their teeth have bitten into the earth, tearing strips out before spitting the cud into mounds of steadily rising piles of red.

Here, where I stand, Green Field airport is scheduled to come up. Maharashtra has set much store on opening up its west coast to mass tourism, and Sindhudurg is the first horse it has bet on in a big way. In the rains it’s easy to imagine the plateau turning green, a vast field of green. Green Field.

I breathe deeply of the silence. The wide open space before me will soon turn into runways and tall, shiny towers, and large, loud aeroplanes will land where the grass now stands.

Boards warning of the blasting underway are up roadside.

Diversions point riders away from the blasting site, along detours created to steer travellers away from roads that once cut through the countryside connecting villages before it was designated for an airport.

A few stop for a quick glance before speeding away.

While I have never been to Chippi before, walking away from it was no different from walking away from a place you’ve come to call home, the parting tinged with emotions from knowing it’ll be years before you make your way back, and when you do, it will not be to what you left behind but to what left you behind – people and their landscape.

No sooner people change landscapes, the landscapes change them.

Parule, then Vengurla beckoned. Then Panaji. A long road lay ahead.


Chippi, I might return someday knowing you won’t be around. I might return not so much to see what remains of you but rather to see what became of you.

In your absence, I'll probably seek poignancy so my memories of you will burn bright once more and remind me afresh of that long day out riding with old friends along an old road through an old countryside for old times sake.

Chippi, Au Revoir.


Riot Kitty said...

That was just beautiful. And I had the same feeling when I went to England for the first time.

Slogan Murugan said...

So beautiful! and will it be gone?

marja-leena said...

These images remind me greatly of our Canadian prairies. Lovely tall grasses and big blue skies.

Daisy said...

Wonderfully written, Anil, and I really like the photos too. It looks like a beautiful, peaceful place. Makes me feel a little sad that it will be changed into an airport.

Anil P said...

Riot Kitty: Yes, the grassland is beautiful. It won't survive long. I've imagined the England of James Herriot.

Slogan Murugan: It's a great sight. It will be gone for sure now that the Sindhudurg airport will be coming up here.

Marja-leena: I can imagine what the prairies will be like. I'm sure they will be much bigger than the Chippi plateau.

Anuradha Shankar said...

so beautiful!!! and to think this peace and solitude will be taken over by the crowds and nothing will be left of it.

Anil P said...

Daisy: Thank you.

It's a very beautiful, serene place. The airport will finish it. Hotels will follow, and then the usual commercial bustle that accompanies the presence of an airport.

Anuradha Shankar: Once the Sindhudurg airport comes up, this place will be history. So I think this is among the last glimpses of the place.

Anil T said...

Magnificent write up Anil. The long winding dusty roads are forgotten. We neither have the patience nor the appreciation left any more. These master bulldozers coerce their way with complete disdain. Nothing, but memories are our treasures now.

Anil P said...

Anil T: Thanks.

True, in the end it's about bulldozers. Once bulldozers change the landscape, the landscape is forgotten, replaced as it is with a "new" landscape that's not necessarily better.

lgsquirrel said...

What a surprise! I never knew such a landscape would be found in India. What a pity that it is due to be bulldozed. I would have thought that its uniqueness would have meant it would be protected.

Anil P said...

Lgsquirrel: There're many such beautiful, unspoilt places, except that with spare money at hand, the Indian middle-class is looking to travel in the comforts of their home, so these places will make way for that, to accommodate them.

PallSin said...

how lovely. You are recording history.

Anil P said...

PallSin: Thank you. Soon to be history kind of recording.

No sooner the landscape is wiped off, memories will cease to remember it the way it once was, except maybe among the very few.

Pranav Chandra said...

Beautifully captured! Such sweet sadness. Thank you for sharing before its all gone.

An Iengar Chick said...

Chippi? it means an oyster shell in Tamil :) dint know there existed a place by that name.

Anil P said...

Pranav Chandra: Thank you.

Red: Oh is it? Tamil is a phunny language :-)

Shimpi is another South Indian name for the calcium rich 'covers'.

An Iengar Chick said...

AP: hmm dint know that. Ya Tamil is very very phunny indeed, miloge toh aur batayenge kabhi.

Anil P said...

Red: Okies.