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.
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.