they were not fans of my devdas beard.
“We cannot let you go there sir, it’s not safe for you,” said the policeman at the make-shift gate in a small village of Anju veedu in Kodaikanal. The place had a little-known waterfall located inside a forest. I read about it on a blog and was super kicked to check it out. If you are anything like me; you travel solo a lot and eat a lot of Oreos. If you are anything like me, you also like exploring the lesser known paths. I’m not saying I’m a “road-less-taken” guy, but I’m a “I-would-rather-take-this-road-because-that-one-will-have-a-crowd-and-I-don’t-want-that” guy.
I spent the previous night in a hotel so cheap, their idea of complimentary water was an empty jug you can refill from the toilet. The hotel window had a great view… of another hotel window. The bed sheets were clear white… at some point in time. Their staff was so friendly, they gave me a friendly yelling every time I asked for something. However the wifi was great, I’m not sure they knew they had one, because it was really fast. Almost as if, only I was using it. I discovered this place called Anju Veedu near Kodaikanal on the interweb. I HAD to visit this place to get those amazing snapchat images I was traveling for. Anju Veedu in the local language of Tamil meant ‘five-houses’. At some point in the history of the village, only five tribal families stayed there and were very protective of their area. As protective as the old man in power-puff girls who yelled “get out of my property” to anyone who came there. Deep into the forest there was a waterfall that almost felt like a hike worthy site and I wanted to add it to my imaginary list of unexplored-explored places.
One hour of standing on the footboard of bus ride later — I reach the entrance to the village. When I boarded the bus at the Kodikanal Market, I had a place to sit. But, I was forced to give my seat away to an old man. The funny thing being, no one else offered him a seat — I did it out of guilt and fear of bad karma. Who knew they did not take seat-giving seriously in this small town. After getting off the bus, all I wanted to do was sit for a while before I start a hike. As I sat in a roadside tea stall and demanded coffee, I thought how the waterfall is going to feel great after all this wait. The tea stall owner made some coffee with judgment and asked me why I’ve come to this village with a camera. He wanted to know if I was a filmmaker or a journalist. I would have been happy to be any of those, but I burst his bubble when I said I’m a writer. He asked me what books I’ve written and then I had to explain to him that the internet is a thing now.
As I left the tea stall, I asked the gentleman: “How do I get to the waterfall?”. He said: “Its stupid to walk that much, they would never let you close to the waterfall”. As it turns out, a couple kids went there just the past week and drowned in the water. The currents had even washed away their irresponsible remains and the cops were not too happy with all this additional work coming their way. They had decided to not let any more people enjoy natures, as mother nature was increasing their workload. I took my chances and hitchhiked the gate of the forest. Once there I asked the policeman on duty how do I go the waterfall. “We cannot let you go there sir, it’s not safe for you,” said the policeman.
I tried to explain to him that I’ve come from a very far place and I really want to see it. He looked at my camera and asked if I’m from the press. He was hoping I had come to do a story about the kids who died. When I said I’m just a solo traveler he was confused beyond repair. “Why would you come so far alone? No friends?” He said in a judgmental tone. “No sir, just wanted some alone time,” I said, thinking it sounds cool. That’s when shit hit the roof.
“If I let you go there, You will jump off the waterfall. I know people like you. You have life problems, you grow a beard and you come, end your life, then we are blamed for not doing our job.” He was very confident I was there to kill myself. I was clearly not. I tried to reason why him. Why would I come from Bengaluru for this? Why will I take a standing bus ride? Why will I carry my camera? The policeman did not see me eye-to-eye. He put me on the next car going that way and sent me back to the highway.
All I wanted to do was see the path less taken, however, if you have a beard — People just assume its a dark path.