It’s my paradise washed away

It’s my paradise washed away

Sandalwood actor Bhuvann Ponnannaa talks about his growing-up years in Kodagu and the pain of seeing the devastation the floods have left behind  

Bhuvann Ponnannaa

Growing up in a small district surrounded by jungles, rivers, animals and Mother Nature has its own pros and cons. The advantages are very obvious. You breathe fresh air, meet real people, grow your own food, sleep early and don’t see traffic. The only disadvantage is that you miss all this as you grow up and relocate to a big concrete jungle to have a so-called “better life”! 

 Likewise, I grew up in this heaven called Coorg which was a picture postcard in real life! My earliest memories of my childhood include me running into our coffee estate early in the morning to fetch some ripened Jamun fruits which fall off after sunrise, spotting a fish in the river and diving heads down to catch it with bare hands, cycling in my old cycle to the petty shop to buy the milk so my mom could make Horlicks, trekking up the hill next to our house with my raincoat on and my notorious kids’ gang and sitting atop jackfruit trees and planning how to rob guavas from the neighbour’s estate.

 Growing up, my memories are of me going to the vegetable market in Mahadevpet Madikeri every Friday to pick up fresh veggies coming from nearby farms and waiting to see the beans aunty’s daughter (much older to me) who looked like Karishma Kapoor sans the colour, walking with dad to the Neelakanteshwara paper store near the private bus stand Madikeri, also to buy the red and white groundnut toffee at Shetty angadi, walking to school in the drizzling rain and feeling bad about having to sit in class and listen to the boring teacher but then drawing solace by the thought of the hot lunch packed by my mom (mostly leftovers from the previous night’s dinner cause she had to handle three kids).

 From thereon, I shifted to a boarding school called Coorg Public School which was one of the top-rated schools in India. They put me there not because I was a bright student but because they could not handle me at home. I think I was the worst student there too but the only man who I was scared of, my principal Prof MD Nanjunda, mended me a little.

 After that I arrived in Bengaluru in search of achievements and a better life, my journey back home made me realise how much I really missed my heaven. Initially, I would take a Rajahamsa bus to Madikeri and wait with bated breath to smell the fresh air of Coorg (it actually has a different smell or maybe it’s only in my mind), then bought a Yellow Karisma motorbike which I would ride to Coorg in three and a half hours once in two months even though the roads were not as great as it is now. Then I bought a car and would travel to Coorg once in six months, but then the smell of the air when I entered Coorg remained the same.

 In the meanwhile, When I  was in Europe someone told me that there was trouble in my hometown. I took a flight back and drove to Coorg and the first thing that struck me was that its smell was a little different! As I drove past I realised that the hills that we trekked on had vanished due to a landslide. I drove on and as I reached Madikeri my senses were telling me that the heaven wasn’t heaven anymore. The Neelakanteshwara store near the bus stand was just a pile of bricks and concrete, the spot where Shetty angadi stood was plain land and the neighbour’s estate looked like a flat, sticky layer of mud lava waiting 
to harden. 

The petty shop where I brought milk from had been blown away. The headlights of two old Coorg buses inside a swampy river appeared like eyes crying for help.

Then someone told me that the beans aunty’s daughter had delivered a baby three weeks back but the family had to be evacuated because of a landslide behind their house.

A 20-member army team tried to help the family evacuate using ropes to cross a swamp, but the beans aunty’s daughter held her three-week baby boldly in her arms but fate had its own plans.

The rope snapped, she and her baby fell into the slush. She struggled to stay afloat and held the baby up in her arms even as she was sinking. Nobody could save them! My heaven had become hell in an instant. Nature can give us extravagantly but also take whatever it wants without rhyme, reason or even a warning. 

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