Phone charger, check. Toothpaste, check. Sunglasses, check. Itinerary, check. Ah, the good old itinerary. If someone’s familiar with those long sheets of paper, it’s me. A vacation essential in our house, only Papa found them appealing. For me, they were just dreadful notes that made sure my vacations were packed to the brim—from the second I woke up to the moment I fell asleep under fuzzy hotel blankets, exhausted. For Papa, itineraries meant checking things off the list, covering as much as our bodies and budgets would allow so we could get our “money’s worth.”
Which is why when my friends asked me to tag along on a trip to Chettimani in Coorg to “do nothing,” I was startled. But I agreed. We left Bangalore early in the morning, and somewhere between my car naps, the cityscape had given way to lush greenery on either side of the State Highway 17, a cleaner Karnataka sky hanging low. Six hours, five chai stops, and 12 car naps later, we were there. On a narrow road off the highway, about two kilometres from the Chettimani village, there stood Linger, our den for the weekend.
Banana and jackfruit trees grow wild around the property, and coffee, pepper, and butterfruit (avocado) plantations flank it on all sides, making Linger the perfect weekend cocoon to disappear into. It began with sauntering through mucky soil, exploring the five-acre property with a sheet of drizzle grazing my face. There are five unique cottages within the property, one of which has a bed in the loft and a living space downstairs—much like Heidi’s attic room in the Swiss Alps. The mud cottage we occupied was tastefully done up with cosy beds I wanted to sink into. But I resisted the temptation, and instead parked myself with my friends outside on the porch for a few drinks. Not far away, I spotted a tented canopy cottage on stilts, perfect for those looking for a rustic experience.
Our hunger meanwhile was silenced by the local pandi curry. We chomped on the spicy pork curry made with chunky tender meat in a dark peppery sauce, all day, pausing only for swigs of homegrown Coorgi coffee. Relished best with neer dosa and kadambuttu or steamed rice balls, a local curry made with whole, wild mangoes is a good option for vegetarians.
The unending July rain only added grace to the beautiful flora. On clearer afternoons, we would have spotted the sparrows and mynahs whose songs never ceased through the showers. The sharp chirp of crickets seemed to have lodged itself in my ears. I spotted a few monsoon insects scurrying around. Among the cacophony of nature, I forgot all about the city. What would Papa do in a place like this? What about itineraries? Trekking through puddles is not his thing, neither is cooking Coorgi pork. But who knows.
For those with restless feet, Linger has board games, treks, cooking classes and cookbooks to spur your cooking adventures, and a well-stocked library. A nearby spot offers birdwatching, and if you’re feeling particularly perky, ask the staff for the dope on a 17-kilometre-long driving route nearby that they personally recommend. The Bhagamandala temple and the Nalknad Palace are close by. Madikeri, a popular hill station, is also about 30 kilometres away. While you’re there, don’t forget to bring back homemade chocolate and local coffee.
For me, the idea was to spend time doing nothing, without feeling like I’m wasting it; to admire the unfamiliar, and to acquaint myself with the concept of not having a plan—for a day or for a lifetime. Chettimani let me linger.
Weeks after the vacation, the sweet scent of coffee plants would sneak into my Bangalore existence. I called Papa to tell him all about the time I paid to do nothing. He thought I’m crazy, but I’ve already warned him that for our next holiday, I’m throwing out his precious itinerary.
Linger (Chettimani) is about 300 km/6 hr from Bengaluru by road (www.linger-at-coorg.in; doubles Rs6,450).
Chandni Doulatramani is trying to hide somewhere on the fringe, swapping between the roles of an independent journalist and a writer. These days she can be found loitering around the streets of Calcutta, eating jhaal muri and thinking up stories to tell.