Sunday, December 24, 2006

The night before Christmas, Nilgiris-style

I came to the Nilgiri Hills a long time ago, when my Significant Ex and I were backpacking round India on a shoestring. I remember it rained, and everything felt grey, chilly and overpriced. I didn't really see the point of hill stations anyway (all those *hills*), and was happy to move on.

This time, I feel like I could live here. This is in no small part down to the wonderful hospitality of our host family, who have fed us royally, given us a cosy cottage to stay in with views of endless green hills, and taken us places we would never have found by ourselves. But it's also down to the sheer beauty of the place, the sparkly clean air, and the relaxed pace of lives lived largely in harmony, rather than competition, with the suroundings.

We've been walking through Shola forests and tea fields, and down winding roads past blue and pink villages with technicolour temples. There are little tea shops (and government liquor shops) and snack stalls, like everywhere, but there is also broadband and fully computerised banking. The cows are milked by hand, and the roads are mended (or not) by barefoot men and women balanced precariously on hillsides, but these same men and women have better mobile phone services and more TV channels than we do. It's a lot to get your head round.

Most everyone's a Hindu round here, but Christmas is celebrated too, in a slightly surreal kind of way. I'm looking forward to it.

joella

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