Being a Guest in Wayanad

It is a delight to live in Bamboo Villa at Trikkapetta in Waynad. The house does not have a concrete boundary wall. That omens well. A small wooden gate hinged in the green hedge takes us in the compound. There is a small pond at the entrance, brimming with fish and lily. A bridge above it takes us inside the house. The house is stilted. Yes, you read it right. There is another big pond on which the house stands and the pond is, well, a fish garden, like a kitchen garden. Inside the house, there is a sit-in-out which opens to the fish-pond below. Ducks quake and that is the only sound which rises above the squeals of my younger one and dinner table talks when all are at home. At other times ducks try to enhance the sound of silence. The owner has a shop and many other community activities, the land lady Sreeja goes to work at Bamboo Craft Centre after finishing house hold work and two daughters are busy with school and college.

A spiral bamboo staircase takes us to our room on second floor. My room is large and comfy. It has a balcony which opens towards the pond and invariably there is a kingfisher making sorties in search of fish and younger one is always busy to look for both the kingfisher and the fish. Younger one finds the spiral staircase good enough to play around and sit.

Another balcony opens to green vista till the horizon. There are tall Areca nut trees, coconut trees and bushes and shrubs. Since we are quite at a height, we easily spot those birds which we cannot spot from the ground.

After a good night’s sleep, I wake up to the sound of birds. Stepping out in the balcony, I let my drape fall to feel the mist pervading every available space. It feels cold and I drape myself again. First rays of sun scatter the mist here and there. We look for birds on the canopies and an hour goes in birding. As kids slumber out of sleep, I already feel the rumble in the belly.

I get down and find Sreeja busy in the kitchen.

“What is that?” I ask, wondering at a cylindrical vessel on the stove.

“It is Puttu Kutti. I am making Puttu for the breakfast”

I have never tasted Puttu before and the process and vessel both intrigue me. I call Manish and kids to hurry up to see the making of Puttu. We all are in kitchen now. She fills the cylinder with a layer of grated coconut followed by rice dough. Then another layer of coconut and more rice dough. Then she steams it for ten minutes and after cooling comes out a perfect cylinder of rice and coconut.

Our host advise us to eat it first with banana, then with kadala and finally with papad. I look at kids, who are eating it with gusto. Hit! Superhit!!

The taste delights taste buds, fills tummy with joy of good food and soothes the soul. A happy family is now all set to wander in the village. Rubber plantation, bamboo plantations, church and temple, humongous trees, blooming flowers and the residents busy with their day-to-day activity keep us busy. Noon reminds us of the prospect of another tasty meal and we return home for lunch.

There is Erissery- pumpkin and lentil stew, Koottu curry, a few chutneys and lot more. We all wait for our meals and my elder son eats as if there will be no tomorrow. And our hosts full his plate again as lovingly as his grandparents do. But the biggest smile appears on Sreeja’s face when the younger one asks for more.

Again we wander out. Rain brings us home early. It is already washed and green in Waynad. Rain covers the countryside in a mystic cover. It is October and so the rain is not lashing out as it usually does in monsoon. A cup of coffee and we settle in the second floor balcony to watch rain. When rain stops, birds arrive and depart as evening approaches.

Manish goes downstairs when he sees Baburaj coming home. I know what he is up to and there is no stopping him.

We all remember the age-old advise of our elders in the house to not bombard a person immediately upon his homecoming, be it papa returning from his office, we returning from schools and like.

But looks like Manish is bent upon forgetting it. As soon as Baburaj returns from his day, Manish targets him with questions. When I scoff at his impatience, Baburaj encourages him to ask more. The conversation is then carried on to dinner table until it is time to sleep.

When night falls, we climb down the spiral staircase from our second floor room for the dinner. The sweet aroma of rice baffles us because it is not the aroma of Basmati rice yet it is much more sweet.

“What is cooking?” I ask Sreeja.

“It is the Gandhakshala rice.”

“It is so aromatic. And the aroma is different from the aroma of Basmati Rice.” I wonder.

“Yes. It is the scented variety of rice grown only in Waynad, and another is Jeeraksala. And these are much more expensive than Basmati because only a few tribal communities grow these native varieties and now, with the awareness, the demand has been growing steadily.” add Mr Baburaj M.

I think and think again if any good hotel or restaurant will ever do that for their guests. Never!

These rice varieties are given certification as Farmers’ Varieties under the provisions of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India. Nationally, this certification has been given to 545 varieties so far, but the Wayanad rice varieties are unique as certification is under the category of that given to a “farming community”.

As we sit down to eat, we feel like we are on a culinary trip in Waynad.

Next day we have three kinds of bananas in breakfast and Pathiri ( kind of rice flour roti) with curry. Again we all lick our fingers.

We are a curious guest and so Mr Baburaj takes a day off to guide to different places in village. He takes us to the bamboo plantation to show us the varieties of bamboo and their usage, to the Kavu, and to the wild to explain the various trees and their medicinal and other values.(This exploration demands another story..)

Another dinner, Sreeja is busy making Neer Dosa with a watery batter of rice and coconut. When it arrives on table with some usual and other unusual accompaniments, all of us eagerly take a bite, knowing by now that every meal will be heavenly tasty. And it is. ( Later on we eat a neer dosa at another home stay in a coffee plantation but it was not good at all. So it is the skill, ingredients and love with which the food is cooked, that brings the taste.)

So that is what we do- eat, talk and wander; and sneak some birding in between!
Waynad is so beautiful and memorable with a perfect host.

Vernal Hanging Parrot

(Thrikkaipetta is famous for its Bamboo Craft Centre and URAVU).

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