My Trip to B.R. Hills
B.R. Hills, also known as Bili Giri Ranganna Hills a few hundred kilometers from Mysore Station. I read about this place in Mukund's
blog and I remembered my trip to the same place in early 2000...A recount of what ever I remember from the trip ...
Mom, Thameem, Bharathi (then my to-be-SIL) took the train to Mysore and we hired a taxi for Rs.4000 for three days to take us to B.R. Hills and back. The driver was not very excited about the trip but agreed to go with us because he felt the money was not bad...We drove out of Mysore and through small villages and barren land, we stopped at a small village and ate at the most dirtiest little restaurant (don't know if I can call this), but this was going to be our last decent meal before our hike. I ate idlis (dad always told me that when in doubt of hygiene, eat idli's...) with sugar and no sambar/chutney.
The driver warned us not to put our hands outside the window and that we will not be taking any stops whatsoever enroute till we reach Dr. Sudharshan's little self-help village...That was about two hours from our dingy restaurant.
So our drive up the hill was adventurous...Road was visible on and off or it was kuchha road all the way up, forest stretch on both sides and the driver warned us about wild boars, wild elephants, and who knows maybe a tiger...Put the fear of god in us...Infect we did see both the wild boars and wild elephants on our way up and luckily for us they did not bother us and hopefully we did not bother them too.
We went to Dr. Sudarshan's clinic, I have to tell you about this person. A great doctor who visited BR Hills alone by foot long time ago (don't really know when) and saw that people were living in sub-standard conditions. These are the local tribes who live up there. The doctor moved to live among them and now treats them with minimal medicine unless their immunity fails to kick in. He has built around his clinic a small school, hostel, self-sustaining work places (such as knitting, honey making, weaving, basket making, etc). There are a few other doctors who have given up their rich city lifestyle to live in the forest among the tribes in houses that most of us will envy. It is notable to mention here that Dr. Sudarshan is a recipient of the prestigious French Magsasay Award.
Why did I go here? For my Undergrad thesis on self-sustaining and low-cost architecture. The architect I had worked with told me to go here to get the best information I can on this subject and that I did!
Mr. Vijay who was an assistant to the doctor took us to our hostel acco. He informed us that there will be no electricity past 6.00pm and that we should eat dinner that student's mess before that. Also wild boars and foxes or jackals roam the parts and for our own safety we should be inside the compound before dark. He gave us four candles and waited for us to settle in.
The first thing we noticed inside the rooms were these giant spiders, small bodies but large legs, really long ones all over the ceiling. Everywhere, I am not exaggerating, there were thousands of them all over the place. It totally freaked me out and I was panicking if I could really sleep there. So I stepped out, and saw Vijay sitting out and I went and picked up some small talk and then asked the most stupidest of things ever, "Why are so many spiders here?" to which he glared at me and said, "What are we doing in their habitat? blah, blah, blah and the dressing down continued for more than ten minutes. My friend Thameem came and rescued me at the right moment.
There was no phone, TV, running water, or food in this place but there was peace. I was so happy, never missed any of those things even for a minute. We spent three days climbing up and down the hills trying to document everything I possibly could for my thesis and also enjoying nature. The tribal kids and I got along real well, they spoke broken Kanada and so did I...But the food cooked by the kids who went to school and stayed in the hostel was just bearable for my city raised mouth.
We went to the Bili Giri Temple up at the highest point and it was beautiful, my friend Thameem sang to which quiet a few of the tribal people joined us and then we drove back. There was also this beautiful ashram where were spent an afternoon just basking in the natural beauty of this place. We also went to the only small tea shop in the hills where the owner out of pity made some dosas for our starving stomachs. It was nice, the hills, forest, tea shop, and a dosa at hand, at that moment the only thing that came to my mind was "Please do not make this place a future Ooty, where the Todas are no where to be seen and the city itself is so dirty, polluted, and over crowded."
It was great to see Dr. Sudarshan having built up this place from nothing to something. The people are happy doing what they are doing, living in huts, working to make some money for sustenance but not being influenced by Western culture, they still have to climb the tree to escape a wild elephant or the often spoken of tiger...They seem far more peaceful than us the city folks who in the process of accumulating material pleasure forget peace in its god-given form.