Thereby Hangs a……Coffee Berry Tale


Ancient Greek philosophers, those learned ancestors of our world, in their wisdom, derived ideas or styles from a broad and diverse range of sources. They selected doctrines from various schools of thought, and in a combination of the above, threw up the word eklektikas. In much a similar manner, I oft consider myself an eclectic daughter of India, but specifically a native of coffee berry country, or that pocket in the Western Ghats of southern India called Coorg, or Kodagu. And, ‘Why is this so?’ you well may ask.

My parents are from Coorg. My father joined the armed forces soon after his university education earned him a Masters in Economics. He served his King and Country, as he joined the British Indian Army before Independence. He was typically Coorg……tall and broad. But also good looking, running to nose, which denoted his ethnicity, exceedingly urbane and very well read. Traditionally, the men from this niche in the hilly tracts of the Western Ghats, more often than not joined the Armed Forces, or else did what came second nature to them, grew coffee, cultivated rice, pepper, cardamom, and oranges. The armed forces may have welcomed these stalwarts of Coorg, as they were usually well built in stature, in large part maybe because they ate a high protein diet, which was suited to the cold and hilly tracts of their motherland, as also for the rough and tumble of this soldierly calling.  My mother, a beauty with much brains, not to be left behind, won herself a Merit Scholarship in Junior College, for topping her class in English, which saw her graduating with a Bachelor of Honours Degree in English. Many years after the end of World War II, this swashbuckling young officer of now Independent India’s Indian Army, returned on Home Leave to Coorg. While on leave, he chanced to meet this Beauty With Much Brains, at his brother’s house, and in true Mills and Boone style, swept her off her feet. He triumphantly bore off his new bride to his regiment, in the high northern borders of the country, and thus began their new life together.

In time, I was an addition to my parents ….their only one. Alas, even swans have ugly ducklings, and there I was. My mother used to say that she had always wanted a chubby baby, and a slender teenager. I needed to be different I guess, as I was this sickly, puking infant and a plumply, rounded teenager. I moved with my parents from one Army Cantonment camp to the next, from one new school to yet another, wherever my father’s transfers took him, but always in the north or central parts of the country, never south. As a result, I had the good fortune to enjoy the friendships of people from various parts of our land. My closest school friends remain my closest friends to this day. My father retired, we moved back to our roots in the south, like homing pigeons. As the saying goes, “blood will out!” I had inherited my mother’s love of the English language, my parents’ love of reading, which metamorphed into my choosing to also study English for my Bachelor’s degree. Somewhere along the way, I also discovered a passion for putting my thoughts down on paper. So while I had not genetically inherited much from my erudite and handsome parents, I did discover in me the urge to write, and took to it, much like the ugly duckling to water. I have never looked back. I write whenever the Muse strikes me, with no ambition to publish my work. I write an eclectic mish-mash of everyday mundane & mediocre incidents, of the idiosyncrasies of people and circumstances. Over the years and along my journey, I wrote of life’s experiences and those of the people, strangers, friends, acquaintances, that I chanced upon the way. I write for the sheer joy and love of writing, for the pleasure it gives me.