Sitting in the car , on the way to Athirapally , I hear my mother's oncologist on the FM .
He talks about music and its therapeutic effect in the chemotherapy ward . It took me straight back to the time my mother was in the chemo ward . I was with her . No matter what music is played there , its a chilling experience . Scary . Just made us want to run away from there . Each time she had chemotherapy , days of vomitting followed . She couldn't eat anything . Hair came off in alarming clumps. Twice or thrice , she was so weak she had to be given blood transfusion . Days of suffering ... Agonizing days ....
She would have loved to be on this trip. The drive from Chalakudy is full of sharp turns . My backbone , sitting as I am , sandwiched between my son and my sister , is bending like an Ashoka tree in the wind . We see pictures of elephants , tigers and birds on the roadside and keep our eyes open for any sign of wildlife . There are tall trees with gigantic trunks and huge , gnarled , roots giving it the look of an enchanted forest . Soon the forest completely envelopes us . From the lookout point we get a distant view of the milky waterfall , misty at the bottom .
Nearing the picnic spot , "wild" life soon comes into view when we see loads of buses , cars , motorbikes . Looks like the whole city and the next one too is spending the day here ! "Plastic free zone ". Not just a meaningless sign , but strictly enforced too ! We roll up our food packets into hurriedly improvised cloth bundles and head to the water . Gurgling , rippling streams rush over the worn rock surfaces to fall crashing down . Looking down the steep rock edge , we see more adventurous groups getting drenched in the spray of the falling water .
A film shooting is also going on . A lively spot of human activity . It seems as if the surrounding forests are watching silently , almost eerily . Do I detect a slight frown on the green countenance ? I wonder how the place would be , long after the last of the crowd has gone home . Still . Brooding . Timeless .
The cold water feels fantastic on my feet . Everyone is testing the depths of deep pockets of water whirling over deceptively shallow looking spots . The youngest in our group , a scruffy six year old is shedding his clothes one by one . Finally , bereft of all clothes , he sits on a rock right in the water and gets busy scrubbing his Crocs an unbelievably squeaky clean ! Mom looks on in wonder at the new , bright footwear !
Climbing back uphill , we are surrounded by monkeys , entire families of them ! As we look , a little one snatches a bottle of mango juice from a man nearby . In a flash , the monkey is up a tree , perched comfortably on a branch and opening the seal , takes the bottle to his mouth . Amazing !
Vazhachal is further up and the water is flowing down the rocky slopes with such force that it is unthinkable to go down to it . After gazing at it for awhile from behind the railings , we head back to Chalakudy . At one point , the sudden brakes of the car jolt all of us . We watch breathlessly as a long snake cuts across the road in a flash of silver .
There are some dry rock faces which would be lovely during the rains . I think of the drive we had to Madurai through Kumily during the monsoon . It was a magically green landscape, with white ribbons of waterfalls , scattered generously at every turn in the road , surrounded by mist encased valleys .
In Chalakudy , we sit down for lunch at a local restaurant . I love the copper dishes out of which they are serving us . As I eat , I think of the beauty of our state . The bounty of Nature casually flung around us so abundantly . I hope we never take it for granted .