Dandeli

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The first time I read about Dandeli was in my 3rd grade geography textbook. It described it as a industrial town lying amidst dense forests of North Kanara known for its paper mills, wildlife sanctuary and the river Kali. Distances back then were enormous and that little town remained in the remote corners of karnataka and my memory as well. With road travel much more convenient these days and tourism taking to Dandeli like fish takes to water, its no surprise I find it an ideal getaway from the chaos that is Bangalore.



Dandeli has something to offer for adventure seekers, nature lovers and for those wanting some peace alike. It lies some 530km from Bangalore and that contributes in no measure to the lack of boorish weekend tourist crowd there.

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Adventure and Sightseeing options >>
Birding and Nature options >>
Where to stay and how to reach >>

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Dandeli - Where to stay

Monday, October 08, 2007

How to reach:
One way is to take a train to Dharwad/Alnavar/Londa and catch a bus from there towards Dandeli. There are also quite a few buses from Bangalore to Dharwad on a daily basis. But it is better to arrange for own transporation from Dharwad because places in and around Dandeli tend to be remote and means of commutation infrequent. From Dharwad, take the road to Dandeli through Haliyal. It lies around 65kms away and needs little over an hour to reach.

Options to stay:

- An excellent option is to stay in the Jungle Lodges Kali river lodge (http://www.junglelodges.com).

- Another little known option is the JLR camp at Ganeshgudi as well.

- For the budget travelers and for people who love to stay closer to the forests, there is the Kulgi nature camp (Rs. 250-500 per tent on twin sharing basis). This camp run by the karnataka forest department is very well maintained and strategically located around 11km from Dandeli at the edge of the wildlife sanctuary. For the Kulgi nature camp, one needs to book the tents in advance with the DFC (deputy forest conservator) office in Dandeli as they are well sought after and generally not available at a short notice.

- For those preferring to stay within Dandeli town, the "State Lodge" (Rs.350 per double bed) opposite the bus stand is convenient.

- The guest house within the West coast paper mill factory (Rs.200 for 4 beds) is another option but I suppose one needs to know someone working in the mill to be accommodated there.

- There are resorts on the high end as well like the Hornbill resort and Bison river resort.

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Dandeli - adventure/sightseeing

Adventure
One activity that Dandeli has become synonymous in recent years is the white-water rafting. This adventure sport is organised by a private group on the river Kali. The power of this mighty river has been harnessed like few others. In a journey of a 100 odd kms, it has 4 major dams across it. This has resulted in it being tamed to a large extent. But there still are stretches of the river where it gushes along in its former glory creating breathtaking rapids and here is where the rafting activity takes place. One can contact the Kali river lodge taking part in the rafting. It costs around Rs.1200 and takes place both in the morning and post noon. There are various other adventure activities that one can participate in. Many are seasonal and the best place to get current information about them is at the Kali river lodge reception.

One interesting place to visit is Ulavi. It is about 58km from Dandeli on the Anshi-Karwar road. While the town is popular for the Channabasaveshwara tomb/temple that has historical significance for veerashaivas, for adventure seekers, the cave formations are the added attractions. There are around 8 caves around Ulavi which can be seen by trekking through the forests. Seven of these lie along a single route and trekking to these is a moderate 2-3 hour exercise. The last cave is along a different route and is reportedly a tough trek. After reaching Ulavi and visiting the temple, one can pick up a person to guide you to the caves. Alternatively, figuring out the route leading to the caves is not very tough and can be found out by enquiring around a bit. It is a steady descent to the caves. After reaching the first of these, the others are close by. While I do not remember the individual names, the penultimate one in this path has a ladder that takes you to the mouth. You can choose to crawl inside the cave which is only 2 feet high at the entrance. There is enough space to walk around once inside. You can enjoy the dark and eerie interiors or if you are claustrophobic like I am, you can make a dash to the exit in a jiffy. The caves are naturally formed on tall spire like rock formations lying within dense forests. Since we are descending down, at places we get amazing views of the wildlife sanctuary all around. Be warned that the return journey can be a bit tiresome as it involves uphill climb.

Another adventure option is to camp overnight on the banks of the Kali river near Molangi. To reach the place drive for about 10 mins on the Dandeli-Londa road up to the the point where an old railway line cuts across the road. Its easy to miss if you are not watching because the line has been in disuse for many decades now. One needs to take the next left and drive along the narrow road until you reach a dead end on the banks of Kali. A narrow path along the river takes you on a beautiful path that is rich in natural beauty and birdlife. There are some places where the riverbank can be used to camp in the night. The JLR offers facilities for camping. Camping can be risky as well because the water flow in the river swells when the release from the Supa dam upstream increases and it usually happens without warning. An additional aspect is the presence of wild animals especially crocodiles.

Sightseeing

Syntheri rocks and Kaneri river point are another attraction in this route. While going towards
Ulavi, you come across the diversion that leads to Syntheri rock formation about 30km from Dandeli. A 2km drive through the forest leads you to the point where one needs to descend down on foot. There is huge limestone monolith which has been carved by the ravaging Kaneri river. Though inside the forest, coming across wildlife may be very rare as tourists frequent this place a lot.

A little further along the road towards Ulavi takes you to a bridge across the Kaneri. A little distance before the bridge, there is a place where you can descend down to the river to take a dip in relatively placid waters and in peace.


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Birding and Nature options >>
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Dandeli - Nature/Birding

Nature/Birding

Another attraction for nature lovers in and around Dandeli is the abundance of wildlife - especially birds. Spotting wild animals, especially predators, here may require loads of luck as the forests are very vast and dense. If your interest lies in birding, you won't be disappointed.

The pride of the place is of course the hornbills. With some luck, you can see all 4 varieties of hornbills found in southern India - Malabar Pied Hornbill, Great Indian Hornbill, Indian Grey hornbill and the Malabar Grey hornbill. The Karnataka forest dept timber depot in the town is a great birding haunt. One is guaranteed sighting of the Malabar grey and the malabar pied hornbills at one of the many ficus trees in this campus. Green pigeons, Barbets - coppersmith, large brown and crimson-fronted, fairy bluebirds, many thrushes, tits are the other attractions.

About 25 kms towards Ganeshgudi takes one to just downstream from Supa Dam. There is a bridge overlooking the supa dam on one side and the Kali flowing down on the other. This spot is great for getting flight shots of the slow-moving hornbills. If you are lucky, you might spot the
Great Hornbill here. A trek on a path along the river downstream takes you into a wooded area that is good for birding as well.

The JLR camp at Ganeshgudi which is just a few kms further from this bridge is a very good option for stay as well as birding. Since the camp is in a secluded location and in sort of a mini valley, one gets gallery view of many perched birds.

The area around Kulgi nature camp including the nearby timber depot is another good spot. The camp is about 10km on the road to Ambikanagar from Dandeli. The Bommanahalli dam backwaters, just a few kilometers from Kulgi nature camp is one more option.

...to be continued


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Adventure and Sightseeing options <<
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Trek to Kudremukh Peak (May 19-20, 2007)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Trek to the Kudremukh Peak in Chikmagalur District of Karnataka. Read the three part series here:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Another co-trekker's account of the same trek here

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Trek to Kudremukh Peak (May 19-20, 2007) - Part 1

The Kudremukh Ranges
If you ask my opinion about the most beautiful part of Karnataka, being the mountain person I am, the answer inevitably would be the kudremukh ranges. As one trudges through chest-high grass unaware of what lies a few feet ahead and makes sense of the path that is not well traversed and yet takes the time to look around and soak in the beauty, its hard not to be overawed by the majestic mountains all around. None more majestic than the 1892m high horse-shaped Kudremukh Peak. You get this view when you march from one dilapidated house to another in the deserted village some 10km inside the kudremukh national park. The Lobo house among these houses was popular with trekkers of yore as they would rest here overnight and try an assault on the peak the next morning. The more brave souls would camp at or near the peak itself, braving the wind and the chill and wildlife. But such things are ruled out these days since camping inside national parks is all but ruled out. It is next to impossible to get a permit for doing so unless you have a valid reason for the same. The village in question (Tholali) has an abundance of fruit trees like the guava and jackfruit trees around the abandoned houses. With no humans for miles around and gentle mist floating in from the west, it is as close to paradise as I can possibly imagine.
(pic: view from near the top of the peak facing east)


We Start...

The story doesn't start from there though. It started 36 hours back as we, the 10 of us, left Bangalore on a sultry Friday night. The heat in May can be unbearable even in Bangalore. We had chosen trekking in K.N.P. (Kudremukh National Park) as a relief and a break from our mundane routine. An overnight drive takes one through Tumkur, Arsikere, Kadur, Kottigehara, Kalasa and Samse. It lies some 300 odd kilometers from Bangalore in the western ghats. If you manage to reach Kottigehara at the break of dawn, try to keep yourself awake because the view that enfolds through your journey over the next 90 km or so is absolutely divine. The road is in a decent condition and sees little traffic so early in the day. You are taken through beautiful dew-laden tea estates (probably the only ones in Karnataka). If you are lucky, then you might find yourself facing the plateau and the sun soaring above the white sea of clouds which cover it. Pretty soon, you will have crossed Kalasa, a major temple town. There are a few hotels here where you can choose to have your bath and breakfast. A short detour (15kms) takes you across the River Tunga and to the other famous temple town of Horanadu. Be warned that it can be very crowded on weekends. We chose not to stop anywhere and drove straight to Samse (12km from Kalasa) which lies on the way to Malleshwara or Kudremukh Township.
(pic: vista of the Kudremukh ranges which was to be our indulgence for the weekend)


Change of plans!

It was about 8 in the morning. The facilities for breakfast and bath in Samse are at a bare minimum. It is just a sleepy hamlet on the foothills of the Kudremukh Range. There is a home stay that has been opened recently but we didn't give it a try. Our plan was to get a permit from the forest dept office in the township and start the trek as soon as possible. Half the group alighted at Samse and unloaded all the luggage. We wanted to camp overnight at the Lobo house and trek to the peak the next morning. The 11km drive to the township is through lush green forest in the National park. The township lies within the park and was created to house the employees of the Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Ltd. (kudremukhore.co.in) which has been thankfully closed down from 2007. We paid the entry fee (Rs.30 per head), trekking fee (Rs.50 per head) and the guide fee (Rs.100 per trek) and returned to Samse. We were also informed by the forest office that no person is allowed to stay within the park after 6pm strictly. So this meant we had to alter our plans. We decided to trek down to Mullodi where we would halt for the night. This village lies just outside the national park.


The unending walk

Our vehicle dropped us at the Basrikal gate. This is where the mud road to Mullodi begins. Its a pucca road on which jeeps can traverse. It has been improved vastly since the last time I trekked in 2005. After crossing a small stream right at the beginning, its a steady climb winding through many plantation estates. Though the stated distance is about 6km to Mullodi, it feels more like 10-12km since the path keeps gradually climbing and the road keeps curving, hugging the hills to our left. At each one of those curves, we would be enticed into thinking that the destination is just after the curve only to be disappointed. Our city bred bodies certainly aren't built for such hikes. After huffing and puffing through the way (never admitting to being tired though), we finally reached the familiar terrain of Mullodi. It lies right on the Somawathy valley overlooking the Somawathy waterfalls. The jeep track ends here. Alternatively one can fetch a drop from the jeeps traveling on this route (about 250-450 depending on the number of people in the group and your negotiation skills). Being the last ones to reach, we saw other taking generous amounts of refreshments and giving their limbs much needed rest and we joined in.


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Trek to Kudremukh Peak (May 19-20, 2007) - Part 2

Chill under the waterfall
After a few minutes of rest and recharging the bodies, we could already hear some of the guys having a splash, literally, below in the waterfalls. Not to be left behind, we soon joined them. The water gushing down was not in any great quantity as it was summer. What ever was present was thanks to the rains that had hit the region the week before. It helped us though as we could cooled ourselves down standing right under the fall. That being easier said than done provided the slippery rocks we needed to reach and stand on. Almost everyone had a spectacular fall or two. One of the guys even smashed his mouth against the rocks and was incapacitated enough not to do the trek the next day. I had a end of day story to tell too while trying to jump from one rock to another with the camera in hand. The next moment, the rock I landed on was providing me with no grip at all and I was sliding down on my tummy to the waters below. I only managed to keep the camera and my head as high as possible so that they wouldn't bang against the rock while I slid in to the waters. Thankfully the water was only waist deep and the camera survived with just a spray of water. Birding wise, I could hear a lot of bulbuls and see some flying around too. But since we were close to water and in a large group, no birds dared to perch anywhere close. I had to be satisfied for the day just watching them fly around at a distance. We spent the time relaxing there while the sun set on the distant horizon.
(pic: chilling near the waterfalls)


The night and the daybreak
Though we were equipped with tents, we decided to take the offer from one of the household at Mullodi to stay at their home. The house of Sathish is the penultimate one on the path that leads inside the National Park. We spent time gazing at the starry sky trying to spot shooting stars and making sense of the weird noises coming out of the forest (ok, they were peafowl calls) and hills all around. After dinner, everyone fell fast asleep. The morning next, we woke up early and were ready to start the trek at 6.30 in the morning. A few hundred feet from Mullodi village the National Park begins and a primitive signboard proudly announces that the peak is 8kms away. Don't be fooled by that! It feels much much more.


The onward trek
The first landmark on the way to the peak is the Tholali anti-poaching camp (APC) where a forest guard would be present and to whom we are required to report. He would then be the guide for us since a department guard has to accompany any group trekking inside a National Park. To reach there the path follows a valley that offers spectacular views of the range. Quite pleasingly, the many houses and fields that used to dot the valley have been evicted and the land returned to where it belongs, the forest. Though it presents the picture of a degraded forest, it won't be time for nature to reclaim what was rightfully hers. Along the way, there are numerous streams that cross our path. Some of the streams don't even have bridges across them or have a rudimentary one log bridge. One has to cross such streams jumping from one slippery rock to another. It was much easier this time because the streams had barely any water. After trekking for almost 3.5 hours we reached the APC location that I knew from my previous trek. But we were baffled to find the camp deserted and the hut that served as the camp in shambles. We were more confused because we had met the forest guard the previous day on our way and had informed him about our trek. We decided to continue with the trek since the path to the peak was fairly straight forward. We later found out that the APC had been moved closer to the park boundary and we had missed seeing a board pointing to the camp when we had crossed one of the numerous streams.
(pic: view of the evicted houses and the degraded forests across the valley)


Lobo house
A kilometer or so from the erstwhile APC, the trekking path from Navoor joins ours. Soon we reach the Lobo house after crossing a stream. There are two abandoned houses close by here with the first one (on the right) in a habitable condition. Continuing further, the path takes a gentle climb over a mound where the grass has grown chest-high to cover the path up. We had to literally make our way through the grass keeping the third and last house in the village as a direction marker. We knew we had to pass that house on the way to the peak. It was slightly scary because the grass could hide literally anything, from a leopard to a cobra to a bison - all of which are equally dangerous when ambushed. Now this is the place where I felt that connect with nature, feeling one and part of it. Its only when you look at your fellow trekker that reality strikes - that you are a mere guest in this paradise. As described in the opening text, the KP is already towering on your left with the clouds gently kissing it as they floated eastwards. Towards the end of this grassy mound, we emerged in a forest with tall trees that seemed straight out of Sherwood. Realizing that we had lost our way, we trekked inside the forest in the general direction of the last village house. Fortunately, we found the house without wasting too much time. It was rewarding to say the least thanks to the guavas, of which we could not have enough. It was about 11 in the morning by then.
(pic: near the erstwhile APC at Tholali. The Kudremukh peak on the elevated horizon)


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Trek to Kudremukh Peak (May 19-20, 2007) - Part 3

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Climb, ahoy!
Beyond the house, one can see a path going up a small hill. To reach the hill, we again had to make our own path in tall grass. As we start to climb the small hill, we realize its not small after all. In fact, during the whole trek, this part is the steepest climb and feels more so because one is taken totally unawares. On the way up, we saw many black-shouldered kites soaring in the wind and keeping close to the slopes to hunt for snakes and rodents. But they were too far away to get any decent pictures. (Yes, I was carrying my 400mm DO on this trek - one main advantage of having this lens!) At the top of this hill, there is a flat place with a lone tree aptly named onti mara. This is a Jamun tree and had plenty of fruits which the guys didn't miss harvesting. The trek further is characterized by gentle walks along the hillside interspersed with two extra-long shola stretches. In aftermath of rains, walking inside these shola stretches can be a walk through hell thanks to the millions of writhing blood-sucking leeches that infest these forests. During our last trek, we had to pluck our atleast 5-10 leeches each even after running non-stop through the shola. But this time no such horrors and we enjoyed a leisurely walk in them. We even tried to refill our water bottles with the meagre flow of water in the streams but found it non-potable.
(pic: collecting Jamun fruits from the ground at the ontimara)


To the top
After the second shola, we come across a waterfall where we relaxed and refilled our bottles. Especially in the months from April to early June, one is advised to carry enough water (3-4 lts per person) or carry water purifying tablets. The water flow is thin and may contains larvae and other particulates which could be bad for your tummy and health in general. We spotted a juvenile snake (pit viper?) hiding in a crevice in a tree. Did not disturb it much, except to take a couple of pictures, lest there were more around. The path from there is a long zig zag one where we walk in the direction away from the peak for a long while. There are plenty of large sized flies (no idea about the ID but they were 0.5-1 inche sized) which are found on the grass in the dry season. Look out for them for their bites are very painful. The bites don't seem to cause any rash though. Insect repellents in the form of skin applicants may help. There is an old dilapidated church which was built by the british. With a waterfall between us and the church, we did not want to take a detour to visit the church. At his point, a "hairpin" curve and we are walking towards the peak again. We walk alongside dense evergreen forest on top of the mountain. The path to the peak keeps steadily climbing. There is even a lake and a broken-down guest house from the British era beside the lake. Finally we reached the peak at about 2. The face gives you spectacular view down provided the mist clears. This happens rarely though. On the top of the peak there is a board pointing north saying "Kudremukh peak 1km" and perhaps is correct because further north there is another peak which is higher. But I have read somewhere that it is another peak which at 1892m is the actual second highest peak of Karnataka. The kudremukh peak on which we were standing is at around 1872m.
(pic1: the juvenile snake, pic2: dense forest alongside our path almost near the peak.)


Back to the base

After spending almost an hour at the peak during which the mist never cleared completely, we decided to trek down. It was around 3pm. Climbing down is easy especially when it is dry and hasn't rained for some days. In the last trek, the rains had made the path very slippery and every step a dicey proposition. We still had to contend with tiredness and dehydration since the humidity was fairly high and potable water availability fairly low. We reached Mullodi exactly at the stroke of 6. Some of the guys who had reached early had already hit the waterfalls again. They had also arranged through telephone for a jeep to come from Samse to pick us up. Thanking our hosts (and paying them a very nominal charge for hosting us) we left in the Jeep (all 10 of us with the jeep driver and our vehicle driver who wanted to 'just have a look' crammed in it). He dropped us in Basrikal Gate for 350 rupees. We had dinner (delicious dosas and rice) at the hotel there and left for Bangalore.
(pic: view from near the church. Somewhere at the end of the valley lies Samse, visible on a more clear day.)



Note:

  • Karnataka wilderness tourism website has detailed information on trekking routes within KNP. http://www.karnatakawildernesstourism.org/Trekking_opp_in/Kudremukh.htm
  • Naxal activities have put a question mark on nature lovers' visits to the KNP. But as per the information I could gather, their activities are more concentrated in the Kerekatte range and in and around Sringeri. After speaking to the locals, my understanding is that their focus is the establishment (read forest dept, KIOCL and the police) and would not harm nature lovers. But do get a clear picture of the state of affairs at the time of your visit before going ahead.
  • Please do not have create any naked flame while trekking inside the forests, especially during summer months as the grass is dry and ripe for forest fires.
  • Avoid smoking and drinking during treks.
  • Except for 2-3 dry months, this region is relatively wet. So if you are trekking, be aware that the leeches are almost everywhere in the trekking path.
  • In my opinion wearing rugged all-weather sandals are a better option and extremely convenient than shoes for trekking. Plucking leeches out from the legs is easier that way. Also because of the number of streams in the path, removing and wearing the shoes everytime is irritating. For the leeches, you can make a loose fitting canvas bag that serves as socks. Other remedies like salt and tobacco are more curative than preventive measures.
  • The family of Sathisha are very non-intrusive yet friendly people. It is a pleasant non-commercial homestay option from where trek to the peak is just a days trek. Facilities are pretty basic but more than adequate given the settings. You can talk to him before reaching the place on 082632-49595. Please treat them well and give them no reason to complain however because other trekkers need to use their facilities in future.



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Words, mere words

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Words, mere words,
can never convey,
what you mean to me,
nor can they enclose
the emotions I endure
when you enter my thoughts and me.

Yet, I sit down and try,
to pen down a few words
that trickle out from my self,
because these are all that remain,
when I may not be around to express
what exactly these words fall short of.

To me, you are the best,
always there as my strength
and as my inspiration,
you are, my sweetest,
both my journey
and my destination.

Am not myself,
am not here anymore.
up there on seventh heaven,
with you beside me,
I realized it only when a friend noted,
I had smiled without a reason.

I know that one thought too many
has now entered the reader's mind.
But a fact remains pertinent,
one every poet is resigned to,
that his muse is fickle,
only the poetry is permanent.

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Creativity Blackout

Friday, February 24, 2006

I sit, I think, I think hard.
Thoughts escape my grasp.
Ideas play hide n seek.
Its all dark out there.
I know not where to go,
I know not where to seek help.
I think of only Thee.
Help me out, Oh Great Lord of Creativity!
I am wading alone through a creativity blackout.

It started innocuously sometime last december. I thought I would give my writing a break. Calling it a break was just failure on my part to recognize the symptoms. True, applications to MBA were taking enough of my time already. But I could still spare time here and there to accomodate writing. It just did not happen. I was done with the applications soon though and had enough time again in my hands. But I wasn't able to conjure up those random ideas which form the meat of my meaningless scribblings. It frustrated me. I took up reading "The Zahir" in the hope that travails of a man facing a similar issue would help me deal with it. But no, I did not have a "Zahir" to relate to what Mr. Coelho narrated. At my wits end, I did something that would inevitably bring out raw emotions in me, something that I knew would make me react at a deeper level. It was something that had made me tear my hair out in madness, cry in despondence, scream in anguish in the past. It had never before failed....

...I sat down to watch cricket. And it doesn't get any better than watching India playing Pakistan. Lo and behold, I have no luck even there. India keep winning one match after another and somehow wannabe literatis like me get no fun out of the happier moments of life. The output just doesn't flow and the blackout continues.

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Anu

Monday, December 26, 2005

Who is Anu?!
To answer the question, I have to go 18 years down the memory lane. A late summer morning, we had all assembled for our first class in the 2nd grade (yeah, that long back! In fact, if I put in a little more effort, I can come up with the exact date and time, not that it would matter. But my brain contains a huge number of such absolutely useless trivia which I love showing off). Our teacher walks in with this prettily cute girl in tow. And you guessed it right, she was Anu.

Ok now, what about her?!
In normal cirumstances, it would have meant nothing to me, atleast not then, not at that age. But wait, am not yet done giving her introduction. She was the daughter of a new headmaster in our school. Mr. Wilson, with his daughter and the rest of his family had relocated to our town from someplace in Kerala. I hated her almost immediately from the time I saw her. And no, those lovely curls in her hair did nothing to soften my hate for her. To add insult to injury, I, being the class leader, was asked to introduce myself to her first. I faked a smile, as I outwardly did through all the years that I knew her. Inside, I was seething.

But why?!
The reasons were simple. Till she arrived on the scene, I was the undisputed king in the class, in academics that is. Now I sensed that I had serious competition. Before, I had to just attend exams to emerge as a topper, but now I had to slog and work real hard to earn my crown. And , being the daughter of a member of the staff made it all the more simpler for her. She had it all laid out in front of her, like a grand feast for a princess. Classmates would just love talking to her all the time. Her charm worked full time. Those curls and the 1000-watt smile certainly were accomplices in her devious conspiracy to steal the thunder from me. I seemed to be the only person in the class able to maintain my sanity and not fall to her influence. I struggled but kept my lead, most of the time, in the tests and the exams. A lot of sweat went in, but atleast it was worth every single salty drop of it.

So were you simply panicking in the first instance?!
Hell no! Didn't I provide you with enough clues in the previous answer to show that I hated her for more reasons than just being a strong competition? Ok, this incident should definitely turn you around to my side.

During those days, I was a passionate and prolific writer. I wrote short stories, stories that just about covered a full length page and with ideas culled from my meagre experience in the big bad world supplemented by generous readings of children's books like Chandamaama, Champak and Misha. I loved calling them my original masterpieces and believe me they were. And I call myself prolific because at one time, I had a collection of 50 such gems written in the space of 2-3 months. I wrote during classes, during breaks, at home (in lieu of my evening's dose of playing cricket) and at places I'd rather not mention. Surprisingly( to me), the few people who read these stories ever called them anything more than "good". I supposed then that they were just not candid in expressing their admiration because they didn't want me to take it to my head and see the world losing a prodigy. My opinion about them hasn't changed drastically now. Just that the bitterness at their action, or rather the lack of it, has mellowed. I understand their actions better and appreciate them for what they did.

Back to the story from the unintended digression, Miss Anu "ever so prim n proper" Wilson had to hear from someone that I had the gift for writing stories and wished to see one of them. She read one and the next thing I know, she hands me a story written by her and asks for my expert opinion (I somehow had a feeling she was being sarcastic, but never got concrete evidence to prove it though). It was a nice little fable with a moral at the end to boot. But I thought, loudly enough, that it was pretty ordinary. But surprise! surprise!, it finds a following among fellow classmates. They just cant get enough of her stories. Can you imagine my situation?! I try my best to show them what real writing is all about and they fall for a sweet as a candy story from an equally sweet (not in my opinion!) but novice (thats more like it!) writer!!

And the worst insult of all, she towers over my 4 feet odd frame by atleast a third of a foot. I will leave it at that.

Take your yammering elsewhere, will you?!
Oh relax, am coming to an end soon. I had to endure her for 5 long years during which I tried my best not to let my emotions come out in the open. Finally, at the end of my 7th grade, I had to leave the school for good. I would continue my next level classes in a different school. After the final exams, I bid farewell to my classmates. Our class teacher handed us each a copy of the school year book. I had contributed a poem (my first ever!) to the book. So the first thing I did, once back home, was to eagerly browse through the book to check if my poem was indeed published. I was devastated when I reached the last page not finding my poem printed anywhere. I had of course noticed that Anu had contributed something which was published, not surprising since she was in the editorial team. So I thumbed through to the page where Miss Anu had something, more significant than what I had, to say. It was a piece on the experience of her first day at our school. "How very pathetic!", I thought. It began "One misty morning in Bangalore, I enter the class of 2nd standard. I was nervous and shy, not knowing anyone in the class. The teacher introduced me to the class and asked me to sit down next to the class leader. He was cute and handsome and made me feel comfortable almost immediately...."

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