Archive for April 2010
How do you explain a place like Kodai? This was something that weighed on my mind before a recent visit with uninitiated friends during the Sinhalese and Tamil new year. There are several peculiar facets about the place: its founding by Americans (at a time when California still belonged to Mexico) in a classical south Indian civilization ruled by the East India Company, it unique ecology of shola/grasslands and the colorful community of artists, organic agriculturalists, zealous missionaries, environmentalists, educators, retired civil servants and others who make its lofty slopes home. For years it was a sleepy, pleasantly ignored hill-station whose few visitors were composed of honeymoon couples and school children. Of course that has all changed in the two decades since I left school. The town is more connected with the outside, crowded with building developments, trashed with consumer refuse and noisier with the din of tourists than ever. Yet there is still something that gives the place a very special aura…
Cheese is what my mind fixated on this time during our short stay in Kodai. Edam, Gouda, Havarti, Provolone, Camemberti, Feta and many more are all produced in this south Indian highland! The producers are lead by the Kodai Dairy and Cinnabar, but there are others delving into the art. Kodai cheese, along with fine memories and revived spirits, is what we returned to Colombo with.
For a brief review of the quirky aspects of a hill-station founded by New England Yankees in the south Indian hills see my Outlook Traveler (April 2005) article “Higher Ground.” The publishers have made the unfortunate editorial error of spelling Kodai as “Kodi” in a singular effort to revise it more closely to its pronunciation. For everyone else it remains Kodai.
Two years ago I was returning from North America to Sri Lanka and was treated to a once in a lifetime aerial view of a winter dawn over the southern Western Ghats. We were flying down from London, over Mumbai to Colombo and the sun rose as as we flew over the Nilgiri, Anaimalai and Palani Hills. These are some of the images that I was able to captures through a frustratingly scarred economy seat window. I have taken the liberty to highlight places that people familiar with the area will recognize. Our family friend, Kodai School graduate and distinguished Tamil scholar Dr. Clarence Maloney has suggested that I revise my spelling of the hills back to “Palani” to better represent the correct Tamil pronunciation. My use of “Palani” over the last decade had been based on the usage by organizations such as the Palni Hills Conversation Society (PHCC).