By Kishor Cariappa
I was born in Madikeri. Having spent a good number of my initial years as a student in the district headquarters of Kodagu, I moved out of town in search of good education and suitable employment.
Having said that, I have never been able to detach my bond with this charming hill station and capital of Kodagu. The joy of coming back to this breathtaking view is hard to explain.
Considered by me as one of the most beautiful places on earth, I simply feel invigorated and uplifted the minute I step into Madikeri. As soon as the KSRTC bus touches Chain Gate from Kushalnagar side or Thalathmane from Sullia side, I am overwhelmed by the freshness of the air I breathe.
Each time I visit Madikeri, after a few hours of catching up at home, it is my habit to stroll around town starting from Toll Gate to Raja Seat to State Bank of India to Chowk and back.
Every visit I notice perceptible changes in the condition of roads or increase in the number of buildings springing across the town. Thanks to the tourist tag the district has earned in the last few decades, the number of vehicles on the road have naturally increased many manifolds. Traffic jams are now the order of the day starting from District government hospital till Chowk. Only if you are lucky, you can manage a parking spot in the main part of the town. Nearly all of the shops receive homestays bookings and don’t be surprised if you are greeted by their agents at the KSRTC bus stand.
Old quaint homes are making way for tourist homes and lodges. Restaurants offering cuisines ranging from North India to Jain to Chinese are dime a dozen. Small shops selling coffee powder, pepper powder, fresh honey and other spices have mushroomed. The road leading to Raja Seat has more potholes than flowers inside the garden. Garbage in the form of plastic mineral water bottles, chips and biscuit packets are omnipresent.
Along the New Extension road, houses next to the main road are making way for offices, restaurants and shopping complexes. There is a new private bus stand on Race Course Road which is gathering dust since most the passengers and buses still prefer to do business at the old private bus stand.
Continuing to talk on how my town is changing, my favourite barber is servicing 15-20 customers per day, but he has no time for his loyal and old customer. He doesn’t feel the emotional connect anymore with old customer who has remained loyal. (True story this. After many years I said goodbye to this barber who made no time for me despite me being an obvious fan. Yet, I didn’t have the heart to look out for a new one in Madikeri. I get my haircut in the city I live for now).
I grudgingly come to terms with the fact that people of Madikeri and the town have changed over the years. Shops are the same, but old owners are replaced by the younger generation. They are quite businesslike, there is no emotional attachment the way they approach customers. They treat locals and tourists alike. Is that a good thing? May be from a customer service point of view yes. The local vegetable seller is no longer the friendly neighbourhood type. Take it or leave it, he says curtly. I am shocked. Slowly I begin to realise Madikeri, my favourite place on earth, has changed. I can’t come to terms with that. It will take some time for the thought to sink in.
My mom asks me: “Why are you so attached to Madikeri?”
She answers herself, “May be because you were born in this town and your umbilical cord was buried here…”
Maybe she is right. She loves Madikeri and so do I.