We are in Kuppalli, a small village nestled in Karnataka’s share of the Western Ghats. Oscillating between rain and sunshine, we trail a winding route through forest paths, alternating between our car and walking. At the other end of the clearing, is the childhood home of one of Kannada literature’s most consequential figures – Kuvempu.
The very foot he raised / to dance the dance / in the little hall of Tillai – it claimed me as a slave. Appar, the seventh-century Saivaite saint and Tamil poet, wrote thus of Shiva’s dance. The lord in the form of a dancer - Nataraja with his four arms and raised left foot represents the source of all movements within the cosmos.
The ceiling, it turns out, is trying really hard not to eavesdrop. It was a Tuesday afternoon when it happened. I — for no reason I could imagine — slid straight off a square of brown suede couch and planted myself flat on the carpet, face up. Maybe I wanted to see the world upended. Maybe the heat was just getting to me.
The signs were always there. Before the doors began to creak, the wood was rotting. The bottom of the bathroom door was pale as if it had been left floating in water for years, which in a way, it had. Inside, there must have been thousands of growth rings in the wood. Each time I looked at it closely, I bet it would be a matter of seconds before tea-coloured mushrooms began to shimmy out.
Many texts that speak of the ecology of the Kodagu area refer to it as the tropical evergreen mosaic – a word that denotes knitting, collaging, tying together. From a distance, the choice of words is obvious. Here, one undulated geographic area provides the avenue for two completely different kinds of landscape to exist together.
The first time I saw Zarina Hashmi’s art, at an exhibition called ‘Homelands in Kettles Yard’ in Cambridge earlier this year, it transported me back to a simpler time – excited to use the new Picasso pencil set my mother got for me when I was four, the first thing I learned to draw and colour, what any child learns really, was how to make a home for myself and my family.