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Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Long Weekend Getaway: Part 2: The Dodda Mane Hospitality


This blog is dedicated to a lady we were fortunate enough to meet in Agumbe, one who must ideally be conferred with the greatest of the civilian honors in the country for what she has been inspiring for years now, personifying "Atithi Devo Bhava". Read on for more...

So, there we were, at the Agumbe bus stop, needing to inquire about reaching the three waterfalls in and around the town (theoretical knowledge from reading multiple travel blogs) - Jogi Gundi, Barkana Falls, and Onake Abbi Falls. We found the "Mallya Residency" - a small lodge that I had read about in one of the blogs as a possible place to stay, and as we looked around in vain for a few minutes for the owner, we also got to know from the passers by that the falls we were after were all in a radius of 10 kms from the town. There were also an unusual number of policemen around, that being the Independence Day, presumably for the early morning flag hoisting.

Thomas was quite thrilled about the fact that Agumbe was the place where most of the now legendary Doordarshan Serial "Malgudi Days" was shot - this despite having never watched the serial himself - and was reminding us, the Kannada speaking folks, Karthik and myself, to check with the locals about this large old fashioned house called "Dodda Mane" which played host to all the episodes of "Swami and Friends" and a few more. I had also read about this place and the fact that they offer a home stay there, but was sure that we won't get any chance to stay there as we hadn't told them beforehand.



But we decided to check out the place in any case, and there it was, in the main street itself, covering itself with tarpaulin to overcome the sprinklings from the incessant rain. We captured some photos to remember the place, and thought of asking them if they can help us about a possible overnight stay and with directions to the waterfalls. Within next ten minutes, rest of the day was fixed for us, thanks to "Kasturi Akka" and her amazing family who own the Dodda Mane.

They conducted themselves as though they were expecting us all the while and treated us with great hospitality and care, told us that we could stay on for a day even though we had not informed them beforehand, this despite having quite a few guests in the house that day and expecting a lot more on the coming two days. The ever smiling Kasturi Akka, as people address her, the old lady who is the chief of the house, just asked our names once and addressed us individually with our names unfailingly every single time for the rest of the day. She spoke to Anurag in her Hindi and English, Thomas in whatever little Malayalam she could muster up, and in Kannada with Karthik and myself, although her mother tongue is Konkani. She is very comfortable in many languages, and her smile, caring attitude and talkative nature replenished us with new energy, even as she treated us with great breakfast of sweet and sour forms of Dosa, a mixture of Avalakki (flattened rice / Poha) and Jaggery, and the healthy Malnad Kashaya (a drink prepared out of 29 different spices and Ayurvedic ingredients). 

We had our afternoon lunch at their place too, in between the trips to the waterfalls and the hills. She took personal care and served all the food items herself, despite her failing health of late. The lunch was a typical Karnataka Western Ghats preparation - sumptuous, healthy and very tasty! Her family members were not to be left behind in this great spell of hospitality, as they arranged for our trips to the falls, which I'll talk about in the next part of the blog. They also ensured that we felt at home in every step of the way. Kasturi Akka (or should I say Kasturi Ajji in respect of her stature and age?) and her family have been looking after visitors to the town of Agumbe for over 35 years now, without any expectation of favors, and it is this selfless motherly care that has typified the "Guest is God" saying we have in this land.

Hats off to them again, and here are a few more clicks from Dodda Mane premises:

Karthik tries his hand with dumbbells at Dodda Mane

The old fashioned "Thotti Mane" from inside - splashed with rains

Kids perform march past on occasion of the Independence day, braving heavy rains



Us, before embarking on the first waterfalls journey from Dodda Mane


And here is a video I came across, of Dodda Mane and Kasturi Akka:



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