I know what you're thinking. Ho hum. Another one of them stupid vacation diaries. The Planter's Club, Sakaleshpur is where I spent a few days last week, soaking in, along with the atmosphere, a few stray drops of beer and some tremendously spicy cuisine. But hang on. The paying public demands a few footnotes and background material....
Once upon a time, long, long ago, a few Sundays back in fact, Sheela's tribe organized an impromptu outing to a coffee estate that Sheela's brother Sundeep had bought recently. Everyone was there except Prince Charming, who was basically toiling away in Bombay. Sheela rang up Prince Charming and asked him to come on his mettlesome charger and grace the gathering with his customary good humor and vivacity.
Now, Prince Charming was very busy with work, you know, slaying dragons, saving damsels in distress and sitting at the round table. He wondered aloud if it would be worthwhile going all that way just to chill out for a few days and do nothing but drink beer and eat yummy food. As he spoke, he realized that it was his beholden duty to his family to cheer them up and spend quality time with them. After all, what good is a valiant knight if he cannot spend a few days drinking really chilled beer and eating mutton pepper fry for the sake of his family? So with a heavy heart, he bid adieu to the dragons and the damsels in distress and heaved his posterior in the general direction of Mysore, wherefrom the tribe would repair to the Planter's Club, Sakaleshpur.
Well, I must confess that I (I'm taking the liberty of referring to myself in the first person. When one is Prince Charming, one does rather merit the third person treatment but jealousy abounds, dear reader. I know it astounds you, but people would actually think me arrogant if I kept referring to myself in the third person) rather imagined a planter to be a grizzled old man with his back bent from years of planting, looking yearningly skywards every now and then as if praying to the rain gods for deliverance. The Sakaleshpur Planter is anything but.
From the array of cars parked in the place, my guess was that the average Sakaleshpur Planter lived like a sheikh whose family has just installed a few new oil wells. I hobnobbed with a few and found them speaking with impeccable diction and great erudition on a wide range of subjects. One of them set me right about the Modern Art scene in India, on which topic I had recklessly shot off my mouth. I admit that I know as much about the Modern Art Scene in India as I know about the Lesser Scandinavian Poets, namely nothing, but I had never thought I would be so speedily, if gently, exposed as a goof. I quickly learnt the merits of not opening my mouth, except for the purpose of ingesting the beer and the mutton pepper fry.
Interesting place, in short, and it wasn't really opulent or anything, it had a beautiful location and great comfort. The staff was an absolute throwback to colonial times. An extremely geriatric gentleman turned out to be the cook. Eighty two years old, would you believe it. After a particularly delicious meal one evening, young Sundeep sent for him, to thank him for the wonderful meal and cross his palms with silver. It turned out that he wasn't interested in the money at all. That seemed unusual. We looked at him quizzically. After a bit of hemming and hawing, he inquired if he might speak freely. We urged him to ask unto half our kingdom, but all that he wanted, it turned out, was a large drink. The bar had closed and the bar clerk had left for the night, taking with him the keys to the liquor cabinet, so we couldn't buy him a drink. He looked yearningly at a half finished bottle of Scotch that we were sampling rather extensively. Without a second's hesitation, young Sundeep handed it over to him, the rest of the company agreeing that it was a mere bagatelle in the appreciation of culinary genius.
Next morning, we were amply recompensed for the generous liquid gift of the previous night. He cooked up a beautiful meal of "akki rotti" (rice chapaties) and some deep red concoction of spice and tomatoes that was tangy and delicious. I found I had nothing to do. Sundeep had to go back to the estate for some work, so I thought I would hijack one of the cars and explore the countryside a bit. The wife and kids agreed to join and we ended up going to the Belur and Halebeedu temples about an hours drive away. Was that good? Let me put it this way. If I have a one-or-the-other choice between seeing the temples and marrying Shilpa Shetty, I would unhesitatingly choose the temples. Only if it was a one-or-the-other choice, of course. I would much rather do both..........