Monday, July 09, 2018

How I got those bloodsuckers off my a*s* …

No swear words however mild has been used during the writing of this post.

Kumara parvatha ke hoge beku .. rasta .. eedu …

This was the 5th person in the last 24 hours that I had asked for the way to Kumara Parvatha and who gave me the usual smirk ...

Ok … let me start from the beginning.

After an exhilarating solo trek to Kodachadri in Malnad, a couple of days before, I was determined to do Kumar Parvatha, apparently the toughest trek in the Malnad region of the western ghats. All the Travel junkies that I googled around described the trek in detail , how tough it was and how to go about it. So I knew pretty much what to expect.

None had done it solo except Rohith H. And that too in the monsoon.  I read his blog a zillion times for inspiration.

I landed at the temple town of Kukke Subrahmanya and checked myself into the third hotel after being denied by the first two because they said they do not give accommodation to single people,  despite putting up the cost of single bed room on the price list.

I asked the man at the counter the way to Kumara Parvatha. He said in a matter of factly manner that the way to kumara parvatha was through a trail besides the kukke subramanya temple where they sell coconuts and is fairly well sign-posted for the first 3-4 kms before the dense forests begin.  He asked me where my trekking group had checked in, because I was checking in single at his hotel. This was off peak season and he had most of his rooms empty.   

I said I was trekking solo.

He gave me a look and I almost thought I needed to look for yet another hotel.  Apparently single women have an overbearing tendency to commit suicide or die under mysterious circumstances after checking into hotel rooms. Fair point though. We have known atleast two women celebrities dying mysteriously in hotel rooms in the recent  past. But then I am not a celebrity. Even the security guard in my apartment does not to recognize me.  

I did not want to be stereotyped and did not have the energy to look for yet another hotel. My over defensive instincts kicked in and I pulled out my Aadhar card, my PAN card, my  credit card and my business card that I had from my previous life and laid it before him on the counter and busied myself to fill in the register.  I saw the reluctance in him fade away slowly as he read the fancy title on my business card from my previous life. I am assuming he was convinced or perhaps because he was desperate for customers, he called for a bell boy to show me the room.

No one treks the kumara  parvatha in the monsoons, he told me, as I tucked in my Aadhar card, PAN card and credit card back into my  pouch. ‘It is very slippery and dangerous’, he said with what I assume was a pleading look. 

‘I know’ I said without offering any further explanations and hurried off with the bell boy to check into my room overlooking his plantation.

He was not the only one.  There were many others.  But I did not heed to their advice. Because I assume I was destined to experience what I had set out for.

I was warned about the leeches by my dear friend Mahesh, who has very diligently coached  me as I approached the D-day when I hung up my corporate identity  to travel around and do nothing . More about that later,  but thank you Mahesh.  Per his advice, I tucked into my first aid kit along with all other stuff many small pouches of table salt.
That morning as I set out for Kumara Parvatha I generously applied table salt on my foot, under the  soles of my shoes,  my ankles and  sprinkled them generously  inside my socks and shoes.  I packed myself with the first aid kit that Hyundai dealer had gifted me 8 years ago when I brought my car. Thankfully it had not been put to use since then. 

Only the day before while trekking the Kodachadri mountain I put my first aid kit to some use when I helped a leech bitten young man. I generously offered him hydrogen peroxide solution  and a band aid.  As we got talking, he was impressed that I was trekking solo and was clearly in awe of me.  We took a selfie on his mobile. It did wonders to my ego and felt  good for some time.

That was perhaps why all those men who gave me a smirky look and reluctantly offered me directions  to Kumara parvatha did not have any effect on me.

Trust me that ego massage is very addictive. Especially if you have just come off the corporate world.   I was not yet satiated and I clearly wanted more of it.

It was seven in the morning and as the devotees thronged to the Kukke Subramanya temple, I stopped by at ‘Sri Raghavendra Prasad’ for a quick breakfast. ‘Usili’ the dish made with sprouts , onions and grated coconut looked appealing and instantly knew I wanted to eat that instead of the usual fare of masala dosa with sweet Mangalorean sambar. More about this later in yet another blog. 

Getting back to the point, I offered one sincere namaskara with folded hands to Mr. Subramanya from outside the temple, as I could not take off my salt sprinkled shoes and stand in that serpentine queue for the darshan that morning. Then I turned right in that small muddy path sign posted as ‘way to Anugraha lodge’ and followed the trail.

Filled with adrenalin rush I walked along the concrete path as the monsoon fury lashed the lush green mountains.  River Kumaradhara was gushing down in all its fierceness from the mountains and you could hear it from everywhere. A couple of kilometers along the route came the cross roads.  There was a sign board, but I was the illiterate here as it was written in Kannada or perhaps Tulu. 
I waited for a while, as I saw a man approaching the cross roads.

Kumara parvatha ke hoge beku .. rasta .. idalva , I ask in my broken kannada desperately trying to sound confident.  

As he replies I realize I am being asked a question and I confess , ‘namge kannad gothilla’.

I do not speak kannada very well … I say.

We switch to English.

God bless queen Victoria, and the legacy her men left behind. Never mind all that they plundered.

He tells me to take the right and then look for a small temple, besides which is a green gate from where the forest department starts.  ‘But you are going alone ?’ he asks.

Ah yet another one, I sigh.

I have travelled alone the world over Sir. I know this one is dangerous, especially in the monsoons. 

But I am going only until ‘Bhattare mane’. I am sure the forest department officials will not allow me beyond that.  I just want to try, I say.

  Oh… good. He says. Again this man too is impressed and I soak in to that ego-high that engulfs  you as you know when someone is in awe of what you are doing.  

‘Be careful, there are leeches right from the temple entrance. It will take you three to four hours to reach ‘Bhattare mane’,’ he says and leaves in the opposite direction. And I march on.

Clearly, the rusted green gate is wide open and unmanned by the forest department officials. In the pouring rain, with no one to check me and question my whereabouts, I walk through the creaky gate and enter the forest area. 

It is a cloud burst and I am loving it. Ah … the monsoon magic of the western ghats.

In the Malnad region of western ghats as you climb up in altitude, the rains do not drop down from the clouds. They are the passing clouds themselves.  

The visibility is barely the next thirty meters ahead of you.  The noise of the cloud condensing and the deluge is deafening.
My next road block is a huge tree that has been uprooted over night due to heavy rains, just outside the forest department office. There is no way but to climb over the tree and cross over.  Slimy leeches are all over the tree trunks. I try to circumvent the tree through a longer route, but there is no escaping the leeches. They are all over the place.  I find a small opening by the side and tip toe my way across , making sure I do not expose my bare hands. After all, I have got sturdy Nike shoes and red socks ( Courtesy : Virgin atlantic business class) generously sprinkled with salt that are covering my soles. 

And it begins from thereon.  The rain is intermittent. The vegetation is dense.  The path is not very steep, but small brooks or streams have appeared in the monsoons. It is a walk uphill through these small rivulets that flow alongside the roots of huge tree trunks.  It is dark despite the late morning sun whose rays have barely managed to penetrate the dense vegetation of the forest. Kumaradhara river is gurgling its way downstream somewhere faraway … or perhaps near by , I would not know.
All I know is that I follow the trail for the next three hours and there would be a human being in sight at Bhattare manne.  ( Bhattar’s house)          

Three hours seems like a long time.  I realize there is no other human being anywhere in sight right now. It is a slightly scary feeling. I try to live in that moment. And then my phone beeps with a whatsapp message. Honestly that is very reassuring. 

Soon even that connectivity would  diminish. The sound of the crickets, the roar of a water fall somewhere at a distance and a millions of other living organisms going about their daily chores on this wet monsoon morning is breathtakingly refreshing.

The ego pops up yet again.  My mind conjures up words to write for the blog post. I am excited.  I take lot of pictures.  

And then I give up. 

It is the memory up there in my head that needs to fill up, not the one on my 32 GB mobile phone. Because honestly no one else cares.

As I walk along I look down my shoes and I panic.  A slimy little leech is desperately trying to find its way through the pores of my Nike shoes.  I remember what I have read on google. 
Leeches are found in semi moist places all over the western ghats. They are harmless creatures, except that they latch on to warm blooded creatures, including the human beings and suck the blood out of them.  Nature has endowed them with a natural anaesthetic and anticoagulant which they inject into their prey before they begin to suck the blood.   Thus you feel no pain and would not even notice them for a long time to come.   
The best way to get them off you is to flick them off with an object like your credit card from the posterior and they would  fall off .  You can also irritate them by sprinkling with salt and they would fall off.  But then that would mean you have to deal with sprinkling salt on your own wound. 
Although I am panicking, it is the race between me pulling out my credit card and the leech finding its entry into my shoes.  I flick open my mobile cover and I find my PAN card coming out effortlessly from the slot.  Google did not say a PAN card would do, but I know it will serve the purpose.  And so I flick it off my shoes, before it makes an entry.     

I click a picture of the stubborn leech crawling on my PAN card.
Ah .. another instragram  moment to write about.  I am super excited. 
I am constantly monitoring my shoes and concentrating hard to spot any leeches. I know I am missing the forest for the leeches. But I am determined. I would not have them get my way.  Every leech that crawls up my shoes has been flicked away by my PAN card. 

I follow the trail, continue to keep a close watch on the leeches.  Oh my god , this is leech kingdom.

Looks and feels like navigating the peak hour traffic on outer ring road.

The leeches, they are every where. I realize there would be no moment to pause and take in the view, because every moment is a fight to get ahead of the leeches.

Much like the peak hour drive on Marathalli bridge where if you looked too long at the pretty girls on the bill boards modelling for ‘lovable Bras and panties’, you could lose out the fight to get ahead of the traffic.  

I was determined the leeches were not going to get the better off me.  I was hands free. I knew I could not rest anywhere until I reached ‘Bhattare mane’.  I kept a watchful eye on every leech that tried to crawl up my shoes. Walking fast or walking slow did not help.  They just crawled in from every direction. Keeping up pace with the leeches was getting tiresome.

Much like that constant crawling and creeping of ceaseless e-mails into the inbox in my previous life.  Fending off those soul sucking emails before they turned into stinkers was a task I was familiar with. It was tiresome work. This task of flicking off the leeches before they get on to your shoes was just as tiring but unfamiliar.  Sure, out there too in the concrete jungles of ORR, in my preoccupation to fend off those emails from my  inbox,  I did miss out on the woods for the trees, metaphorically speaking.

Back on the western ghats, suddenly my destination ‘ Bhattara manne’ seems far away.  The dense jungle, the flora, fauna, the noise of the birds, the river, everything seems tiring and monotonous as every effort of my existence is on keeping away the leeches from crawling into the pores of my shoes.

And that is when it happens.

As I am about to take my next step, I notice Him slithering away. The fluorescent green colour of my Nike shoes matches His.  For a second or two, or perhaps many, we realize and take in each other’s presence.  He has paused and is looking at me. Or so I think. 

Here words fail me. 

I freeze.  For a moment there is absolute nothingness in me. 

English vocabulary is very limited, to describe the experience.  To call it fear would be an understatement. Surrender would be slightly closer to the feeling I was experiencing.  For want of a better word, I would call it ‘Absolute surrender’
In that moment, I experienced nothingness. If that is what it is to connect to that higher energy, then that was what the moment was all about. 

In those moments the body perhaps chose the flight mode  and retreated. I say 'perhaps', because I did not know what was happening. 

I had seen up and close, many snakes in captivity and from a safe distance. I was educated by Vava Suresh and many others through practical demonstrations that not all snakes are poisonous and even among the ones that are, as long as you do not get in their way, they are harmless. I knew from knowledge to distinguish a venomous snake from a non- venomous one seeing the shape of its hood and mouth.  
But in that moment, nothing mattered. I stood there, struck by a power whose energy was way too strong for me to comprehend and assimilate.
Into it dissolved my ego and ambition to complete the solo trek to kumara parvatha.
I had experienced the pure feeling of nothingness. Albeit for a moment or two.  But that was so overpowering that  I had no wish to ascend any further.

It was not fear.  I am almost certain of that. If it indeed was fear, I would have retreated, waited or moved on.  But I did not. I stood there frozen in time.

All my five senses felt suspended. I was beyond seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting and smelling anything. There was a feeling of  absolute bliss. How i would gladly give up the five senses to stay in that zone. 

In that moment I clearly knew I had to surrender to the magnificence of nature. 

Malnad in monsoons belongs to the leeches, the snakes, the fury of the rivers and waterfalls gushing down the plains and a million other living creatures that inhabit it.  The pesky human being is certainly not one of them.  

In those moments of nothingness, when my senses froze, my body did otherwise. It took some steps backwards to retreat and my back rested over a tree trunk.   The green snake, was still looking or perhaps hearing ( snakes cannot hear .. or can they …) out my presence around Him.  He was as green as the fresh grass around him, as restless as the water flowing down the river and as fear inducing as a huge monstrous cobra could have been.   He was beautiful.

Many hours later, back in my hotel room I would type out on Google images ‘ green snakes found in malnad’ and learn everything known to mankind as yet that one has to learn about Him.  But at that moment, He was much more than just a species of ‘Ahaetulla nasuta’ family, known commonly as the green vine Malabar snake.

Photo courtesy :

I experienced the feeling of purity.  Many have said, it comes from deep meditation and focus. But mine perhaps emanated from the basic instinct of fear.  The raw feeling of fear comes from that need for every living creature’s  inherent need to survive.  

 However I did not retreat for a while. I just stood there taking it all in. That ‘absolute surrender’ moment was too strong to be described in limited vocabulary.  It was purely experiential.  And I will leave it at that.

I start descending the same trail that I had ascended for nearly two hours.   

On the way almost near the forest gate entrance, I meet a man who is carrying supplies over his shoulders. Clearly he is going to ‘Bhattare  manne’.  Because there is no other inhabitant out there and the only trail out here leads to Bhattar’s house where all trekkers stop by to have some sumptuous food, take rest and register themselves with the forest department before beginning the steep ascent upwards to Sesha parvatha that comes before conquering Kumara parvatha.  Atleast that is what adventure junkies tell me on their blog posts.

The ego in me pops up again and tempts me.   I ask him if he was going to 'Bhattare manne' and he replies ‘yes’.  I ask him how far it was and he tells me it was another 4-5 kms away.

I reluctantly ask him if I could come along with him and he gives me that much familiar smirky smile. Then he says it would be too late for me to descend down before sunset which I know is true. I could have persuaded him to accompany me for a few extra rupees.

But my heart is not into the ascent anymore.  A feeling far too powerful than the petty ‘ego-high’ of conquering the Kumara Parvatha has engulfed me and I really need nothing else at this moment.

We part ways and my descent further down starts.

I know that by now there are leeches feasting all over me and I could not care two hoots about sprinkling salt or to pull out my PAN card and flick them off. I was experiencing a state of mind that was beyond the comprehension of those blood sucking leeches.

There was a time perhaps a few months ago, when I could not care about that ceaseless deluge of emails that flooded my inbox . I could see the futility of it all and I was beyond  the rat race of being available 24/7 all just to prove a point. Moreover it was tiring and I was exhausted. 

A couple of hours later after walking back the trail that i had set off in the morning, I am back at my hotel stripping off my clothes only to discover the slimy slippery creatures emerging from all over my body and my clothes. 
I now realize that while I was in my trans-state, face to face with Him, I perhaps retreated a few steps and rested against a tree trunk while the green Malabar vine and I were facing each other off.  I say perhaps, because I do not know I did that because I have no memory of anything that happened then.

But I must have, because there were no leeches around my foot or on my ankles when I removed my shoes. Generous sprinkling of the salt did the trick. They emerged from my back, my a*s* and the upper part of my body.

I look myself in the full length mirror and realize they had had their fill of my blood and were plump and content. No PAN card was needed this time.  They were falling off from my body leaving painless spots that were bleeding profusely.  
On any other normal day I would have shrieked out in horror. But this day was not a normal day. An unfathomable feeling of pure bliss and calm had permeated into me and all around me.

If you have not experienced a Leech bite, let me assure you they are painless. The anesthetic that they inject into you before they bite ensures it is painless. But the anti-coagulant that they inject ensures they get their fill of blood without the natural healing power of the predators body that would otherwise ensure that the blood coagulates in some time.             

We Humans emulate or strive to emulate a lot of behaviour from other living creatures. Management and motivational books are full of those examples.  And here is one more of that I reflected upon that day that will never find a mention in management books.
A career in the corporate world is similar to a leech bite. It is painless. They inject the anaesthesia into you with the promise of good money and an exciting career. By the time you realize what you have signed up for and slave it out, they have sucked your blood, fattened their bottom line and top line. Then suddenly you are no more relevant in their scheme of things. They offer no coagulants and leave you bleeding for a long time to come. 

Unlike the leeches in nature that suck just as much as they need, the greedy corporations know no such limits. How we wish they did ?        
As I chased the plump leeches away , ( and kept photographing them on my PAN card and  debit card)  I observed that I was bleeding. Painlessly but profusely bleeding. 

That leech that bit me up my a*s* slid down effortlessly. She was ten times bigger than her usual self after feeding off my blood than she must have been when she slimily crawled up from my back through the full hand round neck T-shirt that I was wearing. ( Full hand round neck T-shirt Courtesy : British airways first class )

My first aid kit is pulled out.  I drown Hydrogen peroxide solution all over my leech bitten spots. This ensures that the bleeding pores do not get septic by other foreign objects. The liquid Hydrogen peroxide sizzles as it comes in contact with the blood. I apply band aids and plasters all over my wounds. It is all  so painless that it feels as though you are performing the first aid on someone else.

I am still pre occupied with that all powerful feeling of nothingness and peace  that I experienced up there in the dense forest on the way to 'Kumara Parvatha' and I do not want that memory to fade away.   
But there are leeches to be flicked, wounds to be healed and band aids to be stuck.

And so, I get practical and do the needful. 

The plump leech’s photograph on my Debit card  is here for you to see. 

Bloody Blood sucker.

Remember I said at the beginning of this post, No swear words  has been used during the  writing of this post.

I drape myself in fresh set of clothes and dump all my old clothes into a bucket of salt water.  

May their soul rest in peace. 

They are paying the price for their greed, I justify to myself.  
The leeches of the Corporate world. When you get on the bandwagon of a hyper competitive rat race,  and grab that plump offer and a fat pay check, there is a price to pay. As you get fatter sucking the blood off your prey, the greater the risk of falling off or getting flicked away. Because there are many more leeches waiting to suck the warm blood and moreover you have had your fill. Suddenly you find yourself irrelevant. But you do not realize that until a long time and by then it is too late. It is never a happy ending.   

A dozen thin leeches struggling for survival crawl out of my clothes soaked in salt water in a desperate attempt to save themselves. I say a silent prayer to their souls, lock up my hotel room and walk to the temple. Somehow I have fallen in love with them – the Leeches. They really are cute.

Still reeling under the experience of that all powerful feeling of ‘nothingness’ that I experienced some hours earlier, I grab a quiet corner at the temple observing all devotees falling all over each other for the darshan. 

I feel peaceful. I feel energized. I feel joy. I feel humble and I feel nothing.

A couple of hours later, I am still sitting in the same quiet corner. Instinctively I feel moist at my back and touch my back. My hand is stained with fresh blood. On any other normal day I would have panicked.

Instead am actually feeling blissful and calm.  

As far as the after effects of the leech bites  go, Google bhagwan had the answers.  

I go out of the temple in search of the most powerful anti coagulant of all - Tobacco.
Damn it, this is a temple premises and there would be no cigarette or beedi shops anywhere closeby.

I walk and walk and decide to ask a smoker where I could buy cigarettes.  He is taken aback.  I then explain the context to him without getting into much of details.  He directs me to a small corner shop that looks like a local grocery shop.  I am skeptical, but I take his advice because I have no choice.
At the grocery shop, I pull out my mobile and show the picture of the plump leech on my debit card   and ask for tobacco in broken kannada. He is quick to understand and tells me that the tobacco in a cigarette or a beedi is ineffective for Leech bites and hands me over a long tobacco leaf for eight rupees.

It is so big that the contents could have rolled into a dozen cigars.  
I walk back to the hotel, still in a trans-state, blivious to the bleeding all over my A*s* and back .
In the hotel room I rub along crushed pieces of the long tobacco leaf.  And guess what, the bleeding stops. Almost instantly. 

Who said Tobacco kills … eh ?.

Dear Trekkers : if you are foolish /ignorant/ brave / crazy enough to trek in Malnad during the monsoons please carry along with your first aid, some raw unprocessed tobacco leaves. 

The effect of dried tobacco scrubbed on to my back and a*s* makes me smell like a chain beedi smoker.  It takes me back my memory lane and reminds me of the mother in law of our house maid in Tiruchirapalli who smoked ‘Suruttu beedi’ in private which smelled even when she emerged in public.  

Sorry for the deviation here. But the trivia freak in me wants to mention this.
 Tiruchirapalli or rather ‘Woraiyur’ a suburb of Tiruchirapalli is famous for the Tobacco that Winston Churchill ordered for his pipe and cigar. For many years it travelled all the way from Woraiyur to a trader in England who had that old boy Winston as his loyal customer.  Until very recently (that is many decades after Churchill kicked the bucket) the Woraiyur tobacco was being exported to this trader in England duty free. That I am told is not the case anymore after a very patriotic district collector spotted this and put a stop to the age old colonial practice. 
Not sure if Churchill was ever bitten by leeches. If he had he would have found other uses of tobacco as well.  Not sure though if the blood sucking leeches would bother to suck the biggest blood sucker of them all. ( Churchill bashing among Indians is trending on social media  and I am sure among many others Shashi Tharoor will like this … )       

Forgive me for this digression.

To summarize, those were the highlights of my solo trek to Kumara Parvatha. 
Inshallah … god willing … if Subrahmanya Swamy ( the one from Kukke ) beckons me again, I will come again to trek kumara parvatha in the non -monsoon months. 

For now, I have learnt to surrender to nature or to that magnificent force that engulfs all things.

How I would love to experience again the same feeling of nothingness where all your five senses feel suspended and you are in a zone of nothingness.  It was pure bliss.
Nothing  would be the same again.     

Moral of the story :
‘Malnad in monsoons belongs to the leeches, the snakes, the fury of the rivers and waterfalls gushing down the plains and a million other living creatures that inhabit it.  The pesky human being is certainly not one of them’.  

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’ 


  1. Thats an amazing blog Jayanthi.. every word pictured the nature and surroundings ... this is the first time I am seeing another jayanthi in you... wish you good luck and many more adventures ahead... !!!

  2. Good one *s*lgic. Liked your witty corporate similes and indeed true. Wil wait for your conquer of kumara Parvata.

  3. Jayanthi... the one carrying the basket was the person from Battara mane he walks down and up the hill each day.

    Well the snake was indicating you to stop conflicting thoughts and the leaches were purifying your blood. Next time you want to do some social service, you can think of donating blood to malnourished leaches of Malnad.

    A beautiful rad though...

    It is strange but true, solo women traveler are considered to commit suicide or do something all through India, but in reality men commit suicide more than women. i have had my share of experience, welcome to the club...

    Thank you for sharing your experience.

  4. I had a brief moment of silence After I finished reading your blog... You know why.. Your journey comes out as vivid as you experienced it... Honestly I may not have the far as corporate life is concerned neither leeches nor the snakes will have anything left to contribute... It's the traveler who would see and absorb it all who will come out to find thier pack of tobacco..

  5. Where the mind is without Fear- the Head is held high. Leeches are not as harmful as the fear of them are!!Keep marching!!! Well written and await more Jayanthi!!

  6. Sukrutha7:11 AM

    Jayanthi so proud of you, I would never have the guts to trek solo especially KP. I trekked KP in the year 2016 the best trek ever but trekking solo during monsoon wow hats off..... You got to trek KP soon (you will love it) Thanks for inspiring us as always to do things which we feel is impossible. **Beautifully written** <3

    1. Thanks Sukrutha. Your comment made my day,
      Now that it is october i am planning a non solo trek to kp...


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