Amongst the many hill stations in Tamil Nadu, Kodaikanal is the third most travelled to destination (and because of that – relatively less crowded) after Ooty and Coonor. This beautiful hill station is dotted with pristine lakes, thundering waterfalls and grassy hills. As you drive up, your eyes are treated to the most picturesque views of valleys that are dotted with tiny colourful houses and acres and acres of green rolling hills. All of this makes you feel you are living inside one of those desktop screensavers you see on your laptop – it’s just too perfect to be true.
I had chosen these very hills to be my home for a whole month. Every year, my yoga school runs a residential teacher training course on the slopes of the Himalayas to help train and create future yoga teachers in the world. Since Covid made most travel impossible, I had to settle with the hills close to Chennai.
As a child, I had travelled to Kodaikanal but after seeing the majestic and magnetic Himalayas and living on her slopes… I was apprehensive about how it would be to live in Kodaikanal. I looked online, scouring website after website to find a place for my TTC (teacher training course) – but everything was too commercial for my liking. Places that looked posh but were in fact like fancy cages and left you feeling disconnected from nature. I wanted something earthy and helped me feel like I was part of the land and whilst I presumed this would be easy, it was a herculean task.
After a month of futile searching, I sat complaining to my mother. Her eyes lit up and she told me of a friend, who had bought a huge piece of property in Kodaikanal for conservation. This meant the forest would stay in its pristine condition and would not be exploited for tourism. She also said her friend had built mud cottages and a small Yogashala there and called the space – The Base. As The Base, was not meant for commercial purposes it could accommodate only twenty people at a time.
My eyes lit up. I Googled The Base and loved everything I read about it. It was started by a yoga teacher and his wife, who was a conservationist. They once saw the lower hills of Kodaikanal affected by a raging forest fire and decided to buy the land. He pooled all their savings and then bought the place and began replanting it with native trees. As the forest grew, with it soon came the birds, the elephants and all the little creatures (including peacocks, monkeys and porcupines) – they choose to lend the space only to people who taught yoga or art – I clapped my hands and ran around my home in ecstasy – I had found my utopia.
We blocked the place for a month, and soon I was on my way to Kodaikanal – not the commercial streets with the plastic trinkets, the gluten heavy bakeries and the money minded cabbies – but to a place that was created with concern for the earth. A place that grew herbs and had a waterfall on-site to help irrigate. A place that had one cow who was looked after with so much love and care, she didn’t mind sharing her left-over milk with her guests. A place whose vegetables and fruits were grown on the very soil – that we learned to pick and cook ourselves!
Seventeen yogis and I made our way there for what would soon become the most transformational month of our lives.