Jul 13, 2019

gathering at Arohas Eco Hill resort - 1

Memories of childhood days at Bhadravathi are are like evergreen forest. The MPM colony, its the open grounds, a park, tree lined streets and its peaceful ambiance; the row of gardens in VISL colony, its tree lined streets; the great campus of St. Charles Borromeo School where my academic journey began and the river Bhadra after which the town gets it name. The visit to a sugar mill situated between Bhadravathi-Shimoga organised by the school. The walks with my family from the colony to Sunnadahalli Anjaneya Devastana which was on the other side of Bhadra. The concrete bridge across the river was barely 10' wide and quite low. I could climb down on to the boulders and play in the gushing waters. Also remember seeing the river flowing forcefully, the bridge was wet by splashing waves. All that ended suddenly in II standard when dad quit the job, and we moved to Delhi. I lost touch with my friends there, except for my neighbor Jayanth. Years later, at BMS College of Engineering I met Sateesh Kavi from Shimoga was my senior at St Charles. We were classmates for four years, been in touch ever since.

All the while I had a wish to reconnect with my St Charles school and friends there. In March 2014 while touring historical spots around Bhadravathi, I happened to spend a night at the guest house in MPM colony and the following I visited my school which had changed little over the years.. happened to see my II standard classroom occupied by tiny tot juniors. Later sometime 2018, I asked Sateesh if he knew anyone from his immediate junior. Fortunately he was, he connected me with Srinivas Kharidi. We chatted over Whatsapp several days before Srini introduced me to his group of 40+. I was a stranger in the group for almost a year until Srini's message of April 20th .

Hi all,
Save the dates!
Class of 86 Reunion
11th & 12 of May '19
Some of us haven’t seen each other since our last reunion at Golf Club, Bangalore in 2014. 
What a memorable event it was, thanks to all your participation. Time and again you guys have been wanting a meet, but at a different location!!  We are with you. 
Now the time has come to get-together yet again. 
Announcing the much anticipated get-together.. let us all wind-down from the busy schedule.. catch up & laugh away with our gang.. weekend long!!
Please do come.. let’s have fun, & make the event a memorable one.
This time, it is proposed to have a overnight stay at a hilltop resort near Sakalespur, & the tentative dates are 11th & 12th of May '19. 
We shall have a Alumni meet at Aroha Echo Hill Resorts near Sakaleshpur. 
Please click on the below link to know more about the venue. 
Approximate distance from Bangalore to the resort is around 200 km. 
The itinerary
We need to plan our journey early in the morning on Saturday the 11th of May so as to reach the resort for check-in & welcome formalities by 12:00 noon, & the next day at 11 am we need to check-out. We shall have lunch together before starting the return journey. 
In the two days we shall enjoy the exotic mountain ranges of western ghats, the coffee plantations, wild forest, natural streams & reminisce our childhood days, along with lot of activities at the Resort. 
The budget per person (excluding conveyance) is approximately ₹4,000/-   
Since it is peak holiday season, we need to make advance payment immediately & make necessary reservations. 
We would like to know as soon as possible who all will attend the meet.
Kindly confirm by this evening, so that we can proceed further with the reservation formalities.  
- Bala, Balu, Srinath, Srinii, Vasanth, & Venki

The planning committee did some serious work to get things organized. Meanwhile in the group, Srini and Srinath sent regular reminders; the list of attendees, tee-shirt sizes were asked for, drink & food preferences were inquired.. covered every possible detail. With two days to go the final list, guidelines and a route map were posted in the group. I admired the team's diligence.

I was in touch with Anil for our logistics but nothing was planned. Anyhow, I had thoughts of seeing Sakaleshwara Devasthana, Manjrabad fort and if possible Shettihalli chuurch ruins. To cover these places I had to leave Bangalore really early, so I arranged a cab to pick me at 4-30 AM. The night before I received a call from Anil, he would be joining me.

Our journey towards Sakaleshpur started around 5-30 AM, 30 minutes behind schedule. We were out of city limits and Nelamangala by 6-00 but on Hassan road the toll gates reduced the average speed. Our cab-driver Sachin drove safe & steady, with two breaks for coffee and breakfast, we reached Sakaleshpur by 9-45 AM. Enroute members of the group had posted their locations on WhatsApp, I was getting familiar with folks now. At Sakaleshpur, Sakaleshwara Devasthana was open, it's an ancient temple, well maintained but the metal railings and grills were an eyesore and no information about its history whatsoever. The stop lasted 10 minutes and moved on towards Manjrabad fort where an hour went by including the trek up & down the hillock.

Now, towards the resort.. we took Mudigere road, the ride was scenic with the road winding through the hills covered by coffee plantation. At Hanbal we turned off Mudigere road and took a road going towards Devaladakere from where turned into another inner road. By now I'd seen around 30 boards of various home-stays and resorts. The tar road gave away to a dirt road, driver deep into the valleys, Aroha's Eco Hill resort was on our right hand side, nestled between bases of two hills where the valley started. It was a nice location, away from the road. Here we are looking at the resort's rainwater pond, the dining hall in the background. The resort is completely uneven, covered with tall tress, cottages spread out giving the place a relaxed ambiance. 

As we got off the cab, we were welcomed by the resort manager Pradeep and with him was another gentleman from our group who had arrived few minutes ago. That was Dr. Vijayanand from Shimoga. So three of us had reached on time, 20+ on the way. We chatted, learned that Vijay had joined in III standard. 30 minutes went by with no one turning up, I requested Pradeep to allot us a cottage, might as well freshen up. Our cottage had six beds on two levels, large windows and a nice view of the resort, the hills and the valley. Just as we changed into shorts and stepped out the group from Bhadravati arrived.

Devaram, Vijay, Girish, Anil and Nagaraj
Few minutes later another group arrived. We were expecting one person from Mumbai and Dubai as well. Rajesh had come all the way from Mumbai. When I saw Rajesh, it was like looking at Irfan Khan the great actor from Bollywood.

Rajesh, Srini, Anil, Balaji, Manjunath and Vijay
With so many people meeting after years, there was lot of emotions flying around. And in the middle of that I was trying to get familiarized. Srini has recognized me in LKG class photo, then Dayanand had memories of him and I playing together near his house in MPM colony. In fact, the last I met Daya was at a wedding in Bangalore during early 80s at a wedding, then out of touch.

Dayanand, Anil, Vijay and Srini
The last of the batches had arrived bringing the count to twenty two, two dropped out last moment. Here's the list of attendees except that Vasu was expected to reach in the evening. Impressive isn't it. A group of 22 had gathered with a notice of just 3 weeks.​

1. Anilprasad K
2. Dr. Balaji M Sriramulu
3. Balasubramanyam L
4. Dayananda V A
5. Devaramprasad Venkataraman
6. Girish Dwarakanath
7. Govindaraj T
8. Dr Manjunath S B
9. Manoj G Kumar
10. Nagaraj Krishnappa
11. Nagendra Rajgopal
12. Naveen L Meda
13. Premanand Kumar
14. Rajesh Khamitkar
15. Siddeshwar Prasad
16. Srinath Prasad P K
17. Srinivas S Kharidhi
18. Swarup Shivappa
19. Vasanth C Nachappa
20. Vasudev Umapathi
21. Venkatesh S Tarikere
22. Dr Vijayanand Udupa

Greetings and exchanges were amusing. Very lively group! I was happy to have made it to this gathering :)

Premanand, Anil, Rajesh, Vijayanand, Vasanth, Venkatesh, Girish
Devaram, Govind, Swarup, Manoj, Dayanand and Nagendra 
The group was so close knit, it felt as though I was in a group of teenage boys. Everyone spoke so freely, no inhibitions whatsoever. Wonderful chemistry.

Vasanth, pulling a towel around Daya's neck, was the kingpin for amusing quips. He could make even Mamata Banerjee smile :) On the right is Prem from Mysore, the most silent.

We assembled at one of the rooms for tee-shirt distribution. It was a golden yellow polo tee, a super bright color which could highlight you. I was trying to imagine the group in yellow, like a bunch of flowers. Second from left is Srinath, one of the planners.

Not sure who shot this picture. On the extreme left is Balu the banker, another from planning committee. In the darkness of the shadows there was an open bottle and few glasses moving around. A session was in progress.. cheers!

The group had lunched and retired for a break. I couldn't fall asleep but it was nice to stay still and flat. In fact most guests were resting, the resort looked still.

As I stepped out of my cottage, I saw our group had occupied the pool. More than half the group was in it.. like school boys shouting and splashing around.

At one point few boys took to diving.. big splashes when heavy weights Vasanth and Girish hit water!

Few chose not to enter the pool, including me. These guys were peacefully sitting there, watching the action. While the boys in the pool wanted them to join. Their peaceful time was disrupted when Nagendra splashed water in their direction. This is the point Daya decided to enter the pool.

Whoever designed this resort landscape did a great job, utilized the contours cleverly. A pool with an amphitheater and a foot bridge is a nice mix. This space could be used in a multiple ways. As the sun went down the group's energy seems to be surging.. the anticipation of happy hours I guess.

This picture might look like a repeat of the previous but there are some changes in few moments. Srinath finds a spot for himself while in the pool, Nagaraj is trying to unite and Swaroop just separated from the group.

Here are few shots, few subjects unaware of being caught.

Dr. Manjunath watches Govind trying to stay afloat. Four close buddies recalling some school time incident. The other two pictures are all about beautiful smiles. One incident when I was caught.. Srini and Venky noticed me aiming my telephoto lens at them. Daya gives a double thumbs up.. yes man, we are having a great time!

Except Anil and Balu, all were present for this group picture. I was longing for a trek on those hills.. Trek is usually a morning activity, will have to wait until then. One of the resort staff announced snacks & tea. That kind of ended the pool session.

Some dried and changed into casuals and few remained in pool attire since another water activity was pending. The zip line ride.

will continue in gathering at Arohas Eco Hill resort - 2.


ವಿ.ರಾ.ಹೆ. said...

Nice gathering. I am also from BDVT ... currently in Bengaluru, but home at BDVT only :)

Waiting for part 2...

Rashmi said...

Very well written... Covered all minute details.. Eager to read the second part at Aroha's

Even the winds stop to watch said...

Lovely write up sid

siddeshwar said...

Thank you - Vikas, Rashmi and ____.

The second part is live, link at the end of this part.