Kappa, Kaanthari, and a Camp Fire

 

Sitting outside in that small courtyard, eating this wonderful delicacy, listening to the various sounds of the forest, breathing in the fresh, unpolluted, cool air, and lost in our own thoughts was certainly my idea of a perfect break!

 

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The 5 km trek into the forest was physically exhausting, though emotionally uplifting. We all trudged back to the cottage, anticipating a cup of soothing, hot tea.

Chairs had been put up in the courtyard, and as we plonked ourselves down on them, giving respite to our tired, aching feet, out comes Murugan, with platefuls of steaming hot, boiled tapioca (Kappa)and fresh, green Kaanthari chammandi. Manish, with a glint in his eye, warned us to go easy on the chutney as it was made from fiery Kanthari chillies plucked straight off the plant in the backyard.

For those of you who are not familiar, Kaanthari chillies, which look very small and innocent, are one of the deadliest of the lot. They are hand pounded with shallots and a bit of tamarind and salt, and seasoned with fresh coconut oil. This makes an awesome combination with boiled tapioca or Kappa as it is known in Malayalam.

Achayan was no doubt a fabulous cook and the Kappa and Kaanthaari chammandi was just awesome. The tapioca was cooked to perfection, and the chammandi was as predicted, spicy and delicious. There was some black coffee to go with it and all of us wolfed it down within minutes. Sitting outside in that small courtyard, eating this wonderful delicacy, listening to the various sounds of the forest, breathing in the fresh, unpolluted, cool air, and lost in our own thoughts was certainly my idea of a perfect break!

We sat there for hours, watching nature at its best. Slowly, the sunlight gave way to a glorious dusk, filled with a calming peace. Gradually, as the sound of birds started fading away, the forest took on another song…the shrill sound of crickets, which reverberated with all intensity.

As darkness crept in slowly, it was time for a camp fire. Murugan started arranging the dry logs and within no time, a beautiful fire had been lit. There is something very enticing about flames. Fire purifies. Watching the naked flames dancing carefree in their own special way, I could feel all my stress and worries melt away to nothingness. A game of anthakshari followed with fun, laughter, and a whole lot of gaiety. A beautiful camaraderie had been established between us in the middle of that dense forest, and happiness and peace was all that mattered… and all that we felt.