The car was taking endless turns in complete darkness with no vehicle around. With tinted glass up it was difficult predicting exact distance written on small milestones. Miraculously, after a sharp right turn, we could see a patch of light probably our destination we thought. The driver confirmed that it was Munnar, the paradise on Earth.
Excited to smell the tea gardens we opened windows for about a second and immediately closed them. The freezing cold air hit our faces like thousands of small needles. We thought it was due to the speed of the car and hoped that the actual cold would be bearable. As against, coming nearer to lights the temperature seemed to be dropping as fog on the wind shield kept on increasing.
We finally reached our especially extra paid, pre-refrigerated valley view hotel. With almost no customers in the off-season we waited for about 120 seconds in the death zone between the heated car and hotel lobby. Then a bell-man came out wearing what seemed like at least 3 layers of woolens. His walk with these heavy layers and a black leather jacket above them was definitely funny but I knew if I opened my mouth to laugh it might freeze in that same position. But he smiled and welcomed us in, giving my stupid thoughts some relief.
The lobby clock showed 1℃ as the current temperature in small red just below 9:30pm in bold. Within no time we got our rooms but we just dumped our luggage and went to restaurant as the receptionist informed the kitchen closes at 10:00pm. The restaurant was huge for our two families. We chose the table most away from any window. Still, we were shivering anticipating that our pre-ordered soup would be there in time.
Instead, we got small complementary pappadam. We kept a few of them for soup and finished rest, finally waiter came from one end of the hall with steams coming from soup in his tray. I whiffed the soup in my bowl trying not to burn my tongue, but no steams came out. Surprised with that, I drank first sip of that soup which had now turned tepid warm and by 3rd-4th sip it was completely cold.
With little hope from further dishes, we directly ordered rice which again was cold the moment it touched our plates. The waiter understood our problem and twice before serving he went in to heat the food. Nevertheless, the food was never even warm once in our plates.
After such a dinner we went to our rooms to find heater placed right beneath a window and extremely away from our bed. The only thing we had was to tent ourselves under one big blanket. Now the quest began of changing position without making the blanket fall off from others.
At around 6:30 in the morning a knock on the door woke us. A hotel person told us, “Sir the water in overhead tank has frozen so if you need water, you just give us a call. We will arrange hot water for bathing. Hope you have a nice day sir.” I don’t know how could he end this conversation with a smile on his face.
As everyone was up, we thought of going out on a walk to have tea. The roadside tea is always a bliss. The owner and his wife gave us a cup of spicy tea with great interesting conversation and facts about Munnar. Looking at our keen interest in the local traditions she offered us to join for authentic Keralian dinner. We were now warm with the conversation and the spicy cup of tea.
The food, the water, the room everything was cold nothing was hot in Munnar. The bellboy, receptionist, waiter, room service and the tea stall couple told us that only warm thing in Munnar was people’s heart.
“The real beauty of any place is warms hearts, kind and welcoming souls with attentive ears.”Edited- Ken Port.
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