At Lake Forest Hotel... and memories distill
That night on the train most of us hardly slept. I didn’t. Apart from the ceaseless conversations, we had to get ready by 4.30am, the scheduled time of arrival at Salem Junction. The mobile phone alarms were set but it hardly mattered as we woke up from part-slumber to Saurabh Varma’s voice. Only he, with his boundless energy, could have looked as fresh at 4am as he did on the platform at Chennai Central.
The train was about an hour late; it suited us fine. Once Saurabh Singh and Vijay joined us, we headed for the vans waiting outside the station to take us to Yercaud, to Lake Forest Hotel, an INDeco Leisure Hotel. The hotel was where Henrietta Charlotte tended to coffee plants once, on what was once her estate – in the early 19th century. More about Henrietta and Lake Forest history later…
The climb was uneventful. Most of us were tired and looked forward to a warm bath once we reached our rooms. The weather was splendid, too early in the day to show indication of summer heat, but it was not the Yercaud of old. Twenty-five years ago, six of us from the batch, me included, had trekked down its pathways, chanced upon bubbling brooks and undressed ahead of a waterfall, but all that was not to be. The only trek we had was one headed to Kiliyur Falls, but we were clearly told by people that there was no water at the falls. This was on Day 2 but it only goes to show how crass commercialisation has destroyed even our hill stations.
Day 1 was relaxed as we caught up with one another. Old memories came alive and very quickly we all realised that external appearances apart, little had changed. The objective was to spend as much time together even as we looked forward to the celebrations planed later in the night, celebrations that would signal the fruition of a dream get-together.
The first picture here shows the entrance to Room 506, where Mohanty and I stayed, while the second brings out the ambience as sun and shade provide a heady mix in the hills. Sanjay is in his elements in the third, seated on what defies explanation, but what most definitely is part of Steve Borgia’s (founder of INDeco Leisure Hotels) collection of artifacts. Parvathy has her hands on what is a vintage bicycle, as others wait for the photographer to click. And, in the fourth, it’s a shy Tommy quite overshadowed by three pretty young women. MV in the background automatically smiles in the magic of the moment.