22 October, 2020

Buried Under Landslides, Coorg’s Coffee Planters Peer Into Oblivion

Before the rains started, coffee planters in Coorg were talking of a good crop —the plants were well rested after a lean year and went through the process of blossoming and forming fruits. That settled, seasonal certainty is gone with the wind and merciless lashings of torrential rain.

A planter contemplates nature’s carnage where once existed a fecund patch
Photograph by Ajay Sukumaran
Buried Under Landslides, Coorg’s Coffee Planters Peer Into Oblivion

A fully-done crossword puzzle is on the table next to Chitra Subbaiah who confesses that she could forego reading the newspaper, but not the crossword. We are in the cottage of a home-stay in Madapura, north Coorg, resplendent in the evening sun—the first day in two months that the rain has let up. It brings some rel­ief from fear. Chitra, nearing eighty, rec­ounts a painful experience with great fortitude. “You have to do some mental jugglery, you know. You can’t curse your fate.” She’s staying in a friend’s cottage because her home, in the neighbouring village of Hattihole, now lies beneath a pile of earth which slid down the hillside, burying everything she owned.

“Wiped out, totally. I don’t have one pin. There is nothing to say there was a house,” she tells Outlook. All she could reach out for in time were her spectacles, medicines and some gold the wor­kers from her coffee estate had ent­­r­­usted her with safekeeping. The workers’ quarters on her coffee estate too went...



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