By Alisha Nazareth
“Dodda Mane” the house that R.K Narayan placed in a fictional town Malgudi in his short stories ‘Malgudi Days’ which was later made into a TV series by Shankar Nag. The house is situated in a small village Agumbe, in Shimoga district, Karnataka. The journey to Agumbe is a long uphill drive in the Malnad region of Karnataka, allowing you to enjoy the hilly landscapes around as you take the hairpin bends.
The literal translation of ‘Dodda Mane’ is ‘Big house’ and is one of the oldest houses in Agumbe. It is owned by the great grand father of Kasturba J. Rao, who now with her family maintains and takes care of the house. Age is just a number when you meet her, she prefers to be called Kasturba Akka (Sister) and is popularly known as Ajji (grandmother) in the village. The house has been a home till now for six generations and language has not been a barrier for tourist as the family members speak in Kannada, Konkani, Marathi, English, Hindi and know little of the other South Indian languages too. The place is easy to locate, just a few minutes walk from the local bus stand along the main road.
Many tourist visit this house for two reasons. The former are the ones who want to experience the Malgudi life and the later are the tourist that want to experience living a peaceful village life. However apart from the house and its location the story written by R k Narayan has nothing to do with the people living in the house nor does the TV serial shot in the house.
“The production of the serial was not charged for shooting in the house, we gave it absolutely free”, Kasturba akka says happily. The ones who spent their childhood reading and watching ‘Malgudi Days’ tend to remember Swamy’s stories when they enter the house. But what is in store for the ones who haven’t witnessed the Malgudi era? it is the peaceful experience of living in a village. The cool steps at the entrance lead you to the courtyard where they serve their guests meals; this area is surrounded by a small room. To the right corner as soon as you enter you will get wooden steps leading you upstairs to the guest room. Many tourists on their visit relax here. Right opposite to the entrance across the courtyard the door leads you to the prayer room and follows in to the Kitchen. The kitchen is divided into 2 parts the main dining room in the centre, on either sides is a room for gas and a dark pantry. The back door of the kitchen will lead you to the well, bathrooms, a fireplace heating up large copper boilers and a cow shed. This back area is all linked and in the centre lies a small vegetable garden just like a courtyard that sits in between with a sacred Tulsi plant.
The family welcomes visitors with a warm heart; they will take you around the house and allow you to take photos. The doors opens between 5 am and 10 pm and tourist are welcomed to stay, relax and are served a sumptuous vegetarian meal, a call before coming is all you need to do. A special thing about their service is that its priceless, they accept whatever their customers wish to give and treat you like a part of their family, such is the warm welcoming heart of the family. The money they receive from visitors is used to maintain the house and prepare the meals. “Children of class eight, ninth and tenth usually come after their school to the house for lunch”, Kasturba akka adds.
Agumbe is known as the King Cobra capital hence you need to watch your step and also being a rain forest region the tropical wet forest is a home to leaches and many other insects. But it’s a land where you can admire nature’s beauty. Plan a weekend at Agumbe to visit the house, some of the tourist spots that are a few minutes away from the house is Kundadri Hills known for its ancient Jain temple that is situated at the top of the hill. When it’s sunny and bright you get a clear view of the landscape but when it is cloudy it’s a view of a sea bed of clouds that makes you feel like you’re in heaven standing above the clouds. Jogingundi falls just 2 kms away from the house is a small waterfall filled with water throughout the year.
Well most of the times we have seen a water fall from below, but have you ever experience standing right on top of a waterfall? Well Onake Abbi Falls allows you to, believe me it is a blissful experience when you stand above, if you want to visit Onake Abbi Falls make sure you carry your trekking shoes along as it involves a 5Km trek through the rainforest to reach the falls. Yes it is worth the walk!
These tourist spots are all very near to the house so you can return to relax whenever you wish and spend as much time as you want both these spots and the house. You can have a good conversation with the family. The flooring of the house is so cool that you will want to lie down after a hearty meal and just introspect on life or even start writing a book sitting in the balcony in the evenings. This region of Karnataka is equal to a rain forest you can say but the best time to visit places in the Malnad region is soon after the monsoons i.e. October to February; when the weather is cool and pleasant. On your way back downhill you get the sunset view point that is located on the highest peak of the western ghats allowing you to close your road trip to a happy crimson sunset view bidding you goodbye with a hope that you will come visit again soon.