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Practising sustainability in the hills of India

A B&B feeds on friendship, tourism and locally-grown food

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By Janet Love Morrison

South India; approximately 120 kilometres north of Maduria, situated in the Palini Hills, is the resort town of Kodaikanal. At an elevation of 2,133 metres, this quaint hill station is a favourite travel destination for both foreigners and Indian nationals, particularly honeymooners and college graduating students.

Kodaikanal was the only hill station during the British Raj to be founded by the Americans. It all began at the turn of the last century as missionaries sought a break from the oppressive heat of the plains.

Anxious to get out of the heat, I travelled up the ghat road to spend a few days in the cooler temperatures myself. A wide variety of accommodation exists in Kodai: flash hotels, budget hotels, and hostels. However, I opted to stay at Cinnabar, a unique bed and breakfast recommended to me by friends. Located just outside of the hustle and bustle of town, Cinnabar is owned and operated by K. Balakrishnan and his wife Vasu. Cinnabar’s tagline is: Where you feel like a friend, not just a guest. I would soon discover the depth of those words.

Balakrishnan, Bala for short, welcomed me to his home and although I arrived long past the breakfast hour, he asked, “Are you hungry?”

“Famished,” I answered honestly. I’m not shy about food, for let’s face it, food is one of the joys of travelling.

Within a few minutes I was served hot steamy coffee and homemade granola, followed by fluffy scrambled eggs and homemade bread — a true culinary delight.

We exchanged the generic pleasantries over a second cup of coffee; where are you from? What do you do? And it was here that I learned Bala obtained a bachelors degree in engineering from the University of Madras and a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Pittsburgh.

Over the years, while Bala laboured in a life of computing, he took time off to travel with his family to the far corners of the world, pursuing hobbies that have always fascinated him. Then, a few years ago he made the choice to exchange office life for what he truly loves to do; farming and living off the land.

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