The high-pitched and persistent call of a peacock rends the morning air. Heading towards a rash of rocks, where the sound comes from, I station myself a good distance away from it.
The effort is almost immediately rewarded: I notice a peacock and a peahen on the rocky mound. It’s a courtship call. My presence forces the peafowls to strut away, looking for privacy.
Driving down the Thiruporur-Chengalpattu Road, I have pulled over to the side of the stretch to explore a hill, marked by rocky protrusions resembling glistening mounds of muscle on a body builder’s frame. The land surrounding the hill is replete with rocky outgrowths.
This hill is 8-km from Thiruporur and lies in a section that marks the boundary between two village panchayats — Sembakkam and Mailai. Part of the vast Kattur reserve forest, this land is strewn with boulders, many of which are chipping off. As I slap a booted leg against a boulder, small stones rain down. However, the stony outgrowths on the land and the hill are as solid as any rock could be expected to be.
They seem to say: “Come, be our guest. Be seated.” Climbing up the hill and sitting on any of those gigantic, round natural seats are an inviting option.
There are hillocks near the hill and together, they resemble a toddler crawling away.
I want to head deeper into the Kattur reserve forest and explore much of it; but doing so would conflict with my decision to head back to the city before the sun clambers up the sky considerably. So, I keep the rest of Kattur for another day and, on the advice of a local resident who successfully thumbs down a lift from me, decide to have a taste of pastoral life in the region.
So, I turn around and at Sunambukalvai, turn left and am greeted with a surprise. I learn that I have entered the other end of district road 633. As it is with people, so it is with roads. Certain people will be integral to your life and shape its course — however, when their paths cross yours for the first time, you may not even have an inkling of the impact they would have on your life. Similarly for me, 633 has opened up new vistas for me. I had stumbled upon this road sometime ago, and now, this stretch regularly takes me to quiet, green spaces that keep growing on me.
Taking 633, I could reach Mambakkam, which is 15-km away. After a short drive down this road, I see an interplay of the new and the old.
Though the realty business — layouts provide evidence of this — has planted its elephantine feet firmly in this region, agriculture still thrives here. Before reaching Kattur village, I come across paddy fields and also tracks of land where pumpkin, ladies finger and other vegetables are grown. I stop at such a land, which presents me with an enchanting sight. A rundown, but functional kid’s cycle, whose handlebar is adorned by a couple of flowers, is parked close to a tiller and in the background, agricultural fields stretch away.
At Kattur, I turn right into a road that leads to Thiruporur and head through villages that are interspersed with agricultural fields.
As I join the traffic on Old Mahabalipuram Road, I tell myself I should return soon to experience the wilder side of Kattur.
(Hidden Trails is a column that shows you how to be a tourist in your own city)