By P.T. Bopanna
Ammathi is a one-horse town near Virajpet in Kodagu (Coorg). Noted writer Kavery Nambisan, who also heads the Tata Coffee-run hospital in the town, has aptly described the town as follows:
“Ammathi is a little town with two-and-a-half streets, a post office, a hospital, a convent and a government school, a police outpost, bank, vegetable vendor, three liquor shops, one of which is also the newsagent, a bakery and others that sell everything from lipstick to cattle feed. Many houses huddle alongside the shops, while larger bungalows hide inside coffee estates that stretch in all directions beyond the town.”
In the circumstances, one could hardly imagine that traffic jam in the town could hold up vehicles for three hours at a stretch. This is precisely what happened when this writer visited the town recently to attend a wedding. The wedding was at the Kodava Samaja wedding hall.
The relative affluence of the Kodava community has led to a situation where everyone owns a car. Not that all the coffee planters are rich. It is a trait of the Kodava community to show off and everyone wants to buy a big car, even if it involves taking huge loans.
Imagine a situation when 2,000 cars converge on the one-horse town. To top it all, the Ammathi Kodava Samaja seems to be only interested in generating revenue, but not concerned with the guests who turn up at the wedding hall. With hardly anyone to regulate the movement of traffic, huge traffic pile ups take place.
When the traffic pile up started, it also began to rain heavily. This made the situation impossible. It was a pathetic sight to see women dressed in Kancheepuram saris getting drenched as they tried to make their way to their cars, parked nearly up to 2 km from the wedding hall.
The traffic jam was so severe, that it blocked the movement of vehicles even on the main road of the town which is connected to all the major roads leading to Bengaluru, Mysore and Kerala.
This writer who was in a hurry to return to Bengaluru, took a detour of 8 km via the Kavadi temple to escape the traffic jam near the Kodava Samaja, but ended up in another traffic jam on the main road leading to Ammathi town. By then a few policemen from Ammathi town came to the scene and tried to clear the traffic.
Though all the major towns in Coorg have witnessed lot of developments in the past decade, development has eluded Ammathi. It is a town frozen in time, even though some of the rich coffee planters live close to the town. The planters seem to be a contented lot and happy with their ‘club’ functioning from a rundown building.
But Ammathi lives on hope and every resident of the town knows the slogan “still hopes Ammathi”, a slogan that was coined when the Ammathi hockey team was on the verge of a defeat at a local hockey match. Nobody is sure whether the slogan worked.
It is time for the residents of Ammathi to wake up. They can start by sorting out the traffic problems first and probably come up with a brand new club house where they can even take their ladies for an evening of relaxation.