Rajapalayam is a god blessed town situated in the foothills of the Western Ghats, around 30Km away from Srivilliputhur. The place is known for its endemic, and supposedly India's only Hound (Dog), the Rajapalayam hound. We were happy to see a few of them while we went shopping (some vegetables and other stationaries) for our 3-4 days on the field. We packed our bags and started our journey to the sampling spot, the next day. We had to drive a few kilometers, to meet the Ranger and a few assistants who was supposed to help us on field.
The place was beautiful with a farm house in the middle of an estate which is surrounded by thick evergreen rainforest. The farm house was small and furnished. They had a wooden bench outside on the veranda and a pole to which a cow was tied, a radio that operates 24*7 and no electricity. The only thing that produced electricity was the generator that ran on kerosene, but worked only for an hour, a day.
Aanai Viratti or Devil's Nettle is a variety of nettle plant, but doesn't have any specific attributes like their other relatives. They look like any other normal plant. The minute hairs (which when brushed, irritates) appear only when you are really close to it. These plants grow to the size of a small tree and are found in plenty on forest openings where they get plenty of sunlight.We started our walk through the estate and we avoided almost all the visible DNs* (*Devil's Nettle) until we reached this specific area. The forest floor was covered with vegetation and the estate plants were as tall as me. We made our route through them and started walking towards the sampling spot, shown in our GPS.
The night was horrendous. The burning sensation was at its peak and I was trying my level best not to scratch the itch. Fever caught hold of me above everything and my appetite to eat gradually came down. Just to satisfy my hunger, I had a few Chapaties and went to sleep. Sleep evaded me and nightmares started to invade, every time I closed my eyes. All of a sudden, I felt nauseous. It was cold outside and I ran outside to nauseate. Feeling better, I returned back to the bed.
The day seemed much promising as my fever subsided. I felt so weak, as I nauseated a few times the previous night. Deepak asked me to take rest as he got ready for the field work. I shifted myself from the room to the veranda and found myself comfortable basking in the sunlight on the bench outside. Making my sweatshirt as my pillow, I decided to take a nap. The Ranger was at home and he took the radio outside so that I don't feel bored. I wouldn't be exaggerating if I say that the radio actually saved my life.
I regained my appetite to eat and did have a good lunch that day. By evening, I was feeling so recovered until I felt this tremor inside my tummy. God damn, above all the high fever and the nausea, I'm having diarrhea and that too in type 7* (*According to the Bristol Stool Scale). It is complete exhaustion by the end of the day.
We packed our bags and got ready to reach back to civilization the next morning. Deepak did give me a few pills that would control the state of my stool, so that I can easily trek back down with the rest of the guys. 15Km seemed too far and it took us around 5 hours to get back down. All the weight on our back, plus my bad health condition just made it worse and by the time we reached the foothills (Where we had kept our vehicle) I was completely exhausted. My whole body was numb and I asked Deepak to take me to a hospital ASAP. 45 mins ride to the nearest hospital, 4 bottles of Intravenous drips and a few days of rest was the result.
It has been nearly 7 months now and I still get Goosebumps thinking of the situation I had been into. Reading the recent article by Janaki Lenin is the inspiration to write this entry. And to conclude, this is my message to the people who do regular treks - "Devil's Nettle is one of those plants you don't want to mess with. “