The Coonoor Collective - Writers of Tea Town

A view of the plains from the Nilgiris Photo courtesy Jude Thaddaeus

I often ask myself, why I write… the answer is quite simple, because I must. There is a need to express myself; I have a story to tell and I have the means to do so- write, I mean. I am not the only one, I guess going by the number of books published and blogs on the Net.
I grew up in Coonoor, then quite unknown but today unfortunately a hot destination on the tourist map. Those of us who grew up in the 1960s and the 1970s had a wonderful time playing in the stream, climbing Tenerife and raiding orchards. Our parents let us roam the hillsides and we made friends as we went along; we grew up without hate, without caste, creed and above all no class barriers. Is it any wonder that our tea town has a number of writers who write about the “wonder years” and of course some others who just, well, write, which has become so much easier to do, nowadays as there are indie publishers and social media platforms to blog. 

Photo courtesy JT

Just to put that in perspective, according to Blogging industry statistics, Blogger the leading US blogging site has 46 million visitors every month and the majority of bloggers are women. A mind boggling 6.7mm people publish blogs on blogging sites and another 12 mm write blogs using social networks. On Tumblr alone the number of blog accounts grew from 305.9 million in May 2016 to 357.7 million in 2017.
The number of self published books as well as ebooks have also grown during the past few years. The numbers are stupendous and it is mind numbing to think that we all part of the big pie. Before I get completely numbed and have to be shut up in the home for the bewildered (as my late father used to say), let’s get to the Coonoor authors.

ERC Davidar was a shikari turned conservationist who passed away in 2010. He was the Secretary of the Planter’s Association in Nilgiris in Coonoor, for many years and was based in the district from 1952.  He has written many articles and his books, The Cheetal Walk, a collection of essays, Whispers from the Wild co-authored with daughter Priya Davidar, The Runaway Elephant Calf as well as books for children published by the National Book Trust.

Tarun Chhabra, the son of the Coonoor dentist Col. Chhabra and a dentist himself has written a seminal book on the Todas, called the The Toda Landscape and was published by the Harvard University Press... The Prologue highlights the journey that led to Tarun Chhabra being accepted as an “insider” among the Todas.

A Toda woman in her beautiful shawl Photo courtesy Suryakumar Piljain

Nimi Kurian a Senior Deputy Editor at The Hindu is a children’s writer. She has four books to her credit published Stumble Down Mystery by Harper Collins, Magic in the Mountains by Leadstart and Farmyard Tales and Christmas Held to Ransom by Mango Books.  She has a column - Spooky Tales, in Young World, the children's magazine she edits. These short (really short) stories, more often than not, are set in the beautiful Blue Mountains, and are a delight to read and are sure to send a chill up your spine.
Check this one:

Meera Ekkanth Klein’s My Mother’s Kitchen: A novel with recipes was selected as a finalist in the 2015 National Indie Excellence Book Awards and in the 2015 Beverly Hills International Book Awards.  A former journo, she learnt to cook with her mother in the serene beauty of the Blue Mountains of South India

Sangeetha Shinde Tee, Managing Editor at Business Innovator is the daughter of Coonoor’s Dr Shinde . She has written “A Moral Murder and Other Tales from the Hills” published by Inkwell Publishing.

Vasanthan Panchavarnam,  recently moved to Coonoor from Ooty has written “The Birds of Nilgiris- A friendly Field Guide and has another, a coffee table edition, on the same subject in the works. 

V.M.Govind Krishnan has written a book on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway called “NMR From Lifeline to Oblivion”
The toy train chugging along Photo courtesy GK 

Minnie Isaac Tensingh confesses that she has a nostalgic longing for Coonoor and much of her writing reflects this. Poet, writer and banker, Minnie was my senior in college. Minnie always had an awesome command of the English language which was evident in her contributions to the school (Stanes) and college magazines. She has won prizes for her poetry and short stories. Her book “Mischief in the Mountains” is a tribute to Coonoor and her love for this small town comes through clearly.

Jagdish Jogee is from Coonoor who works in Cognizant Technologies in Chennai. He has written three books, A Stranger by the Stream, In Love and Free and The Colour of Love.  

B. Balasubramaniam , an engineer who worked in HPF has written a book on Badagas called  Paame – The History and Culture of the Badagas of the Nilgiris. Balu is married to my good friend Gayatri.

Mansoor Khan is a Coonoor celebrity and his first book is called “The Third Curve- The End of Growth as we know it.” Besides writing books, his wife and he have put their cheese making farm stay on the holiday destination map in India. Mansoor Khan studied at IIT Mumbai, Cornell University and MIT Boston before making four Hindi feature films; the most famous of them being Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak which launched Aamir Khan into stardom. (Source: Mansoor Khan’s website)

Tina Fernandez, my senior in school and college has written about the struggles of single mothers in her book, “Steel Fetters”. She has had exciting careers as a journalist and airline stewardess and now manages a travel business with her husband in Italy. In 1989 she visited Afghanistan and moved by the plight of children in a war torn country wrote Afghanistan The Legacy. (Source:

Talent waiting in the wings:
Peter Greene’s talent as a storyteller saw the light of day when the small stories about his life in Coonoor were posted on Facebook by his friend Philip Abraham. Some his delightful stories are found on the Stanes School blog. My favorite is The Vegetable Vendor of Valley View.

Valerie Lamoury is a reluctant writer, but when she does, she is kick-ass:  Glimpses of her writing are found in the Providence College blog which had a very short life. I hope this article will inspire you to write more.

The Stanes School blog is a cache of good writing. Check out Sunu Charles, ad man who earned a “meaningless degree from MCC” and writes of what he calls his wonder years growing up in the Nilgiris.  Other names to look out for are George David and Philip Abraham.

Finally, yours truly; I hope I have the energy and discipline, my sister Nimi has, to complete all the stories I have filed in my head. I have been blogging for some time and have even written a fantasy story for kids, published by Young World. One of the stories I have written in recent times which I really enjoyed was about the food in Coonoor.

I am sorry if I have left anyone out. Do let me know and I can include you in the Coonoor Collective.

Ooty of course, has its own group of writers so let me name just two. Dr Sheela Nambiar and Indu K Mallah, the most well known of them all. If I have left some out, it’s because I am lazy and not too bothered about Snooty Ooty.


  1. That's a really nice read. Thanks.

  2. credit for the good writing on the stanes blog must surely go to mr dcc watson. the students in the 60s developed clarity and style in communication for no other reason. of course, it helps that reading was a big draw with that generation.
    (i must confess that madras xian was a part of my education, but i did not complete from there. so i can't blame my "meaningless degree" on the great institution!

  3. Great beginning Nina, I must say you do research our blogs well, lot many stores are compiled at


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