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Old 10th January 2011, 02:02   #1
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Default Single Post - Three wise men and other short stories in Malluland.

The aftermath:
Date: Jan 3rd 2011
Location: Between Kamakshi Hospital and OMR, Pallavaram-Radial Road.
Speed: 100 kmph
Time: Goodness gracious me - morning office rush hour
What on earth am I doing? Driving like a reckless Taxi driver!!! The effect of a near 2K New Year vacation drive ?!

Flash back:

Rajeev driving to Bangalore, SB/Ram/Salam driving to Malabar, Saju to Ernakulam, Dileep to Vaikom and me to Trivandrum. Wow! All mallus are flying off this Christmas in their spaceships and all were looking forward to it and discussing about it. Hand-shakes all around on 23rd evening wishing each other season greetings. One could feel the festive mood in the air. The weather perfect. I was all rearing to start 3 a.m (my usual and most optimal start time.) Rajeev - a native of Kazhakootam could not believe I could reach Trivandrum within 12 hours and we had a bet of sorts about it.

The rough sketch:

From 24th onwards till Jan 2, I only had a rough idea of things to do but had not planned in detail to the hour and no bookings whatsoever. This is the beauty of being a mallu - you are not a tourist in malluland - in GOC, no translations/translators needed, no bookings needed, no qualms about food - on the contrary you are just craving for it for the past many months living away from Kerala, every 100 km you have a free home-stay in the form of you relative or friends house, where one can converse with people, know more
about them, their daily routine and how the live and what keeps them going in contrast to a tourist who is in a hurry and just uses one-word communication to get his job done at that place. Anyway, the idea was to just rush asap to a southern TN-KL border and then do the slow, winding travel up-north and get out of a northern TN/KA-KL border - both borders preferably in jungle-hills and the entry/exit being as separated from each other as possible. So my initial plan was to just enter Punalur, get into Kollam and then head northwards. However a visit to a relative's home in Trivandrum made me change my trip a bit to include Trivandrum.

Day1: 24th Dec 2010: Tracks on fire through the flat lands and into the hill:

Trichy Typhoon:

Got up at 2:00 am. Wifey prepared an excellent cup of coffee. We had decided not to prepare and pack food stuff for the journey as it was time-consuming and why not eat hot-food in a restaurant on the way. We were on a vacation afterall. However, I had heard about the dearth of good hotels and so we packed some bread/banana/chips and some wonderful home-made cookies by wifey (one of these and its so rich that its a meal in itself.) We started at 3:10 or so, left towards Velachery station -> Kamatchi hospital, take right and hit GST, take left and we are on the NH45. So unlike our usual route to get out of the city (via Poonamallee) this is a much smoother route to get out. I had Trichy at 8 a.m but at 7 a.m we were already there. I was just thinking then - is this what people discuss at the office about train ticket being WL, no tickets so not going etc. Damn - this place is so close by - how about driving up and dn to work daily? just kidding.

Now we were hungry, ate some cookies, bread, waiting for the next stop, an hour and 45 min and we are in Madurai. We see a highway restaurant on the opposite side but give it a skip as we would have had to take a U turn.

Madurai Mess:

Now at Madurai, I knew from the maps that it forked out in atleast 3 different major directions - one to Rajapalayam, one to Tuticorin, and one to Tirunelveli. An other look now tells me there are a couple more - one to Theni and one to Rameswaram. Wow! The three I had in mind confused me enough. I was never worried of getting lost until we reached Madurai and I know a lot of you would pounce on saying such-and-such is what needs to be taken to go to Tirunelveli. My bad, that I did not read the posts at this forum well
enough to follow the correct 4L to Tirunelveli. And we got lost... going through 2 lane which looked like the erstwhile Madurai-bypass and went past defunct check-posts where stopping/toll-fee-charging (atleast it looked like - not sure) was still on-going for some (whoever slowed down to make enquiries) vehicles. With a couple of more enquiries we were back on the 4L which looked like had never broken, we joined into a continuous running 4L. Damn!! Lost some precious time.

Tiring Tirunelveli:
It was a breeze to reach Tirunelveli. Till the previous night I was undecided if we need to take the Rajapalayam road to Thenkasi or should we go via Tirunelveli. However Senthil (a Tirunelveli native) gave me the "halwa" carrot (not carrot halwa) - I hope you got what I mean and said in addition the Tirunelveli to Thenkasi was just 50 km and it was a ok road,
instead of taking the longer 2 lane Rajapalayam route. I had abandoned the Nagercoil plan as I could easily imagine it to be a dry/uninteresting/flat-land route. Senthil had mention about taking the service lane at Sankar cements. Voila! We saw it. Time 10:30 a.m. We went underneath the bridge and drove quite some distance - 13 km if I remember to get into town. It took us some time through the crowded single lanes and a few enquiries to get out of the maze and into the open. No halwa no stop. We had a stop for 5 min in
between and we found another family stop by as well. They had their daughter married off in Thenkasi and were visiting them. I said we were heading towards Coutralam and further into Kerala. He suggested that we could have come via Manimutharu and still arrive at Coutralam and that was much scenic and had better sights/spots. Anyway we drove on...

Crowded Coutralam
Another mayhem navigating through town and into Courtalam. He took 30 bucks as parking charges before the slight ascent entrance and 200m before the falls. We asked him if parking was available and he said yes. As we reach close to the falls, it was complete chaos. Just like bee swarming. Majority of them were swamis and absolutely no car-park, there might as well be a traffic jam there with absurd/haphazard parking. We never pulled down our windows, somehow managed to get a little space to reverse my car and as we were
reversing through the windscreen we had a quick glance at the fall and out we go. Uff! Is this what Coutralam is? Never again, we thought. Infact we had seen Coutralam on the green boards on the NH45 well behind the destination and as we drove we were thinking it is a must-see. Disappointing!

Terrific Thenmala
So, we cross over asking couple of people the route to Kerala. Two things here:

a. Most people in TN, when they ask about the roots of a mallu ask the following "Kerala-VA?". Meaning "Are you from Kerala." Next during conversation it is mentioned "Avangu Kerala" meaning "He/She is from Kerala". The concept of Calicut, Kochi, Trivandrum or districts does not exist. But I guess thats common all over, but somehow I feel being so close to Kerala people can do a little more to identify with a little more specifics. Kerala-VA is cool!!

b. I asked the route to "Kerala" because of the "Kerala-VA" - not sure if they would understand "How to go to Thenmala?". In other words is it that they know a X - a Kerala beyond their town and nothing more, even if that town is 5 km from their town. Is there a sort of disassociation with the neighbouring town and total ignorance just because of differences in language, culture.

We cross the border, we do the first hairpin underneath the rail-bridge - Kottavasal underpass (this is part of the picturesque Tenkasi-Kollam railway line which is under gauge conversion now.) This is a very narrow double hairpin which gets into trouble with buses/vans choking it up and requires some people to get down and regulate a bit. We see a KSRTC with the Leader's poster who had just passed away the previous day. A drastic change in terrain - things getting shadier and more vegetation. We see the signboard to Paalaruvi - "milky stream" waterfall and from the 30 min back experience ask if there is enough parking close to the falls and also if there are hoards of swamis - 4 km down the main road - and he says a little bit and parking below might be full but a little outside it should be possible. Also we had to get down off the car and walk up to the counter to get tickets for humans and for the car - different than what we had experienced earlier. We get there and I was reminded of the US national park settings. Very neat. Great car-parking area. From henceforth be ready to parallel park on hill slopes, up-inclines, down-inclines. Once you learn to park in tight corners in Kerala you would be a king
in driving! Believe me! There were 10 people in the nice pool at the bottom of the falls - The security at the enterance had mentioned about this being the tallest falls in Kerala - but we were thing Athirampally was the tallest - was'nt it? There were 3 or 4 families as well. There was a nice "Ladies only" section where they could get a hair-wash/etc. Great experience. We took some pictures and returned. This 4 km stretch is a beautiful drive and in between has a bend where one has take the car over a slow flowing stream. We even saw a car getting a wash there. He was well prepared with a bucket and mug. What a scenic place to give your car a fresh-water wash, we thought? Bucket and mug in the boot the next time!

We further drove, getting a couple of views of the rail-bridge which ran close to the NH208. We were getting hungry and it was 2:45 PM or so and then we saw a board "Oon ready" = Lunch available outside a 1960's kind of gold-colored building. It was associated with the Thenmala dam. We asked what did they have and they said they just had mathi/aila/fish-curry/kappa/rice. We were so happy listening to it and we told him that was what we were looking for! The next half hour I did not look left or right. It was a fantastic
breathless digging delight! Rs 130/-

Now we head further to the dam, where there is a huge main gate and great parking area within. We buy tickets to watch the dam and it is one huge walk to the dam. But it was worth it. There is a huge tree in the waters up above. Next the gate keeper asked me to drive 200 m on the opposite direction of the dam and reach the Eco Tourism office and get tickets if I needed to get on to a hanging bridge which I had seen from the dam above. At the Eco Tourism Office he mentions about other zones such as Adventure Zone, Leisure Zone (which we visited.) There was one more I believe. They had stopped boating after the Thekkady tragedy.

We visited the Leisure Zone. A fantastic park with lot of greenery and well maintained bamboo stairs, a static 4 seater boat, a huge slide, stone sculptures and not many people. Loved it. It was 4:30 PM now and we had to reach home before sunset. It was 72 km from this pt to Trivandrum. After about 20 km the road was super good for say some distance, the best I have driven on so far. Close to Malappuram ones. Also, the drive seem akin to the drive down Gudalur into Nilambur/Calicut. Similar towns/shops/goods for sale. No wonder they belong to the same state. I was with the Santa hat during the drive - just to add to the festive season. Felt good.

Nasty Nedumangad

We hit Nedumangad and from here to the city it was crowded with people, evening rush, etc. But it was natural to hit this condition close to the state capital. We went through Golf-links, Pattom circle, Kumarapuram etc, a little round-about to actually hit Petta. Finally crossed over the rail-bridge of Petta towards the TVM bypass road and close to Best Bakery to our
destination on Akshara Veedi road. Wow!

Putt/Chicken-Curry


Chechi had prepared some great Chicken curry and Puttu (watered rice-powder steamed in half cocunut-shell "cherata" (the aluminium equivalent of it was used.)) and Kerala Pappadom. I had a steam bath followed by dinner. Met young Sreeshreshta who is lately obsessed with football games on the PC. Sreejesh and Ani (wife's cousin) who live neat Ollur had also come over for the weekend get together. One can choose players Kaka, Ronaldo being his favorites. The game looks very real. All and all a refreshing day. Nothing decided for the next day.
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Day 2 (Xmas Day): Football, beach and the city.


Lazy Xmas Morning:

In the usual course of other trips it would have been an early 6 am wake-up, have breakfast and exploration starts by 7:30 am. Not this time, infact never in the whole trip. Very unlike our usual trips thus far. I have been very guilty so far to push people or scare them off with the early get-up and get-out stuff - atleast thats what I think (something surely inherited from dear Amma.) After doing that for all this long, I decided to take it a bit easy and let others around me take their own time and decide on when to do what. Babumama, Chechi and Sreeshreshta are also ardent outdoor guys. Chechi wanted us to relax at their home atleast till lunch and then get out. I was ok with it. We had breakfast - Dosa/Sambhar/Chutney. The women folk were
busy chatting and myself, the two Srees, Babumama and Neha went out to play some football on the by-lanes. It was quite refreshing. At noon something struck me (maybe the lack of movement on a trip and the urge for something eventful) and I proposed a swim at Kovalam. Off we go in the Sparky! Bypass is closeby and it was just 12 km away. 15 min we were
there.

Khaotic Kovalam

It was a holiday and the Xmas season and it was packed to the rafters.
Tourists everywhere. Babumama, Sreeshreshta, me and Neha went for a good 30 min swim and ice-creams after that. Very refreshing! Drove back home for lunch.

Spencer Junction

At close to 4 PM we did some purchasing from Spencers (Christmas song on the store speakers, Cake boxes piled up,) something wifey feels is better/cheaper than Chennai. From there we drove to Kanaka kunnu kottaram into an exhibition cum grass-relaxation. Impressive green patch. At the exhibition there was a proposition by a resorts guy who said 18-20 lakhs / 550 sq.ft rooms in Munnar. 30 rooms in total. We hand over the key back after purchase and then 60(us)-40(them) profit sharing on the rent they get. It sounds good. Does'nt it? I said my tour iternary passes through his place and that we would see it for ourselves. But I never did/could. The street outside clean as well, tree-lined roads too. Lets settle in Trivandrum. The last we said that about a city was in October in Mumbai, Mysore before that

Next stop was the 5K rented apartment of Sreejesh at Ulloor. Wow! So much for so less. Good for them. Suddenly the thought of a right balance between life/career/earnings went past my mind. Will I ever strike it?

Delicious Dinner:

Sreejesh is cool. He already booked a table for 8 for the buffet that night at the Park Rajdhani. We reached the hotel at 7-ish. There was already a few bikers trying to get in. Buffet dinner - just 180/-. Wow! We climbed up the stairs. This is a nice eating place with the "Oad" (red tiled roof) and the wooden railings on the sides of seating areas. The open style (from the sides) helps especially for mallu restaurants since the food is predominantly non-vegetarian. The food was excellent. I liked the fruit punch at the start, the fish-curry, naadan-kozhi (country style chicken prep.) I just peeped from the top (towards the forest theme open-air restaurant) and found youngsters enjoying a drink with their mates.

Hm.. Mallu: Never far away from a drink, whereever they go, I thought.

To get the most off the day (more so after rejecting the requests to stay back for one full additional day at Petta) we thought of going for a night show - "Best Actor". However, there were only front row seats. We skipped and reached home and had a good night sleep.


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Day 3 (Boxing Day) - The midlands:


So, we had decided to go it alone up north. However with so much fun on Saturday and all gelling so well and having fun and it being Sunday the next day and off for Babumama and Sreejesh, they decided to come to Jattayupara as well. Since we needed an early start, atleast by 7 am, poor Chechi got up early and got couple of huge plates with triangular-sandwiches of bread with either butter/jam in them. Bananas/tea to top it up. Wow! We enjoy them and we take off. Babumama, Chechi, Neha, Ani in the golden Swift. The Sree-s, wifey and myself in the Sparky. Sreejesh the local expert did not recommend to get into the MC road right from the city as there is some road-work in progress till a certain pt. So we took the NH via Aakulam and into
Kazhakootam. On the way we visited little Sree's school - MGM and also the 4 SFS blocks of 20 stories each. Lets settle here! Again, the thought. Looked like very good construction. Cannot find such a thing in my city. We heard it was 40 lakhs. It was around 8 am. Some more driving and from close to Kazhakootam we cross-over into the MC Road. This NH-MC-Rd connect is a good road and according to Rajeev is very expensive these days. Heard a lot about this road and finally driving on the MC road. We saw the Shantigiri Ashram - Lotus shaped structure just around Pothencode. Do we want to get off. Nay. The confines of the car felt good this time. We drive through
Venjaramood. Hmm... So is this the place the popular malayalam cine artist who has this place in his name, hails from. Next up, Vamanapuram. Hmm... So is this the place which inspired the flop Malayalam movie of debatably the greatest Malayalam actor? Very well. Kilimanoor - nice sounding place, Pilamel and Chadayamangalam. We are there!

As we moved on the MC Road we saw the hill with the Jattayu rock structure being made (by Rajiv Anchal.) Folklore has it that Jattayupara (Jattayu Rock,) is the place where the bird from the epic crashed after its wing were slashed down by Ravana and it nose-dived onto this rocky mountain and split the rock. There is some water on the top and the footprint of Ram on the Rock.

Orginially, we had thought of finishing the trek in an hour or so but alas this was a long trek (9 am to 1 pm.) So the setup is we have a restaurant at the beginning from where the trek starts and it circumnavigates that first hill and an other one on the way and the structure is on the third hill-top. It is not very steep, only that one has to walk quite a bit. We all had a very very refreshing up/dn, some great views, we had carried some country-snacks with us.

Wise-man #1:

Upon a chat with the watchman (the lone staffer on a Sunday) mentioned about how when he was on a visit to Muscat, the rope-way which is currently used only to transport materials to build the structure was used then by engineers to scale the hill and as a result there was an accident and resulted in a death when the rope snapped. He was eagerly explaining about how beautiful it would look after the entire structure is made with the wing
structures shattered around as well. They plan to make a mini-theatre below the wings, there is a stair within the neck section. The head is not yet done. But we would have a literal "bird-eye's" view in the future when done. As is usually done I tried to tip the watchman but he just refused it. Shock! Anyone seen such refusals before? Amazing! A lot to learn from such people - love their job, those who enjoy the small things of life.

At the restaurant below we met Appu the cashier/care-taker. He had just returned from Muscat and was requested by his brother-in-law to spend some time at the restaurant to help his business out. Appu mentioned that the place was not that popular and the restaurant did not have enough patronage. He was to arrange for some more advertisement. He gave me the card/number to do some propoganda. We had lunch there. The food was very fresh and hot. Enjoyed it. We asked for the direction to Oyoor and he said Aiyur was just 3 km or so away and from there another 8 km to Oyoor. Good. So it would not take too long - and we could make up for the time
miscalculation dur to the underestimation of Jattayupara. A parting good bye to the Trivandrum folks and we take opposite direction on the MC road.

We had the AC on as it was 2:30 and it was warm. A mood of mixed reaction at this juncture - wifey lost her grandma's sister in Malabar - the news we received during lunch - she spoke to Amma in Mumbai and was a little down. Also, chechi was on her way back to Trivandrum. But we were going to try to locate a wifey's Indu-aunty (neighbour in Mumbai) after 26 years. We just had a few search words - like Oyoor, Papalode, Uncle at Veliyam, Aunt's brother lives there, part of the family house given for the construction of the post-office building. It was like putting them into Google search and seeing we can hit the right end-link and find Aunty. If so, how many hits to reach Aunty was the question in my mind?

Hit 1: We reach Oyoor, ask for Papalode. Get it straight away. No surprises.
Hit 2: At Papalode just one shop. Just 2 people. One in his mid-thirties, one +60. The +60 guy gets it sort-of and says a few possibilities. Then the
+30 guy points to a house 4 houses down and mentions that that house should most likely be Aunt's brother's house.
Hit 3: At that house, they confirm it. We are not yet at the final destination, yet wifey has tears profusely rolling down her cheek. Aunt's brother's son drives ahead in his bike showing us the way.
Destination: I park the car, as wifey gets to the main door. When I reach, I see emotional waves I have never ever witnessed before. Aunt with her now full grey hair had just recognized wifey as her "kurumbi" - the naughty lil one - the word she used to address wifey 26 yrs back. Wow! They were hugging and crying for a good minute. We all chatted and a couple of
times they could not believe it was real. We also see the 30 yr old fruit basket (one of the two brought from the Matunga market, the other being with wifey's Amma in Mumbai.) There were a few calls here and there. Communication link established again!!! What a good feeling.

At around 4:30 pm - we started from there hoping to meet SB at Shaktikulangara - 10 km north of Kollam town - on the NH just before
Neendakara - both these places split by a long sea-backwater bridge. We had been keeping SB at bay since morning - reach by lunch, reach by tea, we should atleast reach by dinner! I sent messages to SB and got ack as well
but suddenly no responses. We reached Bishop Jerome Nagar, Chinnakada and got some cake/sweets. No contact still. We reached Shaktikulangara Church on the NH. Just went in and asked for the church which was on the beach. We reached John Britto church, hoping we would get the call from SB. The only two things we knew was SB's wifey Sheena, son Aman and the A-Star that FIL had bought (thanks courtesy t-bhp) We put these catch-words again in. Also tried mentioning about their marriage at this church quite a few years back. Lightning does not strike twice in a day. No luck. Instead a local senior scolded us for just enquiring with a non-contactable phone number. The exact opposite of what had happened that afternoon i.e no phone-number, but close to an address.

What to do next? Get back to town and check into a hotel. We drive back dejectedly to town. We had seen Hotel Sudharsan which we had seen and wifey had noticed it had a good car-park too. This hotel is mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide too. We get it. We get in. It was full, though he said there was a AC 1100 + tax. I laid my hand on the back pocket to get
to the credit card in the purse... the cell vibrates. SB calling! Wow! SB insists that we dont stay in the hotel but come home. We go back to the church, SB and lil Aman get into the Sparky and we reach home. A good glass of wine + chat + freshening-up and we are ready for dinner. It was a great dinner. Aunty / Sheena had made some great food - the fish-curry, prawns-fry, fish-fry, chicken-curry - all excellent. Poor women folk work a lot in the kitchen when guests come over. Salute to all such women! Amman - who was shy as we arrived became very pally with us by the time it was bed-time with his moonwalk dance and his fictional/non-fictional stories.

Day 4: 27th Dec 2011 - The coastal lowlands

SMS from SB at 6:30 am. Come down when you are ready for a cuppa. We all get ready and by 8 am we come down after a very good night's sleep. Aunty/Sheena had some great Poori-Bhaji made for us (SB/Sheena remember Neha's like for it during our family outing to Vedanthangal - a few yrs back and had made it primarily for her.) It was very heartening to
hear this. SB/Amman show us an other boat jetty of the Ashtamudi kayal where ice was being crushed and loaded into the boats, used to preserve the catch. We also witnessed bikes/auto's coming over in a bigger boat (2 small boats tied up together sideways) what is called a "jankar". We split from there and the next destination for us was the Thangassery light-house - the only one I am aware of on the mainland where one is allowed till the top. I had climbed one if I remember correctly in Minicoy a long time back. Are there lighthouses around the country which is open for visitors. The Thangassery light house is for sure. But before that one more visit to SB's house - why? Since I had forgotten my valet and watch. So quite some trips on the Kollam-Shaktikulangara stretch and there was one more awaiting us in the evening after we were done seeing around Kollam.

We reached the precincts of the lighthouse. It had gotten a fresh coat of paint and looked brilliant. However, 9:30 was not the visiting time. We requested the staff-in-charge and tried the well-known Indian way of pleading - never-to-visit-again, coming-from-chennai. He says the usual time is 3 pm to 5 pm but since its being painted even thats not possible. However in the evening when he climbs up to put the light on, we could accompany him. However it would have been too late for us. We took some pictures and headed to the beach. I had heard about the Sagara kanya - mermaid and how liberal the state was to put up nude sculptures up in public places. There is one at the Malampuzha dam in Palakkad too. No policing about it here. There would have been political parties defacing in the name of morality in other states for sure. The beach curve which would give the mermaid or the artisan
who made it a run for her/his money. The structure, a little disproportionate I felt, but I have never seen a living mermaid I must confess. There are nice thatched sitting area, a garden too at the beach premises. Since it was morning there were hardly any people around. We moved on to the Kollam bus stand, hoping to get a nice cruise on the Ashtamudi.

It was 10:30 we were at the KSRTC bus stand, Kollam. The boat jetty is just next to it. Luckily we got a nice parking close to where the KSRTC buses were parked. The previous night I had read in the Lonely Planet about an hour or two cruise to Guhanandapuram and as we reached the jetty I asked for Guhanandapuram. They said there were no service at that time for that place. However, the conductor of a state water transport dept in his khakis asked us to just board a boat and was very close to pulling us in - so friendly are these guys. We had time constraints and I asked if we would return in an hour and he said "Yes, we would be surely back by 1" Would we be stuck for too long in the waters? We get in and the boat started off. As we were boarding we saw an auto guy dropping off a foreigner at the jetty and the foreigner under-paying the auto guy. Kerala auto guys go by the meter and nothing more. They cannot be cheating for sure and if I am sure the amount being mentioned was in the 10s - 40 or 50 bucks. I felt sad for the auto guy. Down down foreigner! Athithi devobhava is all ok but some of these foreigners are uncivilised, very rude and very very stingy. This foreigner and a bunch of them was seen later on the deck of a cruiser going to Alleppey. It was cramped up and would take 7 hrs (?) to reach. We would not last that long for sure in that cramped atmosphere. As we went along we saw crowded kettu-vallams as well.

The conductor was a happy-go-lucky guy. He gave us info (for free) just as a guide would. We travelled with locals buying a Rs 3 ticket (just as in bus.) The boat waded from one bank to the other. We even saw a youngster boarding with a cycle, conductor scolding a lady (similar to a mother-son banter) for not appearing on the jetty site well before the boat arrival as it would have left without picking her up. We met Mr and Mrs Roy along with their bubbly kids Godwin & Elvin from Kozhencherry. They were roaming about just like us. The boat had a 10 min break in between and we chatted some more over a cuppa from a small tea-shop. They got off at the penultimate jetty (for lunch) and we were to get off as well, however we decided at the last minute to get off the last stop where our car was parked as we were getting late. As a result we could not bid a proper good bye to the Roy family. But maybe its a good future project for a Oyoor-style-search and link back.

We drive further up to Karunagapally. Now I knew somewhere close would be the Vallikaav - Amma's ashram and in the web I had seen the serene location that it was located at. We had lunch at the only exclusive-restaurant (the others were hotel-attached) on the straight town-stretch.
Kappa/Rice/curry/fry - Never get tired of it. Had a great lunch again. I had seen a board to Vallikaavu before town (now on GM I see its Cheriazheekal road) but I knew there would be links to get to the coastal road.

Wise Man #2

We did a few up/dn on the NH47 till we landed on the Oachira-Ayiramthengu Road (Ayiramthengu = 1000 coconut trees.) To get to the coastal road from the NH we need to cross the kayal (backwaters,) over a bridge. We find a person standing before the bridge. We roll down and asked if we were good to the ashram. He said yes. As we were about to leave, he asked for a lift. Just a fraction of a sec, the thought of should we let in a stranger came to mind? But almost immediately asked him to hop in. We crossed over to the coastal road. He asked us to take left south-bound. Though he wanted to go right north-bound, he said he had the time and could just join us on that road. I could smell alchohol-laced breath in the confines of the car, but his talk was not non-sensical nor was he unclear nor was his head jittery. It looked as if he was alcoholic. He is Satheesan. He lost his elder brother to the Tsunami. And along with him all of the fisherman's paraphernalia. I asked him if he was compensated for the losses or did the government eat it all up. My tone was just like the India television media - making a masala-sprinkled-provacative-controversial statement and asking the public-figure a boolean answer and the affirmative answer being flashed as if the entire thing was mentioned verbatim by the person concerned. However Satheesan just said he was paid 4 lakhs. He was honest. However, he used it all up to pay up his old loans.
Our destination arrived. We walked through a small lane to the ashram and over the bridge over the backwaters as Satheesan waited in the palm-lined beach shore. We clicked some pictures and came back to the car. Now till the end of the strip north-bound to the fishing harbour. It was a beautiful land's end. Great place to spend an evening and evening it was. As
wifey and Neha sat in the parked car, I stepped out to see the pullimootu
(the stone barricade built into the sea at harbours.) Satheesan was along side. I asked him if he were satisfied with life thus far and pat came the reply with a smile. Yes. He said it was difficult fishing days during that month and would have to wait for medam for things to improve. He also mentioned about his son having done a computer course and if I could help him in the big city. We exchanged addresses by borrowing a sheet of paper from the lone
kaccha-shop. As I was writing his address he looked on at the piece of paper and corrected the spelling letting me know there were 2 "t"s in the "Kattil" - his house name. He invited me for the annual village festival. We parted ways and I took some money in my hand to give him. He refused as well! Shock #2.

We got to the main NH via the same bridge and headed northbound till Kayankulam. Our destination was a place just before Charumoodu on the KP road (Kayankulam-Punaloor Road.) We had stopped by Kayankulam to buy some stuff for uncle and aunty (wife'y brother's in-laws.) Uncle has purchased an i10 and we thought of gifting something for his car. Looked up at some car perfume, mirror-hangs but finally bought a golden Kerala lamp. Its worth is measured by its weight. Rs 450/ per kg if we remember correctly. We drive on the KP road and we had faint memories of our last trip around 5 yrs back or so. We reached the house with one hit and at the correct street bend from the main road. Cool. Aunt likes comedy programs esp. Cinemala that comes on Sundays on the Asianet regional channel. Aunt loves fish and the dinner was just out of the world. Served on plantain leaves the chicken curry was very very good, the mackerel was very fresh (very difficult to get the freshness in my city.) After the dinner, we had a very free-wheeling discussion and I did not realise the time gone by. It was 11:30 pm. Discussions were mainly on how they moved out from Chennai and got settled in Charumoodu, how much care they took to bring up their daughter, their day to day activities. Uncle has been watering the concrete roof of aunt's sister newly getting
constructed house. Rs 100/- is the charges per person per day for the job.
The +s => very good water, air, fish. The -s => expenses for a retired couple.

Some rubber math:


They have about 100 rubber trees say in 40 cents of land adjacent to their house. Per day they get about 3-4 kilos of rubber, however the per day per tree trunk-grafting for rubber-milk collection is Rs 1. The rubber specialist comes every alternate days. The other days he dries the rubber and churns them into rubber sheets and finally uncle goes to town to sell them. A kilo = Rs 180/-.

We had a good night's sleep.

Day 5: 28th Dec 2011 - From the midlands to the highlands.

Catching up with Muthashee (Grandma)


As usual the previous night we thought of moving out as early as possible, but come morning and I let it a bit loose to let things fall-in in a natural way. So, good Chennai-style dosas and chutney. Then we drove till Aunt's mother's home - the Tharavaad (ancestral home) veedu. Muthashee (Grandma) was sitting on a concrete bench close to the erstwhile thozhutthu (cow-shed.) They had recently broken the old structure down as it was unused. Muthashee was very upset about the whole event. As we arrived she was busy reading the newspaper. I asked her as to what the news was and she said she loved reading the accidents section and read a headline from it. The next she read out was the police-robber stories. Cool muthashee. She was every smiling. We toured the old house too. One interesting thing I found was the mid-size wooden foldable chair with the iron-pin grooves on the sides. We bid them all goodbye. We had asked uncle about the route to Mavelikara and also to Mannar - famous for Ooat-made vessels and by 9:30 am we were well on the route to Mavelikara after we took the right just before the police station when traveling from Charumoodu to Kayankulam on the KP Road.

We passed by SB's home at Chettikulangara and we knew he would be here after the in-laws stint at Kollam. However, we did not get in as we would have gotten late in our day's plan. We reached Mannar and bought a couple of heavy weight Urulis (payasam making vessels made of Ooat - bronze (?)) Kilo = 650 and both together weighed above 5 kilos. We also got hold off a Achappam [a south-kerala snack] maker (made of Ooat,) - a gift for Amma at Mumbai. Further I was interested in buying metal mirrors from Aranmula. So we went to Changanassery and into Aranmula - 11:40 am. Got a couple of mirrors. These are special since they have no coatings like in ordinary mirror, these are just polishing done on special metal combinations. This is on the route to Ranny/Sabarimala and is part of Pathanamthitta district.

The Kallu-Shaap (Toddy shop)
We also could not miss the 23 km drive between Alleppey and Changanassery. Long time back we had done boat cruises between the two places - now the drive. We shaved say 5 km from Changanassery to Alleppey and turned back after getting a glimpse of what it is like. It has fields on one side and the backwaters on the other side of the road. The road is a high-quality one. We were hungry now and got into one of the toddy-shops on this road as mentioned by SB. Thanks SB, I was looking for it. The menu had tortoise, rabbit, ducks apart from the usual. I was asked if I would have atleast a single glass of fresh toddy - I declined. These are very decent places. No worries.

At around 2 pm we reached Kottayam and 2:45 - Ettumanoor. These were just drive through places for us. From here we headed over to Pala. This is sort of the last major town before the climb into the hills of Idukki disctrict. It is a very famous place and lots of Pala based people are around. We shopped for some kids clothing in the big shopping complex here and headed into the hills. At around 4 PM we were praying at St. Alphonso's tomb. A very sacred and pious place. Some differences as compared to Hindu temples: Photos are allowed within the tomb and people were clicking as some were praying at the tomb. Some similarities: No footwear is allowed within an other church area. We drove to Vagamon from here and we found a board of Padmalaya home stay - with the cell number. We called the number and the staff came out. He said the Rs. 1000 was available. What a room we got! Just out of the world. The balcony was a very big one and we got 270 degree view of the hills which surrounded us completely. The evening cold breeze was blowing too. The night was getting cold. At the restaurant below they were serving chappati/chi.curry. This food was very home-like. I just loved it.

Wise man # 3.

Pushpan, the care taker after opening the door started to talk. He is a person who has not gone beyond Kerala, educated in a small Idukki school. He was a part-time politician, party zilla secretary. He is an agriculturist and believes there is no other happiness in the world other than seeing the pods grow. He was quoting from Shakespear, about Macbeth, about E=mc2, about how a Columbia univeristy Ph.D is of no use unless one is hands on and works with the soil. He was justing the correct altitude of the Idukki disctrict and how anything and everything would grow there. He was challenging MSSwaminathan's report as he had read it completely. He knew Nitrogen cycle and lightning and the eco-balance. He also touched upon how we would be having gold/cash in our banks but no water to drink. He said he had mooted a 6 month (180 days) work guarantee and Mr. Singh did it as a 100 day
program. Pushpan is a great philosopher, agriculturist, thinker. Some people are born-talents and it does not matter if he is just a care-taker of a hotel.

We settled down in the room after a good dinner, absorbing the cool climes of the hill.

Day 6: 29th Dec 2011: Over the top


This was an early start. Our last day in Kerala to get that maximum out and then we could can these 6 days and relish them every other moment 550 km away on the other coast. At 8 am we settled the bill and proceeded to Elapara and then to Kattappana and then joined the Kumily-Munnar road at Puliyanmala. We drove on the picture perfect scenery/tar-road for some time only to find that Chembalam was connected to the Idukki dam as well. Next we reached Nedumkandam for breakfast at around 10 a.m. We had
aapam/curry and some excellent tea. It cost us just Rs. 90 for three people. Next Udumbumchola, Santhanpara, Poopara, Chinna Kannal. These are great driving experiences. We took ;ot of photos/'videos on these sections. The next stop was Lock Heart Gap. A different terrain on this side of the hill and as we cross over through a narrow road we can see tea-gardens all around. We spent some time here, eating pineapples, tender-coconut. We reached Munnar at around 2 pm. We could not find our regular Merzbaan on the main road (replaced by a Marvadi food place.) However we could find the Hazrath hotel within the market area. This is the only mallu restaurant around the main taxi-stand. We shopped for women-slippers/kappa - Rs 20 per kilo. We also got packets of dry-fruits to take home. Once packed we started our journey towards Udumalpet. We found good amount of mist at the top. Once they were settled we could drive much better. Finally we reached Marayoor (famous for Chandan) and then into Udumalpetta. I look upon the sign-boards in mallu as I cross the border, how much I wished I could never leave that border and into a non-Kerala area. Its all over. But only to return back very soon.

Thanks to wifey and Neha firstly to go through this rigmarole on the trip and also to sit up with me for a good part of Sunday when I pushed myself to finish writing this up. Thanks to everyone for giving me a patient ear. Those who could not go through the writings or dont have the patience for the same would atleast have enjoyed some snaps.

Ciao!

P.S - Just figured out that I cannot post more than 30 snaps and so this cannot be a one-time-post. Damn! I will have to upload the other snaps as a photologue.

Last edited by Technocrat : 12th January 2011 at 00:49. Reason: removed extra smiley, only 2 smilies per post allowed, thanks
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Old 10th January 2011, 02:37   #2
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Default Photologue

Day 2: Photos (Contd)

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Day 3: Photos

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Old 10th January 2011, 07:51   #3
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Default Photos continued

Day 4 (27th Dec 2011):

If you move the mouse over the photo you can see them named in the form of date.time.description e.g 27.1041.Ashta1.JPG (27th Dec at 10:41 hrs Ashtamudi kayal)
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Old 10th January 2011, 08:27   #4
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Default Days 4 and 5 snaps

Day 4 - continued
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Day 5 - 28th Dec 2011

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Old 10th January 2011, 10:40   #5
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Default Re: Single Post - Three wise men and other short stories in Malluland.

Nice Backwaters.. The ric pic reminds me of kerala food. We call it "Bullet rice" because of its size.
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Old 10th January 2011, 11:05   #6
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Default Photos - Kottayam and Idukki

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Old 10th January 2011, 11:16   #7
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Default Re: Single Post - Three wise men and other short stories in Malluland.

Sajeev - that was one helluva trip you had. Racy write-up. Enjoyed every line. However captions for the photos would have helped. When's your next cbe trip?
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Old 10th January 2011, 11:40   #8
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Default The last set of six snaps

Thanks mallumowgli. This single post thing did not exactly turn out as I had intended. In addition with all the snaps, the page might be shifting up/dn as one reads.

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Old 10th January 2011, 12:52   #9
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Default Re: Single Post - Three wise men and other short stories in Malluland.

@jeevmenon

This is fantastic narration and pics... phew...How much time it took to complete this post buddy?
Regards,
R
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Old 10th January 2011, 13:45   #10
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Default Re: Single Post - Three wise men and other short stories in Malluland.

Thanks Reisender. It took 3-4 days of writing an hour or so each day and finally 5-6 hours on Sunday. But now I know the time/effort writers spend to write their novels. I should have done revisions of the whole write-up which I did not. I was in a hurry to get it out. Now when I read it again I see quite some mistakes. One objective was to have more emotions/feeling/life to the story and scenes (verbal/pictorial) from Kerala towns to people who are living far away, rather than just postcard-like good looking sceneries. I am learning.

Last edited by jeevmenon : 10th January 2011 at 13:49.
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Old 10th January 2011, 15:02   #11
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Default Re: Photos - Kottayam and Idukki

Nice travelogue and excellent photologue. It appears that you did the travel in the black Sparky. Why dont you key in about the performance and the way the car behaved etc in the plainlands as well as in the highlands.

Hoping to see more.
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Old 10th January 2011, 18:41   #12
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Default Re: Single Post - Three wise men and other short stories in Malluland.

Hi Jeev

There you are with wonderful Mallu Stories.

You indeed experienced very authentic Kerala holiday including meeting relatives and friends, experiencing local cuisine and street food, using public mode of transport (water ways etc) as well as visit to local market, shopping etc. AMazing way to spend one's vacations.

I was very touched by the stories of 3 wise men. So thought of telling you that you should continue writing and continue to refine it.

You forgot to write about a family which made the day worthwhile for two other families

This family all of a sudden stops in the middle of the road, somewhere on the western ghat roads and asks the question "Are you So and So ?"

Everyone gets pleasantly surprised or should i say shocked ?

You seem to have mastered the art of "Searching", a worthy successor for Sir Sherlock Holmes ?
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Old 10th January 2011, 19:27   #13
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Default My name is Bond, StarVegaBond!

Honestly, I was rushing through the TL while writing about the last day as I was eager to post it. Likhe jaa raha hun khatm hi nahi hontha kinda-stuff this story writing. It was late or should I say too early - 2 am Monday - I am jostling with what I wrote from my notepad to wordpad to formatting and then entering into the forum writing area, etc. You would still see lot of lines not doing its 90 chars or so. I dumped it in the end. Anyway no excuses, SVB. However, like the climax of a movie: left the best for the end or should I say storm after the lull. Here is the parallel story.

Day 6:

9:00 AM: Kattapana town. Wifey comments about the team-bhp folks from Bangalore mainly really getting out in numbers into the neighbouring hills/beaches. Also, how she had seen Star's already started thread about his vacation and how he was to be in GOC this Christmas.

Noon: The sun was not too harsh. The chill in the air on that beautiful day of the 29th Dec. New Year just round the corner. We were in Chinnakanal and approaching LockHeart and there were some beautiful views around white-clouds, dark-blue-sky, light-blue-water-body, green-tea-gardens and trees. What do we see: 2 girls and a boy on the left cliff and two couples who had gotten off their cars and one of the guys clicking away.

Wifey looked at one of the "v&v" (prompted by wifey now) and said she has seen her in the snaps on the forum. She looked like Star's daughter. I immediately pulled over, put my head out and yelled "Is it Star Vegabond"? The "spirited one" (?) nodded his head in the affirmative. I parked by Sparky next to the ANHC and it was a great meeting with snaps and we headed in opposite directions. I sms-ed HVK then and I got the reply "Small World!"

Elusive Star is already out in his TL and so I am putting this up.
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Old 10th January 2011, 19:57   #14
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Default Re: Single Post - Three wise men and other short stories in Malluland.

Quite some travel and a detailed travelogue.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeevmenon
We had been keeping SB at bay since morning - reach by lunch, reach by tea, we should atleast reach by dinner! I sent messages to SB and got ack as well but suddenly no responses.
Funny thing was we were also on the same beach, but some 2-3kms away at Thirumullavaram. Aman got bored waiting from morning for Neha and the only way to keep him sane was to take him to the beach.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeevmenon
The only two things we knew was SB's wifey Sheena, son Aman and the A-Star that FIL had bought (thanks courtesy t-bhp) We put these catch-words again in.
Its a densely populated community there and we being inferquent visitors, not many would know us. And in a place where BMW 7-series jostles for place with Mercs, no one would care about an A-Star either.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeevmenon
Amman - who was shy as we arrived became very pally with us by the time it was bed-time with his moonwalk dance and his fictional/non-fictional stories.
He takes his own time to get pally with new faces, but once he thaws, you would have trouble keeping up with his stories - most of which are straight lifts from Tamil movies starring Surya - he just substitutes himself in place of Surya and weaves his fictional tales.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeevmenon
We had asked uncle about the route to Mavelikara and also to Mannar - and by 9:30 am we were well on the route to Mavelikara after we took the right just before the police station when traveling from Charumoodu to Kayankulam on the KP Road. We passed by SB's home at Chettikulangara and we knew he would be here after the in-laws stint at Kollam.
I am wondering whether you actually passed by the road in front of my home (which is a shorter route to Mannar) OR went via the main road (longer route). Some 2kms after Chettikulangara, there is Thattarambalam junction which is kind of a 4-road (pic below) - the main road carrying on to mavelikara town, another road takes you back to NH47 at Nangiarukulangara and the 3rd one going via my home to Mannar. I am guessing you just went with the road's flow and so via Mavelikara town.
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Last edited by supremeBaleno : 10th January 2011 at 20:13.
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Old 10th January 2011, 21:53   #15
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Default Re: Single Post - Three wise men and other short stories in Malluland.

Hi Jeev

You indeed made me famous. My family and friend's family still can not understand how some one totally not known can suddenly refer me by (virtual) name. May be power of virtual world. I am still learning to deal with virtual world and the privacy issues associated with it. Now i am a bit more learned.

It was great meeting you, your wife and your cute little daughter. My daughter after meeting her asked me "Who is HVK ?". I feel HVK is really privileged to have such young and beautiful fan.

i had taken a group picture to remember the occation. I hope you are okay with me posting this picture here.

Last edited by StarVegabond : 10th January 2011 at 22:00.
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