The journey – Day-3


Day1- Plantation, Elephant-ride, Kathakali
Day 2 – Tribal Village, Kalaripayattu, B’day celebrations

It was like I’d slept just for 5 minutes when the alarm on my mobile buzzed. It was already 4.00 in the morning! How did 6 hours shrink and fit into 5 minutes?!! Knocked the other 4 rooms- a double-up wake-up call just in case the alarm did not go off in any of the rooms. By 4.50 we all were ready and waiting at the gate for the auto-rickshaws to arrive. We had collected the numbers the previous day and gave one guy a wake-up call at 4.20 AM.

We were at the check-post, 2nd in the queue, and the counter would open at 5.50 AM to issue permits. The auto drivers warned us that they’d speed into the reserve the moment the gate opens and that we should hold on to our seats as they’d not slow-down even at the speed breakers! Some of us had tea and waited for the heaven gates to open:) It did at the stroke of 6.10 AM and you must see it to believe it. The auto-race was one experience! They halt about 200 meters before the lake and from there we had to do a marathon to get to the queue quick! Jo and Aathrey were the ace sprinters who made it to the queue! After all the huffs and puffs, forms were filled and tickets were bought. KTDC issues two tickets per person and you need to fill-in a form with the contact details of the persons and Rs.40/- is charged per person. The forest department issues one ticket per person and is priced at Rs.150/- per person. We took the KTDC ones as per the advice of our expert consultants of the moment- the auto drivers!

All the trouble was worth the 1.5 hrs ride. We were lucky to spot deers, wild boars, elephants, turtles, bison, and a variety of birds!

The autos came back at 9.30 AM to pick us up and were back to the dhaba to break our fast. We packed some lunch too from the same place. At 12.00 noon, we checked-out of the resort and we were on our way to Kottayam railway station. Bookings were full for from Dindugal/Kodai Rd/Madurai and so we opted to make the return from Kottayam (its around 110 kms from Thekkady while Dindugal is around 140 kms). The ghat road was a beautiful drive.

We were at Kottayam station 3.5 hours later. The waiting room served as the lunch room too.. The train arrived a few minutes late and it was hard to believe that the journey was coming to an end…

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The journey continues


Day-1 Account here

The only item on our agenda for Sunday, the Day 2, was to go boating at the Periyar lake. My limited ability to ‘paranyu-fy’ in Malayalam was not enough to get across our queries to the dumb (otherwise amiable) folks at the resort reception. One, we wanted to find out how easy/tough it was to get a ticket for boating, the timings etc, and another information I was dying to get was a jeep-safari at Gavi. This wildlife habitat sounded exotic on the web and was located around 40 kms away from our place of stay. There was another safari at Periyar reserve but priced too high. We were still game if the forest folks guaranteed spotting a tiger or two but that was not to be:) Without any pre-arrangement for Gavi (lack of proper contacts), we dropped it.

We woke up without a hurry and the kids had a blast once again at the pool! None of us adults carried a swim-wear which was mandatory to step into the pool (not to mention our immense water-talents, the adeptness with which we can walk in the waters unlike the tiny swimmers in the group, will make you want to forget what it is to swim:)

The breakfast this time had a little Kerala in it – the famous ‘steamed bananas’! We all ate ‘shamelessly’. Really. It was a part of our stay package and decided to make the most of it!! There was another important item on the agenda for Day 2. We had to make arrangements for the birthday celebration of 2 people in the group, one, a lady soon-to-be-married (on the same day), and another was for 4-year-old honey-bee Harish (the following day). We decided to celebrate both together on Sunday night as we had to check-out of the resort the following noon.

Soon after breakfast, a couple of us went out hunting for a good bakery that could bake a birthday cake by evening and found one. We placed an order for the cake, promising to collect at around 4.00 in the evening, and joined the others at the resort in 30 minutes.

Then off we went to the Tribal Village at Thekkady. We were hopeful of seeing a handful of ‘adhivasis’ and we did meet them. Only that they have turned modern:) A very good thing. So modern that we saw a Sun Direct dish on a thatched roof!! We would have nearly walked around 6 kms to and fro and again the kids did well! JC, the honey-bee’s mom somehow kept him distracted and ensured that he too walked the stretch.. Which is quite a task for a 4-year-old!

The guide was a friendly chap, a tribal himself in modern attire, educated, led us through the village, the wild flora (no fauna barring the buffalo basking in a murky pond under the sun and some birds), their huts built of bamboo and straw, and an elaborate account of the customs followed by the tribal. Each ‘house’ has another separate room attached for the women who stay isolated for 7 days during the ‘female-blues’! Why this national obsession with a woman’s menstrual cycle is something I’ve never been able to figure out! A casual question to the women on how the men of their tribe treat them was answered with a sigh, a groan and oh-these-men! reaction:) That by the way is a universal phenomenon isn’t it?:)) The dwellers here, farm, make bamboo/straw crafts, work in plantations, sell produce from their village etc for a living.

It appears that there are 7 tribal leaders who are the Panchayat equivalents. They decide on the right/wrong of the ‘tribal-affairs’. A man or a women cannot marry for 3 years if the spouse dies. They re-marry after the completion of 3 years during the tribal festival (which is once a year). Like the Egyptian mummies, they bury food, ornaments, clothes etc along with the dead- presumably for use during the life after death! The tenements, which were once in the deep jungles, have now moved more closer to the town. A tiger strays into their dwelling once in a while (not sure how true it is. maybe, maybe not!). At this, Vyas, the Tenali of our house, became very alert and there started a series of questions on tiger trails, the verification of tigers count, and how many of the1411 tigers were in this reserve etc. He found relief when the guide told him that the animal is virtually powerless in a human habitat and an encounter at that moment will not be very eventful!!

The government has provided a lot of aid to these people by way of school, occupation, basic housing/sanitation facility etc.. The modern-tribal women, clad mostly in nighties, posed for photographs and requested for a copy to be sent. The address is waiting in my hand bag for we are yet to print the hard copies. A lot of huffs and puffs and jackfruits-seeing later, we headed back to the dhaba for a packed meal! It was awesome.

After lunch, about 7 of us from the group took the local share-autos to check for boating tickets as we were told that KTDC issues only 2 tickets per person and that you need to fill-in a form with your name, address etc. These stringent measures is following the mishap last year at the lake. On reaching the forest check-post, we were told that the boating was full. We retreated to the resort and on our way back, booked tickets for a Kalari show at 6.00 PM that evening close to the resort.

It was around 3.30 PM and few caught up on some lost sleep. At 4.00, I left the kids at the pool and went out with another friend to fetch the cake, while another one watched over the kids. Off we went to fetch the cake, balloons, chocolates, candles, thread, and gifts and were back at 5.00. The elves were still soaking in the cool waters and making merry. After they showered and dressed, we all had tea/bournvita and waited for the others to join. The balloons were blown and kept ready in one of the rooms (It was supposed to be a secret and Vyas has a reputation for keeping it well! To him, a secret is something that can be shared in whispers or into someone’s ears just loud enough for anyone within 10 mts to hear!). And then we scooted to the Kalaripayattu show.

It was a wonderful show of martial arts using a sword and shield, free -hand, a long and short stick (thadi). All was well till a performer lit two ends of a stick wound in kerosene-doused cloth and lit them. He stored some of this fuel in his mouth and as he was wielding the stick he blowed some kerosene from his mouth sending up a ball of fire. ‘That is it!’ decided our man Vyas. And yelled, “What an idiotic stunt is this!”. Fortunately or unfortunately, the crowd did not hear him as they were too absorbed to notice. He was virtually in tears and had his palms covering his ears. “Ma, take me out of here. I don’t to watch this silly show”.  I tried convincing him that these were only stunts like the ones he saw on movies and the performers are trained well and nothing will happen. Just then, two fire rings were brought in and he knew a guy was going to jump through the ring. He got up from the seat saying the folks must be stupid to do something so silly and risk their lives for a show and I had to take him out. I felt it was not the time to tell him how wrong it is to call people silly, stupid or idiotic and let it go. He was scared out of his wits and was almost crying. I would have failed to make a point. Besides, something inside me felt he was right…

It had rained outside when we were watching the show, and the evening was beautifully chill. There wasn’t a single stagnate pool of water anywhere on the road. The earth had soaked up every drop of rain! We all gathered at the resort 15 minutes later, and celebrated the ‘twin birthday’. The cake under a lamp-shade in the courtyard with an open roof on top, surrounded by our rooms, was kinda romantic:) The birthday girl and the birthday boy cut the cake together, fed each other a piece and there was lot of chasing to smudge the icing on the b’day girl’s face. The cakes and starters served as appetizers. We were ravenous and headed-out to another dhaba we had discovered on our way to the bakery. Had a decent dinner, but the lassi was pathetic! No regrets though!

We all crashed and maybe snored after cleaning -up and packaging our baggage as it was a long day ahead. The alarm was set for 4.00 AM the following morning. We had to tick that one item on our agenda!! And that can wait for the next post! Till then, here are some pics from day-2..

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Its the journey, not the destination


Yet another magalir mattum (only-women) plus kiddos trip, this time to Thekkady. This time around, it was a coffee-toffee decision unlike the carefree Yelagiri trip. Should I join this time or not? If I do, will Varun go with me or stay behind? I know some mommies out there are ready to throw your daggers at me! Confining Varun to a couple of seats in the train, carrying him for the most part of the trip besides the travel bag, the fear of losing him in a crowd, the power to hold him back when he sees a lake or pool etc, were a few factors that I had to consider. The daddy pitched in here helping me make the decision. He thought the trip would do me good and so I should go with Vyas, and he, with the grandparents, would take care of Varun.

And so, Vyas and I joined my friends on this wonderful trip to Thekkady without Varun, my first stay away from the little one. I’m told, he was fantastic; ate, played, and slept without a fuss! Though I felt a little relieved, there was another side that was disappointed! My baby did not miss me? Felt like leaving for work the first day post the maternity break:) And counseled myself with – ‘No one is indispensable. Face it. You could stay away from your baby and so could he! Move on!’

The bookings were made nearly a couple of months back and none of us were sure if we will make it owing to official and personal priorities. Being a holiday season, we did not risk postponing the booking. We decided to cancel a couple of days before the journey date in case there is huge drop-out. A couple of friends dropped out at the last minute owing to sickness. Finally, we were 8 women and 6 kids (aged 11, 9, 8, 6, 5, and 4!) on the trip and a very fulfilling one at that!

We alighted at Dindugul junction and headed to Kumbakarai water falls. The original plan was to hit Suruli falls but dropped it as a friend who had visited a week earlier told that there wasn’t much water. Kumbakarai was a superb experience. What looked like a light fall from a distance, came with a huge thud on us. The kids got to take one more loooong dip at a stream leading to the fall. As it was shallow and safe, there was a lot of splashing and screaming!

Kumbakarai
Kumbakarai
Kumbakarai
Kumbakarai
Kumbakarai
Kumbakarai

After nearly an hour and a half at Kumbakarai, we were back on the road to Thekkady. The road was one long silk ribbon with a view of the Kodai hills at a distance.

Kodai Road
On our way to Thekkady
On our way to Thekkady
On our way to Thekkady

We reached the resort at 10.15 AM on a Saturday morning, parked our luggage, and had a sumptuous breakfast. A tad disappointed at the menu as there was nothing ‘Kerala’ in the breakfast menu:). Half-an-hour later, the kids were at the pool for yet another round of splashing and swimming. We had a hard time yanking them out of the pool:)

At the pool
At the pool
At the pool
At the pool

After refreshing, we visited a spice plantation at Kumily and the experience was enriching. Despite the hot afternoon, the kids walked without sulking. Vyas had to make a scrapbook of leaves collected over a nature walk as part of his holiday homework. This visit was a blessing and we collected the leaves from a few spice plants. There was this unique plantain tree in which the plantain flower and the plantains grow upwards, facing the sky! See this beauty!

At the spice plantation
At the spice plantation

There was another flower that resembled a golden fish! Here is the pic!

The fish-like flower
The fish-like flower

The lunch following the plantation visit was a disaster. We should have done at least a 10 minutes research instead of trusting the driver’s suggestion! Happens! Again, the kids did not fuss. We proceeded straight to the elephant ride. A few of us stayed back while most of the group hopped on to the elephant and took a 30 minutes ride into another plantation (there are quite a few plantations in Kumily-Thekkady). We were in time to catch the sight of an elephant being bathed.

Elephant ride
Elephant ride
Elephant bath
Elephant bath

We were back at the resort by 4.30. After some sandwiches, coffee and tea, we went to a Kathakali show where an artist enacted the ‘navarasas’, the nine different emotions expressed using the eyes. This was followed by two artists performing an episode from ‘Narakasuravadham’, depicting the killing of Nakrathudi, the demon (sister of Narakasura) by King Jayantha. The overall quality of the performance was okay only that Vyas jumped out of his skin towards the end when the slain demon really looked and bellowed like one!

Kathakali
Kathakali- Narakasuravadham
Kathakali- Narakasuravadham
Kathakali- Narakasuravadham

We discovered a nice Gujrathi/Marwadi dhaba just two blocks away from our resort and compensated for the poor lunch. Despite the splitting headache, we managed to gobble up hot panneer parathas, phulkas, yummy curries and lassi!

This was Day 1 of our rendezvous. More to follow!

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Day 2
Day 3
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