Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Aruvikkara - A Calm & Serene Evening outing guaranteed!!

 

Thiruvananthapuram - The capital city of God's own country is blessed with lots of tourist spots, most of them being relatively unknown presents an oppurtunity for those who loves to be in a calm atmosphere and very close to nature.

Aruvikkara is one such destination, which is known for the Aruvikkara dam and pumping station here serves the water needs of the city. This also doubles up as a picturesque place and one feel like he is away from all the bells and whistles of a city.

The route is Peeroorkada - karakulam - turn right - travel 4kms and reach Aruvikkara, hardly 20 kms from Thiruvananthapuram railway station. Once we turn right of Karakulam the terrain change is quite evident and it seems like we are going through some ghat section.
 

After travelling a distance of 2 to 3 kms through this stretch a top point arrives.

 

From here we could get a full view of the topology. Towards one side of the reservoir there is a dense greenery
 

The dam is visible too from this point. The parking ground also can be seen.
 

Very near to the parking ground, there is a Devi temple. This temple is quite unique because it is completely constructed on top of rocks. The river gushing through one side of the temple creates a special ambience and it is quite difficult for a nature lover to part with the ambience inside the temple.
 

We decided to proceed ahead through the small bridge right opposite to the dam
 

The view of the dam from this bridge.
 

After travelling some 500m, we found a small road on the left. Decided to explore this route .The road was untarred, but the view of the river on the left side was awesome.
 

A little more than 100meters in this village route and our search for a cool place to spend some time ended here with the company of this kind of nature around.
 



 

My son was enjoying his newly acquired toy binoculars
 

There was a small hill on the other side of the river.
 

This plant was having some kind of fruit which seemed like birds flying with their wings spread out.
 

The ambient light was fading, but the scenery was still pleasing to the eye.
 

 

A view of the small river side road which we took. It always happens that, if we explore around the common destinations we are sure to find some really serene places without crowds where we can spend some quality time and this place too was no different.
 

After spending a quality hour at this river side it was time on to move to the dam site.
 

There is step near the side of the bridge using which we can go underneath the bridge opposite to the dam

 

Once underneath we can see water gushing out through the rocks under the bridge

 

The temple is visible on the right side.
 

It is at this point, fishes are fed by the visitors.
 

There are quite a good number of big fishes here. People consider them holy, hence they escape from being caught and are fed well since it is considered as a holy offering.

The view of the dam from underneath the bridge is awesome, since we are almost at level with the water.

 
 

Soon it was pitch dark and we climbed up the steps, only to see that the lights in the bridge is giving it a special ambience. My brother who also came with his new DSLR captured the ambience well.

 

No trip is complete, without a romantic stroll :). Thanks to my brother for this capture !!


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Nepal Tour Part 12 – Then & Now, an Introspection


The epic All India Tour to Nepal christened “Akosoto 98” is over. The tour memories has been recreated by the stills provided by Theekkolli and Padakkam. These stills made me travel back in a time and jot down what transpired during this epic tour in this blog. Theekkolli found time to review these jottings and make this more in line with what actually happened. His excitement while reading these has been evident by the way he emailed me to not forget some of the episodes. Padakkam ensured that I got all the photos from his collection on time between his tight working schedules.

I dedicate this entire series of travelogue to my batch mates who are also my special friends, friendship with whom is flavoured by the presence of that extra bonding which is not found in the friends we have attained after college life.

Writing this epic travelogue made me really go back to the college days and at times I even felt like, I was back to the college days and one day I even made a visit to the college which is 350 odd kilometres away from my home. This brought back many of the memories of college life. Just opening the memory shell here ……………

  • We were the first batch of students in this college. We had to face all the hardships associated with the first batch, the most prominent one being we had no seniors to guide us through.
  • The faculty were young and the age difference between faculties and students could easily be counted using our fingers. Once when a new lady faculty came to join, we mistook her for a new student admission and I don’t need to explain what ensued. 
  • The functioning started in a make shift building
  • The canteen had a bread sandwich and a parotta sandwich
  • The men’s hostel was near a local hospital and its staff quarters (read nurses quarters)
  •  The chickenpox epidemic which caused us boycott the first series test.
  • The warden of the hostel was a real comic figure with his trademark English accent providing an item for all the mimicry artistes around. Eventhough he projected himself as a decent young man, all this shred off after the first year tour.
  • The coconut throwing episode which made all hostel staff really fearful and we were soon without any warden.
  • The Babloo and Popular theatre around which provided us with enough “entertainment” by there regular shows starting from the special show at “noon”
  • The Volga cool bar which quenched our thirsts, especially that of Lime Kumar’s.
  • The thattukada trips after midnight, during which time we used to act as traffic police guiding the vehicles through NH 17
  • The excitement among us when the first set of juniors joined will never be forgotten
  • The first strike, when we all joined as a single unit pressing for a new college building.
  • The duel with the students of a local college in whose premises our makeshift college was functioning.
  • The hostellers outrage to the hostel building when we were ousted from the building owing to differences with the owner. Thanks to him, we eventually landed up in a building which was in a calmer place and near to where our friends of other gender stayed put.
  • Finally after 2 years a new college building was set up, and it was a special place. We used to go and watch the construction proceeding. Hence had a kind of special ownership feeling.
Our college in 1997 (from theekkolli’s collection)
 

College in 2001 (from my collection. These two photos were taken when I was on my way for my marriage. I was travelling with my college friends and no wonder we made a stop over here for a photo shoot. Incidentally my better half also is from the same campus. Another long story there)
 
 

2009 snaps
 

 

  • Our outings to this Bharathapuzha river which had mostly sand filled land areas than water filled areas.
This sprawling campus was near Bharathapuzha bridge

A view of the bridge from the top of college.
 


 

  • The excitement during the day we were shifted to the new building 
  • The new canteen in front of the college building with the vast open spaces around serving as grounds
(photo taken in 1998 - from padakkam’s collection)
 

The space near canteen is now converted to this superb building – A theatre
(as on dec 2009)
 
  • The travels in two wheels from hostel to college, we even charged the pillion riders for their journey.
  • Our adventure trips during weekends to unknown hills around.
  • The day when almost all the two wheelers were caught by police either for over speeding or for having no proper papers and all were made to stand in front of a local shop for 2 hours. But we all enjoyed the punishment as it was in front of one of the ladies hostels.
  • The one-pitch-out cricket inside the hostel premises (ground was named padang, because of the sound of bat hitting the ball) & the small school ground nearby our hostel which served as our outdoor cricket centre.
  • The Gafoorka and Nairs shop which served us special “Aval vellam”
  • The vast space between the mechanical block and the main building filled with lots of trees which doubled up as lovers corner.
(Pic taken in 1997 – from Padakkam’s collection)
 
This space is now occupied by the electronics and electrical building
(photo taken on Dec 2009)
 


Seen here are other facilities available now
 
  • The final days at college when the bond among us strengthened.
  • The songs sung by “Sodakuppi” and “Limekumar” . Wonder how many times these fellows has entertained us by their songs during free hours.
 

  • The sent off party arranged by our juniors, the last event being a song from a tamil movie which depicted friends for ever after which we could see most of us weeping, even the hardest of souls could not prevent their emotional outburst.
  • The journey back after this event, in college bus thinking that this will be our last trip as a college student. It was really difficult for that feeling to sunk in. Truly unforgettable.

We had an eventful college life, like many of the collegiates around. May be because we had to face lot a hardship together, there could be a more intimate bond between us, these memories of college life ceases to fade.

Life moves on, and all these fellows are leading a different life, a different phase of life, most of them do not keep in touch often, quite understandable, because there are no commonalities to discuss, but the bond during college life is enough to pump the adrenalin up when we meet up by chance, or to share atleast that occasional mail around, thanks to the yahoo groups, the orkut and the social networking sites around, we are in touch and we are looking ahead for a grand gala get together at this very special campus, which could happen this special year 2010.

LOVE YOU MY FRIENDS….. YOU ARE THE BESTEST 

The story so far: (Click to read)

Part 1 - The plan
Part 2 - The Approvals
Part 3 - The Journey begins - Palghat - Jhansi
Part 4 - Another side of Life - Jhansi - Gorakhpur
Part 5 - The Himalayan Cruise: Gorakhpur - Kathmandu Bus Trip
Part 6 - First Night at Kathmandu 

Part 7 - Exploring Kathmandu - A guided Tour
Part 8 - Bye bye Kathmandu - Enter New Delhi 
Part 9 - Exploring Delhi - A guided Tour
Part 10 - Experiencing Symbol of Love, Then Symbol of Humility
Part 11 - The return Trip via Konkan
Part 12 - Then and now, An Introspection !!!!!!!!


Friday, January 22, 2010

Nepal Tour Part 11 - The Return Trip via The Enchanting Konkan


A trip to India will never be complete without a journey through the Konkan route in a train. Well eventhough we had heard about the inauguration of this route, we thought that it will be just the time saving that is the advantage of this route. But it was not just the time saving, but the visual treat that one gets while travelling is something which is greatest advantage that one gets.

We had to board the (New Delhi - Ernakulam) Mangala express. We all reached the railway station in time after settling the bills at the International Youth Hostel.

Packed up and ready to go on Day 9
 

The train was in time and the compartments looked very clean and tidy, thanks to our Jhansi – Gorakhpur experience which makes us feel that all these are quite good.

The journey started, but the decibel levels were much low since most of us decided to have a good sleep to account for the late night sessions yesterday.

Those who were awake were busy discussing the happenings during the tour. Deep inside our heart we had a slight worry also since this is the last leg of the memorable journey. Away from home for 8 days means we had a slight home sickness feeling too.

We passed the Agra town, where we had been last day. So the discussion revolved around Agra. Soon almost all fell asleep as the energy levels seem to be quite low. The day passed without much episodes and it must have been one of the longest slept days.

The Konkan Experience
Day 10 morning when we woke up, we found a radical change in the scenery outside. One look outside and we were terrified.

We felt as if, we were travelling in an airplane. Ghosh there was no land down. Went to the door and looked outside only to see that we are going through a bridge, not a small bridge, a very very long bridge connecting two mountains. It was an awesome feeling.

Looking ahead we could see that the bridge culminates in a tunnel dug through a mountain. Oh my we are in for an amazing treat. The excitement started to grown again after the dull day in train yesterday.

Enter the tunnel and soon it became pitch dark, only the lights inside the vehicle, the sound of train changed, we could sense a pressure difference, and there were some lights inside the tunnel too. The train seems to have slowed down for it took almost 2 to 3 minutes to finish of the tunnel.

Once the tunnel is finished we were going through some plain land, but the scenery surrounded was superb. The mood change was imminent. The decibel levels increased. We never expected this treat when we started the journey.



Soon the discussions began to revolve around the engineering achievements regarding the Konkan route. Who would have thought that such a rail line can be built amidst these Western Ghats. The effort involved seems to be awesome, since access to roads from most of these places is almost zero and there seems to be no population at all around this stretch.

 

The surroundings felt similar to what we see in God’s own country – Kerala with paddy fields, sprawling lakes, big trees, mountains with green cover – a real visual treat.

 

Till evening we were completely engaged in a admiring the beauty of this place. Sun came down even before we completed the Konkan stretch. So we missed something. The last night of our journey together was going to happen and we decided to make it memorable. Songs began to flow, beautiful narrations on experiences of tour, coupled with enough masala, and the group became live. No one wanted to sleep. We forgot that this is going to end.

Soon dawn arrived and we had crossed Karnataka to reach Kerala. People will start alighting from now onwards. Some got down at Kannur, some at Kozhikkode and some at Tirur. So the tour was going to have an end. The beautiful Bharathapuzha was in sight and we could see our beautiful college too. The train came to a halt at Kuttippuram railway station and that is it. Our tour ended. Oh what a feeling? Is it sad? Is it a sense of achievement? Is it happiness, or a mix of all these, I cannot quite differentiate.

But the fact is that we had a memorable trip of our life. The experience we got was a lesson for a lifetime. These experiences are something which only travels can provide.

Then & Now – A summary

The story so far: (Click to read)

Part 1 - The plan
Part 2 - The Approvals
Part 3 - The Journey begins - Palghat - Jhansi
Part 4 - Another side of Life - Jhansi - Gorakhpur
Part 5 - The Himalayan Cruise: Gorakhpur - Kathmandu Bus Trip
Part 6 - First Night at Kathmandu 

Part 7 - Exploring Kathmandu - A guided Tour
Part 8 - Bye bye Kathmandu - Enter New Delhi 
Part 9 - Exploring Delhi - A guided Tour
Part 10 - Experiencing Symbol of Love, Then Symbol of Humility
Part 11 - The return Trip via Konkan
Part 12 - Then and now !!!!!!!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Nepal Tour Part 10: Experience the Symbol of Love, then Symbol of Humility


Two major events were scheduled for Day 8 of the tour. First was a visit to Taj Mahal at Agra, then dinner at IAS Uncle's home which turned out to be a fun event when each one of us all explained the reasons behind our nicknames. Read on to find out more.....

The Taj Mahal Trip
The Taj Mahal trip started pretty early. The bus arrived pretty early and we started even before daylight set in. The journey was scheduled to be a three hour drive. It was quite foggy morning, but early morning start ensured a traffic snarl free road.
We reached the Delhi Agra highway soon. The most interesting aspect of this drive was that we were travelling on this highway, which was a six lane road for the first time. The speed which the bus was travelling and the smoothness of road was really superb. The adrenalin rush inside the driving enthusiasts were quite evident by the way these people were discussing on the speed of the bus and the superb roads.

We had just one stop for breakfast. The city of Agra arrived sooner than we expected.

First we went the Agra Fort. Again it was a sprawling campus, and a magnificent building. We had to cover a lot of distance to completely enjoy this fort.

The photo sessions by “Padakkam” during which he made each one of stand in each of the doors of the big fort and padakkam snapping up the picture from a distance place was a special event.
 

Unfortunately the picture does not do true justice to the effort which he put in for snapping up this. We can get a view of the Taj Mahal from top of this Agra Fort.

We had a small shopping spree in Agra town. The place is famous for leather items. We were taken by surprise when we heard the cost of shoes. Almost all in our gang purchased atleast 2 pair of shoes because the price was almost one third of what we get here. Once all the purchase was over we proceeded to the invincible Taj Mahal.

Before visiting the real Taj Mahal, we had a taste of its constructional brilliance, when we were taken to a museum which housed a lot of Taj Mahal like structures created out of marble. Some of them were for sale also, but the amount they demanded was enough to buy the smallest car from Maruti’s stable.
 

Neverthless the items on display were of real quality and it is said to have been made out of real marble.
The bus rolled into the sprawling parking lot of the Taj Mahal. There was a strict security checking at the gates, video cameras. Pettu was carrying a video camera with him, but the attitude of the security people made him hide his camera in a bag. His plan was not to take the camera out, when inside the fort.
Once we crossed the big arch like entrance, we are into a new world. The elegance of this building cannot be expressed in words. Add to it the pond and the landscaping in front, it becomes a real marvel.

 

Soon a lot of photographers surrounded us, each offering us instant photos, some of them even offering a blazer which we can wear for posing. It was very difficult for us to pass all kinds of vendors in prowl and move ahead. Another very bad thing is the kind of littering around this marvellous structure.

Soon we were inside this fort completely built in marble. The beauty of this magnificent fort helps each one of the visitor ascertain the love of Shahjahan to Mumtaz Mahal. He has succeeded in achieving the objective for constructing such a tomb in memory of his love, as a result of which even after 400 years we are talking about their love. What a monument !!!!

Well soon padakkam was in action again, and this time he directed us to form a chain, by holding hands together and raising it in unison.
 

Wonder whether padakkam has a scope for direction as he did during electronic association inauguration when he make our juniors enact a modern Ramayana.

Meanwhile someone noticed that Mr. Pettu was not around. We searched around but he was not found. Panic button was pressed and we were in a searching spree. It was not the first time we are searching for a lost person, we had experienced this during our first year when we searched for a guy who absconded.

Much to our relief Pettu was found out soon. He was seen arguing with the security staff. Both of them seemed to be in a very serious mood. Security was talking in Hindi and he was talking in English. Soon PispisPistu arrived at the scene. The security person had somehow seen his camera and he wanted the custody of camera, since it was a violation. PispisPistu somehow convinced that no video was shot from inside, and only because of the fear of keeping it at the gate, he carried it inside. Somehow the security was convinced and he got his camera back.

The trip back was uneventful and most of us were fast asleep with the superb roads creating no hindrance. Once back at the youth hostel, we had an important event to attend.

The dinner @ IAS Uncle’s Home

The person who made this trip happen – IAS Uncle of LimeKumar had invited us for a dinner. No words of thanks is enough to express our gratitude to him. A person whom we had never seen had helped us a lot and made all the arrangements. He has even invited for a dinner. We were little apprehensive on what kind of mood we all be in during the dinner, because he is a high level officer of Govt of India.

Anyway proceeded to his apartment. IAS uncle, his wife and kids were waiting to receive us, and the moment we stepped in, we all really felt at home for he was a completely down to earth person and within no time the mood of the gang changed and every one was happy. The presence of IAS Uncle’s father and mother made the party even more interesting. Soon IAS Uncle suggested to have some events, but before that he wanted to have an introduction of all the tour gang. Suddenly someone suggested that the introduction should also contain the nicknames and a description of why the nicknames was chosen. The fun was about to begin. The introduction started.

Limekumar – I cannot live without having atleast 5 to 6 glasses of lime juice each day

Kodali – My sideburns resembles that of an axe with a sharp edge. Hence the Malayalam of axe - Kodali

pispisPistu – What ever I talk people will hear only a pis pis sound, because of the speed which I release my dialogues.

Pazhuthar singh – I look like a ripe mango, Malayalam of ripe is Pazhuthu, Singh came because my beard grows pretty fast. So fast that people sometimes say that, by the time I reach college after a full shave at hostel, the beard will be in place.

Chandi – I am called so because of my plump nature. ………

Alummood: I don't resemble the famous mallu comedian Alummoodan, Still I got this name.


Putt – my favourite breakfast item.

Kashuandi – Always brings cashew nut (kazhuandi in Malayalam) whenever I come back from home

Dada aka Guruvayoor Kesavan – My size and appearance earned me these bigwig names

Ottakuth – The term which I uses most when I talk.

Pretham aka booda aadmi – Pretham, since I was once drowned in a 3 ft high water of a water theme park, and people say that I died at that time and it is my ghost which they are seeing now.
Booda admi, because of my young looks.

Theeppori – I provide spark to all kinds of things, be it a quarrel, be it a discussion or be it anything

Chiratta – My screeching sound is like scratching in a coconut shell (chiratta)

Theekkoolli – My huge size earned me the name matchstick (theekkolli).

Kattalan – My mannerisms are similar to that of a jungle grown kid, like george of the jungle.

Mama – My really young looks make these guys call me Uncle (mama)

Eruma – Even though I am glamorous, jealous people calls me buffalo (eruma)

Pazham – I am as soft and bumbly as a banana (pazham)

Ishtan – I am from Thrissur. So I naturally use the word “Ishtan” to refer  other people

Tharavu – People say that my walk resembles that of a duck (tharavu)

Padakkam – I was famous inside hostel for bursting crackers (padakkam)

AK 47 – I was knowledgeable enough to decide the name of the gun from the hole created by the bullet.

Pettu or Muyal: I am called pettu, since it is the name given for waste things. Rabbit (muyal) because I walks soft, talk soft and gets beaten up by Dada often.

And finally JAM – No no I am not an eatable item, but the first letters of my three letter name when read together is JAM.

A session of songs, mimicry and miming followed. Then it was turn of appoppan and ammomma to say a few words followed by IAS Uncle, who took all of us by surprise, because of the way he behaved as if we are all very well known to him.

We had a very delicious dinner, after which we thanked IAS uncle for all his support and the arrangements which he had made for this memorable trip. As a token of our appreciation, we handed over a small gift too.
We bid goodbye to the great family and came back to enjoy the last night of our tour at Delhi. Some one had brought crackers and we decided to have a Diwali celebration at the International Youth hostel.


It was a sort of camp fire and we all enjoyed thoroughly.
Once inside the hostel, everyone started packing there belongings for the trip back tomorrow. The items which were brought during this trip were on display.
Seen here is a guy who while showing of his purchases dozed off. He could easily be mistaken for a road side vendor. Only padakkam can do this.
 

Soon we all went to the sleep mode. It has been a hectic 8 days so far. Our bodies were tired but the excitement just kept energising it for more. Tomorrow we are starting our train journey back via Konkan route.
So some more excitement is pending as we gear for our journey through the longest railway tunnel as well as the longest railway bridge, a journey through thick dense forest amidst the ghats in train.

Part 11 - The return trip via Konkan

The story so far: (Click to read)

Part 1 - The plan
Part 2 - The Approvals
Part 3 - The Journey begins - Palghat - Jhansi
Part 4 - Another side of Life - Jhansi - Gorakhpur
Part 5 - The Himalayan Cruise: Gorakhpur - Kathmandu Bus Trip
Part 6 - First Night at Kathmandu 

Part 7 - Exploring Kathmandu - A guided Tour
Part 8 - Bye bye Kathmandu - Enter New Delhi 
Part 9 - Exploring Delhi - A guided Tour
Part 10 - Experiencing Symbol of Love, Then Symbol of Humility
Part 11 - The return Trip via Konkan
Part 12 - Then and now !!!!!!!!

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