Saturday, January 31, 2009

Part 3 – First stop: Pookod Lake

The journey to Wayanad was silent for most part; most of the guys continuing their sleep. I tried some photography in the moving vehicle and experimented with some settings on my camera. The ride uphill to Wayanad was similar to going uphill to Kodaikanal – I guess it was the same in most hill ; you keep going on a circular road with the one side being the slope of the mountain – the sight was awesome; nature at its best – unpolluted and clean. Our first stop before heading to our hotel was the Pookod lake.

The main attraction here was boating – three guys opted out while the remaining eight of us took four pedal boats and pedalled across the lake. Only after I started pedalling did I remember that dad had told me not to step into lakes and water – oops; in the midst of a gang you tend to forget things! Well, I marked in my mind that the next watery place we went to I should avoid the waters.
“Do not pluck flowers. Fine is Rs.50 per flower. Haha – where do you have flowers in this area!”
“And they will count the flowers you have in hand for the fine!”
As we pedalled away I asked, “Santanu, do you know swimming?”
I shouted across at Prabhu and Kumar in the other boat, “How about you both?”
Neither did they!
“Oh Kumar won’t have a problem – his body will automatically float!”
As we pedalled to the extreme end of the lake we discovered the flowers; there were a few water lilies on the lake. It was quite an exercise for twenty minutes for our legs to start the day – pedalling a boat is not as easy as it seems!

“Hey, there is an aquarium”
“Yuck; I’m not coming; it will stink there” someone commented.
“We’ve come all the way so we might as well see everything around”
“They have an entrance fee for it; Rs.2 per head”
“We’ll do one thing – two of us will go and see what is inside; then the rest can follow if it is good”.
I volunteered to go in first. We stepped into an old room where a few fishes were swimming in separate glass tanks – the place was not maintained and there were only a few varieties inside. It wasn’t long before Vasanth and everyone entered the aquarium.
“Why did all of you come? There is nothing great inside”
“You guys never gave any status update and so we all decided to come in”

Jabradamus was our guide and explained to us about some of the fishes that he knew: the cleaner fish, in each tank, was a black fish that always appeared lazy and stuck its mouth to the glass sides. Then there was the cat fish, then there was a particular fish that kept biting at another fish’s tail, then there was the fish that was supposed to play with people – you move your finger and it would move along with you. But unfortunately here, either the fish was fed up with playing with visitors or it was frightened by Vasanth! It actually went into hiding when Vasanth surprised it by popping his face straight at it.

Finally before leaving the lake we took snaps of some flowers. Another 40 minutes drive and we were in our hotel room – 4 rooms for the 11 of us. All rooms had a TV. Santanu and me shared a room. The rooms were decent with an attached bathroom. After freshening up the plan was to drive up to Eddaikal Caves where we would have lunch. After visiting the caves, we would go to a waterfall and then return back to the hotel – I reminded myself that I shouldn’t enter the water when we go there.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Kerela 2 - What is pongal?

It was only 10pm after one round of pulling legs. Kumar, on his way to the restroom, unknowingly knocked the head of another passenger with his elbow. This presented us with another opportunity to target him again! All he could do was smile – you really can’t do much when you are the target because anything you say in defence will be used against you!

Berths for four of us were in one compartment while Kumar’s berth was two blocks away. To his dismay his berth was already occupied by a person – a middle aged man who was part of a gang that had occupied all eight berths in that compartment. Everyone there was fast asleep and Kumar tentatively woke up the man. The man didn’t budge but after a couple more of our guys joined Kumar the man reluctantly gave up his side upper berth and Kumar happily jumped in.

The train had a LED display near the toilet that displayed the next station and the time due for the destination. A nice addition to the Indian railways.

I hopped into my upper berth and was lost in thoughts for a while – the berth in a train is one of the best places to contemplate over anything – present, past or future. Just lying there chugging along, with a slight rocking effect, staring into a ceiling that is just an arm’s length away, with no one to disturb you does stir up some fascinating and romantic thoughts!


The five of us were awake by 7am. Only KY had brought a toothpaste in our group!
Someone commented, “Kumar was mobbed by girls while brushing his teeth”.
“Oh; it wasn’t him they were crowding around – it was for the wash basin that they were there!”
The train was supposed to reach Kozhikode at 7:45am. A Nepali coffee vendor came over to our compartment. In the comedy that ensured with KY asking a ‘How much’ and then following it with a ‘Too much’ we all burst out laughing. In Hindi I asked the vendor when the train would reach Kozhikode and he said he didn’t know but the train was half an hour late. The LED display wasn’t working in the morning and so we really didn’t know where we were and just sat gazing through the window trying to identify our location. At around 7:45am we saw some signs on boards that indicated we were in Kozhikode. And in fact the next station was Kozhikode itself.
“I guess that guy wanted to take revenge on us. The train is on time and he said it is late!”

We had arranged for a van to take us to Wayanad, northern Kerela. But before Wayanad we had to stop for breakfast. The Keralite driver, probably thinking we would dine in high class restaurants, took us to a hotel where they had a breakfast buffet. Judging by the looks of the place we knew it would be costly. The problem was that none of us knew Malayalam and the driver knew only Malayalam. With the little Malayalam we knew we told him to take us to a “siriya” (small) restaurant.
“The driver was having a high impression about us and now all of that is destroyed”, Praveen commented. The next restaurant we stopped at was a typical way side restaurant.
Karthik, while seated in the restaurant, confidently said, “Here in Kerela appam is called white pongal”.
Everyone thought he knew some Malayalam and accepted; but Viswa wondered if appam is pongal here then what is pongal called?
His doubt was cleared when the waiter announced that appam was on the menu. So much for Karthik’s Malayalam.

Jabradamus said the kadalai (black channa) curry was a speciality and so both of us ordered appam with kadalai curry while the rest asked for idlis. The appam had a tinge of sweetness and the combination tasted great. We guys had occupied three tables and while paying the bill confusion ensued – we were billed for four tables instead of three; the extra table was occupied by guys of our age; they were into non vegetarian food for breakfast and the bill was pretty hefty! We had to repeat our explanation a few times before the waiter realized that he had made a mistake – huh; I wonder what all troubles we will get into because of the language barrier! be continued...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Kerela Travelogue 1 - The journey begins...

The following is a travelogue about our trip to Kerela to attend a friend's wedding...


I set off from office earlier than usual after bidding adieu to those I held near and dear. I gobbled up a few idlis at home and took an auto ride to the central railway station. The auto driver surprised me by asking for a decent fare – I did bargain and bring it down by Rs.10 but was happy with his reasonable starting price; perhaps it had to do with inflation falling and the cost of fuel dropping.

I was 45 minutes early at the station. The train was Mangalore Mail and my coach was S10 – unfortunately S10 was at the other end of the station and I had to walk a fair distance. I hoped to catch a glimpse of some known face on the way but there were none; not even in S10! I confirmed my berth number by checking the chart and after waiting for 25 minutes outside I boarded the train. As with any trip, there were a lot of changes in the participants for this journey – some dropping out in the beginning while some had to drop because they suddenly had something more interesting – marriage, onsite opportunity etc.

Jabradamus, Kumar, Prabhu, KY and Karthik soon joined me. The rest of the gang was in coach S6. At 8:30pm the train started chugging. When you have a large group of guys in one compartment you can except a lot of “pulling of legs” to happen and that is exactly what happened in our coach as well. Everyone had something interesting and no one was spared the teasing; Karthik was soon going to become the bridegroom and we threatened him about the gifts we would present – a photo album with some treasured snaps and poses! And then there was his love affair with the mobile. Guess everyone engaged goes through the same story – hours and hours of non stop chatting before marriage.

“Karthik can never be reached on phone – phone always busy”
“As soon as he gets up he calls her to say I woke up now. When he goes to brush his teeth he calls again and says I am going to brush my teeth now”
“After breakfast he calls and tells everything that he ate”
“Can’t bear his phone calls these days!”I was teased with the college story I had written. Fortunately since I wasn’t in the same office as the others I escaped a bit lightly! Jabradamus was the rising star in office - one of the most popular figures in office over the last few months. Kumar was teased about his bulky body frame.
“He has the looks of being a rough and tough dada but he is actually the opposite in nature”
Quite true – in fact lot of people give you one impression on first look but turn out to be just the opposite.

KY was a writer who had posted many stories in the internal electronic bulletin board and that was the theme used to target him.

“He puts a post in the BB and then will come to my PC and send an appreciating from my email id”.
“And in the name of reviews you should see the emails he writes – the original post will be half a page but his comments will be two pages long!”

Soon Viswa joined us with a plastic box containing vegetable kurma in which a layer of oil was floating and I guess it had been rejected in S6. We had finished the chappatis that Kumar had bought and so left the plastic box untouched – the oil put out our gluttonous temptations. Viswa on entry was the next target. For Prabhu it was always a self-goal as we call it; he would try pulling someone else’s leg and in the process would blurt out something that made him a target. He tried his best to keep mum but somehow he would manage to utter a remark and get himself in trouble!

(stay tuned for part 2)