Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Story of a journey 10 years back

This is the narration of a journey that is etched in my mind. This happened in 2000 and I believe it was summer. I was working in Wipro ePeripherals in Mysore. The R&D facility is also right next to the factory. The facility had few rules that was Factory centric. Things like
* Mandatory working hours 8:30am to 5:00pm
* You need to be at the gates around 8:30 am. If you arrive from 8:30 to 8:35 am, you can make your attendance at the security but cannot enter the premises until 10:30 am. Useful in you need to finish up some persona work (like Bank; Remember ATMS were not available in those days; No mobiles; Internet was a luxury). If you arrive at 8:36 am, 1/2 day leave (and that too if you come back). You could do this exception once a months, during the 2nd occasion, your manager will be informed. Some times staff used to come to the gates in sleeping costumes and then go back home for their personal work.
* You are allowed to leave early from work once a month for 1 1/2 hours. You if you do not plan to come back you can leave only at 3pm and not earlier than that.
* All Saturdays are working, except for 2nd Saturday.

And the list goes on.

Kannur is about 200 km from Mysore. Busses are there but they are rare. The last bus to Kannur is a Kerala State transport bus that starts around 3:30 pm. The next bus would be a night bus that arrives around 12:30 am, but no guarantee of seats. The facility is in Hootagalli, which would be about 10-15 km from the office.

And so I am like a sprinter at 2:55pm, getting my vehicle ready. Back then I had a Bajaj Super FE scooter (KL 13 registration). So get set and go. Reached the gates and the security said hang on 2 more minutes to go. Damn! but the KSRTC bus would not care if the security guys watch is 2 minutes late! On your mark, get set and go.. Zoom towards the city bus station. Road intersections all around. Do you know the most common vehicle in Mysore; It is a Moped I could at least remember a few of my R&D colleagues owning them. Perumal is one that I remember, lean guy found his luxury in a moped! Back to the ride, So I reach the vehicle parking area near the bus station. Park the vehicle and run to the bus station. Damn... Did I lock the handle... I run back... Oh it is .... And I run back again.. From the vehicle stand to the bus station there is a blind turn towards the right. The buses (once they depart from the main station) come on this main road. It is 3:30... I check the area where the Kerala busses are parked... Aghast... I don't see the bus :( ... Did it arrive at all? Did it leave early? No clue...

So in this desperate feeling, I am thinking of what to do in next 2 days. Should I stay back or should I travel the next day morning. Coz traveling in the night is risky. And then I thought.. May be if I get to coorg (Virajpet, the border town) and I can get the last bus to Kannur. So I caught a Karnataka KSRTC bus to Virajpet. The time of departure 4:30 pm. 3 hours, If I reach by around 7:30 pm, may be I could get a connecting bus.

Very few passengers in the bus. Most of the seats are empty. I caught a window seat in the middle rows. The ticket was close to 40 Rs. I gave the conductor the exact denominations.And then a fight broke out with him and the next passenger over change. The other guy was a Coorgi. Two of them held each others shirt and a debate started. Sometimes I am astonished over the small fights that occur in public. Some people like to get the issue sorted out through a verbal duel, the others a physical duel. But a mix of that is very common. Well do it fast ... The bus driver immediately slowed down.. Get a move on guys I need to catch the connection bus... After a little bit of verbal duel, both of them were pacified by the fellow passengers.

The rest of the journey was uneventful. We reached Virajpet around 7:40 pm. The bus took a turn towards the KSRTC depot and I ran towards the bus station. What No buses.... I checked with a local guy, the last bus had left. (most of the guys in Virajpet speak Malayalam, In fact most of the settlers in this part of the country is from my town. The merchants, the estate owners, the casual laborers etc. ). The only option remaining was to hope to get a vehicle (a truck or a light vehicle) that would be going towards Kannur. So I stood on the main road. Fortunately a Jeep stopped and said Mattanur (27 km before Kannur town). I hopped in... If I can get to Virajpet then I can get to Kannur from Mattanur. How much. 20 Rs... 4 kids hopped in. Most of them looked to be as 16-17 years. The driver Nazar. He owns a small land in Coorg where he grows cardamom, pepper and coffee.. "The market for coffee is not that good sir". 10 kilometers we are at the check post of Karnataka border (near Perumbadi lake). From there until 30 kilometers it is dense forest with uninhabited areas. Did I make a mistake.. what if these 4 kids turn assailants.... what if they beat me up and throw me down the road.... I decided to remain silent.

5 minutes later... Ka boom, one of the tires blast... Nazar gets help from another jeep that was going down the hill. The guys in the jeep also help.. A casual conversation starts.. And in that emerge story guys are from hill ranges of Kottayam district (in south Kerala). They have completed their 10th, In order to help their families, they came over to coorg for some odd labor jobs. Now that the jobs were not there, they decided to go back home and may be come back later. Jijo (who seemed to be the most talkative of them) was also the one helping out Nazar get the tires fixed. Incidentally the guys did not have a sense of how to get to Kannur. Their need was to get a night train to Kottayam. So they were asking me Chetta (elder brother), how to get to the nearest railway station. And then my confidence emerged. Ok .. let me help these guys. Thalassery or Kannur. "But Chetta if I get to Mattanur, can I get a bus to Kannur, will there be trucks that ply in the night?". I said may be yes.

"Yup the tire is fixed, we are all set to go" Nazar shouted. I am in the front seat along with Nazar and the guys are right behind. Me and Nazar were conversing in Kannur dialect while the others were trying to catch up. Reached Iritty around 10pm. Mattannur around 11pm. There seemed to be some communal tensions near Mattannur. People were not advising the route from Mattanur to Thalassery. We got down paid the agreed money and said bye to Nazar. There were couple of Jeeps in the area and I checked with them on their charges. Around 100 Rs till Kannur. (20 Rs per head). I was Ok with the rates. I checked with Jijo and team, they said chetta, we have only money for food and cannot afford the fare. I told them to hop in and will see on the way. Finally they agreed. While on the way , I asked them how they were planning to travel if they were so short of money. They said we will get in the train without getting a ticket. If the Ticket Inspector comes, they will run or try to give him a bribe!!!! "Chetta we earn very less for us to survive, how do you expect us to travel".

The rest of the journey was uneventful. I got down at Mele Chovva (few kilometers from Kannur town), paid for the journey (including the guys). Gave a 100 Rs to Jijo and told him to take a ticket rather than get caught in the train. I am not sure if he heeded to my advice. I took an auto to home. My mother was startled when she opened the door. My grandmother slowly got up from her bed and was happy to see me. Their only question "Why are you so late?" I said you would not believe.

So much so for the journey. I came back to Mysore and like an ideal citizen wrote an email to the Chief Minister of Karnataka (Sri. SM. Krishna, who is presently our Union Minister). I told him about the lack of buses to Kannur. I was glad that I got a reply which mentioned that the request has been forwarded to the transport secretary.

For about 2-3 years, the route was closed due to very bad roads in the Ghat section. Now the roads have improved and I heard that the bus services have improved now a days. The frequency of buses from Mysore to Kannur district has increased.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ride again to the Land of Looms and Lores

Onward Journey

So I am on the road again. This time from Bangalore to Kannur and back (via Kozhikode). The occasion - my cousin sisters marriage. The date of departure - 27th of Nov 2010.

We tried to catch up with a few relatives in Kozhikode to so decided to modify our original route plan. We started around 4am in the morning. And we had the same issues of kids sleeping and yet having every part of packing done. There were light showers in the morning and I was careful on the Bangalore Mysore road. Our first stop was Hotel Siddhartha @ Mysore.

After a brief rest for breakfast we were on the Ooty Mysore road. By now the roads had become single land and full of potholes. After an hours drive we turned right at Gundlupet. A brief stop over for freshening up the kids. The forst stretch between NH 212 is closed in the night from 9 am to 6pm. Apparently there have been agitations to lift the ban, but the court has been adamant.

We spotted a few Monkeys who at the sight of a slow moving vehichles line up for food.

The landscape changes quite fast once you reach Kerala border, the greenery just doubles, tall trees galore.

Wayanad or Vayal Nad (land of rice) has a lonng history. Historians are of the view that organised human life existed in these parts, at least ten centuries before Christ. The two caves of Ampukuthimala located between Sulthan Bathery and Ambalavayal, with pictures on their walls and pictorial writings, speak volumes of the bygone era and civilisation. In ancient times, this land was ruled by the Rajas of the Veda tribe. In later days, Wayanad came under the rule of the Pazhassi Rajahs of Kottayam royal dynasty. When Hyder Ali becames the ruler of Mysore, invaded Wayanad and brought it under his sway. In the days of Tipu, Wayanad was restored to the Kottayam royal dynasty. But Tipu handed over the entire Malabar region to the British, after the Sreerangapattanam truce, he made with them. This was followed by fierce and internecine encounters between the British and Kerala Varma Pazhassi Rajah of Kottayam. When the Rajah was driven to the wilderness of Wayanad, he organised the war-like Kurichiya tribals into a sort of people's militia and engaged the British in several guerrilla type encounters. In the end, the British could get only the dead body of the Rajah, who killed himself somewhere in the interior of the forest. Thus, Wayanad fell into the hands of the British and with it came a new turn in the Home of this area. The British authorities opened up the plateau for cultivation of tea and other cash crops.

We decided to take a brief stop at a relavies place in Wayand. He works in a tea plantation. The house reminds me of villas during the british time.

We hug around till lunch and enjoyed Fish curry and rice..

It was fairly misty as we climbed down Thamarassery churam (roads in the Ghats). It is told that on a clear day you could see the sea from the top of the Churam.

Numerous rivelets flow down the hills. And the monkey population seems to be growing year by year. We were at "Adivaram" (the base of the hill) by 2:30pm. The roads from there untill Kundamangalam (10 km from Kozhikode) is bad. Add to that the traffic in each of those small towns. Koduvally for example is a relatively small town known for its "Gold" market. We arrived at Kozhikode around 4 pm.

The next day we travelled from Kozhikode to Kannur. It has been a strange weather this year. The rains don't seem to stop. I was told that from June onwards there hasn't been a week when it has not rained.

Rest in Kannur, but the thought of marriage still keeps me on my toes..


The return Leg of the journey. Phew.. every time before I return from kannur, I feel down. I hope time stops here. Let me cuddle down in this nature.. Well Bangalore is calling ... And so I am on the road again..

The route : Kannur -> Virajpet -> Gonikoppal -> Honsur -> Elivala -> Srigangapattana -> Bangalore.

We started around 5 am. The route upto Mattanur is pretty good. But from then on you need to search for good roads till you get to Honsur.

Ride for about 50 kilometer from Kannur and then you will reach the Karnataka border. The famous Kootupuzha bridge.

For about 20 Km you need to drive through the Brahmagiri wildlife reserve. The other end Brahmagiri wildlife reserve is at Thirunelly in Wayand. At the top you will find Perumbadi lake.

Really enjoyed the view of coffee plantations and Tea estates from Virajpet till you get to the section of forests again. The road gets narrow and one would have to search for tar.

There is a small Devi temple in the middle of the forest where people drop by to pray.

The landscape changes once we get to Honsur. Lot of lush fields with paddy and sugarcane.

Lunch @ Kamat Lokaruchi, Ramnagara. Yummy Akki Roti and baingan curry. Little bit of shopping for Akki for wooden toys.

I took the NICE road and exited at Bannerghatta. I really believe this is a boon for Bangalore. Not only does it save us time but also petrol. Just the ability to zoom till the exit helps.

@ Home by around 4pm. Welcome to the chill weather of Bangalore.

Next trip, may be Thirunelly via Nagarhole. In Planning phase still. Adios Senor.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Mookambika the Power of Silence

For once Google is wrong. It says approximately 7 hours to Kollur from Bangalore. It took me 12 hours. If you discount the stop over time for breakfast and Lunch, it should still be within 10 hours. 7 hours - that is all right we can manage with the kids - My wife's statements.
But why am I traveling to Kollur. It is for Akki's Vidyarambham
and Pranav's Annaprasham
The Route
Bangalore - Tumkur - Tiptur - Bhadravathi - Shimoga - (just before) Anandapuram -Hosanagara - Nagara - Nittur - Kollur

There is an alternative route

Bangalore - Tumkur - Tiptur - Bhadravathi - Shimoga - Ayanur - Rippon pet -Hosanagara - Nagara - Nittur - Kollur

Though the 2nd route is shorter, the travel blogs did not suggest the route. I took this route 1.

We started around 7 am in the morning. Getting the kids up and ready in the morning is really a tedious task!!!! We took the outer ring road all the way up to Yeshwanthpur road and then on to Tumkur road. The proposed toll road from there until Nelmangala was open for most of the stretch and it saved us a lot of time. At the toll gate at we paid 26 Rs for the toll road until Tumkur. We took a left near the over bridge (Pune road) in Tumkur. I called up a colleague of mine (who is from Tumkur) for a good restaurant in the area. He adviced Hotel Vamsi just before SIT, Tumkur. It was around 8:45 am when we reached there. The food and amenities are good. We bought some Kara items (mixture) there.

We proceeded on Bangalore-Honnavara highway. The Roads are really bad in Tumkur. Potholes galore... A definite pattern that I found is that road in all the small towns are broken. Due to rains, invariably all the towns are full of mud and slush.But once we left Tumkur city, greenery started appearing. Tumkur is the highest exporter of cocount in from Karnataka. No wonder there were innumerable coconut grooves in the area. Away from the concrete jungles of Bangalore, this is really a nice view!!!!

The road is full of surpises. Cattle, herd of goats appear in the middle of the road. And suddenly you hit a good patch of road and then right under a tree there will be pot holes. Thud!!!! My santro tyres take the hit! The rear passengers are accomodative! After Birur there is a strech (2 railway crossings) where there is no Road!!! There are only bowlders!!!
The road at the railway cross is like an X Mark! We stopped there for coconut.

I called up a colleague of mine (who is from Shimoga) and tried to find a good hotel there. "Hotel Jwell Rock". Shimoga is fully dug up. Water works. roads dug up. Most of roads are closed. In the midst of rains, we managed to find the location. The food was good but the amenities were not up to the mark. From Shimoga we left around 3pm. A few kilometers through patchy roads and then we were continuing on highway in the rains.

We took a left turn from the highway just before Anandapuram. I felt the difference in the roads immediately.. Thud! . Right after you take a left, there is a railway crossing. From that point Kollur is about 80-90 kilometers. The next town Hosanagara. We were passing through the dense forests of Malnad.

The next stop was Hosanagara. I filled up petrol and asked the person at the petrol bunk for directions and conditions of the road. He said sir it is the similar to the one that you came through. I could hear influences of South Canara in the dialect. "Anna" - big brother. Untu - "is there". 60 km more to go. Next town - Nagara. There are bus services that play on this road. "Hanuman" seems to be the favorite of them all. Hanuman was overtaking me with ease on those Topsy turvy road.

Hosanagar to Nagara strech was as bad as it gets.. More pot holes than Roads. Suddenly a nice temple appears on the way. What was eye catching was a colorful tall building in the midst of a tall tall trees.

Little did I know that I am passing through a historic town when I passed through Nagara.

Nagara is a village in the Shimoga district of the state of Karnataka, India. It is 17 km from Hosanagara or 84 km from Shimoga. This was called "Bidanoor" earlier during the 16th century, this was the last capital city of Keladi rulers. In 1763, Hyder Ali captured this area. Shivappanaika palace, fort, Devaganga tank, Neelakenteshwara temple and Gudde Venkataramana Swamy temple are worth to visit. The fort is built on a small hill, beside a lake. The fort has a system to circulate water around it for safety. On the hill, within the fort, there are Darbar Hall (King's Court), remains of a palace, two tanks called Akka Thangi Kola (Tanks of two sisters), and a cannon. Devaganga tank is a cluster of seven tanks for bathing. Nagara in Kannada language literally means city. The place is amidst green thick forests which are giving way to urbanisation and eventually to deforestation.

From Nagara Kollur is about 40 kilometers away. The Road still remains bad. At one point the landmark showed 10km to Kudachadri and 20 km to Kollur. There is a forest check post on the way. From there the road narrows even further. Hardly one vehichle can ply. ". I was wondering if "Hanuman could turn up on the other side. The downhill climb is approximately 10 km long. It was getting dark and I put on my fog lamps. Right after the descend at 6:45pm we were in Kollur. Sowparnika was flowing calmly through the city.

My parents and a few of Rachana's relatives had already arrived. We stayed in Lalithambika guest house in Kollur. 5 Rooms Booked for all of us. We freshened up and decided to take a darshan. 20-30 people in the Temple premises. Calmness and serenity all around. Annadanam as usual . There are different Shiva Lingas in the sanctum, Inside the inner sanctum there is also an idol of Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya . Adi shankaracharya during his visit had installed a Panchaloha image of Shree Chakra in the temple.

Vehicles are not allowed till the entrance of the temple. There are barricades setup. There is a small temple of Balmuri Vigneshwara near the enterance.

Rooms are descent but food food in Kollur is a bit of a problem. We had chapathi in the night, from the guest house we stayed. There was a lot of chit chat in the night and I was dozing off because of the long journey.
While I dozed off, I was thinking of the relevance of this temple. Goddess Mookambika is the main god here. Kollur is one of the sacred and important pilgrimage centers of Karnataka. It is one of the seven pilgrimage centers believed to have been built by Parashurama in the name of goddess Parvathi.
Pilgrims visit this temple from all over India. Jyothirlingam is another name of ShivaLinga, which is the main statue here. Mookambika here is in a seated posture holding a conch and divine disc with three eyes and four arms. The lingam is divided into two unequal parts by a golden line and is visible by the reflected sun light.
Kollur is regarded as one of the Seven Muktistala pilgrimage centers in Karnataka. They are Udupi, Subrahmanya, Kollur, Kodeshwara, Kumbasi, Sankaranarayana and Gokarna.
Adi shankaracharya during his visit had installed a Panchaloha image of Shree Chakra. There is also a exquisite sculpture of Panchamukha Ganesha.
Sankara Simhasanam is in a room near the sanctum this is the very place where Adi shankaracharya meditated. Mookambika is regarded as a manifestation of Shakti, Saraswathi and Mahalakshmi. There are also shrines of Subramanya, Veerabhadra, Naga, Vinayaka and Anjaneya.
Navarathri is celebrated here with great pomp and show.
Mythology : The origin of the temple has a long history. Kamsasuran a demon who lived here wanted to become very powerful through his penance. Worried about this Devi along with the help of Shiva, Veerabadra and Ganesha made him dumb and he was later called as Mookasuran. Mooka (In Kannada means dumb). Seeing this the goddess got worried and killed him with her Chakra on the midnight of Shukla Astami from then on Devi is known as Kollur Devi Mookambika.

Commotions in the corridor -Some folks had arrived by the early morning bus.There are lot of busses that ply from Kollur to Kerala. I looked at my watch, about 4am.

I got up around 5 and had bath. Getting the two kids ready is a bit of long battle in itself.

By 7 am we were ready and went to the temple. A handful of people were in the temple premises on the day.
Akki's Vidyarambham was first. She sat in my lap like an obeidient child. Hearing all the mantra that were told. The ceremony involves writing the first words on the tongue and then writing in a big plate of rice using Turmeric. All done well. Next up Pranav's annaprasham. But that starts around 8am. We decided to take a lap around in the inner sanctum. Akki was half cranky by this time, especially since she got up early in the morning and was hungry. After the lap we came out and it was time for Pranav's Annaprasham. Rice mixed with jaggery and ghee. He munched it merrily. Another lap of the inner sanctum with him. Akki was munching chocolates by then.

Finding good food was problem even in the morning. The safest bet - Idly and Vada. After a sumptuous breakfast we went back to the Guest house. Packed stuff and Within a few minutes everyone was ready for the return journey. Incidentally I saw a board at Kollur that said Sagar 54 kilometers. Whether it was there by accident or not is something I don't know. Or may be Sagar is 154 rather than 54! But we decided to stick to the original route. After a brief shopping at the temple premises, we were ready for the return journey.

The ascend looked much beautiful than the descend. May be because we were traveling during the day time. The ascend is through Mookambika wild life sanctuary. Small waterfalls are in abundant in this area.

Throughout the uphill journey I was hoping no vehicle comes on the other side. All except one - Hanuman! .

We stopped by Nagara to take a few snaps.

The landscape of Malnad is really enchanting. Green deciduous forests all around. The people looked vastly different from the typical Karnataka landscape. People having beards is not very uncommon (like in Coorg). Cleanliness all around. And an innate feeling of being with nature which cannot be expressed it in words.

Anyway we have hit so many potholes why not try this route. That is why I decided to try the Ripponpet-Ayanur route from Hosanagara. Till a Kilometer I was thinking. Man these blogs are worthless, they don't point us to the right route. But the situation changed soon. This was like a travel through the bamboo forests, with roads as narrow for only one vehichle to ply! Till Rippon pet (approximately 20 km from Hosanagara) it is the same fate.

Sugarcane, Maize seemed to be the major crops in the area. There is a beautiful lake full of lotus as one reaches Ayanur.

We stopped by Shimoga for lunch, this time at a different restaurant, which is close to Jwell Rock. Food was descend and the amenities were good as well.
We left at around 3 pm from Shimoga. My intention to reach Tumkur before dark. Riding on the Toll road in the night seemed safer. All throughout the journey I saw puppets, like the one below arranged on the right and left side of the road. I need to ask someone to find out the exact reason.

We reached Tumkur around 7:30pm . We took the Ring road in Tumkur, it was least crowded, but I guess it would not have made difference had I taken the road through the city. We ripped through the Toll road, until Nelmangala and then until Bellary road. We had dinner at Mast Kalandar in near BEL circle.

Back home at 10pm. Home sweet Home!

I am canvasing for driving to Kannur during December time (for my Cousins marriage). My wife does not seem to agree especially given the case of handling 2 kids. But my hunch is that I will be able to convince her.
So the next travelogue on a Trip to Kannur via Coorg!