Thursday, 29 January 2009

In God's own country - 4

[Read first before this]

The next day was really nice. We woke up early morning to play in the waters of the river next to the resort. And this time, I made my mind not to enter the water, because I felt it would worsen my condition. Somehow, one of my friends foresaw and said - "Oh, just like you had told that you wouldn't enter the waters of Kovalam huh?" This time, especially after listening to his words, I had more resolve. While the rest of them were playing the water, I decided to slip on my shorts, and walk casually in the water. Then my friend and I had an idea, why not cross the river? The current seemed to be strong, but then the water was not really that deep, nor did it look too dangerous. So my friend and I decided to cross the river, and one more decided to join us.

So, the three explorers decided to cross the river, and my friend was the first to fall into the water due to his inability to judge the speed of the water. I felt amused. Come on, how difficult is it to really guage the water and cross it. After he came out of the water on the other side onto a rock, he turned and waited for us to cross. I went next, and within a moment realised why he was so reluctant to cross the water. The current was so strong, that every time you decide to lift you leg to walk, you get a feeling of instability and feel like you are going to fall, as you can't really balance that well on one leg. So, with difficulty I decided to trudge ahead, when I had an idea. The water will push you as long as you are in water. So, I decided to bring my leg above water, where the water can't push it and then move my leg over the water, and then place it down at a distance. I can balance quite well, so this worked like a charm. Except I also lost balance and tripped (sounds way better than saying, I slipped and fell :P ) So, after some time, I was wet all over as well. Then we devised really clever ways of crossing the water, with me getting drifted away by the water current several times, however regaining control because of the rocks underwater. And we finally crossed the river.

We then decided to gloat to the rest about our successful expedition. Turns out the rest decided to follow suit. And they crossed the waters like the animals you watch in National geographic channel. They actually held one anothers' hands and formed a human chain. You have to admit, those guys had the instincts of animals. And they were able to cross the water faster because of this team work. Later after some cracks about Man Friday and Saturday, we headed back to the first shore, put our clothes up for drying, realised the guys who were high on the previous day were still loitering around there. We had our breakfast, and our bath, and quite soon were on the roads, waiting for a bus at the bus stand. Finally after around forty five minutes of waiting arrived a bus which took us to the nearby town (nearby seems to be a misnomer, because the nearest pharmacist was nearly 9 kms away)

While some of my friends had their lunch, my friend and I decided to get some medicines for myself, while parallelly looking for some water. I decided to equip myself with electrolytes because I was really apprehensive about getting all flustered on the hike the next day. I could see myself all red and groping hoarsely saying "water water..." Well, turns out after buying all the stuff, my friend lost it all in the bus. And guess what? I never had the opportunity of using it. Then after getting all the stuff, we boarded into the magical bus - a bus I am never going to board again, nor in the past nor in the future. The bus was truly magical, in the sense that the guy was filling in people irrespective of the amount of space, and somehow the people seemed to miraculously fitting in, nobody was getting out, and people were all the time looking for imaginary spaces to settle in. And they did !! Our bags were lost somewhere in the bus. We were desperately clinging for our very lives. You may feel this is an exaggeration. But if you saw how big the open windows were, and how the driver was continuously swerving the bus to the left and right, without using the invention called brakes and moving up and down the snaking curves of the hills though traffic on the roads on which only one bus can go at a time, but still magically accomodating two or sometimes three vehicles was really mind-boggling, espcially since the road on the other side of which had a sharp cliff had only some perforated old walls separating us. I was pretty sure I would see one of my friends or myself flying out the next time he braked. Well, I guess everyone was clinging for dear lives, and the driver made it easier by not braking a lot, but just scaring the crap out of us...

And then finally we reached Periyar. We found ourselves blissfully sleeping in some "Home Stay" after having food in two restaurants. Why two you ask? The first restaurant, well, he offered a fancy menu card, half of which he didn't have, most of the rest he didn't understand, and kept saying "Panni butter masala" for Paneer... (Panni means pig btw. and he was scaring the living daylights out of us) and finally got some very little stuff after making us wait for what seemed like eternity. Pity, he couldn't follow Kannada, or he would have heard a lot of swear words from our tables. We tried to break language barriers by showing him the finger though. The other restaurant was far better. We retired for the day after food there.

Next day, we all woke up, immediately got ready with the morning ablutions being performed before sun rise. Two of them went ahead, while the remaining five slowly trudged, drinking morning tea at a local tea stall. Quite soon, we found ourselves in an autorickshaw that drove the five of us to the Periyar reserve without really caring much about the humps and speed breakers. Something told me people in Kerala weren't really much acquainted with the second paddle what we fondly refer to in Bangalore as "brakes".

In Periyar, we were given a bottle of water each, and large socks. I was hoping it was for Santa to be filling in gifts in them. Turns out it was to keep leeches away. *Pop* went my dream of trying to fit a group of beach girls in the sock... I mean uh ahem, well, anyway, we wore it, and were all set for the hike. We had five guides, and a team of ten. Seven of us, a couple from the UK and a lone ranger from Estonia. The hike was through the jungle, with a brief stop for breakfast, which seemed to be quite fancy in the forest. We spotted a wild hen first, and then another wild hen and then another!! Something gave me the feeling it was the same bird trying to get some snaps taken by us fools. We could see in our mind's eye saying - those human goof balls didn't even realise it was me everytime :P Well, as we walked though the trees, we also spotted several colourful birds, monkeys playing, Malabar squirrels, a tiger's paw print, porcupine faeces and elephant dung, wild pigs. We then had to go on a couple of bamboo boats, rowed by the guides. But later on our request, we were given the chance to build our biceps. We rowed for some time, and found it was quite complex to keep the boat steadily in one direction.

We later spotted the bones of a sambar and a bison. We later had our lunch, and a conversation with the foreigners. This was followed by a small stroll on the island with no animal being spotted. The time for spotting animals is early morning or late evening. You won't spot any animal in the middle of noon. It's too hot and they seem to have the brains unlike us who got tanned in the blazing afternoon sun. Pretty soon we were again on the bamboo raft, getting our skin fried. And that's the reason I arrived to Bangalore looking several shades darker, my nose seemed to be a tad well-done, and my friend seemed to have the audacity and many more teeth in his mouth when he commened that that seemed to be an improvement to my looks :P

We reached base camp with a total walk of 12+ kms, and finally decided to get back to Bangalore. Several parts of the trip was impromptu, including our plan to get back to Bangalore! Our ticket booking which was partially outsourced to this man, (I don't know who though) was successfully done by him, and he was rewarded quite generously for services rendered. We quickly bought a couple of goodies in the market, and quite soon we found ourselves in a bus hurtling towards Bangalore, with a brief stop in a restaurant in Tamil Nadu. Believe it or not folks, the food I had at that restaurant was the best food I had had in the past six days. I lost a lot of weight and colour, gained a lot experience and hell lot of thrilling experiences from the trip - Definitely one of the most memorable excursions, my adventure in God's own country, the country where God needs to set up a couple of more decent vegetarian joints...!!!

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

In God's own country - 3

[Read first before this]

After the visit to the wooden palace, we made our way to the beaches. The beaches are really beautiful, blue sea, white sand, and several foreigners was the sight at the beach. We just hung around a while at the first beach, and spent quite a lot of time at the other beach. I initially decided to only wet my feet. But the wave made my shirt a little wet. I thought, oh what the heck, and before I knew it, I was wet upto my head. I played along with my friends in water. It was after a long time that I was actually having so much fun. Crocin periodically was doing its job faithfully, and sporadic coughing sprees was the only thing I had to look out for.

The only major problems in Kerala, like I have mentioned before, are langauge and food. In Karnataka, you can survive in any corner using Hindi or English if you don't follow the local Kannada. However, the same cannot be told about Tamil Nadu and Kerala mostly. If you don't know the local langauges, you are in for a lot of trouble. And food? Tamil Nadu has really good food to offer. Kerala - well, if you are not a vegetarian you are a goner. There are some people who don't eat at restaurants that serve both vegetarian and non vegetarian food at the same place. Such people are in for even more trouble. The food that I was getting was bad. I am a person who can practically eat almost anything, and I was facing so much of trouble perhaps I can attribute it to my being unwell.

The next day we went to some resort in the middle of nowhere. The location was simply amazing. It was right next to a river, and the scenery was simply beautiful. We had to stay in a cottage. we dumped our luggage in the cottage, and went to a restaurant, had some food there, and drove to the waterfalls there, in a hired car. The water falls are really beautiful. I think the place is called Adirapalli... We took several photos by the falls, walking all the way down the bottom of the falls. The falls looked absolutely beautiful, and I could actually sit on the rocks at the bottom and meditate :P Not really, but you could if you wanted to.

Just remember one thing, folks. Water is everything. If not for any food, make sure you have plenty of fluid in your body. Water is very good for your metabolism. And solves several potential problems, and existing problems as well. After the falls, we went back to the resort, and decided to have a camp fire. So, some of my friends start chopping wood, while three of us were sitting on a swing, and discussing mushy stuff :P Hmmm... Anyway, so the lumberjacks realise that the wood is not all that dry, and the smart (ass) resort guy decides to help us by giving us fuel to ignite the wood. Now normally people give fast burning kerosene oil. But Einstein decided to help us by giving slow burning lamp oil. Then we decided to burn newspapers (Come on, we are engineers for crying out loud) and found some here and there. And pretty soon, we had a pile of wooden sticks, with newspaper interspersed, with some oil all over.

And as we were beginning to get the fire on, a bunch of men appeared. Two in the beginning, and gradually three and finally five. They were all laughing a high pitched laugh, and speaking rapid malayalam. Apparently, they wanted all of us to be talking Malayalam. Subsequently, they try their hand at getting the camp fire started. Well, they were actually successful. Turns out they were all high. And they chopped, and added anything flammable into the fire. While most of my friends were tired from the trip and retired, three of us who were not really sleepy were sitting on the swing and watching the high pitched men singing and cheerfully carrying the trunk of a tree to put into the fire. I was a little taken aback when one of them started carrying plastic chairs also close to the fire. They were anyway stoned, and it didn't look like they were going to stop at the tree in the fire. I asked if my friend knew that they were taking active part in sustaining the fire, because I didn't want to be behind bars in a land where people don't follow any other language other than Malayalam which I don't follow. He assured me that they were quite aware about the stoned revellers. Then we turned in for the day.

In God's own country - 2

[Read first before this]

From the top of the light house, one fourth of the 360 degree view was occupied by the blue sea... The Arabian sea. We could see some little ships at a distance, and also a barrage that was constructed to make fishing simpler. The rest of the view around the light house was primarily filled with an endless sea of coconut trees. Not a single patch was free of the tall tree. Every inch seemed to be covered by them. It also answered my question - why were there no coconut vendors in that place. Every house had atleast five trees in their backyard. After taking some customary snaps, we decided to walk down. Walking down was a lot easier. Then we walked into the barrage area. The gate was locked, and there was a small prohibition board there. But Oh what the heck was our attitude, as it was a small town, and we went through the gate. We walked around a lot there. The sun blazing in the noon sky, imposing upon us his radiance, and it was one time I was not welcoming it. I felt it was sapping every ounce of energy from me. After walking for some time, we sat around and chatted for some time. Then five friends went ahead for a long walk, while my other friend and I waited around... Then finally we decided to wet our legs in the barrage water. We found clams all over the place. An endless count you can say - on every rock. We decided to pick them up and fling them into the sea horizontally to see them bounce on the water - *plop plop* they go... and finally my friends came back. We went home, four again (the car seats only those many) and guess what? The old man incharge of blocking (or allowing) people into the barrage is back. And he was a grouch.

Now the main problems we faced in Kerala were two - Language and Food. Only one of seven of us knew Malayalam. And one knew Tamil but could follow Malayalam. Rest of us knew other languages. I knew English, Kannada, Konkani, Hindi and Marathi. But the five languages seemed to be useless in that land of Malayalam. My friend told him we were new to that town. He said can't you read? This is prohibited. We said we couldn't read Malayalam. He showed us an English board. Finally we apologised. There was no reason for that area to be prohibited though. Nevertheless he asked us to get lost. We said we had three more people left. They were quite a distance away, and going back to call them would be difficult. So we decided to call up. And our mobile networks decide to freeze at that opportune moment.

So, four of us leave for the grandmother's residence with the other three oblivious of the fate awaiting them. Turns out they came there, and found the gate sealed with a large chain. The old man appears magically and offers a large repertoire of swear words in Malayalam. My friend not shaken, responds in Kannada. Now we had two people talking to each other without the other understanding a word of the the other. Finally a Rs. 50 note exchanged hands, and the old man opened the gate without even a whimper. I slept, and my friend's uncle who is a doctor asked me to take crocin. I had developed a fever by then. My friends were mostly worried as we were supposed to go a hike on the last day. And they felt I would not be able to do much because I couldn't walk much without panting... That night my friends went to the beach, and had their share of fun, I missed that part, as I was blissfully dozing off my worries in bed with crocin doing its share of work.

The next day, we hired a Qualis, and went to different places towards the South of India. We had almost reached Kanyakumari, away from it by merely 35 kms. We went to the Padmanabhapuram Wooden palace. A truly beautiful place, the palace shows several relics and artifacts, with wonderful stories about the kings from Travancore and their grand past. There were chairs and urns gifted by the Chinese traders, some wall greeting cards also given by the same group, paintings etc. given by the Europeans etc. The palace is huge, and fully wooden. There are several women periodically who give a small explanation about the place in Malayalam, Tamil or English - the language of your choice. I had tender coconut water before and after the visit to the palace keeping my water and salt contents normal, as I was not eating anything in Kerala. There was also a museum there which was really good. It had a collection of erapons, coins, paintings, statues etc.

In God's own country - 1

I had been to Kerala for around 5 days with my friends from college. And it was definitely one of the best trips I have been on. Well, let me tell it to you in as interesting a way I can, so that you don't get bored.

On the day I was supposed to leave, I had a really long walk with three other friends not connected with this trip. Now when I say really long, I mean really really long. At the end of the walk, we find ourselves to be lost. And then boarding a string of buses I make it home. I realise that the long walk had me exerted, since I was already a little "flu-ish". I was coughing a little here and there, and when I reach home, I am a little warm. My parents were a little apprehensive of their little boy going into a far off place when not feeling well. However they give me some medicines, and words of caution, and drop me at my friend's apartment.

I had my dinner with two of my friends (both smart-asses) and I told them that I was a little tired with all the walking, and we went to the railway station by an auto where the rest were waiting. We were, all in all, a group of seven. My friends volunteered to carry my bag, but uh ahem, I wanted to show I am all big and strong, and finally one carried one of the arms of my bag while I held the other. The train journey was quite fun, started with a eunuch asking me money and getting disappointed. Well, I could tell him or her my problem, but it didn't look like the eunuch was quite much interested. I could see some "Grr..." face. Well, anyway, I realised I felt the typical vomitting sensation, and didn't try to experiment much with the food. My friends were discussing some really juicy stuff, and I was tempted to add a lot :-) But I was tired, and decided to sleep through it, but there were several instances when I was actually pretending to sleep but was secretly listening, making notes in my mental diary, and adding smart comments here and there when apt. Then the guy in the adjacent block asked my friend what time we slept. Well, he was not very subtle about it, and we decided to call it a day.

Next day, my friends all had food. I still was not up for it. My friends asked me to, or I would be feeling weak, I decided to bypass food, and instead popped in a couple of Gelucil and Digene (antacid) pills. Not because I had acidity. I just felt a little nauseous, and felt that they would make it a little better. Well, I didn't have any food, we reached Kollam in Kerala first. We boarded some auto-rickshaws and went to my friend's grandmother who stays there. The house was truly fantastic, and was nothing like what I had imagined. I was expecting some sloping roofed house, with tiles as you would normally expect. But this was fantastic and nothing like that. A huge house, with large breathing spaces on all the four sides. The insides were really large and spacious. We kept our luggage, and recharged ourselves with some cold water. I thought - Finally, a bed, maybe I can sleep for sometime and recharge myself. Well, guess what? My friends were already excited to go to the light-house. Can't blame them, we were all on a holiday, and I didn't expect to fall ill also. But I was...

Well, my friend took out his grandmother's car -a 118-NE in pristine condition. Four of us went to the light house in Kollam while the rest waited for him to come back and pick them up. On reaching the light house, my friend dropped the three of us, and went back to pick the remaining three. We waited for some time, as the light house was locked. Finally the door opened and the man who is supposed to let us in, let us in after collecting the appropriate fee. And guess what? We had to climb up 198 steps of the light house to reach the top. The steps are in a circular fashion. Normally, this would have been a cinch. But for a guy who was ill and desperately trying to find a place to place his buttocks once in five steps, this looked like a huge task. Well, I had merely climbed five steps when my other friends who were waiting also appeared. And we climbed. And climbed.... And I was ahead, and the steps were so narrow that it would be difficult to manoeuvre, though not impossible. So, finally we reached the top. And we looked out into the wide sea, and the large area around the light house - And for a moment I realised why it was called God's own country - it was fantastic!!

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

No person is a saint

Swami Nikhilaananda said:
"I may seem like, but I am not a saint..."

Well, I have not reached heights of enlightenment (yet) as some of you may begin to conceive. Many people who read this blog, or speak to me sometimes have a feeling that I have truly become a saint. Well, I am worldly-wise, but not completely void of feelings or emotions. Now, don't start making any judgements about my character :-) You cannot judge a person based on a few lines. However, here is something I wish to tell you. And in this entry, when I say quiet, I also imply quiet, calm, serene, peaceful, but don't imply quiet in the sense that the person is an introvert, scared to let loose his/her feelings but instead chooses willingly not to.

When we are young, we tend to feel pangs of jealousy when we look at something that someone else has, and when we don't have that. As we grow older, we may enter into one of the two groups - either the group which says I don't care who has what, these are the things I want, and I will work towards that... or alternately saying he has that, even I will work towards that - in the sense that they don't have any jealousy or envy, but may or may not be allured towards that which the other person has, and this person doesn't. And the second group of people, who continue to be like children - to have jealousy - who doesn't like it when someone else has something, and you begin to covet it, but more than the desire of obtaining it, have negative feelings towards the other. I am sure there are people of all types in this world.
Now, let me suddenly provide another set of people. There are people who talk, and people who don't talk. I don't mean the mute, but people who don't talk, not because they are scared or introverts, but because they don't want to kick up any scandals or controversies. Or it may be because they don't want to unnecessarily burden people with their opinions saying - "I am okay with anything, either option is alright" instead of imposing what they feel. Not because (or maybe because also) they are incapable of decision making, but because they don't want to enforce it on everything. Some are bossy and tend to impose their views on everything.

Now, when a person is quiet, doesn't say something, accepts things as they are given etc. there are a lot of people who don't understand what they want to say, what they feel, or sometimes don't want to know what they feel. The reason is because anything given to that person is simply taken in without any whimper, and thus it happens that the people at the other end fail to realise the true feelings of the quiet person - sometimes being taken as weakness, sometimes I don't care and most of the times, I didn't know you felt that.

So, my suggestions to the people of the world is that - next time you see a person who is calm and doesn't voice opinions, don't take it for granted that he is ok with it. If you are really interested in the opinions of that person, you should honestly work a little towards it, and gather a little more information from that person, for more often that otherwise, their silence is only so that they won't hurt your feelings, or make you feel bad. No person in this world is completely a saint, and there will be human feelings of some degree in them at some level, and silence doesn't always mean acceptance.