Oct 30, 2009

to Kerala on Business

some time March 1992

Dad, Praveen, Padma Prasad, a marketing personnel from Epoch Instruments and I set off on a business tour. Our destinations were Grasim Industries, Mavoor near Kannur and FACT, Trivandrum. This was the very first trip in our van. The van was loaded; 5 adults + bags + an electronic weighing scale (which itself weighed around 80kg).

We left early morning, towards Mysore and we were at Prasad's brother's house at Kalpetta by noon. We had lunch there and proceeded towards Calicut. On the way we stopped by at Prasad's in-law's house which is deep inside a tea estate. The path to the house from the main road was few kilometers of narrow winding roads through hills covered by jungle.

We were introduced to other members of the family and shown through the house ...a typical Kerala style wooden house. The pooja room was a special one, the most unique I had ever seen. The room had mirrors on all four walls and the ceiling. An idol of Mahaveera stood in the center. The room had a multi-color illumination system; white, pink, red, yellow and blue. Different color lights and their combination created illusions of different times of a day. We all settled down on the floor and our host turned off lights and it was dark inside. Then one little bulb gave an effect of dawn and we progressed through all parts of a day till dusk and then darkness again. Moon-light was also a part of the show. It was creative and I loved the idea. Next our host showed us around the garden full of spices' plants ...cardamom, cloves, pepper, and many more I cannot recall. Our host served us spiced tea. We had to move on.

We touched Calicut and then took the road to Mavoor. We were at the factory gates by 4 PM. Got in touch with the concerned officers, went through the routine formalities of material delivery and soon we were at the spot where the scale was supposed to be installed. Some minor modifications were to be done in the roller conveyor system so that scales top and the conveyor top would be in line. It was planned to be taken up the following day. Praveen had to stay back (the guest house was right next to the factory) and get the work done while we decided to travel to Cochin.

We had dinner at a typical Kerala style restaurant, it was wonderful. Prasad suggested we move on since journeys on Kerala roads can be pretty slow at day time, the same journey would take twice the time and twice as tiring because of the coastal humid weather. Prasad also suggested we visit Guruvayoor Krishna temple which was on our route.

The temple as I remember looked pretty ancient and mostly black colored wood with sloping surfaces. The inside was lit with oil lamps and crowded with men in panchi and women in white sarees with golden borders. It was very warm inside. There were a couple of elephants and the drums were booming loudly. The pooja was a wonderful sight indeed.

We moved on and finally reached Cochin around 3 AM, we found a hotel and checked in. Morning we visited FACT factory to discuss check weighing system for their packing machine. The plant was pretty clean and well maintained. We studied the packing machine and it's conveyor system- that's where our scale would fit in. Later we had discussions regarding specifications and features which went on till about 2 or 3. Our work for the day was done, we had get back to FACT with our quote for developing the system, which could be done from Bangalore. Later we visited Prasad's brother's home and went back to our hotel.

Next we had to visit one of my mother's cousins S R Desai, a commander in the Indian Navy who was posted in Cochin Naval Base. We all had dinner at the Navy mess which is right next to back waters. We could see fishermen in small boats going about their work in silence. I remember having a veg sizzler. My aunt had invited us for breakfast the next morning. We had to climb 8 floors since the lift was out of order. The flat had a lovely view of the sea.

Soon we were heading back towards Coimbatore, Dad wanted to visit ACC, Madukkarai one of our customers. At Coimbatore Prasad and his colleague went to Bangalore. At ACC, our work was again at the packing section. Dad had discussions with the concerned officer about the check-weighing system we had supplied but was not functioning as expected. The instrumentation part required reprogramming. We returned to Mavoor by evening and work had progressed but not completed.

Following day the scale was in place and working. We trained the workers in operating it, all they had to learn was to tare it ...make the display zero by turning a knob. The customer was satisfied and our next task was to follow up payment. The invoice and other necessary papers were submitted to the purchase department and it would take 4 or days for the check to be realized.

During the two day stay at the guest house Praveen and I would come out evenings to watch fishes in the garden pond. Some fishes were almost 8 inches long. It so happened one of us threw a blade of grass into the water and a fish swallowed it ...this was something new to us- grass eating fish! We starting feeding them and the fishes had a party. In the beginning we would pluck only the tips, about an inch long, and later we discovered they swallowed even bigger ones. We had a great time together.

Praveen, Dad and I traveled back to Bangalore. Few years later, there was a major strike and the plant was shut down.


Oct 23, 2009


...the story continues from my visit to Syntheri Rocks.

I was supposed to turn right at the forest check-post but instead went straight. After a while, two guys riding bicycles made me realize the mistake. I reversed the car and traced back the 6 kilometers back to the check-post and turned left. From here the forest got denser and about 2km down the road I could smell elephant dung and saw broken bamboo shoots and fresh elephant dung on the road. Another half kilometer down I saw a similar spot, broken bamboo scattered across the road and elephant dung. I had missed them in matter of minutes. Bad luck because I missed seeing the elephants and good luck for having missed possible trouble.

As I moved towards Ulavi, rain got heavier and heavier. By the time I reached Ulavi it was pouring cats and dogs. I parked the car close to the temple gate, got my bag and got out. By the time I locked the car and ran 20 meters to the temple gate my hair was dripping wet. From the gate to the temple my tee-shirt and trousers were wet too. The pujari greeted me and invited me to step into the Sanctum Sanatorium. I applied vibhuti to my forehead and waved the arti around while the pujari chanted a song. I got few flowers and a coconut for prasada. We spoke about rains and mentioned that the day rain was heavier then any other day.

On the pujari's insistence I had food at the temple dining hall ...a thin watery sweet and rice and thili-saru. The meal was satisfying. It was almost 3 and I decided to leave so that I can get out of the jungle before it gets dark. Rain was still pouring.

One last stop, As I climbed up the steps leading to the Hanuman temple, I was surprised to see a herd of donkeys grazing on the slope. From here I could see most of Ulavi- government guest houses on the left, temple and paddy fields straight ahead, the main street and stalls to the right and the temple guest house to my back and of course water every where.

A bunch of farm workers returning home.

Few kilometers away from Ulavi there's a short tower to the right which offered a good view of the hills across the valley. If it was a clear day, probably I would not have liked it so much. The mist added beauty to the whole place. It cleared for few seconds giving a glimpse of the hills beyond and closed the curtain.

I stopped at a forest guard house, the two guards told me about the elephant crossing in the morning. To me it was confirmed that I missed them narrowly. I drove on stopping on and off to shoot pictures.

On the outskirts of Dandeli, I saw people coming out of the cemetery after a funeral. Earlier in the morning I had seen two men with spades walking in.

Water level had increased in river Kali, morning I had seen rocks on the water surface. The river has a deadly reputation- rapids, whirlpools, currents, crocodiles,

After Haliyal, at many spots, rain water flowed across the road. I twas dusk by the time I reached Dharwad and on the outskirts, near Tapovan I could see few houses inundated.

Later I heard that the day had received the heaviest rains for the season.


Oct 15, 2009

Syntheri Rocks

October 1 evening I decided to go out towards Dandeli, thought I'll shoot pictures. October 2 morning I left home around 8 after breakfast of uppit. It was raining for the past few days and I expected the forest to be greeeen.

I stopped few kilometers from Haliyal, and ventured into the woods (not deep inside). The soil was wet and trees were dripping with rain drops.

Road was good most of the way except for few kilometers before Dandeli. I stopped on the bridge across Kali river and surprised to see rocks scattered over the water surface. During my last visit December 2006 the river was full and water was deep green.

Having come so far I thought let me go to Ulavi and on the way I could I also stop over at Syntheri Rocks ...I drove on. I passed by a graveyard and saw two men walking into it with a pick-axe and a spade. I guessed they were heading to dig a grave. The jungle got thicker as I drove on and I could see streams more often. The sky was filled with dark clouds and the air was humid and warm ...sign of rain.

Finally I was at the turn off to Syntheri Rocks. I bought tickets one for me and one for the car and took the dirt road. On the way I stopped by to take a picture of a tree and a spider caught my attention. It was a delicate looking one but hyper-active ...it seems it was weaving a web.

I parked the car in the vehicle parking space and walked down the slippery steps into the valley ...I could hear the water gushing through rocks. This board greeted me to the spot ...it should have been in red. One needs to be really careful on these slippery rocks, especially when they are wet.

The stream flows from the right to left passing through a narrow gap between rock formations...

...and cascades down into a pool and then flows away.

It looks as though tar has flowed down these rocks.

I sat here watching the water flow by raising a light mist. The caves and few pigeons sitting on the narrow ledge jut above one of the caves. I collected a few pebbles ...white colored and light weight.

Rain drops made me get up but I stopped to shoot these interesting life form out of dead leaves.

May be these two videos gives a good feel of the place.

By the time I climbed up the steps and reached th car it was pouring and I was sweating too. And by the time I reached the main road it was raining cats and dogs. I turned left towards Ulavi.


Oct 8, 2009

Mangalore and Kerala on Kinetic Honda


Anish and I decided to celebrate my birthday at Mangalore and also decided take my Kinetic Honda for the trip.

We left early, took NH4 and then NH48 towards Mangalore, riding between 50 to 70 kmph. Soon it was warm and some place just before Hassan we had tender coconut water, it was cooling and refreshing ...I had four of them and Anish had two.

Our first stop was at Dharmastala. Anish got his head shaved. He looks scary! Mid March the temperatures are high and it was very humid. We enjoyed the meals served by the temple, simple n tasty, served on leaves and we had to squat on the floor. Anish was amazed at the speed local kids emptied their leaves, his point was that they had more than us in much lesser time. It was true. I guess they were accustomed to having this food squatting on the floor. What ever it is, the food served is simply superb.

We went exploring the nearby Jamalgudda which is about 22km from Dharmastala. We climbed about quarter way up and gave up.

Next morning we headed towards Manipal, Udupi Sri Krishna temple was our destination. This was our very first visit, apart from that I cannot remember anything more. From here we went to Kollur Mookambika temple. Few kilometers before Kollur we stopped for a drink (coconut water) at a small shop by the road side. We were relaxing on a light wooden bench in the cool shade of big trees. Anish got up and the same moment I went down! The bench's legs were way too inside and my weight on the extreme end disturbed the equilibrium. No injuries. We had a good laugh and carried on with th journey. I remember seeing an elephant inside the temple premises, pilgrims feeding it banana nd coconut and getting blessings in return. Our final destination was for the day was Hattiangadi, a small village popular for it's Ganapati Temple. We reached the village after sunset and managed to get one of the rooms the temple lets out to pilgrims.

Hattiangadi is situated next to back waters and surrounded by coconut trees and paddy fields. One can see fishermen in boats going about their business peacefully. It's a nice place to be in if you wish to get away from maddening crowds. So far, we had been goody goody types, visiting temples, praying and all that. Now our trip takes a turn...

We traced back the journey on NH17, which runs along the coast, till Udupi and soon we were at Mangalore. We checked into Hotel Roopa on Balmata Road, a decent place which fit our budget. One thing unique about this hotel was that all it's 3rd and 4th floor rooms were rented out to college students. That evening we went in search of a a friend of Anish's, a doctor. It was the doctors suggestion we eat at an open air joint popular for seafood in the city outskirts towards Ullal. I relished every dish on the menu, in fact I was busy with my beer and plates of squid, prawns, etc. etc. while Anish and the doc went on with their conversation. We met Lavin and his lovely friend, Lavin another friend of Anish. I think we went to Panambur beach where we got a glimpse of dismantling ships ...old ships being broken down and sold as scrap.

Our next destination was Kannur. At the Karnataka-Kerala border a policeman waved us down and questioned us; where did we come from, where we were going, what did we carry in our bags, etc. He was convinced we were not the underworld type and let us pass. it seems gold smuggling is rampant in these parts. He was doing his duty.

Kannur is Anish's home town but his parents lived in Middle East those days. We did visit a friend, another doctor who was down with relapsed jaundice. The whites of his eyes were yellow and of course even the skin had a hue of yellow. What an irony; a doctor with a relapse. Anyway, he was a jovial person, I'd met him once earlier at Bangalore. Anish showed me around Kannur, we saw the St. Angelo Fort. Evening we had been to the sea coast, no beach here but rough and rocky coast line. Most of Kerala's coast line is rocky and very few beaches. We found plenty of crabs crawling up and down these rocks ...I learnt that certain types of crabs turn poisonous during full-moon/no-moon and fishermen do not catch them on such days. Talking about crabs and sea food reminds me of a small joint popular for sea food. I can tell this is the best sea food I ever had in my life. The place is small packed with simple wooden tables and benches. The basic meal on the menu is rice and fish curry and varieties of fishes are carried around by waiters ...all you need to do was call the right waiter and get what you want instantly. I wished I could stay in Kannur forever and visit the place everyday. I cam to know that Kerala restaurants follow the JIT system, Just In Time, food prepared for the day is sold by the end of the day, that way food is always fresh in most places in Kerala.

Well our holiday was coming to an end, time we head back to Bangalore. We rode towards Mahe, a less known Union Territory. Anish did not let me fill petrol in Kannur because it would be cheaper here, we filled the tank, we did not save a great deal but still saved a few rupees. On with our journey, we touched Calicut, Sultan Battery, Gundlupet, Mysore... The road between Sultan Battery and Mysore passes thorough forests and it's quite common to see elephants and other wild creatures. We did see a herd of wild elephants to our right. The group leader a big tusker was slightly away from rest of the herd (closer us) kicking dust and warning us to keep moving. If by chance he charged at us we had a bleak chance of escaping safely. We took off before our friend decided to charge at us and reached Mysore by evening. We checked into KSTDC Lodge, the place has an antique feel about it. Later we found a mess which offered sea food, no way comparable to the place at Kannur. We retired early that night, the ride through the jungle had left us tired.

Following morning I think we went to KRS before heading back towards Bangalore. The ride back home was little slow since we had to stop more often. My bottom was sore because of the continuous riding. Our entire journey spanned close to 1300 kilometers in 5 days.

I still have my Kinetic Honda (I call it 'wife') it's traveled 1,20,000 kilometers and resting in Bangalore at the moment. It's one of the safest two wheelers on road, it had real good braking power.


Oct 2, 2009

Haunted Poultry Farm


It all started off with Satish. He wanted Anil, Anish and me to visit Tiptur to attend a wedding. We agreed if Satish would provide us with sufficient booze...

We took a passenger train (from Bangalore) which would stop at every little station. The 180km journey took some 4+ hours. Anyway we were in no hurry. There were plenty of hawkers selling every kind of food- banana, gauvas, jackfruit, churmari, idli-vade, dosa, tea & coffee, etc. etc. We had a wonderful time trying out literally everything available. We landed at Tiptur ...first visit for all of us except our host. We found a lodge and rented two rooms.

Indian wedding ceremonies start the day before evening ...engagement function and the wedding ceremony is the following day. Evening we headed to the wedding hall to find it empty. We were one day early! Wow! This is going to be a nice little vacation for us. Our next destination would be anybody's guess...

Satish took us to a place on the outskirts, an open air restaurant in a farm. Booze flowed freely and our conversation included Saddam Hussein, Middle East War, LTTE and at some point ghosts came into the picture. Satish told us a story about a ghost which has created havoc at a poultry farm. It seems the ghost would throw chicken at the farm house walls, left many dead birds and the farm was deserted now. People are scared to go near it. Anil and I wanted to check out the place and Satish agreed to it reluctantly while Anish opted out ...he said he doesn't wish to mess around with ghosts. We took a bike, Satish driving, Anil in the middle and I was at the back. The country dirt road took us away from human lives ...no houses, nobody to be seen, not even a stray dog.It was pitch dark. Finally we reached the damned place ...Satish pointed the bike's headlight towards the farm house, it was kind of spooky out there.. Then Satish pointed the light to a wall painted white with patches of brown scattered all over it ...that was supposed to be chicken blood. We never got off the bike as though the bike would protect us from any ghosts lurking around. We had hung around enough and decided to scoot before any of the ghosts woke up. Satish turned the bike around and paused for one last look. An idea flashed! I lifted the bikes rear part clear off the ground and these guys did not realize it. Satish engaged first gear, de-clutched and opened the throttle ...rear wheel is spinning but we are stationary. Believe me Satish and Anil panicked while I was smiling away. I managed to hold the bike up till my arms ached. I told them why the bike did not move. Satish and Anil were relieved. We had a good laugh and rode back to the farm restaurant...

We woke up late the following day. Satish took us to his village- Belagrahalli which he called Belgrade. Evening we had another wild session but this time it was in the lodge. Following day we attended the wedding ceremony and caught a passenger train heading to Bangalore. The train was pretty crowded, we could not find seats and we took two upper berths. Like our journey two days back, we kept calling every hawker who passed by and kept stuffing ourselves. However we found a very interesting topic for our conversation; what type of girl we wished for a wife and how we wished our married lives would be...

The fantasies remained fantasies. Same for all of us.

Looking back, we did have a wonderful time together.