74. Myth with a Dam

@Bhoothathankettu, Kerala, India.

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The story of Bhoothathankettu doesn’t begin nor end with our last trip to the place, a journey which happened about an year ago. It goes back to that childhood when Bhoothathankettu used to be one of the favourite tourist spots which we visited more than once, due to its easy accessiblity. It is just about ten kilometres away from the town of Kothamangalam and fifty kilometres away from the main city of Kochi. There was also the easy access from Perumbavoor, Angamaly and Aluva. It was still distant enough at that time, but closer than the rest. For some reasons, it had occupied the top of our most interesting places and the place which we should visit again and again. It used to be a place close to the heart. In the beginning, it was a small world and the travel restrictions were rightly there. Still, no matter how far we travelled, the significance of the place remained the same. So the place can claim to be the pioneer of the Travel Diaries of this world and beyond, not in an official manner, but as belonging to the mysterious ways the world works to halt a traveller and to make him go for a journey which is least expected by himself and the society.

Therefore, it has a powerful nostalgia associated with it for us. It was more like a satellite, a natural one which surrounded our world. It was our Saturn’s Titan or Jupiter’s Callisto, for that being Earth would be too predictable. We made some good visits there with Kothamangalam as the base, but the visits faded away until three visits were made in the last six years, not bad for a time when exploring new areas was the trend for one half, and watching movies later replaced the same. The first of the three visits was the reclaiming of childhood without knowing it, the second one being the same thing knowing it all, and the third one was the journey for the camera which was still not a planned one, the most spontaneous of them all, as if the forces of nature had a direct involvement in an unstoppable procedure. There is always more than what meets the eye as long as such a place is concerned, and we were the adventurers at times. The place is blemished in its history with only one accident, as on 20th February 2007, eighteen people on a school excursion drowned in Periyar at Thattekkad, not that far away from the location of the dam.

Along with the dam which stands there, there are huge blocks of unshaped stones are placed on both sides of the river Periyar, making it look like a natural dam built by some supernatural force. The name Bhoothathankettu, means “ghost fort”, “demon fort” or “monster fort”, not with a clear translation, as “bhootham” or “bhoothathan” can mean more than one thing, and the difference in traditions would make it almost impossible to make a perfect translation, and only transcreation is possible. The presence of something supernatural has to be attributed to the myths, which doesn’t really make an impact these days. The ghosts have become more and more gentle and friendly. But the name of the place does give a kick to the curiosity of the common man who hear about it for the first time. The rest has to be experienced in person. We feel the supernatural almost every day, but that still won’t tickle our reasoning ability even by an inch. We feel it in thunder, lightning, rain and everything we see each and every moment, but we fail to recognize them. So wretched is our state, as we feel them all, but fails to know that we feel; the touch of the other world hardly affects us, as we are so much attached to the scientific methods that we deny the existence of those souls.

In the world of Twilight vampires and all the good-looking monsters who keep on attaining more and more transformations towards the side of beauty, the interest might keep rising higher and higher. But what kind of interest would that be, when the creatures of darkness are no longer of their quality, and sometimes not even grey? Ultimately, that really shouldn’t count, whatever they say. As the curiosity doesn’t kill most of the cats these days, there is not that much worry associated with it. The lack of fear and the glorification as well as the beautification of the supernatural has done more bad than good in a world of confused people. The twists of fate happen just too often, and there is none when you need them. One has to wonder what is in them, but there is no right answer, as it is not something which should have happened, even as there might have been some predictions already. There are moments when one wishes for death, but this is not one of them, for this is just pleasure-seeking even in the most dreaded monsters of the world.

Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary and the Idamalayar Dam are also quite close to Bhoothathankettu. The bird sanctuary is actually quite close, and just a turn is necessary on the way back to Kothamangalam. It has a rich collection of birdlife and is a common tourist attraction even as it pales in comparison to Bhoothathankettu which has a high number of visitors on the holidays, both from inside and outside the state. A day trip to all three places; Thattekkad, Bhoothathankettu and Idamalayar is also a usual thing. Bhoothathankettu surely is good enough to be one of the most visited places in Ernakulam district as well as in Kerala – it is just not publicized enough. This has been more due to the lack of infrastructure as well as the absence of advertisements. But the situation has been getting better. Sometimes, its peace and tranquility is all that you need to make one visit. The fort of the demons is not the place you associated these qualities with. But who can deny such a thing when one has experienced this peace? Even if the demons had come back to haunt us, there is still enough in this little world to keep one interested.

It is a very scenic place right from the beginning, from the first step you take into the beauty of that place. You can walk on the side of the dam, not just on the dam. The walk with water flowing on the side, will refresh one faster than ever – free from the troubles of city life, work or student life. There is plain nature at its best, without too much interference from the humans. If it is not the weekend, this might be the perfect place to escape to. There are times when one fails to find the right place to escape into nature. But this might just work for most of the people. The sights of the hills and the greenery far away might even inspire one to explore more. There is also a park to support the whole thing, and it has been there as long back as I can remember it. There might have surely been changes made, and add-ons giving support, but the base thing has been there for a very long time. There should be enough entertainment for the children, and a good view of the dam is also possible from a point there. On the other side, there is the boating facility, and also the “erumadam” or the treehouses which are common at the tourist areas of Kerala. There is a good view from the top of it, and the beauty of the area is to be viewed from that point. It gets even better with the rain. Therefore, I wish you the moment.

Diving out —>

TeNy

67. Waterfalls to Cherish

@Athirappilly, Kerala, India.

This is one journey which went through spirituality without earlier expectations. The desire for nature was surely rewarded, but the prize was even better with these spiritual additions in the form of beautiful churches which marked their presence on the way to Athirappilly. Saint Antony’s Church of Konnakuzhy was the most striking of them all, with the look of one of those Chinese civilization buildings in Age of Empires II, most probably resembling that of half-a-castle from the front side. It deviated from that East Asian building of the game, with three crosses – one of them Syrian, along with two stars which resembled the crosses. The centre of the structure had Jesus Christ stretching his arms and there were four other statues of saints, Mother Mary and Saint Anthony at both sides of the entrance. The blue colour shades made it clear that the structure was quite new and not of that world of tradition, most possibly a replacement for an older structure which might have found itself too small for the people on a Sunday. With a small, but beautiful curved altar with pictures which were rich in the beauty of simplicity was successful in giving that much needed close-to-divine feeling. It is said that there is always more than what meets the eye, and I would repeat it here, for there is the presence of God for sure.

Of the next two churches, one would be noticed by a wooden cross with its parts all tied up as if to keep it in shape, and the next one by the Pieta structure on its front. Both looked quite new, may be due to the paint or may be both were re-built on a date not too far away into the past. The second one seemed to depict modernity more than the first even as both showed very little attachment to any old tradition in architecture. The point to be noted is that the path taken was not through the much easier road from Angamaly as it was the road in better condition which turned from Chalakudy which was taken. This path surely had more spiritual elements with so many churches around while the other path might have gone closer to nature with smaller roads surrounded by greenery as well as Ezhaatumugham which would be on the way. The longer route still got more of Indian Coffee House, not just one, possibly two of them. In a world of outside food which is infested by bad shavarma, there would be not many who won’t long for a trustworthy place to have food, a place like Indian Coffee House which has been the perfect choice for better food for many Keralites; a place which I have known and visited ever since I was a little kid.

The journey through the greenery never ended, as the place had for itself a lot of it. The visiting time approved by Kerala Forest Department is supposed to be from 8AM to 6PM which meant that there was a lot of time for us to spend there. The first thing we see when we enter there are monkeys – not the humans who behave like the tree jumpers, but the real monkeys who are not related to Tarzan in any way. They are the creatures of the trees of nature who are disturbed only by the humans. Those who trace evolution from these creatures can surely go and live with them, for they were drinking and eating from whatever humans had left on the side of the path, including Frooti, Jumpin, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, 7up, Mountain Dew and everything they could get. When plastic is banned and people are not supposed to feed animals, the exact opposite things happen – one has to wonder what the word “ban” really means. If the animals were educated, they might have understood it better, for what is education these days but a rusty tool used to get jobs with good salary? There is surely no improvement of character or civic consiousness these days with professional courses which teach no value. All those basic human characteristics might be going down the drain with this one dimensional training suitable for circus.

The number of humans still outnumbered the monkeys by a large number, on a day which seemed to attract too many tourists. Therefore, there was a certainty that there won’t be any hostile takeover leading to a future Planet of the Apes. For now, the human existence will continue to harm their natural habitats. The number of people just kept on increasing as we walked down towards the end of the waterfall – that world was different now, and it has developed into a big tourist destination from what I had witnessed during a bike trip about six or seven years ago. That journey was surely more fun, but I wouldn’t be into that much fun anymore. It was the first big trip on a motor-bike, a Honda Unicorn which was new and running at exactly sixty kilometres per hour just for that much needed mileage boost – those were the days of immediate artificial awesomeness which faded away like evil at the gates of heaven, and now it is the season of long lasting beauty which is a permanent influence. Many of the devil’s people will find no difference between the two, but there is always a significant difference when the view point changes, and it is even more when the physical change is also visible easily.

As I don’t wish to make this more like Amitav Ghosh’s “In An Antique Land”, and confuse myself with my lack of knowledge of this world and the other which would be set ablaze by my strange imaginations, that bike trip would stay offline for now. There would be need to explain the scene of waterfalls as extremely beautiful. It is surely one of the most beautiful ones seen from this close a range, not exactly a perfect thing like Jurong Falls of Singapore, one of the tallest artificial waterfalls in the world; but a force of nature which has been weak in strength due to the lack of rain. But its beauty is not affected and during heavy rains, this would look gorgeous in another way. The view from the top is not much different either, even as it is the rock that we see more than the water falling from the top, but that scene also had its own beauty and this view might be more appealing to me than a stronger waterfall. The rock has its own beauty and its shape is not less appealing. The next destination would be Vazhachal Falls which is close enough, and there was another waterfall on the way which had almost dried up.

Vazhachal was not really the same as Athirappilly though, as it was not steep and had water flowing between rocks with a small inclination of the ground. But there was no question of the natural beauty around. It was viewed from that area which was built like a park which had a herbal garden and enough tea shops. The lines of Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” was quoted there on a board – “The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.” But it missed an “s”, of promises, may be they just had one promise to keep and I sincerely hope that they get to keep that promise. The waterfalls are lovely for sure, and therefore lets enjoy the beauty along with keeping the promises, our duty to the environment – by not exploiting the nature and abiding by the rules, for the rules are not meant to be broken and they are to be obeyed – if they were to be broken, why should they be called rules? Obedience might not be easy, and conscience is not a thing which enjoys co-existence with modernity, but there is a tradition, not only tracing back to Mahatma Gandhi, but even further behind the timeline upto King Mahabali, so lets live by the rules and keep this natural beauty clean and worthy enough for the future generations.

Diving out —>

TeNy