79. Thy Tourist Village

@Kumbalangi, Kerala, India.

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There has been not many places that I have known for this long a time, but Kumbalangi certainly remains one of them. I remember going there with my parents in a boat, as it was more of an island without a bridge rather than just another remote village. There was quite a long time spent looking at the backwaters waiting for the boat. I would wonder if that had given birth to some creativity which I kept for myself. I used to be afraid of the time spent on the boat, and always believed in death by water kept ready by the Grim Reaper himself. But the fact remains that I have traveled there more when there was no bridge, and less when there came that bridge. Thus are the games which fate plays on us. There is no doubt that the place has gotten better, but the fact remains that I myself has no longer the interest nor the need; but I did visit the place a few months ago contradicting my thoughts about not going.

It is located about fourty to fifty kilometres from the Cochin International Airport, and about fifteen kilometres from the Ernakulam South Railway Station. Yes, the place is well connected and there are more than one routes to reach there. There is an older road from the other side of the island, but it is quite a long one which is not recommended due to possible rise in the water levels and the condition of the roads. The first one may be the most commonly used and the most crowded path which goes through Edappally, Palarivattam and Kaloor, going through M.G. Road, and the another one is the same road which takes a small deviation which goes through Ernakulam Jetty and passes near the High Court and these two roads join together later as if they are made for each other. Both routes have lots of city service private buses and Thiru-Kochi buses of Kerala State Road Transport Corporation along with AC and non-AC low-floor buses of Volvo and Ashok Leyland make every fifteen minutes or twenty minutes apart from each other making this the most desirable route if travelling by public transport.

The two were the roads which we used to take when I was a kid, during those journeys to Kumbalangi in the city service private buses which remained the only choice at that time. The second one can be joined by a road which takes right turn from Kalamassery – the Vallarpadam Terminal Road which has the least amount of traffic and has the better roads except for small areas which should have some potholes and unexpected rising of terrain. The next one has a number of busy junctions on the way which goes through Edappally, Vyttila and Marad joining the other road on the new bridge to Thoppumpady, a route having tolls, but not too much to be spent – not that crowded except for those big junctions. Just be aware of the Vyttila junction which might be the busiest interjunction around despite the size of the roads. This road can also be joined from Thrikkakara and Kakkanad if a left turn was taken from Kalamassery towards the HMT junction. It is a clear one road from the airport to Aluva though, as the other possible routes towards the Perumbavoor side are more of the unreliable ones.

You can visit Kumbalangi when you go to Fort Cochin or Mattanchery, taking a deviation from Thoppumpady. The first thing you notice is surely the backwaters and the Chinese fishing nets which are located around – just like a visit to Fort Kochi. Kumbalangi is actually more of a cheaper alternative to Fort Kochi and Mattanchery even as there is not much of a history out there, with Saint Francis Church, Santa Cruz Basilica, Dutch Palace or the Jewish Synagogue, and the development also might seem less. But Kumbalangi Integrated Tourism Village project has been transforming the village and the visit is going to be totally worth the money. The island also has its smaller but beautiful churches, that is for sure – a good number of them on the sides of the main road itself. They are symbols of faith and belief which has disappearing from the world at high speed. I have known most of those churches for quite a long time and did attend mass at more than half of them. There is that beauty in simplicity and serenity out there.

Kumbalangi is the first Model Tourism Village in India, and thus has undergone quite a transformation which has not ceased yet. There is financial assistance from the state government, and the procedure has seen increase in the number of tourists who come to the place, but there is not too much rush till now. It is indeed blessed with natural beauty which has not been seen or explored much. There are smaller roads and not many bigger shops and restaurants are around, but that doesn’t take away anything. It is the ideal destination for everyone who wishes to keep away from the crowd and enjoy peace and calmness with nature supported by whatever joy the backwaters bring. There are many interesting and cheap packages for the same. It will be good if you add the place to the list when you travel to Fort Cochin and Mattanchery, as that should make a good combination. May be you can go through Kumbalangi and reach Fort Cochin through the other side of the island thus going through the centre of the island.

If you do go to Kumbalangi, there is Kallanchery which you can visit. There is also a resort of three acres, surrounded by the awesomeness of backwaters there, called Kallenchery Retreat which is a very beautiful place to spend time – it is Kallenchery Retreat (http://www.kallancheryretreat.com/) and you can check that website for more details. There are not many places like that around. Check this website and you will know about a miraculous church which you won’t want to miss – situated at Kannamaly at the end of the island (http://kannamaly.com/news/kannamali-church/) and the festival there is very famous as people from all parts of Kerala comes there for blessings. I hope none of you will miss that church and it will be even better if you are there for the feast. It also has a history as the first church there goes back to 1745. It is also the native village of our honourable minister of food and agriculture, K.V. Thomas who has also written a book about the place, Ente Kumbalangi. When you visit South India, take your time and have a look at one of the most beautiful backwater villages of South Asia at a cheap rate and a lot of happiness.

I would like to leave you with these images of Kerala Backwaters. (Check Kerala Tourism’s latest campaign on the most fascinating waterworld on Earth @ http://greatbackwaters.com/)

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Diving out —>
TeNy

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63. The Mist 1408

@Munnar, Kerala, India.

The Mist and 1408 are two of my favourite Stephen King works, and undoubtedly two of the best horror movie adaptations from a work belonging to the horror genre. As my journey to Munnar is concerned, it had both; there was the mist which blocked the view as if to let those creature from the other world gain entry undetected by the mortals, as well as the number 1408, on a white car’s number plate which wasn’t clearly noticed in the fog; it could have been an Alto or a slightly bigger four-legged monster of the mist, but one can’t be that sure with an eye which had not only the fog, but also the rain to fight with. I could not still feel that it was the beginning or Armageddon or a failed scientific experiment; there could not have contact with another dimension of the world or another alien species as it should have been more convincing of inferno in that case. Still, the car number 1408 could have been more significant in adding to a certain horror effect, but that would have been for the people enclosed in that particular room which is a four-wheeler in this case. This one surely didn’t hit a dead end and the ending was a happy one; no loss – not even the loss of imagination or fancy. I don’t know if it could have satisfied Stephen King into a novel, as the Coonoor-Ooty trip had a more novel-inspiring background, except for the mist, and this one would just inspire poetry and philosophy.

As The Mist had thunderstorms and 1408 had internal thunderstorms, the same was what existed at Munnar, but at a significantly lower rate and for a much lesser period of time. The creature which came close to making that mist an event of alien invasion was a honey bee who tried to tresspass into human territory through the window, and the closest thing which came closer to creating a 1408 effect by that car was when it came that near our car and also the rest of the four-wheelers around – thus lacked the intensity of the room by a thousand miles. The mankind’s tampering with nature and the work against God’s will might make a horror effect sooner or later, but not during that time. At that moment, photography was the more important thing. The mist that created the mystery feeling had to be a significant part of each photo taken during that one hour or two, mostly because of the fact that nothing much was visible during that time from a distance. All these would change on the very next day though, as the view without this fog would be of lots of greenery and mountainous areas all around, with trees and plants which made an impact complimenting the rocks in the photos. This was the journey from Munnar to Chinnakanal, through the smaller roads with tea plantations on both sides along with all the features of an area higher than the high ranges.

For a journey which started with mist and the number 1408, it had to be that much of a success with three times the box-office collection compared to its cost like The Mist, or even five times the production cost like 1408 with 73% critical rating like the former or even 78% of critical approval like the latter – or at least living upto the IMDB user rating of 7.3 or 6.8, possibly somewhere in between. There would be no stars like John Cusak, Samuel Jackson or Laurie Holden, and the trip still had to be a good story to talk about. To be frank, it was a trip close to perfection, still not extremely close enough. The journey was so much similar to the Ooty-Coonoor trip, as there were the mountains, greenery and twisted roads throughout the path, and tea was obviously the most common thing. Munnar seemed to have more tea plantations around – it was thus for the human eye, but there were less tea factories and outlets to visit; wonder Tata is not interested in letting people into their factories as their smell would ruin the taste of tea. There was the tea museum, but it was closed on Monday and it was that day of the week which made sure that Tata experiences are basically not that good for me, whether it was with my Tata Indica, Tata Indicom phone connection, Tata Photon Plus internet connection or even a Tata Nano which I might have bought, but I didn’t. It was almost like everything belonged to Tata, but none of use to me.

A comparison with the other recently visited hill stations like Ooty, Coonoor, Kandy and Nuwara Eliya would prove this trip different just because the presence of both heavy rain and powerful fog which were missing at the other places. It is probably something which could have occured the other way around, but this situation just made Munnar much cooler than expected and falling in temperature compared to my last two visits which happened about six or seven years ago and before that, within the same time gap. Before reaching the land of three rivers, this time there was a stop at Adimali, as there was the church and Rosary Park which added the spiritual feeling for a journey to the clouds. There were also other churches on the roadside itself, and surrounded by greenery, they might be the perfect worship places. The CSI Christ Church and Mount Carmel Catholic Church are the two church structures in the town which adds to the spiritual beauty and combines it with the physical factors. The former is a small, but marvellous structure which would seem older than it really is; the mostly-stone building and its painted windows are joy to watch. The latter looks as old as it might be, and is located at a higher ground just like the former, adding to its age is its simplicity which would suit a spiritual centre located so close to nature.

The journey from Munnar to Chinnakanal was surely the best part, with tea plantations all around and the fog which reminded me about The Mist – still what would come to mind more than tea on that occasion? It was the time to be close with tea even before it was really tea; it was the time to take photos surrounded by tea leaves as if it was home; after all, home is where the heart is – as some would say. Drinking tea was the next big thing – the advantage of being at most of the hill stations is surely about drinking great tea, as proven at Ooty and Coonoor, even as places like Ceylon has good tea throughout; blessed are the tea leaves which bring the best for the mortals – something for which Tata has to be applauded, even as this is just something which was not started by them but by the Chinese. Sometimes, the peace of Devikulam also comes to the mind; Chinnakanal is no less peaceful an area though even if there are too many resorts around. But the same cannot be always said about Mattupetty, as it turned out to be a little noisy and dirty and not that much of a treat to the aesthetic sense as it used to be. The Indo-Swiss Project and the Masonry Dam still looked fine, but other than that, there seemed to be an eclipse, including the lake itself and all the waste which seemed to surround the water body which used to be more beautiful.

Eravikulam National Park would live to be visited another day considering the time which was to be spent there. Anayirangal Dam didn’t have much to boast about and so was the closed waterfall at Chinnakanal. Both were like the tragic failures of that journey. The tragedies were to be forgotten by more tea and the homemade chocolates, especially the white ones and a few dark ones for a change. I would watch The Mist and 1408 to add to it soon. The objective co-relative might not be invoked yet, but there is still that connection which lies beneath the viewable surface of the mortal world. It is to this connection that all the compasses would point to, and it is that vision of those direction markers which would guide me with that particular way of thinking which fills my mind. There is no need for any supporting navigator the stars to be the guide, as there was none at Munnar, Ooty or Coonoor – the journey was always better with no unnecessary guidance. Munnar will be the same town, no matter how much one plans – at the end of the day, the tourist attractions which one ends up looking at might be just the same, supported by a guide or a guide book; the journey takes the mortal everywhere as if he was destined to be there.

Diving out —>

TeNy

60. The Night Riders

@Angamaly, Kerala, India.

On that day of darkness which most of the earthlings would call night, I had that lone drive to Angamaly which sparked that memory which was recalled and initiated with a cup of tea a few kilometres from the destination. For something which was powered by tea, there was surely the memory which consisted of the immortal drink of the common man, but the town remained the topic of that night; that time, it was about the destination and not tea, the latter which served only as the path – the motivator. Supported by a number of English songs which served as the gasoline for that moment, those which were to point directly to some random destination in England or Scotland, they actually led to that place, as the compass showed one direction and the memories followed to travel and reach that place which was a lot closer; but memories needed no petroleum products.

That journey was something which happened a few years ago and after reaching Angamaly, the first thing to notice was surely the St. George Basilica with its dome giving a great sight from a distance adding a certain amount of magnificience while entering the town from this side of the National Highway, which is the path coming from the Cochin side, while St. Joseph’s Church would catch the attention faster from the other side, with its own dome is definitely a closer thing to the road. The former and the latter should be that noticeable; new and closer to giving a great sight to the human eye, and may be also to the eyes of the angels of the other world who travel beyond the dimensions; at the same time driving the demons of Hell away, with its own uncrowned champion getting the worst of the creatures made of clay, due to their devotion which could make the power of hellfire submit.

The Basilica might be one of the biggest churches in India, if not the largest the biggest of the newer church structures of this century located at this part of the world. At Angamaly, which has been one of the main centres of Christianity in its early days, stands this church building which is a thing of beauty as well as spirituality. Its architectural beauty could take no second seat as it looked that awesome, even if it lacked the usual old-style characteristic which could have lead the mind to another world, for it would have suited the land better; still what the new structure gave was no thing of less importance in a world of no devotion, belief or faith to guide humanity in the right path. It can be for this world or the other, but it would serve, and as John Milton would say, stand still and serve like a few angels who successfully avoided the temptation of the fallen one who spoiled that wonderful opportunity to serve at the right place rather than to rule at the wrong place.

When looked from the outside, its the dome and the two towers of the front which might gain all the attention, but once inside, the window glasses steal both the heart and the brain. They are so beautiful and when the light passes through them, there is more of that divine feeling added to that already existing beauty and the feeling is more of being out of this world. The windows keep reflecting the light to the floor and the feeling of divinity continues to reach another level. One can look at all sides, upwards, downwards and everywhere there is that great feeling of beauty which exists throughout the structure with its spirituality. It is that domain of prayer which is not just a material thing, but something which would continuously touch the inner soul; raises that faith and belief, calls one’s spirit to that new dimension of never ending hope.

St. Joseph’s Church of Karayamparambu should be something new. It is easily visible from the side of the National Highway and is mostly one huge dome and not that huge a structure as it seem to be. The dome comes at the front area of the church building and it gives the structure a great view, along with those statues of the saints adorning the area just below the dome, supported in beauty by the cherubs on the front gate. Inside the dome, there are the pictures of various saints as well as those of various incidents in the Bible. The altar is also very much something of beauty and the feeling inside continues to be great. There is nothing in there not to be noticed, and being a smaller structure doesn’t take anything out of it. There is also the greenery not too far away from the location of the church, not planning to leave the beauty just to its architecture.

Located so close to the Cochin Airport at Nedumbassery and having its own railway station, along with having one of the best bus stations around, Angamaly is surely fast developing and in that process, it would add more to the memories which are to be awakened by another night ride, next time that ride itself would be a memory which would stay alive for a longer amount of time, not to haunt and not confuse, just to provide enough to keep them steady in the mind, as it would deserve as that town of importance, located that close to those pilgrim centres of supreme importance, Malayattoor and Kalady; for it is that gateway and it can only be extended and get better. The memories also would have the same opportunity, and it is for them to take and use during one of those journeys and fill the mind with them without an opportunity to overflow.

Diving out —>

TeNy