69. The Sleeping Beauty

@Thommankuthu, Kerala, India.

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This is something which would keep away from the original fairy tales of Charles Perrault or the Grimm Brothers despite of the title. As the author of this blog is not dead and the possibility of editing is always there, having such a fairy tale title would hurt no soul permanently. The elements of ‘sleep’ and ‘beauty’ would still reign supreme, for those are the things which makes the title not ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, ‘Snow White’, ‘Rapunzel’ or ‘Cinderella’. Thommankuthu Falls lie asleep with all its beauty at a location around eighteen kilometres from Thodupuzha; sixty three kilometres from Aluva; seventy two kilometres from Cochin. Our path was the one which touched Muvattupuzha and Thodupuzha; for a stop at the Indian Coffee House belonging to the former, was totally necessary, something which was becoming more of a great tradition which is going to pass on to the future generations through the legends, supported by fairy tales and vampire stories with the exception of the strange, pale Twilight’s twin sisters who are set to follow the footsteps of their elder sister who made a complete nonsense out of the vampire belief.

The path to Thommankuthu itself had the force of attraction; there was just raw scenery; small waterbodies and bridges which blend into nature as if they are all the same, belonging to Gaia, the children of one force; credit to whatever Uranus and Pontus provided, or even those which are adopted. This is one closer to the absence of that need to perfect terrakinesis. It was a suitable scene for a near perfect photo right before entering through that gate. There was also the presence of tea shops to attract the people of the tea, but it was not till the end of the program, that there was the fall due to the temptation of that immortal drink. Still, considering the fact that there is the need to keep breaking the narrative as tea is more important than most of the other things in the world, here skips the flow, just to say that the tea was awesome. That procedure of drinking the elixir of life should have happened before the journey for sure – but it was the last thing we did, which meant that all the weariness of the journey would be declared void, and the tiring feeling existed only during the journey through the Thommankuthu Eco-tourism Project, as it was named. As I can’t help but reiterate in a different way, the tea which followed the journy had paradiso or parts of it.

Yeats had his vision, and its time one should have his own; but the fact remains that the extensive study had to go beyond the curriculum, for which each journey could contribute; this time of nature, next time spiritual and some other time historical. But the presence of one of them in another is not to be avoided, as mixtures are common and solutions are even more readily available. The same is the case of Thommankuthu which is more of mixture and is slowly moving towards being a solution. Here is the ecotourism destination that is Thommankuthu which has its own undisturbed beauty of nature right from the beginning, or even through the path leading there, being the best and the right alternative to standard commercial tourism of heavy modernity. But the disruption of the virigin nature and its territories is not something which is not entirely absent. The use of plastic, even if banned, would always be present in these areas. There would be pollution and disturbance to the flora and fauna, but for now, it is not at that much of a high rate which would be alarming at the first sight.

The narrator, obviously myself, was at unfamiliar territory, through a path which was beautiful was awesome until it narrowed down right after that board which titled “Danger” preventing people from jumping into the incredibly beautiful stream of water and rocks. It was a great journey through an area of fresh air until those smaller paths at some height was at sight, and it was ‘almost the road’ which was not taken till then. I was less like the foreign teams at India and more like the Indian cricket team abroad; not really being done with the spin, but with the swing provided by the breeze. To be frank, this was written at a time when India was playing England at home, being the fake cricketing giants and the team of home specialists, as three of the fabulous four, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman has retired and the ‘home only’ players were doing awesome enough to make sure that their team lose – and the worst of them might have still failed to score. One still has to guess they will continue to do the same; as theres always fame and fortune which guides them – let them gain the much needed enlightenment in that way for its just the matter of how long it might take for them to reach the ultimate stage of pure tube light: just saying things in a more scientific way so that the people of modernity can follow.

However one looks at the matter, it is quite strange that the blind fans would support a payback with turning pitches which their team itself can’t handle; for it proves that one still lives hidden behind those narrow domestic walls instead of going abroad and getting the job done. When there is no grass, little assistance for pace, bounce, or lateral air movement, just cracks which make it look like some area of drought, it is also an insult to the nature which has blessed man with so much plenty and beauty. A loss because of doing such a pathetic thing is pure justice and it is clearly self-inflicted. When people yell for victories of this sort, there is the emphasis on those pathetic walls, even more emphasis than what was provided by caste, creed, community, religion and language – walls are everywhere, but does humanity or even the life force create a wall? Is there a fortress which keep the ideals safe? What would be the role of customs and traditions in this world which runs on profit and victory? The global teams like Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, AC Milan, Arsenal, Liverpool, Real Madrid and the plenty of beauty which is football might bring some of these bigger walls down and create smaller fences which might be a better thing – so might the awesomeness of Roger Federer and the machine that is Rafael Nadal. Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are surely into it too. They are present as the global spirit, not as heroes of selfishness.

Getting the narrative back into track from the narrow-minded one-man, one or two nation show that is cricket to the global football and tennis, and now to where this had started, the falls were many; not just the Thommankuthu Falls, but also everything which existed far above it on the way up through the green areas of natural beauty. Here one moves to the Universal Brotherhood of Nature which is a far more advanced thought than whatever is provided by modernity. The true legends are there, hidden in a philosophy of whatever is green; and this is what preceded the legends of antiquity and the ridiculous pseudo-legends of modernity to which this land gives not much value. What is to be seen in the modern world which boasts of a multi-cultural nonsense is that lack of tolerance, and those bullies are forever, until the Doomesday – the wheel has turned too much and it is the time for it to stop and spin backwards. There is a limit to what you should provide, Prometheus; kindly don’t be Victor Frankenstein, for there are promises to keep; if not, there are tragedies awating all of us: blame fate as much as you like, but you are the pilot of your defying Embraer, the driver of your own Cadillac, Ulysses of your majestic Galley, the master and commander of your soul for now.

Diving out —>

TeNy

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68. Heights of Certainty

@Vagamon, Kerala, India.

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Vagamon, one of the rising hilly tourist destination is located around a hundred kilometres from Cochin and Angamaly, 96 kilometres from Alwaye and 62 kilometres from Kottayam which should also have the nearest railway station. Listed by National Geographic Traveler as one of the ’50 most attractive places to visit in India’, the beauty of the place is not something which could give rise to a dispute. The place of Vagamon as a tourist place in comparison to the other prominent hill stations like Munnar, Ooty, Coonoor and Kodaikanal should be less undisputed though, as it is more of a place of lesser hilly experience, not just because of low level commercialization, but also because of the seemingly lesser heights and those easier curves along with much less fuel burnt along the way. This is when considering the route which takes a right turn before Moolamattom, on the way to Ilaveezhapoonjira, not taking that upcoming right turn which would lead one to that place with that long a name, which was mentioned a few posts ago. The other route might be less traveled, longer by about five kilometres, and more beautiful, but would be more difficult to drive with its twists and turns supported by steepness. May be it is more upto the winner of the battle between the driver and the photographer, the fuel-saver and the nature-poet to decide.

There was the absence of the feeling of a ‘coldling’, as I would call it, derived from the frostlings whom I encountered as a gamer in Age of Wonders and World of Warcraft. There was simply not enough fall in the temperature which I had experienced before rising to those heights, even as there was some rain in the last few days. This absence was a sad thing considering the fact that it was a visit to a hill station, or whatever was close to that. A visit during a Christmas night might undoubtedly make that feeling go away, but Ooty, Coonoor and Munnar during the cruelest months of horrid summer had felt much better. This might have a boon for some and bane for many, and for me, it was surely the latter. Even the tea couldn’t play a significant enough role, as the plantations were very less and the tea outlets were rarely found. There was absolutely no variety in the tea even as the wonderful drink didn’t taste any less in Vagamon either. But still, tasting chocolate tea, masala tea, ginger tea and whatever might have been, was that experience I had longed for even at Vagamon. This added to the list of those failed tea expeditions, as even those tea plantations looked comparatively dull.

There were a number of trees which seemed to support a re-writing of ‘The Wasteland’ and calling for a few people to wait for Godot under them right under that fire-breathing brother of Selene and Eos. It was the time of the titans at Vagamon, and the winged chariot was steady, spreading its own version of heat to the people far away from shade, and one has to wonder if those wheels might also be burning at a rate close to supernova – when mentioned as ‘hot wheels’, everything is becoming more and more closer to the literal meaning; I wouldn’t doubt that we are surely closer to the apocalypse, for Sol Invictus could bring the armageddon on Earth singlehandedly. The absence of enough restaurants is another thing to contribute to this depressing Sol hunt. There were only the smaller ones which would force oneself to have Porotta which is considered the abomination of the stomach next only to Shawarma the ruthless murderer a.k.a the assassin of the chicken devouring monster. The option of rice might be present, but with not much curry choices, one would be disappointed. Whatever else would be left, I would have to avoid considering my determination to keep myself as close to being Vegetarian as possible. That was a time when one had to dream about an Indian Coffee House rising from the world of Hades and Persephone.

The churches of Vagamon reminded more of Philip Larkin’s Church Going rather than giving strength to the belief. It is more of a sleeping town, with not many option in the form of shops, unlike Munnar, Ooty, Coonoor or Kodaikanal. This is a place which has not lived upto the reputation as a self-sufficient destination for the tourists. There is the need to depend a lot on Thodupuzha as well as Muvattupuzha. Its scenic valleys and pine forests would still help it on being that powerful future destination for sure. A little more importance to tea would help a lot too. The green meadows would come first for me in that case. They are so enchanting that one tends to forget that it exists in this part of the world. Surrounded by mountains with lake in between, the return of a faint memory of the Lake District would not be something totally unexpected. Some mist or fog might have helped the situation, but at that time, there was just Helios, myself and more humans coming and adding to the noisy crowd providing not a micro second of peace to that world which might have inspired thousands of people with eternal silence of a cursed mouth, for not just Alan Sillitoe has to deal with the loneliness of long distance runners – we are all runners and we run marathon, some feel it is just a walk, but it is surely not so; for one has to be that much honest and thus stay that close to truth.

Those bald hills stood there; the were green-headed people, might have been aliens on another planet sent by the engineers. Pardon me, Prometheus, for thou shalt not be avenged this time, for this beauty is quite spectacular. The small question for the need for the green aliens is a sane demand and it has to be fulfilled; for all these are not forever, and when we have it, let us celebrate this and try our best to extend the lifeline. Let us do the right thing at this moment. One day, one might have to say mea culpa a hundred times, but let that day not come and pray that mother nature do survive all onslaughts. May the presence of Kurisumala, meaning ‘mountain of the Holy Cross’ guide us in this. Kurisumala monastery is also situated on the Kurisumala hill. There is the solo reign peace around disturbed only by some unnecessary yelling by a few two-legged creatures claiming to be awesome beyond intellect. The hill serves as a famous pilgrimage center for the Christians with crosses put-up on the way up.

There are also the diary farms and beautiful areas to pose for a photo, still not as much as I expected, for mine were the great expectations fueled by the journeys to Munnar, Ooty and Coonoor. This was the first place to be visited, and my order was flawed, should be my mistake – for it should have been from Vagamon to Munnar and then Coonoor to Ooty combined with Kodaikanal. But now all that has been done is done, and Vagamon will be remembered by me as the Little Munnar and the Lesser World of Tea; still Vagamon continuing to be that place of beauty which comes incredibly close to making some one a nature poet of the Lakes. It is somewhat the Lake District and a bit of Scotland, but what awaits Vagamon is yet to be seen – further tourism always creates something, and there are times when it is a ten headed monster. For now, lets enjoy what awaits in Vagamon and be sure to bring those packets of food rather than depending on the restaurants except for some tea and ice cream.

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