Wednesday, May 26, 2010

On a constant trip

This time, to Fish Pond, Njarackal. With Family and some ex-neighhbours. It’s a backwater picnic spot roughly about 22 kms from our home. The sky is a bit gloomy, with grey clouds and the sun hidden well within its frills. The weatherman (my better half) declares “it’s the perfect weather for some boating, and no it’s not gonna rain today”.

There’s a small foot-over-water bridge to get there. From there, we take a row boat to get to the other side of the fish pond. The men do the rowing. The rest of us do the yapping. The seat that I’m seated on is broken, and I’m trying my balancing act to keep my butt fixed somewhere, lest I slide to the centre where the wood is almost in splinters. Baby adds to the woes. She’s excited to be on a boat and jumping all over me. The sights around momentarily keep me preoccupied and I forget the butt on the broken wooden seat for a while.

Tranquil waters lined by coconut trees and mangroves. There are a couple of platforms built in the middle of nowhere (the pond) where we can stop by and drink-in the view around. But they were wrecked, so we ditch the plan. We reach a place by the shore where there’s place to sit down, fish, lie on a hammock, and generally enjoy the beauty of nature, so we dock there. We wade through the water, as we get closer to the shore. I almost lose my slippers in the sticky mud beneath the waters. We relax, snack, the kids try their hand at fishing and actually manage to catch one fish (we jump with excitement!), lie in the hammock tied between 2 coconut trees and while away time with no cares in this world.

The men take the row boat across and decide to bring two pedal boats instead (No, the men in the picture are not our men, they're fishermen rowing on their boats in search of their prize catch). We get in and pedal across the pond. Simply serene, beautiful and yes, very intoxicating (hope it doesn’t get addictive!). We sort of laze about, not wanting to go back to the concrete jungles and the madness. Then we get to food. We’re famished after the hours of pedaling. So dig in, without waiting for the word ‘go’. Fish curry meals. Daughter eats twice more than her usual capacity. Icecream for dessert. All of us grin silly.

We then head to a beach closeby. The place is called Milky Way. No Galaxy this. But a world of its own. Baby refuses to get out of the water. We linger on. The clouds get darker. There's a brief lull. The clouds close in and break into a drizzle. We dash to the car and drive away. Ah, a weekend spent well!

Monday, as we’re trying hard to get rid of the Monday morning blues, getting ready to get back to work, news that our maid is not coming back hits us like the storm after the calm. We’re wondering what to do, who takes leave to manage the kids et cetera, when hubby comes up with the idea that we could all take a trip to Alappuzha (where my maid is from) to speak to her, plead with her to come back. We jump into the car and get ready for the trip.

When we get there, she tells her sob story. Son and daughter-in-law fighting with each other when she’s away that it almost came to divorce, 2 little grand children, so she won’t be able to come back, and stuff.

We tell our sob story. Both of us working, baby is now used to having her around, it would be difficult to find another maid in a day’s time, school going to reopen in a week’s time and stuff. Baby adds to the sentiment by crying when we leave the place. We are desperate. We tell her that we’ll give her son a job as well. And she promises to come with her son the next day. We leave with hope resurfacing. Our spirits are lifted.

We go shop-hopping (Kallu shop, i.e., Toddy shop). Plenty of them around the place. Toddy shops are popular for their spicy-yummy delicacies & side eats – mostly fried fish, kappa and fish curry. Slurp, slurp! And then some pure sweet toddy. Daughters too have big gulps of the local drink. Now did they get tipsy? Must’ve, bcoz they sort of crashed in the car, soon after.

And what have we...some fine trips - some planned, some at the spur of the moment.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

From Queen of Arabian Sea to Queen of Hills

We set out on a journey. Hubby, 2 daughters, myself and my parents. A whole jing-bang (extended family) was to join us later in Coonoor. We drove down (or should I say uphill?) - From Cochin - the Queen of Arabian Sea, to Nilgiris - the Queen of Hills.

Day 1, Drive to Nilgiri (Blue Hills / Blue Mountain) enroute Thrissur & Coimbatore:
A rather long journey by road. Thankfully we had a few stopovers, visiting family and friends enroute. And the pleasant sights from Mettupalayam to Coonoor was a bonus. Coonoor is a place that goes back to my childhood days. I did my primary schooling, when my dad was posted there. From the time we reached Coonoor, the nostalgia was overwhelming. We were headed to my Uncle's place, in Railey Compound, which was where I lived (way back in the 80s). I could very clearly remember the road that led to the house I used to stay. Memories flashed before my eyes. Gulp! Never felt this way before.

Day 1, Coonoor:
Found a place to park. Had to walk down quite a few steps before we got to the house. Freshened up and set out, on foot. The whole of Coonoor is more or less connected by steps (the short-cut). Over 2 decades, and nothing much had changed. More houses, more people, more vehicles, more heat, more pollution perhaps. But still, it looked more or less the same to me.

We first headed to my old school, my alma mater - St.Joseph's Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School. My heart was racing. Gulp! Gulp! Gulp! as I walked down the memory lane. Many new blocks seemed to have come up. But my classrooms seemed intact. The steps where we used to play "Crocodile", the ground where we used to play "Dog and the bone", the auditorium where I sang, danced and participated in fancy dress competitions, the chapel, the garden, the cafetaria where I ate "delicious cocunut burfee"....brought back fond memories of my school days. I was excitedly playing guide to my hubby & elder daughter telling them sweet anecdotes of my past. I didn't want to leave. I even thought, maybe I should put my daughters in this school, so I'll have reason to come again, and again! But alas, I had to bid adieu, at least for the moment.

We then went to the marketplace. An old family friend who had a shop (provision store), still has the same shop, which got no bigger, just that there were a lot more things. She looked the same too. The veg & fruit market looked inviting and fresh as fresh can be. Met a few old family friends along the way. They'd seen me when I was a kid and here I was with 2 kids my own!

We walked and climbed and panted all the way. Railway Station, railway level crossing, small shops and everything around looked fascinating enough. My legs were literally begging for mercy (my elder daughter was riding piggy-back on hubby bcoz she got awfully tired with all that walking!), so we called it a day.

Day 2, Ooty:
To Ooty by train. As the train chugged along the hilly terrain, we took in the lovely sights around us. The quaint hilly town, the brightly coloured houses stacked up the hill, the rolling greens of tea plantation, the hills and valleys, the tunnels and everything else in between. Feast to the eyes!

Dodabetta (the 2nd highest peak in South India). The drive up was tiring with all those hairpin bends. But I guess it was worth it. Top of the world (err...South India)!

Boat House. A boat ride in the lake. The tall trees on all sides, blue skies above, a toy train entering the tunnel, crisp waters under, mist clad hills around.

Botanical Garden was a pretty sight. What with all the many varieties of flowers, trees and plants. The mist covered the place, slowly yet steadily. Picture perfect shots. The drizzle got us scurrying on our feet and we winded up for the day. Missed the Rose Garden (supposed to have 25000 varieties of flowers!).

Day 3, Kodanad View Point & Kotagiri:
A beautiful drive. Breathtaking sights uphill. We stopped for photo shots, memories for keeps. The view was absolutely stunning from the View Point. More pictures. We spent a while and resumed our journey back to Coonoor. The drive back was just as interesting. We stop by, the men take a leak. We christen the place loo-hills. And continue the journey downhill.

We passed by Kotagiri. Tea plantations, houses dotting the hills, hairpin bends (and baby puke!) and we finally reach Coonoor.

Day 4, Back to Queen of Arabian Sea, enroute Kotagiri and Coimbatore:
We started our journey back home. Road diversion because of peak traffic in weekend. We were asked to take the Kotagiri route.

"Kotagiri, here we come". A relative of my hubby is head of a provinciate. We became his guests of honour. He took us around the place. Not many adjectives left (used up all of them, haven't I!) to describe the place. You have to see it to believe it. Food on the house. And we resumed our journey.

3 weeks after the trip, Back to routine in Cochin:
Memories linger. Photographs do the talking. The trip was a good break from all the heat down here (sultry weather, routine work, yada, yada...). Looking forward to the next vacation already!

So long...