Category Archives: My Kerala

On Makravilakku

Since childhood I have heard ‘Makaravilakku’  is the Adivasi (tribals) conducting their Pooja . My earliest memories of Makaravilakku is listening to the live radio commentary while at my Father’s place in Harippad . I can feel the kitchen bench where I had sat with my father and I can smell my Grand mother’s curry in the air .

As a child I had thought of the place or “Ponnambalamedu ”  as a calm dwelling place of the tribals whose grand fathers might have known Ayyappan in person . But surely as there are no tribals there now somebody else is doing it now . Even though we would like to believe it to be the tribals .

It is true that now with LIve telecast and all it has been commercialized . ( We even got a call from a channel to place an ad for the 45 minutes for a huge amount . )

I have also heard that the ‘ Makara Nakshatram ‘ or the star can be seen from the near by districts during this time of the year . Sirius is the brightest star in the sky . ( something I learned while at 6th or 7th std along with my friend who was a space enthusiast )

I am not an authority . I am just a common Hindu . The point is information is available if you look for it and if you want to know the truth and if you don’t fall for the gimmicks and superstition .

People should have the wisdom to understand your beliefs and religion rationally and to respect others’ .

Anyway I believe and pray to the Supreme power which dwells inside me and is present every where . I would be gratified with praying at the temple any day . Makara Sankranti is just a change in the sun’s path . And was important when we were predominantly a agricultural society.

If at all this happens on its own ( which by now I know for sure it is not ) I would be interested to know the science and phenomenon behind it . Just like I am fascinated by the Garuda ( eagle ) which accompanies the ‘thiruvabharanam’ every year and then goes away. I am keeping my eyes and ears open . If anybody know the secret please do share.

I agree that it should be disclosed in public. Actually , the first thing that I said after knowing about the dreadful tragedy was that ‘ it is high time they make it public what goes on there ‘ . But it is also important that people accept it is endorsed for common good and not to scandalise a religion or belief.

People should accept the ritual as a part of History of Kerala . ‘That some tribals who lived there used to conduct a pooja at the time of Makara Sankranti and it could be seen from Sabarimala.’

At this point I can’t help remembering the rush and stampede and fight that occurs in front of the shrines and temples or public functions or queues where no magic is involved and the only point is ‘to be the first’ . I think it all comes down to self discipline and that includes me.

May the bereaved families find the strength to survive and peace in life . Nothing would change what they have lost .

A journey to the lap of Sahyas ( Silent valley)

Ever since  I read ‘River’s end‘ by Nora Roberts I have wanted to visit a forest reserve and to go on a trail . I am not one who speaks loud about my dreams . May be this is the first time any of you hear about my innate dreams .

Then after I turned to child driven learning I was inspired by Tiffany’s posts on their visits to National Parks . My search for National parks in Kerala ended at Silent Valley . The valley formed by the southern range of Western ghats or ‘Sahyas’ and Northern range of Nilgiri hills. One of the most protected regions of Kerala . ( By protection I mean from human interference or invasion ) 😛 One thing is the word has a pull in it . The place was named ‘Silent valley’ by the British as there are no crickets in this place and the forest is some what silent in the night.The western ghats and the rain forests have been one of my all time passions . And after almost a year of chasing the season there Hubby  booked at Parikrama travel agency a couple of  months back .

I love to plan for trips even more than the trip itself. I like to set every thing perfect , sit back and watch the family enjoying . Kids also  love to pack for the holidays . Where ever she goes Pearl takes her swim suit and dolls and is good to go. Ruby packs every single book he can find related to the place plus his comics and story books . They love to sing along with the music cds .We have this habit of visiting places during off season and we love to have the place to ourselves . This time also it was the same as it  was the Christmas eve .

We started early morning and reached Palghat by afternoon . If any of you pass Palghat at Noon see that you go to ‘Hotel Nalanda ‘ . Food is great . Especially sambar and the non-veg dishes .We stayed at KTDC ‘Tamarind ‘ . The valley is almost 20 kms from the hotel . But later we came to know there are tree top villas near to the park which could have been better choice . The entries to the park has to be booked in advance which is mandatory .Timings are from 8.00 am to 1 pm . There is a bus and few jeeps. No private vehicle is allowed .

We set out at 7.00 in the morning . Three of us ( me and kids) wearing camouflaged dresses and hubby in a blue kurta and jeans .

Inside the park it is real forest .  The trail has some tribal colonies and coffee plantations in the buffer zone .

Ruby looking down at the attapadi tribal village

The attraction to the place is not the animals but the forest . The undergrowth is very thick which makes it difficult to spot animals . For spotting animals Parambikkulam , Walpara , Karadimala etc. are more ideal choices . But as I have said earlier the name has a pull . With the classes on eco system and all just starting I wanted to introduce the kids to the habitat of Jungle.

Hubby asked the driver cum guide about the chances to come across big wild animals and he said people have come across bears and tigers but there have been no casualties yet . I prayed to God to spare my kids 😉 Once into the core area it is thick jungle . The environment changed and the sun light faded . Ruby kept on telling about the freshness of the air. On the way we got out of the jeep to see some black macaws and the silence pressed on us . It is a sweet and heavy feeling .

As a kid , I have always imagined this place to be the abode of Kapeesh, Pintu , Mottu, Peelu, Bandila, Balu,and all of them in ‘Poombatta’ . And it looked and felt the same !!!

The jeep carried us to a point called Sairandri which has a watch tower to see the mountainous beauty around. And that is the last point where any vehicle is allowed. In between I spotted two leeches on my feet. They seemed to be  great fans of geometric symmetry . We knocked them away and my feet bled for another two hours. Later I learned we can use salt to keep them away.

The watch tower is the high light of Sairandri . It is huge and even though climbing it is a bit tricky the view from up there is breath taking .

I stand here on the top of these mountains . The air is thick and resounds with all the poems written on the beauty of my land. Who would not want to write about this overwhelming beauty. I feel like a school girl listening intently to the Malayalam lessons . I bow my head to all those great poets who were moved by these immovable monuments of nature to pen verses even more beautiful .

The panoramic view reminded me of the beautiful lines from a patriotic song. ‘kaanuka kaanuka janma bhuvin komala malar meni’ which can be translated as ‘ come and see the gentle beauty of my mother land ‘ .

The Kunthi river as seen from the watch tower . It flows about 28 kms in the deep forest untouched by human hands. It is believed that Pandavas spend their hiding time during the exile in one of the caves near the river .

At Sairandri there is a forest museum with elaborate descriptions of the flora and fauna of the area. Every thing works with solar energy . The sound machine was not working . Instead Ruby mimicked some of the wild animals . 😀

We couldn’t go down to the river for the hike as the elephant herds were out and roaming and the trail was closed . They warned us there is no definite path to run back if the elephants came after us.  I was let down for a while. Anyway we couldn’t have walked 4 kms up and down with the kids. We saw some mountain squirrels and then started our way back.

On our way we came across forest turmeric, forest ginger, forest plantain , forest gooseberry …. Finally we got the trick we have to prefix every thing with forest 😀 We had started the safari early at 8.00 am and it was almost 1.00pm. Kids were getting tired. Sitting in the jeep I intently searched for lion tailed macaws up in the trees. Instead I was treated with a view of variety of birds, some more mountain squirrels and black macaws.

Then all at once hubby and the guide shouted ‘Tiger “!!! The cat came running from the level above our path and jumped to the next level. No. I didn’t see it . Neither did the kids. My eyes were fixed on the trees and kids were slumping on the front seat. Only hubby and the guide saw him. And the family who was with us was really disappointed. But with an open jeep and the beast running very fast probably in the midst of a hunt it was wiser to move on.  Anyway he ran into the forest and we couldn’t have followed him. Kids got very excited. The whole journey back was filled with tiger stories.

We were the ones dressed up in camouflage and all and Hubby was the lucky one to sight the real beast. And that is what I love most about him. He always get better of me without even trying. Even wild animals know who pays the bills hmm… I wonder how words get around in the jungle.

Back at the hotel we visited another nearby dam and the next morning started our journey back home.  On our trips we rely mostly on fruits and our car smelled like a fruit cart . We discussed in length about leeches, vampire bats , their mechanisms and unique features , hirudin , how they are used in medicine and lot more.  We talked about the geographical specialties of Kerala , the western ghats , monsoons , the different uses of dams , how rivers form from springs. We moved on to evolution , dinosaurs , tigers, leopards and jaguars . We congratulated the smart tiger for his eminent camouflage that made it impossible for us to see him 😦 We wondered whether lion is a cat or a dog and promised ourselves we would check it first thing after reaching home.

Ruby spotted  some terraced farming and mushrooms and wanted to take pictures so that he can take it to his class. We passed through boards which say ‘ Agali ‘ is only a few km  and Pearl couldn’t comprehend why the place was named ‘Ugly’ !!;)

I changed the music into the 80 melodies and Ruby drifted over to the pile of books he had brought from home on jungle animals. Once in a while he put his nose up to update us on some new endangered species . By the time we reached home Pearl had convinced herself that she had seen the back and tail of the tiger and all she wanted was the school to open 😉

Just like the numerous hoardings that welcomed us at Silent Valley announced , journey to a forest is not a picnic . It is a pilgrimage to find ourselves. It is a place where silence and time speaks to you . Even if we come across the wild we leave them on their way . And we do not litter . Man is only a part of the whole chain and nothing more. We have no right to disrupt the balance of Mother nature.

Dear Life insurance company,

Last week we got a phone call from a reputable Bank explaining that Pearl has secured a prize for some activity done at school and we should go with the child to their office  to collect the prize on January 3rd. We were in the midst of a trip and decided to keep it a surprise for a while . To be frank I wasn’t convinced enough . My paranoid mind always keep on searching for the catch in offers. Anyway we reached upon the conclusion that a reputable bank will not want to play games with something related to Kids .

I could not call up her class teacher also as she was busy with her son’s wedding. Recently there has been a lot of promotional activities in the school. Anyway in the hustles of the vacation , we forgot about the whole thing . But yesterday Hubby again received a call from them . This time he was alert enough to ask what the competition was and they said it was a painting contest.They even gave him a time for the prize distribution.

Hubby asked pearl, who was back from school about the paintings she had done at school and she had a big list !!! They both got ready to pay a visit any way . The only thing that would make him to drive into the hectic city would be the twinkling eyes of his daughter and the sheer joy to see her jumping with surprise on receiving the prize.

As I was just back from the town and all dressed up I also decided to join them.  I am not going into the trouble we had with parking once we reached there . Anything for our little Angel !!! It turned out to be the life insurance wing of the Bank. At the office we were welcomed with a perplexed look from every one . There was another parent , a mother and her son in the cabin . After some time they came out with the boy carrying a gift with great pride . He marched with the same twinkling eyes as our daughter’s .The mother again had a perplexed look and it was obvious that she came in a rush .

The sales promoter or Manager or whoever he is pasted a smile on his face and welcomed us. He said with great pomp that our daughter was a really lucky one to be selected from a large number of kids .We were very delighted and wanted to know all about it . And this was the conversation that took place:

Sales promoter : ” oh well , it was done as a part of our campaigning in schools . Almost 450 students participated in it . AS WE CANNOT BRING ALL OF THEM HERE WE HAVE SELECTED A FEW AND YOUR DAUGHTER IS ALSO ONE AMONG THEM “.

Me : ” So, it was done randomly ? “

Sales promotor : ” Ah, yes, randomly . Our office at Delhi ‘ went through the drawings’ (in low tone ) and ‘ other details of the child ‘ (in confident tone ) and your daughter was also selected .

He tried to strike a conversation with Hubby who knocked it off with the first sentence. So , that is it . They just wanted the parents to be there so they can relaxingly explain the scheme to us !!!

I don’t know what kept this man away from doing it . May be the killing look on my face , May be the fact that Hubby is a CA and there is no point in explaining , or may be he was in a hurry , or may be from the looks  he decided we wouldn’t invest in the scheme.Anyway he didn’t go on with the explanation as he did with the previous customer (the mother and the boy ) .

He just handed us a leaflet and said he has a complementary gift for us. I am cent percent sure he gave it to the boy as a prize and not as a give away . We were given a metallic platter which the family later decided unanimously is ideal for serving food for the pet dog. The bottom line is he wanted us to go through the leaflet and invest in their scheme.

I would have loved to see the drawing by my child.  or I thought they would have an exhibition of the best drawings in their notice box. I just love to see kids’ paintings. I very much wanted to see how my daughter’s thought process worked as a free individual. I don’t usually post rants on my blog . I like to keep this little space beautiful. But this one was terrible. If any of you receive such a phone call please don’t go unless you want to waste your time or you want a good for nothing rustic bowl with their name embedded on it or you want to invest there .The only thing that kept me away from giving that man a piece of my mind was the fact that I did not want to upset my child . And I am sure they count on it.

Being parents who believe in explaining to kids things as they are we explained with great effort to Pearl that she has been selected from a lucky draw and is not the winner . Back home we find her checking her paintings to see which one was selected.

Now I have this little letter to you Dear Insurance Company ,

Please do not make children your bait ! Do you want to build your empire on a lie ? And that too lying to a little child ?

How dare you meddle with other people’s precious time ?

It is okey to campaign for your product . But the whole process should have some credibility. I am not a good investor and I don’t know nothing about Life Insurance. But above any thing I am a mother who rejoices even the smallest steps taken by my children.

We would have really appreciated it if you have taken the effort to go through the paintings at least. You would have been remembered in our heart with a lovely note . And we would have seriously considered joining some plans for both our kids to acknowledge the good effort you have taken to encourage our child along with your promotional programme.

Please do not try to feed on a parent’s unconditional love to his/her child.



Wordless @ Western Ghats


Sunset

Farm and food

fruit

Plantain laden with fruit waiting for its owner .The sight that welcomed me when I went to my old house last week. We shifted from there seven months back.

I don’t miss the house , I don’t miss the land , I don’t miss my neighbours , I don’t miss the calm and quiet.

I miss my plants .

I miss the sparrow family that lived in our bed room sun shade . They also go to bed along with us . We hear them chirping even in the night .

The bulbuls that lived in the mango tree in the front yard . The sun birds and wag tails and the butterflies that frolicked my garden . The parrots , yellow mag pies and  mynahs that came in and out of the tree holes as they liked . The quail couple , spotted cuckoo and the group of crow pheasants ( uppan ) that visited the back yard. The Mangoose family .

The jasmines and tube roses in the front that I planted especially to fill the threshold with their sweet fragrance in the evenings .

Mandaram , Shoe flowers , Rajamalli , Kongini poo , Nandiarvattom, Golden trumpet flowers …. I miss them all.

Now , coming back to the Thursday challenge ,

Food

‘Paneer Pasanda’ as we called it . When we tried to make it at home after our scrumptious meal at ‘Oottupura ‘ , Vytilla.

Thursday Challenge this week  “FOOD” (Farmers Market, Vegetables, Meat, Cooking, Restaurant,…) Next Week: TOYS (Dolls, Games, Stuffed Animals, Athletic Equipment, Construction Toys, Art Supplies,…)

Where nature is the teacher