Monday, December 11, 2006

Pilgrimage to Kumbakonam

Pilgrimage to Kumbakonam.

This pilgrimage was undertaken by both of us, with the aim of Anu’s soul attaining peace and for protecting all our children ( Aish,Dee,Rahul,Mahesh ) grandchildren ( Jui & future ones) from any harm. This was also to invoke God’s Blessings for a life full of happiness with peace of mind for the whole family.It is said that if we visit these temples in our lifetime ,from now on five generations will be protected from all evils.Believe it or not, These Temples are as old as 3000 to 3500 years old .Huge temples ,beautifully carved .each one special than other ,well maintained .
Poojas/Archanas were done in all temples,lamps were lit for all including Jay, Nirmla, Aish, Rahul, Jui, Dee, Mahesh, Anu, and future generations also. Special extra poojas were done for names mentioned in brackets .
Temples visited on 5/12/06- by autoricksha from 8 a.m. till 6 p.m
Swami malai.( Jay,N,Aish,Rahul)
One of the 6 important temples for Lord Muruga, 5 kms from Kumbakonam. surrounded by lots of greenery. Muruga gave the meaning of OM to Lord Siva. You climb steps, not too, many to reach the temple. On the way to Alangudi from here, don’t miss seeing Udaiyalur agraharam, an old village with old world Tamilnadu houses normally seen only in movies now.
Alangudi ( Jay,Rahul,Mahesh )
This the temple of one of the navagrahas, Guru. It is 17 kms from Kumbakonam. Special shrine for Dakshinamoorthy is also famous.
Thiruppuvanam ( Anu)
Lord Sarabeswarar- a wonderful temple. The idol of deity is almost animal. Very huge temple. Kanjanur ( Mahesh)
This the temple for one of the 9 planets, Shukran. Small temple , believed to be very powerful.
5. Thirunageswaram( N)
This is temple for one of the 9 planets, Rahu. Pooja was done during Rahu Kalam ( considered inauspicious to start anything in life). Wonderful temple, well organized, poojas done by priests very piously and nicely.
Thiru mangalakudi (N)
This is 17 kms from Kumbakonam, temple devoted to Siva Parvati. Special yellow thread is given to ladies after pooja.Gave Annadhanam in the name of N.

Suryanar koil ( Jay,N,Mahesh)
This is one of the most important temples dedicated to Lord Surya, along with mini temples for all the 9 planets. If you do pooja here, you need not visit all the planets temples. 9 archanas, 9 lamps, 9 circumbulations, 9 poor feedings were done for each one.Most beautiful temple .

Temples visited on 6/12/06 ( by car). Started by car after breakfast at at 7 a.m. We traveled nearly 175 kms today with stopover for lunch at Vedaranyam.

Nachiar koil.
This Vishnu temple( unscheduled stop) is on the way to Sri Vanjiyam. Nice temple town , almost full of muslims, with a huge hindu temple. This is a temple for Tirupathy Lord Balaji’s elder brother. Uppiliappan .The idol is as good as it is at Tirupathy. There is a big bird Garuda ,called Kal Garudan, believed to remove all enemies of your life just by looking at it.
Sri Vanjiyam ( Jay,Aish,Anu)
This Siva temple has a special temple for Yama, Lord of death. We washed our feet in temple tank and did poojas for Yama for all. This is a big temple with not many people around. Lord Siva is called Vanchinatha Swamy .
3 .Vedaranyam( Anu)
We reached this Siva temple only by 1 p.m. after passing Velankanni and seeing the effects of Tsunami ( remembered Anu). Talked to Aish and Dee from a booth. We had a peaceful nap on the lawns of the temple after lunch at a nearby mess.
We had to wait till 5. 30 P.M. for the temple to open.
Sikkal. ( Rahul)
Temple of Lord Muruga. Small but nice temple. The carving and figures on gopuram are fantastic here
Thiruvarur.( Anu)
This is birth place of many saint including Lord Thyagaraja, our ancestor. We visited his house, where he was born and lived.. Very huge wonderful temple. If you have time,see Sri Guru Dasamurthy Swamigal Madam in Madapuram , 1 km from temple. This place is famous for getting children for childless couple and for curing many incurable diseases connected to stomach.( told to us by a swamy in Vedaranyam)
Thiru nallaru.(Aish,Rahul,Dee,Mahesh)
This temple is dedicated to one of the most powerful and destructive planet Sani.
We did very good poojas here, lighting lamps for all. There was a special ceremony of deity being taken around the temple on a Garuda vahana in the presence of Chief of 27 temples of the area.We completed this by 8 p.m. took dinner in Murugan Mess, very homely, family managed affair. Left for Thirukadaiyur, through Keelakarai( birthplace of all muslim smugglers including Haji Mastan ).

Temples visited on 7/12/06.

1.Thirukkadaiyur ( Jay,N,Aish)
We visited early morning at 7 a.m. This Siva temple is also big with special temple for Markandeya, who was given the boon of living the age of 16 for ever. It is also a place where husband and wife perform 60th birthday marriage celebration. We found 6 of them going on the same time at 7 .30 a.m. Here dad was so tempted and asked me “will you marry me again “I was as usual very shy like a coy bride.
2.Ananda Mangalam ( N)
A very small village temple of Anjaneya, with one of the most beautiful idol of Hanuman with 10 arms.Temple priest performed the puja very well in the morning.gave 200 Rs for the Yearly Anjaneya aradhana.

3. Keezha Perum Pallam (Jay)
This temple is dedicated one of the planets Kethu. Another small village temple
4. Thiru vengadu ( Jay,Dee,Rahul)
This temple is dedicated to one of the planets, Budhan. This is quiet a big temple.
5. Sirkazhi.(Rahul)
A very huge Siva temple in a big town, with three layers of temple one on top of other. It contains in the second level a big idol of Siva and Parvati( usually Siva is in the form of linga only, but here in the form of idol.priest asked us to look at the idol and ask for whatever favours you want .you will defenetely blessed ,he said.; Parvati looks at you from the corner of her eye called Kadaikan). The third level Siva is called Sattanather.
6. Vaideeswaran koil
This is a famous temple( unscheduled stop) for Siva with special temple for one of the planet Sevvai ( Tuesday). They give you Jaggery to be dissolved for each of the family to remove all diseases of the body, put salt and pepper in a big urn to get rid of evils. This is the place where Siva removed sickness of Sevvai planet acting as a doctor(Vaidya). This is the place of Nadi Sastra, where 20 Valluvar family members practice for the past hundreds of years, reading a persons past life, present and the future life, including telling the poojas to be done to get rid of problems in the present life.

Thiru pampupuram.( Aish,Rahul,Mahesh)
A very small village temple dedicated to Siva with a special temple for Rahu/Kethu in one rare idol. This temple is fully dedicated to Snake God.
( Pambu). We meditated under a tree for 15 mts (good for the family).priest gave us a special vibuthi and said that after 40days see what good changes will happen.
Thiru vadaimarudur.
This Siva ( Maha linga swamy) temple is really big.An unscheduled stop to see a beautiful temple. The evening Aarti at 5.20 p.m. is one of the best I have ever seen in my life, worth going all the distance.

Temples visited on 8/12/06.
Thiru vaiyaru.( Anu)
This Siva temple is special for Anu, as all of us spent 5 days on the banks of Cauvery river listening to music day and night during the world famous Sri Thyagaraja aradhana Festival a few years ago.The temple itself isvery old and very big. There is a special meditation Mandap where Panch bhootas
( earth,water,fire,air,space) Lingas are kept. This is a place where sages meditated. The vibration and peace is phenomenal.We meditated there.
We visited the samadhi of Sri Thyagaraja swamy (our ancestor).by the cauvery river side.

Tips :
. Note that all temples in Tamilnadu are closed from 12 noon till 4 p.m. Use this time for lunch and travel between temples.

Unforgettable moments

Drive through green field in auto
Muruga idol at swamy malai
Udaiyalur agraharam
Animal like Sarbeswarar idol at Thiruppuvanam.
Loveliest home lunch on plaintain leaves at Mami’s Mess.
Divinity and organized way pooja and abhishekha done by priests at Rahu temple at Thirunageshwaram
Power of Surya at Suryanar koil.
Early morning pooja at Nachiar koil. And Kal Garudan
Small,but powerful Sri Yama temple at Srivanjiyam
Scenes of effects of Tsunami, remembering Anu
Nirmala sleeping on the lawns of temple at Vedaranyam, after lunch at Mamis mess.Butterflies and birds ( parrots, myna,wagtails, hoopoe) around her.
Holiness of Thiruvarur, where all musical trinities ere born, land of our ancestors. Did we all live there in our earlier Janmas ?
Garuda vahana utsav at Thiru nallaru, at 7 30 p.m. and subsequent family dinner.
Seeing joy in the faces of 60th birthday couples getting re-married at Thirukkadaiyur.
Beautiful idol of Anjaneya at Ananda Mangalam.
Siva/Parvati idols at Sirkazhi.
Sitting in front of idol at Vaideeswaran koil.
Meditation under a tree at Thiru pampu puram.
Evening aarti at Thiru vadai Marudur.
Meditation in mandapa at Thiru vaiyaru.
Sitting on parapet on the banks of Cauvery at Sri thyagaraj samadh at Thiru vayyaru.
The beauty of carving on many temples.
The holiness in the atmosphere of the land itself
The sheer huge size of temples, making us feel insignificant in the Grand Plan of God, the same feeling we got in the Himalayas.
The good , pollution free atmosphere, good tasty food everywhere, good quality of rice, milk,vegetables. The goodness, helpful, simple nature of people, missing in cities.The green fields. Clean and well maintained temples.

How to go ?

Best way from Bangalore is by Mysore Mayiladuthurai express leaving Bangalore at 7 p.m.and reaching Kumbakonam at 6 AM .or even you can go upto Mayiladuthurai.
( also called Mayavaram)

Where to stay ?

Kumbakonam : Hotel Sri Selli in TSR Big street , Kumbakonam, the cleanest in town ( 0435-2431118).

Thirukkadaiyur : The hotel Mookambikai residency at Thirukkadaiyur Tranqubar Taluk, Nagaui Dist 609311- Tel 04364- 287515/ 287748, is really 4 star with gas water heaters (like the ones we used to have at TCC Dammam). Contact person : ms.Rajeshwari or Mr. Asai
Where to eat ?
Kumbakonam : Hotel Archana for light refreshment. Lunch at Mami Mess ( ask any auto guy)

Local travel ?
Kumbakonam : ask for auto Swaminathan at Kumbakonam railway station, a good guy

For taxi : Sri Swaminatha Tourist-Ph 98658-62712- Mr.M.Nagarajan-owner.- Rs 1300/-. Per day for 200 kms.

Priests :

Thirubhuvanam : Contact Sri.G.Sundaramurthy Gurukal 44/101,Sannidhi street, Thirubhuvanam 612 103, via Kumbakonam- Tel 0435-24610540, cell 9840080089

Sri Vanjiyam : Contact Sri RajaGurukal, Chief gurukul of the temple,young, used to work in Delhi, has settled down here with his wife and small child., lives in Sannidhi Street Srivanjiyam Ppin code 610110- cell phone 9442403926

Keezha Perum Pallam : Mani Pattu Gurukal, Kethu Sthalam, Naganathan koil, Keezha perum pallam, Vanagiri 609105, Tamilnadu- cell 94428 60605 land line – 04364-260582

Thirukkadaiyur : For 60 th birthday Kalyana Utsavam etc
R.Muralidhara Sastrigal- Landline: 04364-221184, cell 9842671302
T.R.Vishwanatha Gurukal, 04364-287461/287325

Thiru Vengadu : T.A. Dakshinamurthy, Sannidih Street, Thiruvengadu 609114, - phone04364-256531/275931

Thiruvayyaru ; Sri Thyagaraja Asramam – S.Thyagarajan s/o. T.R.Srinvasa Bhagavathar, Sri Thyagaraja Asramam, Thiruvayyaru 613204-

Temples :
Thiruvayyaru :
Donations to be sent to The suerintendent, Sri Pancha Nadeshwara Swamy Devasthanam, Thiruvayyaru 613204 – phone 04362-260332

Thiru Nageswaram – Sri Naganatha swamy thirukoil, Sri Rahu sthalam, Thirunageswaram , Tanjore Dist 612204 Tamilnadu, phone – 0435-2463354

Thiru Vengadu- Arulmigu Swetharanyeswaraswamy Temple( Budhan sthalam) Thiruvengadu 609 114 Tamilnadu phone – 04364-256424

Thiru Varur- Sri Thyagaraja swamy Thirukoil
Phone- 04366-242343
Ananda Mangalam : Sri Rajagopalaswamy temple
Anandamangalam, Kazhiappa nallur P.O. 609307
Tarangambadi Taluk, Tamilnadu
Tel- 04364-289888

Thiru Pampupuram- Arulmigu Pampunathar Thirukoil
Tel – 0435-2469555

Monday, May 01, 2006

Thiruvannamalai Deepam

Thiruvannamalai Deepam

Imagine thousands of white cotton dhotis wrapped to make the big wick. Tons of ghee transported along with wick to the top of 500 foot holy hillock. Wicks lit at exactly 6.p.m. on Karthigai Deepam day in response to a signal from temple. Thousands of Devotees shouting Shiva Shiva at the flame is lit. Villages travelling in bullock carts from miles to witness the event. A temple so vast that it has 10 outer prakarams to reach the Sanctum Sanctorum. Big Nandi in front of deity. Thousand pillared mandapam with underground cellar, in which Ramana Maharishi meditated for years before anyone even noticed him. Temple of fantastic symmetry as seen from Skanda Ashram half way up the hill. Many devotees circumbulating 13 kms around the hill, with prayers on their lips. Even a tea shop owner is learned enough to talk philosophy. Peacocks dancing in Ramanashram , as devotees are attending prayers and meditation in the hall. That is Thiruvannamalai.
I have seen the Deepam being lit when I was 10 years old. My uncle Jayaraman chinnayana did not let me climb the hill. Later when I visited Ramanashram twice, I always wanted to see the Deepam being lit. Once, in Bangalore, I lit the Deepam in our home exactly at the same time as I listned to AIR live broadcast. The next experience was when I booked bus ticket to Pondicherry via Thiruvannamalai. I was the only person awake apart from the dark bus when it reached Thiruvannamali at 1 A.M. There was eerie silence as bullock carts with people asleep on it going back to villages. People snoring in open verandah of Ramanashram. The whole town in darkness except the Deepam on top of the hill. An unforgettable sight to behold

K.Jayaraman( Jay)

Everyone should know one’s roots. It is always interesting to know your roots. Some people are fortunate to have their family tree and their roots documented by family elders. Mostly, people like me know the family details upto grandparents level and rest are unknown. It has always fascinated me know about my ancestors. This is the story of my search.

I know, through my father’s autobiography, that my ancestors came from a village called KAKARLA. I found the village through internet as being near Nandyal in Prakasam District of Andhra Pradesh. My dear friends Dr. Prabhakar Sastry and Ramadas, joined me in my search and we setout by car from Bangalore to Nandyal on Aug 15th, Independence day 2003. Our search at Nandyal revealed that we should go to Giddalur Taluk office, 35 kms away and enquire there. Luckily, we found an official at Giddalur Taluk office, who had worked at Kakarla. Following his precise direction, we went to Cumbum, 50 kms away, took a turn into Ardavidu road, travelled 5 kms to reach Nagulavaram, where we took a right turn, travelled 5 kms to reach Kakarla. As we approached the village, my friends had to control my driving speed to contain my excitement. A small board on a post proclaimed in Telugu “ Sri Thyagaraja Swamy’s Birth Place, KAKARLA”

I think it is appropriate to tell some facts on my forefathers here. They left our village in 16th century, after the fall of Vijayanagar kingdom. They were all Telugu brahmins, talented in Arts , Music and some were Ashtavadhanis ( who could perform and recollect 8 acts done simultaneously). It could be due to Muslim invaders, or lack of water for agriculture or lack of opportunities etc. They travelled all the way South to Tamilnadu, where Chola, Nayakas , and Maratha Kings , patronised arts and honoured artists. Among them probably was the Grandfather of Sri Thyagaraja swamy of Thiruvayar fame. My ancestors were Ashtavadhanis and on their impressive performance in front of Thanjavur king , were given two villages near Thanjavur ( Ammayappam and Pachakada) as gifts. My grandfather’s Grandfather, was a contemporary of Sri. Thyagaraja, and has personally heard him sing songs. It seems that they used to have nostalgic conversations on their common village Kakarla and were proud to call themselves “ Kakarlam bojulu” .

Anyway, we reached the center of the village at the teashop and were surrounded by curious village elders. Their joy on learning that Iam from Kakarla, was overwhelming. They treated with love and affection which brought tears in our eyes. When I telephoned to tell my wife, Nirmala,( who was in Mumbai in my daughter’s house) from the only STD booth in the village, my voice was choked. The village elders led by Sri. Chandramouli took us on a conducted tour of the village. The village has three temples, around fifty houses, a postoffice ( Pin 523333), no school. The children go to school in Cumbum, 10 kms away by bus.
The temples are Sri. Venugopalaswamy Temple, Sri VaraMahalakshmi Temple, Sri Ramalingasway Temple (on the hill). The pujari, Sri. Ramakrishna Sarma performed special poojas for us at sri Venugopalasway temple and I was given the special honour of perfoming pooja at Sri Varamahalakshmi Temple. A sumptuous lunch was provided by pujari’s wife at his home, with love and affection. We reluctantly left the village with heavy heart, full of emotions and feelings.
I relived the life of my ancestors in those few hours, their dilemma, their brave decision in those days to move lock, stock, and barrel, with kith and kin to faraway lands. Their only wish was to provide education, and prosperity for their future generations. Iam sure they succeeded. May their Souls Rest in Peace !

K.Jayaraman ( Jay)

Man and Woman

It is very difficult for a man to accept woman as equal. Is it the genes?In a man’s world, if you treat a woman as equal you are hen-pecked. But Iam not and I still treat women as equal. People don’t accept that it is possible that you can treat a woman as equal without being controlled by them. It happens with the weak men. Mentally strong men can treat the women as equal and still be strong.
I was broughtup in a man’s world world where women were treated, atleast in the open, as inferior. My dad was accused by most of my relatives to have abused my mom. My mom was supposed to have accommodated to my dad’s whims and fancies and lost her life serving him.
But, I don’t know where my idea of treating women as equal came from. I think the credit must go to my girl friends, way back in my bachelor days in Baroda. Anyway, I brought my daughters as equal to men. I have no regrets. If anybody thinks that Iam hen-pecked ? Pppp…………rrrrrrrr

K.Jayaraman( Jay)


Our driver, Ankush, on a red Mahindra traveller, was a rally driver. He hated using brakes. He never understood that the time he saved, reduced the age of passenger by ten times through blood pressure.

We left Thane by 8 A.M. , passed thro Mumbra, a Karachi looking town with 3 Ms, Mosques,Madrasas, Mutton. We took a left turn at Panvel(before Pune expressway), reached Pen ( reminded me of an Italian village). Our pit (?) stop was at Wadhkal naka for breakfast. We passed thro Nagothane,Kolad, and entered state highway at Mangaon. We passed thro Mhasla, another moslim town , with lots of girls going to women’s college and reached Harihareshwar temple on the coast. Beautiful temple on the sea shore.Young man with an uncle doing final rites of his father, by immersing ashes in the sea. Lunch at Gurugeetha. We traced back to Mhasla, thro Goregaon ( nice forest route), joined the highway at Lonere, after a few kms took a turn to Ambed ( Anthulay’s gaon). Lots of trucks taking away sand from the river by dredging. Thro mandangad, reache Dapoli at 6 P.M. Dusty place, lousy lodge, noisy record dance music till 1 A.M., opp to ST Bus stand, ants crawling onhe wll next to my face, lungi clad Muslim surprising ladies in corridor,red dust on all leaves of the trees, Owner’s ( Sri.Namjoshi’s bank friend) conducte tour of his self designed house,enthusiastic servant boy, dinner at the manager’s house miles away thro pitch dark roads,salwar –kameez clad girls leaving bicycles in the hotel to attend college next door,vertical boiler fueled by firewood,poha breakfast, restless owner, authoritative wife,son in Australia.

Next morning visited Parsuram temple near Chiplun, steps to go to temple, known shop owner,kokam sherbat, mango cakes. Next stop, Dervan, Chatrapathi Sivaji’s life story in colourful statues,too much fuss on Shivaji. At Aral, took a turn to Burambad, Sri.Namjoshi’s village, oldShiva temple, most peaceful, pied wagtails in tank, farm house lunch, Body builder, buffaloes,desi ghee,paddy bags, ricebins, his eating exploits in Mumbai, Namjoshi’s old house,bats on rafter ceilings, sloping roof tiles, nostalgic for him. Joined back the highway, reached Ganapatipule by evening thro Hathkamba. Main deity closed for repairs. Temple not very impreesivre, location superb on the beach.,very touristy. Reached Ratnagiri thro coastal road , decent hotel,dinner at Shiva darshan. Mom did not like mix of both veg and non veg. , watched Arsenal 1-1 draw with Middlesburough, replay of India collapsed against Newzealand in 2nd test. Had good breakfast in pure veg rest opp the hotel.
Ratnagiri captured my heart with its beautiful surroundings, hils, river joining sea,big green uninhabited island in the middle of river when you view from Thiwah point.. Thiwah Palace, where Burmese king was kept a prisinor by the British ( made famous by Amitav Ghosh’s book Glass Palace). You could imagine the King sitting in his throne chair on Point watching the river with boats, reminding him of Burma) Somehow the scene reminded me of King & I. Unfortunately, the palace is badly maintained with the beautiful wooden louvers in the windows falling apart. There is a museum with the kings and queens photos, their, chairs , bed and their grand daughter who lived in the palace till her death recently.

Travelled via Hathkamba, Sangameshwar, took left turn to reach Hedvi, thro wild roads, no humans. Hedvi temple has Ganapati with 10 heads, very nice and peaceful. Next stop Velneshwar, nice peaceful temple by the sea. Reached Guhaghar, big town , Stayed in Mrs. N’s house( now owned by friends) , opp to Mrs. N’s plot near Kismet hotel. Old budjee hanging to his dear multi coloured bag all the time,very alert old man, people moving in and out of the house like nodody’s business, lots of kids, Devika the dancer, Vasantha the boy, lot of cats, wooden bench in the front, two rooms for guests, hugh spider on the roof, We walked to the beach in darkness thro backyard, sky clear with stars, lights of Enron loading oier. Dinner with old bugjee telling ghost stories, all listnening with open mouth., loo faraway in darkness, good sleep with the spider.
Early morning fresh with lots of birds, had tea, went to beach , did yoga in peace, Aish & R went for a long walk on the beach, visited local Yaadeshwar temple, Durga temple, lotus pond on the way,big frogs in the temple pond, bought mango pulp from a house, went to Aunt’s place by the beach, fishing village, fishy smell, had lunch, nap, Next went to Namjoshi’s aunts place, two very old brother and sis, with slightly very old son, kokam sherbat, mom mistaking lamp in wall niche for a tap, stoneware water storage,pineapples in garden, special stove for keeping milk hot, pregnant women’s dark room, Aish given coconut and rice by elders, photo session on the outside.
After lunch, bade budjee with the bag,goodbye, Guhagar to chiplun, had lousy idli and coffee in a highway rest and reached Cuffe parade by 7. 30 P.M.
Generally, Konkan is very beautiful place, nice winding European Dil Chahata Hai type hill roads, greenery, rivers, mountains, simple, peaceful temples worth a visit. I wish I had more time and more comfortable places to stay.

K.Jayaraman ( Jay)

East of Western Ghats

East of Western Ghats

The name western ghats conjures Kerala in everyone’s mind. There is an interesting portion of its East side in Tamilnadu generally missed. The monsoon clouds get blocked in Kerala side and the rain just trickles in drizzles on ease side. To see this, one must get down at Dindigul by train and follow the ghats via Sembatti,Vattalagundu, ghat road( Kodai ghats start fom here),Devadanampatti, Periakulam, Theni, Bodinayakanur( Bodi),Kambam, Kumili etc. There are roads to cross the Ghats at Kodai to Munnar ( Not for public use, controlled by the Army), Bodi to Munnar, Kambam to Thekkady.

Dindigul town is 5 kms from station( Rs 20/- by auto). Good food at Balaji Bhavan next to bus stand (including special like Horlicks mysore pak, Appy cake etc).You can visit Gandhigram Rural Institute ( take bus no.9). A few kms from Gandhigram is a village called Chinnalampatti famous for sarees (popular with all old ladies of Tamilnadu including my grand mom Rukmini).

You notice anywhere in Tamilnadu that every non- veg hotel is “ Madurai Muniyandi Vilas Military hotel”, every bakery is “ Bangalore Iyengar Bakery”. I feel our best B-Schools should do research on this Brands instead of Coke and Pepsi. One in five STD booth is owned by Tmt. Kalavathy .B.A.( Who the hell is this Kalavathy ?).I found one barber shop with rickety chair in Devadanampatti called Belgium Hair Designer, next to a tea shop with Netaji ‘s face painted saying INA General Tea Shop ( there are still Nethaji’s followers after 60 years).
Kannappan , the betel nut vendor’s daughters marriage invitation in the form of wall poster, inviting all and sundry for the wedding ( What generosity!). On the bus side, there was a poster for the sorrowful death of Parvathammal with the heading “ Kanneer Anjali ( Tearful Homage)”. On the bus to Kumbakarai falls, my co-passenger, Ibrahim told me his story of escape from Saudi after two Saudis were killed in a car accident with him as driver, going into hiding, escaping to Mecca, getting duplicate passport from Indian Embassy as lost in Haj, thus escaping sure jailing for life there. The bus conductor, Krishnan from Theni told me that his one son was doing M.S. in computer Engg in Karaikudi and the other son is doing M.Sc Maths in Gandhigram. He has managed all this with his Rs 8000/- per month salary.

The beauty of this route is that there no heavy rains like Kerala and left over rains provide cool atmosphere with greenery all around. ( most of the tamil movies are shot in Bodi). I personally liked Kumbakarai falls near Periakulam, Vaigai Dam, Teni, Bodi. The best way is to stay at Theni ( I strongly recommend Hotel Sri Lakshmi Sai, 1315, Peiakulam road, Near Taluk office, Theni 625 531 , phone 250046, 250846 Cost Rs 450 for A/c double room with TV etc.), travel to Bodi, take the bus to Bodi Mettu via Korangani. Bodi Mettu is at 4500 ft elevation with views of Bodi on East and Munnar on West. The sheer height of the ghats at Bodi is exhilarating. The green fields, white winged herons with misty mountain backdrop, is any photographer’s delight. Trekkers would enjoy this area, surrounded by nature. Further on Thekkady road, you can enjoy Suruli falls.
Best time to go is October , as soon as monsoon stops.




Time stands still. You are on a rewind when you visit even after 35 years, like what happened to me. Nothing much has changed and the locations bring back your childhood. This place will not disappoint you, if you are the nostalgic kind.
Soft Carnatic music in the air from young girls learning in the typical brahmin agraharams in grahmams like Kalpathy, Sekaripuram, and Tarekkad. Young men sitting on the Tinnai , eyeing girls going for bath in the puzha( river) in Kalpathy. Sweet sound of temple bells as pooja is in progress. Old women with wet clothes after bath in the river, circumbulating the temple with mantrams on their lips. Govt.Victoria college with its overgrown grass and the hugh tree in the college ground underwhich many a young men have watched exciting cricket matches after cutting classes. Call of barbets. White wings of herons as they fly and settle in fields with the mountain background. Views of hills with mist covering the tops, as Mangalore Mail passes old Olavakkod junction. Vendors selling green and red coloured halwa, banana chips, pazha bajji.

You have to be a Palakkadan to appreciate these. There are no dearth of them. Many of them, living all over the world have expressed these sentiments, be it Mr.Gangadharan in Mumbai, or Mr. Vasudevan in Newyork. They would give their right arm to spend a week in Palakkad to enjoy these scenes, sounds and nostalgia. Why Kerala tourism Dept is not tapping this potential for a good cultural tour ?

K.Jayaraman( Jay)



Rolling mists on the innumerable peaks, Sun playing hide and seek with the clouds, spectacular views from hills, flowers of different colours, tea gardens trimmed like carpets, gurgling water falls, nip in the pollution free mountain air, call of whistling thrush, sweet oranges. That is Nelliampathy for you.

Only 70 kms from Palakkad, this calm hill station in Kerala is tourist free. You go up 30 kms on a 10 hairpin bend hill road from Nemmara, passing Pothundy dam and many waterfalls on the way. Views from 3500 feet from various points like Seethar Gundu, Palagapandi, Kesavan para , Maampara, Karapara are spectacular to say the least. Best way to enjoy, is to stay in a working farm resort at Greenland Farm House, 6 kms from central Puliampara. You can enjoy the lovely oranges in the Govt.Farm on the way to Greenland. With proper guides , you can go to Maampara at 5000 feet to view Pollachi, Coimbatore, Palakkad Parambikulam, Valparai etc.

If you want add some Kerala culture to your tour, go during Nemmara Vallanghy Vela ( Temple festival) in March-April. The beauty of Nelliampathy are the greenery, waterfalls, calm serene atmosphere almost tourist free, compared to other Kerala tourist spots.

Getting there
By rail- get down at Palakkad, take a taxi for a 2- hour drive.or bus to Nemmara and a share taxi/bus up the hill to Nelliampthy
By car- 70 km drive from Palakkad..
Where to stay
Greenland Farm Houses, Palagapandi,Nelliampathy 678 511( Mgr- Mr.Appachan tel- 0492-346245,346246) Tariff – Rs750/-doubleroom.
ITL Holiday Resorts , Kaikatty, Nelliampathy 678511( Mgr.Mr.Krishnadas. Tel 0492-346357,346464)Tariff- Rs 600/- Doubleroom Rs 200 Dormitory.
When to go
After monsoon in October or during Temple festival time in March-April

K.Jayaraman ( Jay)



When you look at the mountain range standing on the platform of Jalarpet Railway station, you cannot imagine that there exists so many villages and life on Yelagiri. I was travelling once from Chennai to Bangalore by Bangalore express reaching Jalarpet around 5 p.m. The setting sun glowed on the range , when my co-traveller from Yelagiri told me that there are 14 villages with lake, schools, hotels etc on top.
The 3500 foot high mountain range seems faraway at Vaniyambadi and suddenly comes close to you at Jalarpet.. The headlights of cars and buses go on and off as they chugg over the hairpin bends.

I was fascinated to explore the area. When I had a few days free, I took the morning Lalbagh Express from Bangalore and landed at 9.a.m. at Jalarpet. The hot dosas on the roadside café next to railway station was great. The bus to Yelagiri came at 9.30 at road junction and in one hour reached the first village in Yelagiri, called Athanavur. The Punganoor lake is here and the best hotel to stay is Hotel Hills. There is no crowd at all if you go on a weekday. On weekends, Vellore/Vaniyambadi/Ambur/Tirupattur crowd consisting of mainly school boys and families land up to choke the place. I walked to the otherside of the lake to climb on to a lovely Banyan tree platform to see the lake in its splendour.

The walks and trekking is great. The cool, unpolluted mountain air is very refreshing. It is a great place to unwind . Few people know that the famous hunter Mr.Kenneth Anderson used have a hut here and hunted the man –eating panther of Yelagiri hills. The view of setting sun with the last train to Madras leaving Jalarpet platform, as he waits to kill the panther is explained in his own inimitable way in Omnibus Vol.2.

Long walks on the winding road from Athanavur to the last village 6 kms away is relaxing. If you are a tough trekker, you can go down the hills from the last village to Jalagambarai and catch a bus to Tirupattur. I did it and my daughters did it too later.The villagers were scandalised by two teenage girls trekking on their own and warned them that there are Karadis ( my daughters did not know it meant bears in tamil).

The trip can de done in day from Bangalore, if can catch Lalbagh from Chennai , at 7 p.m. at Jalarpet. You can be back in Bangalore by 9.30 p.m.

Getting there
By road 170 kms from Bangalore via Hosur, Krishnagiri, Burgur,and take a u-turn a few kms beforeVaniyambadi ( avoid the generally recommended bad quality Tirupattur route from Krishnagiri).
From Chennai 240 kms via Vellore, Ambur, Vaniyambadi, Ponneri
By train alight at Jalarpet and take bus .
Where to stay
Hotel Hills , Athanavur,Yelagiri Manager : H.Peter, phone 04179-45301,302,303,304. Tariff ; Standard bouble Rs 500 + 20% tax

Not to miss
Punganoor Lake, banyan tree, Treks, Herbal garden, Nursery, Custard apples, Jalagambarai falls, Swami malai ( 4338 ft above MSL)trek , Telescope House


Dr.Salim Ali


My good friend Sridhar inspired me to write this article, when I narrated my seven day stay with the GURU of Indian Ornithology, Dr.Salim Ali. My mentor and inspiration Prof. K.K.Neelakantan, invited me one day to a talk by Dr.Salim Ali in Maharaja’s College , Ernakulam, where I was studying first year degree in 1962. After the inspiring talk , he introduced me to the great man , who promptly invited for a 7 day camp at Chenganoor, Kerala. I did not need a second invitation and I was in the next bus to Chenganoor. We travelled 10 kms from Chenganoor to a village and crossed by boat to another village full of Cane Sugar fields. I do not remember the name of the village. Dr himself received us ( 2 students from the college) and impressed me with his down to earth simpilicity to make sure that we were comfortable. We stayed in a small house sleeping on the floor, with Dr sleeping in the open on a foldable camp cot. There were two more Zoology students from Bombay working on their PhD.

Yellow Wagtails were the migratory birds visiting the village in large numbers. In my estimate around 10,000 birds were roosting on the sugar cane fields. The project undertaken by BNHS was to ring them. We used to tie mist nets around the fields and drive the birds from underneath the sugarcanes. The birds would fly sideways and get stuck in the nets. Then we would collect them in bags, bring them to camp, insert light aluminium alloy rings in their legs and release them. It was hard work starting tying the nets early morning around 4 a.m., collecting birds till 10 a.m. The ringing would be completed by 12 noon. We would tie the nets by 4 p.m. and again collect birds from 6 p.m. till 8 p.m. The ringing would go on till 10 p.m. The hard work , untiring energy and enthusiasm of Dr at that age ( he must have been 60 plus) is to been seen to be believed. One night at around 1 a.m., we were all woken up by Dr and we had run behind him half asleep tosee a rare night jar whose call Dr had heard in the night. He showed us the bird high on a tree with his powerful torch. It was an unforgettable experience to spend a few days with great man. I got hooked to birds for life.


Nature's enemy-Man

Nature’s enemy- Man

Is man or woman part of nature? NO. They are creations of nature, yes, but seem to be not part of nature’s Great Plan. If you see the web of life in nature, all plants, insects, birds and animals need help from each other to survive. Humans are not part of their chain at all. They do not need us to survive. We need them to survive. We are destroyers and not of any help in their survival or propogation. Nature’s main activity is evolution.
We are a creation of nature and carry part of all the five elements, ie pancha bhuthas in us. For example, the salts from the fish of the ocean, is in us, in the liquid in the womb, tears, sweat, blood.
Before the advent of scientific advancements in the last century, man used to live with nature. He used to getup with the Sun early morning and go to bed after toiling in the field with sunset. He was in rhythm with nature. He became arrogant after scientific inventions that he can conquer nature and control it too. Nature pays back with AIDS, Tsunamis, earthquakes,cancers etc.There seems to be a battle between Man and Nature. We do not know who will win. But why this battle? All battles end with suffering and destruction on both sides.
Nature is very much more powerful than Man. The only way Man can survive, is to be part of nature and treat it with love, so that nature accepts him as a member of the family.
Now, man is abusing nature by digging for oil, polluting atmosphere and water, using explosives to kill animals and for destroying mountains, using non-biodegradable plastics etc.
Unless humans change their ways, he will be his own enemy.

K.Jayaraman( Jay)

Malar Vizhi

Malar Vizhi ( Flower eyed)

Malar Vizhi in her nine long years of her life , has smelt it all.

She remembers her first smell of the sea as a child. Her mother Kannagi used to carry her in her hip, helping her husband Kannan with the nets at night as he set out to into the sea.

Smell of fresh catch of fish early in the morning collection for the market.
Smell of meen curry as Kannagi cooked for the tired Kannan.
Strong smell of Karuvadu ( drying fish) on the nets for a rainy day.
Above all these, the over powering smell of her mother as she hugged her green sari.

Then, one day, the sea smelt strange. They ran as the sea level rose.
Suddenly the giant waves lashed.
The last words of Kannagi was “ Aiyo! Malar Vizhi! “
Smell of rotten bodies.
They identified Kannagi by her anklets.
The smell of her mother’s body burning.

She can smell the meen curry now as she hugged her emotion drained father in the relief camp.
But the smell is not the same. The smell of meen curry has changed for ever.

The only comfort is the smell of her mother as she hugged her mother’s green sari.

K.Jayaraman ( Jay)


You may or may not realise it in this Janma ! But a Goddess has descended in our lives!
When I say this, do not for a moment think it is a blabbering from a hen-pecked husband.
For one, Iam not hen-pecked. As a matter of fact, I have always grown up in a MCP family.
I realised it only after 10 years of marriage, though I had a premonition of her being somebody special. We had three children as a matter of routine, without any planning whatsoever. Why three? I do not know. Destiny?

Three loveliest children, she gave birth, bringing them up on her own without much help from me.
I was drinking and smoking heavily as a bachelor. She never uttered a word to nag me at any point of time. She gave me SPACE !
We had lots of problem as soon we got married, in adjusting to my parents. No complaints or a bad word on them in bed at night!
No tears, only smile all the time. Most endearing aspect is the sense of humour, bordering on madness! We never had a fight lasting more than 2 hours!
I was in bad shape in1978-82, with bad health, difficult job, lots of tension living in Saudi, with two young children, my mom dying with cancer. My mom considered her like a daughter towards last years of her life. Anybody in my place would have gone bananas. But she was like a rock in support.
When my mom died 1982, I was shattered! She took care of me. In 1985, her dad died in her arms in Bombay, after a brief illness. She was very close to her dad. In 1987, she volunteered to come to India, settle in Bangalore and take care of my dad. My dad, an MCP to the core, respected her for fortitude and sacrifice. He always used to talk highly of her to all my relatives. She bought Sanjaynagar land on her own, after checking and searching lots of places, in 1989.
She learnt Naturopathy and Acupressure in 1990, after I returned from Saudi. Our whole life changed to taking care of health. My health was very poor, unable to adjust to Indian conditions of food and water. She took care of me through naturopathy and homeopathy from Victory Pharmacy. I built Sanjaynagar house between Jan 1992 and Oct 1993. We had Grahapravesam of house in Oct 1993 and entered the house in Jan 1994. She took very good care of my dad till he died in April 1994. Her mother was laid up with kidney problem. She underwent lots of tension till her mom died in 1996.

She taught all the three children to be good human beings. She also took care of all their educational coaching. One day, my friend Thiru asked to her to meet homeopathy doctor, Vijayamma This chance meeting changed her life forever. She learnt homeopathy from her and became a Healer. She has cured many people. When the patient is destined to get cured from her, Godliness descends into her and whatever medicine she gives will cure the patient. She is saving our lives and keeps all of us in good health. All the three daughters believe in homeopathy and learnt how to take of themselves, which is one of the greatest things she has taught them.
She learnt Pranic healing from Paula Horan.
We learnt Suryayog and Chidaakaash together.
The love she puts into the food she cooks is what keeps us healthy. Children do not realise this aspect and try to avoid eating at home. May be in later years they will know her true value.

There is no need for me to go a temple to pray.
She is my GODDESS and will always be with me!

K.Jayaraman( Jay)

Bharatha Puzha

Bharatha Puzha

The evening Sun starts setting slowly by the banks of Bharathapuzha, the great river of Kerala, near Shoranur.It is 5.30 P.M. We suryayogis walk towards the river from Keraleeyam Ayurveda Hospital. We pray in the Ganesha temple as we pass by. The temple is peaceful and silent, with lots of lamps lit allover. As we walk through the narrow path, to the steps of the river, we see Swamy as saffron clad figure in the sands of the river, meditating, with his back erect and facing West towards the setting Sun. We admire silently, the dedication of the young Swamy and his many sacrifices for us. We walk down the steps, leave our footware on the edge of the river, and sit with Swamy on our mats facing West. Swamy asks us to start Pranayama with Nadisodhana. For the next half an hour, we do pranayama.
The only sound we hear, is our breathing, along with devotional Malayalam songs of Jesudoss and Leela floating in the air in waves from distant temples on the banks. There is Peace everywhere. The cuckoo bird calls fill the air.
We start Sun gazing at 6.15 P.M., on Bobji’s prompting. The sun sinks slowly like a red rubber ball. Birds pass in big groups, against the Sun light, going back to their nests. You could hear the calls of birds becoming lower in pitch as Sun dips in the horizon. We can hear the sound of silence, as Sun sinks slowly. All nature is in awe, as they wait silently saluting the Great Surya. The red rubber ball, disappears suddenly towards the end. There is silence. The silence is broken by the screeching of a solitary owl.
The Ganesha temple bells peal in sweet harmony to announce the sunset. The call of the muzzine “ Allah Hu Akbar “ floats from the near by Mosque, calling the faithful.

We close our eyes and meditate for the next 15 minutes. We offer our pranams to Surya and get up with grateful thanks for the wonderful experience.

K.Jayaraman( Jay)

Cricket players of my era

Cricket Players

Abraham George
I saw George Abraham score 198 for Kerala against Andhra in 1959 or 60 at Victoria college ground. Kerala made a record total of 555 for 5 dec. Balan Pandit scored 262 ( notout). C.S Nayudu ( brother of CK)was the captain for Andhra. My dad called him home for lunch and I was introduced as a budding cricketer. I watched the full match sitting under famous rain tree in Victoria College ground. I think the pavilion was called Statham Pavilion. Mr.Murthy was Physical Director in those days. He also coached in basics of Tennis. Dr.Krishnan’s son Raghu was the champion tennis player.

Very stylish batsman from Bangalore. I saw him scoring 106 against Kerala in Palghat . Mysore captain was B.C. Alva. Team consisted of famous players like Kasturirangan, Nazreth, LT Subbu.

Abbas Ali Baig
I met Abbas Ali Baig in Calicut, when Telugu Assn of REC, Calicut arranged a reception. Had lunch with him. Very articulate, sweet, learned Oxford Blue. Fair and handsome. He spoke about his debut in England, when he scored century on appearance. He was called to play for India from Oxford, surprisingly, and scored a memorable century.
Balan Pandit
If there was a cricketer from Kerala worth the name, it was Balettan. A classic orthodox, bookish opening bat. He played strokes from the manual. Scored many centuries including 262 not out against Andhra in Palghat, which I have seen. He was a good wicket keeper. At one time he was called for Indian team nets, however was not selected due to Bombay wicket keeper like Thamane favoured by selectors. He later coached me at Trichur and told my dad that I had good potential. He taught me the square drive the way it was played by Rohan Kanhai of West Indies. I scored many runs through the stroke in college days.
HD Ballal
Dr. Ballal of Bangalore was a good cricketer and a tennis player. Even today he plays tennis in veteran circuit and is highly ranked. I have played tennis with him many times in Sadashivanagar club. His overheads are very famous. His son Dr. Madan Ballal is a good tennis player and a sports doctor in Bangalore.
Michael Dalvi
Dashing , handsome cricketer , played for Assam and later for Madras . Brig.Dalvi’s son.
I have seen him with Tiger Pataudi, surrounded by lovely girls letching them. He was a good friend of my friend Gopal of SPIC who has played for Assam with him.
Dharma was the darling of Madras cricket lovers. A famous sixer hitter in league. Crowds will come just to watch him play. I remember we kids gang used to go Ramakrishna mission main grounds to see Dharma hitting sixes.He played for Airforce , Thambaram with my uncle D. K. Venkatraman and were great pals in drinking rum and smoking charminar. Later he played in Madras league and for Madras. He played against me when I captained SPIC , Tuticorin’s win against India cements in Tinnevelly in 1973.We won the match by one wicket on the last ball. When Dharma came for batting. I asked Bharathan to bowl flighted off spinner and put tall V. Sivaramakrishnan ( Vidyut’s dad) on boundary line at midwicket and got him caught.
Victor Fernandes
Victor was great opening bowler in Madras. He played for Indian schools tour of England,when Surinder Amarnath scored last ball six to win the match against English school boys at Lords .He later played for Madras Univ, Tamilnadu and SPIC. He has won many matches for SPIC Tuticorin under my captaincy. I knew him personally also due to other common interest like racing. Once he got a jackpot of Rs 3 lakhs, but tore the ticket accidentally. He searched for the torn ticket and stuck it with a tape. But Race authorities refused to pay. It was the talk of the punters for many years.
B. Kalyanasundaram
I knew Kalli from 1963 when we joined together in REC Calicut. He was my room mate in hostel in Westhill. He came from Srirangam and his brother was very close to him, as he had lost his father early. His brother came to me and told me to take care of him as he was coming out of his house to study so far away.We went for Calicut Dist cricket team selection together with I.Raman. He and Raman got selected. Later he as captain of Kerala University when I was member. I remember the selection match in Trivandrum medical college in which I hammered Kalli as a opening bat and I got selected.We toured together to Mysore for the Interuniversity matches in 1968. He was a good fast bowler with an unplayable in cutter.

S.Bharathan/ Kadiresa/ Bhargav

Madras university team owes its only success in All India Inter university to Bharathan , Kadiresan and Bhargav Mehta for their wonderful bowling. A great bowler of Madras. Bharathan used to be scared of Venkat playing for SPIC. I have seen some fantastic bowling feats by the trio for SPIC . Bharathan was right arm leg spin, Kadiresan rightarm offspin, and Bhargav left arm leg spin and googly.
T.V.Ramana is a family friend. He worked under my father in Guru Nanak College, Madras and later became HOD of Maths Dept and Principal also. He used to play for Andhra in Ranji. He only got a seat in the college for Robin Singh, when he landed from West Indies and introduce him to Madras cricket and ultimately played for India. My dad was his mentor in mathematics.
P.Ravi Achan
Most respected cricketer of Kerala. He was a great all rounder with fantastic bowling. He used to get nip from dead pitches with his cutters. He belonged to respected Tripanithura Thamburan family. I have seen him playing for Kerala many times. I met him in Tripanithura with my dad in the club and Balan pandit, my coach was also there. He advised me to concentrate on studies and not in cricket too much as he said that I should get qualified as an engineer and play cricket.

V. Sivaramakrishnan
Sivu was one of most stylist left hander opening bat. He was also part of the great Madras Univ team. He played under me for SPIC Tuticorin against India Cements. He played upto South Zone level, but could not get into Indian team. Hope his son Vidyut achieves what his dad could not get.
I knew Venkat after I joined SPIC. He was also undergoing training partly in UK along with me in 1970.He used to play for Derbyshire. Every kid in the street in London used to recognise him. He took me and CP Srinivasan to Lords. We were received at gate by the Secretary of MCC, Mr.Donald Carr . He showed us the long room, players room/ players bar and he opened the museum specially for us with a duplicate key and showed us all memorablia. Venkat took us to the center of Lords pitch. Later we toured together to Scotland, Edinburgh, Glasgow etc. Later in SPIC, we used to share a room in Guindy building and work together under Mr.D.L.Rao. We used to share Jackpot , Treble and once got a treble for Rs 3600/-.I played in Hindu trophy for SPIC under his captaincy. He used to run between the wickets so fast that I got runout in the match against Binny Mills, not able to keep up with his speed. He used to shout a lot in the field. I lost touch with him after SPIC days. He was a good engineer, very intelligent, played for India when he was studying fourth year in Guindy Engg college. Later he became a successful international umpire.His exploits in the cricket field is well documented.

K.Jayaraman( Jay)

Chasing the Monsoon

Chasing Chasing the Monsoon

Haven’t you heard this somewhere? Yes, you are right. It is the famous book by Alexander Frater. Suddenly, one day, I decided to experience what he had felt, in a smaller way and write about it, though my writing skills do not match his.
I got the Mumbai- Nagercoil Exp at K.R.Puram at 12 noon. Luckily I got a sleeper berth. It was hot in Tamilnadu as the monsoon had not set. It must be waiting for my arrival at Trivandrum to welcome it. The sunset was beautiful as the train chugged through dry lands. I had a great sleep dreaming of rains.
I woke up by 4 .30A.M. in time to see the windmills of Nagercoil. The train stopped for signal among mountains full of windmills. It is an eerie feeling, surrounded by giants slowly swinging their arms. I could feel Don Quixote in his shining armour on a horse with his assistant Sancho Panza on a donkey fighting the imaginary monsters. Train reached Nagercoil at 5.45 A.M., had nice coffee and a bath in the station. I got into the empty Kanyakumari – Bangalore Express. The greenery in these parts is to be seen to be believed. There are small ponds with lotus flowers and ducks, coconut tress lining the paddy fields with mountains in the background, sudden burst of white wings of storks disturbed by the train. Quaint little stations like Kuzhithurai, with office going people to Trivandrum with white dhotis, ladies in neat sarees and flowers in their hair. The faint sound of Gospel music coming in waves from distant churches.
You have to be careful as the train reaches Trivandrum station , when suddenly people rush madly into the compartments. Pandemonium subsides in 2 minutes and peace descends. You can get down easily, though you have to avoid dashing into tea and paruppu vada sellers.

I think, Trivandrum is the cheapest city as far as lodging goes. Imagine a neat room for Rs 65/- per day next to the main police station opposite to railway station. Must be due to
the large contingent of travelling salesman, landing in the city every minute. But I have to share the trick for finding the cheapest and the best lodge in town. Look for a 50 year old salesman with a brief case and ask him. Don’t ask the young salesman, as I did the mistake once. We both landed in a lodge which became suddenly active after 10.P.M.and could not sleep the whole night.( don’t get me wrong, the noises were from the next room).
I had a nice bath and walked to Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple. Note that in all Kerala temples, men are not allowed in with pants. You have to wear a Mundu ( dhoti) and no shirts too ! But you get dhotis for hire at the reception and you can remove your shirt and walk in. But I have never seen such cleanliness and pious atmosphere in temples of any other state. ( of course, there are exceptions!) The early morning prayer songs sung by white sari clad Kerala beauties in the temple hall soothes the soul. I spent one hour savouring the atmosphere. Prayed to God for rain and came back to bus stand. It is still hot and humid and no sign of rain. I went to YMCA searching for an old friend Mr. N. Krishnamurthy, an actor, table tennis coach ( India no.1 once upon a time), a great singer of Saigal songs. I met Mr. Mani, who told me that Mr. N.K. had passedaway a few years ago and his son stays in Theycaud in Mr. Karunakara Kurup, retired Dy.Sp’s house.I took an auto and got to the house. Unfortunately, his son Mr. Nandalal( Nandu) was not in station. He is a busy actor in Malayalam movies, mostly comedy roles I presume. I met his aunt and gave my Bangalore address requesting him to meet me. Nirmala, and self met NK in 1975 and had lunch with him in the railway station canteen. ( the only place where you could get a decent veg lunch, in those days). Nostagically, remembering the many nights our family used to spend listening to Saigal songs through the melodious voice of NK ( he sang once in front of Saigal, who told him “ Thu mera blotting paper ho!”), I trudged back to lodge looking up in the sky for any sign of rain. The wait is oppressive!
I got into a KTDC bus and went for half a day tour to Veli, the new tourist village. There were water scooters, boats etc, nicely done.

Next day morning, no sign of rain. I went to the Met Dept at Observatory Hill and met Mr.Ramashanker, Metreologist, a Telugu man who showed me the on line satellite pictures. He told that the onset of monsoon does not happen in a dramatic fashion. It is spread over a period of time with rains on and off, but will rain consistently only after 1st august. Disappointed, got back to the bus stand and got a bus to Ponmudi hills. I reached Ponmudi at 12 noon. It is very beautiful place with hills on all sides. There are Govt. guest houses and a canteen. It was a pleasure sitting on top of the peak on grass slope, sipping cold beer, with cold strong breeze from the valley trying to lift you to the sky. Had a great lunch, got the last bus at 4.30 P.M. and got back to Trivandrum through a place with a fancy named called Vithura.

Next day also no rain. Got fedup. Got into KK express at 9.30 A.M. and reached Ambalapuzha. I was just in time before the temple closed and got lots of the famous Pal Payasam, for which I had come all the way. Drank to heart’s content.

Then it Happened! The sky became suddenly dark and the rains came in a deluge. It was thrilling ! Afterall, I saw the onset of monsoon in a dramatic fashion. One minute there was Sun , and within the next five minutes it became dark and rains poured. Mr. Ramashanker was wrong! It was very dramatic. I reached the station and got into some train going North. The rain followed the train. I could see Sun every few kilometre and thaen looking back I could see dark clouds chasing the train. Yes! this was the real “Chasing the Monsoon”, I had imagined. The few co-passengers in the train were amused to see me so happy, laughing, running from door to door, taking photos etc. They had a smile on their face looking at the crazy guy!
I reached Ernakulam , walked to a seedy looking lodge managed by gulf returned muslims. I went out to eat dinner and got caught in torrential rain . Managed to reach hotel. I could not sleep at all in my room.It was creepy. Everytime, I used to go to sleep, I woke up with a nightmare. Something was seriously wrong with the room. I could not pinpoint.It was a bad night.
Took a train next day morning to Shoranur. The slow train is stationed at Chalakudy. No passengers in the train. The express trains keep passing my train. It is raining . I can see a few lazy ducks walking in drizzle on the empty goods platform. The old train tracks are laid on wooden sleepers. They have rotted. They must have been part of a great tree with green leaves waving in the breeze and rain and growing to heights. Now they are dead wood, with no life. I feel that the tracks are laid on dead bodies. How many trees must have been cut by the British to lay train tracks all over India and to burn them for steam locomotives ? I am reminded of Jim Corbett working in Mokameh Ghat for many years transhipping tons of timber for the railways. Where have all the forests gone? The train passes Trichur and is stationed in the beautiful curve at Mullurcarai, after Wadakan cherry. I cannot forget Wadakancherry. When we were living in Trichur, Prof.Marumagan Raja of Maths dept ( who used to work under my dad), took us to his father-in-law, famous ayurvedic Vaidyan Wadakancherry Manu Moos’s house for Onam Sadya (massive lunch with 4 varieties of payasam).Just before Shoranur, the tracks divide , one going towards East to Palghat and on to Madras and the straight one going to Mangalore. This is the mid point of Kerala. Beyond Shoranur, is Malabar. The pass over the great river Bharathapuzha, before entering Shoranur station. The river is dry in summer and and is now flowing with full force in monsoon. You can see whirlpools, trees floating, as the train moves slowly on the bridge. You should read Sri.M.T.Vasudevan Nair’s Requiem for a River, to feel Bharatapuzha. I got down at Shoranur. Had paruppu vada and pazha bajji.
Got into Combatore to Mangalore Fast passenger at 10 .55 A.M. This is beautiful train to see North Kerala, as it moves relatively slowly through all stations from Shoranur to Mangalore. The train chugs through Pattambi( my dad worked for many years as Principal of the Sanskrit college), Pallipuram, Tirur,Parpanangadi,Feroke. Kallayi and reaches Calicut by 1.20 P.M.
You get good lunch at Calicut, especially mutton and chicken biriyanis.( though I ate only veg meals).Crowd gets in here travelling to North Kerala. West hill ( where I studied my first year engineering in REC Calicut), and you tenddoze after meals as you pass Quilandi, Payyoli( P.T.Usha’s place. Remember Payyoli express!),Badagara ( where my dad was principal of college, got ghroaed for 12 hrs!). Next station is a never to miss Mahe, quaint little village, originally a French colony, Malayalam name is Mayyazhi. Old station, Mayyazhi river bridge, French Governor’s bungalow at water front.To get the feel of Mahe, you must read, On the banks of Mayyazhi, by M. Mukundan. Next station is Jagannath Temple Gate and Tellicherry. The appam and stew breakfast of West End Hotel in Tellicherry, will be talked about for time immemorial. My dad used live next to Ramer Coil. My kids cannot forget our trip to Tellicherry in 1989 and stay in Vakil Ramadasan’s 100 year-old, wooden roofed home.The train reaches Cannanore ( Kannur?)at 3.30 p.m. in time for a nice cup of tea and paruppu vada ( do you get anything else in Kerala trains?).
The Sun starts setting slowly. You must choose a window seat on west side to enjoy the scenery and innumerable rivers join the sea with the setting Sun. It is 5 P.M. Kanhangad. I look around for any sign of devotees of the famous Swamy Ramadas on the platform. Did not find any. You must not miss Kottikulam station, with the sea so near the tracks The monsoon clouds chase us, with dark clouds on the left and bright sunshine on the right. Manjeshwar is the last station in Kerala. Iam looking for a border sign showing Karnataka. Maybe it is one of those many rivers. It is getting dark and train moves fast nearing Mangalore, as if the driver is in a hurry to make up for the lost time. The train heaves a sigh of relief and slows down as it passes very slowly over Netravati river at Ullal, with water almost touching the rails, you can see the famous Commonwealth Tile Factory. A must factory visit for all engineering students of yesteryears, and the red Mangalore tiles adorn the roof of every home on the coast. The train reaches Mangalore on time at 7 P.M. The end of a long 9hour train journey through North Kerala.
I found a decent hotel( Maharaja Residency-Rs 350/-.perday) for a good night’s rest.

Next day morning, I decided to see Karkal. I reached bus stand . you can have nice veg breakfast, opp to bus stand , upstairs in Bhat hotel. I got into Karkal bus. It goes through Parangipete,Pilikula,Gurupura( scenery here is super) Modbidri, Karkal.
The rains started as I landed in Karkal. I walked to Gomateshwara hill and climbed the steps. The view from top is fantastic. There was not a soul on top. Me and Gomateshwara. I took lots of photos, “wish you were here! “ talk to Nirmala and Anu. I meditated in front of Gomateshwara. Waited for the rains! I wanted picture of God’s blessings on the Statue. I could see rains coming on with a roaring cresendo to the hill. The sight was worth travelling any miles to see ! I took photos trying my best not to get wet with a small umbrella. As rains subsided a car drove in through the back road carrying tourists from Andhra. The spell was broken!
I descended the hill , had a nice hot cuppa of tea and walked to Chaturmukha Basadi. On the way visited a Jain temple and climbed the steps to the Basadi. A blind guide at Basadi explained temple in detail. Walked back to the bus stand, had lunch, got a bus to Moodbidri.
Got down at Jain Mutt, walked to the Thousand Pillared Temple ( a wonderful temple), walked back to Mutt and to another Mutt where Munis had gathered for Chaturmasa.
The next one hour was a mindblowing experience of my life.As I entered the Mutt, I found that I wa the onlyclothed person. Munis wore no stitch of cloth. They were without body consiousness. I prayed with them listening to their discourses in Gujrati. Spent one hour there. Got a bus to Kateel. Sri Durga Parameshwari Temple is worth visiting as the river flows through the temple and the temple itself is an island. Very good vibrations in the temple. Got a bus to Mangalore, via Bajpe ( nice sunset scene) . Luckily got a good luxury bus to Bangalore at 9 P.M. and Bangalore at 6 A.M. the next day

Thus I too chased the Monsoon as Alexander Frater did, but “ I did it my way!”

K.Jayaraman ( Jay)

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Bangalore – Mumbai drive Report

I have always boasted that I love driving. This drive was to prove to myself ( at age 59) that I really do. Yes! I do love driving!
Myself and my daughter, Anu, started on 26th April 2005 in our Alto Vxi at 5.30 A.M. from Bangalore. It is the best time to avoid city traffic. We took the NH4-Tumkur highway and reached at Tumkur ( 63 kms from Blr) at 7.00 A.M. On the highway before the city, you will find New Woodlands Hotel on your right, opp SIT . Good place to have decent idly, vada, dosa etc.Having filled our grumbling stomach, we drove on to Chitradurga (137 kms from Tumkur). The newly laid NH4 is so good that we could make in 2hrs 30 mts, via Sira, Hiriyur, to reach by 9.30 A.M.
Windmills welcome you as you reach Chitradurga. The town is surrounded by mountains on all sides, with windmills on them. A very differently wonderful sight compared to other Karnataka towns. After having a hot cuppa at……. on byepass, we learnt that the best way to reach coastal highway is to take the road to Sirsi from Haveri. We continued on NH4 to Davangere. We entered the town, since Anu wanted to see the famous University town, a center of learning of Kuvempu University, filled with students from different parts of India, something like Oxford of Karnataka. Very impressive.We continued on NH4 to reach Haveri by 12.30 ( 131kms from Chitra). Had a pitstop and nice light lunch at Shanbag Restaurant. From here we took a left turn to leave NH4 to Sirsi. The road is low traffic, decent, lovely country side road where Anu took over the wheel. We reached Sirsi by 2.15 P.M.( 72 kms from Haveri). Marikamba Temple at Sirsi is worth visiting, for the fantastic paintings on the walls. It has a soothing , calm atmosphere,like all coastal Karnataka temples. The drive from Sirsi to Mirjan on NH17, is cool, green, very enjoyable through Devimane ghat, Katgal Forest Checkpost.We reached Mirjan at 4.20 P.M. ( 60 kms from Sirsi). We got onto NH17, where I took over the wheel, since Anu is scared of truck traffic.
We reached Gokarna at 4.40 P.M.( 20 kms from Mirjan). We visited the temple and the beach. On the way to the beach, you must visit Radhakrishna Book Store, the only book shop in Gokarna, run by Krishna Das.( a bearded, leftover flower child ?). The town is full of Bhats, all claiming to be Head –Priest of Gokarna. It seems, it is the center for doing Hindu rites for the departed and these Bhats are making good money on the dead, arranging all rituals by the sea. All including Anu, dissuaded me visiting the famous OM beach of Gokarna. The beach is in the shape of OM, and is famous for its numero uno position in the drug scene map of India. Anu preferred to visit alone on her own later, since she felt that my visit to the beach will result in engaging one of those Bhats for my final rites after the cultural shock.
We drove to Karwar, via Ankola ( don’t miss Kamat on Highway for the last Karnataka coffee).We reached Karwar by 7 P.M.( 65 kms from Gokarna). It seemed a wonderful town by night, with bulk loading terminals on dockside, ships, beachside with full of people enjoying the evening.We entered Goa at Loliem. You can’t believe it is NH17, between Loliem and Chauri. The road is narrow, winding, like village roads, hibiscus peeping over compound walls, deserted without any people( all enjoying their wines, I presume) or traffic. The road complexion changes after Chauri. It is straight, with people and two wheeler traffic increases. We reached Mudgaon ( Why can’t they change the spelling from Margao ? ), through Gullem, Barsem,Bali,Assolna, Navelim at 9.30 P.M
( 67 kms from Karwar). Stayed at Hotel Fleur, near Busstand, a decent hotel ( Rs600/-. per night A/c doubleroom). You can hear trains moving in and out of Mudgaon station, since the hotel faces the track.Good food, reasonable rates.
The clock reading Bangalore 15523- Mudgaon 16138- Total 615 kms in one day, ie 16 hrs . Average almost 40 kms per hour. Not bad for a fairly relaxing drive, with pitstops every two hours.

We had a lovely breakfast at Hotel Fleur at 7 A.M. and left Mudgaon on NH17, via Nuvem, Verna ( we went through Verna by mistake and we enjoyed seeing real Goa and did not regret the mistake), people in immaculate dresses waiting for buses in busstops,Nagao, crossed River Zuari, Goa Velha, crossed Mandovi river,Mapusa, Colvale, Malpem, Naibagha to cross into Maharashtra( 71 kms from Mudgaon) Remember to fill petrol in Goa, since it is much cheaper than Maharashtra or Karnataka.

Maharashtra, here I come! Vegurla, Sawantwadi ( most scenic place, with hugh lake by the side of road, and the town on the other side of the lake),Kudal. We took a turn to visit Malvan beach, but decided against it when we learnt that it is 25 kms more from there.Oras, Kankauli, Rajapur, Lanja,Hathkamba. Here you have to take a left turn to visit Ratnagiri.

You just can’t miss Ratnagiri. The most beautiful site is the View from top of hill near Thibaw Palace and the Thibaw Palace itself. This is worth visiting. We reached by 1.30 P.M.( 275 kms from Mudgaon). We spent nearly 2 hrs in Palace, the theme of book Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh. We could feel the spiritual presence of the Burmese King and his queen. We stealthily entered the Ball Room and the verandah overlooking the sea through creaking stairs. We could imagine the King sitting on the verandah and looking at the sea with nostalgic memories of Burma during his arrest and confinement in this palace. He lived and died here and his grave is in Ratnagiri. This palace is very romantic with great character. Some part of it is renovated and mostly neglected, with broken window glasses and blocked with wire mesh by Govt. We felt that it was worth coming all the way, just to see this palace.

With the palace haunting us, we took our lunch, bought alphonso mangoes( got cheated), drove back to Hathkamba to join NH17. Here, we decided to skip Ganapatipule ( all beach temple are same, after seeing Gokarna)and proceeded to Sangameshwar ( take a right turn here to go to Vishwamitra temple),Chiplun,( the most picturesque part of the road is from Hathkamba till Poladpur),Khed,Poladpur,Mahad,Mangaon,Kolad,Roha, to reach Panvel ( 580 kms from Mudgaon) at 8.45 P.M. The eateries on the way serve only vada/Pav, no other choice.
The problems started after Panvel. The truck traffic was so heavy and it took us two hours to reach Colaba from Panvel ( 642 kms from Mudgaon)at 10.30 P.M. The clock showed 16780. Bangalore to Mumbai- 1257 kms. A great drive !

Mumbai to Bangalore
After spending hectic 5 days at Mumbai, Nirmala, self and Anu, decided to come back to Bangalore through Maharashtra. We started at 5.45 A.M. on 4th May 2005, from Colaba. We could reach Chembur in 20 mts and passed through Navi Mumbai. Nice broad roads, shopping malls, high tower apartment blocks, lots of people jogging by the lake.We could reach Pune Expressway very fast. Expressway is really fantastic by Indian standard, though I felt the toll of Rs 119/-. per car, exorbitant. The pitstop, before the Bhor ghat is ok, food tolerable.( I expected better).Pune development by the side of city bypass is phenomenal. Tower blocks, shopping centers, people rushing to work into the city, We continued on to NH4 towards Satara. After Narasapur, we took a left turn towards Phaltan. This road goes along pictureousque Nira river on the left. Wild roads, but decent, low traffic, real country side. We passed through Phaltan, Dharmpuri, Malsiras to reach Pandarpur by 2.00 P.M. The temple priests tried to fleece us. We took a free Darshan, in half an hour, instead of so called superfast darshan for Rs 1100/-.
The temple is very holy, with good positive vibrations. The idol is fabulous, made of black stone. The surface of idol is not fine grained. It looks like made by hands instead of chisel. They say the idol is swayambhu. The God, Panduranga Vittala’s face is the most peaceful, serene face that I have ever seen on an idol. We did a puja at Goddess Rukmani temple. Nirmala and Anu danced in the temple courtyard as part of tradition there. We spent quite a while at temple savouring the atmosphere, though it was hot.
We skipped lunch, as we did not find any decent hotel in Pandarpur. We hit the road to Mangalwedha, Zalki, to reach NH13. The road between Pandarpur to NH13 is very beautiful scenic wise, though the road surface is not very good. You can enjoy real nature and countryside scenes on this road. We took some unforgettable sun set photography on this section.
There is very good Restaurant next to Petrol station on the highway.You can fill both your tank and stomach. We reached Bijapur at 5.00 P.M.and could not resist the Kamat Restaurant, for our Karnataka Masala dosas. We reached GolGumbaz by 5.45 P.M and found that it closed for visitors by 5.40 P.M. We had a big fight with the security, but they were adamant. He allowed us for a certain distance inside and we took photos against the setting Sun. We took more photos from the bridge, on the way out to NH13.
The section of the road from Bijapur to Almati is good. We reached Almati by 9.P.M.
The outer highway is only a truck stop with teashops. Luckily, we found a decent hotel to stay.( Hotel Vaibhav , NH 13 Almatti 586201. Tel 671167 Rs 500/- for A/c Double Room)

We got up at 6 A.M., had a refreshing bath, packed our breakfast from Udipi hotel next door and and were on our way to Badami. The shortcut from Almati, is to take Bagalkot road, take a left turn at Sangam cross 10 km before Bagalkot towards Badami. We crossed Mumbai train line at Guledgud, where we had a nice tea.” Safety on road, is Safe tea at home!” At Badami, we got a good guide( Chandru Katigeri- cell 94499-23161) who explained about the caves and carvings. The carvings are breathtakingly beautiful. It has to be seen to be believed. We spent nearly 3 hours and saw everything.Then we drove to Patadakkal. This is good but in almost destroyed condition. Curd in Mud pots are great here. After Pattadakkal, we crossed Malaprabha river, to reach Hundgund and joined NH13 at Ilkal. It seems the place is famous for sarees. We missed it.We had nice lunch at Ilkal and hit the road to Kushtagi and Hospet. We could see mining business raping the hills around Hospet. We continued to Kudligi to Chitradurga. On byepass, we had nice tiffin and coffee. We passed the windmills of Chitradurga and reached Bangalore via Hiriyur, Sira, Tumkur, Nelamangala cross. The road from Chitrdurga to Bangalore is superb now. We could clock 100 km easily for long stretches, except at Tumkur town.
Clock 177896 ( 1189 kms from Mumbai)

I had totally driven 2446 kms, 1257 to Mumbai and 1189 kms back to Bangalore. I think it was quite an achievement at age 59. But at no point of time , I got bored or tired.Will I do it again ? May be!