Sunday, December 18, 2016

Travel for the sake of travel

I was planning for few months to go a solo trip. Loads of questions creeping with doubts and “what-if” questions,

 “What if I don’t get a bus?
 “What if the money is lost?
What if I don’t get a place to stay?

Finally made up my mind. In the first week of December, I got set everything to go, but got postponed (You know the reason). I decide to let go few more days and then the cyclone was around the corner at BOB, and, this was the right time to leave Chennai. Thus it started on Monday morning December 12th, with Pocket Aristotle as my company and pillow book.

Mom’s only advice- “Don’t go near ANYKIND of water”. Stressing on “anykind

December 12th - Monday

In the early morning, Cyclone Vardah was already gaining strength. Rain was pouring, but since I made up my mind, I didn’t care for it. Without booking anything- bus or room, I boarded Madurai bus. 475 KMS, bus stopped at Mamandoor for morning snack. It was still raining, this place was like a bus stand, but was a highway refreshment place, only meant for government buses. After stuffing a samosa, we (bus) continued to Madurai.

Titbits- In all four cities/town where I had lunch- Trichy, Rameswaram, Madurai and Thiruvananthapuram, all had unlimited rice. Unlike hotels in Chennai, they’ll give only limited rice.

For lunch, the bus stopped, just before Trichy. For Rs100 it was worth a meal. They kept vethalai, pakku, sunnabu. We were free to make our own vethalai-pakku. I was tempted, but since I didn’t clear my deck in the morning, I didn’t take chances. 

Picture story- This is the place where Azahagiri had a full and fell in mabbu.

Around 4:30 PM, I reached Matuthavani bus stand. After wading through the auto drivers, who thought I was a north Indian (Yov, French beard vechaa Hindi karanna), I took a room opposite to the bus stand. I had ample time. I went to temple in a share auto; again this share auto driver thought I’m a north Indian. When I gave ten rupees, he said “Aur Panchu rupiya thoo?

In temple, I realized I’m in the middle of Sabarimalai season, and it was Karthigai deepam. Temple visits were in my plan, but not the garbhagraham deity seeing.

December 13th – Tuesday

Previous night, I had enquired about the availability of buses to Rameshwaram, so I took morning 5:30 AM bus to Rameshwaram. 160 KMS with 4 – 4.5 hours of travel. The bus was labeled as “By-pass raider”, but it stopped at every small town and villages. At two places, the bus was completely halted, one small break 10 mins and another for 20 mins. At Paramakudi, I made use of the long stop to grab my quick breakfast of 3 idlis and vadai. 

Titbits- Some small town names were different and funny. Idayar Kudiirupu (Idayar is a caste name!), Ladennethal (Ladam is shoe which is fitted on horse foot), Muslim Paranai, Parthibanoor…

Rameshwaram temple was big, but the corridors were wet with the devotees flocking at the thirthams. Even mobiles were not allowed inside. Again here the Sabarimalai crowd was rush. Also, there was more north Indians, who were keen on visiting Ram Sethu. Speaking with a tea shop guy, he said this is no crowd!

Took a town bus to Dhanushkodi. In total 18 kms, almost 6-8 KMs were flocked by the ocean on the either side of the road. After certain point, we can take private vehicles, which will take to the abandon town.

The private vehicles charge Rs150/person. It’s almost 3-4 KMS, 20-25 mins drive through the muddy land. Although there is a new road, it is not open to traffic. Later I learned, the road is laid by central govt, which will go to the farthest point to Ram Sethu. Possibly Modi will be opening the road by next January.

Individuals of societyMet this kid at Danushkodi. He was selling sea shells, Muthuvel is studying 3rd standard. He said since today is Miladi-nabi the school is closed. I was not sure if was in school. When as what he’ll do after school, he said he’ll become a policeman. Hope he’ll fulfill his dream.


Picture story- This area is famous for its caste riots, remember Paramakudi riots. The govt. doesn’t want to take any chances in law and order, which is evident in this sticker inside the bus.
December 15th – Thursday

Today, it was history and heritage. After having a heavy breakfast, I took a city bus to Thirumalainayakar Mahal. City buses were numbered. Not much rush. Mission hospital was the stop and the mahal was walkable from there. 

Individuals of society - How do we see our heritage or how is our etiquette in public? Something worst I saw are the writings on the pillars and walls of the Thirumalainayakar mahal. These people are educated, but didn’t have a gram of brain. 

After spending almost an hour, I took a share auto to Mahatma Gandhi museum.

There was no crowd (NO SABARIMALAI DEVOTEES), the entire complex was calm, only few people. Camera was allowed, but I didn’t take any pictures. The museum displayed the chronology of Indian independence and Gandhi involvement in it. It also housed the details about the contributions made by other freedom fighters. Even Veer Savarkar is featured and he is marked as “prince of Indian revolutionists”. Vanchi Aiyer- Defined by the caste name, rather than naming him as Vanchinathan. Displayed items were- books used by Gandhi, his last blood stained cloth, his specs, slippers, letters written by Gandhi (He can sign in Tamil). I liked the illustrations on the chronology of independence.

Some anecdotes and history which I got there,

- All shastras speak but vaguely, they do not teach you better than your own eyes- Ramalingam

- Follow truth don’t look at the numbers- Rajaram Mohan Roy

- The British rule is by official terrorism; let us cripple their rule by counter-terrorism- Surya Sen

An editorial on 31st January | Newspaper- Hindustan Stand

Gandhji has been killed. This is second crucifixion in in the history of the world. Has been enacted on a Friday- The same day Jesus was done to death. Father forgive us.

- Gandhi ashes were spread all over India. Also in Karachi, Sri Lanka, Burma, Bangaladesh and Tibet (China).

- Salt Shatyagraha- Sabarmathi to Dandi- 241 miles in 24 days. 10 miles/day.

Picture story- Lunch at Madurai with sundakka vathal! I wish I had stayed in Madurai just to have another lunch.
After having lunch at Meenakshi Bhavan, I checked out of the room to travel Nagercoil. As usual, I occupied the front seat near the driver. Driver was already fighting with the Madurai time-keeper, driver was Tirunelveli depot staff. Both was exchanging choicest Tamil swear words. Driver rombo ugramma irundaru, he didn’t mind the potholes. Road was bad till we reached Madurai-Tirunelveli by-pass. This was a local route bus, but again it was labelled as “By-pass raider”. With a high temper, driver stepped on to the accelerator. 240 KMS in one stretch with no stop for tea\chucha break, but still the bus went to all towns.

Reached Vadaserry bus stand, my place to stay were just 2 mins walk. After check-in, I went to a stroll around the bus stand. It was 8PM, but baring, tea shops/hotels other shops were closed. The area was calm.

December 16th - Friday

I woke up without alarm at 4:45 AM, all thought the sunrise was not planed, since I got up early, I went to Kanyakumari. It’s 18 KMS from Nagercoil. Again here my villains were Sabarimalai pilgrims. Those swamis were flocking and doting at the sea to witness the sunrise. The horizon was cloudy, it was 6:25 AM the time for sunrise, but the clouds were too much. It’ll take at least an hour to see the sun. So I returned back to room. With this rush, I dropped plan to coming back again to Kanyakumari to see Vivekananda rock. My idea was to take a bus to Thiruvananthapuram, which is 65KMS from Nagercoil and there were frequent buses. 

Kanyakumari to Nagercoil

The sunrise was disappointing. Unaware I took a local town bus; it took a different route to Nagercoil. The bus went inside villages, twisting and turning through the small road with dense trees on the either side. Waterways, ponds.. It was a scenic ride.

Picture story- This town bus is morning special. Side seats for vendors to keep fish koddai. But no vendor boarded the bus, after few stops these seats were occupied.

Titbits- Having breakfast at the hotel, I noticed the color of the water. Asked the waiter, he said vetiver is mixed and the water is boiled. He said he can get me plain water. The taste of the vetiver water was good. Be local (Public place’la jothi oda iyekyam agidanum).

65 KMS to Trivandrum. I asked the driver, how long it’ll take; he said 2 hours and sometimes 3 hours too. My calculation was one hour. I thought the driver is kidding, but he was correct- He was slow, he didn’t honk. There were stops for every 5 KMS. In fact Trivandrum and Nagercoil route is dotted with houses and businesses. 80% of the distance is single road with traffic. Overtaking was impossible, that too with this “Enna pani mutamma iruku” driver. Double road stated at Amaravila, outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram. The two-hour drive took more than three hours. Already 1 PM, I had no time- either zoo or Napier museum, because, if I’m late then I had to pay for another day in checkout or do some negotiation with the hotel. 

Napier Museum was small. Mobiles cameras were not allowed. It was only 10% in the Egmore museum size. Mostly 13th – 16th century bronze works. Uniqueness- replicas of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, Chinese artifacts, Javanese shadow puppets and masks from Sri Lanka. The museum is like a lovers (Jodi) park. Every bush was occupied by a Jodi.

Titbits- Seems like they don’t have the habit of giving “change”. Auto’s use meter, but they round off to the high denomination. Name boards in city buses were only in Malayalam and they were not numbered. 

Zoo and the state central library were nearby, but couldn’t go as I didn’t have time. I had my lunch in hotel named “Shalimar”!, the famous bullet-rice, looked heavy, but my stomach felt lite. Returned to Nagercoil after lunch, I want to make sure, I had enough time to get packed so that I don’t want to rush myself to catch the evening bus to Chennai.

Picture story- A pond in the middle of Nagercoil town. The whole district is filled with waterways. Wonder how it’ll be in the interiors of Western Ghats.
Nagercoil is a beautiful and well connected town; TNSTC\SETC buses are available to any part of Tamil Nadu from the Vadaserry bus stand.

My journey ended at 8:30 AM the next day at Chennai.

*** All travelling in TN was done via public transport. Auto inside Trivandrum.
*** Next coast to coast- Chennai to Mangalore.

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