Tag Archives: India travel

Exploring the Architectural Marvels of Madurai

This was a family backpacking trip planned exclusively to explore Madurai. This city has served as the capital of the Pandyas and is a key destination that has nurtured the Dravidian culture. For anyone who hears the name of this famed city, they know of the Meenakshi Amman Kovil. A typical traveler / tourist / pilgrim would visit just that temple and takes pride in marking it in their travel map of places visited. But what one doesn’t realize is, that Madurai is beyond just this. The contribution of the Pandya kingdom is not limited to just the Madurai Meenakshi temple and can be seen and felt in several structures just around the same city. Also, a portion of the Madurai city has a history beyond the Pandyas too. Hence, our family wanted to reserve this long weekend, exclusively for Madurai. We boarded an overnight bus from Bangalore and reached Madurai at 6.00.a.m. on the following morning.

Like most of our family trips, we wanted this also to be an impromptu vacation. Apart from to and fro travel, nothing else was fixed. As per me, you would need a good 2-3 days to have a quick run around doing this same itinerary as ours, exploring ONLY Madurai. If you are an art and history buff or a foodie, I warn you to carry additional days!

Itinerary:

Day 0: Leave from Bangalore by night (KSRTC Bus)
Day 1: Reach Madurai. Visit Meenakshi temple, Thirumalai Nayaka Mahal, Vandiyur temple tank, Koodal Alagar temple, Gandhi museum, Pudumandapam.
Day 2: Alagar Kovil, Alagar Murugan temple, Pazhamudhir Solai temple, Tiruppanakundram Murugan temple, Dargah of Hazrat Sultan, return to Bengaluru.

The details:

After alighting the bus, we walked around the Meenakshi Amman Kovil to find a good hotel. Since this is the heart of the city, it wasn’t hard to find a decent lodge around there. We checked into a hotel that was located just in front of the temple’s west gate. We freshened up quickly and left for the main part of the trip for anyone visiting Madurai.

  1. Meenakshi temple: A visit to the abode of the Pandya architecture. The entire temple complex is fortified and has 4 entrance towers, one on each of the 4 directions. The sculptures on each of these towers are out of the world. Once inside the complex, I started to wonder which world of wonder I had stepped into. It took us more than 4 hours to finish only a quick walk around inside the temple and also get the darshan of Meenakshi Amman and Lord Sundareswaran.
The finely decorated interiors of the Meenakshi Temple
The finely decorated interiors of the Meenakshi Temple

There are a lot of stalls inside the complex selling various handcrafted articles. The temple art museum within the same premises is a must visit. The central sculpture of Natarajan, or the dancing form of Shiva is believed to be one of the Pancha Sabha of the lord. This place represents the silver hall and Shiva is believed to have performed the ‘Sandhya Thandava’ dance form here (More on the Pancha Sabha Kshetras in another post). Also, there are 1000 pillars, all decorated with intricate pieces of sculpture. The dim light used for each pillar added up to the beauty of the place. The Madurai paintings adorning the walls of the temple requires another post to talk about. I go speechless when I get to explain about the South Indian temples. They are beyond words. Internet has plenty to feed and I don’t want to get into the details. After a tour of this massive temple complex, we decided to head out to explore the city beyond the Meenakshi Kovil.

Inside the Temple art museum
Inside the Temple art museum

2. A small walk through the narrow lanes took us to the Thirumalai Nayaka Mahal built in the 16th century. Fine architecture with elegant paintings on the roofs and vaults is neatly presented in a simple combination of half-white and velvet red colors. There is sound and lights show conducted here every evening. However, we could not make it.

The interiors of Thirumalai Naickar Mahal
The interiors of Thirumalai Naickar Mahal

3. From there, we took a local bus to Vandiyur. This is where the annual event of the famed Teppotsavam / Float festival takes place to celebrate the birthday of King Thirumalai Nayak in January. This tank is supposedly the biggest of its kind in the state of Tamil Nadu. With the float festival just 2 months away and monsoon season just passing by, this tank still remained dry during our visit. When we enquired with a few locals passing by about how the event was going to be conducted in a dry tank, we were told that the water will be fed in January from the Vaigai river through artificially laid underground channels. This is truly amazing how such a concept was laid way back in the 16th century. But for a newcomer like me, the dried lake was an eye sore as it was used was a watering hole by many vandals at the time of our visit.

Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam - the island temple
Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam – the island temple

4. Taking another bus from there to Periyar and a small walk from there through the stinking / dirty by-lanes, we reached the Koodal Alagar temple. A quick pooja and a walk around the temple was a nice boost up. The architecture here too, is similar to that of Meenakshi temple.

5. We had to rush to The Gandhi museum as it would close by 6.00.p.m. However, we could not make it on time. This was once called the Tamakkum palace of Rani Mangammal. Today, the museum supposedly houses 14 articles that were used by Gandhiji, along with his sacred ashes and blood-stained dhotis. Gandhiji is said to have visited the city five times during his lifetime.

6. On our walk back to our hotel, we came across an old marketplace called as Pudumandapam. This is a 1000 years old shopping mall, supported by huge sculpture rich stone pillars. The stalls are occupied with tailors, handicrafts vendors, wholesale dealers of pooja related and general accessories. A good place for shopping traditional artefacts at Madurai, and that too in a market that is so old!

Entrance of the Pudumandapam
Entrance of the Pudumandapam

7. On the following morning, we boarded a local bus from Periyar bus stand to travel 21kms towards Alagar Kovil. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, Meenakshi Amman’s brother. The village is surrounded by an old fort wall, it gives a good view of the green hills around the temple. The architecture is similar to Koodal Alagar temple in the city.

8. A trek of 3kms uphill, through green forests and monkey infested walkways lead us to the Murugan temple. It is one among the six abodes of Lord Murugan and hence important among the pilgrims.

9. A walk of half a kilometer further uphill took us to Pazhamudhir Solai temple. A temple dedicated to Goddess Rakkaya exists close to a natural spring called Nuburagangai here, where devotees take a holy bath. But what seemed strange to me was that the place was probably the only temple I had ever been to, which charges an entry fee into the temple itself. This is where the famed Chittrai festival is observed during the month of April.

10. From there, we took the next bus back to Periyar, from where we had to take another connecting bus to Tiruppanakundram. This was a cave temple at the foothills of a hillock. It is believed that Lord Murugan was wedded to Devyani, daughter of Indra at this place. Hence, this is also counted one among the 6 abodes of Lord Murugan.

Entrance to the Tiruppanakundram Murugan temple
Entrance to the Tiruppanakundram Murugan temple

11. Up the hills, is the Dargah of Hazrat Sultan Sikandar Badshah shaheed Radiyallah Ta’al anhu. Owing to time constraint and exhaustion, we thought of skipping the climb.

Other lesser known places we skipped due to time constraints were the Kazimar mosque and Goripalyam Dargah. At the center of the city is the Kattabomman junction. This is where a part of the old Madurai fort exists. Today this is not more than a public library. Further, every street in the city has a history behind it: This link to an article from “The Hindu” don’t do this usually, but would make a special mention about the streets of Madurai. Every street in the city has a history behind it: This link to an article from “The Hindu” explains it all- Where moats made way for motorways

This was all about us getting around the place for seeing some of the historically important landmarks around Madurai. But the list is endless and time, very limited ☹ I have covered a few other must-do things while at Madurai in a separate post. I wish to be of some use if you are planning a trip there. (Click here to read further)

Misty mountains and Madikeri Dasara

Very few people know of the grandeur of the Dasara celebrations in Madikeri. Considered next to Mysore Dasara in pomp and celebrations in Karnataka, it is a 9 days long event.

The festivities start off on the day of Mahalaya Amavasya with 4 karagas getting all set at a place called Pampina Kere. These Karagas represent the 4 Mariamma temples of the town: Dandina Mariamma, Kanchi Kamakshi, Kundurumotte Sri Chowti Mariamma and Kote Mariamma. The Vrathadharis or the Karaga holders travel across the town to all households through the next 6 days of Navarathri. They dance and perform a balancing act with the idols(Karaga) on their shaved heads with a knife in one hand and a club(Bettha) in the other.

Madikeri dasara Karaga
Karaga: Starting at Pampina kere

On the eighth day: people decorate their shops and vehicles to celebrate Ayudha Pooja. Also, vehicles are decorated and assembled at Gandhi Maidan where the best one is awarded in each category.

Madikeri dasara- tableau
Above: A tableau outside a shop; Below: A narrative decoration of a vehicle at Gandhi Maidan

The 9th night commemorates the last part of the Dasara celebrations where 10 tableaux or Dasha Mantapas are taken out across the main streets. These are one from each temple in Madikeri, and depict a story from one of the epics. Each tableau will be as long as 4-5 trailers connected to a tractor. This inturn, will have separate trucks loaded with sound systems and other backup.

The participating temples in this grand finale of Dasara are: mantapa of Kote Mahaganapathy temple, Sri Kanchikamakshi temple, Pete Sri Rama Mandira, Sri Kote Mariamma temple, Dechoor Sri Rama Mandira temple, Sri Chowdeshwari temple, Sri Dandina Mariamma temple, Sri Karavale Bhagavathi temple, Sri Kodanda Rama temple and Kundurumotte Sri Chowti Mariamma temple.

Madikeri dasara- dasha mantapa
The different tableaux at Madikeri Dasara

These mantapas will congregate at the center of the town in late night hours and put up a great show of colour, light, sound and an amazing display of creativity.. People flock to see this splendous show of efforts of over a 100 dedicated minds behind every tableau. The best tableau is awarded each year.. Finally, all the 10 tableaux proceed towards ‘Banni mantap’ and this brings the curtains down on the festivities and marks the dawn of a new day.

The Abbi Villa- A dreamy house of haunted thoughts

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A venue for hundreds of family get-togethers, a reason for annual Dasara shops, a greenroom for hundreds of celebrities, a place where we got numerous forever family friends, a shelter to over a hundred families, a temple for annual pooja offerings, a dining area for hundreds of hungry villagers, a warehouse for all the farm equipments, a bedroom for all the tired souls- adjectives alike aren’t sufficient to describe what this little place once meant. A portico, 2 bedrooms, 1 hall, 1 kitchen, 4 labour quarters and above all- A one of its kind drying chamber for the spices.

A walkway lined by coffee plantations on either sides, dotted by coconut trees in between leads you to this little thatched house with mud smeared walls; just as you enter you are greeted by a stream of water that is diverted from the bigger waterfall, opens into a pond with blossoms of purple lilys and golden fishes and further narrows down running through a garden full of flowers overlooked by scenic hills all around. A matter of everyone’s envy–

This was ‘The Abbi Villa’ in brief.

The Abbi Villa: Then
The Abbi Villa: Then

This is where my grandpa spent most of his life- the busy days of his life- the peaceful moments of his life- This is the place which was home to his heart and his soul.

The stream that widens into a pond
The stream that widens into a pond

No doubt that the warmth of the place passed away with grandpa, but 2012 has showed its negative vibes with the year’s monsoons putting an end to all the glory that this place once boasted of. The Wall has finally given way.. Every bordering wall has collapsed: But when I stood infront of the rumbles- A cold chill ran down my spine. I did feel my grandpa’s presence there.. He stood right there holding on to the pillar and a part of the wall that divided his bedroom and his prayer room.. It was a helpless face that told me aloud to do something about the utter neglect that followed his departure; I looked back at him in utter helplessness too.. There is so much I need to do but very less ways I can put his dreams back in place and reconstruct the entire estate that today lies there vandalised and in the state of horrible negligence..

The Abbi Villa- Now
The Abbi Villa- Now

How I wish…. I could do something..!!! How I wish some miracle happened… How I wish…… The place was as heavenly as it once was….How I wish……

The abandoned tribes and the abuses- Kunde Habba

I always wanted to witness this celebration but have been quite apprehensive about facing the wrath of the abuses that will follow with the joy.. And moreover, this happens in the southern part of Coorg and I get to know that the festival happened only after it has happened..!!

But some wild wishes do come true- this time my encounter was unplanned and I’m glad it happened.. Occasion: “Kunde Namme” a.k.a. Kunde Habba or the “Festival of abuses”.

The tribes belonging to the Jenu-kurubas, Betta-Kurubas, Yeravas, Paniyas, Kembetti and other sects all congregate in a common place- usually a town area to celebrate their festival of abuses and to make merry. By abuse- I mean abuse God, man, machine and everything that they come across on that day. This is a tradition that has passed on through generations among these tribes.

Kunde Namme- The masked men
Kunde Namme- The masked men

Legend has it that the main deity Aiyyappa had taken the tribe into a thick jungle for hunting. Deep in the jungle, he fell in love with Bhadrakali and eloped with her leaving his followers abandoned. Since then, the day is observed every year where these tribes abuse their god for betraying them. They find god in everything and every person they come across and hence abuse them in turn.

The people are togged in weird clothes- some men dress up like seductress, some like ghosts, some like witches and some dress up just random and as weird as possible.

They block every man(outside the tribe) on roads, barge into shops in the town and demand money. If you don’t pay them what they demand- you are abused; If you pay what you are demanded for- you still get abused..!! Remember.. God will not come to your rescue on that day as he himself is in soup 😛 (Kidding..!!)

Kunde Namme- Dressed up men all set to charge into a shop
Kunde Namme- Dressed up men all set to charge into a shop

Also, most of the members of this group belong to the labour class who work in estates, domestic helps etc. Hence, the day doubles as a good chance for them to vent out all the frustration on their masters..!!

Kunde Namme- The band set guys
Kunde Namme- The band set guys

But, at the end of the day- they all congregate in their common place of worship and surrender to their god, plead for his mercy and ask for his blessings for the rest of the year. A part of the total money they collect for the day is used to have a lavish dinner and the rest is religiously offered to the deity.

This festival happens on the 4th Thursday in the month of May and is celebrated in and around Gonikoppal considering its proximity to the Nagarhole National Park where most of these tribes are based.

Visiting the northern-most district of Karnataka- Bidar

Karnataka Bundh: The whole city of Bangalore was protesting against the Kaveri water verdict- 32 buses vandalized in the city and all that jazz. Well, I was away from the entire hustle bustle, where fighting for the water of Kaveri made no sense for the people. That day, I was spending time with my mom who was away from home since the last couple of months, on business travel.

My itinerary:
Day 0: Bangalore to Bidar (Overnight bus)
Day 1: Jharani Narasimha Swami Cave temple, Karanja reservoir, Basavakalyan (Basaveshwara temple, Basavanna statue, Basavanna Guhe, Akkamahadevi Guhe Anubhav Mantapa, Basavakalyan fort)
Day 2: Nanak Jira Gurudwara, Bareed Shahi park, Bidar Fort; Return from Bidar to Bangalore (night bus).

The details:
People in the Mysore-Karnataka region know Bidar and the rest of the districts of Kalyana Karnataka or Uttara-Karnataka mostly through media that only talks about them when there is a drought in the state. This somewhat had influenced me to paint a dry and a dusty picture of the region inside my head. There was not much that I had heard about this part of Karnataka on a typical tourist circuit of state and that’s why I chanced upon travelling to Bidar for a weekend. Since my mom was posted there for some time, I thought it was an opportunity for me to go and see what is in the northern-most district of my home state. Mom usually has a vehicle at her disposal whenever she travels and stays during the entire business trip. This solves most of the commutation problems.

Day 1:
When I reached there after a long overnight bus journey of 12hrs, I had a roaring welcome in the city, quite literally…!! An IAF “Hawk” flew past right above my head during their daily flying sorties. Right then, I had my first GK (general knowledge) moment of the tour. Bidar has been an important training base since the early 1960’s for the Indian Airforce. Bidar serves as the main base for Hawk AJTs and the Suryakiran HJTs. The first thing that I learnt about Bidar and is never shown or spoken about on mainstream media.

My mom received me at the bus stand and took me to the Inspection bungalow where she was staying at. After freshening up and post a quick breakfast, we headed to “the Jharani Narasimha Swami Cave temple”. The myth mentions that Lord Narasimha killed Hiranyakashipu and then proceeded to slay the demon Jalasura, a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva. After being killed by Lord Narasimha, the demon Jalasura turned into water and started flowing down the feet of Lord Narasimha. Today, devotees have to walk across a cave with water (1.7mts depth) to worship the idol. With bats flying around, roaches swimming with us and dimly lit path to lead us, it was a new experience for me, and I was seeing such a religious site for the first time.

Sightseeing at Bidar: Jharani Narasimha Swami Cave temple
Inside the cave- enroute to the Narasimha idol

We then proceeded towards our next destination. Enroute, we stopped by the Karanja dam, a small reservoir built across the Karanja river.

In a while from there, we had arrived at Basavakalyan- our main destination for the day. There, we visited the Basaveshwara temple, 108ft high Basavanna statue, Basavanna Guhe and Akkamahadevi Guhe. Then it was a turn to the right that took us to “Anubhav Mantapa”. This is a replica of the ShivanubhavaMantapa- an academy of mystics, saints and philosophers of the ‘Lingayat’ faith in the 12th century. Anubhav Mantapa is often referred as the first parliament in the world.

Sightseeing at Bidar: A view of Hyder Mahal from the Kadak Bijli Toph view point
A view of Hyder Mahal at the Basavakalyan fort

From there we visited the Basavakalyan fort, sparsely visited apart from a few localites who come there to play cricket. But it is indeed a monument forgotten on the maps. The lights falling on the inner chambers of the fort called for some good photography. Some of points of interest inside the Basavakalyan fort for an explorer may be the open-air theatre at the entrance of the fort and the view of Hyder Mahal from the Kadak Bijli Toph viewpoint. With that, it was dark, and we returned to our place of stay.

Day 2:
We started the day by spending some tranquil moments at the ‘Nanak Jira’. This Gurudwara is known for being the second occurrence out of the supernatural powers of Guru Nanak. The first one was ‘Sri Punja Sahib’. This is now in Pakistan and strictly prohibited for free visits. Hence Gurudwara Sri Nanak Jira Sahib is referred to as the ‘Second Punja Sahib’ of India and hence a very holy site for the Sikhs. The sweet water flowing from a spring is believed to clear one off, all sins.

Sightseeing at Bidar: The Nanak Jhira Gurudwara
The Nanak Jhira Gurudwara

Next, on the list was the Bareed Shahi park. The tombs of the Bahamani rulers lay here. This is small but a nice park maintained just to provide some lung space for morning joggers and evening walkers. We were told that this was a neglected piece of history just a year ago and good efforts have been made by the authorities for its restoration.

We had an invitation from one of the colleagues at my mom’s office to visit his home for lunch. To think of it, it is by far and large one of the MOST sumptuous and wholesome meal I have had all my life. Hahaha call it the downside or the funny part of relishing such a wonderful meal- My mom and I were handed over a large towel to wipe off our teary eyes and watery noses. The regional cuisine here is notoriously famous for being high on chilly. But even with the hot flames flying out of our senses, we couldn’t resist the taste of the flavorful spread. It was a typical North-Karnataka cuisine with a spread of over 50 dishes. We were overwhelmed by their hospitality and the flavorful cooking. Apart from the Millet roti and gunpowder, most of the dishes were new discoveries for me. I even had a box packed with roti and keema-curry for my return journey by train in the night.

Sightseeing at Bidar: The Bahamani tombs
The Bahamani tombs

The last and final destination was the Bidar Fort: It is a multi-layered fort to say in simple words. It does not have a quantifiable boundary, though a few localites specify some digits to measure its expanse. The entire city of Bidar is actually within a fort wall which was the area where the citizens lived back during the rulers’ time. The second round of the wall is where the ministers lived. The third and the innermost zone is where today’s tourism is concentrated, the area where the King & the queen lived. This fort needs a minimum of half a day to explore for a person interested in history, architecture or archeology. In a tourist circuit in Bidar that I barely heard of, this fort came in as a surprise when I had least expected. It is HUGE!

Sightseeing at Bidar: The Royal Residence within the Bidar fort
The Royal Residence within the main fort

Bidar has so much to offer for a backpacker on a tight budget. Apart from the travel distance between places, everything else is very affordable. Even the entry to all the major landmarks on the potential tourist trail was free. In spite of it, very few people plan a trip to this district. Maybe because the name pulls down an image of a dry, barren, hot, poor, drought prone landscape. What my eyes met here was contradicting to the imagination that I had, largely based on what I heard in the media. In reality, the city was lush green, well fed with good rains and clean (at least compared to the cleanest places of Bangalore).

Souvenirs to take back: Bidariware is a local form of metal art that has a GI (Geographical Identification) tag and extremely laborious and artistic. It takes an 8 stepped process to create one piece of art and a symbol of royalty, that’s been carried on from 14th century, largely promoted by the Bahamani Sultans.

So, a lesson to take back: Stop imagining how a place would be; go there and see it yourself.

Devanahalli- The town within a Fort

On a casual weekday off, dad and I decided to take a train trip to some random place on the fringes of Bangalore. So, with tickets that costed us Rs.4 per head, we headed towards the platform. We boarded the Yeswantapur-Devanahalli Passenger train. What surprised us what this train with 5 bogies had just 5 passengers, for a round trip. That makes it 1 passenger per bogie 😛

Anyway, the journey towards Devanahalli began and considering that the train still plied well within Bangalore, it felt like we were riding through some unknown green route. We alighted at Devanahalli Railway Station, a small structure from the colonial era (Updated as on Yr.2019, the structure doesn’t exist any longer. It has been demolished making way for a newer station that now welcomes modern passengers who alight here to go to the Bengaluru International Airport) We decided to undertake some exploration and started to walk towards the main town area of Devanahalli.

Places of interest:

Birthplace of Tipu Sultan, Fort Devanahalli, a few ancient temples located within the fortress.

Devanahalli railway station
Devanahalli railway station

The Details:

Enroute, we came across a large stepwell (the only memoir of an once existent temple) which was all dried up now. As we continued to walk further from there, we came across several ancient temples along our way.

Things to see in Devanahalli
An Old temple pond

Before the Bengaluru Airport was shifted to the neighbourhood of this little village, Devanahalli was already popular as the hometown of Tippu Sultan, often referred as the ‘Tiger of Mysore’. We arrived at a small mantap like structure which has an engraved stone that mentions it as the Birth place of this controversial ruler in South India. With this structure lying right by the side of the main road, it didn’t seem very exciting to me to think of whether this famous ruler was born by the road side (or so it seemed).

Tippu's Birth place
Tippu’s Birth place

As we continued to walk further, we came across a large walled structure. With rain water stagnating by its side, excavation waste from the city dumped at the entrance, unpaved dusty roads and all that, it seemed to me like it was a neglected piece of history with a first glance. As we passed through the super narrow doorway in this wall, we realized that we were entering a fortress.

After entering it, we decided to walk on a raised platform along the inner side of the fortress wall. It was a walk longer than we expected it to be and we soon realized that it is one whole town that actually exists within the walls of the fort. The actual ‘Devanahalli’ from the history books existed within the walls and what one knows around the highway is just an extension of the town that overgrew the walls due to the boom in real estate that followed the commencement of the airport.

Things to see in Devanahalli

But after walking so much around this place, it felt like there was nothing much in this place that spoke about Tippu’s valour that is often spoken about in history books.Talking about back in the time in history and with my experience of visiting Srirangapatna (a stronghold of Tippu & his father), Devanahalli as a town lacked development.We walked around the place till evening and were able to cover one half of the Fort. But, with that we had already exited from the other end of the town. We boarded a BMTC bus back to the city from there.

Closing Remarks:
• A good day for a jobless person like me seeking for offbeat places around the city
• It isn’t an exclusive place, but if someone has couple of hours of transit at the airport and don’t know what to do, this is an option. It is the nearest place to venture out in a taxi from the airport as Bengaluru city is too far to reach.

The Western Ghats- To Save or Not ?

There is much ado about the Western Ghats getting tagged as a World heritage site by the UNESCO.

So, like everyone around me here, I too am excited about sharing my views on it.

Firstly the stronger points for consideration:

  1. The western Ghats is home to very rare species of flora & fauna- many snakes, frogs, birds etc. are critically endangered and also unique only to these Ghats.
  2. These ghats stop the wind from the east and bring rainfall to the south.
  3. The major rivers of the South are rain fed and originate here.
  4. I being an ardent nature lover would definitely support to save the ever lush green ghats.

Now, the points not to consider:

  1. There are a no. of tribes living in these Ghats like the Soligas, Kurubas, Maleya-kudiyas etc who will all be forced to vacate the forests and will be disturbed from their natural habitat though the government may promise them of providing alternate homes.
  2. The Coorgs (Kodavas)- by themselves are a very small community fighting hard against the “Jamma Bane” issue and now have yet another blow. Many localites holding lands in the identified areas will be forced to vacate and this will inturn force them out of Coorg.
  3. Myself being a hardcore Kodavathi, I would never be able to take this by my stride.

And now, the strongest of them all:

  1. The Ghats are a rich source for mining, timber and a major hub for tourism leading to severe deforestation in the name of building resorts, nature sports and the likes.
  2. It is important to consider that our beloved elected representatives are frequently in the limelight for the mining scams. The major share of resorts in this region are owned by big names and are tucked away deep in the core area of the jungles which compete for providing the best tiger spotting, elephant spotting, wild hunting, etc. etc, activities for their guests. So there is a valid point for these scamsters to fight against the prestigious tag.
  3. The heritage tag limits the human entry to most regions. Let alone restrictions on activities like trekking, hiking etc. just walking around this place without knowledge would lead to high penalty.

But, what if this has an impact on a Coorg’s lifestyle: the tag has come as a much needed  respite for a nature lover like me. We are Coorgs at the end of the day. We have lived our way through thick jungles, heavy downpours, deep dark nights, wild animals in our porticos. And that’s the way we enjoy our life at it’s best. So we can definitely live strong with thick jungles. We want our Green cover to be saved…!!

I am frustrated of being helpless and just a mute spectator watching the depletion of green cover in the name of development. I can hardly see any development in my area other than the fact that big names (let me say powerful people) are buying properties by offering good money and settling down in Coorg, becoming stake-holders in resorts etc and turning all their black money white.

I used to eagerly wait for the rainy season to start so that I would get my monsoon holidays while I was in school. And now, I am even more anxious that this rainy season may pass by without even seeing a “rainfall”. Yes, only conservation of these ghats can bring us the rains that we need.

I am frustrated with the fact that the place where is grew up catching little fishes and crabs with my cousins as a little girl beneath big boulders is now nothing but a fully concrete platform for the tourists to rest on.

What I once knew as a beautiful waterfall and a place where my grandpa gave me my swimming lessons is now nothing but a pool of sewage flowing from the town littered by ruthless tourists. The stench of this mess gets tears streaming down my eyes everytime I stand on the very same concrete platform and try to recollect the good old greener and cleaner grandpa days…

The Bramhagiri hills
The Bramhagiri hills

And here I sum up (with lines from a famous song of a Bollywood movie):

Give me some sunshine, give me some rain
Give me another chance, I want to grow up once again…

– 3 Idiots

My First Job at the Car Hospital

If you are new on my website, WELCOME! If you have been following me for sometime, you may be already aware that I graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and soon after graduation, I was recruited by one of the LARGEST automobile manufacturers in the world! It is every mechanical engineer’s dream to be able to pursue a job in the same field that we studied. I was lucky to have JUST that.. My first job gave me an opportunity to work closely with cars with a sort of freedom that I had seen only in documentaries or on episodes of Top-Gear on BBC.

But, Since there are SO many things I involved in my roles and responsbilities in this position, that I often find it difficult to explain it in a ‘ley man’s’ language. The simplest I can call myself is a ‘Car Doctor’. In this post, I would like to share what I do (apart from writing travel articles) on a daily basis, in my first job at the car hospital.

<14-Sept-11> I’m on the mezanine floor….

A cap whose colour is forgotten behind the thick layer of oil & grease, a pair of knitted white gloves which now look like dark leather ones with the dirt, black heavy leather shoes with metal cover for the toes, newly introduced punk looking helmets which make me look like a cyclist, arm covers, wrist guards, goggles- the deep sea diving types…. These are my safety gears at work… and I’m all set for some action..!!!

I’m told that there’s some problem with the shoulder joints(the front door hinges) and he needs a physio- so I ripped both the hands(the front doors) apart.. His eyes (headlamps) were flickering.. And I checked for some electric signals that the brain sent across.. The MIL(Malfunction Indication Lamp) was glowing.. So I removed the eyes out of the skull. Even then, the MIL was on. Now, it was time to pull out the nose and dig deep into the nostrils (the hood and everything under). Then, the spine (the steering column) came out. It was then time to shave the head off (the dashboard/ Instrument panel covers) and I directly pulled out all the nerves (wiring harness) that I could catch in a grab. The signals continued… I removed the medulla (immobilizer ECU), cerebrum (theft warning ECU), cerebellum (injector drivers) and the current flow still continued.. I have removed out every possible source of these signals and now I know the source is “the Master Control- The engine ECU”. It is in my hand right now. Yes, the blinking has stopped!

My job doesn’t end there. In fact, it starts only now.. So, there I am.. Investigating which Neuron (circuit on the PCB) lead to this current outburst.. I broke open a few capacitors and relays. The resistors were already ripped apart.. and finally found the culprit… Unbelievable but true- a tiny ant had pee-d on one of the soldered circuits which lead to corrosion which in turn caused the malfunction of the brain. Hmm…

But my work continues… I will now send the part to the supplier(literally..!!) and follow up with him to identify the root cause and take countermeasure on priority..!!!

OKAY…!!! So, I’m Dr.Neurologist cum dermatologist here… I work with the brain(ECU) and nerves(all electrical and body parts)

But there is a cardiologist too.. My colleague-friend: He treats all heart related ailments (Engines).

And there’s an orthopaedician too- he treats the limbs (the chassis, suspension systems etc.)

We are the soldiers guarding the Siachen border- We have complete freedom to rip a person apart- part by part and win accolades for it.. Destruction gives us all a complete sense of accomplishment.

We are rarely idle. But, when we think we are, we put back everything and go for a long drive.

And then, we are back for yet another postmortem..!!

Fortuner-3_0
One of my patients- during the regular check up on the test track

Ofcourse, I have MUCH better pictures of my patients going through even worse treatments.. But, I had to rely on this internet photo for confidential policies 🙂

Picture courtesy: Google images

Click here to read about out my next job assignments.

  1. The inevitable change- Job rotation
  2. Monsoon- Showers of hope

Click here for other daily inspirations from work:

  1. Things I Learnt, the Toyota way
  2. My breakfast platter- Baat-O-Bath
  3. India Unlock 1.0- Going back to school

Studying ‘Bachelor of Cycle-logy’ at IIT-Madras

This trip to Chennai is going to be a memorable one. Because, this was my first solo business trip. Apart from traveling alone in a land that spoke a language I barely understood, I managed to pretty decently pull-off the audit at a vendor company, all by myself. Some small little personal milestones! So, here’s a peek into my first solo business day, without business :p

I landed at the Meenambakkam international airport at around 8.00.a.m. and hired a taxi to the vendor’s place. This is when my tryst with Tamil started. The driver did not know my language and I did not know his. But, one thing I learnt quite fast was, being a Kodava really helps while roaming around in South India. I could mix up bits of Malayalam and a little more of Kodava thakk and make it sound pretty much like Tamil. The driver managed to understand the basic instructions. And the rest, sign language it was. But yeah, it was a lucky start for a solo stint.

But imagine finishing work ahead of schedule and having a late night flight to return! Especially when you don’t have a backup plan in hand and do not know the local language. Even if I googled for some place to hang around, I was not able to communicate it to my driver.. The sign language wouldn’t be of much help if I had to spend a longer unplanned day. Hell! I felt stranded in my own country.

That’s when a friend studying at IIT-Madras came to my rescue. I rang him up and he guided the driver in Tamil to reach his campus. The plan was that he would show me around the campus and then drop me back to the airport. Fair! So that’s what I did..

What if I did not crash the GATE (The toughest entrance exam in India) ?? That did not stop me from learning at the prestigious IIT-M..!! Thanks to my friend pursuing research at IIT-M, this was where I completed my “Bachelor of Cycle-logy” which I had left unfinished way back in primary school. He suggested that cycling around the vast campus was the easiest way of getting around and I agreed to his suggestion. He got his bicycle out and borrowed one for me from one of his classmates. Then, we had gotten pedalling on the roads of the vast 600+ acres of lush greenery on the campus of IIT-Madras.

IIT madras campus
Top: Gajanan circle at IIT-M premises; Below: Bonn avenue at IIT-M

IIT-Madras is located adjacent to Guindy national park(the 8th smallest in India)- the last bit of the tropical dry evergreen forest in India. There is so much greenery in the entire canyons, that our cycling stint was indeed refreshing. This allowed me to witness the harmonious co-existence of man and the wild, in an urban setting. While the Black bucks, spotted deers etc. walked around fearlessly on the campus, the humans went about their businesses without coming on the ways of these wild animals.

Wildlife at IIT Madras campus
Wild animals walking around freely inside the IIT-Madras campus

After we had pedalled around almost all corners of the campus, we checked in to the ‘cafe coffee day’ on their campus. Since restaurants are heavily subsidized in such institutions, this was the “Cheapest” CCD I had been till date. It was 5.00.p.m. something and we still had so much time left. So, we decided to hit the “Elliot Beach” in Besant nagar about 6.kms from IIT-M.

We had some corn, I bought a Rajnikanth mask, flew a kite etc. on the sea shore. We did all that which helped us to kill time. The beach was a wee bit dirtier than the ones I had seen all my life (in Mangalore and Kerala). Meanwhile, I waited patiently to see the sunset. I waited and waited… and it was dark already. Only then did I realize that the sun only rises in the East coast 😛

Besantnagar beach in Chennai
Top:The Karl Schmidt memorial; Below: A corn vendor at Elliot’s/ Besantnagar beach

It was going to be 6.30.p.m and we thought it would be wiser to leave, because we had to brave through the Chennai traffic so that we made it on time to the airport.

All in all, a day well spent. Looking forward for many more business trips 😛

India on the go

India.. one of the fastest growing economies of the world.

We boast of being the land of ultra-mod skyscrapers, world’s top billionaires, multi-storeyed residences, luxurious amenities, so on and so forth.

What we have been ignoring, are the little things that are just within our vicinity. We think it is something usual and there is nothing to break our heads about. We spend more time following our celebrity idols- where they go, what they do etc. An actors’ progeny is bound to be a talented actor and so with a politician.

One evening, while I was walking back home from college, I came across a man pushing his cycle which was loaded with goods. He was walking in the direction towards me. From the front view, his cycle had a 4-5 ruck sacks tied on either sides of the handles, filled with goods. Two plastic pots were tied onto either sides of the carrier at the rear. My eyes fell on something that looked like a random bundle of clothes placed at the rear end of the cycle. As I walked closer, I noticed something unusual. What I thought was a bundle of rags was infact a baby…!!

Roughly 4-5 months old, sleeping peacefully on a tin trunk box covered with just a piece of rugged bedspread. I walked closer and made sure what my eyes just saw and what my mind just thought it to be, was right. The Little baby boy was having a peaceful nap without ever knowing the reality of this cruel world. He had no idea about the kind of hardship his fragile parents were going through just to bring him up.

Theatre on wheels
Theatre on wheels

This cycle was his home. This cycle was his office. This cycle was his mode of transport. Oh.. Did I say “His”? He does not live alone in this makeshift home. He lives with his wife and 3 kids. He also carries his makeshift “Drama Company” on these wheels. He stops where he thinks it is right, performs a few acts and earns a few pennies, enough to feed his family with a one time meal per day.

I was confused how to react on hearing this story. I did not understand whether I had to feel bad because he was poor or whether to feel happy that he was content with his life (or at least for what he seemed like). But all I can do is, speak about it in a little more elaborate context but can never think of getting into that man’s shoes and exploring his world.

Theatre on wheels
towards facing the drama of life

When asked for, he gladly posed for a picture with a warm smile. The only gesture I could show was to offer him the fifty rupee note that I had in my wallet which he received with a bigger smile.

This “Small and Happy home” kept my thoughts disturbed at least for a week. Maybe I can try to get him a job in some theater, movie or make a documentary which could earn him enough money to support his family’s needs.. A lot of ideas came popping in my mind. But I felt like a helpless little creature in this evil wide world where the scope for growth is meant only for the rich. The rich is getting richer and there is no scope for improvement for the lesser privileged. The others who fall in between these two categories are just mute spectators.

I can see India growing… Yes, India is really on a go.!!