26 February 2009

Kerala & Tamil Nadu pictures

Okay, here I go on one of my boring travel monologues again! At least I have pictures this time, so they can make up for the lengthy post that will go on and on.

First, as promised, pictures of our swimming forest deities :-) It's not a good picture, but that's okay because I have to be careful about protecting their identities..in case there's a blog-reading girlfriend or wife out there somewhere.
Our first day in Kannur was all about waking up late and hastily phoning reception asking to send someone up to our room to help us wear our sarees since we are both hopeless losers with them. Hectic, half-asleep, pins coming off, strings and threads and what not all over the place...
And despite all this expert help, I was unhappy the whole day because it felt like my sari was falling off. Yet I managed to go for a walk on the beach, get my feet wet, walk around a park for more than an hour, then climbed up and down a lighthouse, all with my sari threatening to come undone all the time!

I like this picture of a smoking Macavity and the groom. Looks all regal and the days-of-the-Raj type :)
Then it was Chambakulam, where all the hustle and bustle stopped, and it was all tranquility and peace and quiet and beauty all around. This is the cottage where we stayed -
Our regular morning traffic - no honking or screeching or burning rubber here!Macavity never smiles like this during breakfast. But here she grinned non-stop - through breakfast to dinner.
Our cottage owner lent us a canoe and a man, who rowed us out to the church, then up to the village market, then to explore the river. And this gallant rower of weak-armed maidens plucked me lotuses! I have been obsessed with lotuses all my life, I only ever see them from a distance, or in pictures. So just holding that beautiful lotus in my hands was exhilirating for me.We also befriended some locals, who invited us to dinner. We sat on the floor, ate with our hands, washed our hands on our dinner plates when we were done, and talked late into the night in this pretty little cottage of theirs.
This beautiful St.Mary's church was only about 5 minutes walk away from our cottage. And it was not tourist infested as the other churches I'd seen, and I could actually pray. It's over 500 years old, and the beautiful murals just take your breath away. (However, Macavity spotted a big painting of a cow and a dragon, and couldn't understand why they were there. I don't think I do either :))
You know what I loved more than all the other flowers there? The Indian Coral flower (Fartuah in Mizo)! For me, they're all about Mizoram and home and childhood. Seeing them blooming so raw and wild in the forest just tugs at and warms my heart and makes me want to cry. It makes me think of days that were good but will never come again.
Local women bathing in the sacred river Pampa -
Then there was idyllic Ooty - It bothered me that people thought it necessary to get tour guides and see all the usual tourist spots. They'd be aghast when we'd said no, that we didn't plan to get ourselves guides nor do we plan to see this or that. They didn't get it that when we have forests like these, we don't need anyone to show us what to do with our time.
So like the good travelers that we are, we veered off all the spots recommended to us by our hotel and our driver and our guidebook, and strayed into the forest, and watched and listened to birds and picked wild berries all day instead. We also ate every plant we knew was edible in the forest. And we ran into a couple of wild jungle fowls. Now isn't that far better than standing in line at some man made amusement park with hundreds of other tourists, waiting to buy tickets for yourselves and your cameras?

Keralite state buses have those really big windows, and you can't close them halfway, it has to be either fully closed or fully open. And the amount of grime and grit that gets on your face is NOT funny! So after my first ride and I swiped the first layer of dust off my face, I decided I had to wear my ninja gear on those buses. At all times. All worth it though for views like this -
Another obession of mine - cashew fruits. Ever since I first saw them some years back, I have always wanted to touch them and smell them and eat them :P And not buy them from a supermarket, but right under the trees. Pluck them out from where they hang so enticingly and bite into them. I mean look at them, aren't they just too pretty!
And the best thing about traveling is that you get to fulfil these little dreams on the way when you least expect it. I saw some local guys knocking cashew fruits off the trees, and asked the driver to stop. I jumped out, and these men welcomed me like they expected me! And it's amazing how much you can do when you can't even understand a word of what the other person is saying. They graciously offered me fruits they'd already plucked, and I also shamelessly picked a fruit from a particular tree (pic above) and they got it for me. They showed me how to eat it too - all without speaking a common language. They spoke only Malayali, while I tried to make do with English & Hindi. But we understood each other perfectly!
Another thing I love about traveling is meeting good people and to find them everywhere you go. People talk so much about the world being full of bad things and bad people, but I don't think it's true. I think mostly, human beings are g0od everywhere. You'll always have some that'll try to help themselves to your money or your things - camera, shoes, butts, breasts, but that's only a very small percentage of the population. No matter where I go, I see more people wanting to be nice and friendly to you and eager to help.We met these two men in the middle of nowhere town of Allapadi. I won't go into details, but they went wayyy out of their way to help us I just wanted to hug them. Traveling makes me thank God that He put so many nice people on Earth.

Another fun thing about traveling - doing things that are not part of the plan at all! The completely crazy, unprecedented ones but the ones that you will never forget. Like sneaking in to a tea estate wearing a tiara :-)And the time and place to ponder over useless things! We love Camelias, but we don't get to see these flowers often. So finding this big tree full of flowers was fascinating for us. We sat under it, looked up at the flowers, and got lost in our thoughts. And good thoughts. I thought about my mother, and how much I love her and miss her. I thought about my cousins, and how grateful I am to have them. I don't think these things often here in my busy, hectic life in Hyderabad where there is always work and it's always somebody's birthday, and there's always a dinner or a party or some other event to run off to and to keep you from thinking....Macavity believes Keats must have sat under a Camelia tree such as this when he wrote some of his poems. I can easily believe that too!

25 February 2009

Back home again

Whew! Good to be back but I still miss Kerala! I want to post pictures but it's a friend's birthday and I have to rush home so maybe tomorrow.

During our entire journey in just 7 days - without a single short-cut plane ride - managed to trace this path:

Hyderabad -> Bangalore -> Mysore -> Wayanad -> Kannur -> Ernakulam -> Fort Kochi -> Alleppey -> Chambakulum -> Alleppey -> Palakad -> Silent Valley -> Attapadi -> Palakad -> Coimbatore -> Coonoor -> Ooty -> Bangalore -> Hyderabad

All either by bus or hired cars! Out of 7 nights, we spent only 4 in nice comfortable beds, the rest either on buses or bus stations - in transit from somewhere to somewhere.

It was pretty amazing I must say! And superfreaking tiring! The bus ride home yesterday was the longest and most uncomfortable bus ride ever - wastes and wastes of barren land with the sun schorching down mercilessly on its undernourished inhabitants and on our little bus so by the time I reached home, I was exhausted, had a killer headache, sweaty and grimy and dehydrated, all I could do was stagger into my bathroom and throw up. I think I threw up till I thought I was going to die. But I woke up feeling fresh as a daisy today, and I love being back at work!

I'm also quite happy that I got to cover some parts of Tamil Nadu, even though it was complately unplanned for because I'd never been there. So dayum! I've killed two birds with one stone :)

21 February 2009

More love from somewhere else

Okay, Miss Lane now signing in from Pallakad! It has been one of the most amazing trips I've ever had, I've met the most wonderful people...and yet, I know I say that for every trip I take. But Kerala is by far one of the most beautiful states in India. And the people are just wonderful. I think it's the best state ever, next to Mizoram of course :-). It's the lushness and the freshness and the greeness and organic-ness and natural-ness (:P) of the place that just tugs at my heartstrings! The only thing I love more than that is the people. Warm, friendly, honest - this is the only place in India where people are always on time, and they're not out to rip you off all the time.

I'm going to quickly tell you about one of the more interesting things we've experienced so far. So we were in this little tiny village on the edge of the backwaters in Chambakulum. We had a beautiful little cottage right next to the river. And a pretty gazebo right on the river, and then wilderness all around. Birds and snakes and all kinds of interesting things. So all I expected was the trees, the river, the birds, the flowers, the insects, and us.

So one evening we went walking around the paddy fields around the region, and we were heading home, and heading straight towards the gazebo instead of our cottage. And suddenly right next to our cottage, bathing in the river were these two beautful, gorgeous men (half-naked!) :-) I would not have been surprised to see wild animals, but hot men?! Way out of our expectations. And there in the dusky light, and the glimmering rippling river, and the sound of the jungle, these two gorgeous men looked like they could have been the forest's deities. :)

A wave, and a hello, and a pretty fun banter going around soon. I asked them if I could watch them swim even though I knew they were not there to swim. And with childish, boyish zeal, they leaped into the deeper parts of the river and splashed and swam around furiously for our benefit. It made me smile in contentment. It's so good to be a woman. You don't have to be a great beauty, or possess great brains. It's just enough being a woman, and you can make even deities make fools of themselves for you. :)

I can already hear some men furriously typing the 'you feminist!' comments :-) I have pictures to prove that all these indeed did happen. But I'd have to search around to find my cables, so I'll validate all of these as soon as I get back.

Whew! Anyway, it sure has been quite a bit of traveling! Hyderabad to Bangalore, Bangalore to Wyanad to Kannur, a night in Kannur, and then Ernakulum, then a few hours in Fort Cochin. We then hired a car to take us to Kumarakum, it was quite funny, we both fell asleep in the car for almost an hour, woke up and for some reason promptly decided to go to Alleppey instead. We asked our driver if it was too late to go to Alleppey, and he said it was not. So off we went to Alleppey instead.

We've had two accidents so far (both rickshaw related). We both still have massive bumps on our heads, and we look like boxers who've been losing the fight. And we've had one fight so far. But the good experiences far outweight the bad ones. I miss my mom, I've been missing her since the night I had the accident that gave me the bump. You know, no matter where I am or how old I am, or how well I think I can take care of myself, or how much fun I'm having, or who I'm with, when I stub my toe, or I hit my head, or I feel I'm in a situation where I might die, or just experiencing pain - emotional or physical, the first person on my mind, the only one I always want is my mother.

Okay, I talk so much I embarrass myself sometimes. I'm off to sleep. We're heading to Silent Valley to spend a night there and hopefully see some tigers. Then to another forest to spend a night in a treehouse. You're all jealous I can tell. Yeah I'm so lucky! :)

18 February 2009

With love from Kerala

Lois Lande quickly signing in from small, tiny internet cafe in some small, tiny town in Kerala! :-) It's a shabby looking  one, and the equally shabby looking young boy minding the place just came over to tell us "Don't use Internet Explorer, please use Chrome" :-)  

I'm here for a wedding, and now wedding's over, and Macavity and I are just traipsing across Kerala. We just got to the bus station to get a bus to some town that we marked on the map, but there was only one, and it was leaving for some other town, so we're going there instead. And we have just about an hour to kill before it leaves and this is us killing some time. 

Quick word of pretense-wisdome for the day before I sign off - I have come to believe that the more I travel, the more I believe the world is eseentially the same everywhere. 

There are 'Fartuah's blooming everywhere. It's beautiful, just like Mizoram. And tons of other Mizoram-type flora. Okay, we're being kicked out. Will sign in soon again hopefully.

12 February 2009

Are you going to vote?

I asked the infamous Macavity, and here's what she had to say about it.

"If they keep having these dry voting days and expect me to vote and not drink, or even support the drink, I don't want to vote for people who can't drink! I mean, who can't be broad-minded enough to not send policemen to patrol every single minibar, or bar or restaurant in town, when they could be doing to a million other things. So no, I'm not going to vote."

Makes sense? P

10 February 2009

The Serial Comma

I'm just nitpicking as usual, but I'm really curious what the right usage of commas is when used in a series. I go with 'A, B, C, and D.' I'm not sure if this is the correct way to use it, but I must at some point in my life have been taught to do this because I have been using it that way so diligently (even though I have no idea where or who taught me that, way back in school most likely).

However, 90% of the time, I see people leave out the comma before the conjunction - A, B, C and D. All major newspapers, most books that I read use it this way. And just when I start to think I'm wrong in using the comma before the conjunction, I see someone using it the same way I do.

I'm too lazy to research. And besides, I promised myself I wouldn't waste time researching anything to do with grammar :P But I'm still curious. I know it's a trivial issue, every time I mention this, my friends shake their heads and give me this exasperated little look. But every time I see a sentence with the missing (according to me) comma, it screams out at me. I want to make sure I'm not bothered for the wrong reason.

So A,B, and C or A, B and C - what exactly is the right usage here?