Friday, January 25, 2013


            Men are nomadic by nature. Our long journey through space- time has jailed us in cages called modern homes. There are walls every where. In Home- in Office- in vehicles. By nature we long for infinite space. Space shrinks to a cage in rooms. We pretend to be content while we are boiling in the inside. So we undertake some journeys to cool off. Some journeys only add up the heat inside. But there are some places which will indeed cool you off. A journey to Parambikulam will surely cool you off.
          We started our journey from Payyanur after supper and reached Palaghat early morning. We took some rest in a hotel and started off after breakfast to parambikulam tiger reserve. We reachered  Parmbikulam by noon. As there is no private accommodation in Parambikulam you will have to book rooms in advance at the Govt. Guest houses. You can enter the forest only if you reach there before one pm . At the entrance the forest officials welcomed us. We had a hearty meal at the hut canteen and Mr. Natarajan, an official was entrusted to look after us.

          We travelled through the forest for some 20 kms to reach ‘honey comb’ rest house where our stay was arranged. We were allowed to take rest until  3 pm. At 3 pm Natarajan came and we set forth for trekking. When our vehicle reached inside deep forest we spotted many animals in groups- deer bison and peacocks. The forest is not so thick. Teak was seen planted systematically. On enquiry, Natarajan explained that the natural teak worth millions of rupees were cut and ported to Foreign countries by the British who constructed a rail tram for the deportation. After that, in 1961, a special team was entrusted to plant teak trees. The longest and oldest living teak in the world is in Parambikulam. It is called ‘kannimaru’ now worth some 10 crores. The British also planned to cut it down but the tribesman who began to cut the branches noticed blood oozing from it. He declined to cut the tree saying that the tree is a virgin goddess. Thanks to the pagan believe, the tree lives to this day.

          Parambikulam is home to some 27 tigers, hundreds of elephants, wild bears, deer, peacock and several other animals. While trekking we had a pleasant view of peacocks and bison and deer grassing. There are two dams in parambikulam . The water belongs to Kerala and the dam belongs to Tamilnadu  -There of course is an agreement for sharing water- Parambikulam Aliyar projects water sharing agreement -which is seldom adhered to- The result –Kerala dries up and Tamilnadu gets the full share.

          Once you are in the forest you will understand what the entire human race has lost in moving away from forests. The rejuvenating air will tell you everything. The chirping of birds and the distance cry of a sambar will tempt you to sing a song. The solace and peace of mind will cool you off. Interested and adventurous could stay overnight in a machan (tree hut) constructed over two or three teak trees. It has all the amenities-electric connection, attached toilet and the like – If you are fortunate enough you could witness a tiger hunting a deer live- There is also rafting through the river. There are plenty of crocodiles in the river.
          We returned by night fall. We watched a tribal dance going on in full spirit. We got a very splendid supper and went to bed. The night was very still without the noise of motor vehicles- Total silence but for the occasional forest sounds.
          Next morning we set off early. Natarajan told the case of a bear climbing up a high tree for devouring a honey comb. After getting intoxicated, it fell down over a stump causing fatal injuries. He also witnessed an elephant delivery- the act took place in the vigil of some fifteen elephants ready for any emergency. The mother is fed with fresh leaves by the others.
          We set of to Aliyar Dam and then to Valpara,a picturesque mountain resort mounting some 40 hair pin bends. The journey was tough but the scene was rewarding. From Valpara we got down to Athirappalli Vazhachal waterfalls through tea estastes.
The proposal for a new dam at athirappalli will drain the beautiful waterfall.  
After witnessing the fury of the fall we climped up and jumped into the water upstream and got immersed in the running water for some time. The bathe refreshed us all and we returned home in good spirits. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013


When the December frost descends the paddy fields of Gramam a total metamorphosis occurs. The entire brown fields convert itself into emerald green vegetable gardens. The water logged ‘thura’ suddenly becomes an ocean of vegetables. The entire gramers start vegetable cultivation. You could cultivate vegetables in others fields as well. Hence every one demarks a slot in thura and saw the seeds. Every garden has its own wells called kooval - a shallow pit dug into the fields for the purpose of watering. Every day morning the entire gramam assembles - father, mother and children - to water the vegetables and to collect the garden fresh vegetable ( I can even now remember that fresh smell). These vegetables are not for day to day use only but for the entire year. There used to be country seeds passed on from generation to generation which do not require pesticides.( there even used to be a variety of mathan (melon) sawed at a time when the pooram possession from theru starts which will be ready by Onam) . The main cultivation is cucumber and melon. Tiny pandals decorated with snake guards and bitter gourds and beans of different kinds sprouts every where. Spinaches and ripe tomatoes give a red tint to the field Water melons fully ripe shines in the morning dew. A nostalgic smell lingers in the background. Not only thura but every inch of payyanur will convert itself into vegetable gardens. Garden fresh vegetables used to make the curries tastier. Also after the harvest- that too is a festival- all the ripe cucumbers and melons are taken home which were preserved hanging down from the roof using coconut leaves.

I used to accompany my mother to the vegetable garden every day morning and evening. Watering the garden is a joy rather than a work. It is a miracle to see how a seed sawn a couple of days ago grew and creeps up to the pandal and blooms. Soon it will give rise to a fruit. It is the greatest miracle of life. A ladies finger flower on the next day gives rise to a tender fruit. A stone is tied at the end of every snake gourd lest it will spiral off. The reward of watering the garden is always a bite of a tender cucumber.
There is another duty for the children to perform. Selling vegetables. Spinaches and other vegetables are taken in a bamboo container and carried on head.

After the harvest a pathway is formed through the fields which is used as a short cut to payyanur town
Those days are gone. Now we are proud to purchase even curry leaves. We speak volumes against globalization. But we enjoy every purchase. When mangoes are plenty in our tree we will not think of making mango pickle but will wait for the time when it is sold in town. What a terrible change.
I remember those evenings as though they occurred in another life. The mirth of splashing water in a kooval or presenting some fresh vegetable to a loved one are all vivid in my memory. Also I remember a night in which four of us on our way to the festival at kurunhi stole a watermelon from a filed on the way and when we tried to break it- alas -it was a white melon - a ripe kumbalanga