Kaaranam Aayiram

Warning: If you watch movies just for entertainment – just go to the hall for 3hrs of time pass and relaxation, then you should be leaving the theatre when the interval card gets shown.

There could be thousands of reason why one would like Gautam’s Vaaranam Aayiram. But I guess the single most reason why he made the film is his dad. He seems to have drawn lots of inspirations from his dad and has tried to make a film out of it.

You could watch this movie more than once, because its really worth spending that money to experience what Gautam does to you at least in the first half of the movie if not the most part of the movie. He just fills the theatre with love in the first 90 minutes of the film. Fill as in full of love…:) Starts with the dad Suriya chasing Simran it goes on till the other Suriya sweeps Sameera of her feet in the US. By the time “Mundhinam Paarthaenae” and “Nenjukkul Peidhidum” songs gets over, supported by the evergreen numbers of Ilayaraja songs there are just three possibilities of things running in your head.

1. If you are in love, you would go even more crazier.
2. You could be thinking of that first love that didn’t happen. The memories of good old days when you were actually crazy about some one.
3. You would be cursing yourself, why you wasted so much of your life without experiencing anything like that. And why things just don’t happen to you alone 🙂

Certainly I would rate the first half next to the 30 minutes of Karthik/Revathy in Mouna Ragam when it comes to how Tamil movies have portrayed love/romance. The Mouna Ragam 30 minutes is something that can be watched over and over and every other time it would bring a smile in your face invariably. Well its the same case here too. Somehow Gautam does this very easily.

Yeah I am coming there. It is an out and out Suriya show. This guy has shown the real meaning of commitment and it clearly shows that he has put his heart in to this film. Right from the expression on his face when he sees Sameera for the first time, the 70s Suriya going behind Simran, the school boy who starts drawing inspirations from his dad, showing some guts to his senior, the typical college guy who feels responsible for his family and also having Sameera on the other side…The 40 year old Suriya, the Major Suriya, the shell shocked Suriya on the death of his girl, the drug addict, the 70yr cancer patient, the inspirational dad…You seamlessly get lost in the different Suriyas you see on screen and he does every role perfectly. The home work he has done definitely shows in the screen and all girls would certainly be jealous of Jothika 🙂 Especially with the six pack he has got which probably gets shown only for max 15-20 seconds in the movie. He certainly has moved on to the next league and if he continues to do so, can definitely take Tamil cinema to next levels.

Dad plays a very important role in any guy’s life. He is the first person whom a guy looks up to draw inspirations, set role models and imparts certain quality of his in to himself. As a kid one sees dad as the man-to-be and looks up to him for lot of things. The same is valid for even girls because dad is the first man in their life too. Whenever they choose their life partner too, girls I think would compare certain attributes of the guy to their dad. And Gautam has tried to tell exactly the same thing. Probably one common attribute to all the dads is that they don’t want their kids to know with what difficulty they are being raised. You could see this in any middle class family, where the dad could be working in a bank/public sector company/govt trying to meet both the ends. But he won’t even let the kids know what all he goes through to get that first bicycle, the first excursion fees in school, that engineering seat, takes a loan on his provident fund to do your MS App/flight ticket, sees you off in that train/flight when you start to pursue your dreams and the list goes on. And all these without a single element of selfishness, the only thought of “my son/daughter should be in a better position than what I am in”.

And Gautam gets amazing numbers from Harris to open that champagne of love and spill every drop of it in the movie hall. “Mundhinam Paarthanae” set in the 70s is the initial gush out of that champagne bottle. As Gautam shakes the bottle more and more “Nenjukkul Peidhidum” and “Oh shanthi” carries the feel over to the interval of the movie. “Anjala” tells you that if you shake the champagne in full enthu it gushes out real fast and gets over in a blink of the eye. Harris has given a pretty decent BGM and does well in the re-recording area too. Somehow Gautam was able to see the today’s girl next door in Sameera. Never liked her for whatever she was doing in bollywood films. But here she is just the modern yet simple girl you meet in your today’s colleges and offices. Can’t blame Suriya for going crazy about her 🙂

I don’t think the movie is going to do well in B & C centres. There are conversations that happen fully in English and terms and life style that you would understand only if you were brought up in the city. But people in the cities would certainly like the movie. Of course there are flaws in the movie like the US consulate guy getting moved by the explanation Suriya gives to go to the US (gets a 5 year visa:) ), not much emphasize on the ill effects of smoking/drinking, thin portrayal of Divya ( noway I am talking about her size here:) ), how the old Suriya went in to advanced stages of cancer and the family didn’t even care all through the days, no convincing scenes on how Suriya comes out of drugs, with all the loans that the dad Suriya had, the son flies off to US for 3 months to just meet his girl (yeah, cmon Gautam), etc… At the same time, if you are in 20s or 30s you would be able to relate the movie to your life. At one moment in the movie you would have thought about how inspiring your dad has been for some part of you, for whatever reason it could be.


…is the first “Gana” attempt of Harris Jayaraj. And I would say he has done it pretty well. It is certainly not the typical Deva “Gana” type song. It’s kind of a blend between “Gana” and “Venmathiyae” (Minnalae) type Harris song. What I liked the most is the way Karthik has sung this song. Out of all the songs that Karthik has sung, I would rate him well for “Kadhal Sonna Ganamae” from “Boys” and “Aval Ulaga Azhagiyae” from “Lesa Lesa” and of course “Oliyilae” from “Azhagi”. But this one stands equally against those songs for the way he has sung a “Gana” song. Especially in the second stanza when the lyrics goes like

“Velicham thandhava oruthi
Avala iruttula neruthi
Jora payanatha kelappi
Thaniya engae ponalo…
Thaniya engae ponalo… “

Creates a great impact on you especially with the kind of words the poet has penned. Why I like Karthik in “Kadhal sonna ganamae” and “Aval ulaga azhagiyae” is that he clearly gives life to the words in those songs. If you listen to them in headphones in a quiet dark room, you would definitely have a smile on your face. He clearly lifts your mood off and shows how a person feels in love. You just gotta listen to

“Avalathu azhagellam ezhudhida oru baashai illayae
Avalai naan adainthadhum uyirin mael oru aasai illayae”

in the second stanza of “Aval Ulaga Azhagiyae”.

This “Anjala” is on same lines clearly expresses how a guy feels when his girl has left him. I could already visualize Surya with the “one line moustache” and curly hair singing in roads in a lungi and yellow banian after his girl died/left him.

Gautham somehow manages to get awesome songs from Harris. Though “Mundhinam” (Another great work by Naresh Iyer), “Oh Shanthi” and “Adiyae Kolludhae” (Shruti Haasan’s western voice, oh man!!!) equally impresses anyone, Anjala steals the show for me 🙂

I just cannot stop..

… talking, thinking, get in to a different world…A world of mottais music…Well, every one listens to music and I am no exception. I have listened to so many songs from all these music directors from different languages (predominantly Tamil, Hindi and English). But it is Ilayaraja (IR alias Mottai) who can take me to a different world through his simple music. From most of the people whom I have interacted with, they like a song because of the words in it. Because that has the maximum impact in terms of expression of emotions. Many people still appreciate IR for letting the words heard. I mean, latest music trends suppress most of the words and only the music is given much of importance. Well, that’s what most people say. Though I kinda accept that argument, I feel it is IR who gave a lot of importance to music. He had so much of music in all his songs but at the same time the words were clearly audible.

But I don’t care about those words too. I don’t exactly remember all the words of my favorites songs. But I can reproduce the music part of it. That’s the impact of IR’s music, especially the violins he uses. “Rakkama Kaiyya Thattu” from “Thalapathy” is anyone’s first example when it comes to how well he has mixed the violins. In the first 30 or so seconds of the song, there would be two groups of violins playing in different pitch and they would seamlessly blend and then SPB starts it. On a similar note, one song that lingers in my mind most is “Engirundo Ilam Kuruvi” (SPB version) from the movie “Brahma”. It starts with a bass guitar and Piano, next 5 seconds is two violin track in parallel in different pitch, a flute too in parallel and the Cello(Big sized bass violin played by keeping in the floor) starts in the background…Now this pattern is repeated 3 times in different tunes to express the shock of “Kushboo” hearing her dad’s tune.

This “Cello” instrument has a major impact on me. This being the bass element of the violin family creates that strong impact where words cant express the feelings. This instrument is used typically in background musics when lots of violins are playing and this is played in parallel. And IR has used it extensively. You gotta listen to the songs using headphones to really appreciate this. If you listen to the back ground scores, for example, Anjali BGM or Padikkadhan court scene where sivaji collapses when he realizes Rajni is his bro…a lot of such scenes have this Cello in background. And when you listen to the songs of “How to Name it” (specifically “Do Anything” song) you would definitely appreciate how good this instrument is and how well he has used it.

Violins, violins, violins in all of these…”Karpoora Bommai” song from “Keladi Kanmani”, “Anjali Anjali” from the movie “Anjali”, “Kalyana Malai” from “Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal”, “Poongatru” from “Moondram Pirai”…Yeah I know, I can’t complete this list without “Kaala Kaalamai Vaazhum Kaadhalukku” from “Punnagai Mannan”… 🙂 This actually is a huge list; I have mentioned whatever struck me right away. Well, you certainly gotta carefully listen to this “Poongatru” song where he creates and approaching train’s sound using violins.

Almost every song of his has lots of violins between the stanzas and they literally take you in to a different world. A world where you just float with music filled everywhere and wish you at least had once chance of being in IR’s recording studio witnessing how he composes and organizes. I once heard that this “Kanmani Anbodu” song from the film “Guna” got composed right away when Kamal was sitting in Mottai’s studio and reading out the lyrics and explaining the situation. Well, it is not that it is just violins in his music. Best example is “Mandram Vantha” song from “Mouna Ragam”…Absolutely no violin there and anyone would agree what a good song it is…And then you can talk about how well he uses chorus and the best part of silence in movies. He just leaves like 10 seconds of a emotional scene in silence and then starts his BGM and you would be moved by it.

Certain things you learn from others, there would be a guru who can teach you stuff. The rest of things you learn by yourselves mostly by experimenting. But with IR I guess it is there in the genes. I think the DNA code is filled with “Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Da Ni Sa”. Science says there is so much information in the DNA, for IR I guess those are just tunes. People say that he has lots of ego and lot of directors and producers had many issues with him because of that. I guess every artist has that element of self pride on his creation. Probably it is true in IR’s case too. Or may be it is not. But it certainly doesn’t matter to me as long as he gets those violins and pianos and guitars playing. I keep wondering what would you actually feel when you are in the recording studio where, say, IR is sitting with his “Harmonium”, Vaali/Vairamuthu is penning down lyrics, Kamal/Maniratnam/Balachander narrating a situation.

Just couple of lines from some songs which I feel are very much relevant to IR
Mayakkam Thanthadhu Yaar…
Tamizho, Amudho(music), Kaviyo(poet)..
of “Sippi Irukkudhu” song from “Varumayin Niram Sivappu” and

Pirakkaiyil ennodu pirandhadhu valarndhadhu paatu
Nadakkiyil ennodu nadanthadhu kalandhadhu beat-u
Irukkudhu guitar drums-ugal trumpet flute-u
Ivaigali onraga isaippavan yevan ingu kaatu

Vidha vidhama vagai vagai sugam sugamai suram padipen
Imayam mudhal kumari varai idhayangalil idam pidipen

That’s from the song “Pudhuchery kacheri” of “Singaravelan”…And that’s mottai for me and for the millions of people who sing in silence one of mottai’s song whenever they are happy, sad, jubilant, crying, remembering their old love, missing their parents, having tougher times in life or just in a road trip with close buddies. And as I publish this post, “Engirundo Ilam Kuruvi” is running in a loop in my Winamp and I wouldn’t get sleep for quite some time…

What a day!!!

Yes yes yes…after so many years I had a great sense of satisfaction today. I, briefly, for about 2 minutes felt like the happiest man on earth. Yes, I was able to get some petrol filled in my bike after waiting for 20 minutes. Oh cmon, 20 minutes is not a big deal. I got petrol!!!! Can you believe it? I was one amongst those Chennaites/Indians who achieved this astonishing feat.

Well such is the hype created by the Oil Marketing Companies/dealers/Mr.Chidambaram & Co. They successfully instilled the feeling that we are consuming the last few drops of available crude on earth. Yeah now every one in this country tracks crude prices on a daily basis. And inflation has become a house hold term. I never used to understand that term for some time until I realized that the 100Rs credit in my bank account is actually worth 90Rs when I withdraw it from the ATM a week later. The beggar at Teynampet signal no more accepts one rupee. He says “Sir, the one rupee you give becomes 90 paise when it reaches my hand. I can’t buy even a water packet for that amount”. Thanks to US dollar and crude prices, we understand economics a lot better these days. Well no one actually knows how much of crude is left down below. But available estimates (read “under estimates”) says Saudi has supply left for 97 years, Canada has reserves for another 80 years or so and there are other nations like Iran, Russia, Nigeria, etc with supplies left. That gives us ample time to switch to alternate sources of energy. With current demands, we still have lot of time to invent technologies for alternate energy sources before earth depletes out of crude.

So, it is an obvious question on why so much of panic? I guess it is just because US economy is in a bad shape, the dollar following a south trend, few of the investment guys want to earn their share of profit, are playing this game. Since oil is traded in US dollar only, to get more return for their investment in crude they obviously would like oil prices to be on the higher side. Now Kamal can take his next film on chaos theory with this concept:
One manager at Country Wide Home loans in the US takes a decision to hide certain facts about home loan interest rates/hidden charges and frames a policy – People start buying homes like crazy with high EMIs – War crazy Bush sends troops to Iraq and Afghanistan – US sub prime crisis hits the street – dollar starts falling – investment guys not happy – speculate crude prices – crude jumps from 65$ to 144$ a barrel – India’s 70% crude imports takes inflation to 11% – stock market keeps falling – automatically forces me to become long term investor – can’t invest any more in stocks as I donno the bottom – so keep the cash at bank – 100Rs in my bank is actually worth 90Rs – with 3% interest rates and 11% inflation my net loss is 8% by just keeping it at bank – beggar not accepting 1 rupee as it is not worth a rupee. According toe butterfly effect some one in the weird hours of work at Country Wide is the reason for Teynampet Signal beggar talking about inflation 🙂

Uff, and the truth is that 11% is not the actual inflation number in India. Because I heard that in India inflation is calculated based on Whole Sale Price index which is not the price at which you buy at the departmental store. That’s the whole sale price of the commodity you buy. So the actual number is somewhere around 25% is my guess. And yeah the biggest worry for Manmohan Singh & Co. is convincing the left for the nuclear deal. I mean, probably nuclear deal can give us little bit of energy security. Still, India would be importing heavily on the crude side. You are not certainly going to run your two wheelers and cars with nuclear energy. So why not first solve the problem on hand? And why not heavily invest on technologies for alternate energy sources to make India energy self sufficient, say, by the year 2020?

But I think the only worry point of the UPA government is whether to go for elections in October 2008 or May 2009. The Oil Marketing Companies have already switched to 7AM – 7PM working hours in the city; I am not sure about the highway scenario. And some companies sell only premium brand of petrol on which there is no cap at max price. Every one understands that this has a multiplying effect to the amount of rice and dhaal one eats every day and in some cases the number of meals one eats in a day. Of course you just cannot control crude prices as it is an international factor. But certainly you have to look at other options that are within your control. I am sure you can clean up a lot of things in domestic market. Like the whole sale price is fixed by the government. This is the rate at which farmer has to sell it. From there are on so many middle men speculate the market and dictate the price of food items. And there is so much of food items blocked just to be sold at higher prices. I am just giving couple of examples where cleaning can happen. I am sure there are many more such scenarios.

But I know the reality. These things are not going to change. The change would be in IT professionals’ salary structure. Along with CPI (Company performance variable), VPI (Vertical performance variable), IPI (Individual performance variable) we are going to have one more: ICPI —> International Crude Performance Variable.


First thing first: I like Kamal for his acting/effort he puts on each film/knowledge base. But I am not a crazy fan of him who would blindly say Rajini movies are crap 🙂
And, this is not a review about Dasavatharam as a lot had been already written about it. But of course it is about the movie 😀

So, I had been waiting for quite a long time for this Dasavatharam movie and I was so sad that I couldn’t watch the movie in the first week. Finally I saw it and I am certainly not impressed with the movie if at all satisfied. He took a good subject called “Chaos Theory” but made the narration chaotic. I certainly appreciate the amount of effort he had put in getting those 10 roles done. I wish he had put equal effort on the narration front especially when it comes to dealing with Chaos Theory and Butterfly Effect. The chaos theory is as such well explained in the movie depicting how an event in 12th century can contribute to something like a Tsunami. He even shows the butterfly flying in 12th century and at the last scene. But what about the in between 150 odd minutes. Having taken a complex subject, the narration became a lot more complex in dealing with Sand Quarrying, Religion, God, and, God only knows what else… The real part (story) and the imaginary part (screenplay) together maketh the complex movie and as such the screenplay became invisible 🙂

My guess is that he would probably scripted it with 3 or 4 characters but eventually someone in his circle might have told him “Why not make 10 characters and create a world record?”. Anyone would easily agree that he could have avoided 3-4 characters in the movie. And certainly I didn’t get the kind of satisfaction one would get watching movies like “Indian”, “Michael Madana Kama Rajan”, “Anbe Sivam” and the likes…”Anbe Sivam” had a very long lasting impact on me and made lots of sense even though it dealt with a complex subject called God. But here in Dasa I wow at a lot of individual scenes, especially the first 10 minutes of the film. They are just independent scenes and when all of them flow through as a movie, somewhere the link is lost. If it is so difficult for people who can immediately Google and Wiki and find out info about Chaos Theory, I couldn’t disagree with the saloon wala and auto walas I met who said the movie is a crap. Now this is where Rajini differs as a mass entertainer.

OK. I think I have blamed Kamal a lot in this post than all these years. Having grown seeing his movies and acting skills I guess I have the right to say these when all his hard work goes unappreciated. I would sit and watch “n” number of times movies like Nayagan, Varumayin Niram Sivappu, Moondram Pirai, Punnagai Mannan, MMKR, Apoorva Sagodharagal, Devar Magan and the list goes on till Anbe Sivam. The precision with which he acts in every frame, the sheer brilliance he shows in adapting to a character and just living through his entire life for cinema surely stands as a great inspiration for me. Cutting down on height, increasing on weight, sporting an 80 year old guy, running around in a “Madisaar” he has shown variety in every film. Having studied around class 10 or so, his knowledge base is comparable to a researcher in any field. Getting to know so many things, keeping them indexed in his brain, he can start talking about any topic on earth. And when it comes to cinema the quick adaptation of technology and complex story telling techniques he certainly has taken Tamil cinema to the next level during any period.

Even in Dasa, you would definitely notice how much research he has done for each character. Getting trained on George Bush accent and mannerisms, unique walking style for the Dalit guy, punjabi accent, speaking Japanese, Iyengar “bhaashai” for the paati he has literally crafted every frame of the movie. He has taken Visual FX to the next level for Indian Cinema. In fact he tried that in Alavandhan itself when he got special motion controlled cameras for scenes having both the Kamals. People don’t even want to talk if I mention Alavandhan. But in my opinion even that movie was like Dasavatharam. A lot of scenes can be enjoyed individually. On the other side, as my colleague says Kamal fails miserably when movie is just seen for entertainment purposes. Like, there is a business side of it. A lot of people’s career, hard work and most importantly one guy’s huge huge money at stake. That’s where Rajini excels; Sivaji having just a moderate story with mere marketing and Rajini’s screen presence became a runaway hit. I am not saying that people only like masala movies. Of course a lot of movies that were serious have done good at the box office too. But 90% of such movies dealt with relationships, not the ones that handled complex subjects.

Another big let down in Dasa is the music (Songs, BGM and Re-recording). I do not understand the rational behind having Himesh as the composer and choosing Devi Sri Prasad for BGM. If it had been ARR or IR (my personal preference) that would have helped the movie a lot. Both of these guys are capable of creating themes for each period/character in the film and the BGMs will have a long lasting impact on the audience. I am not sure if it is just the dates problem of something the producer had in mind for marketing purposes (when the movie is released in Hindi). Also I missed Sujatha a lot in this movie. His dialogues would have surely made a difference.

I now wish this: if K.S.Ravikumar had directed Sivaji and Shankar directed “Dasa” it would have been really wonderful. Ravikumar rocks when it comes to masala movies and Shankar can create that impact in audience by emphasizing the social message in the film. But wait, I haven’t given up on Kamal. No one would for that matter. I have already started waiting for “Marma Yogi” and I want a Kamal – Mani Ratnam – ARR combo pack in some time… 🙂

Life at 50MPH…

…well that’s the theme of the movie Speed, one of my all time favorite. I have seen this movie so many times that some two weeks back when I was brushing my teeth, I heard this “Sam…Sam…” voice of a female and immediately I could recollect the scene where Sandra Bullock would be driving the bus and Keanu Reeves would be addressing the passengers. Though the movie theme is quite simple I liked the way the movie was taken keeping you interested for the full length (except some of the conversations between Sandra Bullock and Keanu, she would be asking some really dumb questions). The movie got released sometime in 1995 when I had just come to Chennai. Devi theathre, then the biggest and best theatre in Chennai, had got itself renovated with Dolby Systems. I in fact watched the movie with a brand new VCR player that we had bought at my aunt’s place when two of my cousins studying abroad had come for vacation.

The freeway scenes were just awesome for me those days. I couldn’t believe that roads could be that wide and long. Scenes from helicam showing the bus number as 2525, cops blocking certain access roads for the bus to take a sharp right turn are still fresh in memories. The scene where a helicam just pans out from the top of the bus showing the police vehicles retreating and the bus accelerating at full speed trying to cross the 50 feet gap in the freeway is still awesome for me. And it was a brilliant performance from the villain too controlling everything from his living room. He just depicted a typical mean character and just meant business. Though I didn’t like the elevator and train drama of the movie, the sequences that happen in the bus and the long freeway shots compensated for them. Even after some 13 years since it released I would still sit and watch it if aired in one of these movie channels 🙂

God’s own country to my own city

Well, we were in the last day of our trip (with no return tickets yet:)) and took a early morning bus to Thrissur to attend a friend’s marriage. We reached Thrissur at around 9.30, had breakfast and asked for the marriage hall. None of the auto walas knew where the hall is and I was not able to reach my friend too. Initially my friend had told me that any one in Thrissur town would know where that hall is. I could immediately recollect one of Singara velan’s dialog. Kamal would ask “Ennaya mano veedu unakku theriyadha. Chinna kozhandhaya kaetta kooda theriyum nnu sonnar”. Autowala replies “Naan enna chinna kozhandhaya?”. Anyways, after roaming around for 20 minutes we finally got an autowala and we were in the hall when it was just opened by the contractors who were arranging things for the marriage. The bride, groom, relatives…mmhmm…no sign of them yet and it was like 11.30 when finally they came. I didn’t know that mallus keep their marriage timing this late. Back in TamilNadu it is before 10 O clock at any cost.

We spent like 45 more minutes, wished the couple, took a pic too:) We got the next available bus and came back to Chalakudy. Rukku wanted to shop those mallu set sarees and so we took Unni along with us and we got like some 10 such sarees. Rukku had a long list of women to whom he had to present. I just had my sister:) From there we went straight to Unni’s house and met his family, gave one of those set sarees to his wife as our token of appreciation. We then sat in a near by shed owned by Unni. We had, say, one hour chat with Unni and his friends. Unni as promised gave a ticket to us. We were surprised that he could get us a ticket. At the same time, there was a catch. The ticket was booked in some other person’s name and we would be traveling in their name. The ticked didn’t have Souther Railway printed in it. It had some local jewellers name printed instead. Unni said I have travel on “Dixon” name and Rukku has to travel on “Nirmal” name. We got their approximate age details too. We were initially skeptical about the whole thing as this is completely illegal and railways can punish us for this. But then we decided to take a risk as we didn’t have any other option; all buses to Chennai too were booked.

The train was at 6.45 and we packed up our things and met Unni at the bus stand at 5 O clock types. In fact we have to board the train only at Thrissur, so we have to travel again to Thrissur and that would take solid 50 minutes at least. So we bid adieu to Unni, gave him some more money for the help he extended. In fact we took his contact number too so that we could keep in touch; the kind of help he extended during this trip to some strangers is really immense. We wouldn’t have done so many things in those last 3 days if we had said a big no to the autowala who approached us when we landed in Chalakudy. With that, we got out of Chalakudy with loads of memories and reached Thrissur well before the train time. We checked the PNR status and got to know the seat number and coach number. The ticket didn’t have that info too, some alpha-numeric code was scribbled in that. By this time, me and Rukku had rehearsed the answers we might have to give to the ticket inspector if we get caught. We like rehearsed some 3-4 times before we got in to our coach. The train is actually coming from Trivandram and it already had so many people boarded.

There was this mallu guy who recently got transferred to Chennai and is shifting his family there. He occupied rest of the seats in our bay and we started talking. After some time he asked our name and Rukku promptly replied “Nirmal”. He then looked at me and I was like “uh”…Wat the heck, I forgot the name I am supposed to travel in and I was doing a look up of my Christian name index. Jacob, Jackson, Philip, James….nope I am not able to get it. That guy was still looking at me and I said “I’m sorry”. He then said “I asked your name”. And I am like, yeah, well, yes it is Raghu and turned on to my left to get a stare from Rukku. We continued the chat for some more time after which we excused ourselves for some fresher. Rukku was firing me and till then I hadn’t recollected the name. He was asking me if I couldn’t look at my palm to know the name….it was written in Capital Times New Roman font 14… “Dixon”. We then hoped that the ticket inspector would come after this guy had gone for sleep. And we were talking about all possible consequences this could led us into if the inspector finds out or this guy protests. Even if both of them didn’t have a problem, how would I react when this guy over looks me when I say to the inspector that my name is “Dixon” . We even thought if “Dixon Raghu” or “Raghu Dixon” would make sense… 🙂

Finally we decided to face the situation as it unfolds and had our dinner peacefully. By this time this mallu guy was preparing his kid and wife to sleep and ticket inspector had come to our compartment. We were again preparing ourselves to all possible questions from the inspector. The ticket didn’t have southern railways, no coach number or seat number mentioned there, we are traveling on some other’s name and we have one person to testify that my name is not Dixon…The inspector got our ticket, he marked something in his sheet, scribbled something in our ticket and went to next bay. Ufff, that was it, that just was it…We had a hi-5 and it was like…hey mallu..cmon..talk me…talk to the hand… 🙂 We had a small conversation with him where he was saying how people get tickets somehow from Chalakudy. Like there would be some broker who would block all tickets at Chalakudy and would then sell it for a premium in black market. Everything unfolded in front of us as to what Unni had actually done and why the inspector didn’t ask anything. We thought what we did was wrong but consoled ourselves seeing two people lying in the floor in our bay. Yes, the unreserved guys have come in to our compartment and the inspector didn’t even bother to question them…This is India Inc…

With that note we went to sleep with loads of memories. What started off as an adhoc trip with no idea on what places to visit, with just two of us, we have traveled many places with just public transport. We had used different modes of transport, got to know about these places and most of it the experience you get when you interact with the local people. Amongst all these what stands on top is that we made many friends in this trip. We learned so much from them. Like how the cab driver from Pollachi to Top slip drives more than 48hrs continuously with just a 4 hour break to support a small family. Still he had so much values attached with him and customer service was on top when he took us for the trip. The guide at Parambikulam couldn’t send his kids to school because the school fees is 480Rs annually and he cannot afford that; the tourism department gives him 50Rs per visitor he takes along. The autowala who took care of everything from taking us to Adhirampalli to arranging a ticket back to Chennai, he got us introduced to all his friends and family and we were talking like childhood friends…

There is so much in the world out there…You just gotta step out of your home.

Alapey – Kottayam

When we planned for the trip, my mallu friend told me that if we get time it is worth visiting Alapey and taking the backwater ride to kottayam in a boat. So Alapey was in our list and Kerala is famous for backwaters. The penultimate day of the trip started off with a bus ride to Alapey. We met Unni at the Chalakudy bus stand and he got us in to a Palakad bus which goes to Alapey. That was some solid 2.5hrs of travel from Chalakudy to Alapey and it was around 11.30 types when we reached there. We just got down somewhere in the town and just walked down the streets looking for some information. We hit a tourism office where we came to know that the ferry boat to Kottayam had left and the next one is around 1.30. The tourism guys were also giving some gyan sessions to couple of foreigners…Sure they made some good money that day.

The town had lots of foreigners and also people from different parts of India. Alapey is famous for the oil massages and that is one of the main attractions there. There are these government ferries available at cheaper rates which is a main mode of transport for localities there. Also there are private boats that you get which starts at some 500. You can hire these for your family and have a good ride in the backwaters. Yeah you know which one we took…The government ferry is pretty decent enough and when we reached the ferry station the ferry was almost full. We decided to do a foot-board in the ferry… 🙂

We could do a foot-board only near to the engine side of the ferry as the other foot-board was already occupied… 🙂 There was quite a good sound coming out of the engine and there was this weird smell of the fuel that gets burnt (The kind of exhaust smell that comes out when you burn impure fuel). That didn’t matter much to us as were enjoying the ride. It was solid three hours ride from Alapey to Kottayam through the backwaters. As we continued our journey we were surprised to see so many small towns(islands) in the backwaters. People live there just like how one would live in a small town with all the facilities like cable TV, telephone and we even saw a Maruthi 800 parked in one of the houses. We were wondering where they would use this M800. I guess they would take the vehicle in a ferry to Kottayam and drive from there… 🙂

The other thing that would surprise you is the house boats. You get house boats of all sizes and there were like hundreds of them at one stretch. This is the main attraction there as lots of honey moon couples hire these house boats. We did see some families probably celebrating their anniversaries and foreigners taking a nice break. I have been in a house boat before when I was in Sydney and know the experience. But here we saw a house boat with a Split AirCon. That was heights and anyways needed in hot county like India. These boats are really huge in size and you get couple of people who would drive the house boat. The one we hired in Sydney is a self-driven one where we did all the driving/mooring/anchoring stuff. These driver guys themselves would do the cooking/cleaning and other stuffs. You just gotta enjoy your time with your loved one(s)… 🙂

The entire ride has enough opportunities to click lots of pictures and I was busy with my camera while Rukku was enjoying the ride (probably getting bored too:))…As we were nearing Kottayam we could see massive agricultural land on the other side of the backwaters and such a plush green sight it was. You will know why Kerala is called God’s own country… We reached Kottayam at around 5.30 and we were damn hungry as we didn’t have lunch too…It was just Kerala chips and good day biscuits for lunch…As we approached the Kottayam bus station we sighted a restaurant and send some parotas inside…We ordered some tea and we got in such a big glass…We never had so much of tea in one shot before…And then it was solid 45 minutes of waiting to get a bus to Chalakudy… There was one guy standing next to us and we first asked him if that bus standing in front of us would go…He said no and we asked him to let us know when Chalakudy bus comes in. When 10th bus came there it was like we turn to our left and he would nod his head saying a big no. We tried hard not to piss him off, but we didn’t care too. At last he nodded vertically and we got in to the bus. We double checked with the conductor to make sure he hasn’t got us in to a bus that would go in opposite direction… 🙂

We reached Chalakudy at around 9.30types and went in search of something to eat. The entire town shuts down at 8.30 or so and you don’t get anything to eat…At least thats what we could conclude…If you don’t get anything to eat near the bus stand, then we understand that the city shuts down. There was a highway near the bus stand itself and we walked down there and found a local hotel. We ate whatever we could (mostly dosas) and that was our final dinner in Kerala…We didn’t realize that our trip was coming to an end with the marriage that we gotta attend next day at Thrissur and we still don’t have tickets in our hand for the return journey. We had given some 1000Rs to Unni and he said it would be done. We were hoping that somehow we would reach Chennai on Monday morning as I had to go to office on the same day…

Adhirampalli falls

Unni (the typical mallu name and our auto wala :)) was at our room at 7AM sharp. He had come with one of his friends called Suji. He works for some plantation in Munnar. We went to a hotel known to unni and had our breakfast…I tasted the famous and default breakfast…aapam with green peas masala..that was a good start for the day… 🙂 Unni had promised to take us to places which normal tourists don’t go. And also we never thought we would do a trip in auto..So we were really kicked about it…First we reached a place which is the downstream of Adhirampalli falls from where the river bifurcates…It was kinda off season and so we could see a lot of hard rocks and with the help of the auto guys we spent close to 2 hours exploring under the hot sun…

In fact no one was around us and we four were exploring as much we could with the given amount of time.

From there, we went up crossing Adhirampalli to reach a dam. This dam is the source for Adhirampalli and we thought we could check out the source itself. As I said earlier, it was off season and hence there was less water at the dam too. We met couple of people there too who are of Adivasis origin. With their help we intruded in to places where normal tourists are not allowed… 🙂 We also managed a small ride in simple bamboo boat. I was damn scared as the boat just had two bamboo sticks running over the length and say 8 smaller ones across the width. You just got to sit in on the cross bamboo sticks and balance. I couldn’t balance properly and was way too scared, a moment of truth for me to realize that I am overweight and can’t balance my own weight.
Rukku being slim and slightly underweight balanced properly and had a good ride:)

It was almost 1.30 types and we decided to get back to Adhirampalli. We had lunch at one of the hotels there which had a direct view of the falls and we were quite excited to get there. We quickly had some parathas and went to the top of the falls. Unni and Suji had completely explored these places I believe. We stopped at many places on the way and explored little bit. We finally reached the top of the falls and our plan was to cross the falls and reach the other side and get deep in to the forest. Since it was off season and water flow was reasonable Unni suggested that it shouldn’t be a big deal. Me and Suji took one route while Unni and Rukku was on another track to cross the breadth of the falls. But after an hour so we decided not to proceed as it was dangerous even with not-so-much-of-water. And given my track record with water bodies, here too I slipped couple of times and had to get the help of these guys. So we came back to the left side of the falls and started to descend. Before that we tried to reach the edge of the falls but then the government had promptly put a security guard there… 🙂 It was a beautiful view from there. What appeared to be a slow off season water suddenly split in to three and was falling at high speed. Well, that’s nature…it can defy any laws… 🙂 We were thinking how much water would be there during peak season.

And now we understood why security guards were placed, especially after the Punnagai Mannan movie…In fact for people coming from TamilNadu even the tourist guides address it as “Punnagai Mannan Falls”… 🙂

From here there are two ways to reach down. One being a proper cemented steps which many of the tourists took. The other one is the steep-no-proper-steps route. I don’t have to tell you which route we took… 🙂 Even this route finally merges in to the proper route and we were standing at the bottom of the falls. Rukku was freaking out to bath in the falls. I strictly told no to him as it was dangerous and I know how notorious he can get…But still he was firm on getting wet. Luckily they had put barricades and security guys were whistling not allowing people to get near to the falls. We clicked couple of pics there and then decided to go to the top and take bath. We took the same not-so-famous route and oh man me and Rukku were panting like anything. I never had any stamina, Rukku had some which is also gone owing to number of fags he has on one day…Unni & Co were climbing happily and we were waiting to reach the top and sit down.

The sprite 1L bottle got over when we finally reached the top…We relaxed for some time and walked to a place where we could take bath. I said no to get wet and I was taking care of the belongings while others got in to the water… I was watching some local kids (Four girls and lucky one guy:)) who should be studying class 11 or 12 walking across the falls fearless. They were bare foot and were so used to the falls that they were talking and having fun and didn’t do any calculation on where to keep the next foot…Realized what I missed as I grow up…the fun part of doing anything and not to complicate simple things… There were these Sabharimala saamis who make it to this falls every time they visit Sabharimala…I guess this is their return route to TamilNadu…

It was around 5.30 types in the evening and it is time they close down the falls for visitors. In fact there were whistles from security guys signaling people to leave the falls. We too decided to get out and started our return journey. We went past one security guy who was getting in to a small bamboo house with one small stove and kettle…Yup, chaya for the whole night…I am sure its a long night for him daily…We started our return journey and we reached Chalakudy around 7.30 types. We told Unni that we had planned to visit Alapaey and Kottayam the next day and had asked him if he can arrange for some tickets for Chennai. He said it’s no big deal and said he can get it for sure. We had little hopes since we had tried to book online throughout our journey at different places and tried even tatkal booking. So we thought he is probably being over optimistic and let’s see what he can do…Unni said he would come next morning too to pick us up to the bus stand where he can get us in to a bus for Alapaey…We paid him say around 650Rs or something and we were happy that we spent less than what would have probably cost us more if we had taken a cab or something…And the best part of having seen places that we wouldn’t have if we had gone by ourselves or through some travels…
With that note we were happy that the trip had gone really well given the fact that we wanted it to be adhoc and weren’t sure of places we were visiting too…

God’s own country…

Been little busy since I shifted my company and now that I have got settled in the new company thought I should at least finish off this trip log. So here it goes…

After asking couple of people on what is the nearest place in Kerala from Vaalparai we came to know that Chalakudy makes a lot of sense as it was close to places that we wanted to visit. Next day we took the 7 O clock bus from Vaalparai and this bus too broke after 20 minutes or so. We spent quite some time at the outskirts of Vaalparai as the bus was getting fixed and there was a small family with a newly married couple, the girl’s sister probably and few more people in the bus. They were having the time of their life with too much shouting and all…We also had good time checking out the girl’s sister… 🙂 The journey to Chalakudy was really tiresome as it goes through bad terrains…On the way the driver stopped for breakfast at one of his regular places and we got some kappa or something to eat…We cud eat anything for the hunger we had…And all of a sudden we heard two continuous horn from the driver and off he started pumping his accelerator…And we hadn’t even finished off our tea…We had to literally run and get in to the moving bus and the driver and conductor didn’t even bother to check if every one got inside…It was like if you are lucky you would reach Chalakudy… 🙂

But the driver did really good job in driving through those narrow and bad roads…The roads were better once we reached Adhirampalli as the tourism department had laid proper roads to attract tourists…Lot of people got down at Adhirampalli (the famous Punnagai Mannan falls), we just marked the place as we had planned to come there next day. By the time we reached Chalakudy it was around 12 O clock and we were damn tired…Once we got down from the bus we were approached by an auto wala and he promised us to take to a good lodge. We were skeptical initially since we thought probably he was trying to cheat us. But we decided to take a chance and he got us a decent enough lodge close to the bus stand itself..As per our plan we were supposed to visit some place on the same day but we were so tired and decided to stay at Chalakudy itself. We had informed the autowala that we need to go to Adhirampalli next day and he said he can take us in his auto itself…Generally every one takes a cab or something but we thought this could be a different experience and asked him to come to the lodge at 7 AM next day. We took some typical Kerala style lunch with those fatty rice, came back to lodge and were off to sleep till 5 O clock…

We got freshened up and checked out Chalakudy in the evening…We basically thought could go to some movie and spend the evening but no Tamil/English/Hindi movies…So we asked couple of local guys and we were directed to some holy world nearby…That’s actually a church which has built the entire Jerusalem as models and had showcased the entire life history of Jesus…They had done it really good…We came back, had some food and went early to sleep…We would have hardly some 8-9hrs time and start our journey of 100KMs or so in an auto… 🙂