Routine kills. As the road opens up, traffic-free and glistening, like a wet reptile sunning itself, in the mild rays of the rising sun, the routine killing drive to office on Hosur Road is the last thing on my mind. The speedometer sees a rapid surge as the needle shoots to the 100 mark. The trees and huts blur at the side, turning into a speck in the rearview mirror. Michael Monarch's languid riff kicks in as John Kay's gruff vocals begin to grumble. Minutes later we are all howling along with Steppenwolf, "Born to be Wild". And so begins my journey, not as wild, considering I am traveling with the family, but wild enough.
Though you could manage to speed around 90kmpha on the highways, a long stretch was being expanded into a 4 lane system, creating bottlenecks at junctions and also slowing us down with the numerous deviations. The route via Hosur, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri(bye-pass), Salem, Avinashi, Coimbatore(L&T bye-pass), Palakkad and Trichur(destination) is mix of hills, dusty open grounds, fertile paddy fields, crowded villages, shanty towns, dingy dhabas, et al; a veritable cross-section of most parts of India. Nine and a half hours later, 470 km clocked in, a full tank down to reserve, 6 bottles of water downed, 48 idlis decimated for breakfast as well as lunch, innumerable MintRox consumed, 4 cartons of sugar free Apple juice dry mostly the efforts of my father, 2 cartons of Mango juice(normal)drunk; we reached home.
'Native' as is the colloquial term for your home town at least for the Kannadigas is best for extended meals, sleep and the same repeated as many days as you are there. Kerala being in the boom of mango season definitely enhanced these aforementioned activities. The king of fruits in its various forms presents with various culinary opportunities. Starting with the flavoured chutney for breakfast with idlis and dosa, diced into small pieces and mixed a with coconutty paste and curd it serves well as a side dish for meals, finely cut and marinated in spices it can be consumed as a ready to eat pickle, the ripe varieties when boiled with jaggery and pumpkins make a lip-smacking curry; and just after you groggily appear post your afternoon siesta it pops up in the form of a refreshing glass of juice or two.
During the short breaks in between meals, while poring over bound volumes of my father’s and uncle’s Phantom and Mandrake (for the umpteenth time) banana and jackfruit chips serve well.
Today is the engagement of my cousin H. The venue is about 30 km from where we live. All of us pile into the car and leave at 7:30 AM having been asked to arrive in time for breakfast. Breakfast appears a kichdi of sorts (that’s what the person serving it claims). It’s a mixed upma of rava and semolina, doused in coconut chutney. A dollop of kesari bath and a cut piece sweet boiled nendra pazham complement the kichdi perfectly. Breakfast done, its time to wait for the senior members (their actual duties explained later) of the groom-to-be’s party. It’s also time to catch up with the rest of the extended family. Gup-shup is suddenly silenced at the arrival of the matchmaking seniors. Surprisingly the groom has no visible duties on his and the bride-to-be’s betrothal as is clear from the fact that he is absent. The seniors now refreshed arrange themselves on both sides of a quickly laid out mat. After hushed words are exchanged the actual engagement process ends with everyone bursting into a round of applause. They have discussed and finalised the date and muhurtam is what I am informed by a better knowing cousin. Another hour is spent chatting. Sudden questions arise on my MBA and I mumble prepared answers and escape from one corner to another.
Lunch is served. In the true traditional format as described here, the banana leaf is spread out and feasting begins. A healthy meal later, traditional games follow; cards and dumb charades!
The evening requires us to visit the Guruvayoor temple. My parents and sister take darshan of Sri Krishna. I rest in the car, driver-like, listening to Ustad Rashid Khan’s The Song of Shiva.
Breakfast, nap, lunch, Malayalam movie on Asianet, late afternoon tending to evening siesta, read, IPL, dinner, IPL, sleep.
The plains begin to fade. Rolling hills build up slowly and suddenly the board appears, ‘Hairpin Bend 1 of 16’. Another board welcomes us to Idukki, famous for its numerous hydro-electric projects, wondrous rains, breath-taking views, fascinating flora and fauna and its various shades of ‘green’. Vagamon, a small hillock is our final destination for the day, but we decide to drive to the Idukki dam first. En route we come across a well in the middle of the road. Investigations lead to the discovery of water, almost half way down, but defiled by cigarette butts, packs, plastic and other tourist discards. Our next stop is a view point from where the official authorised to dispense viewing point tickets points out Vagamon in the distance. It intermittently goes into hiding behind thick columns of Cirrus before appearing in full splendour, taller and prouder than the surrounding peaks.
We drive on till we reach the Kulamavu Dam. A huge dip covered like a tropical jungle on one side with the reservoir on the other. A bridge leads over the reservoir, wide enough space for a bus to move through. There are 2 Police Outposts at both ends to ensure peace, safety, aid and prevent people from capturing the beauty. A quick conversation struck with them however helps us as they sagely advice against visiting the Idukki Dam, as people cannot gain access without a special permit. Disappointed we take a U-turn and head back down the hill negotiating the same 16 hair-pin bends, this time covered in a mild yet delightful drizzle.Next stop Vagamon. More to follow...
When your on the road...keep drifting.