Thursday, February 29, 2024

Book of life - 6

Today marks the completion of the second month of this year; a good time to reflect on the progress of this year's New Year resolutions.

I often heard, one can get motivated by an inspirational story, a book, an incident etc. and get a transformative life experience. While I concur with the former; I would like to disagree with the latter. Despite the wide spread belief, perpetuated through countless biographies and movies, that one profound encounter can create a radical shift, my observations over time have led me to a different conclusion. I think if a single incident transformed everything in a person's life, then its an exception rather than a rule. People typically do not undergo a sudden transformation of their core beliefs simply because someone imparts a compelling message. There needs to be a sustained momentum. 

For e.g. I can watch a motivational movie like 'Rudy' n number of times and still persist in my established ways. I can read 'The Alchemist' cover to cover, enjoy the feel good factor for sometime, and then back to my normal ways. Even bad experience, don't bring in 360 degree transformation. Change, in my view, is not the consequence of a single impactful event but arises from sustained efforts comprising countless endeavors. The reason for this argument is tied to the New Year resolutions I took over past fourteen years. My friend Gokul often jests about my new year pledges and the struggles to hold it over coming months. Earlier, I broke many of these pledges within weeks of taking it; but I was very reluctant to agree on the same. Often I came up with wired justifications that, its not broken. 

Does New Year pledges hold intrinsic value? Can we truly improve ourselves by adhering to principles or embracing a motivational lifestyle? Certainly, but the transformative journey is seldom instantaneous, like the clock strikes midnight and new day starts. Change is a demanding process that necessitates passion, patience, and an incremental approach. Altering habits, for instance, is more effectively achieved through gradual progress, recognizing that setbacks may occur, requiring a restart, but each attempt positions us in a better place.

Reflecting on past years, I may successfully followed a couple of pledges; but rest all are broken at one point of other. However, it's crucial to emphasize that even in instances of perceived failure, New Year pledges did make some improvements in life. Therefore, my advice is to strive for a 100% adherence to your pledges, but if broken, don't be disheartened – you're still in a better place than where you began.


Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Biyyam Kayal Ponnani - For a beautiful evening

Despite its proximity to Palakkad, I didn't explore much of Malappuram. While Nilambur was on my radar, my knowledge of other hidden gems was limited. I spent a lot of time in google maps extensively looking for places around and even in distant lands; yet, for some reason, overlooked this adjacent district. It wasn't until I spent a couple of weeks at my wife's home during her pregnancy that I delved into the intricate details of Malappuram. This period of exploration revealed enchanting spots such as the Padinjarekkara beach, Canoli canal, Chamravattom bridge, Ponnai fishing harbor, Karma road, and the captivating Biyyam Lagoon, locally known as Biyyam Kayal.


Evening view

This a length lagoon and it offers multiple viewpoints. However, I visited two main attractions: a regulator cum bridge and a suspension bridge, both conveniently accessible from NH66. The Biyyam Kayal Park is situated approximately 6 km from Ponnai and is equidistant from Edappal.

This historic regulator-cum-bridge serves as a crucial connection over the narrow expanse of the kayal. It stands as a testament to old craftsmanship and is easily accessible by bike or car, drawing mostly locals as visitors. Adjacent to the regulator, there is a small but nice park. During my evening visit, after parking my bike at one end, I traversed the vintage regulator, arriving at the opposite end at the park. Many people were sitting alone talking to in phone hardly cared about anything happening nearby!!! While in other areas, groups engaged in lively discussions and snacks. A common sight was at least one person in each group capturing photos or recording videos. While coming back, I used the associated bridge with blacktop. A couple of guys, both young and old, were engrossed in fishing. I lingered, observing the process – some got fish, while others, kept on trying their luck.

Associated bridge

View from top of the regulator

Slowly its becoming evening, after watching the sunset from the bridge, I call it as a day and went back. 

Biyyam suspension bridge

Good space for parking, walking and sitting at the side of the lagoon

Suspension bridge across the lagoon

Located approximately 8 km from Edappal and 4 km from Ponnani town, this narrow suspension bridge is a skeleton of her beautiful past. Similar structures span various rivers in this part of Kerala, with Kunthipuzha also featuring one or more of these bridges. Unfortunately, the common issue lies in the lack of maintenance, as those who initially construct these bridges often receive credit but seldom return for upkeep.

I, me, myself

The condition of this particular bridge raises concerns about safety, and one need to be careful while walking. Despite its worn appearance, I ascended the rustic steps and strolled towards the opposite end. Upon reaching the far side, made a U-turn, and retraced my steps. While lingering in the middle, I savored the scenic view of the beautiful and calm lake. This location also witness annual boat races. After a while, I returned to the parking area, where well-tiled spaces allowed for a serene evening experience, and sat there for some time. 


Walking in the park

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Ooty - visiting the summer capital in monsoon

Karnataka state garden at Ooty
This marks my second trip to Ooty, the summer capital of the erstwhile Madras Presidency. Ooty, along with Kodaikanal, holds significant sentimental value for many. Decades ago, these two destinations were the most sought after honeymoon spots for a considerable number of Keralites. College life was not complete without a tour to these two locations. Even now, many college tours include a stop at Kodaikanal.

During the era of Raj, Ooty served as a major hub for British, offering a climate reminiscent of their native surroundings. The headquarters of the Madras Regiment, then and now, is situated a short distance away from Ooty, in a place called Wellington.


We arrived in Ooty in the afternoon and checked into the TTDC hotel. Mom and aunt settled into their room, while Divya and I set out on foot to explore the city. Covering various central areas of Ooty by walking, we immersed ourselves in the local ambiance. After navigating through multiple streets, we eventually reached the Tibetan market situated in front of the Government Botanical Garden by evening. Deciding to call it a day, we strolled back to the hotel, taking the opportunity to explore the snack stores along the way. Despite not coming across much street food on the roads, perhaps due to it being a Sunday, we were determined not to miss out. Chilli-bajji and couple of other items were really tasty.

Next day morning, after breakfast, we started towards our first destination. 

Nilgiri Mountain Railway

Inside toy train

This is a meter-gauge railway, operated by the Southern Railway, stands as a testament to British engineering from the first decade of the twentieth century. It connects Mettupalayam with Ooty (Udagamandalam), traversing picturesque landscapes. Notably, this rail line features a rack system – a set of toothed rails positioned between the tracks, facilitating the train's ascent up steep inclines. Presently, it may be the sole railway line in India which use rack system. Alongside the Darjeeling Mountain Railway, this rail line also shares the distinction of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A crucial tip for those who look forward for this unique rail journey: it's important to book tickets in advance through IRCTC or arrive very early at the station for on-the-spot bookings. Failure to do so might result in an extended wait or, worse, missing out on the journey altogether. Arriving later in the morning, I managed to secure a ticket but had to undergo a long wait for my train's arrival. To utilize the time, we decided to explore other nearby destinations while keeping an eye on the ticking clock.

Ketti station

Ooty lake and boathouse

Ooty lake

Our initial destination was the scenic Ooty Lake. We were not sure about taking a boat ride due to persistent rain; so we parked at the boat house and wandered around, exploring our options. Fortunately, the rain eventually lose the moment and a small window opened up. We booked a boat for 7 people as that was the only one available. Fortunately a newly married Bengali couple joined us, bringing the total to six. By the time we reached half way, rain again strengthened but it only enhanced the overall ambiance and made that journey very memorable.

Karnataka State garden

Karnataka state garden

Following the boat ride, our next stop was the Karnataka State Garden. With the persistent rain discouraged many visitors, but it helped to maintain a serene atmosphere with relatively fewer people. Eager to explore despite the weather, we briskly moved from one point to another, seeking refuge under trees and other sheltered spots. Among all the places we visited in Coonoor and Ooty, this garden stood out as my favorite—a meticulously maintained place which offered a visually appealing respite. Our stroll through the garden eventually led us to a restaurant, where a steaming cup of hot tea became a comforting bliss in the cold, wet atmosphere. The rain persisted, but we were undeterred and continue our walk; this time heading to the opposite end of the park. Keeping a watchful eye on the clock, as our train departure time approached, we had to forgo many attractions and swiftly exited the garden, and drove towards the Ooty railway station.

Mountain railway to Ketti and back

From the window

We arrived a bit ahead of the schedule. While aimlessly walking through the platform found a small yet impressive rail museum and the time there was indeed well spent. It's a good way to explore the centuries-old metal structures if you find yourself with some time at the station

Finally our ride came, a picture from the past, our colonial era blue ride. As the train commenced its journey, the rhythmic sounds echoed, and I, seated by the window, embraced the opportunity to enjoy the monsoon socked valleys outside. Raindrops hung delicately from leaves, gracefully descending towards the earth as if to attach salvation. 

Passing through Lovedale, we reached our destination - Ketti. Although I knew little about Ketti when booked the tickets, I hoped for a quick return train. Ketti, though beautiful, seemed almost untouched by passengers disembarking or boarding. Initially, the railway staff mentioned they couldn't issue tickets immediately, insisting they needed to assess the incoming train first. Surveying the station, I noticed a road meandering around one side, devoid of bus stops or taxis. Sitting, standing, walking we spent some more time and finally they issues the tickets for four and soon the train arrived. This time, there were only a handful of passengers on the train, allowing us to occupy any seats we wanted to comfortably view the scenery. Passing through valleys, vast grounds, and tunnels, we eventually arrived at Ooty station. After talking couple of photos in front of "I love Ooty" sign in the station we left the place.

Pykara Falls and Dam

An interesting walkway

Nice view

After lunch, we embarked on our journey to the furthest destination – Pykara falls and dam. As we traversed the road, old memories came back. It was on this stretch, about 15-20 km further in the Gudalur direction, my bike hit head on with SETC bus going to Pollachi. The impact was so severe that I flew in the air and fell down on the road breaking right hand and left leg. Since I had good helmet; steel elbow and knee guard nothing else happened. Whenever you drove via express highways or mountain stretches always use helmet; and good quality elbow and knee guard along with a good crash guard.

Setting aside the haunting memories, I refocused on the road ahead. Enveloped in the earthy scent of fresh rain, the surroundings exuded a distinct vitality. The atmosphere, cleansed by the recent and still ongoing downpour, carried a refreshing fragrance. Eventually, we reached a point on the highway close to the falls and started our walk towards the falls. The waterfall, though small, was good. After looking at the slow moving shallow water for a while, we started walking back to the main road. This region is teeming with monkeys, so it's advisable to be cautious with any food items in hand. If possible, keep them concealed. Next on the list was Wenlock Downs.

Wenlock downs - shooting point

I've always been drawn to the allure of grasslands, envisioning endless walks through damp grass and hours spent lounging amidst the green expanse. We crossed this pace while going to the dam; then thought of coming here while going back to hotel. Unfortunately, by the time we reached the spot, everyone was tired and the idea of a leisurely stroll seemed a bit too much. Regrettably, I had to forgo the visit this time. That being said, it tops the list for my next trip.

Pine forest

Further ahead we saw the pine forest. However, the story remained the same. Everyone was very tired to get down from the vehicle and walk in the light drizzle. One more place for the next trip. 

Chocolate factory

Ooty chocolates are famous in the region, making them a must-buy for anyone visiting. Following suit, I purchased a few packets from a roadside shop. While I personally didn't find anything particularly exceptional about these chocolates, it seems almost customary for visitors to buy them as a souvenir for friends and family.

Returning to the hotel, the evening concluded with dinner and a well-deserved night's sleep. The following morning marked our visit to the last destination on our list—the Ooty Botanical Garden.

Ooty Botanical Garden

Despite mechanically exploring from one point to another after purchasing tickets, the garden left something to be desired. Although a few spots held appeal, the overall experience fell short. With this, our return journey commenced, this time with the plan to re-enter Kerala via the Mulli check post.

Emerald Lake and Dam

At the top

Our final stop on the trip was this dam, situated about 23 km away from the Government Botanical Garden. The journey, marked by numerous turns, felt like a long trip. Eventually, we reached the base of the dam, where a narrow but well-maintained concrete road led us to the top. We parked our car near by and walk towards the dam.

Surprisingly, there were no restrictions on entering the dam structure, and with hardly anyone around—locals or tourists—we had the freedom to explore at our own pace. Walking back and forth, we took our time to look at the crest gates and the expansive lake behind this huge structure. Notably, Avalanche Dam is adjacent to Emerald Dam, separated only by a road. Even though we didn't try, I think one can walk a kilometer and reach that separation road.

This region boasts an abundance of dams and lakes, with Pykara Dam, Mukruti Dam, Porthimund Dam, Parsons Valley Lake, Sandynulla Lake, Glenmorgan Dam, Ooty Lake, Avalanche Lake, and Emerald Dam being the main highlights.

As the rain intensified, we bid farewell to Emerald Dam and resumed our return journey, passing through Avilanji, Gandhikandi, Yedakadu, Kundah Dam, Manjoor, and navigating through numerous hairpin bends. Finally, by noon, we reached the Mulli Forest Check Post on the Tamil Nadu side. So far good, from here all the problems started. 

Mulli TN forest check post

We reached at the Tamil Nadu side of border forest check post. After that there is a short dirt road and then comes Kerala border check post. However, the forest guard stationed there denied us passage, asserting that three cars, had not been signed at the Geddai Dam power plant check post. I recalled seeing this check post, but it was open and unguarded then, so we didn't stop. The car in front of us was also unaware and reached this point without signing a column in notbook. The guard insisted we all go back and sign at the other check post, located about 15 km uphill. Despite our attempts to reason with him, he adamantly pushed for us to return, threatening legal consequences. 

He also mentioned even Salman khan was not able to escape from a wild life/forest case. Its another matter than more than forest department Bishnoi community strongly stood behind blackbuck hunting case as it was a sacred animal for them. But, I don’t know how its relevant here. We were hungry and its noon. If we leave now, we reach Mannarkkad at lunch time. Finally I took a U-turn and drove towards Canada Power plant check post. This time we did see a guard and this time he want us to go all the way back. Which means I need to drive all the way to Glendale (near Coonoor) then use Mettupalayam - Coimbatore - Palakkad - Mannakkad route. I was shocked, it’s a tonne of hairpins and very long wayl!!!

As per him Mulli road is closed and we are not supposed to go via that road. Laster I found out that the road is indeed closed for private transport by order from TN forest department some time back. But all the way till Mulli no one stopped us or diverted us. We even saw a police vehicle while coming to Manjoor. On the ground it was not like that they stopped the traffic completely. While I was going uphill a lot of private cars having Kerala registration were coming in the opposite direction. When we were standing at Canada power plant check post, a Kerala registered car passed through that check post. A political party's names was written next or at the bottom of the number plate in the car. He looked at the car with respect and let it go. I didn’t see anyone in that car signing anywhere. This guard even told us that, those people are political leaders (well we are not!!!). We talked with him for some more time. Every moment passes he become more and more ballistic and finally without any option we drove back to Glendale and then took Mettuapalyam - Coimbatore - Palakkad - Mannarkkad road and reached home after 10 in the night instead of lunch time.

I never understood what went in the head of those two forest guards. At least they could have let us go with a warning or fine us. After all we reached at the other end of that road. Also ours was Karnataka registered car, so at least they can assume that we were not aware about this restriction. We didn’t see any sign anywhere on the road indicating that its closed. Laster on the way to Glendale, when we finally found a place to eat something I asked the hotel owners whether that road is indeed closed. They told that, if you reach there in the night they don't let go otherwise its ok. They never heard about the pass which these were insisting on. 

I think they did what they did because they could do that. 


PS: Some months after this incident happened I send a letter with details to Coimbatore and Nilgiri district's forest officers, copying forest officers from Attapadi range and Palakkad districts of Kerala. No one replied. 

Coonoor - Devoid of flat land

Morning view
An interesting morning view

estled in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu, Coonoor is a picturesque municipality. My introduction to this location came in the context of Rabi's vaccine. This vaccine was manufactured by the esteemed Pasteur Institute, which was inaugurated in 1907. Notably, the institute is recognized for its production of various vaccines, including DPT.


Originally established as a European settlement in 1834, Coonoor underwent a period of demographic stasis. Even after being declared a municipality in 1866, the population remained modest at 1,500. However, a gradual increase ensued, reaching 8,500 by 1901; then to 46,000 by 2011. During this period, Ooty (formerly known as Ootacamund) gained popularity, leading to the construction of new roads like the Old Mettupalayam road in 1833, linking Ooty with rail facilities at Mettupalayam. In 1871, a more gently sloping route was constructed.

The Nilgiri Railway Company initiated the project to connect Coonoor to the rail network in 1899, although the company itself did not witness its completion due to subsequent liquidation. The Madras Railway took charge, and later, the decision was made to extend the rail line to Ooty.

For an extended period, my desire to travel via scenic Nilgiri Mountain Railway didn't happen due to a number of reasons. On a previous trip to Ooty, I deviated from the usual route, choosing the Mannarkkad- Manjoor- Ooty road instead of the more conventional Coonoor-Mettupalaym-Ooty route. This time, there was a family wedding just outside Coimbatore in Mettupalayam road; leading to a new plan - attend the wedding, visit Coonoor and proceed to Ooty, and then return to Mannarkkad via Mulli.

On the morning of the wedding, we set out early, around seven, taking Mannarkkad- Attapadi- Anaikatti- Coimbatore road. This scenic route, particularly the stretch from Aanamooly to the Mukkali check post, is really good. Mukkali, serving as the gateway to Silent Valley, is the place where one has to get down to explore Silent Valley National Park. Due to time constraints, we refrained from extended stops, making only a brief pause at the Attapadi viewpoint. After the wedding, around noon, we picked up my aunt and started our journey to Coonoor. The next main town on the way was Mettupalayam. From here Coonoor is some 34 kilometers away.


Still a few kilometers shy of reaching the city, the road maintains its pleasant quality. This route, linking Gudalur, Ooty, and Coonoor to Coimbatore city, is consistently bustling with traffic. A nominal fee is required for entry into the Nilgiris district for outside vehicles. Since mine was registered in Karnataka, payment is mandatory. It's worth noting that Coonoor lacks straight or flat roads/lands; instead, its thoroughfares are characterized by frequent curves and slopes, with some being notably narrow. Our accommodation was at 'YMCA Wyoming', it took some time to locate this place. In fact we crossed the bus stand twice before finally reaching here. Hotel is a good old colonial building. 

WMCA Wyoming - An old colonial building

After settling to the room, I came down with Divya and took a walk around the hotel; there was a slight rain. Mom and her sister was tired and they stayed in the room itself. It was a nice place to explore, we walked towards the road and then followed its curves and finally reached a small outlet which sells homemade waffles and other items. We went in and ordered some. There were some 3-4 tables; one was occupied by a couple and another one by owner's daughter. She is concentrated on completing her homework on that Saturday afternoon. It took some more time for our items to come. It's still raining and there is no expectation that, it will stop anytime soon especially as we were in July - monsoon time. So we just opened the big umbrella and walked further down in that deserted road. There was no destination in mind. Sometimes, just walking itself is more than enough; if there is rain then its better.

Night was cold but not unbearable. On next day morning we woke up early; came down and stretched hand in the courtyard. It was a nice view. After breakfast we checked out and moved towards our first destination - Sim's park.

Sim's park

At Sim's park

Named after J.D. Sims, the then Secretary to the Government, and Major Murray collaborated to transform an existing park into a planned botanical garden, Situated in the northern part of the city, near Pasteur Institute, this expansive park covers 12 hectares of land. Boasting a diverse collection of plant species this is a well maintained park. The Department of Horticulture annually organizes a fruit and vegetable show within the park.

Tea Factory

Exploring the high ranges always involves a visit to a coffee or tree plantation. We came across this tea factory while searching for a tea plantation to visit. Although the factory itself was undergoing renovation, the staff showed the inner workings of the machinery. Adjacent to it, there was a eucalyptus factory that which churn out the oil. We purchased some locally grown tea, chocolates and other items and strolled through the lush plantation. The serene ambiance made me wish for more time, perhaps an early morning leisure walk, but it was time to go. We slowly walked back towards the car, ready to start our next adventure – lunch :) It took a bit of time, but we eventually found a charming Kerala restaurant.

By the way, there are numerous tea estates in the area, and quite a few offer accommodation options. While the cost of staying within these estates may be higher than lodging outside, it provides some unique experience like residing amidst the beauty of a tea plantation.

Inside Tea Factory
Dolphin's nose

As the saying goes, "the journey is better than the destination," this statement proved correct for us on this occasion. The drive itself was captivating, dotted with numerous viewpoints along the roadside. Unfortunately, when we reached Dolphin's Nose, the thick fog obscured almost everything, limiting the visibility to a great extent.

Lamb's rock

Proceeding from Dolphin's Nose, we ventured towards Lamb's Rock. Although the fog had cleared, the scenic offerings were somewhat limited. Subsequently, we started our return journey, heading back to Coonoor town, and from there, we continued our journey to towards Ooty.


1, History of Coonoor - Clean Coonoor
2, Coimbatore City to Coonoor is under 60kms. 

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Book of Life - 5

The day came and went quickly. In the morning, there were so many things on the to-do list. By night, most of them were done. It's so rare that I was able to put a tick mark across most to-do items. However, in the night when I sat back and took stock of things, there was no sense of achievement. Was I chasing ghosts? Or was I eating the sweetest frog first instead adhering to Brian Tracy's counsel to confront the ugliest one first?

When I went through the articles about recent world events, an interesting pattern came to my attention. The first event was the climate summit (COP28) just finished in Dubai, and the second one was the cease-fire in Gaza. Regarding COP28, it was hosted by UAE, which is ironic because the summit aimed to save the world from increasing carbon emissions, and the UAE is one of the largest producers of fossil fuel. UAE's interest is aligned with the continuing use of fossil fuel. The irony didn't end there; the president of the summit also has a full-time job as the head of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC)!

The second event, the Israel-Hamas ceasefire, was brokered neither by the UN (the world organization supposed to stop wars), nor the US, EU, Egypt (Rafa crossing is between Egypt and Gaza), nor Jordan (which ruled the West Bank until 1967). Instead, it was brokered by Qatar. If one follows the news from the Middle East for a while, it's clear that Qatar is everywhere. They even brokered the mediation between the Taliban and the US in Doha during the US exit from Afghanistan. Now, if you look at Qatar, its size is slightly larger than the tiny Indian state of Tripura, and it has 3-4 hundred thousand native citizens who hold the passport. That is not the point; the point is, Qatar is the 4th or 5th richest country (by per capita GDP), and they are ready to use their wealth. As we all know, wealth also brings much power and opens doors if you are ready to use it.


1, ADNOC is the 12th largest oil producer by volume!!! 
2, Egypt is the only country other than Israel which shares border with Gaza. Also Egypt controlled Gaza strip from 1948 to 1967.
3. West Bank- the other bigger Palestinian territory - was ruled by Jordan till 1967.