Sunday, February 23, 2014

Destination Kottayam - Land of letters, lakes and latex - Two

There was not much time to waste. Some other friends – Gokul, his brother Akhil, Aldrine and Alvin were already there waiting for us. In order to reach their quickly we hired a taxi (Tata Indica, 350 INR from Kottayam city to Kumarakom Jetty). As per the driver, booking a boat from locations near to Taj Hotel is better than that from Kumarakom Jetty. However, other group already selected a boat (500 INR/ hour) and waiting for us. After travelling for a while we reached Kumarakom.

An air conditioned house boat

The boat we were going to travel is a normal one. More a kind of passenger boat, if you stand inside that, your head will hit the ceiling. Don’t confuse this with the air-conditioned house boats where charges will start in four digits.

I was meeting Gokul, Aldrine, Alvin and Akhil after a long time. After having an initial conversation we boarded our great ship and it started moving towards the heart of Vembanad Lake.

Before going further, let me tell you something about Vembanad Lake as well.

Vembanad Lake (courtesy to Wikipedia)

Another house boat
Vembanad (Vembanad Kayal or Vembanad Kol) is the longest lake (96.5km in length; 14km wide at its widest point) in India (largest in Kerala). The Port of Kochi is located around two islands (the Willingdon Island and Vallarpadam) in a portion of this lake known as the Kochi Lake.

Vembanad (bordered by Alappuzha, Kottayam, and Ernakulam districts of Kerala) wetland system covers an area of over 2033.02 km² thereby making it the largest wetland system in India; some of these areas are below the sea level.

Canals link the lake to other coastal lakes to the north and south.  Ten rivers are flowing into it including the six major rivers of central Kerala (Achenkovil, Manimala, Meenachil, Muvattupuzha, Pamba and Periyar). The total area drained by the lake is 15,770 km², which accounts for 40% of the area of Kerala. Its annual surface runoff of 21,900 Mm accounts for almost 30% of the total surface water resource of the state.

Blessed by nature, the waters....

This largest Ramsar site in the state of Kerala has been heavily reclaimed over the course of the past century, primarily for formation of polders and to enlarge the extent of the Wellington island of Cochin port. The lake faces a major ecological crisis and has reduced to 37% of its original area, as a result of land reclamation.

This lake is notified under National Wetlands Conservation Programme. The celebrated Nehru Trophy Boat Race is conducted in Punnamada Lake.

Six men in a boat

Six men in a boat
Travelling through the lake was indeed a very unique experience. Shores were dotted with coconut trees – some with head and some without head  J. As people say, a picture can speak better than thousand words.

Main mode of transportation is through boats

Some details about our boat. This particular boat look like an extended boat, powered by Mahindra Jeep's engine. Steering is also coming from an old jeep. 

We finished two and half hour long cruise in the lake and drove towards ‘Tannermukkom Bund’ to watch the sunset. It was indeed a beautiful one.

Sunset at Tannermukkam Bund


Note: Quality of the images posted in this article are reduced to decrease the size.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Indian ways of doing things in an economical way

This article (“Honey heals woundsfaster than betadine”) published in TOI is an interesting piece of news to read. In this age of sky high medical expenses (which are usually paid by patient), it’s difficult to use pieces of medical instruments which costs more than gold!!! 

So, how we can overcome this problem? By the way, these methods won’t be useful for implants, as the quality of inserted objects is very much crucial to the survival of patient.

Measuring pressure inside brain using 'simple sterilized rubber tube, filled with water'; using honey to heal wounds instead of betadine; using ‘mosquito net to treat adult groin hernia instead of polypropylene mesh’; using ‘household electric ties (used to hold wires together) as a substitute for surgical tourniquet to put compression at the base of the breast during breast reduction surgery’ so on and so forth.



Sunday, February 16, 2014

14 Crore call – RCB, their owners and bankers

When I heard that RCB is going to spend 14 crore for getting Yuvraj to their team, the first picture came to my mind was that of bankers, who eagerly backed probably the fastest money burning machine in this planet called Kingfisher Airlines. Won’t they be watching the auction? Or atleast viewing the news in TV or reading it in papers?

Sansad Sadan turning in to Great Indian Boxing ring?

Some months back Julia Gillard (then prime minister of Australia) gave an interesting speech in Australian Parliament. This speech was highly critical (it went to personal level as well) of then opposition leader and current Prime Minister Mr. Abbot. Abbot was sitting just opposite to Gillard; he sat there for 15 minutes, till the end of the speech. He too can move, he too can throw something at Gillard, he too can run towards speaker and interrupt the session, he too can throw mic at someone. But he didn’t do that.

In British House of Commons, during the reign of Margret Tacher there was a lot of controversies. Labor Party was very much against her. Pepper might be available in London at that time also. But no one bring it there or sprayed on colleagues face. Forget about Australia and Briton, even in Pakistan’s senate I am yet to hear about such an incident. Then why this happened in India?

Sansad Bhvan is supposed to be the temple of democracy. Citizens of Indian give the right to 545 people to represent them in LS (and pay their full expenses) is not to through pepper spray or to throw mic at someone.  People are paying them through consolidated fund of India is to represent them in the legislature, present their aspirations and concerns.

Our parliament is quickly losing the status of a legislative assembly and becoming a boxing ring. Is this what we have to expect from our representatives? Don’t they have some principles on their own? Or that also spoon-fed to them by Election Commission and Courts?

This is not the first time (certainly not going to be the last one as well) we are witnessing these type of uncivilized acts in parliament. All members involved in this incident should be punished in a meaningful way. They should pay the entire expenses for that particular day’s session, severe penalty should be imposed on them for defaming the parliament and nation, and they should be suspended for rest of the current parliament’s term. Any repetition of these type of incidents should result in permanent disqualification.
By the way, what security forces were doing? Why MPs are not searched properly (MPs should not be exempted from search)? At least security personals should search the materials they are bringing to the Parliament.

Recently there was a controversy on Karnataka and UP minister’s foreign study tours. Please sent our MPs to British House of Commons to give them some understanding on how elected representatives should behave. Make sure thay they view the video tapes of parliament sessions prior to 60’s.


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Newsroom - What is news? Greatest country in the world?

An interesting session from ‘Newsroom’. Even though the question and answer is related to US, it’s equally applicable to India as well. Before shouting on top of the voice that we are the next super power – which I am frequently reading in many online comments (by the way frequency of these comments reduced after India’s growth rates returned to below 5%) it’s better to sit for some time and check the facts.

What is news? I believe it is the factual reporting of the events as it is. If one add his/her own view to it or changing its priority based on the commercial or personal preferences won’t make it news. Here another interesting video from television show – ‘Newsroom’.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Masterstroke or Misfired gun? Arvind Kejrival’s AAP Government is on their way out

Arvind Kejrival and his party (AAP) came to the governing seat of Delhi, promising an alternate form of government. Their propositions and fight against corruption was particularly attracted to Delhi middle class, who are tired with normal politics of India’s political behemoths. It was a dream run for the party in last assembly elections, they came second pushing Congress to third. What more, even sitting CM lost her seat. Without an element of doubt, it was a dream run for AAP, even though they failed to achieve majority on their own.

Now, after 48 days of high decibel action sequences, AAP is on their way out following the failure of Jan Lokpal bill in Delhi assembly. As each and every statement made by APP party members and their opposition was chewed and re-chewed in every news channels (except probably in DD News!!!) I am not going to discuss those things again. Was Kejriwal right in his decision to resign? Only people of Delhi can tell; I can only comment that, if he can come back with a higher tally then this will indeed turnout to be a good stroke.

One thing is there, if Kejrival and AAP can increase their number of representatives in Delhi assembly in next elections then they are going to redefine the way political parties are operating in this country. Parties may be forced to go local, a habit they left probably after independence movement!!! They may be forced to reveal their sources of income; politicians and bureaucrats will think hundred times more before engaging in corruption (ofcourse they may come up with new methods), they might be forced to live up to the promises they gave to the people.

Bad side is, political parties may not be able to take any hard economic decisions; government purses may remain open for populist programs; electronic media may turn out to be the key for winning more votes; importance of an issue may not be decided by its effective impact but how electronic media see it…

Whatever it may be. The best thing happened to AAP is, they never feared about (atleast they didn’t show) losing power. Hence, outside supporters find it difficult to control the party or government. An interesting learning point for next coalition government in Delhi and many other state governments. Government is answerable to the people whom they represent.


Destination Kottayam - Land of letters, lakes and latex - One

On the way
We didn't make any detailed plan for this journey. By the time we tried to book tickets; Railways was about to show Regret flag. Situation was not different with state run Karnataka or Kerala RTCs. So finally I opted for a private bus and reserved three tickets. Bus was supposed to start at 6.40 PM and reach Kottayam at 6.30 AM (next day).

For second part of this travelogue -> Destination Kottayam - Land of letters, lakes and latex - Two

We reached Travel Company’s office in Madiwala (Bangalore) around 6.30 PM. However, bus was late by one hour. Travelling on Friday evenings through the city will test your patience to the extreme level. Exodus from Bangalore will create lengthy traffic blockades in all exit points, especially on NH 7 - India's longest national highway. We too stuck there...

Bus was going really slow. Couple of hours after sunset we crossed KR-TN border; sometime before sunrise we crossed TN-KL border as well. One doesn’t have to see the place for identifying entry point to Kerala; sudden change from smooth to hamper bumper journey would give you the clue :) We left those portions and headed towards Thrissur. By morning we reached there and continued our journey towards Ernakulum.

Crossing the bridge
From Ernakulum onwards bus started hitting one traffic block after another. I was sitting in second last seat. When I woke up in the morning, we were very close to Ernakulum.  I looked around - everyone was sleeping. Rakesh was sleeping like a baby on right side and Subeesh on the back seat. I slowly woke up and walk towards driver’s cabin.

From there, view was interesting. Vehicles were moving fast in that four lane road, Kochi Metro's work was going on, people were waiting on the sheds for public buses. After travelling some more time in that road, we took a turn towards MC (Main Central) road.

This 240 km long road was originally built by Raja Kesavadas (then Dewan of Travancore). MC road starts from Kesavadasapuram (in Thiruvananthapuram dist) and passes through Kilimanoor, Kottarakkara, Adoor, Pandalam, Chengannur, Tiruvalla, Changanassery, Kottayam, Ettumanoor, Kuravilangad, Koothattukulam, Muvattupuzha, Perumbavoor and finally rejoin NH 47 at Angamaly (in Ernakulum). Inauguration of a milk diary by ministers created another round of blocks. By 11.30am we finally landed at Kottayam Transport stand.

Our driver was from Tamilnadu and spoke in Tamil only. I can understand Tamil to an extent, but can't speak beyond some words. Driver was very much unhappy with the situation. He started telling me about the problems one by one. Why government can't extend the road by atleast five feet each on both sides? Why so much strikes? Industries are not there beyond Cochin etc. Needless to say, I was not able to provide an answer for his questions as I have little command over Tamil.

A view from the road
However, let me share some thoughts here. It’s very difficult to widen any roads in Kerala. Kerala is a very small state, lengthy but narrow. I think the best way to move goods across the state is not through roads but through ships and rails.   Population density is very much high in Kerala, because of this authorities need to breakdown a lot of houses (Partially or fully) even to extend the road by 10 or 20 feet on each side. Acquiring land is next to impossible in Kerala, first of all that will turn out to be political hot potato, secondly, most of these house owners will go to court to get a stay.

As far as industrialization is concerned; Kerala is a small state with very high population density. Government don't have the luxury to allocate hundreds of acres of land to industries. You may ask Singapore, Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan are smaller, than why not Kerala? Let me remember you that, apart from having policy restrictions from Union Government, Keralities also carry a big burden of leftist ideological baggage, which generally opposes anything related to foreign investment. Forget about foreign investment, it is difficult for these ideologies to digest even private investments. You can see it’s after effects in Kochi international port, proposed port at Vizhinjam (Trivandrum), industrial areas, ubiquities love for strikes, frightening the industry by showing union highhandedness etc.

Kochi Metro Railway's work is going on

Finally we reached Kottayam transport stand. After searching for another 15 minutes we got a room in Ananda Bhavan Hotel - triple bedroom for 650/day; 100 rupee/day for each extra person.

Our plan was something like this – visit Kumarakom, Vembanadu Lake and Tannermukkam Bund on day one and attends the marriage on day two.

Before going further let me tell you something about the places we are going to visit.

For rest of the article, courtesy to Wikipedia's article on Kottayam.

Kottayam City

A view from Hotel, any one remember the movie Taken 2?
Kottayam city - administrative capital of Kottayam district in Kerala – is a major centre of spice and commercial crops trade; host to many popular names in Kerala media industry - including but not limited to Malayala Manorama, Deepika and Mangalam.

Before Travancore king Marthanda Varma annexed this area, it was an independent kingdom known as Thekkumkoor. Kottayam enjoys a special position in Kerala’s social movements - 1891's Malayali Memorial (for better representation of local people in the Travancore civil services), 1930's Abstention Movement (for representation of lower caste Hindus, Christians and Muslims in Travancore Legislature), 1924's Vaikom Satyagraha against un-touchability etc.

Kottyam also have good foot print in Indian's inland water navigation system. Kottayam Port (Nattakom - near Kodimatha) is India's first multi-modal Inland Container Depot (ICD). Kerala State Water Transport Department (KSWTD) operates ferry services through the backwaters. These services are probably the most economic way to enjoy the beauty of Lake System.

There are three jetties in Kottayam City - Town Jetty, Kodimatha Jetty and Kumarakom Jetty. KSWTD connects Kottayam with Alappuzha through the sides of “villages on either side of the canal, Large Lake Fields, Chithira church built on lake bank, 'R' Block where Holland scheme Agriculture is done, Lake Vembanadu, workes engaged in different jobs in lakes, Lamp post, Manorama church, Round Lake, Finishing point of Nehru Trophy Boat Race". For schedules, fare and other details, please visit - KSWTD.


Near Kumarakom Jetty
Kumarakom - well connected with Kottayam city - is a well known tourist destination (rise into fame after then premier A.B.Vajpayee spent his vacation there). Main focus is on Vembanad Lake and luxury house boats. People visiting Kumarakom can also go to Kumarakom bird sanctuary and take rides in canoes operated by local folk.

Two important things I need to mention, while talking about Kumarakom is, British Missionary Alfred George Baker and Arundhati Roy’s award winning book - 'The God of small things'. Baker’s Victorian model home was later converted to a hotel by Taj group (Taj Garden Retreat). Non-vegetarians can enjoy wide verity of fishes here, including but not limited to Karimeen (Pearl spot), shrimp (Poovalan chemeen) etc.

Towards Vembanad Lake
Thanneermukkom Bund

Located some 8-10kms away from Kumarakom, bund (aka Thannermukkom Salt Water Barrier) is a popular sunset view point.

Sunset, near to the bund
Built in 1974 across Vembanad Lake, this bund connects Vechoor (Kottayam) with Thanneermukkom (Alappuzha) and split the lake into two - saltwater portion and freshwater area (fed by inland rivers). Main objective of this bund is to prevent tidal waves and salt water coming to Kuttanand low lands. Located below sea level, these areas are the lowest laying land in India itself. However, this bund created its own ecological problems. On monsoon season, authorities will open the shutters.



1. Kerala State Water Transport Department (KSWTD)

House Boats - With ac and with out ac are available
An interesting journey