Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Peeping in

I know it's so long since I have visited this place and since I visited today 'by mistake' didn't want to leave without saying a Hi ;)

Well of late life has become very hectic and I am hardly finding time to breathe :P  But as I was telling a friend sometime back, I have always been the most creative when I have the least time. So hoping something will come up soon ;)

In the meantime, I am just posting a travelogue of a trip that we did few years back. We had posted it that time in our travel blog which is also dormant now. Even the flickr pics have taken off. Still there are many who ask us about the place and as years pass by I am finding it difficult to dig it out from my old mails. So thought of posting it here once again.

So here's the 'The famous Chimony trip' experience :)

1) Day 1 : A jungle to get lost in

2) Day 2 :Stretching the limits

Chimmony Jungle Camp - A Jungle to get lost in

We have been traveling extensively for many years now. But the trip that we had during the Diwali weekend has beaten everything heads down. It is full of unique and crazy experiences and I just can’t resist penning it down

It was KK who found the details of the programme from outlook traveler and booked for the five of us – KK, JK, Sid, me n Rash.
The Jungle Camp package was roughly like the following:
We will be taken to a tented accommodation on the eastern edge of Chimmony Reservior. Once in the camp on the banks of a stream we can go for treks, bird-watch, swim/relax in the pool at Cherpulikkuth etc. Check in time 10 am and check out after breakfast the next day.
But since we wanted to be in Chimmony till evening they suggested us to go for either of the following the next day.
a) Come back to Chimmony and go for a bamboo raft ride (can combine with short treks as well).
b) Go for a trek to the highest peak in the PA, the Ponmudi peak (1116 m). They said the trek passes through some good rain-forests and the view from the peak is breath taking and the trek will take about 6 hrs.
KK was too keen in making the most out of this trip and so he wanted to have both. So we decided to take the 2 hr raft ride before going to the camp. We had gone to the dam last year and were impressed by its calm n quiet atmosphere and so all of us were looking forward for the opportunity to be there for two days. Our plan was to start on Thursday evening around 6.30 pm and reach the place by Friday morning. Two hours prior to the trip Pint called up and said he also wanted to join. He just couldn't resist the raft ride and joined us in 1 hr :)

Day 1:

We went straight to Chimmony on Friday morning. At the check post, met the officers and they took us to the dormitory. After freshening up and a quick breakfast we were set for the first activity – the bamboo raft ride. This was the one all of us (except may be JK ;)) were eagerly waiting for. Since there were 6 of us they took us in two rafts. The rafts were beautifully made with nice bamboo seats so that we can sit comfortably without getting wet. It was a bit sunny in the beginning but later it changed to a pleasant one.

The place had a very soothing effect and had all the settings of a perfect holiday - far far away from the crowd, just amidst nature, nature and nature all around. And about the scenery surrounding us – what can I say? It’s far too stunning to describe in words. You can’t help but be mesmerized by the silky, shimmering waters and the stately mountains and hills filled with trees that stood proudly on almost all sides. We were busy savoring (or trying to savor) the beauty around us in the cameras (These are some situations were we realize that man/camera has limitations but nature doesn't).

Once we got used to the raft’s balance we were comfortable moving up and down. We even tried our hands in pedaling (not the main one of course). After sometime Pint got the idea to jump into the water (he can never resist a plunge). So Pint dived first. KK and Sid followed. Sid even swam from his raft to ours which was little far apart (n got exhausted).

Pint was insisting us also to jump but we didn’t want to wet ourselves…We then heard some elephant’s noise and so decided to try our luck in spotting it. So everyone returned to the respective rafts and we started again. But after some time pint got restless and started splashing water all over me. I was totally wet and so we decided not to leave others too.

The first target was obviously JK who is supposedly hydrophobic. In order to escape from us, he took 2 cameras, put it through his neck and was running around. But after a lot of effort we managed to take the cams from him and then it was real fun time. Splashing water all over, jumping from one raft to another, pulling others to water,… Pint even tried some diving and ended up in some distance from the raft and I had to pull him towards the raft.

In another 10 mins all the 6 of us were in 90 ft deep water without any life jackets and none of us were expert swimmers either!!!! Anyway after frolicking in water to the hearts content we returned to the IB. All of us were really hungry and so devoured the simple and delicious lunch waiting for us.

To the Wilderness
After lunch we started towards the camp site. A 45 minute ride in the speed boat along the lake took us to the depths of the sanctuary on the eastern edge of the Reservoir. We were accompanied by an armed forest guard with communication facilities and 4 tribal men. Once we got out of the boat and trekked to the campsite, we were exposed to the virgin forest which was the home for all sorts of creatures and many medicinal plants. We could spot some huge praying mantis, some rare flowers, medicinal plants, different varieties of mushrooms,…

The camp site was a clearing near the stream and some elevated base was already there. Our hosts (they are the tribes from the settlement of Echipara) were quick in setting up the almost ready made tent

 After spending some time near the stream we headed towards a waterfall nearby. That was a beautiful sight indeed.

There was a tree lying horizontally from one end to the other (kind of natural bridge) and it seems they used it for collecting honey (info from KK). We walked on that tree and went near the falls. But after sometime it started raining and we got completely wet.

After spending sometime there we headed towards the next falls. It was a stream flowing through the huge rocks. They said in monsoon the entire rock area will be covered by water. By then the light was very dim and Pint tried out some excellent long exposure shots.

As the dusk fell, we came back to the camp site. There the lanterns (I’m seeing it after a very long time) were kept on the dining table (don’t mistake. It is a nice bamboo structure) and a camp fire was also lit(tho it got extinguished soon). We were ready to crash but discovered that the tents were wet due to rain :( Our hosts immediately changed two tents under the tarpaulin and they were busy preparing dinner for us – chappathi and peas curry. After relishing the same we immediately went to the tents and crashed while our hosts were awake. It seems in the middle of the night some wild boars came and they shooed them off. They then lit a camp fire so that some more attacks will not be there.

Day 2 : Stretching the limits..

We got up early and started off to the mainland after dismantling the tent and other stuff. The early morning ride was really awesome. Weather was simply gorgeous with the sun shinning its golden rays through the clouds and giving it a fine blend of colors. Mist was there all over the place. In addition, the high rise mountains and it’s reflections in the placid water was like a perfect painting...

After a tasty breakfast of puttu and kadala it was time for the Ponmudi trek which was around 1100 mts high. I had my own apprehensions about it mainly coz of the story from Simanta about the leeches. Also I was not sure of my health and fitness level as I was on medication for quite sometime. Anyway everyone ignored my reasoning as lame excuses and so by 10.30 we started our trek (tho we were supposed to start at 6.30 am!!). The climb was not very difficult except for the leeches who gleefully welcomed us :(  The route was definitely interesting with dense forest, some stream crossing, interesting creatures, rare flowers etc. Our guides were giving us gyaan about the different trees, medicinal plants, it’s uses and all on the way.

 By around 1.30 we reached a clearing from where we could see the chimony dam. We then thought we have almost reached the top and slowed down a little. After a while thick fog surrounded the entire place and it was lovely… But only then we realized that we were no were near the top and had to hurry up. The climb further was becoming bit difficult also. Our guides asked us to be in a close group as well since the visibility was greatly reduced coz of the fog.

Once we reached near a stream we had packed lunch and continued our ascent. By around 3.30 we reached the summit. It seems on clear days we can see three dams from that point and that view was supposedly very breathtaking. But unfortunately for us it was little foggy (Although it had a beauty of its own). The mist was clearing fast but we couldn't stay there for long as it was quite late…

Soon we started our descent. We took a different route which was shorter but little steeper. All of us were tired and so the pace was not very fast. Our guide wanted us to cross two difficult parts before 5 and we were struggling to do that. Anyway we somehow managed that part and they said the difficult part was over (in terms of steepness) But for us it just began!! The route seemed never ending.. :(

It was getting dark and there were symptoms of a heavy rain. The ranger was getting anxious and was asking us to hurry up as there is a possibility for the elephants to charge us. But as JK rightly said “In that case you run and take care of yourself. None of us are going to run even if it happens. This is the max pace that we can walk in the current situation”. For me I was loosing my strength and was finding it difficult even to balance. Many a times I had to depend on JK. So was the state of Rashmi. Pint and Sid was helping her. Pint was saying “Even I’m tired and I can imagine the state of you ppl”. Sid was like “I’m stretching my limits”. Rash was continuously asking “Can I be tired” but KK’s diplomatic answer was “I have faith in you”. I really pity the state of boys. Although they themselves were tired, they had to take care of us also :( .

Soon night fell and it started pouring heavily and no umbrella (not that it would have made a difference). Since we never expected such a late return, we didn't have any torches and to make it worse - it was an “amavasya” night (new moon). The situation was abominable - pitch dark, dense forest, heavy rain, uneven ground and possible hidden dangers behind the bushes. Soon we had another hurdle to overcome – a stream crossing. Even before, we didn't have any idea where we were stepping. Now we don’t know what the depth is, whether the rocks are slippery and also how strong the current is!!! We somehow managed this also and soon I had the next set back. During the wayanad trip my leg was twisted and it was not completely cured. The same leg was twisted again and the cold made the pain worse :( .From there on I couldn't apply force on one leg and literally had to manage with one leg. After rambling in the dark like this for more than an hr we finally saw some light (of the jeep of-course  and a big crowd to receive us. The walkie-talkie was also not working and so they just couldn't contact us. They were clearly worried and were happy to see us back safe and sound (?). Anyway all of us were unanimous in saying that we stretched a little too much (tho KK won’t agree).

Anyway we soon reached IB, packed and bid adieu to the place taking with us some long lasting memories…

Info: Chimmony is 35 km. from Thrissur. There are buses from the North bus stand. If you are coming in your own vehicle, turn east at Amballur jn. Amballur is 11km. from Thrissur on the NH47 to Kochi. Chimmony is 24 km. from Amballur, the road end at Chimmony Dam.

PS: Far from the hustles and bustles of city, this place unleashes a whole new world of sunshine, fresh air, varieties of birds, trees, mountains, streams, flowers,… In short, Chimmony doesn't disappoint :)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

My Garden Resort

My post on ceramic works  was actually a filler post when I was trying different ways to engage myself somewhere. But it got me many like minded visitors, mostly complete strangers, but eventually we hit it off beautifully as we all liked the same things - art and crafts. I did learn some new tricks from them as well and one of the frequent requests I get is to share the works. So here I am at it again :)

Have a look at my very own garden resort which I toiled for a very long time and I have to tell u working on this really tested my patience what with 60 odd shades, 200+ threads and 1000 odd minute areas for each shade! When my mom saw me doing this, she had scolded me saying my eyes would go for a toss by the time I finish it as she felt it's too strenuous for the eyes. I did get bored and stopped it in between many a times, but finally managed to finish it and waited for still many more months to get it framed and this is the end product. You should tell me if the effort was worth it ;) While doing this, I had thought that this will be my last attempt at quick stitch work, but a visit to a friend's place and seeing a new design saw me running to the store and I am half way through the next work already and thankfully it's not this intricate :) Will post it once it gets over, hopefully soon ;)

In the mean time, some stitching I had done long back. It does look very kiddish now, but yeh I was a kid then ;) If I remember right I hardly took a few days to complete them and was super excited at the end of it. I was always fond of cute cartoon characters and I have many stories related to it. I made sure I filled the greeting cards I sent to my friends with them to give it that personal touch. Even margins of my boring textbooks (mostly Hindi) used to be full of these characters much to the dismay of my mother ;) I even used to draw some cartoons and passed it around in the class and end of the period it used to come back with lots of funny comments from everyone in the class. And drawing them on the hands of my neighbors was also one of my favorite pass-time :P Yeh I was quite naughty though very few close ones realized it. Many a times my neighbour used to get caught for our pranks and no teacher even assumed I could also be a partner in that crime. Looks can be very deceptive u see: D

Now here is some wood work done sometime back. Now it badly needs another coat of varnish. This is one of the easiest to make if you know what shape of wood pieces u want. You can pick the same from a carpenter and then just unleash your imagination. 

This is another piece that most of my friends don't believe I did it myself. You knit the frame of your pattern by wool (The same way u did your bangle decoration back in school), dissolve the alam in hot water n immerse the frame overnight. Next day u get a crystallized version of your frame. Unfortunately I didn't have a big enough container to immerse my cart and had to do it over two days and that explains the unevenness of crystallization on either side.

Embossed painting is done in different mediums. Common one is done on felt cloth using an embossing liquid. The embossing liquid is applied on the pattern in the felt cloth and ironed at the back so that the pattern is embossed which can be painted accordingly. But a visit to Raja Market and I realized you get all sort of designs ready-made. Only problem being the patterns may not be very well drawn and you might find many duplicates of your work everywhere. I am posting some of my trials anyways.

  Whenever I see medium sized stones cut n kept in construction sites I am tempted to pick them up. I have invited many a curious glances and questions when I search for that perfect shape from the pile. This is again one of the easiest to make using m-seal and perfect for a quick gift. This is one such piece lying with me as I felt the painting on it is too silvery and needs a repaint which hasn't happened yet.

Thermocols are another good friend of art lovers. I have no clue what all they can be used for - greeting cards, wall hangings, stage props, decorations,.. - the list is endless. So here is one of my attempts - a waterfall. But I really have to confess: it was way too messy. You need to first shape each block to resemble a stone. This involves scrapping it using a sandpaper and the stupid thing flies all over. End of it I had a layer of thermocol flakes on everything in the house - books, dresses, vessels, bed even water.  Then it had to be waterproofed using white cement and then painted. Water is filled in the base and I used a 1/2hp motor to make it flow from top. Actually mine now needs a touch up n repaint but the very thought of a snow-flaked house is putting me off. And I don't feel like throwing it when I think of the effort I had put in to make it. So poor thing is now resting in the car-shed, all dusty :( 

[N sorry for the bad pic also. I fished it out from some old collections]

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Down the memory lane to Ammamma's kitchen

Pic courtesy : Shiva Shankar

During my growing up years I used to have a nickname lovingly bestowed to me by one of my neighbors - "choorunnatha kutti"(the girl who doesn't eat rice).

Although I am not at all proud of it, even now whenever I feel lazy I conveniently replace my lunch and dinner with some breakfast/snack items. Although I tell myself it is because you need to have all sorts of varieties for your health, I realized the only flour which gets over in my kitchen is the rice flour. Whenever I go to the store, I stack up on all kinds of flour - wheat, raagi, bajra, corn, multi grain, rava but I can't remember any of them getting over, ever. Mostly after 1-2 months it goes to the maid only to be replenished during my next store visit. But rice flour has a different story altogether. I need to refill it at least once a month or even earlier if I have any guests. Many a times I tell myself I won't take it unless I finish the other flours and hide it in the bottom of my flour container but the very next time I involuntarily dig out the same thing. Today for some reason I had a flash back and realized where the roots are...

I had mentioned in my previous post about the initial activities during the harvest season at my ammamma’s house. But ammamma’s work used to continue for few more weeks. The manually beaten straw would still have many more grains in it. So they used to spread it out on the road early in the morning and collect it back in the evenings. During the course of the day, the vehicles and people who walk over it would have done the effect of 'methikkal' and the separated grains would have fallen off in the road. Since this ritual was done by everyone in the neighborhood, it was fun to see the road during this time which would be an endless yellow hay carpet. As kids we often used to play in it as it won't hurt even if u fall unlike the hard stone paved roads (which became tarred later).  Once most of the grains are extracted which took a few days (or weeks may be?) the hay will be stacked in the backyard around a pole or tree which will be fed to the cows later. The harvested grains are then cleaned and separated into different portions - the largest went for making parboiled rice which will be the rice supply for the whole family for the entire year. Then some are kept as broken rice for making kangi and the rest goes for making those savory snacks and breakfast. This group is also divided in to different categories - some are kept raw, some will be powdered and some of it will be powdered and roasted. There was a small rice mill right across our house and that used to my favorite hangout. Every time ammamma goes there to get the rice powdered I used to follow her and always marveled at the way the big belts moved and the rice poured in at one end came out powdered at the other end.

Once all these pre-works got over, ammamma used to be little free and then it's time to convert these things to mouthwatering snacks. One of the things that were always made was avalosepodi - by roasting the raw rice powder along with grated coconut and salt. This is a filling snack and supposed to have a shelf life of almost a year. But with us around we never really got a chance to check that ;) Another favorite snack used to be ariyunda made by frying parboiled rice and then powdering and mixing it with jaggery and grated coconut. Some times when it is cashew nut season this also turns into andi unda or cashew nut balls with ample amount of powdered cashew nut added to the ariyunda mix. Some of the other snacks I remember are unniyappam, velichennappam etc. which was made depending on the kids and their demands. Then there were vatteppam and one of my favorite - inderi appam.  Although traditionally made during Vishu, vishukkata was also frequently made by her. She also used to make some other trademark appams which were all rice flour n coconut (and sometimes jaggery and other flours) mixed in different forms. Unfortunately I don’t have the recipes for any of those and might never taste them again L Then some of the breakfast varieties - puttu kadala which is the standard Kerala breakfast and other days we used to have ila ada which is steamed rice flour with coconut and jaggery filling, wrapped in banana leaves. If members at home are less, instead of steaming, this is roasted in kalachatti (mud pot) as well which is much tastier but time consuming. Along with this there were some of amma's specialties - pathiri and orotti in coconut milk.  I have my own version of these which is akki roti – a spicy variant common in Karnataka. And sometimes I'll be in a mood for some nice idiyappam and stew. Again there are some more varieties when I have some extra flour from my breakfast - kozhukkatta, mani puttu, ari pidi etc. Whenever my friends come in, they usually ask for palappam and stew or puttu-kadala which is a novel dish for non-keralites and nostalgic for keralites.

Basically the simple rice flour takes different shapes and forms depending on my moods and nostalgic memories and with such varieties how can you blame me for skipping the boring rice n curry for lunch?
Pic courtesy : Shiva Shankar

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Big Bouquet Of Wishes...


I couldn't be more happier at the moment but with a tint of sadness as well. It indeed is a strange thing when you can be so happy and so sad at the same time and I know this feeling is not new. I have had it before when my childhood friend got married few years back. I was so happy for her for the new life that she was entering but sad at the same time coz the good times we shared right from the age of 4 will not be the same. Now it's time for another dear friend to step in the same line.

I used to think you can never be so close to anyone as your childhood friends and she changed that norm completely. We became so close in such a short time that I really surprised myself (as I have a notorious tag of being an emotional brick wall among my friends). More than a friend she became my soul sister, thanks to her unconditional acceptance and the silent support. I never failed to get an SMS from her on Saturdays 12 noon asking 'whatz up' and she never knew what it meant to me to know that there is someone checking up on me on a regular basis. Whenever we both were in town, invariably we caught up for dinner which mostly followed a night out at either of our places. Things that we did together - our small trips, our supposedly "let's do it regularly" weekend cycling, day long shopping's (which both of us hated but had to do), our serious and not so serious discussions about life and what's in store and our common interest which was children. Also how can I forget her persuasiveness on many things which I wouldn't have done otherwise (Yeah she is the one who took me to the theater after a 22 yrs long gap). There are many more sweet memories that keep flashing in front...

So dear, as you embark on this new journey of a lifetime, may you have the bestest of everything and the happiest marriage ever. May this be a beautiful beginning of a wonderful life and wishing that it is a new beginning for the hopes and dreams you hold dear coz someone like you who is such a great soul should have the lasting happiness you so well deserve... Stay blessed always!