Friday, March 4, 2011

Excellent Kerala food awaiting you if you dare to go beyond athirappilli waterfalls towards valaparai

Athirappilly Falls is situated in Athirappilly panchayath in Thrissur district of Kerala, on the southwest coast of India. Located on the west-flowing Chalakudy River near the Vazhachal Forest Division and the Sholayar ranges, this 24-metre (80 ft) waterfall and the nearby Vazhachal Falls are popular tourist destinations. The 145 kilometres (90 mi) long Chalakudy River, originates in the Anamudi mountains of the Western Ghats and flows through the Vazhachal Forest toward the Arabian Sea. The river initially runs smoothly but becomes more turbulent as it nears Athirappilly. At Athirappilly Falls, the water surges around big rocks and cascades down in three separate plumes. Below the falls, the river remains turbulent for about 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) until it reaches Kannamkuzhi. Then it calms and flows smoothly until reaching the dam at Thumburmuzhi.

Forest wildlife in the area includes the Asiatic elephant, tiger, leopard, bison, sambar, and lion-tailed macaque. The unique 180 metres (590 ft) elevation riparian forest in the Athirappilly-Vazhachal area is the only location where all four South Indian species of hornbills — the Great Hornbill (the State Bird of Kerala), Malabar Pied Hornbill, Malabar Grey Hornbill, and the Indian Grey Hornbill are found living together. If the proposed 163-MW Athirappilly hydroelectric project is built, these unique birds may vanish from these forests because it will submerge the hornbills' habitat. Plantations in the area contain teak, bamboo, and eucalyptus.

The railway station nearest Athirappilly Falls is 30 kilometres (19 mi) to the west in Chalakudy, and the nearest airport is Kochi International Airport, about 55 kilometres (34 mi) southwest of the waterfall and 58 kilometres (36 mi) south of Thrissur. Athirappilly is easily reachable from Chalakudy by taxi or by bus from the Chalakudy private bus terminal. Athirappilly is situated on the highways connecting Tamil Nadu and Kerala, amidst thick forest, so night riding is not advised.

The journey from Chalakudy to the Athirappilly Falls passes through a landscape of winding roads, small villages and lush green trees. Visitors can reach the top of the waterfall via a paved path that leads through thick bamboo clusters. A steep narrow path also leads to the bottom of the falls. The falls attract visitors from across India, especially during the monsoon months (June–September). About 7 million tourists visit the falls and the Vazhachal picnic spot each year.
Courtesy  wikipedia for the contents

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Masala dosa @ Kaloor BTH

BTH stands for Bharath Tourist Home, which is a well known name when it comes to good vegetarian food at reasonable pricing, served in decent surroundings. I am unable to recollect my first visit to BTH, and at the same time there is no dearth of memories to visits to the BTH near durbar hall ground, and then to Sarovaram, BTH's new venture on edappally - aroor by pass road. This is done in the famous Laurie Baker architecture, and is a nice place to have great vegetarian food and relax. The ambience is excellent. BTH has outlets across Kochi, and of these the one we love the most is Kaloor BTH (coffee shop). When they started this two decades back, it was a hut with a thatched roof, and now it is slightly better, but still maintaining the simplicity of a hut. The taste of the Masala dosa here is the best when compared to all other outlets of theirs. In some joints of theirs, you will get puttu and kadala, a kerala speciality for dinner. Anything which has more than 4 decades of existence to boast in a city has to be good, and BTH is not an exception. It is part of the heritage of the city. You must visit BTH, when you visit Kochi, next time. So in the labels column of this post apart from food, I am adding 'places to visit'as well. They do have rooms as well, and can be considered as very safe. 

Everything in this world must pass away. Good bye, dear home...

Half of my life's sweet and sour memories are linked to you. The faded images of my grand father and grand mother, life with parents and sisters, visits by loving aunties and uncles, those vibrant get together s  organized by my parents, the day electricity came to my house and life, the day telephone came to my house and life, the day broadband came to my house, those loving workers at the farm, those coconut harvesting days, negotiations of my mother with the fishermen, weddings of my sisters, my wedding, first nights, the death of my Grandfather, the sight of my father weeping at his feet, the death of my grand mother, the deaths of my father and mother, those evening get togethers at the veranda, days of those thunder storms, where everyone vies for a place on the cot at the prayer room, which is considered as the safest room, those aquariums kept at the veranda, my garage converted office, the work done from the garage converted office, those drinking sprees, those delicious prawns and pork dishes of local flavor made and served with love by my mother, the servants at home, the beautiful garden of my Dad, my first ambassador car, the lonely feeling creeping into me, when the kith and kin departed after my mother's funeral, those recuperating days after a major illness, people coming in asking for help, christmas carols, onam festivals with onakkali competitions, the flying arrows shuttle club, those foot ball matches with 'bambloos naranga'', kuttiyum kolum kali ( a local game similar to cricket), the noise of the celebrations from the neighbourhood, the noise of prayers from the nearby houses..........the list is incomplete......

Now we have decided to demolish you to construct a new one. Thank you dear for sheltering us and protecting us. Instead of the word 'demolish'', i must use the word 'ímprove'', because you cannot be separated from us. You are part of us......

Vallarpadam Church

The Basilica of Our Lady of Vallarpadam, Vallarpadam is a famous centre of pilgrimage. People from all parts of Kerala and outside, irrespective of caste or creed go to the church to seek the blessings of Mary, the mother of Jesus, popularly known as "Vallarpadathamma".
This is an ancient Christian Church which accepted Latin rite after the arrival of Portuguese. In 1524, Portuguese merchants headed by Vasco da Gama enthroned this miraculous picture of Our lady of Ransom at the shrine. The church was dedicated to the Holy Spirit, which was the first of its kind in Asia. The beautiful church was however destroyed by a heavy flood in 1676. The church was re-established in 1676 and the famous picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary was erected by Portuguese who brought it from their native land. The picture is believed to have miraculous powers. The Portuguese built the first church on the site of the present church in 1524. It was destroyed in a flood in the late 17th century and a new church was built on the same spot in 1676. It was declared a special church by Pope Leo XIII in 1888 and in 1951 the Union Government declared it a major pilgrim centre.
Vallarpadam is situated next to Bolghatty Island on the west, and linked to the Ernakulam mainland via the new Goshree bridges. It is about 3.5 kilometers (2.2 miles) in length in the north-south direction and hosts a population of 10,000 people. Vallarpadam is about one kilometer (½ mile) away from the Ernakulam mainland.
A short history the magnificent and miraculous picture of Mary and Infant Jesus, installed at the top of the main altar of the Vallarpadam Church, was brought by Portuguese merchants under the leadership of Vasco Da Gama in 1524. In 1676 the old Church, which was known as the Church of the Holy Spirit, founded by the Portuguese missionaries, was destroyed by the heavy flood and the picture of Our Lady was found floating in the backwaters. Nobody except Paliyath Raman Valiyachan, the Prime Minister of Maharaja of Cochin, could recover it. The beautiful church at Vallarpadam which you see now is built on the land which was donated by Paliyath Raman Valiyachan. He is gratefully remembered in Vallarpadathamma and his generosity towards the church, by lighting the Sanctuary lamp, which he himself donated and which has been burning day and night from 1676 onwards.
In May 1752, there occurred a great miracle which made Vallarpadam a famous Pilgrim Centre. In Vallarpadam there was a young Nair Lady named Meenakshiyamma, who was a member of a noble family called Palliyilveedu. Together with her son, she was going to Mattancherry in a non-mechanised boat. There arose a storm and the boat capsized. Meenakshiyamma and her son went deep down into the backwater. While they were in danger Meenakshiyamma promised Vallarpadathamma that if they were rescued by her they would be her Adimas (servants) until their death. On the third day, as per instructions in a dream, the parish priest asked the fishermen to cast net in the river, and Meenakshiyamma and her son were rescued. This incident is depicted in the picture mentioned above. From that day onwards, people, especially those who travel by boats and ships, come to Vallarpadam and pray for their safe journey. Meenakshiyamma and her son received baptism and became Christians and were named Mary and Jesudas respectively. They were living in the Churchyard itself adoring the Lord and thanking Our Lady and proclaiming the "good news" to all those who came here. Her family is still living, which is quite near to the church. Due to its spiritual importance, His Holiness Pope Leo XIII elevated its main altar to the status of Altare Privilegiatum in Perpetuum Concessum in 1888.
The Feast of Vallarpadathamma is celebrated from 16 to 24 September every year. Pilgrims, thousand in number, come to Vallarpadam to participate in the Feast, especially on 24 September.

Courtesy to wikipedia for some contents and for the photo of the old church

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Kochi can be better than Singapore and Dubai, if we decide.

Whenever in Singapore, sipping a tiger on the banks of the narrow river with nightclubs on both banks, I dream of a Kochi which is equal or better than Singapore in cleanliness and tourism. We are blessed with natural resources than Singapore. Look at the rivers, the mountains, the back waters we have. They do not have any of these, but still they attract tourists better than us. Our heritage is much better than theirs. Where is that we are going wrong?. The difference can be felt from the airport itself, from the moment one land. In Sngapore the immigration staff greets you with warmth, where as at Kochi Nedumbasserry airport the immigration officer looks at everyone as if they are criminals. They do not even smile at them. Another thing that greets you at the Kochi airport is the over whelming greeting by the money changers, which resembles the invitation by the prostitutes in the red streets of Mumbai (I have not visited this place yet). The currency conversion rates are not displayed, instead kept in a typed form within a file. The negotiations for a better conversion rate can beat the negotiations in our local village fish market. Contrary to this, in all other international airports, the currency conversion rates are displayed on the electronic bulletin board, and there is no negotiation beyond it. When I complained about this to the higher authorities, the response was ' These immigration officers are policemen who are trained only to deal with criminals, not tourists', 'These guys at the money exchange counters are bank officers who are trained to deal only the loan seeker, not the international passenger'.  Is it corruption?. Is it lack of patriotism?. Is it lack of awreness of the missing opportunity?. What is the solution?. 

We need a colossal change in attitude in every Kochi citizen to cope up with the rapid growth of our city. Every driver should learn the rules to drive in a high speed six lane highway. This should be part of the driving test as well. Every citizen should be made aware of their social responsibilities. Every person in responsible positions should be aware of their responsibilities. We must consider every tourist as a guest. We must learn to keep the public places clean. We need to improve the coordination between the government departments to ensure that our roads are not dug by telecom companies to lay cables immediately after maintenance work. It is our money, the tax payer's money which is getting wasted. 

This is not just governments responsibility, instead it is every one's responsibility. Should it be top down, or bottom up or both. Even when the social networking is really ruling the center stage, the real social networking for a cause is still a mirage. I personally feel that a blog like greaterkochi can play a major role here by creating the social soft power around the vision of a greater kochi in all aspects.

Shopping @ FabIndia, Ernakulam

FabIndia is there across the lenth and breadth of India, but still I like the fabindia store near Kochi shipyard for it's vast collection of  furniture. When ever I went there I spent a few thousands (Rs) on them. I am very unhappy with this store for it's lack of consideration for men's wear. 

About the company

Fabindia is India's largest private platform for products that are made from traditional techniques, skills and hand-based processes. Fabindia links over 40,000 craft based rural producers to modern urban markets, thereby creating a base for skilled, sustainable rural employment, and preserving India's traditional handicrafts in the process. Fabindia promotes inclusive capitalism, through its unique COC (community owned companies) model. The COC model consists of companies, which act as value adding intermediaries, between rural producers and Fabindia. These are owned, as the name suggests, by the communities they operate from; a minimum 26% shareholding of these companies is that of craft persons. Fabindia's products are natural, craft based, contemporary, and affordable.

Company website and online store

gutter at the other side of glitter.....

Our city is growing at a frantic pace. Are we ready to cope up with it?. Apart from building infrastructure, we need to learn and teach everyone about the use and maintenance of modern infrastructure. At kochi, nobody knows even how to use the zebra crossing to cross the road. Either they are not aware of it's existence at all, or they use it at will. The educated use it even when the green light for the vehicles are on, and the not so aware ones (I cannot use the word illiterates, because is a state with 100% literacy levels) crosses the whenever they feel like and wherever they are. This is just one example. The beautiful ernakulam-fortkochi  boat jetty building is really dirty by the spits of pan masala chewers. They just spit wherever they feel like at will. The roads are getting broader with 6 lane traffic, and unfortunately the drivers lack road discipline. These can be corrected only by proactive awareness building with public-private partnership. Along with the growth of the city, slums are formed in the middle of the city itself. How will we address these?. Who has the vision?. I am optimistic. 

@nelliampathy Photo taken using Nokia E5 phone... Kudos to Nokia

An evening at cherai beach