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Monday 26 January 2009

Kerala Trip : Train Travel : Mumbai to Kerala 1

5th Monday, Jan 2009 : Its morning 9:00 and the cab has arrived to pick us up on time. This time the cab is not the usual black and yellow Fiat Padmini Premiere Pal but a Maruti Esteem Reliance service Cab. So whats' the big deal ? Well, Lets just say you wont end up donating your entire wallet and your body wont be forced to act as the shock/jerk absorber of the car. The cab moved along the Western Expressway and Eastern Expressway and also through some routes that I have seen only in maps. The monotonousness of traffic blocks, greenery void and dirt filled roads and slums and slums sent me into intermediate dozes only to be awakened by bumps and pot-holes. As always we (my parents and myself and my digital alter ego : SBF) reached the LTT or better known as Kurla terminus well before time. Ah! Its always well well before time, on an average 1 hour before the train departs. That's' in total contrast to the tradition of some of my uncles who often race with time and sometimes even with trains to catch them. :-)

We had ticket reservations in the Konkan Railway Netravati Express from LTT, Mumbai to Trichur (Trissur or Trisur) in Kerala. I got cemented to my side berth window seat, with mellowed excitement as it is an AC Coach and the windows are sealed by tinted thick glass. After all, the sound of engine, tracks, trees gushing past, the rumble over bridges makes a journey complete. However Providence had many other things in mind to keep me busy throughout the journey. No journey is worthy without kids in the coach and there were 4 in my case. Kids with their randomness and dynamism will never boredom to creep in or allow your journey to go wasted. There was this Marwari doctor and his wife along with their two kids (boys) occupying seats in the 6 seater section. These school going siblings ensured that their parents had tough time through out the journey! The train hadn't even started that the younger kid started throwing tantrums for each and every item that the vendors were carrying around. The impulse input of the tantrum did not result in any response from his mother or brother for a long time. Slowly the tantrum intensity was increasing but lasted for less time (dt) as response was negligible. Finally, the tolerance limit was breached and his mother delivered the hand of god with so ferocity that we all were startled - startled not at the need of the beating but at the intensity! (I.P.C.-Instrumentation n Process Control surely has driven me desperate in the search of input-response relationship in each and every thing around me).

Finally, the train started moving and the kids were back to doing what they do the best! Both the siblings were busy playing with their wall sticking jelly spiderman toy With peace restored, I decided to continue with my novel and mobile charging coz I forgot to charge it the previous night. My mind was now buzzing with thoughts and ideas as to how I will spend my time in Kerala; how I could evade the usual temple visits and relative house visits and spend the days in leisure. I was busy cleaning and polishing my weapon(camera) as I had grand plans to shoot the scenic and picturesque back-waters and rivers that flow beneath the rails in the northern Kerala. A long 3 years had passed since my last visit to Kerala and surely much had changed since then.

The stations along the route in Maharashtra wore a desolate look reminding me of the stations in the Clint Eastwood Wild West movies. Khed and all passed without much activity (apart from the din created by the two kids). The stations seemed quite different and boring from my previous trip to Goa; maybe the presence of friends made the difference in Goa trip. The continuous in and out of tunnels along with frequent blackouts started wearing me out. Also presence of parents stopped me from spending long time near the coach door. So I simply kept reading the autobiography and analysing the author's perspective and justification for his various acts. Time and Stations whizzed past and my vision started fading as my brain pushed the hibernation mode. .. Next

Sunday 25 January 2009

A day after ...... and a day before .......

4th Sunday, Jan 2009 : It is Sunday morning and many might be still in bed, deep in their sleep seeking solace from the daily grind. Many of my B.E. chemical engineering friends might be enjoying a hard earned sleep and rest. After all it is the next day after the Semester exams got over. They might be slowly clearing their accumulators & immediate-use registries in their brain of the Sem VIII processes and subjects. However the day didn't seem like any Sunday to me. I was already sitting in a train bound for Churchgate to appear for the XAT exam with negligible preparation as my semester exams had just ended yesterday after a month long exam carnival! Anyway the only relief was that, I had a chance to visit Churchgate and Fort area after a long period. I could gaze for hours and be completely taken over by the Victorian era architecture and the art-deco style. Meanwhile, I had got a new novel to read and seemed enough for the train trip to Kerala. The exam went as expected and before dejection could fill my heart and brain to brim, i detoured to Fountain with an accomplice to check on the second hand novels and pirated ones. My friend's quest for Bourne Triad novels ended in disappointment while i continued scouting for books on history, geo-political books and biographies of selected few. After tanning ourselves in the afternoon scorching sun, we decided to refuel ourselves before commencing on the journey back home. My friend enlightened me of the existence of a railway stall in churchgate station that specialises in Frankies and which according to him is "one and only". Anyway the frankie was nice, though I must say the place is not clean and customers wish to keep it that way! :-(

It was a special day as it was a day after my Semester exams had finished and a day before commencing on journey to Kerala - my native state!

The rest of the day passed in planning and packing the bags. As usual my camera and swiss knife along with necessary ID cards were my high priority items apart from Maps. Well this would seem odd when you travel with your parents but thats the way I travel ! I decided to carry my portable internal but externalised SATA 320Gb HDD to minimise use of DVDs and maximise data transfer.Though my wish to have a traveller's back pack remains unsatisfied, I was ready to travel. My bag was full of wires and cables and chargers apart from some warranty cards and a spare mobile to change over as my mobile suffers from quick discharge.

It was bedtime and was thinking as to how fast time has passed. Years had passed since I held some of my cousins back in Kerala in my hands and stood hand in shoulders over some cousins. I was thinking of the new faces that might have emerged and of the many I wont be able to meet anymore!

Monday 19 January 2009

Revisiting Kerala!

So, I am back after a session of self regeneration and visiting some temples in Kerala.
For many Kerala might mean Backwaters (kayals), Beaches, Tropical Climate, holiday destination etc. while it means a lot more to me. Kerala in a few words would be Greenery, coconut trees, rivers and seas, beautiful and majestic temples, churches and mosques, set-mundu, GOLD and SILK (unfortunately its an eye sore for me. Malus seem to be obsessed a little lot over Gold and Silk. Print media, TV commercials and ever increasing no of branches of their outlets are the proof), schools, SPEED (Man! the roads are small in width but speedometer never goes below 60-80), Marxists, literacy etc.

I had visited Kerala after a gap of nearly 3 years. That's a long time for me! So has Kerala changed in the meantime. Well, Yes! and No! Power-cuts are still there but it was bearable as it was winter. Vehicular Speed and Overtaking is still the same and I imagine it inspires F1 racers. Where else would you see a car being overtaken by another, while it being overtaken by a third vehicle? All happening simultaneously on a thin but smooth road while you are coming from the opposite direction. You need nerves of steel to drive in Kerala! The Government is still the same oscillating between the Congress led UDF and Communists led LDF. Roads have improved and even the smallest of roads are better tarred than the ones in Mumbai. Buses, Cars, Autos and Trains are clean and beautiful. Well, I have seen this only in Kerala. Every day early morning the transport buses are washed and Sandalwood is applied. Compare this to the ST buses of Maharashtra!
Temples are more crowded and more houses have popped up in my native place. Old thatched roofs and walls have been replaced by aluminium roofs and brick/concrete walls. The old rice mill which was something not less than a wonder in my childhood days has disappeared and the village temple has a new perimeter wall. The Varna theatre still remains with no significant change at least from outside. Many Old faces are missing while many new ones have emerged.
Moreover I can read many signboards in Malayalam, though at a disappointing rate. I had wished to see at least one strike or hartal but to no avail. Seems like Kerala is changing for sure! Kids and teens wait for buses or walk the road to schools/colleges in humongous numbers that I have never seen in Mumbai. Surely, I could sense a feeling among the parents and kids as to how important education is!

Kerala is changing and that is a relief! It has changed my perspective of a lazy and politically incompetent kerala to one with hope!

So, I will begin posting from my next post as to how I spent and what I did in Kerala and what I learnt in Kerala.
Meanwhile you can glance at some of my kerala visit pics that I have posted in Flickr @ http://www.flickr.com/prashantmaxsteel
Till then,
Bye!

Sunday 4 January 2009

Packing my bags and ...

Ola 10.00.00.1001!
My New year truly begins today or after my XAT in noon to be precise.

[Image]

I am packing my bags and getting ready for the catalyst regeneration trip to my parents' native place- Kerala. Fish is already enjoying in Bengaulru with his friends and hopefully clicking pics. Finally, my Semester exams are over and I can sigh relief. Today i gave my XAT sadly with no preparation as I was busy till yesterday with my Engineering exams. The think-tank inside took a while to crank up! The essay at the last was a breather. The exam got over at 12:30 pm and I decided to stroll around the nearby Churchgate-Fountain area scouting for second hand books and novels along with my buddy. My friend bargained and extracted some nice deals for 2 novels while his search for Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum remained a search. he is now convinced the books are jinxed for he has the deja-vu, "out of stock" answer every time. My serach for some cheap history related books or treatises went in-vain though I did find hard coverbooks on Jinnah and terrorism and its social causes-fallout sort. They were beyond my immediate reach, though I have placed an eye on them. Menawhile I have to content with Mario Puzo's Omerata and Sicilian and Pervez Musharaff's autobiography. it seems enough for the train journey.

I hope there will be plenty of things to shoot and capture. Coconuts, greenery and Kayals; here I come!

Rest in later posts!
bye!

Saturday 3 January 2009

All in a night's work!

Every day, when I wake up there has always been a group of special friends to greet me regardless of the climate, temperature or time.

For 21 years I have seen them grow and they have seen me grow, play and throw tantrums. These special friends are the trees that surround my building. Every tree occupies a unique position in my heart. They are the shelters for many birds and squirrels which I wouldn't have seen and understood so closely had it not been for the trees. It is much more than reading about them in books or in a Zoo(No guarantee you can see them in Mumbai Zoo!). I still remember and cherish the childhood adventures of looking for hours at the birds' nests for sign of life and I can still feel the ecstasy of seeing hungry mouths competing for food. Binoculars and Patience were my only tools but the reward was nothing less than a treasure.

Apart from these, just imagine I have never thought of putting up a curtain in my room. Never needed to! The trees provided enough cover for privacy and dust and dirt almost never existed. The cover was so thick that a Full Monty would never be caught!

Past 1 year, the landscape and mindset of the people has changed drastically. Suddenly, many trees have started collapsing and withering; some naturally others due to the ulterior motives of many greedy men! Land prices have sky rocketed and all lands are now sitting gold mines. Redevelopment and demolishing are the new mantras and quick money is in every ones mind. The land opposite my house is being redeveloped and the former school is making way for a new humongous Tower Complex.

At night, I hear sounds of iron hitting wood and next morning I find a friend of mine is no more. I have silently cried at the loss of my friends and mourned with the many birds over the loss. Birds have shifted houses and the chirping has mellowed. Squirrels find this invasion threatening and have been forced out of their natural habitat. Many days I see them dead on road mauled by stray dogs while others try to salvage something from the nearby apartments. Today, many of my friends have left for heavenly abode while many wait for their turn. The landscape has changed, everybody is suffering from dust related illness and respiratory ailments have sky rocketed.

Will this stop ? Can anyone stop the muscle men of Builders , those who are infamous for their underworld and police nexus ?

One more tree has almost perished by their carelessness and recklessness.
Their wish to provide nets at the building perimeter to ensure safety to neighborhood has left the tree brutally hacked!
Attempt 1 : The nets got tangled with the tree branch (left one) and a dumper who didn't see the nets pulled along the nets thereby breaking the left branch which finally had to be cut to prevent it blocking the road.
Attempt 2 : Yesterday, the whole day there was high activity around the tree with the workers beaming with high motivation to finish netting. Today morning, I find the other branch mortally cut and the tree reduced to a tiny-winy shrub!

Earlier,
The Rightmost tree near the Right Gate Lamp. It has two branches emerging close to ground (left and right branches)


The Left Branch has been hacked while Right Branch has been cut and reduced


Left Branch after hacking has been covered up


All for erecting a net frame? This must be seen as tree hacking for billboardsFrom SBF - Voice of India
All in a night's work!
When and where will they stop ?


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