Always daddy’s little girl

I was going to post this on December 15th , when my Das turned 70. Ahem, mind you, he is just 70 by age. He is as fit as 40 and as young as 30 in his mind. Daddy dearest, this one is for you. I want you to know that, you are my number one and will always be my number one.

Humble and soft-spoken.With the mannerisms of a gentleman, jet black eyes, thinning hair, grey beard and moustache and a smiling face, he’s a statuesque man exuberating charm, grace and humility. A man of principles, a man who walks with his head held high and walks in a manner that commands respect. A man with a big warm heart and an open mind, who isn’t bound by shackles of tradition or social norms. A man who’d miss a cricket tournament to sith and watch a re re re run of F.R.I.E.N.D.S with his daughter. A man who compromised his whole life to make hers better and brighter.A man who made sure there would be no fingers raised to question his daughter’s upbringing. A man who made sure she attended every singing competetion in the state and a man who during her innumerable performances clapped the loudest. A man who made silly faces when presented  cards with  scrawny handwriting that said “To the bestest, daddy dearest”. A man who’d see the child wrap presents for Father’s Day and still act surprised when she gives him the gift next day.The man who’d carry the school bag till the busstop and wait till she gets on the bus. A man adamant on not buying a new shoe however obsolete and frayed the old one became. A man who never said no to a new dress or accessory no matter how extravagant and unnecessary. A man who’d ignore his urge to buy new clothes or shoes so that his princess can get that gadget she was craving for. A man who’ll perform random deeds of kindness and laugh his way through bad times. Who’ll smother her with a bear hug after she has confessed to a petty crime. The dad who will keep the door to his room open after they’ve watched a horror movie so that she can walk in anytime.

The dad, my dad, my brother’s first super hero and my first love.  He’s the life of every group. The man in the center of a crowd. Entertaining everyone with witty jokes. Loved by kids and adults alike. Agony Uncle to God father to Secret Santa to Amazing human being to cool granduncle to doting dad to sincerest husband.

I’m truly and utterly thankful for every time that he forgave me, for every word of advice, for every smile that touched my eyes,for every sacrifice. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for making me believe without a doubt that unconditional love does exist. My Das is the Bestest Dad in the whole world!

I LOVE YOU THIIIIIIISS MUCH DAS ! 

Happily Married- for a month

We celebrate a month of our marriage today! Ro and I!We!Us! Exactly a month ago, we got married. How time flies. Its strange too, a month and I still dont feel married. Thats in a good way! I havent changed. He hasnt let me. Maybe I have become a tad bit responsible and a little less talkative but I seem to be getting more resilient these days. So as I watched the Internet guy make my home a wifi zone, I thoought this should be my first post from my zone, dedicated to my man. Its funny, I always thought married couples were complicated. I was wrong. Its fun. Marriage is fun and you know you are happily married….

… when he laughs at the jokes she cracks, even the ones she doesn’t find funny

…when see you soon becomes that one thing she simply loves typing

… when she is doing experimental, creative cooking and he says it is yummy

…when she says good morning with a happy and satisfied face and really means it

… when she goes hyper over the silliest things and all he does is listen. Intently. That’s all she needed in the first place

… when right after a day of work and 2 hours in the traffic,he drives 300 km just to take her to a place that she had mentioned she wanted to see and herself forgot about it.

… stupid, baseless arguments. Anywhere. Home, elevators, cars, parking lots, airports. And feeling very stupid about them later.

… when he downloads all seasons of Grey’s Anatomy just for her to see, if ever she gets bored.

… when she sings to him and he falls asleep smiling

… when her feet finds  his beneathe the comforter at night, even after another nonsensical fight

… when he spends precious morning minutes explaining routes to the city and then says he will come and pick her up.

… when opening the door for him when he returns from work becomes the best time of her day

… eating cheap chinese and feeling like it was the best dinner ever

… when he gulps down that black coffee she made with a smile and then asking her to  make sure she puts sugar in the cup the next time

… finding out that the one place where she can really be herself, with all her hits and misses, is in those hugs he gives her  everyday

… discovering the joy of being in the kitchen together

… wondering why tickets have suddenly started costing twice of what they used to ;)

…making budget cuts and realising that some things are so useless! Like hand cream, face cream, leg cream. Thats why they have one body lotion na!

… when he pretends that she is the boss, and she revels in the glory of her recent promotion :P

… learning to put his white shirts separately in the washing machine so they don’t end up pink :)

…hiding his once blue shirt and praying that he forgets about it!

… sharing dreams. Career, family, children – life

… rediscovering the good things in life they had recently forgotten. Like ice cream!

…when he eats ice cream for 1dhm so that she can have her 8 dhm galaxy ice cream:(

… financial planning. A lot of it!

… when he  learns to live with a female :P

… unsolicited advice/ feedback. On everything starting from the amount of oil and jeera in food to her blog posts

… when she wakes up in the middle of the night and listens to his quiet snoring, looks at his childlike innocence and then falls asleep with a smile on her face

… everything that shared smiles can mean

… when he launches into one of his drunken ramblings and  she falls off the chair laughing and wondering how someone can be so sane and so, so mad at the same time

… finding this little place with beige walls and one balcony many months ago, and making a home out of it.

… the smell of morning coffee

… when he wonders why the bathroom in his one time bachelor pad has suddenly been smelling a tropical haven

… going grocery shopping together, and for some strange reason, laughing through the fact that one whole cover went missing

… when his car becomes “their” and yet the gyaan on banging the car door too hard never stops

… a little bit of knowing and a lot of discovering

… the camaraderie, the friendship, this knowledge that they are growing up together, and that, many years from now, they will grow old together and will have a history of their own

… this comfortable, effortless, mad,everyday love..

Here’s to us! To a month of mad mad married life and to many many many more to come.

 

Where it all began

It rained the night before I was born. An unexpected rain. Susrusha Nursing home found itself walked on by women with lifted sarees and men with their pants hitched higher than the high it already was.

Mother must have screamed, her first and perhaps only emotion when concerning me. And I cried for I hadn’t wanted to be born.

After the many nurses touched me, cleaned me and handed me over with forced emotion to my mother’s mother. It was she who first held me. I remember my grandmother mentioning years later that the doctor came out and said to her that my mom delivered a doll for her to play with. I’d fallen asleep in her arms, tired from my journey.

Taking one look at my not so pink cheeks and the lower half of my body that was wrapped snugly in a clinical white Turkish towel, she’d prayed that my father wouldn’t be too unhappy. The child being a girl.

Father was too high on  joy and cigarattes. He couldn’t have cared less. He was a father, once again! The elder one being a boy was more than enough for him. After all the boy would take care of all his needs when he grows up. What was the use of two boys anyway?

Before handing me over to him, my grandmother had pinched my cheeks to make them redder. And I’d woken up to cry in protest. Through his sleep deprived eyes, father held me uncomfortably and awkwardly. When placed into his hands that formed the most uncomfortable cradle ever, he looked at everyone around foolishly and showed me to my brother. My brother who cared a damn about what it was. it could be a cat for all he cared.He was annoyed because he hadnt slept last night coz he was in the car with mosquitoes buzzing all around him and more so because he thought all the attention his mother and grandmother had showered on him would now go to this thing. He thought.

Already in a strange land, I was moved from place to place. I’d stopped crying because I was tired of crying too- yes, even then.The last person to hold me was mother. And when she did I’d realize that maybe she hadn’t wanted me born either. After all, maybe she knew that eventually I’d be the one taking her life away. Maybe. The hostility and hatred penetrated through the warm folds of the blanket and making an effort through all the fear I felt, I’d screamed; terrified.

How do I know all this?
Because I remember everything. That’s the curse I am born with.

Life taught me that

  • The purpose of going through life is to be confronted and questioned by our beliefs and have them tested by trials of anguish and remorse and to be compelled to form one’s own moral code of existence and existing.
  • The need to reiterate love for another stems from the absolute absence of it or the doubt of it
  • I cannot be passionate about any thing. I carry all my baggage at all times, and I get drawn by the wind only too easily. It is the only natural way of living I have experienced and I must stop trying to live otherwise.
  • I have had a very exciting and bumpy childhood. My major grudge is tat dad left me to grow up into my own. I did most of my mentoring. Considering the realities of life on earth, I am absolutely privileged that atleast my dad was present n  I knew him right from the start, he was my own.I have got a true complete chance at life…
  • The way people behave and the things they say are who they are. I must stop thinking that they are only fooling around just because I would behave in their manner only if I wished to entertain.
  • People are clues unto themselves.
  • Industrialization has gifted us the marvel of 2-minute -Just Add Water. We have forgotten the aromas and earthy flavours of the real deal.
  • Just because some one looks it, does not mean he is it. Stereotypes are outsourced and mass produced.TotallY!
  • The best way to manage relationships is to NOT nurture them. Let them grow and assume the plainness of weeds. Let them survive on their own merit. Don’t give them thought or time, you’ll want returns on your investments, and greed sticks to our insides.
  • It really is a crime to have children in the times we live!
  • It isn’t too fair that we choose to like traits in people like we prefer ice-cream flavours and easily dump them if they taste a tad different. Is it that our fear of falling ill has crept into our relationships as well?
  • It is best to leave when the going is good.
  • I am very good at moving on. When a relationship, phase or lifetime is over, it is over.
  • Some major things happen for no reason at all. There are no lessons to learn, no one to blame, only to suffer a weird mood and get back to life.
  • You must cherish your student life. It is like life knows that once you are out of college, you have to go through a lot, struggle to keep alive!
  • Most people lust after power because like every addiction, it fortifies weakness.
  • Men who flatter n take you for a ride need to be treated like dirt under your shoe and men who have the courage to treat you like a women are for keeps. If you ever find a man who treats his mother like a queen and tries to make you like her and treats you like a princess, hold on to him!

He is definitely for all time.:)

CUSTODY

Child custody is a legal term  used in Divorce Proceedings to describe the legal and practical relationship between a parent and his or her child, such as the right of the parent to make decisions for the child, and the parent’s duty to care for the child.

“Children from divorced families don’t follow the same rules as regular children — they grow up much faster and have seen insecurity and strife too early in life. You can’t apply the same parameters to them as you can to your own children, who are safe and warm and cherished.”

This is something my divorced friend used to say. She used to say this with quiet sadness and a heavy hearted conviction.

No one knows this better than either a parent who, as an aftermath of separation or divorce, finally takes a look at her children and is shattered to see what the acrimony and dispute has done to them or than Manju Kapur. Divorce is a sad business but saddest for the children of the family who are rent by conflicting loyalties as they see all that is dear and familiar being snatched away and distorted for no fault of theirs.

Manju is a past master in dealing with the concerns of families. Custody is her fifth book after her bestselling books, Difficult Daughters, Home, The Immigrant and A Married Woman.

The tone of Custody is a serious, yet soft. Manju is not judgmental, though you see her getting grim at places, as if she’s biting back her comments behind pursed lips. Though she talks of grand passions, betrayals, heartbreak, extra marital affairs, she remains quiet and tries to be a chronicler rather than a participant in the story that she tells.


Custody is the story of the family of Raman and Shagun and their two children, eight year old Arjun and three year old Roohi. Raman works for a multi-national company, the Brand, that manufactures and distributes soft drinks. The rewards are huge as is the work that is expected. Raman, who belongs to a middle class family, is a bright guy but somewhat dull. He is married to Shagun, who is wondrously beautiful but bored and rather selfish. Still, all is well with the family, until Ashok Khanna, comes in as Raman’s boss at the Brand. Ashok is the human manifestation of the Brand. What he wants, he gets, and if there are obstacles on the way, he simply sweeps them aside or buy them out. This time he wants Shagun, and he gets her.

Shagun, not considering anything but her passion for Ashok, is ready to call off the marriage and asks Raman for a divorce, and that’s when the staid, loving Raman turns into a vengeful person who will do anything to avenge being left for another man.

On the other hand, is Ishita, a young divorcee, who has been heartlessly thrown out of her husband’s home because she is physically incapable of having children. Ishita tries to find some sense of identity in social work with poor children. She and the divorced Raman come together. Now occurs the re-formation of couples. Ishita and Raman; Shagun and Ashok. All settled but for the children, who are pulled apart in ways that are as insidious as they are aggressive.

The first half of the book is devoted to the grown ups and the re-configuration of the couples, the latter part focuses on the ugly custody battle for the children. The little ones have to deal with parents who have changed priorities, changed partners, changed characters even. From being the loved kids of a family, they are changed into pawns on the chessboard of the judicial system, the players of the game being none other than their parents.

Luckily, Manju does not take on a moralising tone, although she is a bit wry in the telling of her tale sometimes. Her forte is middle class Indians and though she is ruthlessly honest, she knows how to tell their story gently. You are left feeling bruised at the way courts treat divorces and custody matters — the man who will not grant a divorce because his ego has been hurt and the woman who is given preference in custody battles by virtue of her gender. You just end up hoping that if (God forbid) you or your loved ones ever have to go through it, it would be a much revamped system!

Manju brings forth the angst that the system engenders when lawyers step in and courts take over. The joy is over and bitterness prevails. The most battered are the children!


The reason that I got captivated was not because I wanted to know the divorce fats and figures inIndiabut because I as a girl could relate to the daughter(Roohi.) Its not long ago that I have faced similar situations (nope my parents are not divorced and it really need not be  like that always). I grew up in a motherless household along with my father, brother and for a while my grandmother (mother’s mother). Obviously it was unlike normal families but my dad made sure he was with me and never made me miss my mother.  So I was a schoolgoing girl and was hardly ever at home: tutions,practices,games etc.

My brother was and has always been closer to my mother’s side than me, dad or anyone else.I have heard that its very hard for children to choose sides,but my brother always choose mom over my dad.  People say my mom had to be blamed. Now, 20 years later I know she was wrong and that my mother had committed a mistake.My grandmom who was not so fond of my dad took advantage of the fact that my dad was working and no one was at home and convinced my super intelligent brother that dad was not a nice man. She gave examples of neighbours and relatives who always used to be around etc. She even told my brother things my mother used to say about dad. I now know how unrealistic my mother’s expectation used to be.  So well, my brother grew up convincong himself that my dad was not nice! I sometimes wonder if he ever used his own brains to understand my dad. Nope!! He never did and still does not.

In the story Arjun ( the son) tries to convince Roohi to go with their mother saying dad is a very bad man etc but she, who is jst 4 years old understands the truth and the reality and who is to blame. She is scared of Arjun but does not let it affect her relation with her dad. Thats what caught me. I have been through the same thing. My brother and my mother’s relatives tried to convince me to go with them just after my mother died. They said he would eventually get married to someone and that they wont look after me etc. I remember looking at my dad who sat silent through all these dialogues and going up and asking him whether any of what they were saying was true and him looking at me and saying I was free to decide whatever I wanted. I looked up at my relatives and said I was never going to leave my dad.

My brother and dad are still very aloof with each other. They come together for the sake of it etc. My dad took care of me for 20 years after my mother died. He still does. He never married again and made sure I was No 1 in his life. We are the best of friends and will always remain that way.

Its very very easy to change children. But sometimes children can see what adults fail to see and understand. I know its true. I just know it.

101 things to experience in God’s Own Country!

 

I grew up in Kerala. Spent 25 years here and I figured I might as well use the little knowledge i have and help people to understand Kerala a little better.  People say its god’s own country and devil’s own people. I chose to ignore those comments. So read on and let me know if you share my views. Do add on if u have more things to do and enjoy in kerala!!

1.Wake up to the world’s best breakfast
Kerala’s spread of morning dishes – vellayappam, Uppuma, iddli, puttu, masala dosa,appams etc. have been rated the best breakfast in the world by Travel & Leisure magazine. A must-try is the crisp lacy appam served with meat/vegetable stew.

2. Walk-through paddy fields
These are different walking experience. Venture in to the very heart of the paddy fields, on narrow dykes. Don’t lose yourself completely in the dazzling green around you, as you’ll have to watch out for the slushy water passages that run through your mud path.

3. Tip toe across a coconut trunk bridge
In the interiors of Kerala, you’ll come across plenty of small water bodies with these extremely narrow Bridges. Watch the native folk cross them with case, but think twice before you do. It isnt your cup of tea, don’t worry. Further down the water’s edge you’ll find a more friendly bridge.

4. Sip tender coconut
Refresh yourself with a sip of cool tender coconut- nature’s rejuvenating nectar – and a scoop of its soft white flesh, Nutrition at its natural best.

5.Take a swig of toddy 
Ask your tour guide to arrange for fresh madhura kallu (sweet toddy extracted from the coconut palm) and have it the Kerala way with exotic karimeen pollichathu (baked fresh water fish) or spicy pickles.

6. Stay on an exotic houseboat
Embark on an enchanting journey across sun – dappled backwaters on a kettuvallom-fully furnished traditional rice boats. While your eyes explore the rustic life that floats by, treat your palate to backwater delicacies prepared by your personal chef.

7. Ride a Canoe
Drift along serene waterways in a country craft, Enjoy the breeze, answer a cuckoo’s call. Wave back at the cheerful village folk on the banks. Invite some of their chirpy children to hop in for a ride. They’ll keep you well entertained.

8 Workout on a treadmill
In Kerala, traditional treadmills are still used to irrigate the paddy fields. Try your luck with the local farmer and see if you can get to pedal one.

9. See Chinese fishing nets
Watch fishermen tug at these huge nets with their rich haul. These nets that billow from massive bamboo poles were brought here by traders from the court of Kublai Khan, the Mongolian King. Their silhouettes against the evening sky make for terrific pictures too.

10. Choose your pick from the Fisherman’s net
Along the Malabar Coast and at Vasco da Gama Square in Fort Kochi, you can select your favorite from an inviting display of juicy sear fish, sardines, prawns, red snappers etc. Ask the friendly fisherman to fry it for you the local way.

11. Feast on kappa and meen curry
Try Kerala’s hot red fish curry with steamed tapioca or boiled rice. It’ll make your mouth water as well as your eyes.. But you’ll still enjoy it.

12 Savour a Sadhya
Seat yourself on the floor, roll your sleeves up and get started on this multi-course feast of rice, 12-15 vegetarian dishes, spicy pickles, crunchy banana chips, crispy pappadams, plantains and payasam- the dessert. Served on a plantain leaf, the meal is eaten with the fingers.

13 Wear a Kerala saree
Stun your friends in Kerala saree – five metres of fine off-white cotton edged with golden zari, that lends an extraordinary elegance to the person wearing it. Each piece is specially woven on a traditional handloom.

14. Wear jasmine in your hair
Get yourself a string of jasmine-the natural ornament for your hair. You could even pluck them fresh from a garden and string them yourself.

15 Spice up your life
Kerala is the Spice Coast of India. Take home a chest full of exotic spices and win compliments for your aromatic cooking. These are also available in special gift pouches.

16. Ride on 8 tonner without wheels
At the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary in Thekkady, you and your friends can majestically ride into the scenic jungle on an elephant. A mahout will guide you on your enchanting journey.

17 Watch birds
Spot egrets, herons, Siberian stork, darters, teals and hundreds of other migratory birds in Kerala’s enchanting bird sanctuaries. Hear them sing. Take their Family photograph. Applaud their aerobatic skills.

18 Follow the tiger’s trail
Join the Thekkady tiger trail- a real adventure trek into the dense forest with expert guides. Cook in the jungle. Sleep in tents. Wake up to the sounds of the wilderness. Try and spot a tiger.

19 Design a floral pattern
During Onam, the harvest festival in August/September, you can see colourful, beautiful floral decorations in the courtyards of Kerala’s homes. Try making one with family and friends.
 
20. Cheer a snake boat race

Watch the backwaters of Kerala come alive. Feel the excitement bubble in you as teams of 100 oarsmen row their snake boats, their bodies swaying in unison to the fast rhythm of full throated singing, in one of the most exhilarating water sports.

21. Feel the rain on your body
Kerala’s invigorating monsoon will cleanse you, refresh you and rejuvenate you. Let it run down your body, and wash away stress. So don’t just listen to the pitter-patter on the roof. Step out.

22 Munch an uppumanga
You’ll simply relish a meal that is accompanied by uppumanga, tender mangoes preserved in brine for months (the longer, the better).

23 Get an Ayurvedic massage
Gift yourself new life. Surrender to the magical fingers of specially trained masseurs. To medicated baths that will refresh you. Herbal diets that will replenish you. Yoga that will revitalize you. And meditation that will recharge you.

24 Say hello to the Nilgiri Tahr 
Half the world population of the endangered Nilgiri Tahr live in the Eravikulam National Park at Munnar. Friendly as they are, you can pat them or pose for pictures with them. So meet them and have plenty to brag about when you get back home.

25 Sip fine tea
Take a walk through the green carpeted tea hills of Kerala and strong aromas will lead you in to the factories over a hundred years old. Here you can taste and pick up the finest tea in the country.

 

 26. Marvel at elephant pageants
The spectacle of 30-60 caparisoned elephants will enthral you as they move in a majestic procession, while trumpets and drum beats work up to a frenzy. The best of these spectacles is seen at the Thrissur Pooram.

27 Listen to temple music
Panchavadyam is an orchestra of 5 native instruments – suddha-maddalam, kombu, edakka, elathalam and timila. This traditional temple music accompanying elephant pageants builds up the festive spirit. And never fails to leave its listeners entranced. Audio cassettes of panchavadyam are available.

28 Visit the local markets
Small stalls with fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, chicken… High pitched salesmen luring you with impossible bargains. Visit these bustling markets or chandas for fresh buys.

29 Go bananas
In Kerala, red, green and yellow are synonymous with various types of plantains’. These digestives come in different shapes too — tall, short, stout, sleek… And while you taste banana chips, raw banana dishes, banana milk shake, banana ice cream, dried bananas, fried bananas… you’ll wonder if there’s any other fruit more versatile.

30 Try your hand at percussion
Kerala’s rich repertoire of percussion music and instruments is world famous. So bring alive your taste for good music and learn whatever your holiday allows.

31 Cheer racing oxen
Entertain yourself at a Kumbala, the local ritualistic bullock race of Kasaragod or a Kaalapoottu – the agrarian sport of Palakkad.

32 Shop for souvenirs
Kerala’s handicraft centers have an extraordinary collection of wood, coir shell and sandlwood souvenirs, trinkets and jewellery. Woodcarved Kathakali masks, snake boats, elephants, jewellery boxes etc. are perfect showpieces for your drawing rooms and ideal gifts for friends.


33 Stay in a tree house
Spend romantic nights in the tree houses of Palakkad washed in the sweet scent of the forest flowers, and let the sounds of the forest fill up your dreams.

34 Have a mud bath
Go in for mud thereapy and discover its healing properties at the Kavil Bhavan Yoga and Cultural Centre at Nileswaram, Kasaragod.

35 Bask in sunshine
Screne, secluded and spellbinding. Kerala has some of the best beaches in the world. Ride the surf. Get a tan. Build sand castles. Or simply sift sand through your toes. Anything you do here will unwind and relax you.

36 Watch a Malayalam movie

Malayalam movies have excellent story lines and some of them are internationally acclaimed. If you visit the State during a film festival, you’ll get to see good movies with English subtitles.


37 Bathe in healing waters

 Don’t miss your chance to take a dip in the waters of the Nelliyampathy forests in Palakkad or the mineral springs at Varkala. These waters are known for their medicinal properties. Take a splash, heal yourself.

38 Buy gold for all occasions
Kerala’s gold jewellery, intricately disgined and delicate, will steal any woman’s heart. Make sure you have enough money on you before you step into a gold shop. Because whatever be your taste, you’ll find patterns you’d wish to own.

 

39.“Mirror,mirror…”
An Aramula mirror is made of a finely polished alloy of four metals – copper, silver, bronze and lead. Once a closely guarded preserve of royalty, these ornamental mirrors are exceedingly rare-only two master crafts men and their families still make them.

40 Feel the presence of God at Maramon
Witness the largest Christian convention of Asia at Maramon, near Kozhencherry. Interestingly, the waters of the Pamba River dry up every year to reveal sands that serve as the venue for the event.

41 Ride in an autorickshaw
Explore the streets of Kerala in an autoriscksha, a three wheeled taxi painted yellow and black. Don’t be surprised if you meet a driver who has a degree in English literature or is fairly fluent with the language.

42 Peep into your future
The fortune teller on the street has your future written on his cards – your career, your life, your life partner and more. Just show him your palm and wait while his parrot picks your card from the pack.

43 Spin coir
See nimble fingers at work as they spin water treated coconut fibre into long ropes with a traditional hand spindle in the suburbs of Kollam. You can shop at a number of roadside stalls for brightly coloured coir door mats, wall hangings and carpets.
 
44 Learn exotic art forms

Watch kathakali, mohiniyattam, theyyam or thiruvathira and pursue one that interests you most. Learn how a story unveils through the eyes, fingers, feet and myriad expressions of the artist.
 
45 Rock about in a bullock cart

On a pleasant evening, treaverse the scenic mud roads of Kerala at the unhurried pace of a bullock cart. The tinkling bells and roll-over-from-side-to-side motion of the cart will pull you into a lazy reverie.

46 Walk the lanes of Fort Kochi
Put on your hat and sunglasses, wear comfortable sandals and embark on a walking tour of Fort Kochi where bastions, churches and mansions built by the British, Dutch and the Portuguese, 500 years ago will greet you. Interestingly, Vasco da Gama, one of the world’s greatest explorers, was buried here.
 
47 Order a meter of tea

Stop by a thattukada, a roadside kiosk, for a steaming cup of strong tea. Watch the expert stretch it to a metre while pouring it from glass to glass, blending it well and building up a tempting froth in the process.

48 Climb rugged heights
Not all places to visit in Kerala are on well travelled roads. Or on roads at all. Hike up rugged terrains at Munnar, Wayanad and Kakkayam (Kozkikkod) for an exhilarating experience. If you haven’t tried rock climbing before, our experts will teach you the tricks.

49 Engage in water sports
An adventure sports lover will rarely find time to stay idle in Kerala. Her beaches provide you with unlimited watersporting options of wind surfing, rafting, sailing, power boating and even that of a simple catamaran ride.

50 Take a train through paradise
A train journey is an interesting way to experience Kerala. Get a window seat and watch the landscape unfold like pages of a colourful picture book, or acquaint yourself with your fellow travellers who make interesting profiles

 

51. Treat your sweet tooth
The famous Mithai Street of Kozkikkod has everything to make your mouth water – from heavenly haluvas, juicy jillebies to creamy milk sweets. Relish them as they melt in your mouth.

52. Study rare flora
Treat your eyes to exotic orchids, anthuria, sandalwood trees etc. in the forests. One of these, the rare Neelakurinji, bathes the mountains of Munnar in blue once every 12 years. It is expected to bloom next in 2006.

53. Romance the spice hills
Holiday amidst the sprawling tea plantations, picture book towns and winding lanes of Kerala’s mist clad hill stations – a world where tranquillity abounds. The dense tropical jungles in these hill stations house some of the exotic bird and wildlife sanctuaries in the country.

54. Watch the making of an Arabian dhow
Witness this 1500 year old tradition at Beypore. It takes an expert team of 15-30 strongmen at least two years to shape a vessel in wood. Locally called uru, this Arabian trading vessel is fast fading from the shipping scene.

55. Bathe in waterfalls
Nowhere else will you find water so playful, so pure, so pacifying. Crystal clear waters cascade down the mountains of Kerala, gurgling, whispering, laughing and cleansing everything in their way. Watch them wake serene rivers with a magnificent splash.

56. Go arty
You can browse in the art galleries for hours without track of time. Among them are collections of the world famous works of Raja Ravi Varma, Raja Raja Varma, Svetlova, Nicholas Roerich, rare murals and masterpieces from China, Japan, Tibet, Bali and other parts of India.

57. Visit scenic Kuttanad
Explore the lush paddy fields of Kuttanad, the rice bowl of Kerala – the only place in the world where farming is done 1.5 or 2 m below sea level. Kuttanad is in the interiors of the beautiful backwater district of Alappuzha.

58. Taste Payasam
The payasam, a rich milk delicacy prepared with vermicili, gram or rice, is a delight for the plate. The most common dessert of Kerala, the payasam is made in scores of flavours and garnished with raisins and nuts fried in ghee. It is usually eaten with salty snacks.

59. Feast your eyes on the largest mural
The palaces and museums of Kerala have an exotic collection of ancient murals. The Krishnapuram Palace at Kayamkulam displays the largest of these masterpieces – gajendramoksham – which belongs to the 18th century and depicts an event from mythology.

60. Watch Theyyam
Theyyam is the oldest ritual art form of Kerala, Look on in awe as Theyyam performers invoke the temple diety Bhagavathy with their frenzied dancing and throbbing temple music in the courtyard of village temples.

61. Try coconut hair oil
The secret of a Malayali woman’s long, black, lustrous hair could be yours too. Coconut oil is considered the best nutrient for hair and a coolant for the head. In Kerala, both men and women massage oil on their heads before a bath.


62. Explore a tharavad 
Relive the old times in the perfect settings of antique furniture and exquisite woodwork in Kerala’s heritage holiday homes and nalukettu (quandrangular mansions with a central courtyard), each more than 50 years old.

63. Learn Malayalam
Malayalam, Kerala’s sweet toned language, has 56 letters in its alphabet. Try learning the basics and roll the words off your tongue.

64. Star gaze
Steeped in astronomy, Kerala’s planetariums will show you much more than Mercury, Venus and Mars. Buy a ticket to the evening star gazing sessions and experience the wonders of the universe.

65. Holiday on an island
Spend a weekend on Kerala’s islands or lagoons, and experience special moments . Spectacular sunset, balmy backwaters and succulent seafood at Bolghatty, Pathiramanal, Poovar….These paradises can be reached only by a ferry or boat.

66. Picnic beside virgin lakes
Pack a picnic basket and spend a romantic evening beside the crystal clear lakes near Munnar. Try your luck at fishing and feast on your fresh catch. Go for a long walk hand-in-hand, undisturbed. Lie down on the most comfortable of grass beds.

67. Go paragliding
Sweep across the lush green hills of Munnar on a paraglider and enjoy the vantage of an eagle. See the soothing blues and greens of nature. Enjoy the wind beneath your wings. Feel on top of the world.

68. Walk in to a palace
Besides exquisite wooden architecture, the palaces of Kerala flaunt the finest floors in the world. Floors that, surprisingly, need least maintenance – being made of crushed coconut charocoal, egg whites and the sap of plants. You’ll also see collections of antique sculptures, paintings and bronzes.

69. Muse in a Museum
The museums of Kerala, especially the Pazhasiraja Museum at Kozkikkod, pay full tribute to outstanding crafts-historical and contemporary ornaments, temple carts and Ivory carvings of life sized figures of Kathakali in full regalia.

70. Watch Thullal
Thullal, an exotic art form, and the rhythmic sounds of music accompanying it will keep you in a constant stage of merriment. Humour, satire and social criticism are its hallmarks. This art form was fourmulated overnight by the renowned poet, Kunjan Nambiar.

71. Visit the zoo
The zoological parks in Kerala have plenty to excite the animal lover in you. The Trivandrum zoo is one among the best designed in Asia and is set amidst woodlands, lakes and lawns.

72. Wash your sins away
According to a myth, sage Narada was approached by mendicants who confessed to having sinned. The place he created for them to pray for redemption is known as the Papanasham beach (papanasham meaning redemption from sins) at Varkala, Trivandrum. Take a dip and come out feeling clean in your heart too.

73. Go nuts
You can get raw, fried, grilled, salted and spiced cashews at surprisingly affordable rates from Kollam where cashew plantations and industries abound.

74. Chew into a juicy mussel
It is indeed fun watching mussel collectors anchor their boats, dive down and bring up basket loads of these fresh water delicacies. The shells are later burnt in kilns to make lime.

75. See wildlife from a boat
Watch wildlife at close quarters from the safety of a boat at the sanctuaries of Kumarakom, and Periyar. Herds of wild elephants bathing in the lake, the Indian bison digging his horns into an unaffected tree, the cormorant darting into the waters… a treat for an amateur photographer.

 

76. Learn Yoga
Relax your mind with yoga at the special ashrams in Trivandrum and Nileswaram – the cultural centre of Kasaragod. Sessions are conducted by spiritual gurus and experts in the field.

77. Walk the historic Kappad beach
This is where Vasco da Gama landed in 1498 with his men in three vessels. Here, you’ll find an interesting landscape of rocks that sprawl right into the sea. An 800 year old temple stands nearby.

78 Munch on crispy snacks
Kerala has a wide range of crunchy snacks- ethakka (banana) chips, chakka vattal (jackfruit chips), pappadam, kuzhalappam, achappam, cheeda and churuttu. All worth every penny, spend on them.

79 Meet martial art experts
Kalaripayattu, the martial art form of Kerala, is the oldest and most scientific in the world. Watch agile bodies gleaming in oil and armed with weapons practise their feats-chattam (jumping), ottam (running), marichil (somersault)-to stunning perfection. Explore the Bekal Fort.

80 Explore the largest and the best-preserved fort of Kerala at Bekal, Kasaragod.
The imposing laterite structure rising 130 ft. above sea level, stands on a 35 acre headland that runs right into the Arabian Sea.

81 Behold the Queen of the Arabian Sea.
Kochi, also known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea, is breathtakingly beautiful. Apart from being the commercial capital and the most cosmopolitan city of Kerala, Kochi also flaunts one of the finest natural harbours of the world.

82 Discover prehistoric settlements
The Edakkal caves at Wayanad and the caves at the mouth of the Shenduruny River have interesting pictorial writings and cave drawings from the Stone Age. You’ll have to trek at least a kilometer uphill to reach the Edakkal caves.

83 Say a prayer at the old Synagogue
The 500 years old Synagogue in Kochi is adorned with mid 18th century hand painted Cantonese tiles. Hebrew inscriptions on stone slabs, ancient scripts on copper plates and great scrolls of the Old Testament are preserved here. An age-old clock tower stands nearby.

84 Let a mohini enchant you
Mohiniyattam or the dance of the enchantress reflects the graceful nature of the land. The sensuous, graceful movements of the dancer, clad in gold and off white costumes, will remind you of palms swaying in the gentle breeze and sweeping waves.

85 Spend the night at a Kathakali concert
Kathakali, the four centuries old classical art form, is usually staged at night. Elaborate costumes, ornaments and multi-coloured facial make-up give the artistes a super human appearance, which leaves you spellbound.

86 Cook in earthenware
In most of the traditional homesteads of Kerala, women cook their food in earthenware. For some time-tested reason renders a special taste to the dish prepared.

87 Collect antiques
Stroll up the Jew Street in Fort Kochi for interesting finds like period furniture, ancient coins, elaborately carved pens, ornamental brass latches, antique jewellery, grandfather clocks and timepieces etc.

88 Cruise the backwaters of Alappuzha
Alappuzha, embroidered with a labyrinth of waterways, was extolled by travellers as the Venice of the East. Visit this land where the skiff is the family vehicle, the ducks outnumber chicken and children learn to swim perhaps even before they walk.

89 Meet smart fishermen
It is indeed a spectacular sight to watch Kerala’s smart fishermen outdo the crashing waves by pushing their boats into the sea from a pier beyond the wave point, and simultaneously jumping into it in perfect coordination.

90 See mind-blowing fireworks
Make a wish under a thousand shooting starts -brilliant firework displays that mark the end of a festival in Kerala. And you’ll never miss them as every dawn in Kerala brings yet another festival.

91 Watch a puppet show
Yakshagana Bombeyattu (puppetry) is the art form of Kasaragod. Colourful puppets in huge headgears, elaborate facial make-up and loud attires dancing to throbbing music will keep you entertained.

92 Go for a flower show
Spend a colourful evening with pretty asters, glowing anthuria, exotic orchids, beautiful roses, elegant lilies and a bloom of soft cotton candy at a flower show.

93 Smash the elusive pot
Uriyadi (smashing the pot) is a spirited sport connected with some of the festivals of Kerala. The festive pot colourfully decorated will be hung from a tall pole. All you have to do is try and break it with a stick as the crowd pulls it up and down.

94 Spot a dolphin
If you ‘re lucky, you’ll get to see the dolphins do their grand act at the Cherai beach, in Ernakulam district. Applaud them as they spring out of the magnificent waters with a splash, only to take a marvelous dive back.

95 Buy a Palmyra fan
In Kerala, you’ll find small, handy fans made of medicinal herbal roots, palm fronds, bamboo splits and grass. Get yourself a portable, compact, cute and colourful little fan that comes in handy anytime of the day. When not in use, you could even put it up on the wall as a showpiece.

96 Stay in exotic resorts
Kerala’s innovative hoteliers have amazing experiences in store for you. Some even have Theme evenings when centuries old art forms like Kathakali and Mohiniyattom are performed as well.

97 Savour nectar 
Beat the bees and butterflies to it in a banana plantation. Hold the tip of a banana inflorescence (koombu) to your mouth and suck the sweet nectar.

98 Visit a Snake Park
The Snake Park at Parassinikadavu, Kannur, is the only one of its kind in the whole of India. There are three snake pits and fifteen glass cases full of various species of snakes, and two large glass houses for King Cobras. The snake demonstration conducted is a major crowd puller.

99. Watch thiruvathira
Thiruvathira, a traditional dance performed by women, has simple steps and a single rule-performers should be clad in a Kerala saree. Join them as they sing and move elegantly around a ceremonial lamp (vilakku) or a floral decoration (pookalam).

100. Bring swing to your life; Onam is the season for fun and games.
Visit Kerala during August /September and you’ll find it in every house. The friendly people here will be only too glad to let you join them.

101. Try out new ways to fish
Dangle a rod and line into the flowing waters; sweep a towel through it; feel for fish with your feet in the mud below; or simply try trapping small fish with your hands. Anyway, you’ll never return disappointed.


 

>Weekend Getaway: On home away from home

>Weekends are something almost everyone waits for. I do, every week.Especially if am going home.

“Home: a place where you are just as comfortable and content as if you were home.”

The first time I went to this getaway was a year back. To me in the beginning, it was someone else’s house(home) and it was a nice cozy place,a regular house beside a canal. It was in Kerala and I remember the first morning I reached, I slept like a log. I am a poor sleeper. I cannot sleep in an alien place, but there I slept. I still sleep as comfortably or maybe more comfortably as the first time I slept. It rained that night and even today I look forward to the rain each time I visit.

I became a frequent visitor. It became my secret hideout, my weekend getaway. I go there when I need a break from the noise and pollution of the city i live in, when I am angry and need to vent, when a happy and need to share it, when I am sad and need to relax and think. Its a place I could call home but cant coz its someone else’s home. But for me its a home away from home.

Everyone goes for vacations and dreamland destinations in search of a place to relax and enjoy. Little do people realise that joy,relaxation does not come if you travel to fairytale locations and exotic spas. It comes in places where you feel at peace. I found my hideaway in a town of Kerala which was nowhere in my wishlist of places to go. I found it in someone’s house where I could be what I wanted to be, do what I wanted to do, make noise, laugh,cry and eat whatever I Loved! And thats where I found true bliss and joy.

THe people whose house(home) I am talking about does not even know the comfort they give me by being there when I need people the most. They listen to whatever I need to say, the talk to me with no qualms, they hear me sing loudly and most of all tolerate everything I do.

Why on earth would I want another weekend getaway when I have all its luxuries and much more in a place I least expected. All i need to do when am emotional (due to whatever reason: happiness, sadness, anger, joy, excitement) is close my eyes and visualise the place once and I find myself again.

- Home away from home
Until next time: I cant wait to go back!