Wednesday, June 30, 2010


How will you feel if you got a chance to step out of your daily life? Say, someone casts a spell upon you and you got transported to a different world – a different place, a different era. Where all identities of the present world are conspicuous by their absence so much so that you feel time itself has stopped moving. It would be a surreal experience. That’s how we (a bunch of 8 adventure-seekers) felt when we recently went to “Raidurg” – a place close to SHAR.

Now, SHAR is not exactly a ‘tourist’s paradise’. But, even in this forsaken place, there is a small pristine paradise. Situated on the northern fringe of SHAR, surrounded on all sides by the PULICAT and totally cut-off from the mainland is Raidurg. One of our friends who had visited this place recommended it to us as a place to get good fish. So we decided to give it a try and all 8 of us bundled ourselves into a hired taxi (the faithful ambassador) and landed at the place.

Raidurg is a small village and the only means to reach it is by a boat. We saw a fisherman on reaching there and we hitched a ride in his yacht.

As we entered the village, we felt as if we had gone back in time by at least 50 years. There were no roads, only man-made trails. The huts in the village were very short. One can enter only by crawling on all fours, and then inside, there isn’t any place to stand upright. Bushes and shrubs around the huts served as fences. As we entered the village, we could see people sitting in front of their courtyards and passing away their time in idle chit-chat. Children roamed about on the streets playing their merry games and women were busy in their homes doing their daily chores. It was like a ‘50s black-and-white movie playing.

We started wandering around. Wherever we went, people stopped whatever they were doing and stared at us. It was as if they couldn’t believe people from outside could come into their small hamlet.

We were roaming around when our de-facto guide (the taxi driver) took us to a house where a lady was busy preparing something – and the next minute, we all had a glass of toddy in our hands. It seems toddy making is a cottage industry here. We had a drink but didn’t like the taste. Sensing this, our guide took us to another house where the toddy tasted much better. So, while we entered the village looking for good fish, we ended up having toddy instead. Great !!!

The place drew us towards itself and we were happy to oblige. We wanted to spend as much time as possible, but couldn’t as evening was approaching fast and we had a long way to go back. Besides, we had to go to work the next day. So, spending the night there under the open skies was out of question though it would have been great. We felt sad to leave the place. But, on the bright side, we can always come back here. This place is not very far from SHAR centre and if one has any spare time, he can always plan a trip here. Atleast, it will make our wretched stay in SHAR feel better. It’s with such happy thoughts that we finally bid adieu to the place and came back to our hostel rooms.


  1. There is an old temple on the way to Raidurg. This temple is now in ruins. Anyone interested in historical adventures can check it out as it looks to be a great place for exploration.
  2. Don’t forget your swimming trunks while going to Raidurg, else, you may miss out on a great swim.
  3. This place has a wide variety of sea shells. Anyone with a keen eye can get a nice shell without much effort as we got this time.
  4. Though the village is not connected to the mainland, it still has some modern amenities like DTH, telephone, schools etc. yet it retains its old world charm inspite of that.
  5. On the way to Raidurg, there are lots of small lakes, each offering itself as a potential spot for picnic.


"Train number 2436 to Sullurpet will leave shortly from platform number 13”, announced the familiar voice at Chennai central’s suburban railway station, prompting me to hoist my bag and rush to platform number 13. Finding the ladies’ compartment, I scrambled into it, placed my bag on the luggage rack and dropped into the only vacant seat, resigning myself to two and a half hours of imminent boredom. The whistle blew, the train pulled out of the station and I marvelled yet again at the furious pace at which electric trains accelerated.
The lady sitting next to me (munching ground nuts and phone plugged to her ears) was regarding me with a bored expression and soon turned away, evidently dismissing me as uninteresting. Two toddlers, one enthusiastically looking out of the window, and the younger, reclining on his mother’s lap, set up a loud howl of demand, when a vendor with snacks walked past, shouting out his wares. Sadly, their mother had other ideas. A kindly lady, seated adjacent to the family, resolved the crisis, by proffering her own purchase (some crisp snack) to the kids.
I looked around the compartment, vaguely taking in the social, economic and age diversity among my co-passengers- aged mothers, their twenty-something daughters beaming proudly at their young offspring, college students chatting and laughing with their friends, school children, attired in uniforms of various colours, carrying bags that would put seasoned weight lifters to shame...most of them had the orange kanakaambaram flowers decorating their plaited hair and the yellow of turmeric paste was clearly visible on their faces and hands..
The train slowed down as quickly as it had picked up speed and came to a screeching halt at a station. A mass of humanity moved into and out of the train, jostling each other in the process. All the seats being filled up, the new entrants of all ages immediately dropped to the floor and settled there. Atleast 4 people were settled on seats with spaces intended for 2 and I thanked God for creating humans with such sisterly love. A 4-year-old young man was voicing his protest loudly against the humiliating treatment handed out to him by his callous mother, making him sit in a ladies’ coach. His mother was busy conversing with a neighbour, a just- acquired acquaintance.
As I watched fascinated, the steady stream of vendors continued- oranges, guavas, murukku, samosas, mixture, pakoda, nuts, biscuits and what not. Everyone appeared to be prepared to buy everything on offer. The unceasing consumption of eatables of wide variety and rapid socialising were carried on with vigour by the newcomers who replaced those who disembarked at the stations that came and went. The tradesmen, men with admirable athleticism and acrobatic skills, balanced their baskets on their heads, while expertly weaving their ways among their customers (crowded on the seats and squatting on the floors ) and their voluminous shopping bags. The tiny, juicy oranges (sold incredibly cheap) and the hot, yummy samosas found many takers, as did the ever popular ground nuts and popcorn. People were very courteous, willingly sharing their purchases with their new-found friends. Indeed, the brisk trade going on before my astonished eyes would have aroused envy in the owners and salesmen of even the most-profitably run eateries and restaurants.
An elderly lady, seated facing me grinned, revealing her toothless gum, and enquired,” Time evvalavu ma?” As I glanced at my watch and replied, she ventured, “nee enga pore?” Then she proceeded to narrate to me, all about how she was going to visit her son for the day and how she will be returning by the evening train.
Before I knew, the clock had wound forward by two hours, the crowd had thinned out considerably and I beheld the name board of Sullurpet station. As I extracted my luggage and alighted from the train, my mind was filled with remembrances of the eventful, if not entertaining train journey I had just experienced. I’m still astounded by the ease with which the simple folk fraternised with each other and became comrades, virtually exchanging their life stories and also, the hugely successful trade carried out by the numerous tradesmen. To this day, this intriguing train journey remains etched in my memory.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Vada is Never Free

Vada is never free!!” You always have to pay for it. The price might vary from 2.5 rupees a piece to 5 or 10.(maximum I have ever had was of Rs. 5/-) depending you eat it on the roadside or in a hotel(source of data: Hotel Vasantham Menu card ).

This post is written to help all those north Indians who come to Kerala for the first time , maybe for honeymoons and for them who are coming because their company TCS has given them a joining(....finally.....) and the training is in Trivandrum (not Trivendram) aka Thiru Anantha Puram. This article will help you to live and survive and also enjoy Kerala. It is because these are experience of a normal North Indian Guy(whose hometown is at U.P,Uttaranchal, Haryana border…so this makes him quite a north Indian and so is a perfect test matter for experimenting in Kerala.). but this first post, this first Very important post will save you from the sorrow you could have, when you order your first tea in kerala.

But you might be wondering why did I suddenly had this idea, this innovative thought to write about such a important topic that has been left out by many eminent cultural writers, tour guides, people from Discovery and NG channels. This enlightenment din’t came like this only. Like Lord Buddha saw 7 scenes before he decided to renunciate the world, I also had this motivation to write this after that memorable incident of my life.

Well it all happened when I first sat down on a creaky old stool near Trivandrum Central Railway station after a 5 hours journey from Cochin to Trivandrum, to have tea(aka chaya and not chai ), for the first time, in god’s own country, aka Kerala. So I ordered tea and few idlis(I think it was 2 idlis). The waiter, who was a very generous and kind hearted fellow (atleast I thought he was so at that time )brought along with the order a VADA. Btw for all those who don’t know what a vada is, maybe some foreign nationals or NRI’s or american born confused desis ,(+dubai born ones too) let me give some preliminary details.

A VADA is an Indian dish, I don’t say it’s a south indian dish. This is because I have had vadas when I was in north india too. Only difference was that they were called DAHi-VADAs because they came with DAHi or curd while the ones I get here in south, are with chatni …and obviously it is with coconut chatni. So a Vada is made by first grinding Urad daal (donno what is it called in English ;?), making a paste of it and then frying it in oil. The shape and size is subject to market conditions and taste of people, maybe also on latitude and longitude of the place. The ones you get in kerela are like the enlarged version of polo poppins, hope you remember the ” mints with the hole” from your childhood. It is brown and may contain black chilli and curry leafs(again this may vary according to various factors as mentioned above).

So on getting that Vada I was very happy and feeling lucky too. Since it was 24 September and as far as I knew, it was not a festive season too.” Maybe it’s an offer for all the customers!” , I thought in my mind.”maybe in Kerala with 2 idlis you always get a Vada free..” , I was pretty delighted and started dreaming about all the free vadas that I was going to have for free, for rest of my life in Trivandrum. Being indian, its always good to get things for free. This is an established fact now.

So after enjoying the most delicious vada, I have ever had I till that day, I went to pay the bill. It should have been 15 INR according to my calculations(5+5 for idli and 5 for the chaya)so I took out a Rs 10 note and a brand new shining Rs 5 coin and presented it before the lady at the counter(in kerala you see ladies working everywhere, no wonders its f/m ratio is above 1000..more about this later), but she said ……..something.... something she said.....

“No malyalam!!” I replied making signs.

She waved her open palm and said “5 Rupees”.

“What for??” I asked astonished, because being from a engineering college I was sure that my math was fine.

“The VADA….!!”

“But its free!!..”

Opening her eyes wide and staring at me as if I had just called a bad omen, (and breaking all my dreams, my lovely lovely dreams about all those nourishing elements, those precious moments of glory I was going to experience with all those free VADAS)….she replied..



We were looking for some places in and around trivandrum to beat the heat. After extensive discussions between us, we settled down to Vagamon, “to explore the unexplored”. Thanks to internet, we could get lot of information about vagamon and Google Map provided us the necessary route with each and every twist and turns. Ten of us, consisting of people from all age group left trivandrum at 6am in two cars and headed towards Vagamon.
As it was Good Friday and Vagamon being a piligrim centre, we got stuck in the traffic in the hilly area and it took around 3 hours to clear.We reached the cottage by 3pm. Cool breeze of Vagamon compensated all the tiredness and we were at our youthful best again to explore. The Silver Cloud Castle Cottage was very new and had wonderful views of the vast expanse of vagamon. The rooms were beautifully maintained and had a spanking clean bathroom and toilet. Silver cloud incharge was kind enough to accept our request for providing food during our stay.
After the refreshments we set out in the evening towards the nearby flushing meadows. Before we could traverse the meadows, the gathering dark clouds cast their spell and made us to look to our watches in disbelief to know the time. The darkness kindled the “Fire Flies” hiding somewhere in the grass and they came as an army to light the area and we enjoyed the sight. Coming Back to the cottage, we drew the day to close with a campfire and sing-song!!
The evening outing to meadows was so tantalising that the team was eager to scale the small grass covered hills which made even the Kumbhakarnas woke up early at 5am. It was an unforgettable experience to find the silver white clouds down under our feet as the water droplets in the mist kissed our faces all over. Our hosts, Silver cloud Castle had arranged a delicious, sumptuous breakfast with hot puttu and kadala curry. With renewed vigour, we headed straight to the Pine Valley. The pine valley was perhaps the coolest place in vagamon at that time of the day. It offered a refreshing cool air that no AC could have offered.
A kilometer away from Pine valley is the Suicide Point. With no intention of ending our life prematurely, but just to have a glimpse of the bottomless chasm which is a rarity in the grasslands, we walked nearly a kilometer from the main road. It was a really breath taking view and the sight itself would kill a weak hearted person.
Coming back tired and exhausted to the cottage, our only solace was again the chef of the cottage who was ready with variety of food items for lunch. The next item on our itinerary was a visit to Rose garden and a Lake located in Vagamon Heights resorts. The paddle boating in the placid lake took us to the rose garden where the female members of the team were face-to-face with more than 250 varieties of roses. Though plucking the roses was not allowed, the sight of so many roses at one place was more than what we asked for. After this we headed towards Kurisumala, the hill dedicated to followers of christianity and visited by people from all religions.
After having a cup of tea at the bottom of hill, we came back to the cottage and relaxed for a while. Still energetic members of group went around in search of logs of wood for camp fire.All of us had a nice time in camp fire with dumb charads as main attraction of the night. Next day, after having breakfast in the cottage we left vagamon and took some beautiful pictures enroute to trivandrum.Finally we all would like to thank silver cloud castle cottage for their wonderful hospitality and making us to feel homely in the cottage. Still some more places were left unseen and really its worth to visit once again and enjoy the beauty of nature.

About Vagamon
Nestled in the laps of the Western Ghats is Vagamon which is an enticing hill station of Idduki-Kottayam border in Kerala and is still untouched by the milling crowds. Vagamon is situated at an elevation of 1100 metres above sea level and it is a very ideal tourist spot surrounded by the greenery of tea gardens, beautiful meadows, deep puzzling valleys and dales. The enchanting hill station dotted with tea gardens is promising enough to be one of Indias foremost eco-tourism projects and is destined to have a major say among the contemporary holiday resorts in the country. Grass covered hills, velvet lawns and the cool mountain air make Vagamon a perfect holiday retreat. The slopes of the Hills of Vagamon are not very steep and hence it facilitates adventurous sports like trekking, rock climbing, paragliding and other exciting activities.
Like all good things in life, Vagamon too has to be experienced, not just read about or its stories merely listened to. Pristine and blessed by nature,this place would make the tourists come back again and again, so that they could rejuvenate themselves and cherish memories of this enchantingly beautiful land.
The vista of mist-clad pinnacles of the bluebrown hills, the rocky terrain clad in lush green vegetation and the wild multi-colored blossoms that sway in the breeze will surely take away your breath. Inhale the fresh air coupled with the heady aroma of spices from the nearby plantations. While you ascend the stony serpentine paths leading towards the hills you will feel a slight shiver as the cool breeze caresses you and drifts away. Vagamon, encircled by a string of three hills Kurisumala, Murugan Hill and Thangal Hill dedicated to three separate religious faiths-Muslim, Christianity and Hinduism is a placid place with inexplicable beauty and offers all sort of activities from pilgrimage to nature trails and deluxe resorts. Vagamon awaits you with its untainted splendor.

Ashok & Kiran