Owner of a blank mind  

Posted by Praveen in

10 days from today, my blogging career will be 5 years old. And as the day nears, am going through my worst patch ever. As I scroll down the blog to check my last substantial entry(excluding all those travalogues and concert write ups), I see a date which came on the calender 40 days back. Though I wouldn't call this depressing, its certainly a bit alarming, considering how the words have deserted me. Not that I was churning out shakespearean classics out here in this space, but there was a certain flow and a certain confidence with which I used to sit down almost every alternate evening and type something down in notepad so that it could add to the information overload on blogs the next day. There were ofcourse passing phases which went on for a week or so and then I was back in my groove. And then came this, almost unprecedented in my life in blogs.

As I sit down and think of the various reasons, the first one I use to fool myself and all of you will be of course the world cup. Now, it started just 2 weeks back but I can always say that I was just conditioning my mind for this spectacle in the one month preceeding that. The conditioning included hunting down for the jersey(duplicate of course) of my team(Brazil) and making fun of the rival teams. This argument is of course as thin as Italy's defence line in yesterday's match. And yes, right now am stuck writing this post too. As I glance upwards I see someone trying too hard to fill space, someone trying hard to beat out big round chappathis from a very thin mix of dough. Those who are bored can stop here. Am just trying to take it out all from the system and make it flow again. You may ask, 'Why post it here, why don't you just type it out in a notepad and torture yourself?' Well, I need to because its this blog that inspires me to write and it should know when am so short of that.

Hitting a purple patch seems a distant dream. But then black patches also donot last for long. I used to give this advice to people who were having a writer's block- 'look around you. There are a million subjects to write on.' But right now when I look around, all am seeing is emptiness. A scene straight out of a sci-fi movie, with me in the middle and white space all around. In whichever direction I run, I don't see a spot. Its crystal clear. I can't even see myself, not even my hands. And no, dont make that assumption on my mental health now. I've a lot of things left to do before I take myself into an asylum. It doesn't help matters either when your head itself is an asylum. I could've taken myself to that asylum if I were the John Malkovich character in the Charlie Kauffman movie. For us lesser mortals, travelling into one's own head(or rather mind) remains an impossible affair. So, the real truth behind the blankness of my mind will remain a mystery of epic proportions. Now, let me run in search of the edge of that elusive purple patch...

your crusader Praveen

Shanghumukhom Kadalpaalam  

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the kadalpaalam..

The kadalpaalam[seabridge] near the Shanghumukhom beach is one of the unmissable places on any trip to Trivandrum.It was the same this time too. Built many years back, this worn down bridge extends for some distance into the sea. Its the place to go if you want to get the feeling of being in the sea. Only this time, the bridge was the site of some violent action. The arrival of the monsoon had stirred up the sea.Waves with heights rivaling those of high rise buildings were pounding on the bridge with all its might. The age was beginning to show on the bridge.The steps on one side, where we used to sit during college days were almost fully gone. The waves were rising even above where once the steps were. When one of those mighty waves crashed, the impact could be easily felt on the birdge, a loud thud and then the slight jerk. Signs of danger. Yet, the beauty of the dark clouds and the raging sea and the worn down bridge drew large crowds. With no thoughts about safety, people were seen relaxing at the edges. When the occasional wave rose above their head, they coolly shifted position and continued the conversation. One old man came walking slowly from far away, came to the edge and gazed at the waves. The next minute he was drenched by a mammoth wave. He turned around as if nothing happened and walked back. Seems like he came here on purpose. The sky was blue on one side and totally dark on the other. A mist like cover made sure that the coast line was visible for only a few metres. Some shots from that incredible evening...when the waves just owned the bridge...

And now to a series of pics showing the attack of a wave on the small building at the edge of the bridge...

the calm before the....

the arrival

the survey..

the breach...

the intrusion..

the attack.

the victory...

the celebration..

the unchallenged..

the retreat...

your crusader Praveen

Temples & Palaces of Trissur  

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one of the gopurams of Vadakkumnaathan temple

It was an uncharacteristicly devotional day this past sunday, the second day of our Trissur visit. 3 of us who always wakes up when the sun is at its zenith, broke all traditions and rose up before 7. What happened next is sure to shock people who know us well. We started our small pilgrimage of temples in and around Trissur. Our first stop was Vadakkumnaathan temple, the abode of Lord Siva. Its situated at the centre of the Trissur round, a big circular plot right at the heart of the city. For the unintiated, this is the location of the world famous Trissur pooram. A mammoth gopuram welcomes you to this temple full of imposing architecture. The camera shut its eyes once inside the temple, never opening it until I stepped out. One of the main attractions there was a big koothambalam, where various art forms are usually performed. Thankfully, the temple didn't have the usual rush that is a bane when visiting famous temples. It was as peaceful as any small village temple.

Vadakkumnaathan temple- main entry gopuram

Paramekkavu bhagavathy temple

Thiruvambadi sri krishna temple

After prayers here, we got out through the back gate and went straight to the Paramekkavu temple, which is situated just behind Vadakkumnaathan. Paramekkavu is one of the two groups that participate in the Trissur pooram festival, the other being thiruvambadi. This is a Bhagavathi temple. Due to the pant restriction, we had to be contend with a view from just inside the gates. Its time such archaic rules are re written rather than providing hardships to devotees. Afterall, what matters is what is inside one's soul, not the dress one wears. Here, some activity was going on in the koothambalam. The percussion sound of many sticks striking rhythmically on a wooden board was heard, most probably a 'chenda training class' going on. We headed back to the Vadakkumnaathan and walked around it. Each of the four gopurams(facing each direction) had different architectures. One of those was closed and will open only for the pooram festival. Our next trip was to thiruvambadi sri krishna temple, the temple of the other main group participating in the pooram. Again the pant restriction made sure that we could only watch the proceedings from the gate.

The afternoon trip was to the sakthan thampuran palace. Shaktan thampuran was the ruler of Cochin and is best known as the man who started the Trissur pooram festival. He was also instrumental in bringing Trissur to its present status of 'cultural capital of Kerala'. The palace is maintained by the archeological survey of India, but manned by a bunch of arrogant men. Even after paying the shooting fee for camera(you can only shoot the outside. No shooting is allowed in the inside and in the gallery), one or the other stupid guy popped up with objections. The funniest one was when I was shooting a simple locked door outside the palace.

The guy comes and asks-"who asked you to shoot it?"
Me-"I took the pass and am allowed to shoot everything outside the palace"
Guy-"No. This is a high security door. You should delete your pics"

After some more exchange of words, I decided to satisfy the fool's ego by deleting one of the five pics that I clicked of the locked door. Having achieved his aim, he started walking when my friend came and asked what happened. I said sarcastically that this guy's saying this is some BIG door, which comment didn't go down well with the guy. He came back and started his gyaan again-"when you are in a place, you should learn to behave according to the framework of rules of that place or else better stay away from clicking(exact words- oru sthalathu pokumbol aviduthe niyamangalude chattakoodinullil ninnu perumaaran padikkanam. Illengil padam pidikkan pokaruthu"). We bid him goodbye with a sarcastic "OK SIR". Such ill intentioned morons shouldn't be allowed to man such wonderful monuments.

Sakthan thampuran palace

view of the nalukettu from the top

ghosts of a glorious past

The controversial 'locked door'

view of the kitchens

Coming back to the palace, the horse carriage in the gallery was one of the highlights. There were displays of old swords and other fighting equipments. Old currencies and vessels were on view. Another notable thing was the stone sculptures of Gods. The nalukettu looked nice. Adjacent to the palace is a big pond surrounded by lots of trees and a small butterfly park. Its certainly a worthy trip to this place, if you are visiting Trissur.

your crusader Praveen

Athirappalli Falls  

Posted by Praveen in , ,

It was a swiftly planned trip to Athirappalli waterfalls, near Chalakkudy, Kerala. A marriage in Trissur sounded like a perfect reason to jump out on this trip. And as usual, with the least amount of planning, we booked the tickets the day before the journey. Getting the third one, Darshan from Chennai, to join us was the hard part(or rather the easy one). True to his nature, he gave all kind of reasons to not make the trip and then was there promptly, the morning of the trip. To go to Athirappalli from Trissur, first you need to take a bus to Chalakkudy and from there one of those short buses which will take you all the way up the hill. The bus slowly winded its way up the scenic road. The driver's music sense was appreciable considering the fact that he was playing the evergreen hits of Rahman and Ilayaraja all through the journey.

Contrary to our expectations, the monsoon still hadn't arrived in Kerala. Rising temperature and the humidity were irritations. But as the altitude began to rise, we could feel the coolness. Atlast after an hour's journey, the falls came on view. My first feeling was of nostalgia, a quick memory brush up of my last trip here, as a 10 year old. I could scarcely remember the places but the view of the falls was still fresh in memory. Then it was a quick run to the bathing point to cool off. The bathing areas were cordoned off with ropes to prevent people getting caught in the heavy water flow. The water level was little less and the waterfall was lean considering the scorching heat of the summer. Now its only a few days left before this falls is back in full force. The funniest part of the time in the water was the traditional Indian 'seven stones' game that started spontaneously. There were some 3-4 stones piled up on a rock towards the centre of the river. Somebody threw a stone at it. Before that misdirected throw hit the water, we saw stones coming from all directions, including our own group. This started many rounds of serious gaming, with me once almost throwing a stone on a guy's head. In a fit of spirited throwing, I had taken a particularly heavy stone which didn't go the distance and landed perilously close to the guy. He glared at me and motioned his hand to signal that he'll beat me up if I repeat this. Thats when the last of Darshan's 50 misdirected throws missed the stone yet again.

To get the full view of the falls, we need to walk down a bit. Its a breathtaking sight, even when its leaner because of the long summer. The water droplets were spraying all around making it difficult to shoot pics. The whole area was cordoned off and no one was allowed to get down at this point. But when I came here as a kid, I remember a big crowd taking bath at this very spot. This is the same place where the 'barso re' song from 'guru' was shot. Being one of Mani Ratnam's favourite locations, this place is featured a lot in his upcoming movie 'Raavan' too. As we prepared to walk back, the rain clouds were slowly gathering. We took another bus to 'Vaazhachal', a 5km ride further upstream from Athirappalli. Here, you can watch the water's fury as it flows down a long slope. Further walking upstream will reveal bathing points, notably cleaner than the downstream ones. There were no soap covered men ready to pollute the river with an year load of dust and sweat from their bodies. The tasty mango pickle with extra chilly and salt was yummy. As was the 'vazhakka bhaji' and the 'hot tea'. Half way into the tea, the last bus from this place arrived and it was time for us to bid goodbye to Vaazhachal and Athirappalli.

your crusader Praveen