Today, Google marked the 160th anniversary of the first passenger train journey in India with a doodle on its homepage. Indian railways holds the repute of being the largest rail network in Asia and the world’s second largest under one management. Indian railway connects the length and breadth of this massive country by operating many short and long distance trains in addition to many luxury trains like palace on wheels. A train journey in India is not just mayhem and frenzy but also a delightful opportunity to discover the charm of the rustic life and people upclose, to make new friends and to experience the diverse culture, cuisines and life styles of the country. As the search engine giant takes its visitors on a short journey into the history of Indian Railways, in this image of a steam engine train chugging along a palm-lined railway track in the backdrop of ancient palaces and buildings, we Indians can take pride in the tremendous achievements, Indian Railways has made in the last many years.
India’s first passenger train from Bombay to Thane had chugged out of Bori Bunder, in Bombay on April 16, 1853, exactly 160 years ago. This maiden railway passenger journey in India which involved three steam locomotives, Sultan, Sindh and Sahib, took 400 invited passengers in 14 carriages on a 57 minute journey that had one halt. As Google commemorates this milestone with a celebratory doodle on its India home page, which features a steam engine pulling a passenger train, let us strive to make Indian Railways the best ever by keeping it clean, prompt and safe.
The union Government of India has accepted the proposal to start a seaplane service in Kerala in principle. In the beginning, seaplane services will connect various tourist destinations like Kumarakom, Munnar, Ashtamudi, Punnamada, Bekal and Bolgatty from the airports of Trivandrum, Kochi and Kozhikode. At present Andaman and Nicobar island administration is successfully operating sea plane services.
Seaplane services will be a boon for tourists who are hard pressed for time as they can make the most of their available time by utilizing the faster transportation option of seaplanes. Apart from boosting tourism, sea plane services would also help a lot in opening up the lesser known tourist spots in Kerala for those who look for an off the beat sight seeing experience.
The river Nila, which is fast disappearing will also lead to the wiping out a rich civilization that thrived along the Nila. The traces of this civilzation, which is only kept alive by the folk lores , stories and songs might be lost forever for want of conservation measures.
An internationally-acclaimed tourism agency, The Blue Yonder, is striving to piece together this vanishing civilisation by wiki mapping and crowd-sourcing, which will give everyone including you and me a chance to be part of this novel venture.
This is the first time in India that attempts are being made to revive a river through ‘crowd-sourcing’ . In this ambitious plan, each and every civilizational trace in the 9,000 sq kms surrounding the 200-km course of the Nila through three districts — Thrissur, Palakkad and Malappuram will be documented. By roping in the local populace whose lives are influenced by the river Nila, The Blue Yonder hopes to preserve what is remaining of Nila. The team is setting up an open source platform where people could directly upload any Nila-related information.
“It could be about stories they want to share, it could be about the natural ponds in their village, it could be about farming traditions, about musicians, about skill sets, handicrafts, pottery,” Gopinath Parayil, founder of The Blue Yonder. said.
To get started Nila Foundation will take up a pilot documentation of 10 historically significant regions within the 9000 sq km including Thirunavaaya, Thrithaala or Thrissur cole lands. Each hub will have 10 volunteers who will be mapping 10 sq kms and this pilot exercise will offer an open platform for the general public to access and furnish information on Nila. Only novel ventures like the Nila foundation can save the rivers of Kerala, which are all facing a death knell due to the rampant sand mining and other human activities.
It was an afternoon of ‘Tsunami’ for us at Karma Kerala yesterday…
The time is 2.20 and we are working, most of us glued to our seats and computer screens. I have my headsets on and at the same time am part of a group chat on Skype, with our Scottish boss Mark Scott getting me to change a blog post. Suddenly I see some kind of a commotion and people looking down on to the road and some pointing to a fan. I don’t realize what’s happening; I guess it’s some film-star who has appeared in the studio opposite our office for a shoot or a photo-shoot that has caused the commotion. But then, why do they point at the fan that’s not working?
I take off my headphones… I hear something, can’t make out what it is. I prick my ears and listen… and hear it vaguely – “Earthquake!”
“Earthquake?! Where? When?”, I ask myself, since I was sitting in the very same office and didn’t feel anything. Thejal, Venu, Tijo, Tanweer and others move about; they point at the fan that’s swinging slightly. Aji surfs the net for updates. Praveen makes some quick calls to newspaper offices. Jisha says she can still feel the slight tremor. Shyama, who works from Delhi (Dilli), says over Skype that an earthquake of magnitude 8.7 has happened in Sumatra and that there is a Tsunami warning too…
“So the earth did tremble, after all”- I say to myself, and sit down on my seat after going around for a while.
By that time the word ‘Tsunami’ reaches our ears. My cousin who is on the train to Chennai from where he has to catch a flight to Port Blair the next morning calls me as he could not get connected to his father, my uncle, who is in Port Blair. I make a call to Port Blair, for the sake of my cousin. That gives me a clearer picture. My uncle says, “ We just felt a slight tremor, I was having my lunch then. There are Tsunami alerts in Southern Islands like Car Nicobar (I had spent my early years there), Kamorta, Katchal etc, but it’s just an alert”. (They have been used to having tremors of much more magnitude, ever since the 2004 quake and Tsunami, from which my mother, who was then working there, had a narrow escape).
Then on, it’s ‘Tsunami’ at out Karma Kerala office. People check the net for online television news and updates. Sreekumar gets calls from home; he is told that something had happened to a building at Palarivattom here and he’s worried. Jisha goes on saying she can feel slight tremors still. Praveen and Aji tell us people have run out of high-rise buildings and the IT companies at Infopark when the tremor happened. We are told the Mullaperiyar dam is safe and we needn’t worry on that count.
Over a cup of Coffee, the ‘very vocal’ Venu talks about quakes and Tsunamis. Aji once again checks the net and says people say the Tsunami has struck Indonesia. Shola says she wants to die wearing a Saree. Usha and Deepa remind her to wear a white one. Shola asks Aji when the Tsunami would hit Kochi. Aji says ‘Dunno!’. Shola retorts by saying she has to apply some makeup and lipstick to greet the Tsunami. Remya is worried that tremors are happening at Thiruvananthapuram too, her little son and parents are there. Rinoj gets calls from home, asking him to come home, at Thrissur. Ragesh calls his wife; he is now the proud father of a baby boy, whom he has named Rakshan. Amjath sits glued to his computer screen, working and in between cracking jokes.
Jisha says she is a Taurean and hence can feel the pulse of nature. Meanwhile there is a second tremor and some of us at Karma Kerala once again get the feel of it. Still I am excluded!!Caro (Carolane) moves about, inquiring things and making calls. Leneesha is a bit worried. Tanweer and Mary and Sara and Divya and Sooraj and Teena are all part of the talks on earthquakes and Tsunamis. Sreejesh, who had gone to the bank, comes back after a while saying he felt nothing as he was riding his scooter.
I ask Shyama to keep me updated, not because I am worried about the Tsunami reaching here, but because I have close relatives in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and I am concerned about them. Shyama is ‘worried’ about her Kochi apartment, which remains locked as she is in Delhi. I take the occasion to philosophize, on a lighter vein, on the group chat on Skype, saying that there’s absolutely no reason to be worried and that life is just like a ‘bubble of water’ and what’s destined to happen cannot be changed etc… It’s blah blah blah…
Rain clouds gather around and that adds to the worries and the tension that’s created.
Finally, Thejal, who manages the office and decides things here, says the ladies can go. Ladies start moving out; bidding adieu and saying, though light humouredly- “See you tomorrow, if the Tsunami doesn’t strike!”. Shyama reminds Remya over Skype- “Dress well to bed…not make-up…but running clothes”, Remya responds with a smiley and leaves with a ‘bye’, along with Jisha.
Sreekumar is busy planning work for the next day. We are in office till 5.30- 5.45 and talks are mostly about Tsunami and earthquake. We try to remain updated on what’s happening. Aji reminds me to write a post here on this Karma Kerala blog on the earthquake and the Tsunami alerts and related things.
Well, this was what happened at the Karma Kerala office yesterday; I feel this would suffice to give you an idea of the commotion that struck Kochi in particular and Kerala in general after the tremors that were felt in various parts of the state and the Tsunami alert that came into effect.
The Kochi International Airport is going to be one of the four airports in India that would have the Visa-on-Arrival facility working in a year’s time.
The decision to extend the Visa-on-Arrival facility, provided to tourists from some countries, like Japan, Singapore, Finland, Luxemburg, New Zealand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Philippines etc, to four airports has been taken by the Government of India. That the Kochi airport is one among these is a matter of happiness for the people of Kerala, especially since people not just from European countries, but from places like Japan and Singapore too visit India, especially Kerala. This could prove a boost for the tourism sector and do good to Kerala.
To know more, click here…
If the rise in the number of Sabarimala pilgrims flying in to Kerala is any indication, it is quite possible that we may have an exclusive counter to cater to the devotees in the airport soon. In a dramatic change in the travel patterns adopted, Sabarimala pilgrims from the neighbouring states of Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh seem to have opted for air travel to reach Kerala. Most of them have chucked out the once popular modes of transports including rail and road transportation. Typically, the annual pilgrimage to Sabarimala would be an elaborate and well planned trip for the devotees that might extend to 3-4 weeks at times. Most of the groups used to depend on hired mini buses or taxis to reach this remote divine destination. Often they bring along gas cylinders, provision and vegetables and cook their own meals as they travel covering all the major temples enroute to Sabarimala.
However , at present most of the pilgrims prefer to complete the darshan and return home as early as possible and it has caused a steady increase in the number of pilgrims taking the flight to Kerala. As per the figures of the Travel agents and airline officials, there has been a rise of over 10 percent in the number of Ayyappa devotees using Cochin airport.
The over crowded trains, the difficulty in procuring train tickets and the negligible difference between train and flight fare are some of the major factors that make the pilgrims opt for flights. For instance while a Chennai-Kochi II A/C tickets would cost Rs 1,300, airfares start from Rs 2,000 and the best part is that the pilgrims from the South Indian metros can reach Kochi in over an hour by air . Most low cost airlines offer 5-10% discount on group bookings for ten or more passengers apart from extending facilities like check-in for connection flights and group check-in for a group, which the Sabarimala pilgrims find quite useful.
Thus a devotee from Karnataka or Andhra Pradesh can return home after his pilgrimage in 2-3 days as against the arduous Sabarimala pilgrimage of the yesteryears mostly on foot through the jungle tracks that could extend to a week or more!
A ferry ride is often the most beautiful and laid back option to explore the scenery, the rhythm of nature and above all the culture and way of living of the local populace. There are various types of boats on offer. From small passenger boats to auto ferries to the largest cruise liners that can seat over 3200 passengers, there is something for everyone here . In some villages in Kuttanad where there are no roads, the ferry system forms the crucial water highways for the residents.
Yahoo travels has included the house boat cruise from Alappuzha and Pulinkunnu in Kerala among the ten most beautiful rides in the world. The backwaters formed by a maze of interconnecting waterways are used for ferrying people and farm produce alike. Take a leisurely cruise in these well equipped houseboats, which are remodelled rice barges of Kerala which were once used for transporting farm products like coconuts, paddy, and bananas among others.
As the boats inch its way along the waters fringed with swaying coconut palms, lush greenery and small tiled houses along the water’s edge, you can soak up the rustic charm and the enviably slow pace of life in these villages. The short stopovers are good excuses for you to have a close encounter with the village life. Children swim and frolic in the waters as ladies wash the laundry and men take huge flocks of ducks for grazing. Watch the toddy tapper in action or try clambering up a coconut tree, enjoy one of the most the enchanting sunsets of your life, catch the fishermen in action or join the fun. You can even take some time off to explore the village markets and old religious places on a bicycle or spend some time angling in the backwaters.
There are entertainment options like TV and music system on board, or you can enjoy the beautiful milieu from the upper sun deck to while away time. After an eventful day in the waters, the boat moves towards the lakeside for you to spend the night. After relishing an ethnic Kerala supper enriched by seafood and fish preparations you can enjoy a relaxing sleep in the comforts of the houseboat. Well, does that sound too good to be true? See it to believe it and in case you are planning to have a tropical themed holiday, then a house boat cruise would be the best choice you could think of!
Though most of the residents and the tourists who throng Fort Kochi, pass by this street which is located close to many tourist attractions like art galleries, most of them seem to be unaware of the historic connection associated with the Burgher street. There are only two streets in Fort Kochi which still bear Dutch names, Burgher Street and Petercelli Street as the other streets have been renamed by the British who came later.
The word Burgher in Dutch means ‘clerk’ in reference to the Portuguese descendants of clerks here who had built the street. Though there are no Burghers on the street anymore, it remains a mute testimony of a 300 year old Dutch legacy. It is ironical that this erstwhile Dutch street has a number of Portuguese descendants but no Dutch residents.
The legacy says that in the 15th Century when thePortuguese first came to Kerala, they built a fort in the area and the city around it was called Fort Kochi. But soon the Dutch came in and they destroyed the fort and many other Portuguese buildings and brought in the Protestant reign which made them unpopular among the local populace, which ultimately forced them to leave the area for the Portuguese.
Even today, the Burgher Street has some ancient buildings that showcases specks of Dutch architecture including high ceilings, thick walls and a small courtyard. However it is alarming to note that many modern constructions have come up in the heritage zone, violating the norms, which makes the conservation of these vestiges an uphill task. Like the many pieces of forgotten history, the Burgher Street too has lost its historical significance somewhere; nonetheless let us hope that these vital links of history are not lost forever. Read more on the Dutch influence on this city in this Deccan Chronicle article.
Later it was said that an Apple-a-day keeps the doctor away. And now we have this new form of Apple, that simply managed to swindle millions from different people across Kerala and ironically that includes doctors too.
Well! We are talking about Apple-a-day properties- the new face of the biggest land scam in Kerala (Over Rs. 100 crores). If we have to believe the early story of Adam and Eve, and that Apple was symbolic for immortality and tempted man to commit sin after sin, Apple-a-day, builders did just that- woo people from far across middle-east asking them to invest in proposed ‘Garden of Eden’ in God’s own Country. This company promised plush Villas and flats. The modern Adams and Eves pumped in all their hard earned money for a life in Eden, were just waiting to see the day of light when they realize that this time the serpent was the Apple itself.
These are the pictures of the site in Thycattussery panchayath near Cherthala, Alappuzha district where they proposed flats for Rs.5 lacs plus a Tata Nano car for the occupants. All they did here was land piling to eye wash investors and left it for the stray dogs to defecate.
Please visit us for more interesting stories on how Apple-a-day converted marshy land to look perfect for construction and how they managed to coax investors to eat their Apple. The fact remains that these lands were never ever suitable for construction.
Welcome to the windswept corridor of nature at Ramakalmedu, the best place on earth to experience the mood changes of nature. Pamper yourselves with the soothing touch of the faint breeze at one moment and get ready to get swept off by the strong winds the next. Ramkalmedu is unpredictable and diverse, which makes it an intriguing holiday spot. One of the recently discovered hill stations of Kerala, Ramakkalmedu is conveniently close to many famous tourist attractions such as Periyar Tiger Reserve of Thekkady, Munnar hill station, Kuttikanam and Parunthumpara and many more wild life attractions and spice gardens.
The gusty winds, which are the fastest recorded in Asia makes Ramakkalmedu a unique destination. The winds that sweep at a speed of about 25 km/hour, would pamper you with its refreshing touch. However, many a time you need to scurry for cover from the winds when you feel you are about to fly with the winds! The strong windy conditions make it a popular spot for paragliding. Located at a height of 3500 feet above sea level, Ramakalmedu will make you feel right on top of the world literally.
Ramakalmedu is a spectacular hill station, dotted with rolling valleys and grass lands interspersed with bamboo forests and mighty mountains. The rocky cliffs with smooth and intriguing designs left by the strong winds give it a dramatic beauty. Located 15 km from Nedumkandom on the Munnar-Thekkady route, it offers a panoramic view of the villages and towns of the nearby state of Tamil Nadu. Ramaklmedu is the proposed site of the largest wind energy farm in Kerala for power generation.
The Ramakkalmedu View point offers spectacular views of the Deccan Plateau. Tourists can make a steep ascent to the 300 meter high rocky cliff to enjoy the stunning spectacles around. However during misty days, it could prove risky as it will be difficult to make out the cliff edge and the risk of straying to the deep trench is quite high. The spectacular landscape, mountains and ravines make it ethereal. Some of the must see spots include the Kuravan and Kurathi mountains, natural cave formations,and biofarms among others. The scenic beauty of Ramakkalmedu has left its magical spell on scores of nature enthusiasts including the Hollywood actor Leonardo Di Caprio, who called it as a paradise on earth! So, in case you fancy to be on the top of the world, just plan a trip to Ramakalmedu and heed to the call of the wind and the wild !