Vacationing in ‘God’s Own Country’, 2009

It had been over a year since I last went home, and having roamed the breadth of Europe in the interim – right from Belfast to Budapest, it only seemed logical to take a break and head back to India […lest the folks there start believing that I am merely a Legend ! ] However, 3.5 weeks of leave was all that I could manage, and from the very beginning it was evident that it would flash by even before I get to utter ‘Home sweet home’ !

Kerala !

From India – Feb/March 2009

Having just about 25 days in India [… but tons of friends/relatives to meet across half a dozen cities ], called for some expert planning and schedule management. Each and every day had to be worked out […on MS Excel] – right down to the minute details, and the logistics arranged weeks in advance. Thus, on the 18th of Feb, 2009 – the very day my Schengen visa was set to expire, I set off in a Kingfisher Airlines flight from Heathrow to Cochin via Bangalore. Must admit, Mallya really does ensure that his passengers [..or ‘guests’ – as he calls them] are well taken care of….and I couldn’t possibly have kicked off the festivities in greater style !

Vadakunnathan Temple, Thrissur

From India – Feb/March 2009

True to its tropical nature, Kerala was horrendously humid and hot; and my initial couple of days there were spent settling in to the environment at Thrissur. Soon after, my folks and I headed off to Bangalore on an overnight train, hoping to escape the heat and spend a few days in the company of friends and family there.

But Bangalore’s days of glory, I must sadly admit, has been lost forever ! Now known as Bengaluru, everything seems to have gone horribly wrong for this erstwhile British colonial city, which until recently had been hailed as the ‘air-conditioned city’ and the ‘Garden City’. 😦 Today Bangalore is one hell of a deplorable mess – chaotic, noisy, polluted, congested, hot and dusty place – a victim of its own success ! The trees and lakes are increasingly vanishing, and ugly concrete constructions are haphazardly infesting every inch of available space. Its roads and infrastructure are crumbling under extreme pressure and thanks to the Metro construction happening across the city [….which has mercilessly eaten up much of the already congested streets],  the dust and the pollution levels have made commutation absolutely hazardous ! 😦 Not to mention that though it was just the middle of Feb, and the heat was already unbearable !

With mom at Forum Mall, Bangalore

From India – Feb/March 2009

I remember, a few years ago, when I ranted to one of my best friends about his smoking habits, he had turned to me and asked “You think that’s air you’re breathing?”. Confused by his Morpheus impression [..a la ‘Matrix’], I replied “Err, yea, I guess so”. And that’s when he elucidated me about a study published in the newspaper stating that Banglorean air was so damn polluted that breathing it was tantamount to smoking 40 cigarettes a day ! Today, I’m sure that figure would be much much higher !!!

Thanks to the traffic-situation […which I had already touched upon], travelling around Bangalore with my folks was quite a challenge, and the fact that the places we had to visit were located across town in the far extremes, didn’t help either ! Nevertheless, it was great to be back in the city that I had so faithfully loved, and spend time with friends and family there ! Before returning to Thrissur, I managed to spend a day at my offshore office, catching up with old mates – very few of whom were still around in the company!

With friends from my offshore office, Bangalore

From India – Feb/March 2009

Back in Thrissur, the wheels were set in motion for the grand re-union of DeBatch2000 – the batch of 2000 from Chinmaya Vidyalaya. Swetha had first proposed the idea when she came visiting here in London back in December. But fixing an appropriate time-slot suitable to maximum number of stakeholders, and arranging the logistics had turned out to be even more complicated task than perhaps, scheduling the IPL ! But unlike the IPL, which got shifted from home to abroad, our Reunion had initially been planned to be staged offshore – at the Taj Fisherman’s cove in Chennai, however, a last minute development […Swetha getting pregnant ;)], forced us to shift the entire event back home to Thrissur, at the Lulu Centre.

DeBatch Reunion at Lulu Centre, Thrissur

From India – Feb/March 2009

As expected, the reunion was a mega success ! We’ve had DeBatchians coming down from all over – within India and abroad ! Some arrived with their spouses, and some with their kids ! Some of us were meeting each other for the first time after leaving school 9 years ago, and that made the occasion even more special ! We revelled in some good ol’ DeBatch style fun and tried to catch up on the 9 year hiatus we’ve had between us !

Check out a slideshow video that I had created and was played at the event –>
Next up, it was time to indulge in the only real ‘touristy’ activity of my trip. I had booked ourselves on a house-boat at the world reknowned backwaters of Alapuzha. Along with my parents, my sis and her daughter Diya, we took a train to Alapuzha and spent a day on the house-boat.

House-boat on the backwaters of Alapuzha

From India – Feb/March 2009

The experience was one of its kind…unlike anything I’d ever done before ! For about Rs.8K, we were pampered with a 2-BHK house boat, replete with TV, air-conditioners, ensuite baths et al…..Not to mention, the lip-smacking Kerala delicacies that were served on the boat, as we blissfully sailed across the exotic waters of the Vembanad lagoon.

Relaxing on the houseboat

From India – Feb/March 2009

The locales were simply heavenly, and in the morning when the backwaters were blanketed under a thick haze of mist, we were reminded that this was indeed ‘God’s own country’ !

Pirate of the Backwaters 😉

From India – Feb/March 2009

Once back in Thrissur, I set out to do justice to something that had been left pending for a very very long time  – visit my old school ! My old class-mate Ranjith Boban, was kind enough to accompany me, and we rode down to school on his scooter. Drowned in nostalgia the very moment we entered the gates, we strolled along the corridors and the grounds, soaking in the surreality of the moment.

Back at school

From India – Feb/March 2009

However, school wasn’t quite the same as we had known it – new buildings have sprung up on campus and the old ones have had facelifts, the teachers were generally new, the grounds were pruned and tiled and the school uniform had changed too ! Ranjith and I felt like fish outside water….Thankfully, we met a handful of our old teachers – some of whom who had taught us from the time we had joined school and had watched us grow ! We took our time surveying the length and breadth of the campus, reliving old memories !
We also visited Shyamala teacher – one of our first class teachers, at her home.

With Shyamala teacher and Parvathy

From India – Feb/March 2009

That done, it was time to head off to our native city of Calicut (Kozhikode) and meet relatives there. Cousin Chintu was getting married there over the weekend, and the preparations were going on in full swing. I took some time off though, and caught up with  ex-colleagues [and current IIM-K students] Arpit and Ankit, at a sea-side Hotel cum Bar named SeaQueen’. It was my first time in a bar in Calicut….or rather in Kerala 😉 and this place offered a pretty decent ambience along with some splendid views of the beach [perhaps, one of the reasons why its so popular with the IIM students]. We sat in an open-air deck on the terrace, facing the Arabian Sea. The cool breeze flowing in from the sea made the otherwise horrendous humidity seem quite tolerable! Meeting each other after almost 2 years, we had a lot to catch up on, and did just that over a few chilled Kingfishers.

With Arpit at Sea Queen, Calicut

From India – Feb/March 2009

We spoke of the old times, the company and inevitably the current market conditions. The recession had hit everyone hard, but it was shocking to hear how badly the placement scene had been impacted, even in a premier institute like the IIM !

Later in the night, I dashed into the Paragon hotel – supposedly the No.1 Biriyani outlet in Kozhikode, only to realize that they don’t do biriyanis at night 😦 Nevertheless, I settled in for some Porottas and Chicken Curry.

The next 2 days were quite happenning, with Chintu getting married to her colleague Anoop at the Azhakodi temple in the city. It was the first time someone younger than me in the family was getting married, and that brought about the unique opportunity of having someone touch my glorious feet for blessings 🙂

Chintu gets married

From India – Feb/March 2009

The wedding was good fun, and enabled me to meet loads of relatives and family friends together at one shot. Following a reception at the groom’s place at Tirur, I drove off with family to Coimbatore to spend 2 days there !

Diya at Coimbatore

From India – Feb/March 2009

Once back in Thrissur, it was already the final leg of my vacation, and was time to cater to the religious obligations. Thus, we drove off to Guruvayoor and visited the reknowned Sree Krishna temple there.

Enroute to Guruvayur

From India – Feb/March 2009

Later the next day, I caught up with Ranjith and Swetha for one last time before heading back to Britain.

Friday evening, we drove up to Cochin and spent 2 nights relaxing at our apartment there.

Taking a break at Cochin

From India – Feb/March 2009

Early Sunday morning on the 15th of March, it was finally time to bid goodbye, and over a 22-hour ordeal, I flew in from Cochin to Bangalore and then on to London [on a 11-hour Kingfisher flight :O ] and subsequently from there to Bristol by coach ! The journey was tiring, no doubt …but thankfully, I didn’t feel too hungover or home-sick, unlike the last time !

Strangely though, whilst the flight from London to Bangalore had taken me only 9 hours, the return leg took an extra 2 hours ! Perhaps its got something to do with the fact that on flying east to west, we’re flying against the rotation of the earth ??? 😉

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One Response to Vacationing in ‘God’s Own Country’, 2009

  1. Pr0ffmr says:

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    Перенесите если не туда

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