It's one of the days you want to write. May be I've said this more than once, but it's one of those days. Travel is about experience more than happiness, is what I think. Being happy has become a norm. So almost every trip has given me some experience. I don't want to categorize it as good or bad; rather I'd do it as happy and sad. Isn't there a bit of happiness even when one is sad and a certain bit of sadness when one is happy. Soma asked me sometime during the trip, about the feel that I get in trip, the learning, how long will it last. I replied that it'd go off in few days. When I cut the cake on Sunday night at 12PM in train, it was quiet, it was silent, it was a different feeling, I don't want to demean the feeling by saying I was happy. I was not. It felt different and it's an experience. When I completed my performance in theatre I had a kind of feeling which I couldn't explain in words, this cake cutting was a feeling like that.
Before you go further, let me announce that it's not going to be just a travelogue of Palakkad, it would also include the things that I did for past one year (which I always wanted to write about) and my experience with Tabula Rasa (the best thing to have happened in past one year).
I'm a kind of person whom anybody would think twice to get close to. Rangan in his recent high class Kalaai of Linga had mentioned how tough it is to make romantic song sequence for Rajni because he is of a certain age and has a kind of image where there are severe restrictions in getting close to heroines. He directly can't come, grab the waist of heroines in songs. I feel I'm like Atul Kulkarni trying to be Amir Khan in Rang De Basanti. Think how a disaster that would be. Similarly with me, people directly can't come apply cake on face. Not that I'm against cake cutting or stuff but people who were with me know what I'm talking about. So the train cake cutting served to be a good excuse. There is an advertisement of people silently singing birthday song, it was similar, everyone were tired but the very fact that they all wanted to stay till 12 and cut the cake was commendable.
It was the first time I was travelling with so many people, with so many people I like. First time with couple of girls whom I was not trying to hit on to. I don't know whether I should attribute it to my growing old or getting wiser. Whatever it was it felt good. There was lot of commotion, confusion before we started on the trip. We were totally 9 people at first to start for the trip. Mani anna had to back off because he had a relative's sudden marriage to attend.
The rest 7 set off for the trip. But a lot happened between the booking period and the actual journey. It was Ramya first wanting to go to friends' house warming which happened to be on the day we were leaving. She was in a dilemma whether to go for it or not as she didn't want to miss our first train journey together. But sadly she had to. Then there was Smitha's 1000-ton-stone-on-the-head-story of her getting engaged. Being an anti-marriage counselor amongst my friends, my friends had to apologize before they get married. So needless to say I was upset when Smitha said she was getting married. I shouldn't have been, but I was. I'm really bad at masking my feelings. But that was our incident which got us close. She had to undergo the pain of saying that she won't be coming for trip to everyone during our group lunch. Problem was if a girl drops out, automatically the other one too will. That meant Ramya would drop off but Ramya said, "what if we go for day trip and return to Coimbatore by night." I felt good. I never thought Ramya would agree for such a suggestion. Once again she surprised me.
But the very next day Smitha's engagement got called off and we were all on cloud nine (yes, such morons we were, not even having basic decency to hide the joy). Ballons, wide grin smileys, party poppers were all flying across in whatsapp. It was a relieved gang. Smitha told me that she told John that "only death can stop me now." Wow. That was quite a confession. I felt happy that the rest too wanted to make it to the trip as much as I wanted them to. Then there was a big miss of Isanaka dropping off due to personal reasons. We couldn't convince him to get to the trip. That meant we were going to miss a lot of fun. Worse than that, a couple of days before, Raja too was gonna miss the train journey but it was good as Ramya had some company at the station. They were set to come in the same train we were to go, just that they'd be joining from Coimbatore. It meant that my long term wish of occupying the whole coupe was still unfulfilled.
Everyone was excited about the trip. I went home by 3'o clock bus. Others came to station directly. Smitha, John, Lakshman and Soma were waiting in station. There was huge traffic outside but being an extra cautious person I started early so reached station on time. I was having views of us missing the train, whenever I was stuck in traffic. I thought even if we miss the train we'd find some way to go to some place. When I was about to narrate the same to Smitha, "I was in bus and was thinking that what if I miss the train." Before I could complete she was like, "we'd have asked you to forward the ticket." Never did I think that someone would dare to reply me in that way. Smitha is the one only one who has got the privilege to irritate me in whichever ways she wants. Not that I gave her the privilege. She took it on her own. Smitha! I owe you one!
Next was train journey, from the start, Soma was the one who was very excited about the trip. I liked it too. I must say, Soma's friendship is the biggest plus of the trip. Everyone got close to him. Followed by Ramya's honesty, which we'll talk about later. Soma was constantly repeating that he was having a surreal feeling, of us all being together. It wasn't surreal for me but I felt happy. I felt content. I felt safe. I feel unsafe, insecure at most places. But with these people it felt like a family. Smitha and John too shared the same opinion. As the 3 R's were not there the fun element wasn't much. But Smitha and John too shared the 'nice' feeling that I had. Thinking of it, the ghost stories, without lights, with train sound, it all felt so nice. Feel like relieving the moment again.
As I had slept in the afternoon I wasn't feeling sleepy. Smitha, the machine that she is, wasn't feeling sleepy too but as usual irritating me saying that she wanted to sleep. And only I and Lakshman weren't having any ghost stories to share. But soon Lakshman, Soma and John set off to sleep so Smitha and I too slept. We talked till 12.30 AM and I slept off hearing songs from Smitha's mobile, velli kolusu pola... Little did I know that John was to constantly hum and reverberate our ear drums with that song for the next two days. Apart from one other song we kept on listening in awe was 'yeh jo des hae tera..." I don't know how it came but we watched it first in train, the MTV video and kept on listening to the song till the end. But more than anything, the important point to be noted here is, a girl giving her mobile to someone else and sleeping. Smitha Seriously? I hate to appreciate you but had to. Kudos!
Day 1 - Silent Valley
I had asked Soma to inform Raja to call him when he boarded but whenever the train stopped in any station I was having a mental image of Ramya and Raja entering the train. Being the daddy of the gang, I woke up without an alarm in Coimbatore station. Made Ramya and Raja sit in our coupe. Ramya once again surprised me, she was a rocker at 4AM. I was expecting a sleepy faced baby girl giving a quirky smile when she sees me in station but she was like... a stunner. All 'yo' with sweatshirt and jeans. As soon as they settled in the coupe Smitha woke up, followed by John, Lakshman and Soma at last. I didn't feel sleepy; guess it was due to excitement. We decided that we'd take a room and then go to silent valley.
In an hour or so we reached Palakkad, had tea, Ramya had milk, the next day she had Horlicks (bring feeding bottle next time girl) and set off to search hotel. In first hotel we were looked as a group of pimps carrying a couple of girls with us. He was okay to give room but it wasn't to our satisfaction. So we rejected. Next was an overtly open minded hotel guy who was again and again insisting on having two 3 beds instead of one 3 + 2 bed and a two bed for women. In spite of me repeatedly hinting that there are 2 girls so the rest 5 had to take other room he was mentioning that we were 7 and we could share between two 3 beds. Next time I'm coming with my girlfriend I'm coming there my boy.
Rooms were pretty decent and we quickly got freshened up, ate tomato rice brought by Raja which was divine. Good thing was he also had Tamarind Rice for lunch. That meant that we don't have to worry about restaurants in the afternoon and food would be healthy. We started off to Mannarkad by bus. From there we had to change bus to Mukkali. The second bus journey was awesome, sitting in last row, with twists and turns.
We reached Silent valley in couple of hours, as we had booked our jeeps there we got into in quickly but to reduce cost we had to share the jeep with others. Raja and Soma got into a jeep. I, John, Lakshman, Ramya and Smitha got into another jeep. I got the front seat, and was satisfied with the camera. I was happy that Smitha was getting a feel of the surroundings. That's something which you have to experience. It's so easy to say, what's there? Just trees and rocks. You either experience or not. There is nothing in between. She loved it. I could see that.
It felt nice to sit in first row, keep quiet and trying to pluck leaves, there were a lot happening behind but I wasn't interested. Only after seeing the photos I could know what all had happened. It was okay, my experience was in front of me. I relished it, when Smitha behind me was also looking outside, being silent, I liked it. In every trek, travel, one from the group walks with me silently for about 30 minutes. They generally say that they like the stretch, I too do. It was a similar feeling. Another good thing about the group is, anyone could sit with anyone. Raja and Smitha are supposedly best friends (I envy that) and here they were sitting in separate vehicles.
In between the journey we were thinking of eating Tamarind Rice which Raja had brought. We were constantly raving Raja's decision to have brought food for us. But only when the car stopped we met each other during a waterfall point where we filled our bottles. We got the biggest shock of our life when we got to know that Raja missed the Tamarind Rice in bus. Within minutes he became a villain from being a hero.
Next we were to get a jumping photo. That's the highlight of the day. People were supposed to jump off from the stage in front of the falls and Raja first tried a trial jump. People who were not there, if you had come to this point of the article, wouldn't find this paragraph to be amusing but the ones who were there, I'm sure that they couldn't be reading this paragraph without a constant grin on their face.
What happened next was history. I asked them to jump on the count of 3. Raja asked, should it be on 3 or after 3. 'On the count of 3' got a new meaning there. I replied, "It's on 3". They all jumped. Most fell off. Raja got hurt in his tail bone, John rolled to my side laughing and we were all laughing. Little did we knew that Raja was going to hold his hips for the forthcoming day like a carrying woman.
After a grueling ride of about an hour and a half we reached the watch tower where only group was allowed to go at a time. I took photos of them at each floor and climbed up. The view was awesome. Got a couple of photos and climbed down.
Next was a short trek to the hanging bridge. The trek even though short was joyful. It had a good tree cover so we didn't feel the heat much. Also got few good clicks in the hanging bridge. As we were the only ones there, it felt good. In spite of hot sun we were sitting in the hanging bridge for a long time. It felt awesome. While returning it took some effort as we had to climb uphill. Wasn't that great a climb but still there was a marked difference.
We finally reached jeep, filled our bottles and started going downwards. I thought the whole gang would sleep but only Lakshman did. Ramya and Smitha were sitting with their legs out of the jeep. There was a collective 'hooo' when John was getting the leech out of his system. Other than that we all were silent. That's a rarity. But the moment was lovely. We could attribute it to the fact that no one were willing to leave, no one wanted to get to civilization or everyone were plain silent for no reason. This happens with most of the return journeys. It happened again. It was again beautiful.
Once we came down we were really hungry and were searching for food. But we got to know that John had missed Soma's cap. Meanwhile there was a gentleman who offered us jackfruit. Even better was his offer of coconut oil and paper. Once we were done with hogging the jackfruit we set off to restaurant. What's awesome was we got Soma's cap as the driver was near the restaurant.
The restaurant as such wasn't anything great. Just a tea stall which offered food. We chose meals, parotta, beef curry, egg curry along with kattan Chaya. Everything was out of the world and completely satisfied our hunger pangs.
Next up we took bus to Mannarkad, thinking that we would go to Malampuza Dam but it got really late so got tickets till Palakkad in the same bus. Mannarkad to Palakkad journey was horrible with Soma on one side and Mark Henry on other. But finally we managed to reach Palakkad. Then I, John and Soma went for Kallu shopping and beer shopping. Finally came to room, took bath and settled. I could see that people were dead tired.
After a couple of hours, with food from restaurant and our kallu bottles we started off with the talks. It was first about whose mind we want to get into and the positive and negative things about each person. It was as honest as it could get. We all felt happy, sad, emotional etc. it was liberating. Opinion about me was as expected. John was all advice. Lakshman bear the brunt for most part. Sorry dude, nothing was personal. For me the worst moment was Ramya's confession.
I couldn't have chosen a worse moment than that to get under the fan. She started telling about her story and her eyes were swelling up with tears. To see her eyes getting filled up from that angle was horrible to look at. I was damn nervous as to what to do if she starts crying. If Smitha had been there if she'd have at least given a hug or something but I was sitting there like a stupid not knowing what to do. I was relieved that she didn't cry. The conversation went on and on till 1'o clock. But we decided not to sleep until 3 AM. Good that even the girls were enthu about it. So we started playing Anthakshari to cool down the situation.
We sang and sang and kept on singing till 3.30 and went to bed. It was one of the best nights, with fun, laughter, song etc. We should dance too sometimes guys. That's the only thing we missed. In all it was an awesome day 1 and we went to sleep fully satisfied.
Day 2 - Dhoni River and Malampuzha Dam
Needless to say we all were tired. What I thought to be 12.30 PM when I woke up, was actually 8.30AM, but because of late night stay the previous day we were not able to check out that day morning. We had to pay one extra day rent. But I wasn't much worried. I knew that I would not be able to get up early the next day morning and I was happy for once to have come out of daddy-of-the-gang role. Rest all too got up around that time. John was the last to get up, after I lied about the time being 12.30. What I thought was going to be a wasted day was eventful beyond comparison.
We started off to Dhoni River. A waterfall for which we had to trek 5Km. Nothing arduous as we had a road to walk through, for most part. We got the direct bus to Dhoni base. You know about Kerala bus ride. It was nothing short of spectacular. Also Ramya got her life time wish of sitting in the gear box. Don't know what's with this girl who wants to sit in the gear box, stand near the door in train (which she did while returning to Chennai) etc. Once we reached we got entry tickets and started with the trek. Within minutes we heard a stream and we went there to see the first glimpse of water body. Smitha was excited, rest too were to some extent. They wanted to rest, enjoy the water. Lakshman got enthu to reach the top as soon as he saw the stream. But Ramya wasn't feeling well. She's the kind of girl who'd irritate you the most yet you don't feel like scolding. She was visibly tired, her face showed it off, she said she had cramps and she'd be staying there. Smitha said she too will stay if Ramya stays. It was a tough situation. We couldn't leave the girls behind as well as I didn't want Ramya to miss the best part. Every time someone or the other gets hurt, develops cramps etc. but somehow make it to the top and say that they took a good decision. I wanted Ramya too to feel the same way. After some cajoling she was fine with walking. Problem was I wasn't sure whether it was cramps or something else. But she managed to not stop and walk from that place.
Meanwhile Raja too was in severe pain, but the guy whom I thought is good at heart also seemed to be having a heart to carry on with anything. He's was crisscrossing the roads, like how my dad walks during ascent. He managed to walk, laugh it off and be steady. John and Lakshman were flawless and fast. Soma joined us here and there. Ramya on the other hand always wanted to take the short cut, reach the top fast. After climbing about 30 percent of the trail she said that she was tired and she'd stop there. She asked me how long it was. I said, "We're almost there." Smitha and co. let out a hearty laugh. Come on don't blame me now. That innocent soul needed a little inspiration. Ramya was like, "no you are lying. I won't come here." Even though she was in pain, it was cute. I don't know, there is a bit of cuteness in all stupidity she does. Boy, you must see her tying her shoe laces.
She again started to walk. Next time she asked me how much we've passed. I said we still have 1.734 Km. Again Smitha gave me a cold stare and asked me to shut up. It was a joke for chrissake. Does anyone have a bone for humor here? I asked Ramya to stretch, she didn't, John asks her to sit in pebbles she does. Lesson learnt. Ramya listens only to John. That was my last instruction to her and that will be my last instruction to her. I realized that quite late though.
She wanted to climb into most dangerous paths, Smitha was kind enough to explain her not to. But on one path she started climbing. I had to stop her and climb first to check if the path is good. I think she knew I wouldn't let her walk first, so used the trick efficiently. Well played, Ramya. I'll remember that. While returning I got to know that she wanted to try a similar route but when John said 'No' she didn't. May be she knew that he wouldn't walk ahead of her to find whether the path is treacherous or not. That was a good short cut, we went up, Soma took few photos. One of Smitha's picture was a rocker (Oh Shit, I forgot I shouldn't comment on your photo na). We reached almost the top and were hearing voices, some weird sounds. That was the best part of the trip.
Smitha was really worried. Ramya was shooing off mosquitoes, seriously? Soma, I don't know what were you doing man. You were not afraid that I know. I was afraid, needless to say and was thinking about how to fight if a panther comes, I was mentally choreographing the action sequences with the panther and how I'd save all of them and would die eventually, making everyone cry for me. Wow that would have been a nice moment. It wasn't as scary as the tiger moment in Bababudangiri though. Smitha on the other hand wanted everyone to come and only then she said that we should go. See Smitha, you too take decision for others. Totally out of context, when I first heard the name Smitha I had a very demeaning opinion about the girl. Come on what kind of girl has the name as Smitha. You know what comes to our mind when we think of Smitha. I thought her to be like a flamboyant sucker who had joined theatre class just to show off that she's in theatre and wouldn't do anything but laugh for all silly jokes. Yes she does laugh for all silly jokes except for mine, with that tear-out-of-the-eye smiley. But boy, what a girl she turned out to be. Sincere, down to earth, punctual, understanding, kind etc. etc. Damn it, running out of adjectives here.
Okay coming back to the story. When John and Lakshman who had taken the long route joined us, there was one of the families who were coming down in the path which we were afraid to take. As we all joined together and the sound of buffalo had stopped we took the route and walked the final 750 meters to falls. The falls was nothing great, but by the time I reached. Ramya was already inside getting scolding from the security there. I also went inside and sat near the shallow water but again security shooed us off. We then took the path to the top of the falls were there were no one.
For the next couple of hours it was pure bliss. Everyone was there in their own world. I could see them happy. They really were happy or not I don't know but I could see happiness in their face. We liked few photos; I clicked few of the best photos I'd ever done. It was Soma's idea though. We were there. On top, carefree, happy, feeling our breath, thinking, retrospecting. On top of everything living, for once, we were living, for real.
My thought was mixed; I don't know, sadness stuck me. I watched everyone. I tell people that they shouldn't judge but I do it all the time. I was thinking about the discussion we had the previous day. How harsh I was on Laskhman. How harsh I was on Ramya. How harsh I was on everyone. I was thinking about my negatives, how I choose the best seat, or decide for the others. Or whatever complaints that I got from people whom I like or the comments that really stuck me. I was observing John, he was clear but was sad. I was observing Soma he was happy but was insecure. I was observing Raja, couldn't guess much, he was satisfied. I was observing Lakshman, he had a lot to tell but was afraid. I was observing Ramya, again couldn't guess much but she was deep in her thoughts. She was the one who had biggest space around her. John was the only one whom she allows at least around the circumference. Felt like taking photo, but again why spoil the moment. She likes being alone, let her be alone. Then there was my yaar Smitha, she was in deep thought, may be kind of sad, but she was clear, like the water she was staring at. After sitting alone for a lot of time, I was thinking where to go, whom to talk to. I felt only like sitting next to her. Remember Smitha the Arun incident that I told. I thought I should be the Arun with you being Vikram and you'll like it. Sometimes people want to be disturbed but I don't know maybe I'm over analyzing. May be I intruded into your privacy. But I didn't know who else I should go to. If I start thinking, it's a problem for me. I start talking. Nowadays I feel I'm talking too much. May be I should become mute for some time. See it's all coming down to me now.
Let's move forward. That is downward, actually. Don't know what I was thinking, I was wearing shoes to walk down. Raja or Lakshman I don't know, asked me why am I wearing shoes as there was water in front. That's how much absent minded I was. Ramya doing such a thing is natural but look at me, a guy who sees the cinema ticket like some 10 times before going to movie. I was absent minded. We then reached the top of water falls where we were wearing our shoes. Without my knowledge I was staring at Ramya tying her laces. Thanks to Smitha again for pointing it out. I turned away but I wanted to look. You might think I'm exaggerating but you should see her tying her laces. This scene would go well in a Karan Johar movie, remember Hrithik in KKKG. May be that's why I like his movies. Again it came back to me, damn it!
We then climbed down, I had to be alone, I took the road straight down, I'm awesome at decent, I've noticed this every time, when people are tired and exhausted, I become really good. I didn't want to boast about it to people when descending. So I thought I would walk alone. I was kind of sad too, I wanted to alone. I make it a point to walk alone at least for some part of the trek. It was nice. I was talking, talking to myself, exerting a lot of pressure on myself. I could see the other people being happy. I was confused, am I actually troubling them, would they be happy like this if I had not been there. "You lead," said John when I said that I was afraid about my role without camera in a group. I felt good. This mirage of thoughts flow upon you when you walk alone. It's a great way for self-introspection. Being an honest person it's a problem. I tell everything to people when I experience something. May be they are not going to like this paragraph too but I have to write. I feel this is the honesty which people would like to read in my work. With Arun and Jeeva I've never had the problem of being honest. They could understand. John kind of adores me so I think he can understand. Smitha I don't know whether I'm exerting too much pressure on you. I mean you can tell me when I should stop. Of course I'll feel bad. No denying that but I'll be okay. I think I've known what life is about. It's not getting something or losing something. It's about being there, being there at the moment. Taking in everything, the happiness, the sadness, the irony, the depression and still living. There is hope. There is always light at the end of the tunnel. May be there is not. May be there is no tunnel at all. But we live. We have to. We ought to. I don't know how many are going to come to this part of the blog but that's how it is.
Again treading away. Once we came down we were scrutinized by forest guards for getting into the water. One of them was lecturing us with bad English. John came sometime later and kind of eased the situation. For a long time I was trying to get into a fight. But these people are a bad choice. But one thing I was sure, if they had asked to apologize I wasn't going to. Actually I was happy for the incident. It made me get out of that sad loop.
Next part was the best part of the trip. This is not with respect to me but as a whole, as a group. Thanks to John. It was his decision of going to movie which made us take our own path. He went to movie. Ramya and Lakshman wanted to rest. They did. Rest all went to Malampuza. Anyone could have done anything. That doesn't happen easily. I would have even gone alone to Malampuza without feeling bad that day. I would have been fine if Smitha had not come. I was fine that Ramya did not come. I don't know. May be that's the introspection that I was missing. We got the bus to Malampuza. We got to the cable car. Raja was a sport as always but I was starting to feel bad for him, he was under severe pain. I could see that. In spite of that he was creating situations either intentionally or not, to make us laugh. One such incident was when the security personnel who was directing people towards the ticket counter, talked in Malayalam to Smitha and in Tamil to Raja and Soma. I think he was confused with my identity. They seemed to have asked him about how he knew where they're from. Then they asked about Smitha. He told that she's a Malayali. Raja then said that he too is a Malayali. Security replied saying that, "nee pandi..." Made us all laugh.
When Raja asked Soma to give the bottle to Smitha. Soma asked, "En da Pavam? Naan pudichiiraen" Raja was like, "Dei Nee enna pudi da" it was funny. I laughed. It was a carefree laugh. I was seeing them three. They were fine. For once I felt people were genuinely happy with me. Soma was the biggest plus of the gang, being excited all time. Along with it Ramya's honesty came in as a surprise package. I don't know whether I had told it before but I'm not in a mood to scroll and look back. I liked it. Cable car with Smitha, teasing people, being honest was good. I said it here, "it is my favorite moment with you". I think we should do this next time, tell about favorite moment with each one. We should definitely cut off negatives this time. Only positive talk and dance. i.e. if we trip again. Soma was the enthusiastic one who was asking me to plan but rest I don't know, looked tired. Then we took a walk around the dam. I did something which I regret doing. Got on bus and came back.
I was tired. Everyone was. But in spite of everything they cut me cake at 12 in train. I was saying something about me enjoying the trip, Soma corrected and asked me to say 'we' instead. Smitha was like, when has he ever said 'we'. I was happy that she was honest, brutally honest like Arun. Once in class you said that I always think about me first and till this day you don't accept that. But you said. May be I do. It's not that things are gonna change of you saying it or not. My best friends have been brutally honest with me. It stings sometimes but don't know, maybe that's why I like you people. People were really exhausted so slept as soon as cake cutting got over. Not sure whether it was because of tiredness, I was feeling breathless and tensed. It went on till by birthday when all you guys made prank calls. Again appreciate the effort. Next day there were so many wishes in Movies group too, thanks to Parishad. One by one every group had some members knowing my birthday. It was a birthday with maximum number of wishes. Thanks to you guys. Love you all.
I know it wouldn't have been the most comfortable tour. But I did my best within the budget to make you feel at home as well as experience the fell of raw touring. Forgive me if I had been harsh during any point of time. Because you have to bear with me in future too. No other go. For me touring was all about covering places. You people gave life to it. Thank you so much guys.
I don't know whether I should post this or not. But I'll go ahead and do it. When Dhoni was asked during presentation ceremony as to why he doesn't change the team combination, what would the bench think? He replied, "I'm sure they'll understand." I repeat the same, "I'm sure you will understand"