Category: Reviews

Dear Vegans, stop eating like a cow!

Three simple changes that will help your new ‘vegan’ lifestyles.

For Indians, the term ‘vegan’ is new. While vegetarianism has been there in India forever, veganism seems to be a Western concept. Vegans are like Indian vegetarians but they do not consume any animal products, not just living creatures. This means they avoid dairy products, honey, eggs, fur clothing, and even leather products. (No, I am not implying that Westerners eat fur or leather.) In his book My Experiments With Truth, MK Gandhi also expressed his frustration with being unable to avoid diary products.

Recently, I saw a video of an American woman making ‘chili’ using her mother’s ‘secret recipe’. (I wanted to know what Johnny Bravo meant by chili, which is different from chilli.) Throughout the entire video, she used took one ingredient after another from a store-bought sealed package or bottle. Everything seems to be packaged in the West. Not one item seemed to have come whole from a vegetable store.

When vegans embark on a journey of animal-free diet, they repeat the same mistake as before – they continue to leave behind a trail of plastic packaging. This is wasteful and not making a difference to the environment. All their vegan meals lack one important item. Another mistake they make is to find alternatives for everything they used to eat. The worst among these is soy milk, taken in place of cow milk.

India has been vegetarian for millennia. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, Western vegans should learn Indian recipes.

  1. Stop eating like a cow: Raw foods are great but only if taken in proportion. The human alimentary canal has adapted/evolved over millennia to cooked food that is soft and easily digestible. Cows have many stomachs because cellulose is difficult to digest and is only partially digested. Humans have only one stomach. So, vegans, please cook your food. You are putting too much strain on your system by trying to eat everything raw. Yes, you can survive that way but do you have to? Raw foods are not making you feel better. It is the absence of processed foods that caused the change. You have crossed over to the other side. Well done, so far. Why not make it comfortable too?
  2. Make rice or roti (wheat) as the staple diet: If you try to eat just fruits and vegetables, it will cost a lot. It is also not a well-balanced diet. Unlike starchy foods, fruits and vegetables will not give you slow-release energy that you will need throughout the day. Cereals like rice and wheat are ideal carbohydrate-rich foods. Carbs should form the bulk of your diet. Even non-vegetarian Indians follow this principle. Meat, fish and eggs are always side-dishes for them. Wheat flour needs to kneaded before being ready for making roti. But, rice is simple. Boil it, drain the excess water, and it is ready. So, I would suggest to vegans that they go with rice. (You can however eat roti or chappathi without any side dishes.) This part of your meal remains the same. The side dishes change with each meal. Rice is taste-less and requires side dishes or further preparation. An Indian family of four will typically buy a sack of rice and it will last them for more than a month. I have a rice-based food recipe on my website with which you cook the rice, vegetables and spices at the same time. The meal is ready-to-eat when the pressure cooker cools off. South India has rich and varied cooking recipes with rice as the base. So, just switch over to South-Indian cooking and you will have a much more healthier and satisfying vegan diet. And, you will have enough energy to last an entire day. If you have an Indian friend, go for shopping with him/her and get the basic ingredients required for making Indian recipes. Indian cooking uses a lot of spices but only a few of them are hot. I have an online playlist of useful videos for vegans to embark on this journey.
  3. Stop looking for vegan alternatives: Indian foods are extremely rich and varied to suit every taste. Do not go for vegan substitutes for things you used to eat. It will only increase your craving for the real stuff. Branch out. Enter the world of Indian sweets, savories, pickles, and drinks. (However, I would draw the line at chewing paan or drinking desi brew. Never go fully native, as Diedrich Bader did in Outsourced. Never go full retard. We also have bad habits, get rich-people diseases, suffer a lot and die prematurely.) You will be spoilt for choice. And, it is all stuff you can make at home. It will be cheaper and less of a hassle.

How to eat Indian meals

Indian meals are usually based around rice or roti (chappathi or naan). Learn to break off a piece of roti with just one hand – your right hand. Don’t use both hands and freak everyone out. You take one piece of the roti, fold it into two, near-drop it over some side dish, grab a bit of the dish into that fold and then stick the stuffed roll in your mouth. You will burn your esophagus. With rice, you mix sambar, kozhambu, rasam or curds (in that order but not together) into the rice. Then, you take dollops of vegetable side dishes (poriyal, kootu, chutney, pickle, appalam/puppadum) on the mixed rice, pick a handful and drop it in your mouth. Some items like cloves and curry leaves are used in cooking. You are not supposed to eat them. You leave them in a corner of your plate for these ingredients. (You can also drop off pieces of chilly there if you find them. Hot stuff is usually balanced off with curd. If you eat too many chilly pieces, you may go down with the stomach bug. This will not give you any immunity because it is caused by an intestinal irritant.) They have been added only for the aroma and/or their digestive/medicinal/preservative properties, not for their taste. Onion rings are usually offered with non-vegetarian meals to aid in digestion. Don’t drink curry or some side dish as if it were soup or porridge. If it is a non-vegetarian curry, some amount of oil will be floating over contents. Mix it up with a spoon or your finger. Payasam, buttermilk, and other semi-solid stuff can be taken like coffee or tea. Sweets are consumed last. Breakfast dishes like idly and dosa have to be consumed in a slightly different style but you will easily figure that out.

India Travel Advisory

For Westerners who come to India

I hate it when foreigners come to India and diss about it for being poor. India is a rich country. It is the people who are poor. We have been independent for only a few decades but we have remained a democracy. The US was a democracy for over 200 years but it went through a civil war and gave women the vote only in 1920. Let us not discuss about Red Indians or Blacks.

Many Westerners come to India and the experience leaves them shocked. From news journalists to TV documentary makers, there is no dearth of people willing to exploit the image of a dirty poor miserable shocking India. Every year, Western and Indian photographers descend on the banks of Ganga in Varanasi to photograph ash-covered sadhus because Western news publications are never tired of publishing such photos. Most Indians do not even know these people but somehow these sadhus have become our unwanted brand ambassadors.

In the age of the Internet, a lot of kids armed with selfie sticks are giving the same old spots 360° coverage. When will this stop?

It is as if foreigners will never learn how big or varied India is. If you are coming to India, it is always better to know in advance what to expect and what not to. Whatever you think of India after that is an informed opinion. We are guilty as charged. Otherwise, you are just annoying.

  • The ‘foreigner’ tag: If you are from the West, then this is how we know you. There is no malice intended. We have no other word to adequately describe you until we know which country you are from. Usually, it saves a lot of explanation. There is an online video channel by a British-South African expatriate who walks around Chinese streets and acts offended when amused kids on the street call him out as a ‘foreigner’ to their friends. As if to correct them, he usually responds with an annoyed “Hello, Chinese person.” I am not particularly happy with this situation either. When people from India’s North-East visit the other places in India, sometimes they get called ‘Chinese’. People are ignorant so do not get offended. It can happen to anyone. Indians are a very welcoming people and we treat our guests with great respect.
  • Everyone is ‘looking’ at you: A strange-looking stranger in a strange land will get strange looks. A 6-foot-plus WWE wrestler came to India and he was so overwhelmed by the crowds here that he left the country as quickly as he could. There are many unfunny online videos of tourists, Western women particularly, who get so unnerved that they visibly start crying over their selfie sticks.

    Every day, thousands of people are coming to cities from rural areas and they have not seen a foreigner in their life. In some areas, you are what a traveling carnival is to a kid. Most of these problems can be eliminated simply by changing your dressing style or by sticking to the usual stomping grounds for tourists.

  • Where have all the women gone? Men are leering at me!: Major Indian railway stations are not located in the best foreign tourist-friendly locations. These stations are very big transportation hubs. That is, the areas around such a railway station is mostly used by people who ship all kinds of products to various places in that state and abroad. When we get out of such a station, we quickly take a vehicle out to our residential area. We do not stick around in the Indian equivalent of a commercial district. People who you find around big train stations are all men because they are either traders or transporters. The traders are busy people and they will not even look at you whoever you are. The transporters are not real transporters but carriers. They are all men because they have to do the back-breaking work of transporting heavy stuff through narrow alleyways and cavernous stairs. When you go there with a selfie stick, these men are thinking, “What is this idiotic woman doing here? Why doesn’t she go to the usual tourist places?”
  • Your ‘hotel’ is not good?: When we travel to a new city, we usually stay in a relative’s or friend’s place. We do not have a culture of staying at lodges or hotels. India does have lodges and hotels but this business is totally ‘unregulated’. This means that there is no basic standard. The quality, hygiene and safety of these places depends entirely on the fares. You should not go to the cheapest place and expect it have basic standards. It is cheap because they have no standards. If you want standards, you need to pay a little more at a better establishment.
  • Carry toilet paper everywhere: India manufactures everything and you can buy almost all household goods in any city or town, big or small. Except the toilet paper. Not all shops stock it. If you are travelling to unknown places, carry one roll with you. One for each person. We do not mess around with paper. It is disgusting to use just paper. Learn to use water or else carry a toilet roll. Before you decide to stay at a place, ask if the room has a toilet with a water jet. The water jet is a fantastic thing. If you use it once, you will never go back to paper. This is the hygienic way. It is the greatest invention since indoor plumbing. If you cannot get the water gun, get a bidet add-on kit.

    Asians do not understand why Westerners have the bath and the toilet in the same room. Westerners even have the medicine cabinet and drinking water tap there. This is very revolting. In Indian homes, the toilet and bathroom are separate. Do not take your toothbrush and go to a toilet. In lodges/hotels, the bath and toilet are in the same room because real estate is expensive.

    Our streets may be dirty but our homes are always clean. We do not bring the footwear into our homes. We leave it outside. In many English-language movies and TV programmes, we see foreigners touching the toilet seat, puking over it, sobbing over it and (in one movie) even washing the hair! It is not a piece of furniture! Do not touch toilet surfaces even if it is your home. Squat toilets are the natural way of emptying the bowels. And, you will not be picking up germs from previous performers.
  • Wear a saree properly: If you decide to wear a saree, learn it to do it carefully. When Western women wear sarees, they walk like men. I do not know if Indian women walk differently but it looks really funny when foreigners do it. If you want to wear a more convenient Indian attire, then there is the modern churidhar. It comes in all kinds of fashions and sizes. If you still feel intimidated by the presence of men on the street, then throw its duppatta around your head like Benazir Bhutto. You will become invisible. It is the greatest disguise in the world. No, it is not cultural appropriation if you wear Indian clothes. Wear them whenever you want when you go back. Indians are always happy when foreigners use Indian stuff abroad. The Chinese also feel the same way. So do all normal people in the world. Do not listen to morons.
  • Get an idea of India’s foreign exchange rate: Under pressure from IMF and World Bank, one US dollar buys 68 Indian rupees. With 68 rupees, you can buy meals for two or three people. If you are a student with only the money made from waiting tables, then hitch-hiking in Europe will be a happier option. If not, you will be hunting for the cheapest option available for everything and India will disappoint you. When you buy stuff, you will find everything cheap. India is great for that kind of shopping. But, when you stay at a place, do not skimp on class or comfort.
  • Stomach bug: Foreign tourists are often advised to drink only from water bottles because tap water is unreliable. This is because sewerage lines and drinking water lines often run side-by-side to each other. Several illegal connections are made to these lines and the pilferers leave behind leaks. This results in contamination of water. In urban areas, people use tap water only for cleaning purposes. Drinking water is usually boiled before drinking. Others have immunity to survive anything. If you stay for several days in India, it is quite possible that you will go down with a stomach bug. It will not kill you but after a few days of it you will have lifelong immunity. Nevertheless, always carry a water bottle with you or drink only boiled water. Get a water filter if you stay for more than a few weeks. Chlorination of water is an exact science and you are most likely to overshoot the mark and kill useful gut bacteria required for digestion.
  • Tender Coconut Water: If you end up consuming something questionable, you can usually fix it by drinking two tender coconuts – the water-rich ones, not the fleshy sweet ones. This will fix most cases of food poisoning. However, it also increases 1 and 2 urgency so be ready for it. Apparently, this also clears UTIs.
  • Fried or boiled, not raw: When you are at home (in your home country), you should try to eat more raw foods. When you are traveling (in any foreign country), you should only eat food that is fried or boiled. Being sick while traveling is extremely stressful for everyone and is not worth the risk.
  • Rice or roti: Indian meals are usually based around rice or roti (chappathi or naan). Learn to break off a piece of roti with just one hand – your right hand. Don’t use both hands and freak everyone out. You take one piece of the roti, fold it into two, near-drop it over some side dish, grab a bit of the dish into that fold and then stick the stuffed roll in your mouth. You will burn your esophagus. With rice, you mix sambar, kozhambu, rasam or curds (in that order but not together) into the rice. Then, you take dollops of vegetable side dishes (poriyal, kootu, chutney, pickle, appalam/puppadum) on the mixed rice, pick a handful and drop it in your mouth. Some items like cloves and curry leaves are used in cooking. You are not supposed to eat them. You leave them in a corner of your plate for these ingredients. (You can also drop off pieces of chilly there if you find them. Hot stuff is usually balanced off with curd. If you eat too many chilly pieces, you may go down with the stomach bug. This will not give you any immunity because it is caused by an intestinal irritant.) They have been added only for the aroma and/or their digestive/medicinal/preservative properties, not for their taste. Onion rings are usually offered with non-vegetarian meals to aid in digestion. Don’t drink curry or some side dish as if it were soup or porridge. If it is a non-vegetarian curry, some amount of oil will be floating over contents. Mix it up with a spoon or your finger. Payasam, buttermilk, and other semi-solid stuff can be taken like coffee or tea. Sweets are consumed last. Breakfast dishes like idly and dosa have to be consumed in a slightly different style but you will easily figure that out.

The sad story of the fun Gilligan’s Island

News of Dawn Wells needing money to meet healthcare bills is the last of many sad stories about one of the the most popular TV comedies.

Gilligan's Island cast members

The Professor (Russel Johnson), Mary Ann (Dawn Wells), Gilligan (Bob Denver), Ginger (Tina Louise), Mr. Howell (Jim Backus), Mrs. Howell (Natalie Schafer) and Skipper (Alan Hale Jr.)

Gilligan’s Island was an immensely popular TV show, which originally ran for three seasons in 1964-67. It was initially filmed in B/W and then switched to color. Except for the starting/ending theme footage, which were filmed in Honolulu, Hawaii, the show was filmed entirely on the sets in CBS studios in California. It also used stock footage of an island, which became famous as the Gilligan’s Island.

The show episodes are about the trials and tribulations of the crew and passengers of a storm-struck pleasure boat that got marooned on an uncharted island. As nobody knows that the island even exists, the island was ignored by all rescue attempts. The stranded people tried to get rescued several times but failed miserably each time. Meanwhile, the marooned somehow managed to bring a semblance of comfortable living with what little they brought with them or what the island could offer.

Semblance is quite a stretch. There comes the comedy part. When the show was being pitched, CBS executives did not think it could be sold to the public. However, the pilots were very successful and the series continued for several seasons. The plots of each episode stretched the limits of believability but the good-natured fun the show provided overcame all that skepticism.

The crew consisted of the captain known as the “Skipper” (Alan Hale Jr) and his mate Gilligan (Bob Denver). Gilligan was an innocent but bumbling fool and was the main reason for the failure of many rescue/escape attempts. Then, there was the Professor (Russel Johnson), an up-and-coming film actress Ginger played by the lanky and beautiful Tina Louise, and the pretty little village girl Mary Ann played by Dawn Wells. The Howells were an uber-rich couple who for unexplained reasons hired the boat to be side-by-side with common folk. They apparently brought with them a seemingly unlimited supply of cash, jewels, and clothing with them. The Skipper, Gilligan and the Professor wore the same clothes throughout. The girls seemed to have packed several dresses and abundant supplies of makeup for the trip.

During their stay, the island was visited by Russian spies, primitive head-hunting tribes, one Japanese soldier who believed the World War 2 was still going on, a South American dictator, an evil scientist, runaway gangsters, a human-hunting adventurer, Tarzan, a gorilla, a Beetles-like music group, Phil Slivers, Mae West and many others. Several unusual things washed up to the island’s lagoon including a navy mine, a secret service attache case, a magician’s box of wonders, a silent movie producing kit, a misguided space capsule and cans of ice-cream! There was a case of homing pigeons. The professor improvised a lot of devices out of salvaged parts, once even creating a transmitter. Mr Howell tried to use his immense money power on the visitors. However, none of these interventions resulted in a successful escape. There was always an ending surprise which ruined everything – the surprise usually being Gilligan.

After 98 episodes, the show was suddenly cancelled by a stupid CBS chief along with several other comedy shows. The producers had told the actors that show would be renewed for another season and had to tell them later that it was not. This apparently brought misery because some of them took on debt and bought properties in anticipation of the continuation of the show, which was doing well at that time.

The producers then sold out. The new owners made a killing as the show continued to be popular for decades in re-runs. Generations of American kids grew up watching Gilligan’s Island after school.

The actors meanwhile were not doing well. They became stereotyped and were strongly identified with the show. Film makers could not imagine them doing other characters. All of the actors, except maybe Bob Denver, had impressive acting credits before the show. They were suddenly left without acting offers.

Tina Louise was upset even when the show was being produced. She initially thought she was the main attraction of the show but became one of seven equally important cast members. After the show ended, she acted in a few films and TV shows but she was not as successful as she expected. Of the others, Jim Backus (the Hartley Benson of the Mel Blanc show) did better as Mr. Magoo and other roles.

After a long legal battle, the producer Sherwood Schwartz settled out-of-court with the owners of the rerun rights. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. The cast members still did not get anything from the settlement. [Interestingly, Sherwood Schwartz was one of the writers for I Married Joan. Joan Davis owned the rights of her show (unusual for  woman at that time) and died at the young age of 48. Jim Backus played Joan’s husband in the show.]

When a final TV movie for Gilligan’s Island was to be made featuring the rescue Tina Louise refused to act in it unless she was offered double the money. She knew Schwartz was a cunning fellow and treated him as such. She knew she would get no residuals from any Schwartz production. However, other cast members were anxious for the opportunity to entertain fans and agreed to act without Louise. The script for Ginger’s replacement in the TV movie included sneak attacks on Tina Louise who had to opt for less than stellar film roles. This was typical of Schwartz, who named the boat SS Minnow as a slight against FCC chairman Newton Minnow (who was very critical of TV programs). In the movie, the shipwrecked ride out of the island in a raft they built to avoid a storm. They get a grand reception at Honolulu from where the Minnow was originally operating.

One more reunion TV movie and some documentaries were made of the Island. Bob Denver and Russel Johnson died in obscurity. Alan Hale started a steak restaurant. Natalie Schafer (Mrs. Howell) was already wealthy and did not suffer like some of the rest. Dawn Wells and Tina Louise are the only remaining cast members. I wish them health and happiness for all the fun they provided.

After Dawn Wells was hospitalized for several surgeries & suffered investment failures, she lost her home and incurred a lot of debt. A friend started an online crowdfunding effort, which quickly met its goal. Wells family was embarrassed by it. Wells finally moved into an assisted-living facility. This brings back a dialogue spoken by the Skipper from the Shakespearean play Hamlet.

Neither a borrower nor a lender be.
Do not forget:
Stay out of debt.
Think twice and take this good advice from me:
Guard that old solvency!

I watched all episodes several times. My kid watches them every day and sometimes speaks like the Howell couple.

All 98 episodes and the TV movies are available on DailyMotion. It is one of those rare shows that never grow old.

Double heroes of Hollywood

  • Bert Wheeler & Robert Woolsey: They ruled the 1930s with their comedy and musical act. In many of their movies, they played poor drifters or runaways eager for a break. The quiet and younger Wheeler played the straight guy while the sauve and pretend-sophisticated Woolsey took upon slightly crooked roles. Many of their movies had the adorable Dorothy Lee. The best movies I saw are:

  • Bud Abbot & Lou Costello: They were famous in the 1940s. They were vaudeville actors who moved to radio and then film and television. The fat Costello is the straight gullible guy while Bud Abbot is the scheming type. Costello is not very bright and does not understand words with more than three syllables. This creates several comedic situations in which Bud says something and Costello understands either the literal meaning or the something it sounds like. The most famous of such routines is “Who is on first”. Who or Hu is a player but Costello think he is asking a question. Then, Bud says Watt’s second and Costello thinks “What is second”. Some of their movies that I saw were:
    • Pardon My Sarong
    • Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
    • Abbot and Costello Meet Invisible Man
    • Abbott and Costello Go to Mars
    • Jack and the beanstalk
  • Bing Crosby and Bob Hope: Their “Road to” pictures are famous to this day. Road to Bali, Road to Hong Kong and Road to Singapore are among them. Beautiful actress Dorothy Lamour appeared in many of these movies.
  • Bud Spencer & Terrence Hill: These Italian actors were famous in the 1980s and made

    Bud Spencer and Terrence Hill

    several films set in the US and dubbed in English to the target the larger audience worldwide. Bud Spencer is the tall fat guy and his punches seemed to pack quite a lot of power and that was one of the reasons why people all over the world turned up at cinemas to watch his films. In one movie a tough takes a thick steel road and bends it with his bare hands. Bud Spencer picks up the bent bar and straightens it with his bare hands. Top that! When not being Chuck Norris, Bud Spencer is the most nicest guy except when he has to deal with the crooked blue-eyed Terrence Hill. Because of this, he becomes a hero to all kids who get to watch his films.  Bud Spencer has a website – It is written in the same friendly and jovial character that he played in the movie.

    • Who finds a friend, finds a treasure
    • Double trouble
    • Miami cops

2-year user review of environment-friendly washing soaps (as opposed to detergents)

Two years ago, I purchased some bars of washing soap. The white more expensive one disappeared in a month. The yellow bar lasted well two years! I wash only my undergarments, lungis/mundus and the occasional blanket. Still, it is good value for money. If I had used detergents (made from petroleum), I would have gone through two dozen bars and it would have been more expensive too. So, the judgement is in favour of soaps on all counts.

IMPORTANT: Washing soaps need to be stored in an air-tight container. They seem to lose their softness if left out like detergents.

Two washing “soap” brands, available in Palakkad, Kerala.

Bike trip to Pothundi dam, Kesavanpara and Seetharkund at Nelliampathy Hills

There are many tourist places in Palakkkad and this holiday season I decided to cover most of them. Last Sunday, I went to Nelliampathy Hills. On the itinerary were Pothundi Dam, Kesavan Para and Seetharkundu.

Kesavan Para is a rock ledge in the middle of the Nelliampathy Hills. It provides a beautiful view overlooking the Pothundi Dam. Good for a picnic in a cooler or rainy season. Seetharkundu Viewpoint is a minor clearing in the wooded area overlooking the plains below. Seetharkundu is mainly known for tourist cottages and tea/fruit/vegetable plantations. Seetharkundu waterfalls cannot be reached from the Nelliampathy hills. The plains below in the foothills provide the entry for it.

First stop was Pothundi Dam. It is not as big as Malampuzha Dam but it is big all right. It is the height of summer now and there was not much water in the dam. On the other side of the water is a row of small hills – the Nelliampathy Hills. The dam was deserted at the top and most families took shelter in the park below. After a while, I decided to leave the dam for the tourist spots in the hills.

Pothundi Dam would be a good spot to visit during rainy season.

After taking this photo, the mobile phone ran out of charge. I brought my monster 20,000 mAH power bank with me and I put the phone under charge. So no photos or videos of the ascent. The road uphill reminded of Need for Speed games. In one place, you can see two small streams coming off a huge wall of rock. My guess is that during rainy season, these streams transform into reasonable waterfalls. In one NFS game, I have seen something similar. The road ended at a factory of AVT, the tea company. There the road forks into two. On the left, tea plantations and on the right, a footpath to Kesavan Para. I parked my bike and went up the path on foot. The footpath is covered on all sides by dense vegetation and was dark even at noon. A loud din of insects came from all sides. After a while the path cleared up and a large rock-covered area came. This is Kesavan Para. On the other side of the rock formation, there is ledge on the hillside where you can sit and view the Pothundi Dam. The hills you saw from the dam would now be flanking your sides. They rise for another hundred feet and you will be smack in the middle of it. I guess it must be magnificent during rainy season. Unfortunately, I have no photos of this place.

After lunch at a hotel, I left for Seetharkundu Viewpoint. This place is overrated, at least for one-dayers. If you plan on staying at one of the tourist cottages there, then it may be worthwhile. Because of the vegetation and the altitude, the place is much cooler than the plains down below. The place marked Seetharkund Viewpoint is a gap in the hillside where you can see the plains down below. I left after a few minutes. A tree struck by lightning in the area was more interesting. The phone was charged now and I was able to take photos and decided to record my descent.

This place reminded me of a level in Crysis 1, where you first attack a Korean military camp proper.

En route to Seetharkund, there are several tours arranged in tea plantations/factories and the vegetable/fruit farms but I did not take these tours. I was however surprised to know that there are tea plantations even in Palakkad.

A tea garden in Palakkad? Wow!

The descent was great and I could coast almost all the way down. On the way up, I saw some guys racing. One guy in a big bike gave the middle finger to a bullet and overtook him on a curve. I wouldn’t advise that to anyone. The ride downhill was fast but was still confusing. The tea farms have boards all over the place but proper road signs don’t exist. It was easy to go the wrong route. You can follow tourist vehicles but they can be very slow. On the way up, I saw a group of bikers thundering up a fork and then sheepishly turn around. So, it is better to rely on your own wits.

This must be the most boring unwatchable video in the world.

Update (2018-04-24): Apparently, there is a waterfall somewhere in Seetharkund but it is bountiful in rainy season.

Thiruvalathur Sree Randumoorthy Bhagavathy Temple, Palakkad

Thiruvalathoor Rendumoorthy Kshethram

Randumoorthy means two gods or two faces. Interestingly there are two Randumoorthy temples in Palakkad. There is one in Thiruvalathur. The other one is in Ottapalam and is dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. Last week, I went to the Thiruvalathur temple.

The Thiruvalathur Sree Rendumoorthy Bhagavathy Kshetram is dedicated two godesses – Sree Mahishasuramardhini and Sree Annapoorneswari. The temple is quite old and was supposed to be built by devas in one night but they left it unfinished as they didn’t want to be seen by humans. The temple is open on all days with services in the morning and evening. I went in the evening hoping to see if the 4000 stone lamps around the temple are lit daily. A large group of ladies were chanting slokas near the diety of Sree Annapoorneswari but the lamps in the outer wall were not all lit. Hence, I will make a trip in the festival season November-December for that.

Update 2018: I went to the temple yesterday and all the famous lamps around the temple were lit. Kids were also given sticks to light the lamps themselves. It is party of a 10-day Kartika Vilakku Moholsavam. Several traditional and folk performances including thayambaka, chakkiyar koothu, and ottamthullal are scheduled throughout this festival.

Bike Trip to Palani – 2

Last month, I went to Pazhani again. This time, I took a bypass to the hill and saw a government-run parking lot. (You miss it when you come via town centre.)

Unlike the previous time, I decided not to climb the hill on empty stomach. I left home early morning after a coffee and no breakfast. So, first thing I did upon reaching the Pazhani was to have breakfast. This I hoped would enable me climb the hill without taking breaks. No such luck. I took two breaks. Where was I going wrong? I had been to Pazhani two or three times before by car and I did not have to take breaks. Maybe that was it – car. My legs were tired riding the bike. I couldn’t believe legs could get tired by riding a bike. Apparently, this can happen. On the way back, I wanted to go to an ATM and I found that I couldn’t take easy steps. Maybe, next time, I will take a car and see if I am any good.