ഒരു ഇറ്റാലിയൻ സാലേ കഥ

റോമിനും നേപിള്സിനും ഇടയ്ക്കുളള സോറ എന്ന കൊച്ചു നഗരം. സമയം സന്ധ്യ കഴിഞ്ഞിരിക്കുന്നു. പഴയ 15th സെഞ്ച്വറി കോട്ടയിലേക്കുള്ള കുത്തനെയുള്ള ട്രെക്കും അവിടെനിന്നുള്ള മനോഹരമായ വ്യൂവും ഒക്കെ കണ്ടു ഭൂലോകത്തേക്ക് തിരിച്ചിറങ്ങിയിട്ടെ ഉള്ളൂ. നന്നായി വിശക്കുന്നുണ്ട്.

പ്രദർശിപ്പിച്ചതിൽ സാമാന്യം നല്ല ബോർഡ് നോക്കി അടുത്തുള്ള റസ്റ്റൗറന്റ്റ്-ലേക്ക് കേറി. മദാമ്മ പാൽപുഞ്ചിരിയോടെ വരവേറ്റു. ശ്ശ്യോ ! എന്തു നല്ല മദാമ്മ അല്ലെ ? നല്ല അന്തരീക്ഷം.. . നല്ല മെനു കാർഡ്…. കൊള്ളാം….

മെനു കയ്യിലെടുത്തു നോക്കി… പേജ് 1….. നിരനിരയായി പല തരം ഐറ്റംസ്. വൃത്തിയായി എഴുതീട്ടുണ്ട്. പക്ഷെ ഒന്നും മനസ്സിലാവുന്നില്ല. എല്ലാം ഇറ്റാലിയനിൽ മാത്രം ! പേജ് 2… തദ്ധയ്വ്വ ! ഓ, പേടിക്കാനെതിരിക്കുന്നു ? ബ്രിട്ടീഷ് ഇംഗ്ലീഷ് അല്ലെ കൈയിൽ ഇരിക്കുന്നത് ? പോരാത്തതിന് പൊടിക്ക് ജർമനും.. ഒട്ടും കൂസാതെ മദാമ്മയോടു പേശി .. “ 1 പ്ലേറ്റ് സേലെഡ് പ്ലീസ്….” . മദാമ്മയുടെ ചാര കണ്ണുകൾ ഇത്തിരി കൂടി വിടർന്നുവോ ? എയ്യ് … തോന്നീതാവും .. ഒരു പ്രാവശ്യം കൂടി ഉറച്ചു പാടി .. “ 1 പ്ലേറ്റ് സേലെഡ് പ്ലീസ്….” . മദാമ്മയുടെ കണ്ണുകളുടെ ഡയാമീറ്റർ ദേ പിന്നേം കൂടുന്നു !

ഓ പാവം ! മദാമ്മക്ക് ആംഗലേയം തൊട്ടു തീണ്ടീട്ടില്ലെന്നു തോന്നുന്നു ! അത് തന്നെ കാരണം …ശരി …. എന്നാൽ പിന്നെ ജെർമ്മനിൽ ആവാം ….. “ഐൻ സലാറ്റ് ബിറ്റെ ” …. മദാമ്മയുടെ മുഖത്ത് അത്ഭുതതിന്റ്റെ അതി പ്രസരണം …. ഓ നമ്മൾ ഇത്ര ഹെൽത്ത് കോൺഷിയസ്സ് ആണല്ലോ എന്ന് കരുതീട്ടാവും ……. പാവം … ഒരു പുഞ്ചിരി ഒക്കെ ഞാനും അങ്ങോട്ട് പാസ്സ് ആക്കി …… സേലെഡ് ഇപ്പൊ കൊണ്ടുവരുമായിരിക്കും …

മദാമ്മക്ക് സംശയം തീരുന്നില്ല …. “1 പ്ലേറ്റ് സാലെ ? ”
ഇതെന്തൊരു നാട് ? സാലെ എങ്കിൽ സാലെ …. “യെസ് യെസ്” ….. “1 പ്ലേറ്റ് “……”1 ബിഗ് പ്ലേറ്റ്” …… മദാമ്മയുടെ കണ്ണുകൾ ഇപ്പോൾ ഏകദേശം ചുട്ട പപ്പടം കണക്കുണ്ട് …

മദാമ്മ അടുത്തിരിക്കുന്ന മെനുവിലെ പുറം ചട്ടയിൽ എന്തോ തിരയുന്നു …. ഉരുണ്ടു ചുവന്ന തക്കാളിയുടെ പടമാണ് പുറം ചട്ട.. അത് ചൂണ്ടി കാണിച്ച് എന്തോ ആങ്ങ്യം കാണിക്കുന്നുണ്ട് …. പാവം … ബാക്കി വെജിറ്റബിള്സിന്റ്റെ കൂടെ തക്കാളി ഇടണോ എന്ന് ചോദിക്ക്യായിരിക്കും ….

സംശയിക്കാതെ പറഞ്ഞു …. “യെസ് … യെസ്….. ”
“ja ….. ja …. “ (ജർമൻ ഒട്ടും കുറക്കരുതല്ലോ)

എന്നിട്ടും മദാമ്മ ദേ ഇഞ്ചി കടിച്ച പോലെ നില്ക്കുന്നു . .. ദാണ്ടേ …അപ്പുറത്തിരുന്ന എണ്ണക്കുപ്പി എടുത്തോണ്ട് വരുന്നു ….. പിന്നെയും ആങ്ങ്യം …… “യെസ് യെസ് … ” എന്തു വേണേലും ഒഴിച്ചോ …. വേഗം ഒന്ന് കൊണ്ടുവന്നാ മതി. മനുഷ്യൻ വിശന്നു ചാവാറായി … എന്ന് പറയണം എന്നുണ്ടായിരുന്നു ..പറഞ്ഞാലും മനസ്സിലാവില്ല്യ എന്നതു കൊണ്ട് മിണ്ടാതിരുന്നു …

വിഷണ്ണയായി മദാമ്മ അടുക്കളയിലേക്ക് …. പത്തു മിനിറ്റ് കഴിഞ്ഞ് ഫൈനലി സാധനം എത്തി ….. ഒരു വലിയ പ്ലേറ്റ് …..അത് കറക്റ്റ് ആയി മദാമ്മ മനസ്സിലാക്കി . കുറെ തക്കാളി നല്ല ഭംഗിയിൽ അരിഞ്ഞു വച്ചിട്ടുണ്ട് …. അതും ഓക്കേ …. കുറെ എണ്ണ അതിന്റെ മുകളിൽ കോരി ഒഴിചിട്ടുമുണ്ട് ….. എത്ര കറക്റ്റ് ആയി ഇൻസ്ട്രകഷൻസ് ഫോളോ ചെയ്തിരിക്കുന്നു ……അപാരം തന്നെ ….. പിന്നേം സൂക്ഷിച്ചു നോക്കി ….വേറെ വെജിറ്റബിള്സ് ഒന്നും കാണാനില്ല … ഒന്നൂടി നോക്കി … ഇല്ല ….
പകരം ഒരു കോണിൽ അതാ കൂമ്പാരം പോലെ കുറെ ഉപ്പ് !!

ഇറ്റാലിയനിൽ സാലേ (sale) എന്ന് വച്ചാൽ ഉപ്പ് ആണെന്ന ആജന്മ പാഠം അന്ന് പഠിക്കാൻ ഭാഗ്യം സിദ്ധിച്ചു !! (salad നു insalata എന്ന് വേണമത്രേ പറയാൻ ! )
ജീവിതത്തിൽ ആദ്യമായി ഇംഗ്ലീഷും മുറി ജർമൻനും ഒക്കെ സംസാരിക്കുന്ന നാല് ഉപ്പു തീനികളെ കണ്ടു മദാമ്മയും സായൂജ്യ മടഞ്ഞു കാണും …. കാണണം … അല്ലെ ?

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A Trip To Rhodes

All I see, the seamless blue
All I hear, the lullaby of the waves
As the wind caresses my weary soul, I relish
The inevitable warmth the Sun lends the heart!

Pebbles by my feet,
Share riddles of the yore
Fables of those fair maidens,
Who bemoaned their valiant Knights!

Those cobbled avenues,
Remnants of a glorious past
That solitary windmill,
Silent sentinel of many a gory siege!

Enamoured I am, by this jewel of the Aegean
The throne of Helios, that surged from the sea!
That blazing Chariot drawn by fiery steeds
Will ride my fantasies for years to come !

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Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary, Kollam, Kerala

Shendureny Wildlife Sanctuary

Image Courtesy: Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary/Ecotourism

 

Shenduruny (Shendurney/ Shenduruney) Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the district of Kollam in Kerala, India. The sanctuary is situated around 60 kms from Kollam and 70 kms from Thiruvananthapuram city on N.H.208. The Kollam – Shenkottah meter gauge railway line passes close to the sanctuary.

The etymology of the name ‘Shenduruny’ has been derived from a tree species endemic to this area called ‘Shenkuruny or Chenkuruny’ (Gluta Travancorica). As per a tourism website, mammalian fauna sighted in the sanctuary includes the bonnet macaque (Macaca Radiata), the lion tailed macaque (Macaca Silenus), the Nilgiri langur, the Indian giant squirrel (Malabar giant squirrel or Ratufa indica), three striped palm squirrel (Funambulus palmarum), the gaur or the Indian bison, the sambar deer (Rusa unicolor), the barking deer (muntjac), the Indian chevrotain or mouse deer, wild boar and the Indian elephant.

Year 2006. The harsh summer gave way to the humid monsoons, the most enthralling season in Kerala. A season which gives a reason for the lazy bones to curl up inside??? Nay!!! On the contrary, monsoons are best enjoyed outside… Have you ever had a swim in a temple pond with a torrent of rain pouring down from above, playing hide and seek with the rain drops waiting to prick your face with a thousand water needles, the moment you surface from the water? Ever watched a silver sheet of rain approaching you from miles away from a golden sea shore … Ever heard the mesmerizing sound of rain as it patters down the baked clay roof tiles, forming a temporary waterfall down the Nadu-Mittam (central courtyard) in a Nalukettu (traditional Kerala homestead with a central courtyard open to the sky) … Wow ! You just can’t have enough of Kerala monsoons… So was the season when we chanced upon a Hindu Metro Plus article about a wildlife sanctuary near Thenmala in Kollam district. It was love at first sight and the next Sunday was promptly earmarked for exploring the place.

The Sunday commenced quite early that week as opposed to 11 am on usual weeks 😉 Our eyelids which rebel at 7 am on weekdays were magically open wide at 5 am 🙂 as we geared up for the 70 plus kilometre journey ahead… As usual the Hindu Metro plus excelled as a travel guide… It was not yet daybreak as we whizzed past the winding terrain on that drizzly morning. We reached Thenmala by 6:45 am. The Hindu had provided contact information and we had arranged to meet one Mr. Thomas at Thenmala for our proposed trek in the sanctuary. We had a quick breakfast at a junction tea shop. As we were sipping the hot tea, we came across a group of forest officials in their khaki uniforms, also in search of their regular morning tea.

By the time we finished our breakfast, our host was ready for us. He was well acquainted with the forest officials and chatted them up. We came to know that a group of them were going to the forest on a raid that very morning, based on a tip off that illicit liquor was being brewed inside the sanctuary. After a discussion, it was decided that we would accompany these officials part way, as they were traveling by boat and this would help us to reach the core of the sanctuary faster. Once we land, we would trek on our own with a guide Mr. Thomas was to arrange. We too welcomed the idea as it would gain us more time inside the sanctuary.

The first step was to gain an entry pass from the Wildlife warden. As we were accompanied by Thomas and the forest officials themselves, we had no trouble whatsoever in getting one…Thus began our sanctuary visit, with the team of forest officials and a guide named Kumar in tow. Our vehicle passed the tall entrance way to the sanctuary… What lay beyond was an enchanting world. If you have ever watched the movie ‘Chronicles of Narnia’, you would know what I mean; just open a cupboard door and you step out into a magical world … We drank in the first sights, sounds and smells of pristine nature. Our vehicle came to a stop at the brink of a huge lake, where the road terminated. Promptly a boat was arranged for and we all boarded it. The rain played truant… The morning breeze, the placid lake and the serene surroundings induced an invigorating feeling. As our boat glided past the sloping grasslands, we sighted a group of wild boar, coming down to drink water from the lake. They seemed oblivious to our presence. We passed the grasslands and soon reached a bank with a thick foliage of gigantic trees. The boat was tethered to a fallen tree and we embarked on our trek… Our guide Kumar was a localite in his late 40s and was as familiar with the sanctuary as the back of his palm… He was a Jim Corbett of sorts, virtually having grown up in the sanctuary. He was an invaluable companion in that trip. He gave us some sort of oil with a pungent smell to ward off potential leech attacks, which we generously applied on our feet. He shaved off a few sticks from the thick undergrowth overhanging the lake. We armed ourselves with these 5 foot sticks and commenced our journey on foot through the veritable forest!!

As we had covered quite a lot of distance via boat, we landed far inside the sanctuary. As we treaded inland from the shore, sunlight became scarce. A thick multi layered canopy of trees covered the horizon. Our guide was of the opinion that for every plant found outside the forest, there is a corresponding jungle variety. He showed us the jungle paddy, a small plant with shoots very similar to the original paddy plant. He showed the jungle goose berry tree, the fruits of which were somewhat smaller than the native ones, but a lot tastier. We came across a gigantic tree species, which our guide called the ‘Kari Maram’, the bark of which was coal black in colour! We soon realized that the stick so thoughtfully provided was a multi-pronged tool… Use it to ward off the thick undergrowth, use it to test the depth of a crossing rivulet, use it to remain perpendicular while manoeuvring a steep incline or simply to gain a false sense of supremacy in case of a wild animal sighting 😉 We walked behind Kumar who was as nimble as a Nilgiri Tahr. We came across trees with roots the size of a ledge, protruding on all sides. Kumar opined that a wild boar could easily hide behind one of those roots and attack us… Attack or no attack, we were completely taken in by the sheer beauty of a real forest, a trek route where very few human feet have treaded before. The unrelenting sea of garbage had not yet encroached upon this virgin forest. There was an absolute lack of noise, mineral water bottles and other plastic litter…only peace, tranquillity and pristine beauty…

Tiny streams criss crossed our trek route, a welcome intrusion as even with the thick green canopy and the monsoon season, the place was arid. The crystal clear water untouched by humans has medicinal value according to our guide and it sure did taste so… On one particular stream we noticed that the water was all murky and red, which could mean only one thing… Some wild animals were at the water front farther upstream and they were churning the water red… We listened intently without making a noise so much as to breathe… but failed to see them… poor luck 😦 Further down the path we came across elephant dung which was quite fresh and could see some small trees and branches all in shambles. Surely a troop of elephants had just passed through!!

Our plan was to trek till a major waterfall in the area called Idimuzhanganpara… After an arduous trek we reached an enthralling waterfall fringed with steep rocky inclines… It was cake walk for Kumar to climb up those 80 degree inclines… We in our late 20s sure did struggle! After an arduous trek, water in all form is always welcome… I spent no time in plunging into the water. My hubby is not as much of a water buffalo as I am and is much more logical in his approach to the dangers that exist in the world. He was quite apprehensive as the rocks were slippery and there is always the fear of a sudden spurt in the water level. Kumar assured that it was safe and left us to our privacy. The strong water current had carved out basins in the underlying rocks, to form terraced natural bath tubs with water thundering from above. Undoubtedly, the plunge in the virgin Idimuzhanganpara waters amidst the dense tropical cover has been my best swim so far…

After having soaked in the magical waters to our hearts content, we had our packed sandwiches squatting down on the rocks bordering the river, careful to pick up and stuff our litter back into our backpacks. It was time to start the return trek :(. We walked along with Kumar and met the forest officials coming down after their hiatus… They were carrying a few cans of illicit liquor with them, to be taken back as proof. They were quite mum about the raid as such and we didn’t probe further. Again the trek and the boat ride brought us back to our vehicle… So was a Sunday well spent :).

The plush leather seat in an air-conditioned corner office doesn’t seem so enticing when compared to this day in Mother Nature’s lap. Shenduruny is nothing short of a temple, a temple of nature. I dedicate this post to the enthralling Flora and Fauna of Shenduruny, born free, living free and hopefully, forever free!!

I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.  ~ E.E.Cummings

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Azhimala, A Rendezvous Of A Hill With The Sea

Azhimala

Image Courtesy: https://www.facebook.com/azhimala.sree.mahadeva1

 

Azhimala is located in the district of Trivandrum in Kerala, India.

A visit to Trivandrum? Here goes the itinerary… Kovalam Beach, Padmanabhaswamy Temple, City Zoo; Perhaps a quick trip to nearby Kanyakumari and Padmanabhapuram palace. That’s it! Tourists go back happy that they have covered their ‘To Do’ list. But believe me, Trivandrum has got much more to offer! Azhimala is one such place worth spending an evening. ‘Aazhi’ means sea and ‘Mala’ stands for hill, in the language of Malayalam. This spectacular union of the land and the sea is located near the famed Kovalam beach.

It was one fine Saturday morning during our carefree days, 2 years into marital bliss and a year or so before the arrival of children that we chanced upon an article in the ‘Hindu’ newspaper, describing Azhimala. What better day to explore the place than today?

It was the exact opposite of a bright sunny morning. It was raining quite heavily. A perfect day for an outing as we both loved the monsoons. After spending a week in the manicured air-conditioned offices, we craved to go wild during the weekends! We hopped into our Santro car and zipped along the rain lashed roads to this unknown destination, with the Hindu in hand for reference. We travelled along the Kovalam Bypass Road, passed Kovalam on the way and moved further on, to reach Vizhinjam, a famous sea port in Kerala. We took a left turn and proceeded down the road to Poovar, which in itself is worth a visit for a couple of days. There are various resorts in Poovar like Poovar Island Resort, Isola Di Cocco etc. More about Poovar later…

We saw a small board on the roadside which says ‘Azhimala Shiva Temple’. We took a right turn here. The road ends at the temple and the beach. The temple offers striking views of the ferocious (maybe due to the monsoons) sea lashing out at the hill on which the small temple is perched. Each wave seemed to compete with its predecessor, in meeting out its vengeance to the hill. With the rains to play umpire, it was a mesmerizing scene to behold; a stark contrast to the docile and timid seas of Kovalam. We took a detour around the temple through the vast coconut grove. The less trodden path led us to a tiny, but beautiful cove at the foot of the hill. We relived our childhood by collecting shells and playing ‘Catch me if you can’ with the waves. If you have never been on a beach during the rains, do add it to the ‘Ten things to do before you die’ list and come, experience the monsoons at Azhimala!

Note:

Like most of the places I write about, there is no crowd here, no shops and hence no food! Hence, be sure to carry your own food.

Azhimala is a small place worth spending an evening. A visit can be best planned along with a visit to nearby Kovalam or Poovar.

There is a popular resort here called ‘Nikki’s Nest’ (http://www.nikkisnest.com/)

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