This is a mildly written long stay travel experience when a person (I) forced to travel to a remote area on government duty. The place which was far flung,almost cut-off, unpredictable rains, fear of animals, food mismatch, less frequency of transport, completely alone climbing hills daily and so on so forth….. This is the story of 1984. Now Idduki with its sister Munnar is heaven for tourists. See Munnar in http://anandbharat.com/bg/2016/06/12/munnar-a-queen/
This is my first travel experience to South India. I spent all my youth in North and most of the time in Uttarakhand Hills (Earlier called Uttar Pradesh Kumaon and Garhwal Region). I would like to share my good and unique long duration first travel experience in South India.
I am sorry photos are not good enough and adding to memory these fotos were taken by camera Kodak Click III (Rs.55 as I remember), given as gift to me by my father in 1972.
Introduction of Idduki : Year of travel : Nov,1984
Idukki is one of the 14 districts of Kerala state, India, created on 26 January 1972. It lies in the Western Ghats of Kerala,India. It is the second largest district in area but has the least population density. Idukki has a vast forest reserve area. The urban areas are thickly populated whereas villages are sparsely populated.
It has area of 4,479 Sq.KM and rugged mountains and forests cover about 97 percent of the total area of the District.
Here is my experience in detail.
I remember my visit to Idduki in 1984 Nov when I stayed for about 3 months continuously and some times frequenting to Munnar also. I was very young and newly married. I was asked to travel to Idduki on official assignment of setting up microwave link between Idduki and Munnar.
Actually my office was in Allahabad, North of India and some engineers refused to go to this remote place as they were afraid of elephants, food issues and frequent rain and landslide. They told that there is nothing much available to eat except beef.
This exactly was the kind of experience of travel and kind of work I was yearning for and I think this was the point where my love towards travel aroused. I am thankful to Idduki for that.
The trip was one of the most memorable trips so far made and I think it is ten levels above my all travel experiences including foreign assignments anywhere and even my long stays in Kumaon and Garhwal regions or Eastern India..
I started from Allahabad (North of India) and reached Ernakulam by train. After coming out of Rly Station I looked for bus stand. I think I was asked to catch bus for Muvattupuzha but I could not pronounce it properly and I reached some other bus stand. It was getting darker and finally after 1 hour I came to know that I am on wrong bus stand. I did not know that pronunciation will land me in this trouble.
Some how I reached right bus stand and caught bus for Idduki. I thought my sufferings are over now.
But again pronunciation issue defeated me and people in bus were not able to understand “Idduki” and in hurry I got down one station before called Painav. By chance there was a BSNL Office and they dropped me to Idduki. I was really not believing now that I reached at right place.
In 1984 there was only one lodge in Idduki called Saint George Lodge. It was a below average hotel. I dumped by luggage in hotel room and came out in search of dinner. I could find only one restaurant in whole of that area. They served mainly beef and in veg was only kerala chapati and grams (chana). That was my first encounter with Kerala chapati. But I liked the dish and felt yes I can be alive here on these 2 things.
I wondered that there were many foreigners staying in this hotel. Whole night they would dance and make noise. I saw them dancing on road also. Later I came to know that Idukki was famous for Ganja agriculture those days.
Next day I came out to catch bus for office and eventually Microwave was to be setup on a hill in place called Painav. There was a small BSNL Office , the same people who dropped me to Idduki the very first day.
Painav to Idukki is about 30 KM as I remember. The bus was good and was somewhat different from what we see in north. I think windows were different and with some covering due to rain. I liked the bus. In rain water would come inside the bus.
I reached “Painav” I think in 30-40 mins. I went up the hill ( I think I walked about not less than 5 KM) and reached top. A small building was already ready for Microwave installation. I thought this 10 KM walk up and down will be my daily business? But it was not.. It was my first day and I had to come down for lunch again 10 KM up and down. So in total I had to walk 20 KM on hill up and down.
I understood why people were refusing to come here.
I came down and found a small hotel which served only and only Sambhar, sea fish and brown rice, jeera hot water to drink . I had not seen such thick brown rice before but fortunately I was non vegetarian. So somehow I swallowed food. This routine continued for 15 days and I think my weight would have lost to half ??
Moreover talking to my home town was very difficult and only land line was there and I managed to talk from BSNL office when I was down the hill. After about 15-20 days I got accustomed to this place and one day I covered about 35 KM distance( Hotel to Painav Office) on foot to enjoy Kerala hills which I started loving.
In between some schools were there and as soon as children saw me they daily used to leave class and come out shouting at me as “foreigner- foreigner”. I had that time a feeling of being foreigner.
I also saw 2-3 Malyalam movies like “Sambharbham” and “My dear Kutti Chatham” (1st 3D movie in India) in Idukki.
I was really now not repenting of coming here in spite of food , living hardships I was happy.
After a month one radio engineer named AK Sarkar joined me at Idduki as the Microwave link was setup at Idduki and same operation was to be done at Munnar. Just see the fate.
We had to catch bus from Idduki to Munnar at about 4 PM and we missed the bus. Believe me the same bus met accident and all were dead.
This news we came to know next day and when my wife saw this news in TV in Patna she fell unconscious and unfortunately I could contact her only after 3 days.
It was memorable trip.
Anyway we reached Munnar. It was a splendid hill station. Our job again was that to setup microwave link at Munnar and make it live between Idduki and Munnar. This place was a better and more populated than Idduki and many good hotels were there and was enough to enjoy.
You can imagine the joy of going to Tea field hill top daily , working there and then coming back in evening.
Here I had not to run from top of hill to bottom as I used to do in Idduki due to fear of elephants in night while returning.
I had a memorable time with a few locals Baby, Johnson, Gopi and Thomas there in Idduki and even I want to meet them but now I think we will not recognize each other. This is life, colours of life and past of life.This is why past is always melodious,lingering.It is in our hand to make life Malgudi days.
Thanks to my old company ITI Ltd to give me this chance and finally link between Idduki and Munnar was operational and it was a landmark history of first ever radio link between the two hills.
Today what I feel in 2016.
If we really want to see and feel the beauty and read soul of hills we should stay there for a month or two. Trek alone in hills and forest around aimlessly. Take tea in some local shops , talk to people. I did not have again such long duration of travel to hills and enjoy its beauty of whispering tea gardens, fog roaming on hills, singing rains. I feel today it is in our hand to make past melodious.