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Khasakkinte Ithihasam (Legends of Khasak) by O.V. Vijayan – Book Review

khasakkinte ithihasam It is almost 10 years since I first read O.V. Vijayan’s masterpiece novel Khasakinte Ithihasam (Legends of Khasak). Last week I re-read it and I was amazed how subtle and rich in content this novel is! If there is one Malayalam novel you must read, this is the one!

It is said that Malayalam literature can be divided into two periods. Malayalam literature before Khasakkinte Ithihasam and Malayalam literature after Khasakkinte Ithihasam. Trust me, it is not an exaggeration.  Khasakkinte Ithihasam was a revolution in Malayalam literature and even today it remains as one of the best novels ever produced in Malayalam.

Malayalam literature is very young compared to for example English literature. It has also a bleak future since majority of Malayalees think that medium of education should be English. There are very few good novels/stories/poems in Malayalam and I think it will only get worse since Malayalees themselves are ashamed of the language!

I personally believe that in Kerala, Malayalam language education must be made mandatory and it should be the mandatory medium for education for at least up to seventh standard.

Introduction

Khasakkinte Ithihasam is comparatively a small novel(180 pages). It is said that O.V. Vijayan took over 10 years to polish the story in the current form. The book was first published in 1969 and since then it is one of the best sellers in Kerala. This book is also available in an English edition (written in 1994) titled "Legends of Khasak" which is also written by Vijayan. Interestingly the English version is NOT a literal translation of the Malayalam version. I have read both and from my experience the Malayalam one is much better and natural than the English one.

Review of Khasakkinte Ithihasam

The protagonist in Khasakkinte Ithihasam is Ravi, who comes to Khasak(a village in Palakkad) as a teacher. The story begins by the arrival of Ravi in the village and ends when he returns back from there(there is a surprise in the end). In the story we also learn that Ravi is a genius in astrophysics with a post graduate degree in physics.

The story progresses with Ravi’s interaction with the people in Khasak and through this Vijayan weaves an intricate and complex web of human relationships. He brilliantly mixes deep philosophical questions with almost brutal depiction of people at Khasak.

There are many powerful characters in the novel and some of them that stick in your mind are the mentally retarded appukkilli,  Allappicha Mollakka (mullah), Maimoona and Kunhamina. The story is not about Ravi, it is actually a collection of stories of above people in Khasak.

The story is intense and at times very sad. Vijayan mixes myth, reality and his personal experiences very effectively. The story is also notable for its sexual undertones and black humor.

If you have been to Palakkad before and if you visit the place after reading this story you will get a completely different experience. Vijayan’s Khasak is inspired by Thasarak village in Palakkad. The description of the palakkadan village in the novel is so powerful that I found that itself an unforgettable experience! Here is an extract from the first chapter,

അവിടെ ഒരു ബെഞ്ചിലിരുന്നുകൊണ്ടു രവി കൂമൻ-കാവിന്റെ ചിത്രമുൾക്കൊള്ളുവാൻ ശ്രമിച്ചു. നിലത്തറഞ്ഞ തേക്കിൻ-കുറ്റികളിൽ കെട്ടി നിർത്തിയിട്ടുള്ള നാലഞ്ച്‌ ഏറുമാടങ്ങൾ ആയിരുന്നു കൂമൻ-കാവങ്ങാടി. പാതയവസാനിക്കുന്നിടം ചെറിയൊരു മൈതാനമായിരുന്നു. അതിനു ചുറ്റുമാണ്‌ ഏറുമാടങ്ങൾ കിടന്നത്‌. അവയുടെ പുറകിൽ തൂവരക്കാടുകളിലും വാഴക്കൂട്ടങ്ങളിലും നഷ്ടപ്പെട്ട കുടിലുകൾ. അവയ്ക്കെല്ലാം മുകളിൽ ബലിഷ്ടകായന്മാരായ മുത്തച്ചന്മാരെപോലെ പടർന്നു നിന്ന മാവുകൾ. നീല ഞരബോടിയ പരന്ന തണലുകൾ.

The book is small (180 pages) and it is possible to finish it in one sitting. But what I would suggest is to take it slowly. Like a good scotch whisky (chivas regal?), if you take this book one chapter at a time you will enjoy it most. Now this is one novel which can be read multiple times and yet you get a different perspective every time you read it! My guess is that at first Vijayan would have written it as a big novel and trimmed/compressed it to increase its effectiveness.

Details of the book Khasakkinte Ithihasam

khasakkinteithihasam Author : O.V Vijayan
Publisher : D C Books
Number of Pages : 182
Price in India :  Rs. 75
Required Reader Intelligence : High
My Rating : 9.5/10 (don’t die without reading this!)

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Ramakkalmedu hill station in Idukki (tour report/photo review)

Ramakkalmedu is a small village/hill station on the border between Kerala and TamilNadu. It is famous for the strong winds and the breathtaking views of Tamil Nadu villages from the hill top.  If you are looking for a reason for buying a high end binoculars, plan a trip to Ramakkalmedu today!

The name Ramakkalmedu is derived from Rama-kal-medu (Rama’s foot on the rock). According to the folklore, Hindu god Rama had set foot on this rock while searching for his wife Sita abducted by Ravanan. Any way if someone needs to have a bird’s eye view of  Tamilnadu, I don’t think there is a better place than Ramakkalmedu. According to local experts, on a clear day you can get a good view of 6 major towns of Tamilnadu!

Ramakkalmedu was a relatively unknown tourist destination till recently. Thanks to its location (between Munnar and Thekkady) and also due to wind energy farms setup recently, this place now attracts thousands of visitors every day.

How to reach Ramakkalmedu tourist destination?

Ramakkalmedu is located in Idukki district and can be reached from Thekkady-Munnar route. You can find some decent hotels in Nedungandam or Kattappana and both places are nearby.  Ramakkalmedu is about 20kms from Kattappana town and the road is narrow but in good condition.

Ramakkalmedu distance chart

Please note that the distances given below are approximate. Also distance varies depending on the route you take.

Nearest railway station: Changanacherry (90km)
Nearest airport: Madurai (145km) and Cochin International Airport(Nedumbasery – 185km)

Thekkady Ramakkalmedu 40km
Kattappana Ramakkalmedu 20km
Nedunkandam " 15km
Munnar " 70km
Trivandrum " 300km
Ernakulam Ramakkalmedu 150km

 

Check out the following maps for more information.

road map to ramakkalmedu from main town centres

ramakkalmedu close up map

ramakkalmedu map idukki

ramakkalmedu from google earth

In the above Google earth photo, the structure visible on the top right is the "kuravan and kurathi" statue details of which are available below. As you can see that the road takes a sharp right turn on the bottom left of the map. This is where you need to park to go to the biggest mountain which is located towards the left of this junction.

Ramakkalmedu Trip Report (with photos)

I reached Ramakkalmedu in the evening and my family was with me. It was an unplanned visit and hence I was short on time. The experience was so good that I am planning a visit to this place again, only this time I am planning for a trekking expedition.

From Nedumkandam, the road to Ramakkalmedu is narrow, but there are hardly any potholes. As you drive along, you will first see the wind turbines installed for power generation on the right side. It is possible to drive up to a wind turbine, but due to lack of time we decided to head straight to the Ramakkalmedu hill.

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Following is the zoomed photo of a wind turbine visible from main Ramakkalmedu road.

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The main road ends at a small junction and there are couple of shops where you can get tea/drinks and relax a bit.  From this junction, you can either take a right turn and drive up the hill to reach the official Ramakkalmedu or park the car at the junction and take a walk to the left side mountain. The photo below shows the right side road with official welcome sign.

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Again due to lack of time we decided to skip the official place and head straight to the left mountain which is the tallest structure and gives the most beautiful view of TamilNadu vilages!

As you turn left you will get a feeling that you are going into a cave. After about 50 metres you need to take a right turn and then go up the hill.

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Once you start climbing towards the mountain top, you can see the "kuravan and kurathi" statue on the other side of the mountain. The wind at this stage is of medium strength. 

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I am again going up and you can see the kuravan statue on the far right. If you look closely you can see tourists all around the place below. Some of the images can be clicked to get a bigger view.

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Following is the rock you need to climb in order reach the top most place on Ramakkalmedu. It is not easy (especially since winds are strong)!

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Towards the right side you can see the Tamil nadu stretching out to eternity! You must see it to feel it!

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As you start walking towards the zenith of this hill, the wind speed gradually increases. There is a narrow road which leads to the last rock on the top. This path is dangerous as slip will cause you to fall down.  The height of fall will be so big that you will get time to repent about all your sins if you are to fall down. The white patch is the valley which cannot be focused by the camera!

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This rock below is popular with bachelors. It is much below the main rock, but gives you a feeling that you are floating on air.

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The winds at Ramakkalmedu are very strong and continuous and hence is an ideal place for Wind power units. The average wind speed is about 30km/hr and I have a feeling at certain areas it could go as high as 60km/hr and more.

Luckily the sky was clear and we could see Tamil nadu in all its glory as can be seen below. For a travel addict, this is the moment of orgasm!

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Following towns are captured using zoom. Some of the towns that can be seen are Kambam, Kudallur and Theny.

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Wind farms at Ramakkalmedu

Kerala chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan inaugurated the wind farm power generation unit at Ramakkalmedu on 27th April 2008.  Currently there are 14 wind farm units which supply power to KSEB grid at Kallar.  The cost of setting up a unit is around Rs. 4 crores and the power is sold to KSEB at a rate of 3.15 paise per unit. The wind farm units are installed with the help of Danish experts from Vestar Denmark and are being run by private companies.

windfarms at ramakkalmedu

It is estimated that from Ramakkalmedu alone 50MW of electricity can be generated from wind energy. Wind energy is the best energy source since there is zero pollution.

One interesting adventure will be to trek from the Ramakkalmedu top to one of these wind turbines. I guess for that you will need to have a team and start early morning.

Kuravan & Kurathi at Ramakkalmedu

The Kuravan & Kurathi statue is designed and built by C.B. Jinan and is the signature structure of Ramakkalmedu. This statue was erected in August 2005 and most tourists head straight to this place. The view of the Tamilnadu is not as good as from the other side. Kuravan & Kurathi is a native tribe of Idukki and  according to legend, Idukki dam (which is Kerala’s biggest power source) was proposed by a Kuravan. There is a resting place behind this statue.

kuravan

Interestingly you will find ice cream vendors even on the hill top during evenings. There are some guys who are selling liquor. But you should stay away from it unless you went there planning to commit suicide.

Dangers at Ramakkalmedu

There are hidden dangers at Ramakkalmedu. Sometimes wind can be very strong and it is never a good idea to go to the mountain cliff. There are stories of people falling down and committing suicide. According to locals, retrieving the body of someone who had fallen requires experts since the slop is almost 90 degrees!

Also if you are taking your family along, return before sunset. It becomes dark pretty quickly and you may find yourself in a scary situation. There are also broken glass on the top, so lookout for them.

While filming my family, some guy came behind me and said – "njanum photoyil kerattey"? It may sound innocent, but bands of bachelors can be deadly if you are in a vulnerable situation.

Summary

Ramakkalmedu an ideal place to spend an evening or to go for some real trekking expedition. This is one place where you can’t go in our traditional dress (mundu) – well you can if you don’t mind getting naked :-)

This article will be updated after my next visit to Ramakkalmedu. I have a feeling that I have missed a lot of important/interesting stuff  at Ramakkalmedu and of course the thrill of trekking is too good to miss.

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Veli lake and tourist village at Trivandrum – a photo review

It is unfortunate that even today authentic/informative articles on Kerala’s tourist attractions are missing on the Web. So from this week, I am starting an article series under the category "Kerala Travel Diary". In these articles I will try to capture the beauty of each tourist place I visit along with detailed photographs and location maps.

This week I will introduce you to the Veli Tourist Village near Trivandrum airport.

Introduction

Veli is a very popular picnic spot in Trivandrum and is heavily crowded during weekends. The major attractions here include boating in the Veli lagoon, a nearby beach, children’s park, games, horse riding and a lot of disgusting/beautiful(take your pick!) artwork on stone and grass by sculptor Kaanayi Kunjiraman. Veli is about 7 kilometres from the city centre and is very near to Trivandrum airport. You can catch a KSRTC bus (route number 155) or hire a taxi from the city. If you have your own vehicle, there is plenty of parking space. There are two parking slots and the second one which is a bit away from the park entrance has always free space.

Veli Tourist Village is open from 8AM to 6PM. Since Trivandrum has no night life and any night time activity is a playground of anti-social elements the park closes at 6PM.

There is a youth hostel near Veli, but I don’t know whether it is a convenient place to stay.

How to reach Veli Tourist Resort

When you come from Trivandrum city, you need to take the airport road which crosses NH bypass. Take the road which goes to Kochu Veli railway station and after about a kilometre from the railway station you will find the "Veli Tourist Village" sign board. If you continue driving through this road you will reach Vettukadu church and then Sanghumugham beach. The roads here are well maintained, but beware of unmarked speed bumps!

Veli Satellite Map (Click to view on Google Maps)

veli location map

Veli Google Earth Map

veli lake resort from google earth

Veli Travel Report

The entrance to Veli tourist centre is narrow and on the right you can see the ticket counter. A single ticket costs Rs.5 and there is no fee for camera.

veli tourist place entrance

After entering the tourist village, take a right turn and the first thing you will notice is a stone work by Kanayi Kunjiraman. I have no clue as to what it is, but thankfully Kanayi likes to call it "sunset"! But for the curious minded this thing is a time pass. You get a different perspective as you move around this stone work.

first kanayi stonework in veli

After having a good look at sunset, continue walking towards right end of the park and  you will see an abandoned children’s slider pool. Unfortunately this is not maintained for a long time. Don’t even think you allowing your children to play in it unless you want them to get cholera or something similar. This a symbol of government inefficiency and lack of any real interest in maintaining this tourist spot.

abandoned childrens slider pool at veli

Continue walking and you will come across a fish pool and adjacent to the pool you will find some exceptional coconut trees. People say that coconut tree produces more coconuts when they are located near humans. The coconut trees near a house produces more coconuts than the one away due to this reason. It is probably due to the sheer number of people who visit Veli that coconut trees here are full of coconuts. That itself is view to wonder at!

coconut explosion at veli

On the left of the fish pool you will find a grass artwork by Kanayi Kunjiraman. This is a nude and provocative artwork of a woman lying on the beach. It is something many people are ashamed to enjoy! I still wonder why feminists have not yet found this offensive! :-)Anyway Kanayi seems to have "female body weakness"!

matsya kanyaka at veli

Fish pool is big but is not maintained well (it stinks) and the water level is much lower than it used to be. Still you can find some fish (Karimeen etc.) in the pool. Earlier feeding fishes was attractive activity, but not anymore since the number of fishes are too low and they are obviously overfed!

They should have filled this with water and could have provided small peddle boats for couples/families. But who cares!

veli fish pond

fishes in the pond

From the pool, take a left turn and you will cross a small bridge. After this you can see more of Kanayi’s stone artwork. Finally you will reach the Veli lakeside which stretches from beach side to Aakkulam. You can also see the road/railway track crossing the lake. There is a footpath on the right side which stretches up to Aakkulam. You can relax on the footpath or walk all the way up to Aakulam. There is also a good toddy shop (food was good when I went there) on this route. It appears that on the other side of the lagoon a resort is being built.

kanayi stone work at veli village

boating in veli lake

veli to aakkulam footpath via the lakeside

Take a left turn again and you will reach the boat jetty. You can purchase tickets for various boat types (speed boat, peddle boat etc.). This place also has a pigeon cage which houses some exotic types. You can relax here in the sun shade and buy drinks/food from here. The coconut water here seems to very diluted and I wouldn’t recommend it. Probably if you are rich enough you can buy the packed energy drink red bull from KTDC stall.

what you can eat at veli

boat jetty at veli lake

Speed boating is exciting and if you want complete privacy you should go for peddle boating. Don’t forget to put on life jackets. The safari boat goes up to Aakulam bridge and the ride is an interesting experience. High speed boat costs Rs.750 and carry 6 people at a time.

boating rates at veli tourist village

After the boating experience, continue walking towards the left end of the park. You will be able to see the sea far away. On the way you will come across a floating restaurant operated by KTDC. Sitting on the top deck of this in the evening is an experience. Unfortunately the food is costly and the service is bad. What I would recommend is to order something light from here just to spend time on the deck and have your food somewhere else.

view of the footpath leading to veli beach

veli floating restaurant ktdc

In order to reach the beach on the left end, you need to cross a floating bridge on the lake. The creaky wood platform is a bit scary at first, but it seems fairly stable. Still I would advise that you cross only when the load on the bridge is less. Sometimes the bridge can be jam packed (especially in the evenings), so you might have to wait for sometime you can cross.

floating bridge at veli

After crossing the floating bridge you will come across a set of small shops where there is plenty of chairs for you to relax and enjoy some coconut drink. You can also go for horse riding, but personally I don’t think it is a good idea for kids considering the risks. Behind these shops you will find a game stall and a small children’s park. The game of chance (where you will get 6 rings for Rs. 5 to try your luck on precision throwing) is addictive.

fun and games at veli tourist centre

And the next stop is the beach. The waves here are strong and don’t venture too much into the beach (especially since there are no life guards here!). Your enthusiasm may disappear if I say that the city drainage joins the sea not very far from here!

Trip Summary – Veli Tourist Village

Veli is one of the best picnic spots in Trivandrum. The best time to visit this place is either early morning or in the evening. There are a lot of activities at this place and you can easily spend half a day here. Government inefficiency is all around, but still it is not as bad as in many other tourist places.

Travel Destination – Veli Tourist Centre
Geographical coordinates:  8° 31′ 0" North, 76° 53′ 0" East
Time of Visit – Around 3PM
Date of Review – June 2008
Last Updated on – June 2008

Share your Veli experience in the comments section below.

Note :- If you want to publish your tour experiences in Kerala, send me the detailed article along with your name and Web site (if any). I will feature your article in this section.

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British library closure in Trivandrum

british library British library in Trivandrum was one of the best resource for books. When I was young, I found it a very peaceful place to spend time in learning. They also provided free Internet service for a long time. Sadly all good things must come to an end. So the British council decided to close it from February (they were spending over a crore rupees per year).

What is very funny about this is the reaction from politicians. Our chief minister visited the library ordered the British "NOT to close" the library. Unions were formed to protect the staff at the library. What are they going to do?  Are they going to organize strikes in London demanding that they should operate library in Trivandrum? 

Now consider this. Trivandrum is also home to the State public library which is the largest in the state.  This is run by Kerala government and it is pathetic to say the least. I have been a member there and it is one of the worst places you can visit. Almost all the reference books have missing pages and the behaviour of the staff is unpleasant.  This is located very near to British library. So why can’t we create memberships for all those who had membership in British library and save them?

The fact is there is no comparison between British library and our state public library. Kerala government is probably spending more than the British to manage public library, but all that goes as salary and other corruption charges. If you visit the Malayalam books section, it is so dusted that you may get asthma!!

So here is my advice to all the British library fans. Just forget about it and learn how to use Internet for your information requirements.

Photo credit :  British Council Site.

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2 Funny videos from Technopark Trivandrum – Jaada and Technoparkian

Here are two funny videos made by techies at Technopark, Trivandrum.

This one is titled “Jaada at Work”. Depicts a typical client visit. The funny part is at the very end :)

This one was made during Tech-a-break event last year. Looks at the daily life of a technoparkian. This one has a professional touch!

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