Jan 6, 2009

Our Winter Annual Mela -27-29 Dec , Kochi

Our group of friends ( Ex-Elgi , Coimbatore) have a ritual of making at least one trip in every year , which is happening almost consistently since 1990 . Few have left the country , few new faces have been introduced in the group , what we started off as 8 bachelors on essentially biking trips has matured into mellowed affairs accommodating close to 25 with the addition of beloved wives and children.but the underlying principles remain the same- Make merry as if there is no tomorrow

Being the organizer for so many trips , i started off as early as July. As soon as the Location was finalized , browsed for several hours and realized Fort Kochi is the place to stay in Kochi . After several enquiries and gaping at the astronomical room rates-Globalism to the core , almost all quote in Euro and upwards of 70 per night -finally settled on Prem's Homestay ( clean and economical - 0484 2215269 , ~ Rs. 1000 / per night , Non A/c )
It was a well co-ordinated plan , involving few travelling by Train and the Rest by Road from Coimbatore . Initially 28 members were enrolled ,but to our disappointment there were last minute cancellations ,bringing down the tour strength to 20 and escalating pro-rata budgets
Started on 27th morning around 8.30 AM, in a modified 407 (21 seats inside , with A/C ,which was not working along with Fans) . Packed breakfast from Aarya was not upto the mark . PSP (Poi Solla Porem) kept us engrossed on the journey and reached Ernakulam by 1.45 PM ,matching with Sabari Express in which couple of ladies of our group chose to travel , comforting their Backs.Started to Fort Kochi thru' MG road, Not so broad road packed to brim ,restricted further by parking and it was like a procession all the way to the cross to Willingdon Island .
Reached Fort Kochi by 3.00 PM exasperated and to keep down the hunger pangs , went in search of a good Restraunt near Nijaliparambu , but could manage one small shack' Lucky Star' . Had some paraottas and Appams and settled for Siesta in our rooms
Travelled again to Ernakulam Jetty for our night cruise . Arranged thru' Ronnesh of Maria Travels , who has arranged Kettuvallam 'Santa Monica' party boat for our cruise along with Dinner ( Rs1500 / per hr and Rs150 per Dinner Plate) . The boat had 2 Decks and the downstairs has a Dance floor with cushions on the side to sit , eat or Drink
We had a great party with few of our group swaying to Tamil numbers and we had ample drinks to keep the spirits up . After 3 hours and filling Dinner , we said good-bye and proceeded to our homestay
Although we wanted to take the Van across to Cherai Beach by barge next day morning , Van driver negated that and we had to settle for Fort Kochi beach itself . It is a small beach ( on backwaters?) with medium size of crowd in the early hours . Drenched ourselves wet , clicked to our satisfaction and walked back (10 min. walk from the House) . After homemade Breakfast ( Bread +Omelet) , by 11 AM our Caravan finally started towards Mattancherry

Jewish synagogue was closed and we had only Dutch palace to see . Not much to see , except for Murals of Ramayana and few ancient things . As renovation was going on, most of the palace was out of bounds . It was quite interesting to note the observation windows with comfortable wooden seating to observe the private pools from the first floor (What a jolly life , the Kings had ?)...

Our group scattered around shopping for souvenirs and Raja led us to taste the Local brew . After quite a detour , we finally located 'Sea Gull' the sea-food restaurant . They serve Beer on the house and the Fish curry is par excellence . Being a busy Sunday Lunch , was heavily crowded and the service suffered
Our Sunset Cruise , arranged by Prem picked us up from Sea Gull's Ferry point itself and it was an ordinary boat with shoddy seating and covers . But the crew compensated with all requests ( let the group member try steering the ship , sitting anywhere on the ship and helping to take Titanic snaps) . We were able to see the small villages , which were picture perfect . Only sour items was polythene covered latrines (?) , placed right on the edge of the water by several houses . There were palatial mansions offering impressive view of the water front , wish we could get to stay in one of these for a day or two

Briefly had a halt at Bolgatty island , nothing except for Golf course and waterfront Honey-moon villas . Sunset was brief against the backdrop of Chinese fishing nets ( which are over-hyped mechanical fishing nets)

The non-stop touring took the toll on Ladies , who preferred just to retire to the room instead of continuing with our planned Dinner feast with Fish you buy from the Market . Several things conspired to take the entire group edgy that night, starting with mis-communication , group splitting and Van Driver being the chief-wrecker of the evening with non co-operation . Hence we bought Fish from the Market gave to Sea Queen Restaraunt ( I guess ) right on the Jetty . Beware of this Hotel , never ever set foot here as they are bunch of crooks .Since we asked them to pack food , they cheated us royally , packing much less than we ordered and paid .
Like all the wrecked souls , we sought solace from our Dear Friend Mr.John (alias Johnny Walker dressed in Black) , who managed to sooth us instantly and got us going on the Long night. No one was expected /prepared for hitherto silent Mams Senthil ,erupting like a Volcano and engulfing us with Romeo adventures of the past . After a long time our group settled into their slumber , we returned to Ground Zero ..

After un fit-ful sleep for few hours , woke up with massive headache , which got cleared with a Hot Chai and a walk to the Beach . All the party group had a massive breakfast of Idiyappam , Parotta and Maggi Noodles as most of us could not eat any Dinner , wasting so much .
After checkingout and courtesy phots with our hosts , we were on our way by 10.30 or so.

We had contests 'Anthakshri' and 'Dumb Charades' hosted by Raja and Ramya between the Male and Female teams en route and this perked up the morning gloom . As usual our team lost , but kept everyone engaged . Raja's enactment of BillA was a classic !!We were going to KodaNadu and Kaprikaad , for which we need to divert from Perumbavoor (enroute on Kochi- Coimbatore) . Driver again played spoil-sport i think, taking the straight route instead of shorter option and we reached KaodaNadu Elephant Center by around 1.00 PM . Much to our chagrin , this center is closed on Mondays . After debating and a detouring , we finally landed in Kaprikkad . There is cool , quite, calm River flowing by with nice jungle trekking options. Just had an Ice cream and photos on the banks of the impressive sight is all we had for 3 rd day . Iyer had his share of fun barging into couple in their Kissing Act inside their Car asking for directions .. The Guy totally flustered mumbled something and sped off to some uninhabitable place .
Lunch was on the corner of Koadnadu park , typical Kerala Lunch with Red Rice and other fare . It was delicious and everyone was elated with the Lunch fare . Grudgingly started towards Kochi to drop off the group taking the Train journey and this time we reached Kochi in hour and 30 min , entertained ourselves with the movies . Met Sundaraj , near Thrisoor and after a Drinks break , reached 'Aaram' for so-so Dinner .
Post-tour when we met up for New Year's Eve and Naren Hari's birthday party , there were complaints on leaving out Chottanikkara on the tour . We could always plan for a Pilgrimage around Dakshin Kannada ( Udupi) , which might happen this year 2009..Keep a tab on your mails and please do send Tour advances when requested to avoid unfair escalation of budgets .

Enchanting 3 days with the Nature and TEA !

Myself and wife wanted to take a break and we alone went to Glendale's Runnymeade Tea Estate's Guest House on Dec 22nd . I had booked ahead , impressed with their website description of the property and of course the price ( Rs2000 / night , 6 Kms before Coonoor , Ph: 0423 - 2206779)

Runnymeade Bungalow is surrounded by hillocks of Tea plantations on 3 sides and the remaining side is the Ooty main Road . But the Bungalow is at least 80 m down from the Road , hence there is nothing but the nature and the ubiquitous Tea that pervades you once you enter the property. Although this old bungalow has 3 Bed Rooms , needs a face-lift ,but satisfies with the basic amenities . It has a common lounge where there is a TV with cable connection and a Dining and Kitchen . Lawn is limited and plants are being planted and supposed to be blooming , come the Summer 2009
As we disembarked from our vehicle on the first gate of the property , my wife who got down and slipped after stepping onto tender coconut shell , which nearly spoilt the whole trip . Initially she was fine and as the time progressed , she had immense pain and could not walk few steps , relieved only by the Pain-killers. With that our Honeymoon went down the drain !

But this property boasts a wonderful cook ( Sekar) cum care-taker , who makes delicious food and too courteous , rendering a truly Royal treatment . We just need to give some money and he would go to the Market and buy the necessary items and start cooking , what you need .. South Indian , Chinese and Kebabs , no problems .Sekar would treat you to sumptuous food. And Lemon Tea is a class apart .. Never tasted anything closer , simply loved the Tea .

And i started on my 'Project 2010' document ,elucidating career options once my current job become redundant ( Yeah ! this is very much a possibility !) . Made some progress on that estimated how much i should earn at the minimum to keep present level of Living ..

The thing most liked out of this trip was refreshing , solitary walks inside the Tea estate at every Dawn ( nearly ) and Dusk . It was uplifting , simply breathing the fresh , moist , cool and oxygen laden air and walk at your pace on kachha paths formed from time immemorial from Tea pickers. It is hard to not to fall in love and romanticizing the green carpeted mountains and occasional streams . The brilliant and unique part is you are devoid of any 'non' nature things except for primitive worker quarters . Yours truly and 1000 acres or so of Tea Estates of Runnymeade ( my guess) has to deal one-to-one and i had a fabulous time watching , gaping , 'Awe' ing at the beauty and the rare opportunity to bond with the Nature and Tea ( of course)

This property boasts a unique , our Heritage Blue mountain Train cuts across the Tea Estate evey day twice , adding to nice photo-ops . I have not prepared for it , but perflexed by the amount of smoke the train emits and the extent of pollutants , killing the oxygen

And marvelled at the people who live in these environment and resilient and adjusted to the Rules of the Land . I had a great trouble on 2nd morning , climbing a steep hillock -panting , hoofing and my Lungs stretched to its limits -struggling to feed oxygen to support the climbing effort , whereas the guys who work and live there breezing thru' the climbs , happily chit-chatting . It dawned on me , materialistic comforts makes transitioning to other Lifestyle/ Environment almost impossible and adaptation time is huge and goes higher with your age

We went to Ooty on the 2nd day ( what can be considered a sin if you do not visit Ooty having gone to Nilgiris ) and visited Rose Garden , maintained by the Horticulture Dept . Huge park dedicated to Roses , but not brimming with Roses , guess all activities are tuned to climax for the Summer . Took some snaps and practiced on Macro-close-up shots with my camera . Need to learn how to avoid sun glare , while taking close-ups distorting the true colors of the flowers Went to Shin-Kose for Lunch and crowded a bit , making the service slower and thought food quality was not of the same standard of yester-years.
Final day just started working on my story outline ( this was the first premise of the trip) and came out OK after a filling and tasty Breakfast . Sekar's pongal and Avial for the Lunch was superb .
Left for Coimbatore around 3 PM with the nice memories and vow to come back again for another bonding session and Sekar's food ..

Nov 13, 2008

Law(less) students clash in Chennai

Yesterday night , finding sleep hard to come by , as usual scanning the TV channels ..

Totally shocked , shaken to the core by the visuals on SUN News on the clashes that broke between the students of Chennai Law College and the Police choosing to watch the spectacle with senseless awe with absolute inaction. Seems like the Guy ( Bharthi Kannan) instigated the mob fury with his sword act initially , but the kind of assault on the befallen on this poor guy is BLOOD CURLING .. I don't want that kind of punishment to my even worst enemy .. Pained and boiled at the same time , seeing the Life slowly taken out of the helpless student ,by the angry , unruly student group and could not sleep for a long time pondering on the following

  • First thing that struck me , why the senseless violence among the student community , when they are supposed to pursue a worthy education and career ? How does this gets inoculated and expressed in such an extreme fashion ? Where are we failing in getting the Social values imbibed in the education ? How did the Barbaric ways has not left us even after the humanity progressed in several levels?

  • Am shuddered by the 'Doomsday tomorrow ' that we are facing - The so-called law students , who went berserk breaking all the basic laws of education , are going to the future custodians of law enforcement and we might have to have to encounter these thugs , masquerading as Lawyers for Legal consultations

  • It is utterly stupid to read the reason for police inaction is that they were waiting for the College to summon their help . They prefer to abide the superior orders and remain as an anaesthesiated patient and watched a student gored to near death , in front of shocked public ,adjacent to esteemed High Courts .. Even though i hear , 7 police officials have been put under suspension today , I am still simmering on their ineptitude . First of all they are Humans and they should be conscient towards fellow Human tragedy and more so from their responsibility as a law & order enforcer .. TN Police , you have a created a earned yourself an un-erasable ugly scar on your face , that will haunt you for several more years , at the least..

  • What the heck the College Administration was doing when it was known that students armed with deadly weapons ( Knives , Wooden logs , Tubelights..) are congregating right from 2.00 PM in open sight and waiting for the students to come from the Examinations , reaching a crescendo by 4.00 PM? I can never get a better example than this for ' Failing in duty' .. Is there any IPC clause to punish for causing mayhem by inaction ?. The Principal is very much culpable of the offense..

  • India is still ages behind our western countries in overall progress and shamelessly touting ourselves as Next Superpower prompted by occasional heroic achievements in Technology , Business or Chandrayan or Cricket.. When are we going to overcome this caste and religion divides and progress as one country , one citizen , one goal .. I am losing hope that i will not see in my Lifetime .. It is said that we Indians have the distinction of endowed with more than a million Gods , blessing our Lives .. Wish they turn their attention to sanitise Indian minds ..

Sep 22, 2008

SabariMala Pilgrimage- Final Part- 22 Sep

The Descent

By the time Alarm struck , other group was getting ready and we slowly got our senses back. My systems started working after a cup of good coffee ( Restaurant above MN Nambiyar's Guest House) . We went to the Temple before 6 AM in search of our priest for Neyyabhiskeham. It was a great Saturday morning , misty and cold and Devotees milling and Saranams echoing the air . The hill is thickly canopied with green top and virgin forest .Truly he kept to his word , before that he asked to pay the Dakshinai in Advance .

We got our own Ghee back in no time after offer to the Good( Queue would have taken easily few hours) and requested for Darshan , beating the queue . So a policeman was informed , he offered to take us in batches . After some delicate movements, crowd surge &mild curses and in-action from controlling Policemen , we managed to reach the outer Sannidhanam and managed to get a very satisfying Darshan .. This time managed to get a glimpse of Him having his favoutie offering 'Ghee' and managed to wrestle myself from the pushing crowd , standing firm and had intimate conversation with Him . It was all gratifying and brought some instant peace and comfort ,truly developing the sense that He is going to with you in hard times . Had a mini-breakfast at the morning cafe ( very good food , recommended ) .

Sathish and Hari distributed the Holy Ghee to individuals in small containers ( we used that opportunity to click a few shots 1, 2, 3)and after offering our prayers to other Gods and purchased prasadam (Appam and Payasam in sealed cans ) we started down , surprised to find Padinettam Padi was litereally empty.

When we started our descent , sky opened up and we bought plastic covers for Rs.10 to cover ourselves and trekked down gingerly . Ramesh wisely bought a chappal and decided to walk instead of using a Dholi . Walking down in the rain was hard as feet becomes soft and every pebble and stone started probing our delicate skin, used to confines to cushy shoes. Steep declines with paved stones testing our stability and had to walk gingerly and slowly , seemingly never ending descent .. Felt Descent was harder , given my knees fallibility and my weight .. Heaved a big sigh of relief , once i reached the bottom of the Hill .

Slowly reached the Car and finally started off our return leg at 11.30 AM in pampa , taking the shorter route to Erumeli. We unanimously decided to have a go at the remaining food and fruits and managed to feed ourselves with healthy snacks before unsettled stomach threatened to strike with a Headache around 3 PM . This time we managed to locate a decent restaurant quickly , which was ( Ananda Bhavan )in Angalmali . Refill raised our spirits and we started discussing the plans for our next trip to Cochin and our Gurusamy's different avatharams in the past .. நான் அவன் இல்லை would be the to the topic of discussion for our forthcoming trip in December

By the time , got down from the Car at my house in Coimbatore , ankles were aching badly . Had a foot massage and boarded the train back to Chennai . Removed the Maalai at the Temple and warily climbed stairs to my house on the 1st floor with feet ankle suburbs swollen .

Decided to do something to quell the pain , wife applied 'Myoxil' Ayurvedic oil and tuned myself to Harivarasanam on my Mobile .. Inexplicably, i had incredible pain relief and swelling reduced significantly in less than an hour .. At that very instant , decided i should make the trip again next year .. Swamiye Saranam..

Thanks a ton for reading despite testing your patience at times..

Sabarimala Pilgrimage - Part 4- 22 Sep 2008

The Ascent

Settled into the comfort of A/c Innova , we started off to SabariMala , hoping to make ASAP in time for Padi-pooja . Once we boarded the Car , our stomachs started announcing their emptiness , we decided to reach out-skirts of Coimbatore and address the issue

After stopping near Madukkari with the anticipation of having a snack of Pongal and Sundal, brought in my mother-in-law , we found only Sundal . Hari was disappointed , although we had a tender coconut to cool-off . We started off , looking in either direction for proper Vegetarian fare , but the time and places went by without luck . Finally we found Brahmin hotel near Palgaht offering only Dosai ( i felt it was partially cooked ,Master would have been in a hurry to close the Morning tiffin show ) . We filled up and started around 11.30 AM , vowing to make up for the lost time .

One major irritant was our Car's CD player did not work and can accept only pen drive (All my creative song mixing for 2 days went by the drain) . To break the monotony of travel , we chatted and starting engaging our stomach with variety fare ( Fruits neatly cut by Sathish , Biscuits , Chips...) . We covered a whole lot of topics ( Best ways to dter customers chasing their orders , Beauty of Kerala villages and their insistence to get back to their roots) and we reached Erumeli via Trissur , Angamali , Moovatupuzha , Pala , Ponkunnam around 3.30 or so . By the time , felt the familar rumblings and promptly decided to take Lunch . Maharaja Hotel offered grand choice of Appam or Parotta with இனம் புரியாத Gravy .. Our Gurusamy insisted we should do ' Pettai Thullal' at the Temple as we had Kannisamy . Kannisamy's are sprayed with colors just like Holi and supposed to Dance with abondon , accompanied by மேளம்

When we reached the Temple , we were informed it would open by 5.00 PM and decided not to wait , prayed and marched ahead . We saw several Kannisami's attired in the proper way enroute .

From Erumeli , there are 2 routes to Pampa, one is shorter by at least by 15-20 Kms . We took the longer one and reached Pampa by 5 PM . We were left wondering , although we saw very few Ayyapapa vehicles en route , there were far too many vehicles at Pampa and fairly good crowd at Pampa swelling by every minute .. We were not expecting such crowd , in off-season .. On the next-day , found vehicle parking extneded at least a KM further , affirming the growing rise of poularity of Ayyappa !

We had a bath in Pampa river , cold and surprisingly clean . We got energised to say the least after the bath and all pumped for the hike with Irumudi tied to our head with the Towel . We prayed at Ganapathy temple and after offering coconut , we were off to our hike .

We noticed good amount of Tourist devotees ( without Irumudi) visiting the Temple in all sorts of attire ( including a fully equipped hiker with T-shirt , Bermudas and hiking shoes , perhaps honing his hiking skills) and Ladies and Children .

Our initial burst of adrenaline rush soon evaporated , replaced by hoofs and pantings . Ramesh was worst sufferer , with his huge body mass refusing to collaborate . Dholi ( 4 men carry the the end of steel poles attached with a comfort chair where the person sits) guys , returning saw Ramesh heaving and sensed the opportunity akin to vulture chasing a kill , followed us for sometime , before we waved them off . We managed to cajole him to climb till Appachi Medu and with one sheer look of the next steep section , his mind and body caved in , settling for 'Dholi'.

We continued our arduous climb slowly . 2 nd steep was a monster and by the time reached the Top , i was breathing like ventilator in ICU . After re-hydrating with Lime soda , we continued to face issues with climb , this time small stones hurting our soft soles . With Ayyappa saranam or anything to divert the mind to , the pain became considerably tolerable . We regrouped at the entrance to Sannidhanam and proceed towards Padinettam padi ,jam packed with Devotees .

Dismayed to find there is no crowd control to regulate the devotees or to prevent the Tourists without Irumudi to climb . Although I was pulled back again on the 1st step by the chaotic crowd , managed to reach the Top safely.. The queue to gold topped சந்நிதானம் was not that long ( 20 min or so) , but so many were sneaking into the line , which is deplorable . Ramesh was agitated and managed to crush out a couple of intruders successfully , with deft manovuers of his bulk

Lord was at his best , glowing against mound of flowers and brightly lit oil-lamps . We managed to get the Darshan for a few seconds , still it was sufficient to have a 1-1 conversation with Him and put forth our prayers . Do not expect to get any Prasad and before you could react , you are pushed out with the surging crowd and police , wondering how a few privilaged VIP getting special treatment for the Darshan and how we could also become like one . Typical mentality !
We completed major part of pilgrimage then started to hunt for the accommodation and 'Neyyabishekham' arrangements for the morning

Although we have been booked on Sabari Guest House ( well maintained , clean and provide beds), there were other VIPs who have taken the rooms and the Manager initially refused to entertain us , to palpable dismay of the group , verge on desperation . Finally we connected with our sponsor and the Manager agreed to accomadate us in Dormitory Hall along with another Group . As the Hall was big enough and had a 2 Baths , we readily agreed and the best part was he did not collect any money at all for the accomadation !! Meanwhile , we also fixed a Priest at MelSanthi's office for the next day .

By that time (10.30 PM) , Hariharasanam ( daily ritual of putting the Lord to bed) started with KJYesudas filling the air . We managed to get the glimpse of the Lord , drifting to peace from restive crowd..You cannot a find a soul who was not moved by the atmosphere ,sight , song and voice .. Absolute Divine feeling

After refilling for the night , settled comfortably in our room ( had electrical outlets for our mobiles) ,set the wake-up call for 4.30 AM and slipped into our Dreamworld

Sabarimala Pilgrimage - Part 3- 22 Sep 2008


So , we 3 started on Nilagiri Express to Coimbatore on 18 th night . As it departs early , had home made Dinner and some chat till the sleep caught up with us . After an un-fitful sleep , reached Coimbatore ahead of schedule ( 4.35 AM ) .

You need to negotiate before you board the Auto / Call-taxi ( most claim their Meter is faulty) .. From their part , they let you board with all the luggage's and try to announce exorbitant fare , hoping the trapped சவாரி will not take the trouble of getting down with all the luggage and try to hail another .After agreeing for a premium of Rs 20 over metered fare on Call-taxi we reached our home before 5.00 AM .

After deciding who is take bath first and unloaded our stuff , TNEB promptly cut the power @ 5 . They did not implement the 5-6 AM power cut for the past 15 days and subsequent days , but they diligently acted on 19 th . Anyways , armed with candles , we had bath and strong coffee and enjoyed the cool Coimbatore morning weather . You can still stay in room not feeling uncomfortable without a Fan ! .

Reached Siddapudur Ayyappan temple by 6.45 AM and found our Gurusamy Hari waiting for us and to start off ' Irumdi' ritual . After organizing few left out items like Garland for Swami and all , Gurusammy priest started the rituals with கன்னிசாமி ரமேஷ் around 7.15 AM

We were 6 of us ( Sridhar felt it was not proper to do Irumudi without traditional 41 day penance) , hence only 5 of us were having our Irumudikattu . Our priest made us sit cross-legged and kicked-off with praying before the Ayyappan picture and proceeded to prepare the special Irumdi bag , a 2 comparmented bag with one side with shaved cocunt filled with holy ghee and other side with Rice , Aval and other items supposedly to quench our hunger, joined by 2 other சிதறு தேங்காய் for traditional offering to the God on our way to God's abode . Ghee is heated up and every one pours the Ghee into the Coconut inner chamber and sealed and the Irumdikattu is kept safely on the bed-sheet to protect from mis-handling . When this irumudikattu is prepared , others who came to send -off can put their காணிக்கை , which would be offered to Him .

Few of our realtives came to this , including my parents and in-laws . Finally we all done up by 8.40 AM and with 'Irumudi' in our head safely perched , boarded our Innova . After traditonal ' திருஸ்டி நிவர்த்தி' for the vehicle and send-off from our relatives and curious passer-byes , we earnestly started for our journey to seek blessings from Ayyappa

Sabarimala Pilgrimage - Part 2- 22 Sep 2008


Our group started our Viradham on various days , and i started on 1 st Sep ( felt 18 resonates padinettam padi) - abstaining from Non-Veg food & partying , remain celebal and started wearing dhotis and pray 2 times after bath everyday , sleep on a Mat , hear devotional songs , generally trying to add large portion of faith into your regular life.. As we were constrained to wear shoes to office , we could not keep up the rituals entirely..

As the days went by , you get the unmistakable feeling of Faith growing within the occasional devotee and to the amusement of my daughter , who could not believe/ comprehend the apparent changes in their Daddy's sudden religious leanings.

Had our Thread ceremony ( Maalai ) at Chennai Rangarajapuram Ayyappan temple on the Sep 13 th. Saturday is supposed to be an auspicious day for Ayyappan . We bought the Maalai ( Thulasi) from the temple and after the wash , the priest performed the puja before the Ayyappan Deity and handed over to us . We need to take it to other priest , who after chanting some holy verses put it on us . Although the holy immersion experience was good , one cannot get things done without money these days . Only if the priest see at least Rs.10 rupee note in your hand , he would hand over the Prasad , Maalai or anything .. This is completely code based , he scans your hand for a micro second , confirms the booty is present, transfers his and efficiently collecting the service charges with swiss precision . Who is to be blamed , just Blame it on inflation ! ..

We are supposed to be pure in our mind , actions and body once you start wearing the Maalai .. I tried my best and am sure Ayyappan would forgive some tantalizing thoughts that crept in spite of strict vigil and chased them away ..

I think this might be only pilgrimage , where the God and the Devotee are both called 'Saamy'. With the growing white beard ( almost 90%) and with saffron dhoti , we present an unmistakable picture of ardent Saamy and able to gain a bit of instant respect ..

We had to do a lot of planning on what to wear , what to carry , how to manage without the rest of paraphernalia .. 3 sets of devotee attire , 2 bed sheets , Air pillow , some cash and the inevitable mobile were all we carried in shoulder bag ( ஜோல்னா பை). I started collecting CDs of Yesudas and Veeramani and of-course from Internet and create a MP3 CD for our journey to get us enchanted with Religious numbers . It took almost 2 days to get the CDs done and spent several hours in prepatory planning