Out in nature..On a misty morning

It’s a great time to get out in nature on a misty morning. It becomes even greater if this beauty is captured by your lens. So I decided out to venture out close to the woods on a Sunday morning with my daughter, Meenakshi.

First rays of the sun illuminating the horizon

First rays of the sun illuminating the horizon

Just 10 minutes drive from our house and we sighted the first rays of the sun illuminating the horizon filled with mist. We marveled at this sight for a few minutes clicked it and then moved on.

We drove the road running adjacent to the wildlife sanctuary. The roads were empty, visibility was poor due to fog and an impending danger of an elephant stepping into our path drove us a bit of nervous.

Borderline

Borderline

We drove up till the bridge that separates Kerala and Karnataka the two southern states of India. For some reason I didn’t feel like crossing the bridge and enter Karnataka. I always felt comfortable exploring woods in this side of the bridge.

Mesmerizing view

Mesmerizing view

Now the sun is up and the sight of sunrays through the tree trunk passing through the forest was mesmerizing. The scene was perfect backdrop for herds of elephants but we were not lucky enough to catch them basking in the sun; still elusive.

Driving back

Driving back

Now we started driving back and stopped at the little tea/grocery shop overlooking the Ponkuzhi temple. It is owned by Sathyan and this is our favourite hangout during such drives. Sathyan has been living in this area since a long time, braving the frequent ambushes of wild elephant herds, predator attacks and forest fires. We usually sit here for hours listening to his experiences with elephants and leopards.

Sathyan's Place-Exterior view

Sathyan’s Place-Exterior view

Sathyan nodded approvingly with a smile and was busy making tea and coffee for the early morning customers. Tribes living in this part of the forest depends on Sathyan for their daily grocery needs. The pictures that decorates the tea stall are created by Sathyan’s son who is a great painter who have won rewards and recognition in school and college competitions. He studies in Mysore University. He was immersed in his work and didn’t notice me clicking him.

Sathyan busy preparing tea/coffee

Sathyan busy preparing tea/coffee

Sathyan steaming coffee now energized us and we decided to loiter around a bit. Sathyan told us that a herd of elephants had just crossed the road and hence he asked us to be a bit cautious when walking around.

Perfect Coffee..last sip

Perfect Coffee..last sip

NH212 bifurcates the Ponkuzhi temple to a main shrine and a sub-shrine close to tribal hamlets.

Ponkuzhi temple-Main Shrine

Ponkuzhi temple-Main Shrine

We usually walk along the road adjacent to the sub-shrine. But two elderly tribal’s persuaded us back from this since there was chance of elephants in the road, and the visibility was almost zero due to fog.

Fog covered path-dangerous!

Fog covered path-dangerous!

So we clicked some more snaps of the sub-shrine, the weed covered pond, strolled through the meadow enjoying the misty surroundings.

Sub-Shrine, Ponkuzhi temple

Sub-Shrine, Ponkuzhi temple

Surrounded by bamboo forest and full of water throughout the year it is believed that the water in the pond is the result of the falling tears from the eyes of King Rama’s wife Seetha. They were believed to be in this part during their exile in forest for 14 years.

The Pond - Seetha's tears

The Pond – Seetha’s tears

We clicked some more snaps. Crows on power lines, trees on either side of the highway, perfect opportunity to hone my photography skills.

Handicapped by 18-55.

Handicapped by 18-55.

We slowly started driving back energized physically and mentally.

Penultimate click

Final click of the day

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Journey continues..What Next?

After almost three weeks of continuous flow of guests at The Treasure Trove it’s time for a short break. Our first guests for the New Year, two wonderful families from New Delhi left just now. We decided not to honour any bookings for a week and all reservation inquiries were directed other trustworthy accommodations. The wear and tear caused by this long and hectic tourist season is immense.

With Rahul, Jyothi, Vibha and Varun from Delhi. First guests of 2015.

With Rahul, Jyothi, Tamanna and Varun from Delhi. First guests of 2015.

As I relax in the food court overlooking the cottages everything looks like a dream. The decision to start such a venture, coming up with this Eco-friendly model promoting responsible tourism, generating funds for building the cottages,early days of struggle, all those wonderful souls who wholeheartedly supported us, the days of toil when we were running between different approval agencies for getting our papers approved, guests trickling into our place, international travelers giving high rating and very positive feed backs, meeting and befriending a lot of wonderful people worldwide. We still remember the excitement and anxiety when our first guests walked in.

DSC05352 From the earlier days of struggle we gradually moved up to one of the most popular accommodation providers in Wayanad in both domestic and international circuits. We were awarded the Certificate of Excellence Award in year 2013 and 2014 by The Trip Advisor which is the world’s largest and popular travel portal.

tt2013As advised by veterans in this field we always adhered to the policy of not accommodating irresponsible tourists who after consuming alcohol creates a lot of mayhem and trouble. Our decision to accommodate only guests who were willing to stick to our do’s and do not’s initially landed up us in a bit of struggling position but soon we were able to build up a huge customer base.

tripThe most significant milestone in our success was our association with India-Untravelled. When co-founder of India-Untravelled Shivya Nath walked into our place and spent a couple of days here, we were never aware of the impending changes Shivya’s visit would bring forth. We were included as the first destination in the India Untravelled North Kerala circuit and accepting my suggestion Shivya included Bamboo Village Wayanad and Blue Mermaid, Kannur to the list. This partnership bought in high quality travellers, bloggers, writers and photographers to our place and we are proud to admit Shivya and India Untravelled were instrumental for our current popularity and success. The biggest jolt for the new year is the decision by Shivya to wind up the operations of India Untravelled due to some personal reasons. India Untravelled would be operated by new folks or might cease to exist. I still remember the words of Shivya while she was leaving our place 2 years ago. “You don’t need to sit fingers crossed; i am going to popularise your place so that you can quit your job and come back to this beautiful place. Shivya’s words proved right expect for quitting my job :). Winding up of India Untravelled is one of the setbacks we received in 2015 but life still should move on.

shivya

Shivya Nath

Another wonderful personality who supported us right from the start to this day is Sri. Rajagopal who owns the premium homestay in Wayanad, Glenora Homestay. Glenora Homestay located in a picturesque location is listed in The Guardian UK as one of the best 10 home-stay in India and is also listed in most popular travel sites and portals all over Europe. Sri. Rajagopal always supported us by referring guests to our place and wholeheartedly encouraging and appreciating our effort.

A well-wisher we lost in between this journey was Sri. Rajan of Uravu Eco Links. He was a person whom we could bank upon at times of crisis and he used to come up with quick solutions. His pragmatic approach to issues and challenges really helped us in this journey. His love, affection sense of humour and care will always linger in our memories.

Our guest posted excellent reviews in various travel portals, posts about our place in different popular blogs, photographers posted our photos in various sites, guest referred their friends and relatives to our place and there was no looking back. Due to limited number of inventory we were not in a position to accommodate all the enquiries and we had to refer our customers to other places which we believed where responsible and trustworthy. We initiated the plans of building a couple of cottages more but in between we abandoned the plan. Taking into account the stress and strain in running a small property comprising of just two inventories we were really aware of the challenge and toil involved once we go for a upgrade. Further we were not interested in running a pukka commercial model but rather preferred in sticking to provide personal attention to our guests.

This year we are planning to slow down things a bit and stick to the current strategy of only accommodating quality guests. We would want to pay a bit more attention to family commitments and our kids.
Our humble achievements have given us courage to look for a bit of diversification. With our association with KABANI we have plans to venture to a different vertical of this domain, which is challenging but interesting. After all life is all about taking risks and accepting challenges. Currently a road map for this is being laid down by Sumesh, enthusiastic CEO of KABANI and in years to come the effort will start bearing fruits. If things work out as planned we expect all those wonderful people who supported us all these years will be along with us.

Presentation Asia Europe People's Forum, Milano

Sumesh Mangalaserry CEO, Kabani addressing Asia-Europe peoples forum, Milano, Italy.

All these achievements, success, experiences are like a dream. We were able to achieve this from a point of nowhere only because of the divine grace, prayers and blessings of our well wishers and also our hard work and commitment. Hopefully 2015 will takes us to the next level of success.

You are the Christmas Tree

It’s Christmas. Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is the perfect time to celebrate the love of God. In these time when hate, suspicion, greed and violence prevail let the spirit of Christmas help us in overcoming the negative forces. To all my friends celebrating Christmas I offer this message delivered by my master years back at the German Ashram on A Christmas Eve as my Christmas gift.

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You are the Christmas tree. The Christmas tree is pointing upwards and its branches grow on all sides. It is orderly. At the time of year when no tree bears anything, it has many gifts to offer. And it is green throughout the year. A Christmas tree bears the gifts and the lights not for itself. All the gifts you are carrying in your life are for others. Anyone who comes to you, you offer them your gifts.
There were lots of gifts around Sri Sri’s couch. John asked Sri Sri, “Are you going to open the gifts?” Sri Sri winked and pointed at the people and said, “I am always opening the gifts.” (Laughter)

Your life is a gift. And you have come to unwrap the gift. In the process of unwrapping, you also save the wrappers. Your whole environment, situations, circumstances and body are the wrapping papers. When we unwrap, we destroy the wrapping paper. We are in such a hurry at times that we even destroy the gifts. With patience and endurance, open your gifts and save the wrapping papers.

The Farewell Song

Bidding farewell from one’s school or college in the final year after spending most lively and memorable moments of lifetime is one of the most painful times in ones life. The pain of parting that engulfs us is inexpressible.We will be leaving our routine and entering a new world. It is the time when even the worst student is blessed and hugged by classmates and teachers. It is the time we thank everyone for their support and say sorry for our mistakes. It is the time when we try to smile when our heart weeps. It is the time when foes turn to friends and fear of leaving our friends dawn on us. A time of last celebration in the school!

Farewell song by final year students

Farewell song by final year students

Yesterday it was such an occasion on the 14 th annual day celebrations of Green Hills Public School, Wayanad; The final year students bid farewell to the school rendering a touching farewell song. This was the most touching event i have ever witnessed at a school. Tears rolling down, choked threats and sobs while expressing gratitude and the well composed and choreographed farewell song moved parents, teachers and students who had gathered at the venue.

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I could see students crying, teachers sobbing and i felt a strange heaviness in my heart. How terrible the children would be feeling of missing all those fun, pranks, and their friends and teachers who are like the air they breathe. Being close teaches us the message of love but parting gives us the hope of new beginning.

The Green Hills Public school wore a festive look on 14th annual day celebrations

The Green Hills Public school wore a festive look on 14th annual day celebrations

No doubt these kids were lucky to be a part of this wonderful institution. I personally wish each one of the wonderful ones in the 12th standard all success in your future and express my heart full gratitude and appreciation to each and every member of management and staff for providing our children such an excellent ambiance and support thus helping them to mould their future.

Special guests@The Treasure Trove

A couple of weeks back I received a casual message from my friend in US inquiring about my home stay in Wayanad, Kerala. My friend Ansu who is settled in US after her marriage wanted to recommend my home stay to a American couple from
San Francisco who were planning to visit India. They were on a short vacation and wanted to have a feel of Kerala.

I furnished Ansu with the details and within a week I received a mail from Ashley who was planning to come to my place confirming the booking.

Ashley and Suarez

Ashley and Suarez

Ashley and Suarez after a spending a couple of days in Mysore moved into our place. They ditched the usual tourist circuit of backwaters in South Kerala and choose Wayanad.

During their stay in Wayanad they visited Edakkal Caves and Wildlife sanctuary and rest of the time preferred to relax in our cottages and spent time with my family in our house.

On Ansus request we provided them the Onam feast which was served in plantain leaves.

Onam Feast served in plantain leaves

Onam Feast served in plantain leaves

They were really thrilled and Suarez was with his camcorder was shooting the dishes being served in plantain leaf.

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Suarez recording the feast being served

It was really nice to see Ashley and Suarez helping themselves with different dishes served in the plantain leaves using their hand.

A nod of appreciation from Suarez

A nod of appreciation from Suarez

They enjoyed every dish served,

Waiting in excitement for the dishes to be served

Waiting in excitement for the dishes to be served

Before leaving they promised to come back the next year.

Ashley

Ashley

More than the monetary gains it is the wonderful moments spent with such friendly people that gives us great satisfaction and the feeling running a homestay is worth the effort we put in.

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Thanks a lot Ansu for referring such wonderful people to our place.

Final click before leaving

Final click before leaving

The Bridge to Bliss

This bridge I clicked evoked a strange feeling inside me when I sighted it first. It looked like a bridge to nowhere. Running across verdant grasslands and lined with rubber trees towards its end, the bridge looked a bit spooky. The clouded sky and faint light of the setting sun added to the spookiness. The  same night I had a strange dream; where this bridge was the centre stage. My attempt to recall my dream ended up in this piece; it is a poem or pose, I am not sure. But this was how it was for me on that night of 30th August 2014.

The Bridge

The Bridge

There I stood at the start of the bridge

In a golden chariot, with an angel draped in white.

The angel said this path is tough,

Walk with vigil, For you might be tricked.

Again said the Angel, Once you cross the bridge, It is full of bliss! It is full of bliss!

If you don’t cross alive, How can you cross when you’re dead?

Once gone there is no returning, Think again before you cross.

The voice was sweet and full of care, I felt the voice dear and familiar

Before I crossed, it flashed in my mind, all the toil I underwent all these days

I had wandered at home and abroad

Through scores of alleys from town to town

Met quite a lot, some warm some hostile

And all of them helped me to shape this living

Then I met a lot, who claimed aloud, “Join us for you can reach the promised land.”

They said there is a bridge, cross it and you are in the promised land.

The path is not too stretched join us, for we have the means to cross the bridge.

 I toiled in the midst of them, with a lot of pant and puff, but I never reached the bridge to the promised land.

Their words were deep but deeds very shallow, and their acts I felt were for momentary gains.

Their means to cross the bridge and reach the promised land, Seems to me all hollow and sham.

Turn back and see before you cross

Said the angel in a tone so firm but calm.

Through the pristine flowing white robes, I saw the wind, ruffling long locks of hair

Oh! Now I know whom the angel was, for I knew HIM all these years

Then I saw HIS witty grin and HIS usual naughty wink.

HIM

HIM

“It is not yet time for you to cross the bridge, since there are a lot for whom you mean a lot.”

When the time is right HE said, I will steer you to bliss, swift as a wind, across the bridge

I look back and there stood all my dear and near

Waving at me, they say “For God’s sake never cross the bridge.”

Then I recognize they were never a twinge in my life, for they lit up my living with those little squabbles

And sprinkled around colors of Joy, with those sporadic acts

A cold breeze flow across my face, spraying my cheeks with drops of  rain.

Then I wake up from my dreams, realize they were not rain drops but tears rolling down.

God i was fast asleep tucked all inside, in the comfort of my blanket

The night was cold and it is pouring, The night was silent and it is pouring, Since the rain allows no sound, but peacefulness

Now I get up and switch on the lights, Oh! the bridge in my dreams looked so known.

I flip through those clicks in my camera, Oh! the bridge was there, that came in my dreams

In real I had crossed the bridge and returned at ease without any hitch.

My heart, now, soar like an eagle, above all the sorrow and pain.

For HIS grace guides me above these sorrow and pain.

More storms may come to shake me, to shock and put me askew

But I know HIS love is unfailing,  and connects us all — me, you and HIM.