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By Mr. Kumar ALFA
   
More Experiences
Wayanad, The Green Land of Paddy. And Much More
 

Wayanad, situated not far off from the beautiful coast of Kozhikode is considered the biggest hill station of Kerala. The name is reported to have been derived from the word ‘Vayalnadu’, meaning the land of paddy fields. The present District, carved out from parts of Kozhikode and Kannaur, came into existence as 12th District of state in November, 1980. Considered to be a ‘backward’ one according to the parameters of Planning Commission, it is surprisingly one of the biggest foreign exchange earners owing to its cash crops - pepper, small cardamom, coffee, tea and some spices. It has numerous native tribes, such as, Paniyas, Kurumas, Adiyars, Kurichiyars, Ooralis and Kattunaickens. The first of the lot is perpetually afflicted by the maladies of illiteracy, malnutrition, alcoholism and so on. Adverse effects of Endosulfam pesticide and Sickle Cell disease add to the woes.

 

Sultan Bathery, the place of our halt is a Taluk headquarter. Connected to the legend of Tipu Sultan and an ancient Jain temple, it is located at a distance of 30 kms. from Kalpetta, the District headquarter. Talking of weather, though maximum and minimum temperatures are in the range of 32-24 degree Celsius, overall, it may be considered cool. When night sets in, temperature plummets. And you look for a blanket. Sunrise at 6.35 a.m. could be called late. By and large, morning sky is not clear. On some days, it can be as misty and wet as in mountains. Same may be attributable to the existence of maximum Reserve Forest area of the state falling over here. An elevation range of 700 to 2100 metres leads to absence of fans in many buildings.

 

Tourism Department Guest House, the epi-centre of our activity, is located on a higher elevation, slightly away from the main town on the National Highway leading to Ootty (95 kms.). Though, there is enough space, accommodation needs care and maintenance. Service is good, except taking note of change of linen and a few sundry items. Usual official plea, one hears that situation may improve on completion of a new 20 room block within the campus.

 

It is quite pleasing to see traditional as well as modern typical Kerala styled tiled houses in the vicinity. One hears the sound of Azan everyday in the pollution free atmosphere. The Christian religious institutions have a plethora of buildings dealing with various social acts- counseling centers, health, polytecniques etc. Majority of the buildings are two storied, though owners may be super rich. Eye-catching hoardings of car manufacturers boast-price begins at Rs. 25 lakhs! They tend to compete closely with the advertisements of Kerala Silk Saris. Atleast some symbol of tradition is withstanding the onslaught of modernity.

 
Morning Scenario
 

It is interesting to see coffee plantation for the first time. Its white flowers attract. Height of the plant is more than that of tea. Supposedly, Pythons throng the place. One of the tea gardens is seen in a Clergy Home. A taste of local dust tea and coffee is different and refreshing. A silver lining or encouraging factor about women in the state is that apart from being highly literate, they are 1035 in number per 1000 males according to 2011 Census. By and large, they cover their heads but are not confined to houses. Many of them wearing traditional attire turned out to be active teachers, government servants, social workers and Punchayat members. Girl children are seen rushing to schools with their heads also covered. Men are seen selling fish, eggs, bread, biscuits etc. on a Bike or a Moped. In the nearby villages, people are slowly waking up. In view of prosperity emanating from hard work, small constructions are seen everywhere. One does not see any “kutcha” structure, as such. Pleasant sound of a Cuckoo kind of bird is heard off and on. The noise of passing vehicles increases as the sun rises further by 7.00 a.m.

 

Good pristine forest is seen on both sides of the highway. It has a hard rock base, thus less vulnerable to the ecological disasters. One gets a healthy and positive impression that every institution maintains a private forest. Overall, people look contended. Very few boards are in English. Almost everything is in Malayalam. Only exception is the office of SCERT. It is nice feeling to observe the beauty of endemic vegetation and flowers in front of some private dwellings. No one wears a helmet even while driving a bike with a speed of 50-60 kms. Unfortunate similarity with the main stream in this regard is noticeable. Pope Benedict alongwith the regional Head Priests figures prominently in many posters. Bus stops look modern and clean but buses do not stop as no one is found waiting.

A good view of the plateau and a flat mountain with an unusual small round peak can be seen from St. Mary’s Hospital and School. A couple of well built and painted houses also make a mark in the morning sunshine.

 

One is greeted with a power cut for half an hour on return. Though load shedding officially takes place for half an hour each in the morning and evening, lights invariably go off during the day time. Consequently, one is devoid of power for almost three hours. Still on this count, situation is better in comparison to the states in the East and North.

 
Market View
 

In the market, most of the shops are closed but traffic is mind-boggling keeping in view the size of the place. The cars, autos and buses compete closely with each other for the limited space. But there is no stress, no misbehavior, as seen elsewhere. A few fish and flower outlets are seen doing brisk business. Fish sold is of different varieties, including dry fish. In the flower stalls, Jasmine dominates. At the eating joints, mostly men clad in half Dhoti (Mundu) are seen relishing Bara, Idli, Appam, and Coffee. Fruit shops, though closed, attract in the sense that majority of them have nets in the front to allow passage of air to ensure freshness of fruits. Lottery tickets seem popular, reflecting obvious monetary ambitions. Women do not lag behind men in their brisk sale from dawn to dusk.

 

One also notices a large number of gold shops. It may be possibly on account of unchecked and unregulated remittances from abroad. A big chain, such as, Malabar Gold and Diamonds, reportedly has managed to open 82 outlets all over the world in barely 20 years. But all that glitters is not gold. For, the presence of Counselling and De-addiction centres causes concern.

 

Eye catching water melons and green coconuts are being sold in one corner of the main market. On the other extreme, fresh fruits and vegetables draw attention. An impressive Church Tower has a commanding presence at the Town Square. (Mind it, it’s a Hindu dominated area). Such structures with an image of Jesus Christ or Virgin Mary are now a days also seen in parts of Goa, Nagaland, Mizoram etc. Supposedly, they take a cue from Hinduism if not making an attempt to imitate.

 
Brush with Nature
 

A drive on the well maintained highway leading to Mysore through a National sanctuary turns out to be a very refreshing experience apart from ensuring a breath of fresh air, post-dinner. One is in lap of nature, away, though temporarily from the confusing if not madding crowds. Sight of eleven deers is possible in two spells and stories only of crossing of elephants is heard. Solitude at this altitude has to be felt, not to be described. Conservation of wildlife and nature, no wonder, is so important. A typical Kerala style widely publicized Ayurvedic massage at a remote tourist hut is a welcome wind of change. One should say, experiencing is believing. A conversation with a few villagers, thereafter, throws light on changing livelihood patterns.

 

Leaving behind the above memories and those pertaining to schools, hostels, ICDS centres, health centres, F.P. shops, police stations, jails, visits to villages, IAY and MNREGA sites, interface with Punchayats, NGO’s, officers etc., we drive back to Kozhikode through the green, undulating, hinter land. Tea gardens, here and there, sparkle in the morning sunshine. A halt or two for buying local honey proves unsuccessful. Presence of spice, craft and Ayurvedic outlets on the way impresses. A few telephone calls from the friends and relatives entertains. After a good two and a half hours, we are shown cashew plants and some unique features of rich regional bio-diversity. Next to follow is a place having largest number of gold shops. One does not think that all of them had adequate security even if they thrive in terms of business.

 
Retreat through Golden Sand
 

Saving of nearly an hour enables us to take a detour through Calicut city. On the way, one was exposed to more prosperity specially in the dense but green pockets. The Calicut Medical College & hospital has a towering presence due to its vast campus. It caters to a large number of patients from India & abroad. One learns that this is the biggest in the state. Entry into the city brings back the memories of bygone colonial days. Traffic is on the higher side, but by and large it looks orderly. Even when the atmosphere warms up, the first view of golden beach is amazing and awesome. The very touch of clean sea and sand has a positive impact. Walking bare foot is a pleasure. The beach of blue Arabian Sea appears fairly long but having few visitors. It gives a chance to a pair of white cranes to vent their suppressed feelings. They simply behave like us while confronting the soothing sea waves. It is rightly said- birds of same feather flock together.

Once one is free from sea-gazing, the view of somewhat unusual sculptors, tourists kiosks and British era bungalows have a binding effect. Photo opportunity thus provided, is not to be missed.

 

Suddenly a look at the watch together with a ‘mobile reminder’ compels us back into the car. We hit the road at a rather rapid pace by not giving even a scant attention to a ravishing river scenario akin to state’s famous back waters. We reach the airport almost in time to be informed, rather to be pleasantly informed that the flights to Delhi were behind schedule by an hour or so. This gives extended time and opportunity to think about and recapitulate what we had seen and experienced in the green paradise.

 
 
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