Sep 28, 2011

Day 1: Vypin and Marine Drive

"Could you please arrange for a cab?", I asked the reception manager at the YMCA guest house lobby.

"Where for, Sir?", he asked me back, wanting to know if it will be a local or a distant trip. So many places came to my mind then, suggested by my IIT friends, some of whom are from Ernakulam or from nearby places. "Visit Synagogue, Vasco Da Gama church, Chinese fishing nets; do not forget to take the ferry from Vypin; there is a walkway at Marine Drive, you can also go for private boating from there if time permits" are some of the ideas suggested by them.

"I want to go to Vypin", said I to the manager asking him to book the cab at the earliest. The time was already 15 minutes past 4. We occupied the room that was booked for us by our friend who got married, refreshed and came out in fifteen minutes to get into the cab at 4.30pm.

A view of Fort Kochi through backwaters from Vypin

We first went to Vypin crossing Vembanad bridge, the longest railway bridge in India that passes through 3 small islands. We roamed around Vypin clicking some shots of backwaters and Fort Kochi from the other side of the bank, observing Chinese fishing nets with a cup of Chai.

A view of Fort Kochi island from Vypin

Chinese fishing nets

"Could you take us to the starting place of boating? We would like to explore Fort Kochi", I asked the cab driver.

"There is no boating at Vypin Sir. Boating point is at Marine Drive. If you want, I will take you there", he said, apparently referring to the private boating service. "Its already past 5, and so churches and synagogue will be closed", he continued, "there is no point in crossing the backwater across to reach Fort Kochi as you would not be able to see anything".

Taking his word, we asked him to return via the Vallarpadam bridge to reach Marine Drive.

We reached the boating point at Marine Drive where we asked our cab driver to park the car in waiting. We got into one of the boats which was getting ready for a tour around the islands.

Indian Coast Guard, Cochin

We first sailed through the eastern edge of Willingdon island, a base of the Indian Navy in Cochin, where we saw some of the international ships either getting serviced or being loaded/unloaded with cargo. The boat took a 180 degree turn after reaching the southern tip of the Willingdon island, and continued to sail through Fort Kochi island.

Private boating at Marine Drive

A fare of Rs. 50 per person is charged for the boating trip which lasts for about an hour. We came back to the Marine Drive boating point, got into our cab and returned to YMCA guest house.

Sep 26, 2011

Day Zero - Chennai Central to Marriage Hall

A trip to God's own country to attend a friend's marriage on the days after Onam, but before the monsoon begins, will someone in his own senses say 'No'?

Well, but there was a time, few days before the trip, when I said to my friends "It can't be Yes" for there was a deadline I'm working on. But then, the unpredictable ups and downs of research gave me a much wanted up at the right hour that I could finally say 'Yes' on the previous day.

They sell Southern Railway along with Emergency Medicines here. Wanna buy?

The day when the fateful accident at Arakkonam junction happened, canceling most of the trains leaving or arriving at the Chennai Central railway station. "Are we not destined to continue with the trip?", I questioned myself. "Well, if that's how it sounds, let us persist with the idea", I said to myself.

"So we are going for the trip, no matter what happens", I said to my friend, Winnie. In fact, the Kerala trip was Winnie's plan as soon as he heard about the marriage, while I was interning at TIFR this summer.

Does Indian Railways have train from Andaman to Jammu?

The next day, we packed with minimal luggage, had early dinner and took the MRTS train to Chennai Central half an hour after the train is scheduled to depart, thanks to one of my friends who notified me about the delay in the departure of Trivandrum Mail online. But the delay does not end there.

Winnie and I roamed around the station observing people and trains when the next announcement about the delay came. The train will now depart with a delay of 3 hours and 45 minutes! With nothing much to do and no where to go at that hour, we walked on each of the platform, observed different trains and more people who are coming from all parts of India. The final announcement came 30 minutes after the 3 hours and 45 minutes delay saying the train will be further delayed due to a delay in the return of Trivandrum Mail from Trivandrum.

At last, the much waited announcement came that the train will leave from Chennai Central at 2.00AM, after about 7 hours delay. The problem in such late departure is that once the journey is set, preference will be given to those trains which are running "on time" in order to avoid propagation of delay, and so the train that departed late has to give way to every other train before it gets the clearance at each junction.

The mail that is earlier scheduled to reach Ernakulam at 6.30AM reached the North junction at 2 PM and by that time, my friend had already got married! We were in fact got just lucky to catch up for lunch with the bride and the groom, after being directly transported to the marriage venue from the railway station.

A view outside YMCA guesthouse

After exchanging pleasantries and having 'special' lunch, we went to the YMCA International Hostel at Palarivattom, about 2km drive from the marriage venue.