Another marriage trip

"Hi Raghu, how are you doing", starts off Bosky, my recently wed colleague and friend, , 13th May 2010. I ask him about his married life, moving into his new rented place and settling down.

"There is a train ticket to Ernakulam tomorrow - one of our friends has dropped out", says Bosky.

Our friend, Arun, is getting married in Sasthamcotta on Sun, 16th May and Bosky and a few others had planned to attend it. I had no such plans. I had a couple of engagements in Bangalore over the weekend as well.

But a trip to Kerala is tempting, especially if it to Ernakulam and beyond. Why? One word. Parents.

"How about return?", ask I.

"Arun should be arranging that", says Bosky.

I seek a few minutes of time to decide - which includes a call to my wife. Before that, Arun calls to say that he has the return tickets set up by Volvo bus. We discuss, if it made sense for me to board from Kollam or Ernakulam.

It does not take much time for me to decide to embark on another weekend adventure.

Before confirming the Volvo tickets, we decide to give a shot at getting Tatkal tickets from Kerala for Sunday night. This meant, logging in to IRCTC at 8 AM on Fri, 14 May.

Coming home, I decide to do some homework about the place of marriage and distances. It is never too late to learn from experience.

Did you know there is a "Sasthamcotta near United States"? That is what Google maps told me when I queried for the place.

I find out that Sasthamcotta was in Kollam district, but 40 km from Kollam. Karunagapally is the nearest big Railway Station. (Sasthamcotta also has a Railway Station, but only one train stops there per day).

Sasthamcotta is 10 km from Karunagapally. Getting to the place in the morning does not seem to be a problem, since there are two trains to Thiruvananthapuram from Ernakulam - one at 5 AM and the other at 5.50 AM, both of which stops at Karunagapally. Return is however, an issue - there is no train around 1.30 to 2 PM from Karungapally towards Ernakulam. Bus is an option considered and discarded, since it would be more time-consuming and tedious. I decide that I will join the rest of the marriage gang on the return.

The tatkal ticket is a flop show and it is going to be Volvo for the return.

4 PM finds me at HAL Museum stop, boarding a Volvo bus to Majestic. I have an allergy to auto drivers in Bangalore and try to avoid them to the best of my abilities. I am in Bangalore City at 5 PM, well in time for the 5.15 train.

Now, which is our coach? The tickets were in RAC 1-5 before the chart was prepared. It was certain to be confirmed, but would we have adjacent seats?

As it turns out, we do get adjacent seats - 5 of us, Bosky, his wife, me and two other friends.

The journey is quite decent and not too eventful.

The train is late reaching Ernakulam on Fri, 14 May - 5.10 AM instead of 4.50 AM. Bosky and others decide to spend the day at a house boat in Alleppey, while I go home, giving a surprise to my parents.

The only noteworthy incident in Ernkulam, happens in the evening, when we drop into a popular grocery outlet "Mithra", near Durbar Hall Ground. The idea is to get change for Rs.500/- by buying a couple of things. The bill comes to Rs.89/- and I give Rs.500/-.

"Do you have change, sir?", asks the guy at the counter, to my shock.

"Change? What exactly are you expecting? If it is Rs.81/-, I can understand you asking me for Rs.1/-l if it is Rs.61/-, you could ask for Rs.11/-, but for Rs.89/-? You need to give me Rs.311/- and what kind of change can I give you?"

"Sir, it is our duty to ask for change to any customer", says the attender.

No wonder customer service is an oxymoron in Kerala. This shop happens to be a popular one - imagine how it should be elsewhere?

I am in Ernakulam Jn. Railway Station at 5.25 AM on Sun, 16 May. The ticket counters are crowded. There are 4 of them, each having a line of at least 15 people. However, the queues move fast and I have a ticket in 5 minutes.

The train rolls in at 5.40 AM and it is pretty crowded, considering it is a Sunday. I manage to get a seat and have the Sunday Hindu ready - not for reading, but to attack the Crossword and Sudoku. I see a friend of my dad in the adjacent seat and he joins me. He seems to be a Sudoku fan, and works on the one in The Hindu with single-minded passion. I am left trying to solve the Cryptic crossword.

But wait, what is the sound? A TV has come on! Yes, TV inside the train. This particular train apparently has TV - two of them per coach- one in each side. After a few ads, a movie comes on. Would you believe it if I said it was the Tamil movie, Pokkiri? Now, why is that a surprise?

To digress a bit, Kerala is arguably the only South Indian state, where people enjoy movies and songs in other languages, especially Tamil. There is absolutely no inferiority complex or fear of language and cultural erosion, unlike other South Indian states. Television programs in Kerala, actively encourage Tamil (and Hindi songs). Channels telecast Tamil movies without any dubbing.

Time passes as Vijay bashes up goons and romances Asin. It is 8.15 AM and we are in Karunagapally. I alight and look around. Obviously, I am a stranger to the place.

I follow a group of people making their way out of the Station. I overhear a person telling the other that it is a good idea to take an auto to the KSRTC bus stand. I follow the instructions and am transported to the bus stand.

I look around for a nearby restaurant for breakfast. There is one adjacent to the Bus Stand. Exclusive vegetarian hotels are a rarity in Kerala and more so in this small town, and I do not bother searching for them.

I ask around and realize that there is this chain service "Venad", which probably goes to Kollam, via Sasthamcotta. A KSRTC staff near the Enquiry points me to a bus to Kottarakkara, ready to depart, which also goes via Sasthamcotta. I board the bus.

On the way, I also see quite a few private buses going the same way.

I am in Sasthamcotta at 10 AM, well in time for the marriage. I see a temple and decide to have a darshan.

It is a temple of, who else, Sastha (Lord Ayyappa). Apparently, the place is popular for monkeys, since I see some sign boards, referring to monkey feeding. I see a few of them. I can also see from the temple compound and the nearby areas, parts of a large lake - this must be the famous fresh water lake.

Did I mention all this time, I am constantly wiping my face and neck off sweat? Kerala is hot and humid, even in shade.

I am in no mood to explore the place further. I catch an auto to the marriage hall - Vijaya Castle.

It is a large hall which can seat a thousand people (?), shaped like a theatre. Marriage festivities are on in full swing and I can see Arun and his bride in the closed circuit television sets which are set up all over the place.

Very soon the groom and his party descend, which also brings me company in the form of Bosky and other friends.

We have time to kill after the marriage and decide that Kollam beach happens to be the best place for the occasion. This is a 45 minute drive and we reach the beach at 3 PM.

Though the beach is inviting, it is too hot for us to venture.

We look around for something to drink. We see a lady in portable vehicle selling lime juice and butter milk. Seeing the way it is prepared, we realize it is too big a risk to take. We espy a juice and ice cream parlour nearby and enter this. "Nothing is cold", says the attender. Imagine drinking a warm "7Up". Juice is available, but I am wary of the ice.

A discussion comes up on an alternate form of thirst-quencher - beer. Now, where would one find a pub in Kollam? Apparently KTDC (Kerala Tousim Development Council), runs what are called "Beer Parlours" in various towns. We ask around and discover one a couple of kilometre from Chinnakada (the City Center). No self-respecting guy would dare to enter this - so dilapidated it looks from outside. (Too bad I do not have a photo). However, because it was a government outlet, we venture in. Fortunately, there are beers and we have a mug or two. The less I talk abou the "green peas" served as a side dish, the better. Bosky, torn between staying with his wife and joining us, being wiser, chose the former.

We are back in the beach. This time, we go up to the waves and enjoy the spectacle. I forgot to mention a huge sculpture of a naked lady, which adorns the beach.

Called "Yakshi", this seems to be a popular artifact in most tourist places in Kerala - Malampuzha has it as well.

It is 5 PM now and time for us to catch our bus. This we do from opposite Bhima Jewellers, which is open on Sunday, on account of Akshaya Thriteeya. In fact, everywhere that I went today - including Karunagapally, every single jewellery shop is open - to exploit the sentiments of people on the occasion.

Trust Murphy and his laws to work in the Volvo as well. Some of us manage to get the seats, which are right under the central air-conditioned vent, which means freezing temperature! We have to wrap the provided blankets over our head to protect ourselves.

7 AM on Mon, 17 May, 2010, sees our bus in Silk Board. I alight, cross the Road and take a (much warmer) Volvo to Marathahalli, and then another bus to HAL Museum.

I am back home after another weekend adventure.


  1. very interesting. Nice to see this blog.


  2. Best Wishes Arun.
    I missed this one... Looks like you guys had a good time :)

  3. I really missed this. Nice to hear that TV on board in train. :)


    u missed this website... before ur visit....

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    supaa travels


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