I was visiting my uncle at Chennai. It was planned to be a short 2 day trip and the plan was to get a talkal ticket for the return journey, but luck was against us. My ticket was placed on waiting list and on 44th position. I thought the ticket would be confirmed by the end of 27th, but we didn’t get the tickets, so everyone was in a dilemma. We were left with little options of leaving back. Since it’s the day before Onam, everybody wanted to get back to Kerala and even the unreserved compartment was jam packed and the busses of Kallada travels and SRM travels were booked fully as well. So the option was to board a local Tamil Nadu bus to Kerala. With that in mind we took a taxi to go to Koyembedu. We reached the Chennai bus depot and I left my mother and brother at the waiting lobby and went to enquire about the bus. I was completely frustrated by the response. All the busses to Kottayam and related places left at 6 and the next one was only at 3 in the morning. The man at the enquiry was kind enough to tell me to board a Cumbum then to Kumli and Kottayam. That was my plan, and then went to collect my brother, mother and uncle to wait at the bus platform for the bus. After an hour of waiting, the Tamil Nadu state bus to cumbum arrived. One look at it and you will be disgusted. The insides were better than I imagined and there wasn’t any noisy and irritating ‘dappankooth’ playing. I am thankful to God for that. The bus left the bus station after 15 minutes of waiting. The seat behind me was occupied by a noisy child who was clearly crushing my zen. With much self-control I dozed off. The bus was similar to our ordinary bus, not AC but had push back sleeper seats. Along the road trip I kept waking up and as the temperature was below 20 I shut the windows and decided to cover my ears. And I cozily curled into the seat I was on.
The bus came to a halt at a station and I don’t know where as there was not an English board in sight and I badly wanted to pee. So I decided to go for a walk as the driver went to have some coffee. Not seeing any proper urinals I walked into the darkness and there was some logs stacked up I think it’s for some hotel, I went to my heart’s content and I could see somebody holding a flame torch in one hand and a log in the other hand running towards me. I just ran and was laughing instead of being scared after losing the man on my tail I boarded the bus again and the bus started again and I fell asleep again. Daylight came at around 6 30, the air was still cold. The conductor has taken over the wheel from the driver who was sleeping sound in the seat before me. I looked around through the window and same old buildings and all, so I squirmed in my seat and getting cozier and took a nap. When I woke up at 9, the bus was coming to a stop at Thenni.
The bus emptied and was left with 6 passengers. The bus started slowly and made its way to Cumbum, I was eagerly looking out through the window for some ‘malayalam’. The route soon turned to a village like place, a treat to my eyes indeed. Both sides were filled with coconut plantations. The Thenni-cumbum journey was a pretty short one. We got off at cumbum at 10. The air around me was cold. At one place around there were tombs, hundreds of them, on either side. I enquired what they were and found out they were tombs of those who were executed during the independence times by a tamil king. We soon reached the cumbum bus station. The station had only six busses, five of them had routes written in tamil and I had the slightest clue what they meant. My eyes soon fell on a KSRTC bus to Kumli. My heart was throbbing to board it. The bus took off at 10:20 am.
My mind was predetermined that the journey was going to be a lame one. The roads were filled with coconut plantations and banana trees. The cumbum place is famous for its fruits and veggies. I was sitting on the right hand side seat by the window. The terrain soon unfolded into a landscape which had vineyards and plankton trees. The horizon was painted with mist covered mountain ranges. It was a treat to my eyes. The women carrying baskets filled with grapes and others were picking grapes. In the distant mistiness, I could see a small stream which was adorning the hill range and it gave more life to it. I asked around about it and found it is the ‘murinjapuzha aruvi’ or ‘ninnumulli para’. The nus started climbing the hill, there was the periyar power station to my right and its quarters to my left side. The periyar power station is under the control of the tamil nadu government. I wondered if we could do an interns or visit to this place. As the bus turned the hair pin bend there was the penstock which brought water to the power house from the reserves, Mullaperiyar I assumed. i took the batteries out and started snapping. I really missed out on the snaps earlier. The air was getting colder as the bus moved further uphill. The view of the cumbum Thenni road soon came into sight. The cars and busses all seemed like ants and the vineyards seemed to resemble moss that grow close to the ground. The view is really spectacular.
There were monkeys on the sides of the road and the rocks were dripping water further uphill and the sides were covered by tea and coffee plantations, leaves well-trimmed and pruned. There were paths cut out around them. I wished I could walk around them. The AVT plantation it was. There were also some trees whose leaves resembled that of pine with some creeper climbing around its stem. From the leaves I knew it was pepper. The familiar leaf that I know, the memories of growing up with my grandparents and the sense of being a kottayam ‘nasrani’ (Christian) filled me and made me feel so proud. My thoughts were shaken as the bus came to a halt near the Kumli toll gate. After passing the toll the bus stopped in the Kumli bus station. We got off the bus and waited for the Kottayam bus. The temperature of this place is around 20 even though the time is nearing to mid-day. The surroundings of the Kumli bus station made me think that I was on the ordinary bus to gavi (a movie which I recently saw). The scenic beauty of this place is so nostalgic and makes you fall in love. It indeed was a paradise and the climate makes you want to curl and cuddle.. With the adventures of an unexpected road trip and thanking the turn of events the bus to Kottayam started and I moved down hill with a sense of missing and urge to go back to the place next time more prepared and on an exploration trip.