Post Trip Write up - Malabar Photography trip - March 2013

Thursday, March 14, 2013

An excellent write up by Vivek:

As the index finger of my right-hand tapped the right-arrow key of my laptop keyboard, the monitor changed it colours showing photographs, taking me back a few days in time. Photos..a world in themselves. Each photo has a story to tell, each photo has a soul of its own, you only need a heart to listen to it. May be that’s why photography has taken the status of 'art' in recent times. This set of photos I was watching, too, had a story to tell, the story about a period of 3 days that taught me many things. And that story, though lengthy, begins here..

The calendar would have shown 1st of March if I had checked, but I could not, as I boarded the train the previous night. As the train reached the destination, I got down looking at the silent breaking dawn. This dawn was set to herald one of the few memorable trips I have undertaken. The Malabar Photography trip. A trip with an energetic, enthusiastic and an equally humorous group of people.

After a few initial 'hi's,  all of us reached the waiting hall in the Kozhikode (calicut) railway station and lined up our bags on the chairs. Few of us randomly started visiting the wash-rooms to get ready, few left to have the early morning tea and few were just sitting and chatting.I quickly took bath, got ready and was waiting for someone to accompany me to have 'Chaya'. Still I did not know most of the members. I randomly went, 'hi'ed few and learning that most of them already had tea , I moved towards a stall and quickly had one.

May be after around 2 hrs, after getting ready, all of us gathered in the hired bus, an bright orange coloured machine with a some brighter designs on it. As the wheels of the bus started rolling, behind the revving engine and the mallu songs being played, I could already hear jokes and some loud accompanying laughs. I think I heard someone shout..'Tamil songs podu da macha...'

Our first stop was the organizer Rakesh's relatives' house and the temple adjoining it. We first visited the temple which was on an elevated ground with steps to reach it. It was located in some serene and calm surroundings and was simple in looks, unlike the temples in other parts of south India which usually come decorated with bright colours..It had two huge black pramidams infront of it. Not being allowed inside without a traditional 'mundu' for men and saree for women, we had to satisfy ourselves by taking a quick walk (pradakshina?) around the temple. People slowly started opening up their camera bags, and few cameras were out and clicking. After taking the prasadam, we moved into the house where we were readily greeted with broad smiles and some nice morning breakfast, by the hosts. The breakfast included Upma, mixture(?), pickle and some deep brown shaded banana pieces. I overheard that the banana was prepared by boiling in jaggery! Having a taste for the new, I had a second filling of bananas and then finished my breakfast with 'the tea' (believe me, its very different from tea of other parts of India). After few laughs and some elaborate discussions on various topics including what was added in the drinking water, others too have finished their breakfast and are now in full swing with their cameras. Some trying shadow effects, some trying portraits and some, experimenting with different angles. I, slowly moved to Rupesh Aravind, (The professional!) and inquired about few things in an attempt to learn something new.

Then on the way to 'Temple of monkeys', we started officially introducing ourselves in the bus. Every name followed a big Hi from the group and few humorous comments. People already earned nick names. 'Don', 'Policekar','Vicky mama..' to name a few. We got down on a thin tar road with a small canal flowing by the side. There was a woman cutting some grass by the side of the canal who readily became the subject of many photographs. There was breeze and the sun was eager to show his vigour. I left my chappals in the bus thinking that the temple would not be far, I also left the camera fearing that the monkeys would snatch it. Both turned out to be big mistakes later. We then walked through plush green fields with trees lining up the way, which later grew narrow leading to a rocky terrain with a small building of two rooms(the temple) at a distance. We were immediately flocked by monkeys. I fed two cute little monkeys with the food items bought before, until one huge monkey held my trouser and snatched the packet. Everyone sat on the rocks with little streams of water flowing at a distance . The shade of trees, the playing monkeys and the flowing streams gave a heavenly feel to the atmosphere. Here, monkeys have become the subject and the object of the photographs. Vicky, my co- 'Autographer' (Auto Photographer- Photographer who shoots only in 'Auto' mode. Word coined during the trip :-)) encouraged me, Shreya and Banu for few stills and we spent some time experimenting(?) with different poses. All of us were waiting for the priests to feed the monkeys with payasam (a tradition of the temple) so that we too can have a little. The monkeys were offered payasam in small mud bowls and then one guy from the temple arena brought us some  hot payasam that just complemented the pleasant weather. After eating payasam and filling up the bottles from the fresh streams, we made a futile little attempt to go on a small trek.

Monkeys being served rice on earthen bowls at the Valikattukavu Temple in Kozhikode district. This is a one of it's kind temple.

After travelling for some more time and a small stop at what looked like a hut built few feet into the water, we moved to koilyandi to take a boat. The boat was freshly emptied of water and most of the members were accommodated, though few of them looked scared. We reached a small bridge on the water body where we spent sometime clicking pics. One of the fishermen was asked to throw the net, to capture the alluring 'fisherman's net' pic. That poor fellow would have thrown the net at-least ten times at different spots and at different angles to satisfy the photographers!

Moving ahead, we came to the one of the best beaches of India, the Muzhappilangad beach, also the largest drive-in beach of Asia. The sand was smooth and was giving a massaging effect to the feet. The setting sun coupled with the distant rocks and dense coconut vegetation brought a exhilarating feel to the heart. I too joined others in trying to capture the hues of the sun. I felt an inexplicable peace and joy looking at the sun who looked like he was trying to bid farewell to the world. Shreya and Banu became the 'subjects' for the photographers now(Lucky them!). Few of us ventured into the water after finishing the photo-sessions. We later rushed to the shower place, beside which, hot tea and fresh snacks were waiting for us. Setting sun, playing in the welcoming waters of beach and hot tea after the shower. What more can you ask from life!

Sunset at Muzhapillangad beach. Photo by Praveen

Our next pit stop was at Indian Coffee House where we had a quick refill. We later quickly reached Pazhayangadi. Now comes the more traditional and native part of the story. The Theyyam. There were two places. One at which the women band was playing the music. The deity moves from this place to the temple where the male band was playing the traditional folk percussions. There, a huge fire was lit with huge logs in an area beside the temple. Initially we felt a little lack of excitement, may be because we did not know what actually that festival was all about. Shaking us of our boredom, there were loud fire crackers. After having tried to capture the fireworks, we moved back to the bus. It was 1 am and a 2-3 hour break was decided upon. Most of the members went to rest under the tarpaulin while I preferred to stay in the bus. Everyone woke up at 4am and went back to the temple complex to witness, what they described as the most ferocious act of the festival. A person dressed in few palm leaves, leaps into the hot ashes of the previously mentioned fire with his face towards the hot pile. He then would be pulled ferociously by his mates back onto the ground, while the ash that would have been pulled out in the process would be swept back by another team.  Apparently, the Theyyam leapt onto the fire, a shocking 123 times!!

Getting ready for the Theyyam

Day 2:

As soon as I got up from the bus, I realised that I have missed something big from the expressions on others' faces. No point regretting, whatever happened has happened, I thought. However, I watched a few videos of the Theyyam recorded by the others. 

Theyyam in Kannur (The theyyam artist is falling (face first) into the mound of hot ash! (Photo by Rupesh)

We then moved and made a stop at a hospital to have Hari's wound(caught on the beach the previous day) stitched. We had few samosas (early in the morning!) and some drinks while the bus driver shared his love story with us. We later visited a hotel where two rooms were booked one each for boys and girls. We spent sometime getting ready before moving to the Parasinikadavu muthappan temple. There were bronze idols of dogs in the temple and apparently in accordance with the temple tradition, Theyyam is performed daily in the temple premises! 

By the time we finished visiting the temple, the temperature reached its peak and all the faces started showing signs of exhaustion. Deciding against some random restaurant, we chose to move to kannur to have better food. In Kannur, Ranjani sang two sweet songs for the team members who were just out of the restaurant after a satisfying lunch in the Wheat house restaurant. We later visited St.Angelos Fort of Kannur and the near-by Payyambalam beach.  Arjun and Ranjani were 'jumping' for the silhouette photo against the setting sun, while few others were resting on the beach. 

The Barrack at the St Angelo's Fort, Kannur 

Everyone shared a cool mango ice-fruit moment on the beach. Later, after a quick coffee and peanut snack session, we started again and made a halt at Kanhanghad. We all ate to the brim before moving to the hotel for the night.

Day 3:

Though the planned wake up time was 6.30, most of us woke up after 7.30 in the morning. Before we set out for the day, all of us had a cool little breakfast of some sweet watermelons. Next stop, Bekal fort, the largest fort of kerala. The sheer size and the area spanned by the fort will leave anyone spell bound. Reading from the information board I learned that the fort had structures with different shapes including octagonal, circular and oval. Each one moved in different directions. I followed the straight line path which was flanked by well maintained gardens on both sides. I sat on the high fort walls for a while enjoying the sea beneath and the scenic beauty of boats hovering on its surface. The rising heat did not dither anyone from intense photography and experimentation. After having clicked few pictures and having 'lime soda', I returned to the bus where few were already waiting. Few of them started playing catch-the-ball ignoring the sun and the heat. We waited some more time before we moved for lunch after which we reached the railway station. I along with the whole team boarded the fully packed running train and bade farewell to the three who had different buses to catch.  Movements of farewell. What followed in the train was one of the funniest sessions of the trip. All the team mates gathered and cracked jokes at will. The topping on the cake was Arjun's birthday which was celebrated by making him cut Halwa!

Bekal Fort, Kasargod

Though it was just a Photography trip, it left me with much more than just photographs and pictures. The stunning beauty and tranquility with which Kerala is filled with, is definitely worth remembering forever. Also, the group and their bonding is sure to touch the heart. I got down the train with a sense of satisfaction and enthusiasm. I was relaxed in mind and soul. I guess, I will take a little time and start experimenting with photographs myself and the camera on my desk is now looking at me, as if waiting for the artist in me to take her out.

Thank you CTC, thank you Rakesh and thanks to all the members of the trip.
Awaiting more trips with you people:-)


Another Superb write up by Shreya:

Well , I  Come from a background where a  trip is  synonymous with the definition of a pilgrimage and  the sole aim of travelling several kilometers is to attain salvation . Now how can the scent of a photography trip be not enticing .So without a second thought i signed up. My image of Kerala was developed only through travel shows and pictures . I had seen the traditional dance forms and heard about the  musicians from here but never stepped into north Kerala anytime .So here goes my experience 

 Day 1 …

 I didn’t own a camera so this trip was purely to explore .So I set out hoping to get a feel of the life of a real traveler. ‘There was something different about this place i could not figure out when i stepped down the train ‘.   After having  refreshed in  the waiting room at the station  we had  a cup of tea some  energy kicked in .  

Day one presented itself with an opportunity to taste Kerala cuisine in a traditional Kerala home.  ‘The best way to understand any culture is to start from the roots and there we were ‘.

My first stint with Kerala began. 

‘Kerala as such has still maintained its old world charm .It is naive and  has not embraced modern style yet flamboyant in its own sense. I could say it’s an artist’s  dream.’

 The houses are built at an elevation with the balconies overlooking the fields .Surrounding almost every dwelling was vast expanse of banyan and coconut trees grown in the backyard.

I no doubt felt completely incongruous with the background clad in half pant  and T shirt  ,while dhoti and white sari seemed to the most favored outfit.  Keralites are blessed with bright eyes and the traditional look which indeed added to the hues blending very well with the background .Their faces did reflect the pride in portraying their customs.

 ‘Coming from place where everything is covered in an artificial veil , where definition of beauty taking a  whole new meaning  is drowned midst umpteen coatings of  unnatural colors , where beauty comes at an expense , Kerala is Unique. It on the other hand portrays effortless natural beauty.’  

(pic taken by rekha (‘rays’))

Monkey temple here we come ….. 

After having parted from their home we drove along the country side to visit the monkey temple .Well If you ask me the exact significance of this place absolutely no idea !!!! 

All i remember is that we walked midst rows of houses  and adjoining fields and a  turn to the left we suddenly encountered an army of monkeys .It lay atop a hill and there was water everywhere. The sound of water trickling down the hill ,chatter of monkeys , birds calling out :it was a beauty.

 ‘ Coming from a city where one wakes up only to be welcomed by cemented structures visiting such a place is like a free ticket to moon .   ‘  

Having captured a few pics of those not so camera shy monkeys which were  totally oblivious  of the fact that they would be popular sensation in a couple of days kept giving random poses as we headed back. 

 We did get a glimpse of daily life of people living her . And hence some details were captured.

 ‘The people here project natural satin like skin tone and a well-kept  natural curls perfectly complementing, while for the surroundings  they have made  conscious efforts not to meddle too much with the nature.’

 Moving ahead … 

 We visited backwaters in koyillandi.The plan was to go boating .We reached the place and  encountered a couple of fisherman preparing the boat by the draining out the water . While Kids enjoyed  a bath in the water on the other side of the water.

 ‘ A common man here seemed to be in complete harmony with nature .
(pic by Rupesh:  )

Unlike the buzzing city life where everyone seems to competing against time but in vain ,this place seemed to have  accepted the laws of nature and appeared to be in truce with it ‘ .

After the boat ride everyone began to experiment with their cameras , the subject was the fisherman .He willingly accepted to throw the fishing nets into water while most of them anxiously clicked  hoping to have captured it exactly the same way they had pictured it to be . It was definitely a learning ground for many.

 then we walked back along the fields back to the bus .By then Sun had been callous enough to  burn my face but yeah what the heck !!! 

 In the Bus …….

Perhaps it was  time for bonding intro session started with pun intended . It was time for ganga and vicky to show their natural talent to rag everyone  the bus ride turned out to be more lively ther after 

 Lunch Time …….

 Had a Quick lunch then headed toward the largest drive in beach Muzhappilangad .It was perfect sunset was alluring and attracted some clicks . 

 At Muzhappilangad beach …. 

 With very few on the beach it was perfect setting for photography enthusiasts.It was time to try out silhouette photography which came naturally to rupesh .

 Me being  totally ‘vetti’  was given a job of being the subject.Now that dosn come easy for a camera shy girl. I guess i was fortunate enough to be clicked by professionals .
(pic by muthu )
‘ Now i can conclude without any doubt that i cant get enough of the sea  . This particular setting is not something new isn’t it ?  .We have come across umpteen times .Still every time i see the beach , the sun ,sky and the water  closing in at the horizon i feel it tells something new .The tides kept splashing onto the feet as though welcoming us to dive into  and explore a new unseen world .One can stand in the middle  for hours and still never get bored  .’

 After a quick bath it was time for something i had never heard of We drove along Pazhayangadi .


 Theyyam a traditional ritual of Kerala ended the day with utmost satisfaction . Well one can actually wiki about the dance style and get to know but the real thrill lies in watching it live like watching football match midst much uproar in the stadium

 Well I couldn’t gather much about custom but for sure I was amazed by the intensity with which the  drums were played by the village folk it took me on a high.It dragged me into the Theyyam  spirit.All thanks to one specific drummer 

 The sheer detail in the make up caught my eye.The temple setting was a cynosure . It was dark outside but the temple was well lit with oil lamps hanging around the temple . One look around the temple, dancer’s bright red attire with wick lit around the palm leave gave it much more than a festive setting .His expressionless face, powerfully choreographed dance and sprint around the temple did convey something . Something for me that was less heavenly and more horrifying . 

I got a feeling That I was witnessing a tribal ritual.  The light around the temple glared on his face to give him a more ghastly and a bright look .
(pic by rekha again )

After the ritual in the temple covered in coconut leaves upto the chin he ran towards the blazing fire fell on top the fire face  down and was pulled out. He did the customary 100 + jumps .

 Perhaps was not satisfied that he didn’t show enough male prowess he went back and jumped again !!!For us it was like a deja vu . It looked like the dignity of the temple lay In his hands. 

 From the look of it the village folk looked at the dancer  as messenger from heaven they seemed pretty satisfied that their lives no more coverd in gloom when he in person blessed them. 

Well if his blessings do work then i am going back to attend the next theyyam wherever it may be.

Well not sure if i approve of the ritual but heck it doesn matter it was a sight to see..  

DAy 2  

It was close to 7 am when we realized a priya was missing. We had Waited for over an hour atlast  we caught a glimpse of hers. Perhaps she was out there setting theyam s blessings . 

After spending an entire day in waiting room refreshing when we stopped by a 3 star hotel my happiness knew no bounds. We took bath and dried out clothes in no time  


 Well After having seen theyyam that morning this came as no surprise .By then i had got a feel of kerala’s uncanny traditions.

 This was a temple devoted to lord shiva .Temples in Kerala that we visited don’t have elaborate sculpture carvings of gods goddesses that one sees in Chennai .It is simple yet attracts a lot of devotees.

 Many small idols of dogs were placed outside and worshiped here.

 Lunch Time …..

 Day 2 and 3 weren’t a rush affair. The schedule was well balanced yet there were times when we wore blank expressions as to what to do next.

 ‘Pulling each others leg being a favorite pass time we continued the tradition yet again. Focus would  shift seamlessly to another person if the response from the  current target got boring .’ Key target being  priya took it very sportively.

 I on the other hand enjoyed the most hilarious moments laughing almost 24/7 when around vicky , ganges and navnee…with comedy written all over their face never realized how time passed when around them 

 Until someone hit upon the epiphany  to go around and explore , tradition would continue… 

 At St Angeles Fort…

 Fort was a place of a lot of activity . 

 Ranjini provided free entertainment to some blessed onlookers who otherise seemed to be wondering and puzzled why they chose to spend a Sunday under blazing  sun going around some random rocky  structure .

She  hugged almost anything that came her way  showing extreme symptoms of nostalgia and occasionally changing her profession to begging her way to earn some 10s of rupees  offered by the very generous rupesh .

 I on the other hand  thought  would fight the heat giving it a hard time to drive me away so went around looking for a place to settle .  Being a hard core introvert kept looking for places where I don’t find a soul. Finally climbed a top the fort and sat overlooking the sea . Strained my eyes to spot the horizon it was blurred .  This particular fort had a lot to offer to photography.

 This particular fort was triangular and was built overlooking the bay. To the left of the fort was the harbor and occasionally I spotted a boat along  the horizons of the sea . We spent quite a while there it was worth . It had a long tunnel kind of a structure that ran throughout the length of the fort with  shadows of the pillars around being cast symmetrically on the ground perhaps this was the prison in olden days . A Good Spot for photography. It  still has the old canyons placed around the fort pointing  to the sea .
(pic by ranjani )

 Payyambalam Beach for the Sunset 

The next stop was payyambalam beach. Again the sunset was the attraction. 

We had some serious sessions about the art  with rupesh who i must mention had a lot of patience to explain even some trivial concepts. This trip  not have been complete without him .

Ranjani and Arjun tried jumping at the shore to  capture the plunge to the ground with high speed photography.  

We headed back and drove towards kasargod which comes at the border of kerala and mangalore (karnataka).We found mostly tulu speaking folk here 

 At Karsargod …..

We had  a quick dinner and found 3 rooms to spend the night .The rooms were quite comfortable. Here i got some time to bond with all the girls. I was fortunate enough not only  to hear some haunting real life stories by darshini as bed time stories but also witness it as she recreated the scene of  her  rendezvous with ghosts and trust me she is good !!. Her expressions were indeed freaky………

In the morning we had water melons and tea for breakfast and headed to Bekal Fort 

DAY 3 well spent At Bekal Fort ………

 Now this was our last destination.

The melancholic song from bombay ‘Tu Hi Re ‘ was shot in this very destination. I could picture anrvind swami plunged in gloom for not having seen his lady love .Taking  the riskier routes like the edge of the fort and the slippery rocks hoping to get washed into the sea while his lady love runs along the entire length of the fort hoping to find an  entrance so that she could prevent any untoward incident with the lifeless hero cause apparently his life and death was in her hands !! Really  !!  (‘maut aur zindagi tere haathon mein dediya re ‘).

(pic by the ‘ganges ‘ )

That apart the fort was a scenic beauty .The fort was built very close to the sea with the waves constantly striking the walls with force . An extension of the fort lead to the sea . The holes to launch the missiles were almost everywhere and the protruding bastions provide a good location to capture some different  angles of the sea .It was like St angels built with laterite rock. Standing a top the fort view remained exhilarating .The entrance to the fort opens up to a vast beautifully maintained garden and a long passage way leading to the walls opens up to the ever expanding sea.

oh almost forgot ! when you visit this fort don’t be surprised if you find a couple aping the khan and kajol jodi. Well this place apparently   spurs up any residual   feelings one has towards his  lady .:P hmm wonder why this fort ? 

 Nonetheless i would recommend this place too.  It was close to 3 pm by the time we headed back .Since the train was at 5 in the evening we had just enough time to have lunch.So we stopped by a restraint in kasragod .

It was time for the train we exchanged contact details. Well for the first time i felt slightly pained for having parted for i did establish some connection with the group in those 3 days. 

 At Maadur temple …….. 

 Karthik , Ranjni and I stayed back as we had to travel back to bangalore and coimbatore for our buses were scheduled late in the night .So we decided to visit the famous madur temple (It was close to 7 km from the kasargod station ).

 Spotted  some kingfishers around the stream which ran  behind the temple premises. On the otherside was a well nourished field.

Temple itself was again devoted to Shiva. Its architecture for me resembled more of some Tibetan monastery.
(pic by karthik )

 We sat behind the temple clicking pics and chatted for a while and returned back to the bus station where I took leave of them.


 ‘ This was the end of my malabar trip .It has left some indelible memories  and also some temporary scars and burns  on  my face  : courtesy the glaring sun. Being the subject number 2 comes with a  price  you see.’ 

 ‘Like a bride to be , Kerala is both demure and blushing yet has a  welcoming feel inviting its visitors to feel its  natural form .’

 ‘Photography another form of art. Although not into photography I can surely say a photographer is blessed with a different vision. A vision to turn even bland landscapes ,stoic faces and ghastly structures into breathtaking close to real life pic.where every detail otherwise oblivious to my eye is brought to life ‘

‘A camera is undoubtedly a traveller best friend for life .’ 

 ‘Overall I loved the portrait photography that captures a zillion emotions ,unaware subjects caught candid hence enhancing its beauty.’

After seeing all your pics bow down to all of you . A zillion thank yous to Rakesh and everyone part of this journey will meet u soon  :)
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