A sketch on the wall of a vegetarian restaurant (one of the very very few in the area), proudly proclaims that Thalassery is the "town of three 'C's -- Cricket, Circus and Cakes." The taxi driver who took us around also seemed to be very proud of the posh cricket ground, inaugurated by Sourav Ganguly. But of circus and cakes, we didn't see or taste much (buddy definitely got to taste the famed Thalassery Biriyani, which she was eagerly looking forward to !). But the vegetarian fare was a bit difficult to stomach. Mom was way too glad to have south Kerala sambhar !!!
Apart from food, everything was simply superb in this town with oodles of old world charm, not to be felt anywhere in this part of the state, except perhaps in the narrow gullies at Mattanchery. Thalassery is so green one wonders why people are complaining about diminishing forest covers ! But buddy promptly told me this rare patches of green is not enough to save the poor environment. It is probably this green that cools the atmosphere of this town with its narrow, moss-walled idavazhikal. Everywhere one turns there are level crossing gates, thick bushes and intermittent views of water bodies with vast patches of marine vegetation like mangroves. The Dharmadom Bridge offers an awesome and perhaps the lengthiest view of the azimuth, where the lake meets the sea. The Muzhuppilangad Beach -- apparently the only drive-in beach in the state -- is truly a heaven-on-earth. The road leads into the beach, to the pleasantly cool and peacefully calm waves. The beach also boasts of a wonderful array of really beautiful, and mostly unbroken shells ! the once-inhabited island in the middle of the ocean is an incredibly beautiful sight, and we almost reached the conjecture the famous island song from Kaho na Pyar Hain was shot there !
The historical Tippu's Fort too has its own charm, with a pan-view of the sea, which is broken at intervals by churches and other buildings around. The remnants of a cannon-carrier,a dysfunctional light house and sentry posts in desuetude -- all enhance the ancientness and historicity of the place. The erstwhile escape-route caves that lead to Kannur and Kozhikode are truly intimidating with its rather narrow path and dark interiors.
Perhaps what makes this town so cozy are its people, known for their hospitality and friendliness. The taxi driver took particular care in showing us around and seemed sad that we weren't staying long to see more. The Thiruvangad Srirama Temple is austere in its grandeur which is enhanced by the vast ground that surrounds the temple complex. Dad had an interesting story about the Siva Temple. Years ago, there was a farmland, right opposite the Siva Temple on the north side, which never used to give a good harvest. Later on people found out that the farm was bang on the path of Lord Siva's Third Eye, so naturally the farm was to suffer. To tone down the grave effects of the lord's Eye, a second Temple was built on the south side, and things became alright ever since. The Temple pond is really big and the facade of the main Srirama Temple is kept intact; it is built with vettukallu ( a rather grainy version of the normal chudukal) and might be a lot of years old. The Jagannadh Temple too has a huge compound, with an approach way like that of an airport !
But for Govt. Brennan College and its English Department, all this visual pleasure would not have been possible. The famed Thalassery hospitality was quite evident in the staff and students of the institution who took special care to make their guests comfortable. The College itself is an interesting site, situated in the middle of a lot of mini forests with huge trees and winding paths and broken stone steps !
Altogether it was an enjoyable and unforgettable trip both mentally, physically and academically, and a much deserved break for my mom, from the routine travails of a banker.
As the many papers at the seminar asked -- where are we headed to next?