Sunday, April 28, 2013

God's Own Country - My Travelogue - 4 Thekkady - Allepy

Leaving Munnar in the morning, we reached Sterling Thekkady mid afternoon. Thekkady - Kumily is a tourist hot spot, having numerous good hotels and resorts, and a laid back atmosphere. The Periyar Lake, part of the Periyar Tiger Reserve is the place which offers one and half hour boat ride, and very popular with tourists. The Periyar Lake Boat ride is most frequented as it is right in the heart of Thekkady.

Sterling Thekaddy is located at one of the boundaries of  the Periyar Tiger Reserve, having a nice forest lodge type ambiance. You enjoy all the modern comforts, but have a feel of a forest lodge. Monkey families from the adjoining forest reserve are frequent visitors. From the presence of a number of foreign tourist groups, it seems this Resort is very popular in its aesthetic appeal.


A must see performance is the Martial Arts display known as Kaliyarapattu -  the oldest and original Martial Arts,  purported to to have originated 3000 years ago by  sage named Parsuram. Stick - sword / dagger -sword  duels and a synchronized jump through the rings of fire by two proponents of the art, keeps you mesmerized. At the end, you get to a photo op.

My Kalariayattu Moment ! All these years have been changeling opponents with words and wit. First time got a chance to handle the sword and shield. 

Stage managed Kalaripayattu. My opponent told me first to pose like him, I was smart enough not to oblige. With a weak back, if I had done his bidding, would have made a fool of my self, as with my medical condition, I would have been all floors with sword and shield. 

Gavi Forest Eco Tour - Periyar Tiger Reserve

Although the Periyar Boat ride is more relaxing, and less time consuming, we decided to go for the Gavi Forest Eco Tourism Trek. At 5.30 in the morning we started from the resort, and after one hour Jeep ride, we were at the Forest Check post. A few Tiger Posters at the entrance and on the way proclaiming that we are about to enter Tiger Territory added to the excitement, and in hush and awe we moved forward. 

Our Driver Mohammad had earlier informed us that during his 5 years of doing this trek, he has spotted the Tiger only 7 times, but just 10 days ago he had made the last sighting. A heavy fog and the lush green vegetation, with creeks and small watering holes, and distant bird calls and chirping, a sudden movement in some of the branches, all added to our excitement, as we slowly moved on, in eerie silence.    

The Periyar Wild life sanctuary is spread across 300 sq miles out of which 140 sq: miles is thick evergreen forests, and home to 44 Tigers, many species of wild life and the oldest inhabitants - the honey gatherers who have lived for centuries in harmony deep inside the forest.

Gavi at an altitude of 1000 ft above sea level is a quiet, beautiful and pristine evergreen forest. Travelling through it makes you reflect on the abundance of Nature, it makes you feel so small and insignificant. An Elephant mahout told me that, in the wild on an average each grown up Elephant drinks 200 liters of water and eats 150 Kgs to 300 kgs of vegetation. There are hundreds of elephants roaming in the wild and protected confines of Periyar Tiger Reserve. 

So much abundance in Nature  - there are in all 320 species of Birds and Botanists have confirmed that there are only 2 Gopher Trees ( Nirampalli) in India, and both these are in the Periyar Tiger Reserve. Gopher wood is mentioned in Genesis 6:14 as the wood from which Nuh Nabi made the Ark (shafina)  !!

The safari is not merely sightseeing but a learning experience. It is an intimate and enriching experience and makes us respect Nature and Conservation. During 1970 on wards the Sri Lankan repatriates, were settled in the Gavi Forest area and Cardamom plantations were set up for their livelihood. 

The Treks are of 1 hr and 3 hr duration and there is an 1/2 hr boat ride and lunch is provided during the course of the safari. We were back at the resort in the evening and after getting refreshed went for the famed Kerala Massage, and I have already dwelt on the after effect of the Massage in my earlier post !! 

Tiger Roar
my grandsons did not get to see the TIGER
but I did manage to surprise them on the trek
with a tiger roar !!

On the Trek with Mani our guide
we were made to wear leech socks,
although there were no leeches on the
trek. Leech socks made us look like
serious forest trekkers. 


Boat ride on the serene
Periyar Lake

Next day we left for Alleppy, reached around noon, into a completely different natural scenery of vast expanses of water and paddy fields, where a house boat was waiting for us, to get us a feel of the famous Backwaters of Kerala.

The Backwaters are a chain of lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea. It is fed by 38 rivers and forms 900 kms of man made and natural waterways. Vembanand Kayal is the largest lake covering an area of 200 kms - largest lake in Asia, and on account of its waterways and in-habitations around Allepy is called The Venice of the East.

The House Boat ride is a memorable experience, but I would like to warn you that if you are visiting Kerala during the summer months, as we did, it is not advisable to stay overnight. As all the House Boats are berthed before night fall, and on account of frequent power cuts and fluctuations, the heat and the mosquitoes take their toll, and before the on board generator kick starts at 9 pm and air conditioner gets switched on in the room, you really wish you were staying home or at an hotel - there are many in Allepy. 

During summer, a day ride on the House Boat in the early hours or late afternoon is more enjoyable and less taxing. A smaller boat is much better, as it can navigate smaller waterways, and you get the opportunity to view the day to day lives of the inhabitants living in the villages at very close quarters. 

After staying overnight in the House Boat, the next morning, we headed for the Kochi Airport. We had a wonderful time in the few days we spent in God's Own Country. Nature is indeed a great teacher, if one is an aware and observant learner. 

Just sharing one of the many lessons learnt. Allah has created this beautiful Universe with a purpose, we have to learn to respect it. Everything in Nature has a purpose. During our Gavi forest safari, with the help of our Driver Mohammad, we understood, specially my grandchildren got to learn, that even the  leeches (eeek  ! was the first reaction when Mohammad put two leeches on his hand) serve a purpose. 

Dr. Aliasgar explained that leech medical therapy is widely practiced, and is beneficial in blood circulation disorders, such as, cramp veins, cardiac infarct, rheumatism etc: The bite of the leech is not painful, as the saliva is filled with pain killers. Leeches can consume between 5 to 15 ml of your bad blood, that is 4-6 times their body weight in a single feed. When done, they fall off. !!

My Moiz overcame the fear and managed to place one on his hand. A great lesson learnt. 

We reached Kochi Airport and the Departure Lounge was a welcome surprise. Dr. Aliasgar has traveled a lot, and he also found this one to be one of the best. Spacious with comfortable and regal upholstery chairs, complimentary News Paper racks, and tv monitors showing different news channels.

Hope readers enjoyed reading my Travelogue, I for one did really enjoy writing it and reliving the memories.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

God's Own Country - My Travelogue - 3 Munnar

It is worth a visit to the Spice Garden, specially if you have kids in the group. A guide accompanies you for a half an hour tour, and you get to know a lot about different spices, their health and medical benefits etc:

Cardamom - the Queen of spices is the most sought after from Kerala. Although smaller in size, it is of good quality, and the loamy soil and medium slopes are ideal for its cultivation. Every one loves chocolates, and it was my first hand experience to get the feel of cocoa cultivation.

Each of the Spice Farms has a selling outlet, where you can shop for your favorite spice. The home made chocolate bars, without ant preservative are worth a try. With the growing awareness in our eating habits, it is good to understand about organic farming and to develop a taste for the produce.

Cocoa fruit 

Towards afternoon we entered Munnar town, and found it to be too crowded, it has changed its character and has become a bustling town of Tea Planters. We were fortunate to have booked ourselves in  Terrace Green - Sterling resort nestled in the hills, a peaceful heaven at  a distance from the hustle bustle of the town. Club Mahindra also has their property located near by in Chinnakanal.

Many years ago I had stayed in Terrace Green just for a day, but this time round I found the property to be greatly up scaled, with aesthetic room decor, impressive reception area, and large refurbished dining and activity areas. 

It covers a large area, so you can have a relaxing morning walk, and return to have your tea and coffee. The rooms have a small fridge, a microwave, a tea pot and the room service smiling keeps your tea/coffee, sugar / milk sachets full, so you can enjoy many a hot cuppas in the cold climate. 


Numerous indoor and outdoor activities keep the tourists in good spirit and cheer. A forest trek, Muuttuputtey Dam and lake, where you can hire a power boat, a flower and plants Nursery, and a visit to the first Tea Processing factory and Tata's Tea Museum, where the original Tea roller of 1905 and other related exhibits are on display, and at the end of the visit, we get to enjoy, complimentary famous brewed Munnar Tea.

The history of Munnar is that the verdant beauty of the place caught the attention of a British Commandant in the later part of the 18th Century, during the Third Anglo Mysore War, when the British  were in hot pursuit of Tipu Sultan, who managed to escape.

It was the British Resident John Daniel Munro in 1870 who had interest in Plantation, that brought Munnar to the outside world. However, it was an European - A.A. Sharp who planted in 1880  the first tea saplings in the 50 acres of land at Parvathy. Now the entire region is covered with Tea plants. The Tata's entered into collaboration with Finlay in 1964. At present the Tea Estates in the entire region by owned and managed by a Co-operative.

After a 3 day stay at Sterling - Munnar we left for Thekkady where the Periyar National Park is located. It is approx: 4 hrs downward journey, with sharp turns and bends, so if you are prone to travel sickness, eat light and take medicine.

Monday, April 22, 2013

God's Own Country - My Travelouge - 2

As we left Kochi after breakfast and headed towards the cool climes of Munnar, why Kerala is called God's Own Country was evident in the breath taking landscape that slowly unfolded before us, as we started to climb the mountains.

On our journey towards Sterling Resort, it was a good decision to check out on one of the numerous Spice Farms that line the road. Spice Farms and Elephant safari are two of the many activities, and there are numerous both in Munnar and Thekaddy. Munnar although at an approx: height of 4500 sq: ft has turned into a bustling township, crowded and noisy, whereas Thekkady is quaint and tourist oriented, although at a lower height, but less polluted.

However, it is better to visit the Spice Gardens and do Elephant safari, while going upwards towards Munnar, as we did, because it is more fun, when you have to trek a slightly hilly terrain, when the Elephant tries to negotiate you down a slope, it is more fun and exiting.

Kerala is famous for its rejuvenating massages. Our Murtaza thought it fit, to have a head massage instead. :)) As for the massage, I went  in for one of recommended place at Thekaddy. There are 108 body points, which are 'woken up' so to say, by experts, who do a 4 year course.

Now it all depends on how much money you are willing to cough up. There are 1/2 hr to 2 hrs 30 minutes relaxing massages, which they claim, the effect lasts for 6 months. All body points are covered,   in all the different categories, but the body points receive the expert attention and time, depending upon the money you have spent !!

After massage there is a detox steam bath which opens all the skin pores. The fellow who gave me a massage, seeing my limp and age, thought that I will not  be comfortable, not knowing that I am a Bohra and a banya to boot with. I was perspiring all over, but was not willing to let go, because I had paid a goodly sum.

After about an hour you are to take a hot bath. I went to the resort and while having the stipulated hot bath, and thinking of 6 months of good glowing skin and robust health, it is what was claimed by the front desk guy. However,  on account of the oil and tiled flooring, slipped badly and fell head long on the floor.  Luckily no major damage resulted, and being fortunate to have the company of my son in law Dr. Aliasgar, who looked me up, and said all was fine.

So friends this much for now and the famous Kerala Massage.

(to be continued Insa Allah)

Friday, April 19, 2013

God's Own Country - My Travelouge

It was pleasant afternoon as our Spice Jet flight touched down at Kochi at around 1 pm on 4th April. Just before touchdown, got a panoramic view of God's Own County - Kerala. The greenery, the laid back feel, uncluttered road,  as we drove straight to Hotel Abad Metro, right in the heart of Ernakulam, was in a way beckoning  us to 'good times' in the days ahead.

Abad Hotel and Resorts have economically priced business class and upscale Leisure class hotels in all the major tourist places spread across Kerala. We found the service courteous and the rooms well maintained. It is off in a quiet lane off the hustle bustle of M.G.Road.

One noteworthy aspect is that the Hotel accepts provisional booking over phone, and confirms the Booking by sending an e mail. I was pleasantly surprised to receive their call 4 days prior to our travel, to reconfirm the booking.

We are travelling in lean season, hope they maintain this service in the peak Holiday season that is October to February.

After lunch and rest, we went to the see Fort Kochi, the old town famed for its Chinese Fishing Nets, the living quarters predominately in blue and white, having porticoes and fused with nature and Santa Cruz Basilica, the first Portuguese Church built in 1555.

Ernakulam has much changed since my last visit many years ago. The swank M.G.Road is lined up with glittering Gold and Diamond Boutiques, at places the entire building houses just one Jeweler store. I think with most of the Malayalees working in the Gulf,  the Dubai Gold souk effect is evident.

With two ladies in our entourage, the temptation to window shop was inevitable, but as we had to leave for Munnar next morning, I somehow managed to convince them that Fort Kochi and the Chinese Fishing Net are a must see.

The Gulf effect is very evident. Lulu has recently thrown open a swank Mall and I was surprised on my return, to find that there are three Mac Donald outlets, one in the Basement Parking, the other on the ground floor and the third one in the food plaza !! These fast food chains will surely change the food habits, in the coming years. I found 20 people lining up, much before the store opening time of 11.30 and would you believe it, it was Thursday.

It will not surprise me, if for the city population,in the coming years Puttu - Kadala - Iddiyappam - the traditional Kerala cuisines will be well forgotten.

Much before KFC and Mac Donald monopolized Fast food, our enterprising fishermen, with the help of these nets used to catch fishes from the shallow waters, 20 or so fisherman would clamber up on the pole, the huge net will be pulled up from  the shallow waters, with a good but small quantity of catch ensnared, and this would be sold immediately , fresh to the locals. The quantity of the catch would be small, but they would operate the net many a times. Fast food right from the shore to the nearby kitchen, and fresh too.

Now, no fishing is done, these large nets lined up on the river front are mere exhibits for tourists like us, while the Fast Food Chains cash counters are raking in.

As I set besides the fishing nets and admired the setting sun in all its majesty, I reflected on how an Eastern idea has been monopolized by the West, and in stead of fresh stuff we are hooked on all that is rich in trans fat leading to obesity and all the problems associated with it.

With this sobering thoughts I returned back to the Hotel and the next morning onward to the Tea Gardens and the cool climate of Munnar.

We are indebted to Bhai Murtaza sk: Hakimuddin Rampurawala for helping us plan the tour, and booking of Sterling Resorts at Munnar and Thekaddy and House Boat at Alleppy.

(to be continued Insa Allah)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

ADDICTION - part 3 - catch them young to save from harm

The 'mauhim' to free the community of the growing menace of nicotine use and addiction to harmful substance abuse started by A'li Qdr Muffadal Moula Saifuddin (TUS) is positively impacting the mindset of the community, and has brought the menace on center stage.

Sincere efforts are being made by all concerned, and with the help of seminars, talks, personal interaction, and mumineen Doctors taking an active part, many have come 'clean' in the shortest possible time.

Here in this post, I would like to bring into focus how the 'mauhim' is rendering a singular service, in making the school going children, who are more likely to fall prey to this menace, to make them aware of the immense harm of substance abuse.

I personally vouchsafe of the positive impact on young minds going to MSB and Badariyah School in Pune, as I had the opportunity to interact with a few school going children, who narrated how the talks by Doctors and videos, have made them realize and impacted their mindset.

As the topic of muharramat was being discussed among family members my grandson Moiz, who was busy with learning animation, was also 'all ears' as the family discussed the effects of nicotine, in the context of my two earlier post.

It was a welcome surprise for me, that after an hour or so, he presented me with an animation, which I am proud to share with my readers. It is my grandson's small khidmat. This goes to show how, if we bring into open our shortcomings, we in a way our helping our future generation.

Animation by Moiz Dr. Aliasgar Lokhandwala. Abu Dhabi 



 During his more than 39 years of his professional life Dr. Aquil Busrai has won many awards and accolades.

My personal admiration for Dr. Aquil Busrai besides his sterling academic and professional achievements is more to do with his character - everything pales when I see him evolving through long years of my association with him, as a very sincere, hard working, down to earth human being, who has overcome challenges of life with fortitude, courage and foresight.

To many youngsters aspiring to achieve their dreams in spite of their limited means, he is a glowing example, and during my many interactions, with mumineen youngsters I always tell them Dr. Aquil Busrai's story.

 Dr. Aquil Busrai stands tall, he does not require my 'write up' on him, but I requested him, and he reluctantly agreed when I told him that my' niyat' the aspiring youngsters of our community find hope , and get motivation and can dream their dreams.

When I came to know that he has been conferred with another PH.D  my thoughts went back to those years when Late Bhen Bilkis Bengalee - a young divorcee, with fortitude, courage and lots of love managed to raise up her only child. She did every thing possible to see that her young Aquil never felt want.

This Blog of mine is in appreciation of a mother who raised her child and instilled in him all the noble virtues. 

Readers of this blog will love to listen to this beautiful rendering of Maa ki shan. My personal tribute to Late Bhen Bilkis Bengalee.

(copy paste on You Tube if the link does not click )

During the course of his Proffessional Career, Dr Aquil Busrai has received hundreds of comments and appreciations. I share with readers, just two.

"Aquil is an institution by himself. He is an open book, rather an open video of learning. When anybody meets him, learning just happens "
Dr. Rakesh C - Corporate Mentor. A.R. Corporate Mentors LLP - United Kingdom.

"Aquil is a great team player and above all a nice human being; is an asset to any organization"
Venkatesh K  - Vice President  Hindustan Lever Ltd:

Aquil Busrai Consulting has focused on three thrust areas.
1) Executive coaching - not only at senior management but also at middle management level.
2) HR strategy
3) Leadership Development and Training

What is most noteworthy is that his Firm is committed to undertake consulting assignments with a difference.
15% of the net revenue of the firm will be contributed to NGO's involved with underprivileged children.10% of time will be offered for honorary training and consulting organizations involved with social cause.

Dr. Aquil Busrai has conducted many workshops for Dawat and educational Idaara. I have been fortunate to learn a lot from him.

It would be worthwhile to click on the below link and read the complete Profile of an Achiever and an inspiration.