Sreenath's World

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pirates of Alappuzha – The Dead Man’s Party

Akash: “Kitni khoobsoorat jagah hai ye”
Sameer: “It’s beautiful”
Akash: “You know what! Humme hal sal kum se kum ek hafte ke liye Goa aana chahiye”
Sameer: “Definitely. Right Sid?”

Remember the famous lines from the Dil Chahta Hai?

This is our second get together in a house boat (though my first) in two years. We the Desperadoz have decided to come for a get-together once a year at some place and spend a few good days sharing all the old and new good things and memories in other’s lives. Alappuzha is not meant to be what Goa is in DCH but it happened so because we had to cut out a few other places because of reasons like unfavorable weather and lack of finance. We changed the idea of boarding from Kumarakom because we get to see a lots more backwater area if we board from Alappuzha.

Since I am going to be a dead man (it means some one who is marrying, death of bachelorhood) soon I decided to give away my Bachelor’s party as well. I know it too early to give a way one but I guess this is the time I could get the maximum participation. Panackal and Jackie were missing from the last event but Vineeth, Thaks and I were the fresh blood coming in. We had been planning the event for two months and finally the big day arrived. Six of us (Anand, Divaku, Thaks, Naru, PKPP and I) would be traveling to Alappuzha and the rest of the team (Pattu, Kiru, Vineeth, Kakka, Thottu and Dinku) coming down from Bangalore would be joining us at Alappuzha.

The alarm should have woken me up a fifteen minutes later by a bad dream took over the job at 4:00 a.m. in the morning. Phew! No a good start huh! It’s ok! After my regular “hey baby, I am up” call, I got washed, got a cup of tea and packed up a few last minute utilities. By pick up was at 5:15 a.m. from Pattom junction. Thaks was already waiting at Pattom when I got there a minute before the appointed time. I gave Naru a call and he asked for 10 min to show. Unusually early for my friends. I filled my pockets for the trip meanwhile right across the road. As the clock ticked 5:30 a.m. our transport had arrived. Anand, PKPP, Divaku and Naru had already made themselves comfortable in the 14-seater Tempo Traveler. 14-seater for just 6 guys to travel? Just show-off! Thaks and I settled in.

Seems the previous night was too short for all of us. Not much said and done in the first hour. Everybody snuggled in the comforts of their seats. I was the first to speak. I needed a tea badly. We pulled aside the Traveler to a tea-stall and had tea around 7:00 a.m. Thaks was still asleep. We soon as we got on road again I pulled out my collection of music CDs and very soon we all were hearing some good music. I tried to find a mid-way between the various tastes of music we share and I was able to pull of the trick. Baby had already started on her trip as well.

Everyone were back in their seats except for PKPP who seems to be making a road-map to Alappuzha by taking photographs of all the big and small landmark along the road, and Thaks snored along. The Bangalore guys called once in while to keep us informed of their progress. We got to Alappuzha around 8:30 a.m. and helped ourselves to breakfast of Appam and egg curry from a hotel. The hot coffee that followed tasted so good. The Bangloreans were waiting for us in a close by location. We picked them up and soon it was all “aliya- machu-hugs-smiles-back pats”. Our boating agent’s place was close by. We got there around 9:30 a.m. and it was waiting time. We were a little early to the place and our boat would be ready only by 10:30 a.m. We settled the boating bill and were planning on the drinks and extras. The Bangloreans had already brought with them a couple of Johnnie Walker Red Label Scotch whisky and Smirnoff Orange Twist vodka. A dozen beers, couple of 2l Cokes, a 2l Miranda and few “touchings” joined in. At 10:30 a.m. we were at the docks. A few snaps at the waterfront and hand shakes with the crew (a skipper and a couple of cooks) we all got inside the “Golden River 2”.

The boat’s interior wasn’t a surprise for me because I had seen lots of snapshots and description about it from my friends who were lucky to be on board it the last time. It was a not-very-expensive type houseboat (a kettuvallom, the traditional rice boat turned houseboat) made mostly of bamboo and wood. The whole of the interior had wooden finish. A hall that held a couple of settees, a dinning table with 6 chairs, a shelf that held a TV and a DVD player and seats on the both the edges of the boat. A passage from the hall leads you right to the other end of the boat where we have kitchen and you have 3 attached bedrooms with double coats on the side of the passage. Just as the boat got of the dock we all were quick in getting into one of the rooms and change to our home-wears. The beers and drinks went into the ice box.

All of us sat back and relaxed and took a good look at the vast expanse of the Punnamada Lake which is more like a river basin but it is a fresh water lake. We saw the past paddy and coconut groves, mangroves, along fresh water canals and rivers that debouch into Punnamada Lake. As you coast and wander about lake, you get to see fishermen going home and small sailboats. There are a few very-low-cost human settlements on the banks were you can women involved in the daily chores and little children enjoying game of ball and bath. Big and small carpets of Water Hyacinth flow besides. Flock of ducks swims around and sedge of cranes fly across the sky. Backwaters are not blue in color. The waters are green or black in color and in some places you do get the stink of stagnated water. But once you set in to the deepest place, all you get to see is Water, house boats and blue sky. All of us enjoyed the serene greenery and quite surroundings.

What is backwater? Usually in all places water flows forward. Place where water flows backward are known as backwater. Slapstick!

Drinks time! Applause, hurray, claps went as I open the first beer of my party. We just open one as an appetizer but it just triggered the chain reaction. Another beer followed and soon the first of the Red Label was opened. The initial kick settled in and we had started our Party around 1 p.m. The boat docked at one of the island to get some toddy. As everyone were engrossed in photography and getting Toddy my eyes didn’t fail to notice the fresh Karimeen being fried in the hotel’s kitchen. Anand, Naru, PKPP and I helped ourselves into a couple hot and tasty fried Karimeen. We also got ourselves some Kappa and Konju-curry for the evening snacks. Back in the boat and off we went. The Toddy bottles that got in with us were gulped down in a matter of minutes. Then the first wicket fell. A bit of over confidence caused Thottu badly. We sailed for another half an hour and stopped over at another uninhabited island for lunch. They server us rice, Karimeen (again) fry, sambar, cabbage, pickle, some other fixed vegetable curry and Beans Mezhukkupuratti. After everyone had their full slowly settled into a short slumber.

It was 4 p.m. before everyone came to life again. We finished the first bottle of Red Label and couple of more beer. The motors of the boat come to life and pushed us through. It started raining and some of the guys took a bath in the rain while a few other started fishing, thanks to the hooks and cockroaches (live and warped in a plastic bag, yuck!). The fishing expedition was on for the whole 22 hours we were in the boat and we didn’t even get a single fish. Changed the bait from cockroaches, rice and earthworms and still no luck. PKPP started his “Nancy Drew – Hardy Boy” story and one should see the excitement in the audience’s eyes. Amazing concentration. Naru and I are working on a story board based on the lines of PKPP’s “Nancy Drew” event. Them we stopped at yet another island and brought some prawns (each one as big as your arm) and also some snacks to eat. Music was playing in the background, goals after goals, jokes here and there, futile fishing attempts, photograph, a few calls to family and girl friends, fun fights, whiskey and beer and it was 6 p.m. Our boat headed to its mooring point in one of the islands.

As you’re near the banks of the island you could see the paddy fields spread over acres and the plantain and coconut trees on the outer edges in the fading day light. A few cows were grazing and we also could see few human settlements a far. The coconut trees played host to numerous weaver bird nest which were causing a deafening cacophony. More whiskey and beer went down with the Kappa and Konchu curry we had with us. As the light faded around so did my memory. A headache was building inside and I knew that we little more of drinks could go in. All of us were in various states of drunkenness. I needed to get well for the Vodka coming up for it had been brought especially for Dinku and me. Half a bottle of Mirinda and an entire bottle of Vodka! I just couldn’t think of the ominous time ahead.

As the Vodka made its entry around 7:30 a.m. the DJ night had begun. Some woke me up from the settee and pulled me into the ad hoc dance floor. I remember making a cameo in “Deewangi Deewangi” and also dancing topless in “Dard-e-Disco”, both from OSO. I took double large Vodka with some Mirinda. Unfortunately some ash blew me off the track. I didn’t throw up but my stomach was going berserk. Add to it some personnel problem caught up with me and I was in no mood to carry on the party. I took leave a moved into my bed. Party moved ahead full swing even without me. Someone woke me up to have dinner of chappati, rice, vendakya mezhukkupuratti and prawns (the one we brought) fry. I managed to nibble through a single chappati and vendakya but was not in a physical state to have the prawns even though I really wanted to. I remember attending a call from my colleague and making a call to baby later in the night. My memories fade out there. Sometime in the night I woke up to find PKPP hugged onto me and fast asleep.

The first rays of the sun woke me up. I got up to check on my friends and found all of them fast asleep in various postures in various parts of the boat. I made my way to front end of the boat by the controls to enjoy the countryside morning. It was a cool and clam sight out there. Soon PKPP and Kiru joined me updated me of the wonderful night they had partying. I was a silent listener. The wonderful night had gone up to 2 a.m. in the morning. One after the other everyone woke up and the crew server us some wonderful tea, the first non alcoholic beverage in over 20 hours. We just had another 3 or 4 hours for ourselves. All got busy packing and getting ready. We were served some piping hot Duck curry and appam. It was raining heavily outside and we guys attacked the breakfast like hungry wolves.

A quarter before 9 out boat started back to the waterfront. It was just 15 minutes away from the place we had moored. No one wanted to return. No one wanted the good time to end. All of us were cursing the next working day. But there was little we could do. As very soon we were at the waterfront. A few foreigners offer temporary relief but deep inside we all were disappointed that the day had ended. We took one last snap of the “12 Pirates of Alappuzha”, thanks to my manager who had showed up at the waterfront to pick some of his relatives. The Bangloreans were to be dropped at the railway station for their train was from Ernakulam at 5:30 p.m. Alappuzha beach is ring across the railway station. We had some last minute fun in the drizzle at the beach and dropped the Bangloreans at the station and gave them an emotional farewell. We all wondered who the next dead man would be.

What next? Back to six of us! Some of us wanted to go to Karimpumkala Toddy Shop in Pallam, Kottayam while the rest wanted to go home. Majority wins and off to Pallam we went. Karimpumkala is a famous Toddy shop and is renowned for the fresh seafood concoctions from the nearby Vembanadu Lake as well as the fresh toddy from the swaying coconut palms. 11:30 a.m. was too early for lunch especially because we had a heavy breakfast but the stupendous taste and smell of the food made us hungry again. To add to it the staff there were so friendly and well mannered. Kappa, appam, nadan chicken curry, Karimeen polichattu, kada fry and crab roast was simply mouthwatering. To add to the list we took parcels as well.

Back in bus we all fell asleep. MC road acted its role of “inconvenience causer” to perfection. We stopped for coffee at Venjaramoodu and in minutes Thaks and I were dropped off at Pattom, the place were all this had begun. I felt so sad waving bye to rest of the gang. I wonder when and where the next trip to be. But I would be waiting. All of them said a hundred times that I would be a doubtful starter for the next get together. I know I be proving them all wrong.

Note: Photos will be added to this post as soon as I get them.
posted by Sreenath at 6:48 AM

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