Tuesday, March 17, 2009
The first stop of the day was at Kappad beach, a diversion from the highway. I had no specific reason to be there but just wished to be there. The beach was small and my only observation was a rock filled with political advertisements. Subsequently, I found that Vasco Da Gama touched the Indian shores for the first time at this place before heading to Goa. I believe that the place also has a small memorial for him, which I did not spot.
The next towns that I reached were Quilandi, and then, Payyoli. Payyoli is synonymous with the legendary runner P. T. Usha, nicknamed ‘Payyoli Express’. Before reaching Payyoli, I enquired with someone if it is possible for me to go to her house and meet her. I was also keen on visiting her athletics school. The athletics school was located in Quilandi, which I had already crossed. After making few more enquires, I managed to find her house and knock the door. Alas, she wasn’t in the town and had gone to Palakkad for some work. It was an instance of ‘so near, yet so far’! I have a great admiration for P. T. Usha and her achievements. Critics might sight her inability to win medals at International. It was largely due to the fact that the peak of her career coincided with the dominance of East Europeans and Americans in athletics. Most world records in women track and field were set during that period (so was the rise of doping scandals). Once cannot find fault with her for unable to rise to that level. Women’s sports are rarely given importance in this part of the world even today. One has to admire her determination and hard work in the 1980s to change that mindset. In many ways, she is the pioneer of women’s track and field in India. When coming from a small town in a remote areas is a mighty achievement even today, one can understand how many hurdles, literally and figuratively, she must have crossed towards her achievements.
After Payyoli, I crossed a bridge that resembled the Napier bridge on beach road in Chennai. On a closer observation, I noticed that the bridge has been constructed by one ‘Gannon Dunkerly & Co.’ based in Chennai in 1938. There were few more of such bridges from that point onwards which resembled the same design and built by the same company. The lunch was at Vadakara – another exotic old-fashioned restaurant serving unlimited food at a very cheap rates.
Visit to Mahe
The evening started with visit to the erstwhile French territory of Mahe which now forms a part of the Pondicherry state. It was very small area running for about 6 Km in length. I could spot a PRTC Bus which was heading to Puducherry from there. It was followed by a conversation with the driver of the bus about the route. I wondered the rationale for having a separate state in Pondicherry and the existence of Mahe seems to strengthen that. It must be costing the administration a lot to govern a small region remotely from Puducherry. Is it any relevant to have a separate state merely because the territory was ruled by a different European nation in the past? Except for a few remaining French buildings, Mahe does not seem to possess anything special to make it unique from the rest of the coastal Kerala.
It was another ‘rain-filled’ evening. I had already crossed Tellicherry and the next big town was Kannur. I was a bit lucky to be closer to Kannur when the rains started pouring in. I took refuge near a shop where I met a group of Tamil labourers. They have travelled all the way from Kallakurichi (near Salem) in Tamil Nadu to Kannur to earn their livelihood. It pains to see that people need to travel so far to earn a basic wage.
I finally reached Kannur after fighting hard over few gradients. My search for a vegetarian restaurant took me to ‘Komala Vilas’ where I had my dinner and also the breakfast next day.
Kozhikode – West Hill – Kappad – Quilandi – Payyoli – Vadakara – Mahe – Tellicherry – Edakkad – Kannur
More pictures from the day here