Thursday, December 1, 2022

Boom town, difficult roads

Pic: Kannur international airport

Sunday Musings by Shekhar Nambiar

Bombay is still Bombay to many. I cannot stop myself from calling Chennai as Madras.  Such is the pull of names that it’s difficult to erase them from the mind. It’s also a generational thing! Interestingly, Kozhikode continues to be Calicut for airlines flying in and out of the city. But, then, this is understandable in view of the international IATA codes for different cities – CNN for Kannur, CCJ for Kozhikode, MAS for Chennai and so on.

Kozhikode beach

We’ve seen it happen to our roads. Chennai is somewhat of an exception. Names of some really old roads remain untouched here. That’s as far as names go.

Vismaya water park in Kannur

Old names die hard

On a recent visit to a city in Kerala that I’d known as Cannanore from childhood is now restored to its old and original name – Kannur. It was a quick tour but I made sure to catch up with my old haunts. My earliest impressions of the place, apart from the fishing harbour, beach and the fort, were the marketplace and shops that were introduced to me by my grandfather. And these ranged from ayurvedic medicine stores to the best biryani outlet in town and a general store. Most of these are not there now or have moved out to new premises.

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I happened to be in Kannur when the northeast monsoon set in. This monsoon has a peculiarity. It comes in the afternoon from the east accompanied by thunder and lightning and it rains – not cats and dogs – but moderately through late evening and the night.

Various prjects of Mangalore port authority.

Road less travelled

A quick trip to Mangalore, or Mangaluru, and Dakshina Kannada, and I realized that most road travellers avoid taking the national highway, partly as the highway takes a longer route in many areas but also north Kerala is in the throes of large highway stretches being widened and developed.

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Nileshwar houseboat

The constructions make traffic move at a snail’s pace, so at least for now, the national highway has become the road less travelled. Of the stretch between Kasargod and Thalapadi (Kerala-Karnataka border), less said the better.  With the abatement of the southwest monsoon, construction work is at its peak and it has become a nightmare for motorists.

300 year old Bekal fort

Pilgrim’s progress

Taking the inner road most frequented – from Nileswaram to Kasargod via Kanhangad – was the most sensible thing. Not only was it shorter than taking the national highway but it also passed through some interesting places, including Bekal Fort and the ThrikkanadThrayambakeswara Temple on the sandy sea shore, and also a brand-new coffee halt at Udma run by the Indian Coffee House cooperative. Their vegetable cutlets were as tasty as they were in the good old days in coffee houses across the country. And reasonably priced too! For some reason, it reminded me of the Coffee House in Delhi that was demolished during the Emergency. 

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East of Kasargodtown stands the centuries-old Madhur SreeMadanantheshwara-Siddhivinayaka Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and Ganesha.

Mookambika devi temple at Kollur.

South of Karwar is Gokarna, known as Dakshina Kashi, and an important pilgrimage centre. East of Udupi, and in the district’s Byandoor Taluk, located amid the forests of the Western Ghats in Kollur is the shrine of Devi Mookambika, Mother Goddess as Shiva and Shakthi.

Also read: Why oh why do I love Kochi!

Farther up, Kodachadri peak, at1,400 metres above sea level, stands tall above the dense forests. A natural heritage site. Adi Sankara is believed to have passed through the peak and a temple for SreeMookambika Devi stands as witness to history, including monoliths that date back to thousands of years. Devotees, a large majority of them from Kerala, throng these places along with the KollurMookambika Devi pilgrimage. A dirt-track leads people to the top. Some walk all the way up while others take jeeps to reach the peak.

Mangalore, a boom town and a charming coastal business hub with skyscrapers and malls.

Boom town

Mangalore looks every inch a boom town. Skyscrapers and malls seem to be mushrooming everywhere. It was once the go-to place for medical treatment from north Kerala, it probably still is. But then Kannur too is emerging as a medical hub.

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Mangalore and Dakshina Kannada district retain their pre-eminent position as centres of learning, particularly Manipal, situated above the temple town of Udupi.

Maritime security

Further north is the Indian Navy’s base at Karwar, INS Kadamba, that will also serve as the centre for the Maritime Operations Command as and when it is established. The base is the navy’s biggest. 

Talking of the navy, a little off Payyanur town in Kerala’s Kannur district is the Naval Academy and it is among the biggest and best in Asia. It certainly can rival one of US Navy’s training centres in Annapolis on the spectacular Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States. The Naval Academy is located on the slopes of Ezhimala, a mountain that can be spotted from miles afar. A walk up the hill to its highest point gives you a 360-degree view of the Western Ghats, rivers and valleys, and the majestic Arabian Sea as its waves lash the slopes of Ezhimala with its full fury.

Sri Rajarajeswara temple at Taliparamba

Food at Taliparamba

I cannot but mention a visit to a nondescript eating place in Taliparamba close to the famous Sri Rajarajeswara Temple.  There’s a reason why I visited Hotel Sri Rajarajeswara. The last time I had had their delectable food along with my son, then just three, was a little over two decades ago – on the day my daughter was born. And I can vouch for the quality and consistency of food. It tasted just the way it did then. Excellent, without any frills, to say the least!

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As I bade farewell to what was a short but memorable visit, a word of praise for Kannur International Airport in Mattanur. It is small but efficient. The airport also serves nearby Kodagu (Coorg) and other places in Karnataka. Its beautiful and picturesque approaches, surrounded by mountains, rivers and valleys leave a lasting impression. Until, next time then.

Shekhar Nambiar
Shekhar Nambiar
Shekhar is a communications professional who has spent a good deal of time in international organizations and in the development sector. As he puts it, it's been an "exciting journey" for him, beginning his working life as a journalist, with some of the best editors and professionals, before venturing into public affairs and then forays in the private sector. He believes "every day brings new challenges, achievements and success, and the key is to play a small part in whatever it is that you're doing". He tries to keep pace with new tech, and learn a new word a day, of course, "Gen Z lingo!"

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