Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Pongal at Pt Calimere - Kodikarai

Click here, for a photo summary

The map that hung in our forest guest house.  Poonarai Illam was where we stayed.

Kodikarai aka Kodiyakarai aka Kodigeri seems to be a fishing hamlet, but with a strong government presence - there is a naval outpost, a BSNL station (so cell phones worked loud and clear, and everyone in the village seemed to have one!), a Customs and Revenue station and also a coast guard presence.  Just south, and across the Palk Straits after all was Sri Lanka.

This was main street, photographed by Sheila, which ran north to south - the roads were in better shape than in our neighbourhood in Chennai!

Western Union money transfer available!
Kodikarai is a plastic-free zone, but there was plastic strewn everywhere.

Take a look at the tariff card that was up on the notice board in our guest house - and pay special attention to the rates that the elected representatives of the people pay!!

Our guest house.
Its a shame, the way we spend money in this country.  There was an old dilapidated building just behind the guest house we stayed in, and group members who had been there earlier said that that was the old guest house.  This Mark 1 guest house still stands but is occupied by bats and has no doors and windows.  We occupied what should be Mark 2, not very old, all tiled and painted.  But maybe between the 13 rooms, we could have had three rooms with everything working - I mean, take the fan from one room, the toilet from another, light bulb from the third, etc etc.  

The whole weekend we were there (yes it was Pongal I know), there was not a single maintenance staff around - so, no sweeping, cleaning of any sort happened, and only good old Razzak bhai to answer questions and man the desk!  Another couple of years and Mark 2 will resemble Mark 1.

It looks like Mark 3 is also up - a more swank airconditioned guest house behind ours, which was given to an Austrian couple who just strolled in off the street looking for a room.  These were middle-aged, not hippy like or anything and later the man admitted he knew nothing about birds, so what on earth were they doing prowling around Kodikarai, and eating in our "restaurant"?

Ramar's mess was run by a family of four brothers, it seemed.  It was a shack with a couple of tables, wood burning stoves and was obviously the best address in town.  There would be crowds of people always at their door, and a "queue" to get in.
There were vadais with morning tea/coffee, then breakfast was idly with sambar and chutney, lunch was sambhar, poriyal, rasam and kootu and curds.  (Actually, it was meen kozhambu but we got "shaiva" kootu.)  Dinner was always parotta and kurma.  Vijay told us that they had landed a permit to make parottas in Singapore, for the summer of 2012!

Puris made for us on Pongal day! 
It was about 300m south of the rest house, and the first evening we were taken aback at the evening/night life of Kodikarai.  It seems that the street light outside the resthouse was the gathering place for the returning fishermen.  These fishermen come from other hamlets, for the season, and work on a commission basis, bringing larger boats and better equipment.

So, the street light was where they gathered and got into high spirits quite literally.  There was not a woman in sight after dusk, and many of the men, by nightfall, could not walk a straight line.

After the refreshments, dinner was at Ramar's, and they would need that parotta urgently.  So Ramar & Co decided to make them (who were after all their regular clientele) takeaway packs of their parottas and kurma, and we were served inside.  I thought I would get high just off the alcohol on their breaths!!

There was much curiosity as to who we were and where we came from, quite obviously.  But the amazing thing was when we visited the boat jetty or the fishing harbour the morning after, these men would be returning from sea or be busy with their catch, and operating quite normally - no effects of a hangover it seemed!

The story continues - Feral horses.

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