Sunday, January 06, 2013

Perunthenaruvi

If you need a fish pedicure for free, try dipping your feet in the rivulets of water created by the cascading waters of Perunthenaruvi (the Great Honey Stream), one of the lesser known waterfalls in Kerala. Located in Vechoochira near Ranni in Pathanamthitta district, this honey stream eventually flows into the Pampa river. Vechoochira's other claim to fame in district circles is the Navodaya Vidyalaya, a boon for rural children especially the underprivileged. In fact, the Central-government-run residential school is a stone's throw away from the waterfall.
We set off early morning on the Pathanamthitta-Ranni route. The weather is mild being December. Our destination is about 36 km from the district headquarters.  'Swami Saranam' vehicles carrying Ayyappa devotees to the Sabarimala temple are a ubiquitous feature on the Pathanamthitta-Ranni route in December-January.
All of us, save for the person behind the wheel, settle for a short nap. The winding roads get more and more rugged after Ranni, which is enough to break our slumber. The locals are ever eager to give directions, which varies from 'go straight' to 'just another kilometre' but the final leg is not as easy as they make it out to be with almost non-existent signboards to a Kerala Tourism-listed landmark.

The girls.
The climb down rugged rocks to the stream is tricky. An employee of the water pumping station at the site helps the little ones trudge down. The dry weather means the rocks are not slippery though; in fact this is the best time to visit the waterfall than during the wet months of the South-west monsoon when the waterfall attains its full form and splendour, but making the area flooded and inaccessible to the public.
The boys, Ash and Raahi
We haven't come prepared for the hot afternoon sun that made our picnic plans go a bit awry. There is no canopy of trees to provide shade, and we have to spread our mat on a frying pan of a rock. But the water is cool and the children forget the discomfort as they half immerse themselves in some of the safer looking pools. Fish rush in to nibble at their tender feet while the same service for my callused ones are less forthcoming.
Tourists are only a trickle at this time of the day, and the idea of a picnic does not seem to be in vogue here. It is a blessing for the aruvi though, littered as it is already with plastics and even a leftover plum cake that lent a film of oil over one small pool of water. The "do not litter" board on one corner of the entrance never applies to oneself – it is always meant for one's neighbour. The huge circular water tank, catering to the needs of the local population, is awash with lovers' graffiti – names linked by hearts and arrows. The summer months can lead to a water deficit in this hilly region. A dam is coming up to cater to the thirst of two panchayats here; the drone of a JCB earthmover could be heard across the stream.
Lunch
We take a lunch break from the waterplay -- packed sandwiches and oranges fill our tummies. As the sun moves westward, there is a steady trickle of people, many of them youngsters who have come for a swim in the bigger pools of water. I move to less crowded spots to marvel at water-chiselled wells in the rocks
Teashop
Leaving the poor man's picnic paradise, we make the arduous climb up. Stopping at a wayside teashop for an 'authentic chai', we are charmed by the warmth of the couple running it. Another friendly local face soon drops in, telling the host that he be served after us. He happens to be running the local ration shop, which he says wont be 'viable' after the biometric system comes into effect in PDS outlets. He doesn't plan to be in the business for more than a year more; the State government will introduce biometric cards only in January 2014.
As for Perunthenaruvi – supposedly flowing honey owing to mineral-rich upstream water or from the numerous beehives in the path of the water - he tells us that the local population cares two hoots about it. As the vernacular saying goes, "the jasmine in your premises has no scent".
Published article in The Hindu

2 comments:

ush said...

true..
nice write up

Manu said...

beautiful family and pictures!