Muthappanpuzha- an enigma

Nestled between the Western Ghats, flanked by rivers Muthappanpuzha is what I call heaven on earth. Of the few places I’ve been to, never did I get to see nature at its best, unaffected and untainted. Located a few hours away from Kozhikode, I got an opportunity to visit this place just twice. Family members and cousins who’d been there filled me with stories of its scenic beauty but no description could match what I saw with my own eyes.

Reaching Muthappanpuzha is an arduous task, but worth every bit of the trouble. After a tiring 2 hour long bus journey, there is again a 45 minute walk/drive up the hill. Yes, whether you  take up a jeep ride or a walk up the hill, it would take the same time.  The first time I went, I walked up claimed it was my first trek in the process :P. The second time, it was a jeep ride. If you ask me, walking up is always better compared to the experience of having your entire system shaken up during the jeep ride.

( the road upwards looked somewhat like this)

It is the locals who transport you from the valley upwards and thus, everybody knows who is coming where, who is going where. Our driver had full information about our family and recognized us quickly. We began our ride upwards and the driver said, ” I may have to leave you halfway up, coz there is an emergency labour case and they may need the jeep to go to the hospital”. The pregnant lady’s house was on the way apparently, and we agreed. He stopped the vehicle to check in on them, rather to check if he had time to drop us and come back. We got down from the jeep and waited for his return. What ensued was a loud wail of a new-born baby, women folk running around the house, trying to get hot water, cloth etc and the mid-wife popularly known as the ‘vayattati’ coming out of the house and cleaning her bloodstained hands. Until then,  I had seen such scenes only in the movies. A child’s birth spread happiness all over the place and the folks in that house even offered us some ‘madhuram’/ home-made sweets(Unniyappams to be precise). The driver said, they didn’t need the jeep anymore and everything was fine. Most of the kids in the area were delivered by the ‘vayatatti’ as accessibility to hospitals was constrained in these parts. Supposedly, the same vayattati had assisted in delivering him too. This, is the paradox of my state. Its hard to believe there are some places where people still live in such archaic conditions, follow such traditions and yet, remain content.

The last leg of our journey uphill demanded the driver to negotiate a stream too. We decided to get off the jeep and walk toward my aunt’s house.  The pleasure you feel, as the cold gushing water touches your feet, as you hop from stone to stone and wait to sink in the picturesque beauty you see around… it cannot be described in words.

 

 

 

 

 

(Imagine walking across this stream)

 

 

 

 

Curving across the stream, my aunt’s house was just a few steps away and the aroma of smoked meat wafted through the air. They get real yummy meat from the forests here. Pork, porcupine… Call me a heartless carnivore, but the taste is heavenly.Even the texture of the meat is sturdy unlike the gooey beef you get at times. ( spoke like a true Nasrani didn’t I?).

And I can’t help but say this, if you were felt that even water had a beautiful taste, it should be here.

After munching on a few chunks of dry meat, lunch still in waiting, I was shooed of to have a bath. The train, bus, jeep journey had made me look ghastly ( those were my aunt’s exact words). If you thought, a hot water bath would do me good, it is blasphemy in this part of the world. When nature’s own bath tub beckons you to laze around, no hot water bath seems appealing.

A stream flows behind my aunt’s house. The stream formed a ideal curvature, with enough space for an entire family to laze around in nature’s own pool. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post lunch, while the elders rested, the youngsters set off to see the newly built ‘ermaadom’ or tree-house. This was not really a tree house but a fusion of a tree house and a shed. You had to climb up the ladder and my mother and her younger sister, who were so disillusioned that they were young too, struggled with the steps. Inside the ‘ermaadom’ the sound of Muthappanpuzha regurgitating was scary at the same time amazing. My phone camera doesn’t really work well with zoom and this is whatever I could manage to capture of Muthappanpuzha (from the ‘ermaadom’) flowing in its full glory

My younger cousins refused to come with us to the ‘ermaadom’ as they were scared of  the ‘puzhu’ or leeches. You wouldn’t know you’ve been bitten by one unless you see gooseberry shaped blisters. My dad and I discovered that walking in a fast pace prevented the leeches from entering your clothes or feet. Amma and her sis, walked carefully checking for ‘puzhu’ entering their feet and ended up with a dozen.

When we returned home, the younger cousins formed a circle around us and refused to let us enter until we shook off all the leeches from our clothes. The poor kids were so scared by the stories of leeches that they missed a lifetime experience of watching this scenic beauty. Maybe, someday when they grow up they’ll learn to appreciate the beauty of it all.

 

 

But all this comes with a price. To access the nearest point of civilization one has to travel 45 minutes downhill. Schools, hospitals etc came to this proximity only a couple of years ago. Even electricity reached this place , only a few years back. Kids from the area stayed in boardings or as paying guests, in the pursuit for a good education. Yet, most of them learned the lessons of life the hard way, there is something about their simplicity which overshadows their great achievements.

New roads have been constructed, the place is now accessible by all means of transport (for the past 6 months), it is developing as a tourist spot, which now serves as an additional income for the people who lived on the returns from  pepper, rubber and arecanuts. While, the allure of money stays they do complain… how it has all crept in and distorted the grandeur of the place.  People hunt ruthlessly in the forests, beer cans and bottles are sprawled across the river shore, drunk youngsters and tourists make it unsafe for women to venture out after dark…

And that leaves me with the question, the paradox of development. While accessibility has improved, facilities have increased and lifestyles are changing, these people are unhappy about the place losing its past glory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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9 responses to “Muthappanpuzha- an enigma

  • Akhil Sasidharan

    Muthappanpuzha. One day! …8->
    When I visit, you can show me around. 🙂

    “Its hard to believe there are some places where people still live in such archaic conditions, follow such traditions and yet, remain content.” 🙂

    Yes!!

  • delhizen

    Amazing pics n place JJ…I need a holiday in the hills now!!

  • Pallavi

    I commented 😦 but it did not get registered

    Amazing place n pics…yearning to go bk to the hill now!!

  • arun

    who clicked the pics?dnt tell me u did….the jeep up on the road one luks gud

  • Rosh

    well, I am lucky enough to see this everyday..

  • aby sam ross

    Did you visit Thusharagiri then? If I remember correctly, though both these places are on different routes, the approach from Calicut town is the same, the road splits at Mukkom or Omasherry. Thusharagiri is also a human and leech infested, multi level waterfalls in the midst of once-upon-a-time pristine forests. A day spent there trekking up and down the waterfalls is enough to rejuvenate your senses, burn some calories and experience, what they call, the goodness of the mountains.
    Sure the pangs of under development and over exploitation is the norm in the high ranges of Kerala.
    Barring a few indigenous communities – before they moved down the hills (who were originally driven up these same hills when cheaply and easily available plains and foothills became a premium agricultural commodity for other non hunter gatherers) for better prospects, with improvements in education – what we see now, what we term as kudiyettams and kaiyettams are all a direct by product of man’s, I won’t say greed, survival instincts on an over drive.
    Though one should admire his determination and hard work put in to survive anywhere, we should ask ourselves where do we draw a line? When are we going to stop taking only the goodies? And when do we start living up to the expectations of a mother?
    I bought into your rhetorical lamentation towards the end of your post. Hence this lengthy comment.
    In case you happen to be still in love with traveling up the hill side, try Ilaveezhapunchira and Wagamon via this place. Visit and you’ll know why?
    And in general – Welcome to Idukki!

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