Saturday, January 22, 2005

The road trip contd....

As we travelled to 'Koppaka, as the locals call Etikoppaka, some the chicken that were to make the day's delicacies were being plucked and roasted on fires made from hay in the fields along the road. This road would take us to Narsipatnam but to go to Koppaka, we had to turn right to go to Daarapudi village. As I was not sure where exactly to turn right, we stopped some where along the road to ask direction. Though I have travelled many times to Koppaka but normally we take another route. As we had to eat at Adda Road, we had to give that route amiss.

This village being the location of a cooperative sugar factory, soon we started encountering bullock carts loaded with sugar cane. On large roads these are fine but when one is on a narrow road with a long line of carts, it could be a test of ones patience. Luckily for us even in the tiny village lanes we did not encounter any carts. Koppaka is on the other side of the river Sarada (I think). As we were heading towards the low bridge that connects the two high banks, RJ asked why these two villages have always remained extremely dusty. For some reason these two villages have remained dusty through the years. Thick layer of extremely fine dust is always on and by the side of the road. Initially I thought the villagers must be cursing us for travelling in a car. Years ago it may be true that the inhabitants may have said nasty things at the occasional vehicles that raised the dust but with the amount of traffic growing, I am sure they must have stopped thinking about it and must have resigned themselves to this feature of nature.

When we reached CVRaju house we were told that he is with his in-laws in Vijayanagaram. However, the centre (as the craft shop is referred by the family) would be open. By few trials and errors we reach the centre. It was not yet open. A young woman who made lovely breakfast for RJ and me last year was waiting for the gumasta (clerk) to come and open the door. The day’s newspapers were by the side of the door on the steps. I sat down to read the paper, as RJ decided to go for a short walk. The woman went to bring the clerk.

The clerk came but RJ did not. I went in to see the stock of new toys and to enquire if the telephone was not working. I tried to reach them before we left Vizag but the automated voice said the phone was out of order. The phone was working just that I was trying an old number. As I was talking to the gumasta about their recent exhibitions and about how a part of the centre collapsed, RJ came in. Soon he was making the gumasta run around with new toys and was making notes in his books so that he could decide on how many products he could order. I sat on the floor next to the toys and continued to read the newspaper.

I guess a word must have been sent to Raju's partner as he turned up saying nice hellos to both of us. Normally I would enquire about his political activities as he was he local Telugu Desam party office bearer. But since they received a drubbing in the last election, I decided to enquire about the collapsed roof. This centre was made many years ago with the help of potters from Nalgonda. The roof was made using Guna tiles. These are hollow tapering cylinders of burnt terracotta. These are then stacked one on top of another until they form a complete semicircle. Once the semi circle is formed the support underneath is taken off, and the next layer is made next to this one. By placing one layer next to another, the whole roof could be covered. To fill in the gaps between these layers, cement mortar is used until the top surface is even all over. This is one of the many alternative building technologies that are available. In the case of the part of the roof that collapsed, the analysis was that it was due to non existence of a concrete beam underneath the guna tiled structure to stabilise the forces that are acting to push the wall away. Few months ago, thankfully during the night, the wall could not take the load from the roof and gave way. No one was hurt.

Just as RJ was almost through with his ordering, I remembered that I should rather buy these products here than in Chennai, where they would be two to three times the price. Also, perhaps, I could send a basket full of toy to my two little nieces in Vizag with the driver of the taxi since he seems very nice and his office was in the lane next to my parent’s house. But then I asked him after I purchased the products, thankfully he said yes without much fuss. Also, while purchasing, I remembered that I have not taken any photos. So asked one of the helpers to go and purchase batteries for the ones I had were exhausted during the rampant photo sessions at the Bhogi festival two days earlier.

After I finished the purchases and photographing the products we set off to Kakinada. Actually we wanted to go to Uppada, a small weaving cluster that made Jamdani and butta (or butti) sarees, and then to Kakinda but considering the fact that we would reach around 1 PM, we decided to eat lunch at Pithapuram and then go to Kakinda, check into a hotel and later in the afternoon around 4 set out to Uppada.

few pics at the other blog site

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The road trip (Part 1)

Last week I went on a three day trip from Visakhapatnam to Vijayawada. The deal was to visit some interesting places between these two cities so that they could be a part of tour that a friend of mine - RJ was planning to organise in Jan 2007. He made a short trip last year along this area but this time he wanted to do a bit more research about the hotels to stay and eat along the way. Tentatively the plan was to stay one night in Kakinada and another in Machilipatnam and use the days to visit nearby town and villages. We decided to start at 6 in the morning on 16th and eat breakfast somewhere after Ellamanchili.

The day started off well, we managed to leave by 6.30, even though I slept for few hours the previous night (my extended family was in sankranti revelry mode that mainly constituted of playing three cards and visiting a 24 hour coffee shop of a local hotel into the wee hours of the morning). The new highway was smooth and empty, in no time we reached the steel plant zone where we took the "Anakapalle and Ellamanchilli" by-pass. Over the years, a detour through the steel plant has been the favourite route for many non commercial travellers considering the fact that heavy duty lorries avoided this route as it involved paying toll twice.

The area beyond the steel plant was completely god forsaken until NTPC decided to set up a thermal power unit. Even as recent as 1997, the land rates here were about Rs.30, 000 an acre. NTPC gave a compensation of 1.2 lakhs an acre without the guarantee of a job in the unit (while acquiring land for steel plant the govt gave local rates but also gave a job per family) ever since then, fuelled by the previous government's mode of sanctioning large tracts of land for various industrial zones, the land rates are touching the roof (Rs. 25 lakhs an acre for a road side plot and the price tapers down proportional to the distance from the road) and are showing no signs of abating. Imagine how financially brilliant I am, when in 1997, I purchased a motor bike for Rs. 45,000 (my savings in Germany) even as some people were trying to sell me a piece of land in this zone for 25K an acre.

Anyway, getting back to the road trip, the first intended stop was Etikopakka, the wooden toy village. In this village for over hundred years, craftsmen have been producing lacquered finished wooden products that were sold mostly at fairs and temple in the local region. Some of you may have heard the term lakka pidatalu, little wooden kitchen set that is still very popular in spite of the plastic variations available in the market. However, due to difficulties in production due to the hindrance of the forest department as the wood was a forest produce and due to difficulties in making the products, the whole industry was on the verge of disappearing. It was due to some NGOs in the vicinity that the industry was revived. Once certain critical mass of trained craftsmen were available, few of the local persons got involved in the trade and have started making some wonderful products using natural colours. (pics posted in this blog)

I thought there should be some decent places to eat on the highway after Ellamanchili but then the day was being celebrated as mu-kanumu (which incidentally was the previous day but since it was a Saturday, a day when most of the north andhrites restrain from eating meat) and most of the local markets like Paravada, Achutapuram, which normally are vegetable markets, were filled with chicken and mutton sellers. None of the shops or eating places were open. However, I was sure that some places near Adda Road (an intersection on NH 5 that connected the tribal areas on Eastern Ghats behind Narsipatnam and the coastal areas beyond S.Rayavaram) but that was not the case, most of the shops were closed and the meat sellers were having a field day. Adda Road is a settlement that developed only along the junction, so by going left... u-turn... left... u-turn... left... u-turn and left one would complete the trip of the settlement and reach the starting point. We found a small place with a typical aluminum idli vessel on a smoke-less chula (a coal fired stove with a smoke chimney) but the idlis weren’t done as yet. While the driver and I went to relive ourselves 'around the corner' (which in real terms did not exist in this place), RJ plonked himself on the wooden bench inside the 'hotel'. By the time I came back, RJ had a plate of three steaming idli's in front of him. In no time, the place was filled with people either eating or taking a 'parcel'. With our hunger satiated, we headed to Etikopakka.

actually wanted to end the first part after Etikoppaka but considering that it would be part of the next blog, I decided to put up two pictures as a bait to read my next part :)

wooden products

wooden products 2