It was in the summer of 2014 that I had this wonderful opportunity to go around Tamil Nadu on a Familiarization trip. We had a night at Visalam, from here comes my “Bicycle diaries from Chettinad”.
We had our stay at Visalam, A fine bungalow which was a wedding gift to Vishalakshiamma (Visalam) 85 years back. Visalam, then a modern house, is now a heritage bungalow run by CGH earth in kanadukathan (Chettinad). The Master of the house, Mr. Febin, looks like a chettiar with his mustache and attire. He gave us a very warm welcome to Vishalam…the staff with their CGH smiles are so lovable. So it was bicycles that were waiting for us the next day to explore around the Villages of kanadukathan. Trust me you need to start by around 6:30 in the morning before the villagers get into the road.
We started by around 7 in the morning, by that time the village centre was in full swing with their business. The Macho Hercules cycles with tall and thin tyres were waiting for us (Men) and of course a smaller version with no cross bar for the ladies.. We head for the ride with Mansoor and Pandi Annan (Paandiyannai – that’s how we call him) as our leader. This was interesting, it reminds one of the village style depicted in the Tamil movie Subramaniapuram. The sun was ready even before us and the cool feel was slowly leaving us.
We were heading to the Chettinad Railway station. There was an old abandoned railway station and a newly erected small station adjacent to it. Chettinad gives a feel of Malgudi days for some reason, maybe because of the small little old railway station. We see nobody there, it is a small place where you have less than five trains passing a day. After this we head our morning trails to a college close by where we take a ride around the college and deviate to the country roads heading to a farm. Within the farm complex is an old British Aerodrome which was used during the World War II. Paandiyanni was showing us around, we could spot a lot of Peacocks, our national bird. You could see them with their long elegant tails, this is where I first spotted a peacock flying..The Farm houses goats and pigs that are bred for its meat.
By now it’s been an hour of riding and I think the sun is being a little harsh to us. We rode back through narrow roads between big mansions of Chettinad. And finally we pass by the palace of Chettinad, where we see flocks of uniformed children heading to their school.
Finally we reach back Visalam where the “Kolam” (A drawing with rice powder on floor representing Mahalaxmi) welcomes us back.
Written by Benjamin John