Friday, August 29

RE Continental GT : Revisiting Kollam - GT can't swim

Revisiting Kollam. One short ride as RE Continental GT can't swim 

From a bike travelogue, this has turned to a essay on Kollam 

Today was about exploring quilon (Kollam) town and the lake that surrounds it. My own home town, but a new perspective. 

Kollam has a grand legacy. Trade dating back to initial centuries of AD with China and most of south east Asia

Recent dredging of old Kollam port ( now being rebuilt ) brought out coins pottery and many other tangible evidence of trade between Kollam and the orient. 

Once business port of Ay kingdom of based at current day Tamil Nadu, Kollam was at its high when Venad kingdom was established with Kollam as it's seat of power. 

Malayalam calendar was calculated n created here by Nestorians and the learned astrologers of Kollam. Nestorian Christians were traders and took refuge in Kollam to avoid Islamic conversion or death. Hence in Malayalam, an year is called 'oru Kollam' 

It even has a palace done using chinese architecture of those days which stands as a testimony to the heydays of Kollam. 

With the rise of Travancore kingdom (same family lines of Venad) and the shift of power, Kollam was claimed by the Dutch and later by the British. The Dutch fortress fell to superior gun power of British Navy. Very little is recorded about the battle. 

British didn't rebuild the fort to its former glory, but the port remained a major trade route until British developed the Kochi port. 

Very little of the fort remains, but the Grand lighthouse remains a marvel inside out. Among the tallest, cast iron steps wind endless to reach the top. Side windows done with brass and top flooring in wood, it was built to outlive both the sea salt n time. 

Built in 1902, it had a kerosene based triple lens focusing beam with addition of radio signals later. built to beam light only 270 degrees covering the sea, thoughtfully leaving the land untouched, its now powered by modern lights and communication systems. 

The area around lighthouse had a significant Anglo Indian and Dutch Indian population with villas and streets reflecting a European architectural influence. The communities have now merged with local population and a very little of those beautiful villas remain. 

The old small alleys with single or dual floor tiled roofs n white walled whole sale markets of old kollam with an occasional bullock cart are the only visible remnants of Victorian past. 

The Ashtamudi backwater lake surrounds most of Kollam city and is known for its fish n prawns. While glory of Kollam is well entrenched in folk lore n songs, of trade, fish and coir, currently fishing is at it's low and the fishing harbours loosing it's busy sorting and auctioning frenzy. 

Once surrounded by boat yards and ice plants, most have given way to lake side villas of the neo rich, the town now remains limited to cashew cashew nut processing. Thanks to the Dutch who introduced cashew, now cashew comes from Africa , processed here n shipped worldwide. 

Ashtamudi lake transport was once the life line of Kollam and was linked to travancore capital by canal. lake transport still exists and remains vital to many who live on the distant outstretches and islands of Ashtamudi. 

Tourism has given a new lease of life to Ashtamudi lake and people who lived by it with quality resorts and a plethora of house boats, one even boasts a jacuzzi inside. Pollution and lower oxygen levels on lake due to oil films is a worry 

Once trade hub and natural port, then the seat of power of Venad, a Dutch fortress, abandoned by British, reduced to irrelevance town in 20th century, Kollam now barely survives on it's cashew, rubber and tourism industry, but the key economic driver is remittance from large NRI population, bringing in its own set of problems. 

As my heart beats for Kollam, I hope to see that Phoenix day when Kollam rises from it's ashes to its former glory, at it's best as the folklore says. 

How? or a solution, well I don't have one. 

Well to explore Ashtamudi, I need a boat, unfortunately, my dear Royal Enfield Continental GT hates a swim like all Steeds. 

So tommorow some Google maps to go round the near 40sq km lake.