Ghumakkar Featured Author Interview – With warm and colourful Venkat

If not for Venkat, I would have never known anything about Tiruppur. Upon some initial reading, I came to know that Tiruppur is a big hosiery town of Tamilnadu. I was aware of Ludhiana being a big hosiery town, up here in the north, but as we spoke and exchanged emails, my knowledge about the place and the man, Venkatachalam, who we are celebrating as the ‘Ghumakkar Featured Author – March 2013’, kept getting better and better. That Tiruppur is just 100 k.m. away from Ooty and that Venkat has been in Tiruppur ever since, makes the place more inviting. Although he’s been here for close to 3 years, my interactions with Venkat were limited and it was mostly done by Vibha (One of our Ex Editors) in the past. I tried to compensate it by reading about Tiruppur and his recent travel stories. It helped but still I didn’t have a lot of context. So when the conversation began, I was a bit apprehensive on how long it would go. But what ensued was a warm and light-hearted chat where we discussed about him, his family, his city as well as some shades of dye-stuff that Venkat deals in. To me, Venkat appeared as someone who has known me for a long time and was more at ease than myself. The sounds of a care-free easy laugh are still chiming in my ears while I try to recollect what happened. Without any further build-up, presenting Venkatachalam, in an easy and involved chat with Ghumakkar.

Ghumakkar: Venkat, many congratulations for being the ‘Featured Author’ of the month!
Venkat: Thank you Nandan. I am very obliged to the editorial team for this honour and recognition. Thank you.
Ghum : No, actually many thanks for being around and for your lovely and warm (and delicious) travel tales from this part of India.

Mr. Venkat :-)

Mr. Venkat :-)



Ghum: Let me begin with the most asked and now the most boring question. You have been with Ghumakkar for close to three years now. Please share on how you landed on Ghumakkar ?
Venkat: I am proud to have been associated with Ghumakkar for the last three years (though not as prolific as others). I became aware of Ghumakkar through a google link and ever since that first visit to this day, it has been a thoroughly enjoyable and fruitful association. I do not exactly remember but I was looking for some travel destinations, found Ghumakkar, started reading about it and then as they say, there was no looking back.

Dear Venkat

Dear Venkat

Ghum: Same here. Prolificacy is subjective, but you have been around pretty consistently all through. I guess that helps everyone develop a greater bonding. But Venkat, we do not know a lot about you and the community of Ghumakkars is very curious to know more about your personal side. WHO is Venkatachalam?
Venkat: He he. Sure Nandan. Me, P. Venkatachalam, aged 42, residing in the hosiery town of Tiruppur in Tamilnadu.

Ghum: That is too little. Tell us about your childhood?
Venkat: Well, I was the over pampered kid of my parents. A regular boy who would study well and be around.

Ghum: What shaped you to be the person you are? Tell us more about your family, your roots, growing up etc. I won’t let it go so easily.
Venkat: My family consists of my wife Shanthi and my mother. I have one elder sister who is married and resides in Tiruppur. I was born and brought up in Tiruppur and my schooling upto class XII was done here. I did my Graduation in Commerce in Coimbatore. From my early childhood, my hobbies were reading, movies and playing cricket.

Marriage Reception at Tiruppur

Marriage Reception at Tiruppur

1988 - Schoolmates. 3rd from Left is Venkat

1988 – Schoolmates. 3rd from Left is Venkat

Ghum: Do you think, you are a bit quieter, a little serious person? What keeps your day busy?
Venkat: Yes, I think I am. My sister got married when i was 9 and being the lone child in the house may be contributed to me becoming a sort of reserved guy with few select friends. My father passed away just as I completed college. In terms of my day occupation, after a foray into manufacturing of export garments, I am now a dealer of textile dyestuffs and chemicals used by fabric processing units in our region. My wife works as a school teacher in a school in our neighbourhood and I must add she is very good at it.

Shanthi , The Teacher

Shanthi , The Teacher

Ghum: So I guess we are on to something. Last month, we had a gentlemen whose wife is a teacher and this month again it repeats. You would now need to tell me more about Shanthi and her teaching and so on.
Venkat: My wife, Shanthi, is also from Tiruppur. She too is a graduate in Commerce. She has two elder sisters and one younger brother, all of whom are married and settled not too far from Tiruppur. In the period before marriage, after completing her under-graduation, she had gone to a kindergarten school nearby her home as a temporary teacher. She was so good at it that the school retained her services permanently. And after marriage, she continues teaching Kindergarten kids in the same school. She has such a natural flair for teaching and she is adored by both the students and their parents. Infact she is more familiar in the neighbourhood than myself. Apart from her teaching skills, Shanthi is a wonderful cook too (her non veg dishes are really tasty).

Shanthi in a rare Hunterwali Pose

Shanthi in a rare Hunterwali Pose

Ghum: I have left a one big section for the food but lets begin it now. Your profile says that you are a foodie ? Tell us more.
Venkat: Me and my wife both are very fond of Non-Vegetarian food, especially the South Indian Chettinad variety. May be it is because right from our childhoold, there has never been shortage of mutton and chicken items in our households. Every function is incomplete without an exhaustive spread of Non vegetarian items. That is the reason we are avid foodies, who go the extra mile for to satiate our taste buds! But while on travel, we like to explore local cuisines wherever possible. With regards to tips to fellow travellers, I think having “dil chahe” dishes in “dil chahe” quantities(of course health permitting) is an integral part of the joy we derive from travelling.

Ghum: Indeed. Educated us more on Tamilnadu, from the ‘Foodie’s’ Angle. Recommendations for eating places.
Venkat: As I said, Tamilnadu is famous not only for its Idlis and Dosas. Southern Tamilnadu starting from Madurai district is famous for delicious preparations of Country Chicken and Mutton delicacies. Infact I would call Madurai the “the foodies’ paradise” of Tamil Nadu. Some of the tastiest hotels in Madurai are “Amma Mess” and “simmakal Konaar kadai”. Sorry, I am a bit biased towards non veg items. For vegetarians, some of the most recommended outlets are “Saravana Bhavan”(situated in Chennai and other major towns), Murugan Idli Shop(Madurai and Chennai), Sangeetha(Chennai) and Gowri Shankar Annapoorna hotels for visitors to Coimbatore.

Ghum: And I believe there is a strong rice connection as well.
Venkat:Tamil cuisine is typical of south Indian cuisine, in that rice and rice-derived dishes form the major portion of the diet.. There are regional sub-varieties namely Chettinadu, Kongunadu, Madurai, Tirunelveli varieties etc. Traditionally, food is served on a banana leaf instead of a plate at all homes and hotels in Tamilnadu.

Rice is the staple food of Tamils and is typically eaten mixed with coconut chutney sambhar (with or without ghee), vegetarian or non-vegetarian kulambu, rasam, curd and buttermilk. This is accompanied with various vegetarian and/or non-vegetarian dishes like kootu, aviyal, poriyal, appalam, varuval, peratal, kothsu, varieties of pickles and chicken, mutton, or fish fry.

Breakfast and snack items include dosai, Adai, idly, vadai, pongal, appam (aappam), paniyaram, puttu, uppuma, santhakai (a sort of noodles), idiyappam and uthappam. These items are eaten along with sambar, varieties of chatni and podi. Traditionally prepared filter coffee is unique in taste and popular all over the state.

Ghum: And where in TN?
Venkat: The Chettinad region ie Karaikudi, Sivagangai and areas bordering Madurai are famous for its non-vegetarian cuisine, while Ambur and Dindigul are known for their Biriyani. Sweet items that are native to Tamil Nadu are Athirasam, Chakkarai Pongal (prepared during Pongal festival) and Kuli Paniyaram. The city of Thirunelveli is renowned for its unique sweetmeat, Thirunelveli Halwa(Iruttukadai Halwa opp.Nelliappar temple) while Palani is known for its Panchamirtham.

Ghum: Ok, Venkat. My intestine are already rolling. Quite a food. What else about Shanthi ?
Venkat: Shanthi is also a very religious person and we undertake a lot of temple visits both in and outside of Tamilnadu. Of course, there is never a shortage of temples to visit in Tamil Nadu.
Ghum : Yes, your “Karnataka Temple Trail” (http://www.ghumakkar.com/2012/02/28/temple-trails-of-karnatakapart-1-subramanya-and-dharmastala/) was very well appreciated and was crowned as the ‘Featured Story’. We would come to your travel part in a while but for the benefit of our readers, can you share more about Tiruppur ? What YOUR CITY is like?
Venkat : Tiruppur City, as every one knows, has grown from a small town manufacturing inner wear and supplying to neighbouring states in the 70’s and 80’s to a bustling city (and a district headquarters) of around 8 lakh population, supplying readymade garments to countries in almost every continent in the world. It is now basically a concrete cauldron with severe constraints in infrastructure and drinking water facilities. But the hard working and enterprising people of my town, tide over every problem with their grit and resolve.

It is also known as the Dollar City. There are a lot of processes involved in manufacturing a T-shirt or a banian/briefs i.e. spinning, fabrication, processing or colouring of fabrics, compacting the fabric and then cutting, stitching as per requirement etc. Tiruppur city and its suburbs along with neighbouring towns of Erode and Karur have a lot of dyeing and bleaching units. I am a distributor of dyestuffs and chemicals to such processing units. I visit every processing unit at least once every week to monitor the order positions. So, mostly it will be work outside office for me.

Cochin - Veegaland Theme Park

Cochin – Veegaland Theme Park

Ghum: Thanks Venkat.

Ghum: And does it have any sights or places that you would recommend ?
Venkat: Tiruppur being a predominantly business township, doesn’t have many entertainment or relaxation spaces within the city other than the numerous cinema halls. The popular shopping area of the city is Kumaran road. Sukreeswarar Temple in the outskirts of Tiruppur city is a marvel of Kongu Architecture built in the 10th century. A lot of people go out on the weekends to neighbouring Ooty (105 kms) or Kodaikanal (150 kms). Valparai, another little known Hill Station is
just 130 kms away.The well known Lord Muruga Temple of Palani town is just 85 kms away. Also, a lot of dams like Aliyar dam, Amaravathy dam, Bhavani Sagar dam are just an hour’s drive from Tiruppur.

Happy Moments - Kodaikanal

Happy Moments – Kodaikanal

Ghum: Thanks Venkat. So you fill colours in peoples’ lives.
Venkat: Well put.

Ghum: Now, coming back to Ghumakkar. Any memories of your first story here ?
Venkat: The first story I wrote in Ghumakkar was my Nagercoil trip log in Jan 2011. I very well remember it.

Ghum: Was this your, so to say, first published work ? Were you in a habit of writing before ?
Venkat: No. I hadn’t written any travelogues in any website before Ghumakkar. I think I started avidly following Ghumakkar posts around mid-2010. I found there were many posts on North Indian destinations but very little of the South. So, I decided to share the details of my trips which are mostly in the Southern States and I became a contributor
myself. Once I had written a couple of posts, the appreciative comments and encouragement from senior Ghumakkars and the editorial team spurred me to detail every little trip I made. Extra efforts were made in every trip log to provide info on must visit places, accommodation, tariffs etc and relevant photos attached to benefit prospective travellers.

Ghum: And has your own travel experienced changed, post Ghumakkar ?
Venkat: Yes. A lot. Previously it was all people’s photos. Now when we go to any place, first we take few shots which we would use in our story. The we try to collect all the useful information and we are almost creation a skeleton of the story in the mind, while travelling itself.

Ghum: You brought to Ghumakkar your fantastic series on the Karnataka Temples. What drove you to the trail?
Venkat: With regards to the “Karnataka temple trails” series, usually I travel to Goa or other beach locations during my pongal (winter) holidays. But somehow we had had enough of them and during Jan 2012, we decided to change the course. As I was searching the web for destinations, I chanced upon a link to a place called Mullayanagari Peak near Chikmagalur. The place looked gorgeous and I started to plan an itinerary around Mullayanagari. Fortunately a lot of temples I had planned to visit in Karnataka like Belur, Halebeedu, Horanadu, Kalasa were not too far from Chikmagalur. I added Subramanya temple and Dharmasthala to the list and hence the temple trail came about. It was a most satisfying trip and I was very happy that it was much appreciated by fellow Ghumakkars.

Ghum: What is ‘your kind of travel’?
Venkat: As you know from my posts, I prefer travelling to relatively less crowded places endowed with nature’s bounty i.e. wildlife sanctuaries, forest reserves, hill stations, beaches etc.

This story is related to my Idukki visit in 2011 and is a perfect illustration on “my kind of travel”. After visiting Idukki Dam on a drizzly day in Oct 2011, we were heading to Kumily, the town nearest to the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary(Thekkady), for our night stop.  We had time in our hands because persistent rain meant we had skipped a couple of spots on the way. Some 10 kms before Kumily town, our driver Rajesh informed us that he had been to a waterfall on the TN-Kerala border during his previous visit to Kumily. He wasn’t sure about the exact spot. But we decided to check it out. The locals informed us
that the falls were indeed nearby and guided us

My kind of travel

My kind of travel

After taking a detour from the main Kumily road, we drove for some 5 kms but we couldn’t any hint regarding the location of the falls. Just when we were giving up hope, we saw a small board “Mega Valley Farm” and below that in fading colours were written the words “WATERFALL VIEW POINT -CHELLARKOVIL” with an arrow mark next to it. I literally jumped out of the car in joy. We went through a narrow wooded path and after some 100 metres, we reached the edge of the cliff. And what we saw in front of us simply took our breath away. There was the “Chellarkovil Falls” in all its glory, falling majestically from the hills towards the Tamilnadu plains. The joy we felt on viewing a hidden gem still ranks as one of my unforgettable moments from among my various trips.In fact, this Kerala trip in 2011 turned out to be one of my most memorable.

Nature's gem revealed

Nature’s gem revealed

Breathtaking view

Breathtaking view

Ghum: Who are your constant / preferred travel buddies?
Venkat: I have just a few select friends and because our families’ holiday schedules and their length don’t always match, my wife is almost always my sole travel-mate. Sometimes my wife’s sisters’ families and my brother-in-law join our trips.

Ghum: Do you also travel ‘Solo’ some times ?
Venkat: I rarely do any solo travel unless a Test match comes around (I must add here that I am an incurable cricket addict).I am a great lover of Test match cricket because it ebbs and flows in sessions,  in favour of one team, then the other. In that way perhaps I am very ‘old school” and though I watch T20 on the tele, I am not very fond of it. When a Test match is staged in Bangalore or Chennai against a major Test playing nation like Australia, England or South Africa I make
sure I catch up the action live on the ground(at least for the weekend of the Test match). Recently I was privileged enough to witness Dhoni’s wonderful double century against Australia at Chepauk.

Oh, those wonderful days. Near Athirappally Falls

Oh, those wonderful days. Near Athirappally Falls

Shanthi during her college days

Shanthi during her college days

Ghum: Wow. So I am sure you also contributed towards the 2-0 lead India has over Australia in 2003 Gawaskar-Border Trophy ? Do you think, we would win the series?
Venkat: Surely. If I could manage, I would go to Mohali for the 3rd test.

Ghum: The 3rd test would be in progress when this story goes in publication. But yes, we must win over Australia.
[An update – The first day has been washed off]

Ghum: Coming back to ‘Solo’ travel, what about traveling in bigger groups ?
Venkat: Travelling with a bigger group of friends/family is always fun and I enjoy group travel(oh those bachelor days) though my posts will not reflect it. A visit to Tirupati with my family and my wife sister’s families is an annual affair(around Feb-March) but those trips aren’t logged on Ghumakkar because of strict photography restrictions in Tirumala.

Ghum: Yeah, And we have also been nursing our dream of doing a big Ghumakkar trip some day. Living in the heart of South India, what are the other places in the country that you long to see? and abroad?
Venkat: An extensive trip of the Himalayas from Haridwar/Rishikesh right upto Ladakh along with a trip of Andaman (at least 3 nights in Havelock Island) are my most desired trips inside India. Outside India, my lifetime ambition is a trip of New Zealand. Hope one day these desires come true.

At Mandovi River Cruise

At Mandovi River Cruise

Ghum: What’s on your agenda now?
Venkat: My next trip planned is a visit of Pune, Mahabaleshwar and Konkan beaches post monsoon in September/October. I am biased against travel to huge, congested cities with heavy traffic problems.

Ghum: Venkat, Wishes and lucks from Ghumakkar. May you be around Himalayas very soon and all your desires of traveling to your favourite places get fulfilled. I am hoping that with this interaction, a lot more of us know about you, your family and your interesting. Before I sign-off, any message from your side to fellow Ghumakkar.
Venkat: I would just like to reiterate to everyone the well appreciated fact that Travel is the one thing which refreshes, reboots and enriches our lives and strengthens our relationships. There is no stress-buster like travelling. Travelling means we live.

Ghum: Very well said Venkat. You bring a lot of South India much closer to us so many thanks. By being around for a long time and encouraging new and old authors, you are helping us do our bit to spread the virus of Ghumakkari. Hopefully Indian cricket team does well in the Mohali test, hopefully we all get to taste all the food delicacies you shared with us and we pray that you keep colouring the world with your beautiful and loving dyes. Amen!

30 Comments

  • Congratulations Venkat. It is nice to know more about you.

  • @ Venkat —- It was great to know about you, your family & about some of the unknown places. it would be great if there would have some more pictures
    I am enough fortunate to have food in the restaurants mentioned by you like Sarvana bhawan , Murgan Idli & Sangeetha.

    Couple of times had Biryani in one of the Dindigula restaurant in Chennai , it was mouth-watering.

    @ Nandan — Thanks for helping us to know more about Venkat.

  • Congratulations Venkatt . Nice to know about you.Like you I am also a very great foodie but I eat only veg food.

    Your stories are always pleasant, helpful and I read them with great interest . Keep traveling and posting.

    Nandan thanks fr sharing this lovely interview.

  • Ritesh Gupta says:

    @Venkatt..
    Congratulation Venkatt for being featured Author ….Nice to know about you through this wonderful Interview…

    @Nandan ji…. Thanks for publish about Venkatt through nice interview post..

    Thanks

  • Very interesting…good to know more about Venkat..he seems to be a person with very diversified interests from travel to food to cricket.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    @ Mahesh, Vishal (good to see you after a break), Ritesh, DT – Thank you folks. Very motivating. More photos on the way. Please check again in some time.

    • venkatt says:

      Nandhan , couldn’t u have chosen a more good looking, present day introductory photo of myself in the post. Just joking, editor saab…Nice job..

  • Abheeruchi says:

    Hello Mr Venkat,

    First of all congratulations for being a featured author. Its really nice to know about you and your family. Cycle pics and athirapally pics are really nice.

    I have one problem with you. :( You disclosed one of my post details in your interview.I am feeling so sad, anyways I will still write on that post i.e Chennai Saapad (Food) :) to make my “Chennai Diaries” more colourful….

    Congratulations again.

    NJ – Thanks for the Soopeeeeeeeer (Tamilnadu style) Interview.

  • Archana says:

    Congratulations Venkat for being the Featured Author of the Month!
    Your mention of your wife in all apt contexts really is praise-worthy. I really appreciate it :)
    Shanthi, thanks for being with Venkat throughout. I guess, it has helped him write such wonderful stories @ Ghumakkar!

    Being a South Indian, I can totally relate to the role of Rice in our meals. A meal is not a meal without rice!

    @Nandan, this post has brought out a lot about Venkat and his family; about Tamil Nadu and South Indian cuisine too. Great work!

    Cheers.

  • @Venkatt..
    Congratulation for being the featured Author of the month .It was great to know about you, your family & many new places of the south

    @Nandan ji. Thanks for exploring Mr. Venkatt through this interview ..

    Thanks

  • Harish Bhatt says:

    Many Congratulations Venkatt…

  • Smita Dhall says:

    Very nice interview! Congratulations, Venkat. Except… that I’m hungry now!!

  • Rakesh Bawa says:

    Dear Venkat, Namaskar.
    This interview has helped in bridging the gap between North India and South India in the sense of a virtual tour. India is one still one feels so diverse cultures flourish here and sometime it is wonderful to feel, really.
    congrats……..

  • Congratulations Mr. Venkatt for being the Featured Author of the Month!!!!

    Really it was a nice simple interview & now i feel that i know you & your family very well..

    All the best …keep travelling…..keep writing :)

  • Stone says:

    Absolute pleasure to know more about you Venkat.
    Quite a foodie you’re, we demand a detailed food-centered post soon :-)

  • Surinder Sharma says:

    Congratulations Mr Venkat.

  • Amitava Chatterjee says:

    It’s a pleasure to know you Venkat and ‘my kind of place’ …I just love it…and those non-veg dishes too…may be sometime later

    India is on top in 2nd Day, so are you in Mohali right now.

    @Nandan…another good one, …still I wonder how 99 became 94 or am I loosing eyesight or start forgetting numbers

    • Nandan Jha says:

      I guess it would mis-counting. Probably it was counting some ‘Pages’ (and not necessarily ‘Posts’). Good to see myself well below 100, eases the pressure. he he.

  • Vipin says:

    Heartiest congratulations, Venkatt Ji…

  • AUROJIT says:

    Hi Venkat,

    Congrats. Excuse my late arrival. It is real nice to know about you through this interview. So we now know the reason for your benignly discerning persona :-)

    Thanks for sharing with us,

    Auro.

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Sorry, Mr. Venkat, for being probably the last ghumakkar to read your interview but I was rather busy of late. It was great to know more about you and your better half, Ms. Shanthi. Great to know that you are in the business of supplying chemicals to the Industries in and around Tiruppur. With your pleasing personality and way with words, I am sure that marketing is the right field for you.

    Your travelogues on Karnataka are really lovely and makes me want to visit those places. I have just read one or two installments in your latest series and I shall be reading them soon. Belated Vishu greetings and looking forward to enjoying many more unseen places through you.

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