With the coronavirus giving a much-needed breather, people are once again packing their bags and hitting the road. But some are in a quandary over where to go to spend quality time after gobbling up scores of travel videos during the lockdown days. In order to give a punch to your escapades, one should visit a place with an ‘X’ factor or a destination that never came under the ambit of the vloggers. Why not head to Idukki and traverse through the ‘cities’ of this mountainous region? You can find cities everywhere but those in Idukki are in a different league altogether. Let’s take a peek and find what’s so special about Idukki cities.
Everyone will vouch for the fact that Idukki is the land of ‘cities’. Though Idukki district can’t boast of an airport or a metro rail or even rail transport, it is replete with ‘cities’ when compared to other districts in Kerala. A couple of shops and basic transportation facilities are more than enough for a place to get the ‘city’ tag. It is interesting to note that the name of a place in Idukki will highlight that area’s special feature along with the word ‘city’. As there are innumerable ‘cities’ in Idukki, it seems that all roads are leading to one city or the other.
The long list of Idukki ‘cities’ definitely makes a good read with a touch of hilarity, and the newest entrant on the list is Choodan City.
Stories behind Choodan City
Finally the state public works department gave the stamp of approval for the name Choodan City. The department erected a milestone with Choodan (meaning hot or rage as the case may be) City inscribed on it after laying a road connecting Keerithodu and Pazhayarikandam Pillai City through this place with a rather curious appellation.
The village of migrant farmers in the 11th ward of Kanjikuzhi panchayat was christened ‘Nirappel’ City by the sincere and hardworking peasants long ago. The village got its name for the fact that the hamlet is situated in a flat space surrounded by highlands. After a couple of shops were opened in the area, the place became ‘Nirappel’ City for the farmers. But things changed three decades ago when someone with a puckish sense of humour called it Choodan City as local hooch brewed with sugar, jaggery and other ingredients was served hot in the area. And many people used to frequent this place to buy the local booze which was considered to be of superior quality. This is the story behind the name Choodan City that is doing the rounds in some quarters. But others have a different take on it. They believe that the town got its name after the unruly behaviour of people after getting intoxicated. After having a drink or two, people used to pick up fight at the drop of a hat, so the name Choodan City.
But presently, this moniker doesn’t suit this farming village that retains its purity and naturalness to this day. People who were evicted from Vairamani due to the Idukki hydel project settled at Choodan City. The town also has a date with history as it was witness to the famous Churuli-Keerithodu anti-eviction protests by the farmers. Some farmers in the region have title deeds for their land but others are still running from pillar to post to get the requisite documents.
Besides the road connecting Keerithodu with Pillai City via Choodan City, there is a path touching Thallakkanam to Kanjikuzhi. The Punnayar waterfall, which recently took social media by storm, is near Choodan City. Though the road from Keerithodu to Punnayar through Choodan City was renovated, the other roads are in a dilapidated condition. The local residents have started a signature campaign to back their demand to introduce KSRTC bus service through the relaid road.
Balan Pillai City
Undoubtedly, Balan Pillai City is the most famous city in Idukki. During the period of migration, Balan Pillai had a tea shop near Ramakkalmedu and now this place is known as Balan Pillai City. As a settler-farmer, Balan Pillai reached Idukki from Alappuzha in 1957. First he opened a tailoring shop, which later became a teashop-cum-grocery outlet. As Balan Pillai City grew, KSRTC started services from various places, including Alappuzha, to this ‘city’.
But about 25 years ago, Balan Pillai returned to his home town of Alappuzha to live with his children after selling the shop and land he owned in Idukki. The eponymous hero of Balan Pillai City passed away at his daughter’s residence in May 2020.
Currently, another person is running the grocery shop at the same spot where Balan Pillai had his outlet in Idukki. The present-day Balan Pillai City has school, primary health centre, worship places and commercial establishments, among others.
Balan Pillai City gained popularity after Lal Jose’s Malayalam flick Elsamma Enna Aankutty was canned in this town. In Idukki every place is a city whether it is Kuruvila, Kattappana, Mike or Kuwait. Even ethereal things are not spared from the city mania as there is a place by the name of ‘Athmavu’ (soul) City, which comes under the constituency of former state minster M M Mani, in Idukki.
Popular Idukki ‘cities’
Kuruvila City: This town in Rajakumari is named after Thekkanattu Kuruvila, one of the earliest farmer-settlers in Idukki.
N R City: This place, which is also in Rajakumari, gets its name from N R Raghavan, a prominent local personality.
Mike City: Keralites got a taste of this place through Malayalam film Loud Speaker. This town, which is near Thoprankudy, is known after the nickname, Mike, of local resident Thommikunju as he talks loudly.
Thomman City: The name Thomman City is derived from Thomas, a trader at Ponmudy in Konnathadi panchayat.
Palli City: This is where Ponmudy St. Mary’s Church (palli means church) is situated near Konnathadi.
Ilapalli City: This place is on the Moolamattom-Vagamon route.
Minor City: Minor City is between Nedumgandam and Pachadi.
Puttu City: Once there was a tea shop that served piping hot ‘puttu’, a delicacy made of rice flour and grated coconut and steam cooked in cylindrical containers, to plantation workers of Mepara in Kanchiyar panchayat. As the combo of ‘puttu’ and ‘kadala’ (Bengal gram) curry became a hit among the workers, the place came to be known as ‘Puttu’ City.
Vakkodan City: This place is named after farmer Vakkodan Varkey who lived at a valley 3km away from Shanthanpara.
Venga City, Kadukka City and Punna City: When some shops came up near a Venga (Malabar kino) tree at a place 8km from Rajakkad, it became Venga City, and later metamorphosed into Rajakumari. The settlers who moved northwards from Venga City reached an area replete with ‘Kadukka’ (Terminalia chebula) trees and that spot came to be known as Kadukka City. And the region with ‘Punna’ (Alexandrian laurel) trees near N R City got the moniker Punna City.
Vimala City: This area is named after Vimala Hospital near Vellathooval.
Purayidam City: This appellation is derived from ‘Purayidam’, the name of a local family.
Ozhuka City: This place is named after ‘Ozhukayil’ family.
Swapna City: Swapna City gets its name from Swapna library near Muthirappuzha.
Paru City: Paru City near Panikankudy is named after a Paravur-native trader.
Chacko City: This area near Mullirikudy got its moniker from a person by the name of Karakunneil Chacko.
Odakka City: The ‘Odakkal’ family is instrumental in giving this town the name of Odakka City.
Eetty City: This region near Aanachal boasts of numerous ‘Eetty’ (rosewood) trees and thus got the moniker Eetty City.
Parakudy City: Parakudy City is named after ‘Parakudy’ family.
Kuwait City: This town near Perumbankuthu, where people who had been successful in farming are staying, came to be known as Kuwait City.
Koyikkakudy City: The ‘Koyikkakudy’ family gave this area near Kamko junction the appellation Koyikkakudy City.