Many people hit the road in search of new destinations when their lives become mundane. While exploring the mesmerizing plains and the rolling hills of Malabar, you should make sure not to miss an absorbing character of the region.
To reach this interesting personality, you have to travel on the Kozhikode-Bengaluru national highway, which can take you to the picturesque Wayanad. The enchanting mountain ranges of the Western Ghats would start regaling you at a distance once you pass the Thamarassery mountain pass. After driving for a while you will reach the small town of Engapuzha before entering Puthuppady.
After passing the Puthuppady church, you would notice a road on the right side with a signboard of a higher secondary school. Enter that road, which will get narrower as you move forward, and later turn to a neatly tarred road on the left side. The entrance to the road has a lush green canopy and a handwritten colourful board announcing the presence of ‘ABC gel Puthuppady’.
Cyriac, the man of the soil and the brain behind ‘ABC gel’, will warmly greet you as you step into this recreational spot with a difference. With a confidence that is simply inspiring, he would say to your face with a touch of humility: “I am Cyriac, the person who made this.” If you look around while standing alongside this extraordinary person, you can see flowers of all hues, a placid lake and tall bamboo trees swaying to the tune of the wind.
The tale of Cyriac
Without any doubt, Cyriac is a person who dreams big and realizes all his dreams. The expansive lake with a green isle in the middle reflects the resolve of this nature lover. You won’t believe that this lake and the isle, which gel with nature superbly, were put in place by Cyriac. Besides the beautiful lake, he was also instrumental in creating a hill and the forest surrounding it. The appellation ‘ABC gel’ was derived from the first letters of his children’s names and he has thrown open the gates of this mesmerizing spot to the tourists. Many visitors are flocking to this unique abode for strolling through the greenery and boating on the lake.
The isle in the middle of the lake can’t get greener than this, and it boasts of exquisite ‘mandapams’ supported by iron pillars and artistic stone ‘mandapams’. The paths are paved with stones and a big bowl of water, which will be replenished periodically, can be found to quench the thirst of the birds. You will be taken by surprise to see hornbills on the green patch and that shows the ecological balance of ‘ABC gel’.
Story of survival
When Cyriac was an M.Sc Zoology student of the Devagiri St. Joseph’s College in Kozhikode, he used to frequent with his siblings to the family property in Puthuppady for rubber farming purposes. When he dug pits to plant rubber saplings, the only concern he had was whether his friends would find out his soiled hands. Later he realized that it was a moment of pride rather than embarrassment to be close to nature. After completing his masters, Cyriac started studying law.
When the family property was partitioned, there were no takers for 12 acres of land, which was marshy in certain spots, and a hill. But Cyriac accepted this portion of land with great pride. He had cut down all the rubber trees as tapping labourers were scarce. But he was clueless about what to do with the swampy area. One day as he was standing near the swamp, he noticed that the area was surrounded by hills and the rain water flowed into the marshy region before merging with the Engapuzha River. He thought that a lake could be built if the rain water was stored and the flow of water was controlled. And the lake could be used for boating too.
During that time Cyriac was running a business and staying at East Hill in Kozhikode. He called up couple of people who had mud excavators in a bid to create a lake. When they came to the site, they told him that it was difficult to drive the mud excavators into the marshy land. But one person agreed to the plan with a condition. The wood from coconut trees that would be cut down for the project should be given to him. Cyriac agreed to this clause and finally the work to build a lake began in 2010.
The land was dug up with the help of excavators and the mud was used to lay a road surrounding the property with the aim to control the flow of rain water.
Cyriac roped in the Centre for Water Resource Development and Management, besides a private agency, to study about the dynamics of the land and the availability of water sources. The studies threw light on the fact that there was a rock at the depth of 5m and there was a spring of water originating above it.
When Cyriac started the process of making an artificial lake, the local residents protested against the move. The residents objected on the grounds that the water table would deplete if a lake was constructed in the area. Following the protests, the village officer intervened and police had stopped the work many times. Later, Cyriac directly contacted the district collector and tourism department and explained in detail the nuances of the project. After getting their nods, he started the work again.
Interestingly, Cyriac did MA in Public Administration to know more about governance after a village officer threatened him.
An ecosystem in making
The mud scooped out for building the lake was used to widen the hill and a ring road was developed around the hill. Cyriac contacted plant nurseries in Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kolkata and sourced various types of tree saplings from them and these saplings were planted on the slopes of the hill.
Finally the lake was in place and water from the underground spring filled the lake. The flow of water from the spring was regulated with the help of skilled labourers. And now Cryiac had an eye-catching lake in nine acres of land. To give a magical twist to the lake, he built an isle in the middle of the lake. The lush green isle is dotted with mango trees, rambutan plants and different varieties of pines. A meadow gives a touch of class to the small island.
Moreover, five ‘mandapams’ with intricate engravings were built. In the memory of his father Thomas Mathew, a special ‘mandapam’ was carved out with the help of stone sculptors from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu. One could see six tiny isles around the main island.
Cyriac faced a problem when he decided to construct a house atop the hill. A high-tension line of KSEB from Idukki to Wayanad goes parallel to the Thamarassery mountain pass and this passes over the marshy land and hill of Cyriac. While standing atop the hill, one could see the power line passing through the mountain pass and stretching all the way to Lakkidi in Wayanad. The view from the hill top is breathtaking as one could see the seventh, eighth and ninth hairpin curves of the Thamarassery ghat road and the Lakkidi view point.
Though Cyriac loves to savour this vista every day, constructing a house atop the hill was not feasible as KSEB won’t give the green signal because of the high-tension line passing through the area. But there was an ancestral house in the past on the same spot.
After going through scores of books in the library of the law college, Cyriac found a legal way out. The law says that the power line should be five meters above the roof of the house. He approached KSEB with this contention and got the requisite approval.
Cyriac had read about Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Through pictures that were published along with the news reports on the demonstration, Cyriac got attracted to the roofs of Chinese houses and longed to design same kind of roof for the building he was planning to construct.
Under the stewardship of Cyriac, who was the main mason, the building was built following the design of eminent architect Laurie Baker and the roof had a Chinese touch.
Swimming pool getting ready
The work, which started in 2010, is still in progress even after 12 years. The nature lover is presently constructing a huge fish-shaped swimming pool in front of the house on the hill top. The base of the pool had been put in place and head of the fish is on the spot where one could see Thamarassery pass from the top of the hill. Cyriac wants to create an infinity pool overlooking the fog-enveloped mountains of Wayanad. An eatery is also in the making.
Water, water everywhere
The local residents are now happy to have a lake, which is storing rainwater, in their mist as the wells in the region yield water throughout the year. Earlier during summers, the wells went dry and there was an acute shortage of potable water.
Many varieties of trees stand tall around the hill. Buddha bamboo, Bheema bamboo, Golden bamboo and Dark bamboo are some of the highlights of the nine-acre green paradise. After seeing the majestic Golden bamboo touching the skies, Cyriac had many enquiries from people on whether these kinds of bamboos could be grown in their backyards. It is noteworthy that Cyriac was instrumental in growing bamboo on the MVR Cancer Center campus and in other locations.
The bamboo tune
Everything is musical about Bheema bamboo as you could create the basic seven notes on the bamboo by rhythmically striking it with a stick. Whenever he gets time, Cyriac practices with two sticks. For his daughter’s birthday, Cyriac had sent a video with the ‘Happy Brithday’ song played on Bheema Bamboo. Now he is learning to play the national anthem on the nature’s musical instrument.
Apart from bamboos, the nine-acre land boasts of different varieties of trees. Believe it or not, this patch of green land houses six hornbills.
The mist effect
A friend once told Cyriac, “You have expansive greenery and an eye-catching lake, but what you don’t have is the mist and chillness of Wayanad.” This remark forced Cyriac to work overtime to create mist. He went to Coimbatore to buy equipment that sprays water into the atmosphere. Cyriac modified that instrument and fixed it on the isle in the middle of the lake. Once it is switched on, thick mist will start hanging in the air within minutes.
Always a student
Cyriac has a handful of degrees including MSc in Zoology and MA in Public Administration. He took an MBA through distance education and later joined a master’s course in tourism and management. He did the tourism course as his aim is to develop his nine-acres of land into a tourist destination. Though he learned by rote many theories, the syllabus didn’t cover basic things such as how to book a flight ticket or how to apply for a visa. As he got disillusioned with the education system, he taught his children by following the principles of parallel education.
Cyriac’s family includes wife, daughter and two sons. His daughter Amy Rose, who is the eldest, is in Bahrain and his sons- Thomas Ben and Thomas Cen- help him in realizing his dreams. Interestingly, the lake is shaped in the form of ‘A’, and the isles in the form of ‘B’ and ‘C’.
Efforts on with grit
Even after 12 years, Cyriac is yet to complete his dream project. If you ask him about how he funds the project, he will just flash an infectious smile. The local residents will say that Cyriac is wasting the money he earned by working in West Asia in the project. But the reality is something different. He owes crores of rupees to various banks.
Many tourists used to visit ‘ABC gel’ before the lockdown but after the pandemic-triggered restrictions had set in, the number of visitors had dwindled a lot. Cyriac is not sure of the way out but this nature enthusiast is marching ahead with his passion with grit and determination.
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