As a child who grew up in Palakkad, Malampuzha dam and the gardens, hold a special place in my heart. It was our favourite place to spend the weekends. This, mind you, was long before Fantasy Park opened up. We used to start early in the afternoon after a sumptuous lunch, pack a picnic meal and drive off to Malampuzha dam which was about 10km away from home.
I used to walk around, awe-struck by seeing the various types of fishes in the fish shaped aquarium. The hanging bridge in the garden used to scare me. And if the shutters of the dam were open, I was so scared that I would not go anywhere near it till someone else picked me up and carried me across the bridge which used to sway and heave. The Yakshi (enchantress), a sculpture made by the renowned Kanhayi Kunhiraman always evoked mixed emotions in me as a child. She used to fascinate me and scare me at the same time and despite all the fear, I used to go near it and gaze up at her. As you walk across the dam, there used to be a small hill far away with the writing MWL (Maximum Water Level) in white. And then, time flew, we shifted to another part of the state and the trips to Malampuzha became less frequent.
Years afterwards, during a lazy Sunday afternoon with friends talks revolved around those happy memories of childhood. Palakkad and the afternoons at Malampuzha Dam cropped up. And the fact that the year marked the 60th anniversary since the dam was thrown open to the public added a little bit of spice. For my friend, Palakkad was the place she had never been to, even though she traced her roots to this sleepy Kerala town. And on a whim, we decided to pack our bags and head out to Palakkad. The cabbie who drove us out to Malampuzha showed us the way to the rope-way and we could not resist a ride.
The rope-way stretches across the gardens parallel to the dam and offers a bird's eye view of what was in store for us. At a height of about 60 feet from the ground, there are about 60 rope cars, each of which, can seat two. The ride lasts approximately 20 minutes and is an experience in itself. We decided to give the snake park a miss and walked through the gardens. It was beautifully redone and the lawns were well maintained. From the walkways, you can see the rope-way cars moving overhead. The children's park had been renovated and there were options for visitors to go for boating and a dam top safari. We walked along the gardens and reached the famous Yakshi sculpture. It had taken Kanhai Kunhiraman two years to make this sculpture which has been at the garden for over 45 years.
We were told that Kanhai Kunhiraman would be back to renovate the sculpture. The Yakshi is not the only attraction that is getting a face-lift. The dam and the gardens were being spruced up for the 60th anniversary celebrations which falls in October. But, not everything will be done in that time. Renovation works will go on for a couple of months more.
A walk on the dam will relax you. On one side, you see the gardens and on the other the reservoir. You can see the Dhoni Hills in a distance. Malampuzha dam has forever been one of the favourite locations of Malayalam movie makers. Dance sequences at the garden, stunts on the dam, sets of floating palaces in the reservoir, the area has been forever immortalized on celluloid.
And as the cabbie drove back to Palakkad, we were quiet. The vivid pictures of Malampuzha of my childhood replaced by those of the present days. And for my friend, she was taking back fresh memories of a place she traced her roots from.