Noted singer Sayanora Philip recently bought a brand new Mahendra Alturas SUV recently and travelled along the Ernakulam-Munnar-Kodaikanal road to celebrate the new acquisition. The trip was accompanied by playing several songs she has sung and others that she liked on the SUV’s music system. They included 'O January' in 'Big B' immortalized by Sayanora.
Mahendra's latest product Alturas is a sort of 'Big B' among vehicles by its size and road presence. It was designed inspired by SsangYong Rexton G4 of Korea. Alturas was delivered to Sayanora at her flat in Panampilli Nagar in Kochi and it joins her Toyota Fortuner.
During the Munnar trip, Sayanora wanted to have a feel of her new giant SUV which is similar to Fortuner. The day before the trip, the singer had a programme in Kochi that lasted up to 1 am. But she was so enthusiastic about the drive that the Alturas left Ernakulam in the early hours of the next day.
It seemed fitting the Sayanora, who had done the BGM for the movie 'Kuttanpillayude Sivarathri' had virtually observed a 'Sivarathri' (the festival during which devotees forego sleep).
Initially, it was her driver Shiju who was at the wheel, but the comfort offered by Alturas was too tempting and Sayanora insisted that she would drive. Her handling of the big SUV was as sweet as the songs she sings. The roads to Munnar were damaged considerably during the floods but Sayanora displayed her driving skills on a massive vehicle there as well as in towns with heavy traffic.
After passing Munnar, the vehicle headed to Top Station touching grasslands of Mattuppetty, Mattuppetty Dam and Kundala Dam. At each picturesque spot, Sayanora would exclaim, "ss-shaa!"
At many spots, the rear wheel on the left would remain in the air but the singer handled each hurdle with ease. Sometime later, she shifted from the driver’s seat and played the A R Rahman hits like 'Kathalikkum pennin kaikal thottuneettinal.' Thrilled, Sayorana opened the sunroof of the SUV and extended her head outside to feel the fresh air.
The sights of the green tea gardens were captivating, but the cold was unbearable and Sayonora soon withdrew back to the comfort of the interiors. She then recalled an old incident that took place while on a world tour with A R Rahman's troupe.
However, before that, Sayanora and others in the Alturas discussed some history related to the road they were taking. Munnar-Kodaikanal road was laid by the British as an escape route. They felt that it offered a safe passage if some attack takes place at Kodaikanal. On the way lies Top Station, a scenic place. Long ago, a ropeway existed here to transport tea to Theni.
When Sayanora stopped the SUV to sip tea from a roadside stall, local kids recognized her and surrounded the celebrity for selfies. Meanwhile, the tea stall owner gave a description of the nearby attractions. "On the right side of the road is a blue hill named Kolukkumala. The world's highest organic tea garden is located here. On the other side are Korangini hill and Meesappulimala. It was at Korangini that several trekkers lost their lives when the grassland caught fire. On the slopes of the Kolukkumala, a zigzag path can be seen. It was once used by horses transporting tea. At present, tourists are allowed only to Vattavada and Kottakkambur via Top Station in Tamil Nadu," he says.
Sayanora then told the story of the tour with Rahman. "I was an innocent girl from Kannur and believed everyone," she says. When they planned a visit to the Niagra waterfalls, someone in the troupe asked her take her soap and bag. But at the Niagra, she was the butt of jokes.
Later Sayanora took the Alturas to Pambadumshola, the habitat of rare Nilgiri marten. Then she travelled to Vattavada, where carrots and strawberry are grown. The next destination was Pazhathoottam, 14 km away. The path was narrow, but the singer showed her driving skills once again. The Kurinji sanctuary lay beyond.
The advantages of Alturas include low turning radius and 360 degree camera. On the way back, Sayanora got a call from her daughter Sena. "Mummy visited many hills, we'll go there together soon," she said in the quietness of the cabin and sang 'Mizhimalurukal' from the movie 'Rani Padmini.'