Sajeev Kumar and Manjusha Manoharan are rollicking radio jockeys (RJ) of national public radio broadcaster 'Akashvani' (All India Radio). But there is something more that connects this husband and wife duo: passion for travel.
Their credo in travelling is quite simple too; first visit the local places before travelling to far off destinations. And the simple truth about Kerala is that the state has a plethora of exotic spots that can charm anyone bitten by the travel bug.
Sajeev and Manjusha, who have been serving Akashvani for the past 10 years, are avid travellers. They love to go for jaunts rather than long trips, and there is a reason for that, as explained by Sajeev. "Short trips will help to scout out some wonderful sights of quite common places that you might have missed earlier."
Sajeev, who is also a dubbing artist, has essayed many a small role in Malayalam movies and his latest film is 'Vikriti' which has Soubin Shahir in the lead. The couple, who had been associating with theatre for the past 20 years, always ends up picking forests as travel destination.
Genesis of 'Nadodi'
Though Sajeev and Manjusha have travelled together and individually to many places, there was a hurdle or two whenever they wanted to visit the hill station Munnar. Many times they had to abort the Munnar trip midway and return home for one reason or the other. One fine day, Manjusha packed her backpack and left for Munnar all alone, and she will never forget that solo trip.
The idea of a travel group germinated when Manjusha's friends, who had to hold back their travel aspirations due to myriad of reasons, expressed their willingness to accompany her in her sojourns.
There are many women who, despite their love for travelling, can't embark on a journey due to apprehensions beyond their limits. Sajeev and Manjusha formed a travel group by the name of 'Nadodi' (wanderer) to give wings to the dreams of women who wanted to travel and explore the world.
The duo is of the opinion that there is a wanderer in every person. When 'Nadodi' became a reality, the couple decided that the first journey should be an all-women one. Their friends gave unstinted support to the travel group and one of their buddies Sima Shajeer, owner of ABC Sports in Muvattupuzha, sponsored T-shirts that sported the logo of 'Nadodi.'
The travel group's first destination was the misty hill station Vagamon in Idukki. There was a stupendous response when the details of this trip were posted on the Facebook page 'Nadodi,' and women from other districts too showed interest. Though the tour was an all-women affair, many men backed the programme, say Sajeev and Manjusha.
As it was the first initiative of 'Nadodi,' the couple decided not to take any risk and play it safe. A group of 26 women, including homemakers and others working in different fields, set off for Vagamon in Idukki district from Kakkanad in Ernakulam district on August 4. The youngest and oldest of the group, an 8-year-old girl and a 68-year-old woman respectively, had the same enthusiasm to travel. That journey gave some memorable moments to everyone in the group. Manjusha is happy that her mother was also part of that fabulous journey to Vagamon.
A close shave in Mahagony Thottam
One trip that was incredible in all respects, with a dose of risk, was the tour to Mahagony Thottam at Muvattupuzha on the outskirts of Ernakulam.
"Bhoothathankettu and Idamalayar will remain our favourite spots as trips to these places were an experience that was out of the world. But there were some slip ups too. A terrible blunder that was committed during the Mahagony trip still evokes fear among us," says Manjusha.
As the travellers were leaving Mahagony Thottam, they saw an aquadate, a bridge-like structure used to transport water, in the forest area. Everyone walked on the aquadate and enjoyed the mesmerizing view of the greenery, and spend a lot of time under the forest canopy.
"Finally when we came out of the forest area, local people were waiting for us and asked a lot of questions. First we thought that we were being subjected to moral policing. But later they told us that the place was dangerous as tigers roam around in the area," Manjusha tells with fear in her eyes.
Sometimes travelling with kids can be a bit problematic like the Palani-Madurai-Rameswaram trip. The tour began with the plan to visit just Palani, but after reaching Palani the itinerary was changed to include Madurai.
"Took a local train bus and off we went to the temple town, Madurai. Then we thought of going to Rameswaram-Dhanushkodi and boarded the Okha Express to reach Rameswaram. The view of sea while crossing the iconic Pamban Bridge is truly enthralling," she adds.
Unfortunately, the children got sick due to food infection and were taken to the government hospital in Rameswaram. The hospital, which was in the hometown of former President A P J Abdul Kalam, was filthy and patients were lying on rusty old beds, Manjusha notes.
"Later was hired a cab to take children to a hospital in Madurai and from there headed off to Kochi," she adds.
Dream is to go on 'Bharat darshan'
Manjusha has a piece of advice on marriage: marry a person who is crazier than you as that would help in realizing your wacky aspirations. The couple's biggest dream is to embark on an all-India trip that too by road with their two kids. Nepal and Bhutan also find place on their wish list.
Next tour to Malakappara
Nadodi's next all-women trip is to Malakappara in Thrissur district on December 29, and the group will be travelling on state-run KSRTC buses. For more details contact Manjusha: 6238295190.
The travel group, which has a YouTube channel, not just arranges women-only tours, but also theme-based trips. Manjusha picks Shoranur-Nilambur tour, via train, as her best solo trip to date.
"Though people may stare at you while travelling alone, fortunately there had been no untoward incident. Lack of clean restrooms is a major problem for women travellers," says Manjusha.