visit: belum (underground cave system), kurnool dist, AP

This Belum was humbling, at many levels.

The parents of the upper elementary children, would have noticed in the recent past that, there has been a major spurt in the interest of children about caves, their geology, the works. Reason: a good amount of work (montessoriese for ‘studying, persevering, developing skills / knowledge / self’}, had been done, a lot of materials had been presented, children had branched off in various directions, synthesizing their knowledge from various sources. The ‘practical’ experiments included subjecting lime stone & marble to reasonable concentrations of acids (all under watchful and wary eyes the adults, ofcourse) to show the effect of wear/erosion when the stones/minerals are/were subject to the fascinating primordial forces… Fhe formation of stalactites and stalagmites… The magic worked by water flows thusly creating caves…

They had also viewed the excellent episode on caves (#7) of the “planet earth’ series and held animated discussions about the episode, later.

So, the adult in the environment (we will just call her Rama, any resemblance to any livid or dude person is purely coincidental) was keen that the children close their activities with a visit to a real cave system. The hunt began, Rama visited the Belum  (kind of scouting trip) and was completely bowled over by it. Subsequently, whatever we discussed just about anything, would end up veering over to Belum and the wonder that it is etc etc – and I almost cave up on Rama. Ha. But now I understand her sentiments…

So, a visit to Belum was planned – but then. there were so many details to be looked into, so many loose ends needed to be tied up – what with the ‘availability’ of children on weekends and a good 300 km distance that separated NammaShaale and Belum.  Belum is in absolute and delightful boondocks and because of the distance, we had to plan for overnight stay, costs were prohibitive, there were quite a few doubting jonases (including yours truly). Quite a few times the trip was planned and cancelled (all increasng the tempo and queering the pitch) as some piece or the other of the jigsaw puzzle that the logistics nightmare was, fell off at the last minute. Finally, finally it happened on 21-22, March, 2009 – and by gawd and o boy, it was nice!

A few of the staff  of NammaShaale, along with all the ‘upper elementary’ children and erdkinder – in all, some 30 of us, set off on saturday morn (21rd March), by a hired & comfy Rajahamsa KSRTC bus at 9.00 AM sharp. Sharp. I could not believe it when it happened! How can it happen? How come no parent rang up at the last nanosecond and say that he is caught in a traffic jam with a loaf of bread and his child only 20 kms away, from Chennai that is, and so would the bus please wait for just 10 hours? I pinched myself pretty hard and yelped. It really hurt mightily.

The journey – to and fro – was reasonably uneventful, in spite of the COMPLETELY charged children only 25 in no, CONSTANTLY eating/chatting/screaming/playing – by god, the two day-one night trip was over on sunday night. *phew*

All in all, it was a great experience, with folks AP tourism dev corp who are maintaining the cave system owned by the Dept of Archaeology, literally bending over backwards to please us. The boarding and the lodging provided were of a very nice kind… The children (um, including myself) were COMPLETELY bowled over by Belum. Stunning.

There are authorized guides available at Belum and we were fortunate enough to be guided by an enthu cutlet of an young man – Sri Nagamuni.  He very nicely explained the history, science, geography, myths and pretty much everything about the cave. It was amazing to see ALL the children listening to him with rapt attention and following him carefully; there was no jostling, no passing out – they were orderly, in spite of the high humidity within the cave system and its (sometimes) claustrophobic passages. The pre-work that the children had done, reflected on the way they took in the whole environment – and the qustions they asked. Eager beavers, what else…

Of course, there were the morbid arts of the ubiquitous vandals in a few places, in spite of the best offorts (honest) of the APTDC people – and I was glad to learn that ‘KUMAR LOVES KAVITA’ – all in CAPITALS and hoped that Kavita also reciprocated the feelings. Since the grafitti happened on 12-3-2004, may be they have, by now,  some children too, and what a great feeling they would have when they come back to the cave with the whole family and look at their pristinely preserved grafitti. May be this time, they will paint the whole cave RED! I have become tearful, a sentimental fool that I am! Tender moments… whate else! %^$#@*&

The children also did a nice bit of stargazing, thankfully not the Aamir Khan types – and the older & pesky children pestered us for some ghost stories, at the indecent hour of 11 PM – in the night. After listening to a few of the ghastly ghost stories, with every twig snapping and rustling of leaves psyching them no end, some of the intrepid fellers decided to go on an AntiGhostMarch in the dark night, amidst distant howls (well, of laughter may be – by the braver ones who stayed back) to prove it to themselves that they are not afraid of ghosts. I too gingerly joined them. Luckily, I was protected by a ring of these youngsters, so I continued to be brave. Sheesh, the things that one has to do, to earn the respect of these youngsters… I still shiver when I even plan to think of it.

… Among the usual reports and diarization of the impressions of the children, we may even have a quiz exclusively devoted to caves. The questions would be similar to:

What is common to Belum and Pepsi?

(actually a wag, um, in fact a child, said when asked the question: Pepsi is avaliable in the cafeteria near the Cave! Bleh!! Our urban children are soooo so very smart!)

Would you know the answer please? 🙂


Special thanks to Rama, who made it happen. Belum was lovely.

PS: The photos are yet to reach me, so that would be another post, if and when I get them.

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  • Subhash  On April 1, 2009 at 12:43 am

    The ghost stories have been retold many times over. They were even more popular than the caves – atleast in our house. The universe is indeed made of stories.

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