Seventy-four year-old veteran travel guide Yathra Mohan chats about ‘A Tourist’s Guide to Calicut’, a practical and interesting tour book on the historic city of Kozhikode
“There were 40 of us, mostly men, on that bus trip to Goa,” recalls K. Mohan, aka Yathra Mohan. “I asked them why they were not taking their daughters along. The reply was, ‘Goa is not a safe place for girls’. The trip changed their outlook.” Mohan is talking about the first trip he organised as a tour guide in 1984. After that, Goa became one of the hottest holiday destinations for people from Kozhikode, he says.
(Stay up to date on new book releases, reviews, and more with The Hindu On Books newsletter. Subscribe here.)
Mohan, who won the Best Tour Guide title from the Government of Kerala in 2009, has now brought out a book, A Tourist’s Guide to Calicut. Commissioned by Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), the book is peppered with history, facts, figures and interesting stories. Mohan says the book is not just for tourists but also for locals who want to know more about their city.
‘A craze to travel’
Now 74 years-old, the travel veteran was bitten by the wanderlust bug early and undertook a 40-day trek across India soon after graduating from Malabar Christian College. He travelled by road, rail and on foot and, on his return, quit his family business of spice trading to become a full-time tour guide. His fame grew with each trip, as he showcased places in the country, planned new routes and explored unknown retreats. His inimitable style of narrating tales associated with the land, its history, and even offering souvenirs as parting gifts earned him the moniker ‘Yathra Mohan’.
- A Tourist Guide to Calicut celebrates the historic city with information, maps and photos. Supported by Intach and written by K. Mohan, a renowned tourist guide, the book talks about the 38 communities that coexist in the city, also about the streets of the town with their own characteristics, of heritage walks and places to see in and around the city. The book is available at buybooks.mathrubhumi.com and is priced at ₹160.
“I had a craze to travel and take people along to show them fascinating places,” says Mohan who, even as a college student, would take his friends on pillion rides to Kuttiyadi Hydroelectric project, 60 kilometers from Kozhikode. These educational and recreational trips became so popular that Mohan began getting requests from schools and corporate for day trips. “It began like that,” recalls Mohan.
‘Understanding of other cultures’
He believes travel to be the ultimate learning; one that enables understanding of other cultures. He offers his first trip as an example. “In Goa, the group was introduced to a variety of cuisines that they had never seen or tasted. There was guitar music and slowly people from the group joined in the dancing. Suddenly the lights went off but it caused no commotion. The guitar played on till the lights came back. People said it was a safe place. Travel removes such preconceived ideas of cultures and places.”
Another first for Mohan was introducing the Valley of Flowers to the people of Kerala. He first went solo in the 1970s with his friend Narayan, another avid traveller. “We prepared for high-altitude travel by jogging and exercising for a month before the trip,” he reminisces, and remembers carrying a canister of oxygen and chocolates on those trips. “The 2×6-kilometre sea of flowers waving in the breeze is an unforgettable sight.”
Read More | A Kerala travel experience, powered by Clubhouse
The ‘Train Through Chambal’, another route he conceptualised, became very popular with his clients. “It was loved for its landscape and the dangerous tales of dacoits looting travellers in olden days.” He recommends the Bahai temple of sheer architectural beauty. Mohan is invited by architecture colleges to discuss the subject as he has learned about structures after visiting them.
Modern-day travel is luxurious, he feels, but misses out on the core, which is about unexpected meetings, twists and turns. “Today everything is planned. We know the place before we visit it, the food, the tales … there is not much surprise and very little to discover. Besides, there is no interaction between people.”
Mohan’s five must-see destinations “ among many more” are Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand, Ajanta and Ellora Caves, Jog Falls, Dal Lake and Jantar Mantar.