Holding multicoloured umbrellas over their heads, women, men and children of all ages watch a sight many have not witnessed before – water gushing from the five shutters of the Cheruthoni dam in Idukki district. Despite the Kerala government announcing a red alert in many districts and the Meteorological Department predicting heavy to very heavy rains for the next few days, hundreds flock to the Cheruthoni dam undeterred by the official warnings.
Fiona has come all the way from Thodupuzha in Kochi with her family to see the Cheruthoni river. Her daughter says they weren't scared to travel despite the government warning about landslides and trees falling on the picturesque route from Kochi to Cheruthoni. "We drove down here. Look at the river, how can we miss it?" asks Fiona.
It is precisely because of tourist inflow into the town that the Kerala police have cordoned off the road leading to the river. But where there is no police barricade, people can be seen watching the river and taking pictures and selfies.
Sreekumar, who is a local politician, says that there were scores of cars lined up in the Cheruthoni town on Thursday and Friday, even though it was raining heavily on both the days.
"Normally people would come to the dam during holidays. But over the last two days, we have seen a lot of tourist inflow. People are not scared and are obviously being foolish as they have to travel through the hilly regions to get here," he says.
At the Cheruthoni dam too there is a huge rush of tourists, mainly people from Idukki itself and from the neighbouring districts of Ernakulam and Kottayam. With the rains abating on Saturday, there were also people from Theni district, just across the border in Tamil Nadu, who had come to watch how lakhs of litres of water was being released from the Cheruthoni dam every second.
The roads leading to the dam were chock-a-block with people - families trekking along the hill, hand-in-hand with children.
Renimol is an anganvadi helper at Painavu village in Idukki. She stays just a few kilometres away from the dam and did not want to miss the spectacle. "I had seen the shutters open in 1992. I wanted to see it again and my daughter was excited too," she says.
But what if it suddenly started pouring? "We are used to heavy rains and anyway nothing was going to keep me home," she says.
Despite standing a good distance away from the dam, the force of the water streams being discharged from the shutters was so strong that Renimol, her daughter and other onlookers could feel the water sprinkling on them.
Police personnel manning the small road leading to aa vantage point of the dam have their job cut out for them.
"There is no rain now, so we are allowing people. But if it's starts raining heavily, we may restrict the crowds. And anyway, if it's raining heavily, people should not drive to this place, there could be landslides," a police officer says.