Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Pedaling in Pondy

Note: There is a difference between pedaling and peddling. 

One of the greatest tests of patience is faced by a man when he is done with his job in the toilet and suddenly finds out that the water supply is cut off.  That is the most appropriate occasion to use the cuss word “shit”. We had woken up early in the morning to see the sunrise in Pondicherry and one of my friends was struck in the toilet due to the peculiar situation mentioned above. However, the delay was not longer than 10 minutes.

The sunrise was to happen at 6.35. We managed to reach the beach by 6.40. This was the first time I had seen a rocky beach. It was good break from all the sandy beaches I had been visiting all these years.The clouds blocked the sun entirely. We could only see patches of orange in the sky. In the small area in between the beach and the well laid cement road, many food carts were lined up. I presume that they function only in the evening. However, those rusty pieces of metal looked like works of art in the background of the sea and sky. Though it may sound abstract , I always feel that poetry is in the ability to see mundane things from a different angle.

We were adequately distracted by the Rangoli competition that was happening on the Goubert Avenue (the road running parallel to the rocky beach). Hundreds of participants were busy drawing patterns and other themes on the lane.

We took a stroll down the entire stretch of the road which also hosted an Indian naval memorial and French war memorial. We also noticed a bouquet with a note “Je Suis Charlie” near the French war memorial. On the other end of the road, there was a structure that protruded into the sea. Though we didn't walk over it, we enjoyed the scene from a distance.

I also noticed that most of the important government buildings including the secretariat of Pondicherry is located on the same avenue. It is perhaps one of the few states where Government officials get to enjoy a great view every morning in their office.  In addition to government buildings, the lane is home to some fine hotels. In fact the entire French part of Pondicherry has that European charm with old colonial buildings and churches. In addition to a huge statue of Mahatma Gandhi, there is also a majestic statue of a French Governor that is situated on the same avenue. One wouldn't be wrong if somebody accused the past and present rulers of Pondicherry of being disproportionately partial to just one small area in the entire Union Territory.

After breakfast in Adyar Anada Bhavan we hired some bicycles. It was enjoyable to ride bicycles in this place and also commute in this area comfortably and cost effectively.  This was followed by a huge lunch. We gorged some pizzas and pastas. I had to part from the group a bit early as I had to reach home in time. I said good bye to my buddies and hoped that we could go on a similar tour again sometime.

P.S : None of these photos were edited or clicked in a DSLR camera. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

On The Banks Of River Cauvery

For the past few months, everything had become so streamlined. All my travel and weekends were planned, sometimes to the very last detail. Things were prioritised and there was an attempt to bring in discipline. And then I reached a point where I stopped asking “What if it goes wrong at this/that point etc.” Sometimes it is good to set aside everything that is ones mind and chill the fuck out.

Thyagaraja Aradhana

The window to my left somehow managed to keep opening again and again with the assistance of an irritating vibrational force of the old and rickety SETC bus. To add to my woes, I had forgotten to get my sweater from home. The unique combination of weather and laws of physics ensured that my attempts to sleep were adequately punctuated. Finally, I just inserted a full stop to my attempts to sleep that night. 

I was to join some buddies the next morning at Thanjavur. I reached the place an hour earlier and found some rooms for the entire gang and waited for them to reach the place. We had decided to attend the Thyagaraja Aradhana at Thiruvayur , a small town 13 kilometers away from Thanjavur. It is the birthplace of the great Carnatic composer, Thyagaraja.  While waiting for them in the lobby I turned over the pages of The Hindu to find a supplement dedicated to the Aradhana. Honestly speaking, I knew close to nothing about the event.

Thyagaraja Aradhana is an annual festival of Carnatic music where professional singers, students and followers of Thyagaraja assemble to sing his Krithis . It starts every year on Pushya bahula Panchami every year; the day on which the saint attained Samadhi. It is followed by four more days of musical events. It is conducted near his grave on the banks of river Kaveri , a river closely associated with his life and music. 

The stage set for Thyagaraja Aradhana
The festival in its present format is not even a hundred years old.  Before going to this place only Thyagaraja Krithi I could recognise instantly was “Endaro Mahanubhavulu”. After this, I got to know two more. I and another friend who was equally incompetent in Carnatic music were busy eating Pongal and sipping coffee at the venue while the other enthusiastic boys listened to the recital completely. I openly confess that I am too old to learn the technicalities of music. I googled some lyrics and read the translations. But the story of Thyagaraja, the landscape that witnessed his amazing story and the extent of devotion in his music is something I couldn’t have realised by just listening to MP3 files.

Cauvery river flowing beside the Venue
We roamed around the town of Thiruvayur and ate stuff in some little hotels. Our boys gorged Thayir sadam and a sweet called Asoga served in a small hotel. We sat in some temple and engaged in light hearted banter, just like the good old days at college. 

The sweet called 'Asoga'
Brihadeeshwara Temple

The evening was spent in Thanjavur’s Brihadeeshwara Temple.  It is one of the greatest South Indian temples representing South Indian style of architecture and also a UNESCO world heritage site. However, I made great efforts not to turn into a pseudo historian that one tends to become when partially educated people enter into old temples. 

Our academic curiosity ended after the Wikipedia page was read out on the lawns of the temple site. Still one of my friends wished that the inscriptions were in Sanskrit. I assured him that it would be taken care of, if Raja Raja Chola is reborn and builds such a temple again.

[ Sorry. No analysis of about how they put that 80 tonne granite on top of the temple. For further details consult Mr. Wikipedia]

But there were few simple things that one could notice very easily. 

1. The architect was just in love with the peacock pattern. He just copy pasted the same pattern on the entire Gopuram of the main temple.

Point no.1 Explained
2. Every ruler who managed to control the region, tried to leave his imprint on the temple.  For example, the Marathas who were the last to control the area have built an outer entrance in addition to the existing one. The Nayakas who controlled the place for some time ordered artists to paint on the walls that already had existing paintings.

3. Due to the power and some historical luck, the name of Raja Raja Chola remains in the annals of history in the form of Brihadeeshwara Temple. He has managed to seal his name on the walls of human memory.

4. Some dumb lovers thought they would be immortal like Romeo and Juliet by inscribing their names on the ancient walls of the temple and also an innocent water tank behind the main temple. What a pity. Sorry guys, no fucks were given about those little fragments of your imagination.

Finally we packed our bags and left for Pondicherry.

Part 2: http://idiosyncraticidiots.blogspot.in/2015/01/pedaling-in-pondy.html

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Tibetan Sweater Seller

It had been long time since I had used a sweater. There was no need to touch it because neither Mangalore nor Chennai weather would demand someone like me to wear one. It was only yesterday, I picked up my sweater and wore it at home because it was really 'cold' in Tumkur. 

The next day I was sitting in my mom's cloth store, where I was reminded of an old memory. I just picked up my tab and started to write about it and the story just poured out.

When I was a kid, maybe in second standard or so , there was a Tibetan middle aged man who used to set up a makeshift sweater stall beside the entrance of our cloth store. Amma and grandpa used to pronounce the word Tibetan as 'Tibe-teeyan'. Only in my later years did I spot a place called Tibet on the map. I understood about their history and continuing struggle only in recent years.

It wasn't much. He had about 50-100 sweaters with him. I can say that he sold about 3-4 sweaters on an average day. He used to pack it and unpack the entire thing everyday. I never knew where he lived or slept in the night. It was not a matter of concern to me at all. I was just a kid.

Out of curiosity, I used to go and sit along with that person and talk to him about random things. After all a cloth store is not a great place to spend for a kid. The roadside makeshift place seemed to be more interesting to me.

It was surprising, how I was welcomed to sit beside him on the floor. Mom or grandpa didn't stop me from going out. Even he was a friendly guy who used help us out in the store during busy hours. At some point of time Amma/grandpa agreed to keep his stuff in our store so that he could avoid carrying it everyday.

His Kannada accent was a bit weird, but I could understand him very well. He could sell to villagers and city people alike. He used to come to the same spot every winter. And at the end of every winter he used to gift me a sweater.

Years rolled on. Grandpa died. Mom took over the store. Eventually there was road widening exercise taken up by the municipality. Even we lost a few square feet of space in the store. The pathways were rebuilt. The Tibetan sweater seller disappeared from the scene in this mess. He never came back. Till this afternoon, he had disappeared from my memory (not entirely) as well.

But then, one simple line remains in my memory forever. By the end of everyday he used to say 'It takes just five minutes to close your store, but I take 30 minutes 'I don't understand why I remember that line so distinctly. Maybe I just thought it was fun or something of that that sort. I never knew that Tibetans were refugees from a distant land. They were packing bags on a daily basis. Perhaps they missed their homeland. Some of them wouldn't have seen Tibet  in the first place. Yet this distant memory helps me in appreciating their experience/concern. It also helps me appreciate how distinct people cross our paths and leave a trace of their personality without our knowledge.