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Category: Travel

Payanangal mudivathillai!

Every time, I go travelling with my parents, the one thing that stays is the decision that *that* would be the last trip. But every next time, I am still travelling with them, with the same thought over and over. Payanangal mudivathillai. The journey never ends. But somehow this time, I am looking forward to more of these trips. I almost realise that I have always loved them anyway. Or may be, over the years, they just got better and better.

The one reason I probably love it may be is that, we always travel to Tamil Nadu. North or south or central. It will always be some part of the state. And I so much love this land, the people, the culture, the language, the temples, the all-night awake streets. I so much love being here. And every trip gives me strange experiences. The old lady who invites me to the seat next to hers, worrying if I hadn’t notice the vacant seat. The intimate addressing from total strangers, building innocent associations, genuine despite their transience. The down to earth aura that comes so innate with locale. The senthamizh that flows so fluently. The mallikai vaasam, from the jasmine clad women. The busy street and the crowd like nomads, stranded and lost, or often mesmerised and stunned by the glow of consumerism. The shopkeepers call out, coaxing you into buying stuff and endorsing even undergarments! The street vendors yield to bargain to any unimaginable level, and offer ‘special’ interest and discount to ‘all’ their ‘special’ customers, if you care enough to talk and build a rapport, of some identifiable measure. Nobody keeps trade secrets here! I was surprised how that old man explained the exact mix of his beyond perfect filter coffee! Was he so sure I’d never replicate it or did he just not care! There’s more to a coffee than just buying and sipping thru. There’s relishing a coffee and personally appreciating the taste to the old man who made it for you. “Coffee pramadham!”.

And today’s pivotal joint in our itinerary was Nellaiyappar Temple, Tirunelveli. The temple, in one word, is a maze. I am so surprised by the sheer awesomeness in the architecture. Not just for the sculptures, or the Saptaswara pillars,(where you here the seven swaras of Carnatic music, by the clang of each stone pillar, that vibrates like they were strings of a veena). Its a maze that they have built up there. The numerous doors at every passage, that leads to another set of numerous doors to numerous deities and sculptures. You don’t get lost there coz the most inviting paths are the most trodden direct paths, circling the temple in the shortest route. But if you choose to enter every next door you see, you’re probably to end up in some dark enclosed space with vermillion spread forms of Gods, with unknown names. I should probably upload a pic or two of the temple, to elaborate the greatness of the expanse. Looking forward to a similar mind blowing episode tomorrow, at Tiruchendur Murugan sannidhi!

Stranger!

So I’m back being myself, bits and parts atleast. The closed chapter of strange acquaintances are back once again and that’s the sign I am claiming for my comeback. I saw this guy getting down at my stop, from the same bus, confirming the road to the railway station. I should have just kept quite all the time. But as I saw him taking the wrong road, I couldn’t stop my instinctive response. So now we walked together to the station. I reminded myself to keep my words short and crisp. The typical Malayali woman’s insecurity, you may call it and I wouldn’t fully disagree! He didn’t throw much random chattering either. Or, so I guess. At the ticket counter, when his queue moved faster, I knew the impending danger. The tickets, since the destination was same, came in a single slip. There was no escape for the next five hours and it was made official by that chit of paper. I somehow didn’t feel the necessity to resist it though. I was lonely enough to have anybody’s company at all. Come on! I could always plug in the headset or pick up a book or atleast hop on to the upper berth if it becomes so bad. Off to the platform anyway!

And now he calls me by name. Rather, shouts my name across the platform. Okay, names were exchanged and everyone has it to be addressed only. However, from a stranger’s mouth, my name seemed the most awkward thing ever to be heard. Paying off my share of the ticket in the first few minutes itself, I was trying to build the safer indifferent aura around me. Either it didn’t bother him or may be that went unnoticed. Until the train’s arrival, things were pretty normal, both of us gripped to our own books. Once within the train, it was a mess and chaos to find an inch to settle down. Finally, walked across the pantry car (first time!!) and many more coaches to finally find a comfortable seat. And btw, the Indian Railway pantry is NOT so bad, pretty hygienic actually. And then, as we settled down, the chatterbox opened. Pucca non-stop irritating blabber mouth. He began with his freinds, business, the numerous contacts he has, the people he meets everyday, the all rounder he is, blah blah. Pretty much gloating. But there was a charm in it, that you would just yield to all the boastings and quietly listen. Which is exactly what I did. I had no room to talk. He even bought a water bottle and a snack packet, to engage my mouth. I was pinned to his incessant talking, with occasional concerns if the conversation was boring, though all we had was his unusually interesting monologues.

Somewhere in the middle of the talk, his mom calls and he offers the phone to me to talk to her. And now that was something way beyond my weirdest thoughts. Talking to a stranger was a good enough thing about socialising. But befriending their family felt very awkward. Somehow after that call, the conversation took a turn and we almost began picking up fights and debated over theism and spirituality and science and countless other things. I felt friendly (strangely instantly), with a stranger. As always, I got more serious than requiredabout the argument and surprisingly, he didn’t back off either. There was a strange genuinity in each point he made, making me want the argument to never end. But finally as we neared station, an attempt of reconcilation was initiated and made successful. We parted greeting eachother, wondering when might we see again. Concluding that there’s no next time, we made.our own way out of the crowd. He had offered to drop. But didn’t bother to ask for my number or any contact info. It doesn’t particularly make him genuine or fake. But that was the beauty of it. With no chance of seeing ever again, we still made it to give the best to eachother. No pretensions, no expectations, just a few happy hours. Or, so I choose to believe about the brief experience I so much enjoyed.

Day 3 – Cat fights and giant hugs!

Oh my god is what I’d say now, at the end of the day. Today was one heck of a day! Not extremely entertaining or depressing. But eventful and exhausting. Making friends, making groups, staying around, splitting apart, regrouping oneself. It all seemed so easy and so quick. For a snail head like me, it was too silly and more tiring always. But today seemed different and things came more easy to me too.

Walking around Ramoji film city, we fell into infinitely nested groups and finally came down to be group-less. Often huddled up as a bunch of chattering chipmunks, we seldom reduced (or elevated? 😛 ) ourselves to silent monks. There wasn’t much to feel wonderful about the place. But experiences are always place and time independent. The times we had there were quite memorable. We (I’d rather choose to be in first person hereafter) made friends with more intimacy now, and I tried had to stick around as way my habit. But then it came so natural to me now that being friends needn’t be always about sticking around. (It still appeals to me though!) I learnt that having fun was definitely more important than sticking to a group ever so boring they become. Dont assume now the day was all just fun, fun and fun! We had fights. And I had my own fights. Cat fights! Over the mobile charger. Over the berth. Over guys’ ego. Over girls’ carelessness. I was pretty much annoyed and infuriated by people’s attitude on these. But I guess, so should they be feeling about it. So, never mind we’re still macha-macha friends! (I assume I’ve fallen perfectly into that group of twelve or thirteen! Not very sure about what they think. Thank god not all of them read this.)

Learning more about long journeys with totally annoying and discomforting company. Learning how a bottle of water, or a free charging point or even a freaking awesome gadget can woo them into be your ‘friends’. Oh yeah, something worse than fair weather friends! 😀 With all the cat fights and giant hugs, I’m content!

Defeat!

Ever since I got down to this city, I’ve been travelling. On and on. On a two wheeler (many actually), by car, by bus, by walk. Long long distances. Hours turned minutes. Confusions turned solutions. Emptiness filled. Silence echoed. Walking around like a crazy woman was so relaxing. Well, it still is. But for some unknown reason, I feel like closing myself up in this room and just stay exactly like this. Like I totally hate going out.

But that aint true. Not true at all. Coz I love going out. Just anywhere out of enclosed spaces. I just feel so defeated today. So lost that I’d rather keep myself to myself. Had this stupid encounter in a bus. Was on my way back home from somewhere and I got into this crowded bus. With too many ladies standing in the front, and relatively too few men. And then I see this guy sitting in the seat reserved for ladies. He’s not a handicap. He’s not old. Pretty much in late twenties. And I wanted him to offer the seat to somebody there, who’s old and was practically saying out she’s tired, if not to me. And when I ask him, he wants the conductor’s recommendation to look into my plea. And now when I requested the conductor, he offered me the pleasure of kicking him out all by myself. I stopped looking at him. I got the next immediate seat I got and tried to push away his victorious grimace. But I was so defeated. So lost deep down. Not to that smart ass. Not that irresponsible conductor. But to myself. I was lost if I should ask for the seat or not. Demanding my rights was never a tough thing. So it was not about asking him to get up. All that it might have taken is a bit of yelling. But it was actually about my want. Did I really want that seat? Everybody wanted to sit but nobody cared to support me. And for a moment, it all felt so futile and lost. And I stopped. Defeated. It’s just that one moment that you need to pass. The judgment. The decision making. Whether or whether not. A life long of such crucial points is nothing less than excruciating. I couldn’t stand just one such moment. So defeated indeed!

The double decker!

A double decker bus doesn’t fascinate people much these days. Or may be I’m wrong about that. I dont see my sister or my little cousins desperate for a double decker ride. Compare to what it used to be for me or people of my generation, it’s not much wrong to say that people in the present dont find it enough interesting to travel a level above others on the road. And I wonder why! Come on people! Doesn’t that feel (or atleast sound) really cool? But then, it’s not completely right when I say people, as a whole, aren’t fascinated by the idea of it. There are still people, may be of a different generation, who still find it scary, (and funny), when someone shouts that there’s no driver in the upper deck! Why not? I’m still there!

My double decker experiences are as few as to count by fingers. But, every single one of them are cherished and relived as the most precious segments of my travelogue!(if ever written :P) The best part of it is, obviously, the journey on the upper deck. Ironically, that’s just once in my constrained memory. The most memorable!

Shrinking mind!

Do I look like a ‘shrink’ from any angle? Do I actually look like some human god who can curb away all your sorrow? I find it ridiculous people confide in me. Not irritated. Just amused at the very idea. When I say people, the list is sufficiently wide and endless. I dont know if that’s even the reason why I smile so less to people and frown all the time.

She’s on her way back from Bangalore. Its extreme cold there and she was shivering and had to see a doc there. One cant get out of home till ten in the morning coz its snowing all the time. Its her sister staying there. Her sister is working and hence busy. So she goes around to meet up once in a while. Her husband is also busy. So she goes around all by herself. She was too afraid to travel alone. But once everybody started teasing her, she pushed away the fear and began to travel alone. She lost her kid. Life is more or less empty now. Vidya is her name. Except for the last sentence, all the previous ones were her answers to the questions she might have wished me to ask. The five hour train journey was intermittently and effortlessly made engaging. I should have known better to maintain my indifference and never take away the headset from my ears.

I’m not callous. I’m not insensitive to others’ grievances or pain and agony. But being pricked doesn’t feel good. Everytime someone talks to me, I am itched to talk to someone too. Someone atleast! Thinking of the fact it is, I lack an ear. That’s too valid a prick as well!

First time, I’m regretting something that I wrote. I shouldn’t have written this. I really shouldn’t. Most of you who read this, have talked to me and I perhaps helped you vent. I’m not counting back and seeking redressal. All that I meant was, I need someone to talk to. The way I stood for you is not a comparison. Its just a prayer!

The Fear

If there’s one thing that completely occupies me other than a book, it always will be a journey. Travelling around has been something that I always loved. Unknown roads, uncertain destinations. That’d be how I love it. But yeah, considering my limited resources for such an expedition, I tend to be more than happy with a planned itinerary through the ever same roads. Being alone, having time for yourself, talking to oneself. They are the best parts of a travel. The plugged in headset and the book in hand ruin the tranquility a journey offers. But now if you see me travel, I always have either one of them or mostly both of them with me. They spoil the fun. But they are indispensable to me now. Having time, talking to myself. They are all tiring me. I just dont need time alone. I’d have chosen to write. But now, I dont write that liberally. My writing is limited to my stipulated time slots. So I read. I dont sing. And I dont want to talk. So I listen.

Fear is something that never crept into my journeys. I dont know how could it be possible that I’m actually afraid of something relating to travel? Afraid of bus travel? What phobia is that? Whatever that is, that’s what I’m suffering from. My most dreadful six hours were today! The ones that I’d not forget a life time. The darkness rushing into you, the chill running down your spine. Shivering in the cold outside, and fear inside. Crying and consoling yourself. Acting normal to avoid the stares, dying within to shut down everything around you. It was a wreck. A mishap. Never again happening. Never alone. The fear is abysmal. As much as the darkness. The journey is eerie. As much as the memories that gush out.

Talking aloud your fear calms down, is the crap that I always hear. I have no such stupid notions. My fears go with me to the grave. It gave me a good blog post. That’s all the idea behind ‘screaming’ out your fear! So, all those who read. Dont come and advocate me how pointless is my fear and convince me to get rid off it. Thanks. 🙂

The ‘without’ journey

Journeys. Train journeys. They have been a part of my life.  Traversing lands, of my dreams, of my desire, of my passion.  Shuttling between universes! When in one, the other seems so dreamlike and unrealistic! Well, that sounds like something from the past. Something that I wrote in the past. But how does it matter! The past continues. So do the verses from the past. They echo till eternity. For journeys are eternal.  Immortal. Real. The most realistic, or rather the only realistic experiences of my life are always related to a journey. May be that’s a slight exaggeration from my part. But then, that precisely says my yearning for journeys,  sans exaggeration. Its such a pleasure to travel. Immense and profound. Today was one such day. A day of journey. Smooth and soothing.  Even an untimely alarm is forgiven. The journey was definitely worth it. Less crowded, rather empty compartment. Extravaganza of stretching the limbs. Window seat. Wind caressing my hair. (thanks to mom, for tying up my hair :D) Slow hum of the engine, with occasional startling whistles. Early rising sun. Sweat beads on my forehead. And finally, the dreaded crossing and waiting for signal. One thing I’d love to keep away from is the Ladies’ only travel. The gossips and never ending woes about husbands and in-laws, and all other thinkable and unthinkable versions of every single thing out there! The ladies’ talk was so annoying that I wished if I could hang on to the lingering sleep. But then, had it not been for them, I wouldn’t have written this at all. With all the annoyances and silly talks, they represented a clan, a class apart for a person like me. Their thoughts, their worries, their concerns, their worlds. It seemed so ideally perfect. So straight. So clean. I don’t wish if I were one of them. May be, even without my knowledge, I am already one among them.

The ‘vanity’ bag clad women joined me mid way. They kept getting off and on the train. Different faces. But same ‘vanity’ bags.  Nobody stayed for the whole of the journey. I am glad I traversed the entire path. Without struggle. Just an unsettling ease of having it crossed. Being done with the journey, I am worried about the next.  The journey was short and smooth. I went through it, pleasantly. Will the next be as smooth as this? Will I have to go through the shame and pain of getting down midway? Will I be able to pay for the whole distance? Or should I be traveling ‘without’ ticket? I am worried. Confused.