Trichy Tales

Last weekend, I went on a trip to Trichy, after 5 years. Trichy is my birthplace. My father works with BHEL, and I was born in the Trichy BHEL hospital. We moved to Chennai when I was a one-year old.

I love the BHEL Township in Trichy. A place far removed from the noise and dust of the town. Broad tree lined avenues, calm all around and a lovely blend of smells that I’ll never forget. The houses are designed in a simple way, but hold charm.

We visited Dad’s friend’s mother who is admitted in the BHEL hospital because of some orthopedic problems. I love her like my own grandmother. I sat by her bedside and held her hand for sometime, which gave me a lot of happiness too.

I saw the operating room where I was born! I’d never seen it all these years. I would’ve taken a photo of it, if I was a celebrity and they had had a board saying “NIranjani Ravi was born here” (but I am not a celebrity… if I was I could’ve surely expected a board, because they actually built a temple in Trichy for actress Khushboo!)

After the hospital visit, a looong day began… we visited 3 big temples in the morning. The afternoon and evening zoomed by with visits to Dad’s friends’ houses.
I am gonna give you a detailed account of everything that happened here, in 2 parts. I recorded most of it in a diary as the day went on. This is the longest posts I’ve written.

250 bucks for 2 seconds

My parents and I blew 250 bucks per head for a 3 second glimpse of the deity in Srirangam. Our money did not keep us away from the crowds – we got pushed around in a huge throng even on the way to the special entrance. I paid Rs. 250 just to stand for 2 minutes in an empty 20 by 20 space and enjoy the breeze from fans.

We couldn’t see Ranganathar in all his glory in one glimpse. The doorway to the sanctum sanctorum wasn’t wide enough. One priest was repeatedly telling us to “darisichify” his feet and the five headed snake. The other was urging us to move fast.

The main point – all big temples have been commercialized. You shell out a whole lot of money (Rs. 250 for Srirangam was a shock) and get to see the deity for a few seconds (seems like at every temple where you shell out more, you don’t get a proper darshan – what’s the point? It’s like you spend more for a magazine but find that the number of pages and quality has come down) & you’re urged to move fast by some guy you want to shout back at.

At the Thaayar sannidhi, the special ticket cost only 5 bucks. For a moment I felt sorry for Thaayar. Her husband was demanding 250 bucks! The queue was slow moving… there seemed to be more people waiting for special darshan than the regular darshan queue. I reminded myself that a good portion of the dharma darshan queue was getting baked in the sun. But even my queue was really slow. And when we finally reached the sanctum, we hardly got a glimpse of the main deity as she was hiding behind the Utsava statue and a few other statues. In 3 seconds we were ordered out by the person in charge of shooing people away. I didn’t feel too angry as I’d spent only 5 bucks.

We also went to the temple at Tiruvanaikaval (one of the Panchaboota Shiva temples – the linga here symbolizes the water element). We got only a teeny peek at the linga through a specially carved window in the sanctum sanctorum, before which I got darshan of a lady’s broad backside blocking my view. We didn’t have enough time to go in.

In the Amman sannidhi I got full darshan of a priest, before he moved aside to let me get a glimpse of Amman, who was so wrapped up in silk that I couldn’t make out her face.
The Samayapuram Amman temple was much more tolerable than these places. I expected floors wet with water mixed with kumkum and women in garish yellow (have not had good experiences at Amman temples: I still remember the cleanest one I visited – a small temple at Vellore). But I found that the Samayapuram temple was the cleanest, most well ventilated of the 3 temples. The Rs. 25 ticket queue I was in seemed to move fast; I was walking swiftly, feeling relieved, till I came to a stop behind a very slow queue. We really should expect this and keep our happiness in check; we should learn from a simple analogy – when you see a half-empty road in the city, you can expect to end up behind a hundred vehicles stuck on a road in a traffic jam or waiting for a green signal. If the road is completely empty, a minister and his entourage would’ve just passed and a policeman will let in hordes of traffic held up on side roads. Aagamothathle (on the whole) delight on seeing an empty road is as short-lived as the joy of walking quickly down a temple darshan walkway. I think I drifted a bit far. Coming back to the Samayapuram temple… there was (of course) a point where the free darshan and Rs. 25 darshan queues met, and then it got really crowded. The same pushing-shoving-shooing away routine followed.

Finally our temple rounds got over and I breathed a sigh of relief, as we finished lunch and embarked on another round of visits. This called for another long article… and here it is!

A whirlwind afternoon

We went to Dad’s friend’s place in Srirangam. They had become good friends 25 years back – when I was a baby. The uncle called me Jinglu (my nickname when I was a baby – some of my Dad’s oldest friends – whom he made during his early years with BHEL – still call me by the nickname – as if it were the most normal thing).

The uncle’s daughter is a sweet and quiet girl. She is petite and has a stick-thin figure that drives me wild with envy – though people say I’ve become thin. The uncle and aunty themselves were quite shocked at my appearance, saying that I looked malnourished (to top that, I was on a diet, which became fodder for conversation). I got plenty of well-meant advice from them. My mother, for her part, advised the girl to eat 2 dates and 2 almonds with peels removed in the morning. Then the conversation shifted to how the two of us were thinking that life is all about fun and how we were doing aarpaattam and attagasam (like everyone else). I always try to justify such behavior; I had to straighten my hair because my curls were uncontrollably wild; I used to shop a lot because I easily got bored of clothes but it did good to me because I am now a seasoned shopper who picks only distinct pieces… and other such arguments.

We then went to the house of Somashekar uncle (the aunty’s name is Gomati – I call them “Somu and Gomu”. I pray that they don’t stumble across this post). They live in a huge, beautiful house. The rooms were painted in beautiful shades – lilac, powder pink and pale green. There were lovely wooden roll top desks and cabinets.

They forced us to eat some snacks even though we were almost stuffed to the hilt. Aunty brought out jangris. I decided to take only a tiny bit. (I had also been on a diet for the past 12 days or so – it made the sweet doubly tempting). But as I ate the jangri, it left a lovely taste in my mouth. I wanted a half piece.

I spotted it on my Mom’s plate, but before I could ask her for it, she popped it into her mouth. And at that point aunty closed the jangri dabba. I wistfully looked at the dabba while my heart sank. Bye bye, darling jangris…

We were sitting at the dining table, watching Somashekar uncle’s son playing video games. He had been glued to the computer right from when we entered. There was a little boy – Aunty’s colleague’s son, whom he had dropped off while he took his daughter to attend an exam – the boy started playing video games with Somu uncle’s son guiding him. Somu uncle’s son suddenly turned and asked me… “In which class is the boy studying?” Before me or my Mom could reply, Aunty thankfully came and told him that he was her colleague’s son! But I felt flattered, hoping that the boy might’ve thought I looked young enough to be the boy’s sibling (;) :P).

We then went to Dad’s ex-GM’s house. They’re a sweet old couple. The aunty hugged me and was very affectionate, but planted sloppy wet kisses on her kanna’s cheeks.

Then we returned to the township and visited Mr. Rohira, a north Indian friend of Dad’s. The family is very affectionate; I love his children. They’re friendly, warm, down-to-earth, uninhibited and very hospitable.

They laid out a snack feast for us. My strictness about dieting permitted me to eat only one Good Day biscuit out of the 2 dozen on the plate. Aunty has whisked up bread rolls super fast for us. They were simply delicious. I restricted myself to one and a half.

We had a wonderful time, even though it was a really hectic day. I wish I could spend a few relaxed days at Trichy, visiting many people, inhaling the wonderful smells of the Township, taking long walks. I must plan soon. But (of course) on the whole, it was a great trip. A refreshing break from the hustle-bustle of Chennai.