Mar 18, 2008

Southern Sojourn

What is this life if full of care,
we have no time to stand and stare!!!
The above couplet is what William Henry Davies mulls over in his poem, 'Leisure'. I have recited these lines endlessly as an innocent school girl memorizing her poems. Little did I realize then that I may be repeating those exact same lines to myself today.

Life today has become so fast paced. It is almost like those high speed rollercoaster rides at the theme park in town. We are running around all the time - school children, working women and men, homemakers, senior citizens - all of us in a hurry all of the time!!! And when we are not running around we are busy setting our alarm clocks and popping vitamins and calciums down our throats. All this to stay one step ahead in this rat race called survival!!!

There's so much around us that we fail to appreciate or maybe we have simply taken them for granted. Mother Nature has blessed us with so much... but somehow we have forgotten to stop by, stand and stare!!!

Fortunately for me I had an opportunity to break away from the urban chagrin this last weekend. I joined my parents on a trip to my father's native town in Tamilnadu - Mayavaram.

Mayavaram (or Mayiladuthurai as it is called now) is a small town in Nagapattinam district. It is located in the historic Thanjavur area on the banks of the infamous Cauvery!!!

My trip to Mayavaram and a couple of nearby villages was a wonderful experience. Truly refreshing and a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of Chennai. What follows is an account of this trip, quite clearly one of my favourite trips!!!

We took a bus to Mayavaram on Friday night. The bus was headed to a place called Karaikudi. We reached Mayavaram at around 4.15 am after a six hour journey. The bus ride was quite comfortable. The lodge where we were to put up was 5 minutes away by walk from where we got off. We dragged ourselves and our luggage to the lodge. Sleepwalking with a twist, I should add!!! To our surprise - the lodge was shut!!! We were amused and irritated at the same time. I have always been the urban pampered customer variety enjoying the pleasures of 24X7 services and the like - and now this kind of reception at an unearthly hour!!! This was my first brush with life in a non-metro. We finally knocked our way into the lodge and managed to catch up with some sleep.

At around 8.00 a.m. we went to a nearby hotel for a sumptuous South Indian breakfast - hot steaming idlis, mouth watering vadais and delicious pongal - served on the traditional banana leaf. Breakfast was heavenly and the early morning experience was long forgotten!!!

We were to visit our ancestral temple during the day. It is located at a village called Anandatandavapuram and is about 7 kms away from Mayavaram. We bought some flowers and fruits as offerings for the deity and began our drive down to the village.

The drive was simply enchanting. It took us around 30 minutes to get to the temple. The roads were good. There were some rough patches, but on the whole were a pleasure to drive on. The journey through the countryside was refreshing in every sense. The green pastures on both sides looked like soft green carpets spread all over. Goats of all sizes were running around the place. Young girls with stacks of hay on their heads were walking along the roads. We passed by some sugarcane fields in full harvest. Coconut trees laced the roads on some stretches. There was this sweet pleasant fragrance of freshness in the wind that blew against our faces as our car zipped by the fields and villages.

We reached the temple after a while. It's a really small and simple temple compared to the fanfare that bigger temples like the ones at Tirupati, Sabarimala and Vaishnodevi attract. We were the only devotees for the day. You have to actually inform the temple priests in advance that you would be visiting. The head priest was getting all the arrangements done for the abhishekam. We finished offering our prayers to Lord Ayyanar, had our prasadam and spent some time inside the temple premises. The temple has a stone elephant and mahout on one side. This elephant has always been my star attraction at the temple right from when I was a kid. I was so happy to be there again and took a couple of pictures too.

There is a small pond just outside the temple. The water in the pond had a soothing blue-green colour and a constant shimmer with the sunrays reflecting on it. There was nothing more to it, yet it looked so beautiful, so serene. I took my time to stand and stare - at the pristine waters, at the refreshing green trees and at the clear blue skies. Davies and his poem crossed my mind! I continued to stand and stare - this time with a smile on my face!!!

We began our return journey after a couple of hours. The weather was really pleasant and the drive back to town was just as rejuvenating as the one in the morning. Neatly piled hay stacks were a common sight along the fields and even outside the small houses we passed. I was tempted to get a couple of pictures taken between those haystacks and managed to convince our driver to stop near one of them!! It was an exciting moment... I was finally in the middle of a green field with hay all around... just like in the movies!!!

We traveled though some village inroads too. Small little boys clad in shorts were playing marble outside their homes. They stopped their game when our car passed by them. They had smiles on their faces as they stared at the car and at us - they had their time to stand and stare!!!

Cattle and goats were taking their post lunch stroll alongside the occasional vehicular traffic. There was one point when this really cute puppy dog was walking towards our speeding car. Our driver gracefully hit the clutch and brake and patiently waited for the little one to pass by playfully. So much for the small little pup - a must share experience with all our rash auto and bus drivers and the rich spoilt brats who probably list out their hit and run achievements at their Page 3 parties.

The small thatched huts, the twigged fences, the grazing cattle and the hens and chickens running around - the phrase 'Home Sweet Home' fits in here perfectly. Bungalows, pent houses, multi-storeyed skyscrapers may have it all, but the thatched huts had a charm of their own.

We got back to Mayavaram and left for Chennai after a couple of hours. This southern sojourn was one of the most refreshing experiences I've ever had. The fresh air and the beautiful greens have left a strong impression on my mind!!! Looking forward to many more such journeys that give me an opportunity to be one with Mother Nature in all her splendour!!!


PS: You can check out pictures of this beautiful experience right here:

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