December 18, 2006 at 11:02 pm | Posted in Madurai, Thiruvannamalai | Leave a comment

Well, my earlier blog and this one are both composed on Monday morning Indian Standard Time but the earlier one says it is Sundays publication. No matter. due to time difference.

My reminiscences are full of ramblings, stumbles, stammers, wrong spellings and mispronunciations. It is not because I dont write very well. My grasp and usage of the English language is not bad but my weakness is that I rush and publish it without review and editing in a hurry not to lose the contents in case there is a power failure of a sudden nature.

I have ready fans to pat my back. I mean my daughter and daughter in law. That is good enough for me because I consider this effort a personal achievement and even a small encouragement works as tonic.

I was telling about my life in Madurai. Madurai has the famous Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple. If you surf the internet you will have enough stuff to read about the art architecture and antiquity of the temple there. It is a good place to visit even for someone as sceptical as me but in my boyhood I would not have thought this way. It is quite a big temple with exquisite sculptures and with an aura of peace and quietitude and tranquillity. The best time will be very early in the morning as soon as the temple is opened to the public. There won’t be too many devotees around. Temple architecture in India is unique and particularly South Indian Temple architecture is distinct from the North Indian temple architecture. Even among the South Indian Temples there are distinctions between Tamil temples, Kerala Temples, Karnataka Temples. I am not very sure and I am not at all well informed in these matters but I feel the Tamil and Andhra Style of temple architecture are a bit more similar.

The town of Madurai has now grown into a big city but I think in the olden days the town developed around the temple. I am not saying that there would not have been any settlements before this temple took form, because I feel man came first and temples came later. If you start from the sanctum of the Madurai Meenakshi temple and start out you will cover square walled enclosures ever expanding upto the temple premises as a whole, and the town streets continue to expand in squares. The Railway Station and the Busstand and the road flyovers which must have limited the square pattern.

My memories of the temple are the temple elephant, the fine architecture, the parrots enclosure which I think is not there anymore, the sculpture of the legendary animal “yali”, the 1000 pillar hall, the religious classes there teaching children “Thevaram”, the celebration every year of the festivaL called Chithirai festival during the Tamil month iof Chithirai. There used to be fireworks to herald the daily processions of deities decked differently every day of the festival.

An unfulfilled wish of mine is an eternally postponed visit to the sacred town of Thiruvannamalai. I had a granduncle who lived the life of an ascetic in the hermitage of the Ramana Maharshi Ashram in Thiruvannamalai. He used to visit Madras when I was in my teens. He used to talk to me now and then and always on topics of philosophy and religion. He spent his final days in the Ashram. He was a bachelor all his life given to a life of celebacy and meditation. His Samadhi, his mortal remains, is in Thiruvannamalai. I revered him highly and I had a yen to visit his samadhi at least once in my life time. Hopefully in a couple of months I will realise this wish.

Well. It is time for the arrival of my son who was away for a week and I have warm up his food. I shall continue my ramblings and reminisces in course of time.


The Price of ignorance

December 18, 2006 at 11:01 pm | Posted in Madurai, Ramana Maharshi | Leave a comment

This morning I painstakingly wote my new post and while reviewing it made a muddle of it and lost the whole text all because of my ignorance with the usage techniques. This happens to most of the greenhorns with a pc at their disposal who are not properly initiated to the use of it. So I had now been forced to now sit back and painstakingly try to recall the verbatim text which simply refuse to my respond to memory recall. I was a good text which I effortlessly and spontaneously put down in writing which were all wasted because if my butter fingers. I shall try again to compost today’s post once again now.

I vaguely remember the title for the post as something like, er, Oh forget it. The weather is very cold with icy winds and I took a very early hot water bath as usual. Actually I sat in front of my keyboard at around 4 in the morning and tapped away for over 45 minutes and then went and did it in.

I remember I mentioned that the great sage Ramana Maharshi is related to my great grandfather on the paternal side. I was in the town of Palani when I was a baby in arms but I had my elementary and middle school years spent in Madurai in my maternal grandfather’s home because my parents were in far away Chittaranjan which is even farther than Calcutta. My parents and my second sister were in Chittaranjan because my father was employed in the Locomotive Engine works of Indian Railway. I and my next sister used to travel by train with our grandfather on a family pass to Chittaranjan during summer vacations. Chittaranjan of those days was a budding town where the locomotive works might have been the only big set up employing most of the locals there. It was beautiful there in a raw way, with red sand paved streets, cold nights with occasional hailstones, and a scenic little mountain called Sundar Pahad where the local farmers’ market used to be.

We were in a Hindu undivided family of a great grandmother, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces , a lot of whom were children. Grandfather was a very orthodox Brahmin who was working as a nazzer in the court there. He was also a landlord and one of the rural people who usually visited him used to have a golden tooth. It was the only golden tooth I have even seen in all my entire life. Like all the old houses in those days, it was a long corridor of a house, all rooms arranged in almost a regular line starting with the front entrance and endine in the toilet and bathroom at the end

Meal times were always a test and trial for me. My great grandmother who used to serve us all seated on the ground in a long row over the floor with separate food plates in front of each, always used to heap food in my plate and particularly dump big servings of brinjal curry which I never liked very much. I would scream at her but one of my uncles who usually sat next to me during mealtimes, used to force me to gobble up all the brinjal; to the last piece. Oh those days.

In my school days while I was studying in Madura College High School, I always used to play football and kabaddi. In the school we played football with the proper ball but when I played with my street friends we used an old tennis ball. I used to have a lot of wounds and the scars still remain on my knees and legs. My sports days were over before I shifted to be with my parents in Madras, now called Chennai.

I had only one friend to call my own while I was in Madurai. He belonged to a caste called Naidus. He lived with his parents, his father’s elder brother and his wife who were childless. My friend had two brothers and two sisters. The one great thing I found with that family was that every morning they all sat together for meditation and yoga practice. That impressed me very much. Such good things always make a good impression on me but never rubbed off on me.

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