Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Lady like a bamboo pole

I love Saturdays. It is the day when office ends at 1:30pm. Time flies away and before you realise its 1:30 already!

I was so excited because I was leaving to Chennai that evening and Monday was a holiday. I had lunch with my colleagues in my favourite restaurant and reached Bangalore city junction by 4 pm.

It was a cool evening as usual in Bangalore. I love it when the chill breeze blows across my face. The train was late by half an hour. I did not mind , given the fact that i was excited about the journey and the weekend as a whole and also i carried minimal luggage.

The Shadapthi Express arrived gracefully. I got inside searching for my seat no. 33 (window seat) . I was dejected to see someone else sitting there. I told her that it was my seat and she was supposed to take the seat next to the aisle. I badly wanted the window seat . She just plainly said “never mind, you can take my seat”

I was like “what?!” .Wishing not to spoil my mood, I just sat in the aisle seat. I was frantically searching for my earphones from my bag , when she said “you can keep your bag up” . I was getting irritated with her.  “yeah i know that” i replied quite harshly.

I was feeling restless as the beautiful journey that i had in mind was having such a horrible start. I kept my bag up and sat down with earphones plugged into my ears. I looked out of the huge glass window; It was drizzling outside! I was supposed to sit there. I leaned back, with a sigh, on the push-back seat and shut my eyes. I felt the loud music travelling through my ears into tiny veins, slowly entering my head and in a second i felt my head was filled with it. I felt very peaceful, but, it was only for a short time.

“Your first snack has arrived”, the lady next to me said with a smile, waking me up. I woke up with an irritated expression on my face and found bread-sticks and butter served in front of me. I forgot i was travelling in one of the luxurious trains. I started having my snack and turned to look at the lady for the first time. She had a very thin figure, her hair neatly tied and she was dressed well in a crisp, clean cotton saree. I smiled at her for the first time. Well, I’m going to be spending the next few hours with this person.

“So, you came to Bangalore for a visit?”, She started.
“No. I work in Bangalore, I am going to spend the weekend at my relative’s place in Chennai”
“Oh that is nice. Are you an IT professional?”
“No no” I replied hastily, I don’t know why I find that very offensive! “I am an architect”
“Wow! An architect.. That is wonderful.. There is always scope for architecture; well you know people are never going to stop building!” She laughed.
“Yes” I smiled.  I had a feeling that she was one of those people who think they know about everything. But another voice inside my head said, “Stop complaining and just relax”

“So are you staying in bangalore?” I quickly turned the focus to her.
“No, I’m from Kolkatta. I came here to visit my friends”
“And you are leaving to Kolkatta from Chennai?”
“I’m visiting another friend’s place there” She laughed out loud.
I was very surprised, how a person can be so happy, just travelling around from one city to another visiting friends (not even relatives); that too alone! In fact i was feeling a little jealous.

“that’s great! you must be having lovely friends” I tried to sound very genuine. 

“Oh yes they are”

We were munching the bread-sticks for sometime without talking. She was looking out through the window. It was still raining outside.

“See how the landscape looks through the glass” she exclaimed like a child. I moved closer to the window to make her believe i was as excited as she was.
“There is a blue band, the sky and then the green band, the trees and then the brown band, the earth. And they all look blurry because of these rain drops on the glass! Doesn't it look like a painting?” She was saying with her eyes so wide in admiration. 
“yes, it is amazing” I replied.
“I’m sorry. I tend to observe all this while travelling, especially the changing landscapes” 
“that is ok” I smiled back.

The tea arrived a while later. She kept talking through the entire tea session too. She explained how she went trekking with her friends in Bangalore and how she has always loved visiting the city. It was mostly a monologue, I would say. I didn’t mind though. I felt like she was a good company.

It was getting dark outside and not much of scenery was visible through the glass. I was getting bored. She was writing something in a small notebook. I didn’t want to ask her what that was, as i felt that would lead to her explaining about something, in which mostly, i would not be interested. I leaned back and thought of sleeping for a while.

I woke up and realised i had slept for more than an hour. She looked at me as if she was waiting for me to wake up.
“It is almost dinner time” She said.

“Oh! i didn’t realise i slept for so long”
“You must be tired”
“I guess”

She started talking about her friends again. I was just listening to her smiling and saying “nice” “great” in between.

“They call me a bamboo pole” she said laughing. I laughed along, she actually looked like one, I realised.

Dinner arrived. It was a full meal, which i thought was quite heavy. I started eating slowly, how much ever i tried, i was not able to finish. I looked at her and found that she had already packed a part of the dinner in a separate cover. I had kept two rotis aside, which i hadn’t touched. I was planning to give it away to the guy who comes to pick up the plates.

“Wait, give it to me” she said

“No i’ll just give it to the guy who comes..”
“See even i have a part of my dinner packed. I’ll pack yours too and give it away to the people on the street when i go home. Do not waste it”

I was taken aback. There was a feeling of guilt all of a sudden in me. I packed the food and gave it to her. There were few chocolates and sweets, as part of the meal, i gave all that away. I really started admiring this woman now.

She talked a lot, she was a very animated person. And out of nowhere, she suddenly popped a question at me.

“So when are you planning to get married?”
 I was shocked.
“Uh.. I don’t know.. I haven’t really thought about it”
“Does it not scare you that you will be entering a new house, with new people, expecting too much from you?”
“Well..kind of” 
She smiled.
“I guess every girl goes through that” I tried to defend my fear.
“True. I always believe a smile can do wonders. Imagine you have a whiny mother-in-law who keeps complaining about you..Don’t bother justifying yourself. Just smile at her, make her sit down and start massaging her legs”
“What?!” I laughed out loud.
“It will work you mother has told me this once” she laughed too.

We were nearing Chennai. She told me what she writes in the book, it was a book of all her adventure trip experiences. It was interesting when she told me that, she makes it a habit to note down any lack of facilities, in the place she visits, and makes sure she writes a letter to the concerned authority. She explained with pride about how she made sure she informed government authorities about damaged roads in a small village, she happened to visit during one of her treks.

The train finally came to a halt. We had reached Chennai central by around 9:30PM.I felt like the journey was too short and i wished i could have known her more. I realised we didn’t even know each other’s names. I didn’t feel like asking too.

We got down to the platform. She hugged me and said “It was a pleasure travelling with you”

“you will be one of the most interesting co-passengers in my life” I said.
“thankyou my dear”
“Is your friend coming to pick you up?” I asked with concern.
“Oh no. She passed away long back, lucky female. Her granddaughter is coming to pick me up, I am very close to their family now” She said with a smile.
“Ok i’m off, take care” I said
“You too”

I walked away from the Lady like a bamboo pole. Oh wait, did I not mention that she was 74yrs old?

Monday, 15 August 2011


I faintly remember the 1st time I was in this city. It was during a school trip from Trichy to Kanyakumari. We were travelling in bus and i woke up in the middle of the night and asked sleepily

"which place is this?!"
somebody replied " I guess it is Madurai"

I put my eyes close to the window and tried hard to catch a glimpse of this city to which i have never been to and i didnt think at that point of time , that i would come again.

It was after 5 years after i finished school that i realised that i am going to be spending a major part of my life in this city also known as "The Athens of the East".

It was only when dad got transferred and we almost left madurai, that i realised how close this place was to me. I didnt really want to leave , and now that we are NOT actually moving out,it made me so happy and write this blog.

When i first moved into Madurai, I loathed it. I found it to be the most boring place on earth. My friends were bored too, complaining about how Madurai did not have any place to "hang out" .

Well, Madurai is much more than that. It is deep. It is original. It is innate. There are external influences, ofcourse, but the city still manages to retain its rawness, and that is why i fell in love with this place.

So what is so special about this place? There are many things in madurai (only in madurai) which are special.

The world famous meenakshi temple.
The ladies selling idli on the street.
Jasmine flowers(Madura malli) which are being air-lifted to London, France, Kuala Lumpur and Dubai everday.
Magnificent Nayak palace.
Jigarthanda - a drink you should never miss.
Murugan Idli kadai..(Idli tastes the best here)
Festivals - anything and everything in Madurai will be celebrated. Election results,exam results, cricket match , marriages, temple fest , anything u name, there are fireworks always..

Speaking of festivals, the best time to visit madurai is during "chithirai tiruvizha". It is a temple festival but Madurai is vibrant in its fullest form in this season , which comes in summer time. People from in and around Madurai come and celebrate and the city is full crowded for that whole week. People even stay in petrol bunks during this time during lack of space.

People of madurai are fun loving. They love entertainment. There is some exhibition or the other which keeps on happening in the city. Home needs, book fair, arts n crafts or fun exhibition anything...

Dir Maniratnam, Dir Bala, Dir Bharathiraja, Maestro Ilayaraja, the legendary MS Subulakshmi, T V Soundarrajan (founder of TVS), Lyricist vairamuthu, Actor vadivelu.. are some of the famous personalities from Madurai..(few that i know)

Well what can i say, i cant help but find everything about madurai special! What else did i miss? oh yeah.. the famous prema villas halwa (SHOULD NOT BE MISSED) , burma idiyappam too..

And the people here especially, they are hardworking , straight forward, adamant may be, and very strong in expressing both their love and hatred.

A small incident to explain this would be when i had gone with my friend to have some juice, i had kept some in my glass without finishing it. When the cleaning lady asked if she can clear it, i said yes coz i felt i cudnt have more.

The lady lifted the glass saw the juice inside and exclaimed "Innum padhi juice apdiyae iruku? en kudikala" (meaning u still have left half of the juice without drinking why?") I just smiled. It was like a mother asking her child. Its that connection u feel , the bonding, which i dont know if i will experience in any other place. Maybe yes Maybe no.

Madurai is a part of my life now. Have had many memorable moments in this beautiful city. My college life , class bunking and watching movies in theatres - mani impala, palanganatham jeyam (was my 1st theatre visit in madurai) , cinipriya, mapillai vinayagar, vetri, madhi, ambiga, devi kalaivani, jazz, thanga reegal, guru (saw avatar in tamil here :D ) , tamil jeya.. i guess ive been to all theatres in madurai.. i dont know what i have missed.. Madurai will always remain one of the best chapters of my life.

PS: Kadabavanam was what madurai was originally called.
And for ppl who think Maddur vada is from Madurai, NO IT IS NOT!