An Escape to Serenity (by Ms G Usha)
While I sit and wonder what beckoned me to take this trip to the place I used to live at almost two decades back, I cannot deny it was a life-changing experience.
Firstly, the experience rekindled in me my long-lost passion for travelling. I have always believed every trip can bring in fresh perspective to life, envigorate one’s imagination and calm the mind. It also brings out the dimensions of our being hitherto unknown to ourselves.
Secondly, the journey, by itself, often turns out to be more awesome than the destination. I have found myself inclined to travel by day than by night. The endless green fields (and yes.. they are not extinct yet; just endangered! And I, being passionate about development economics, find a little ray of hope from the fact that farming is not yet fully neglected.. more on that the next time I write). Now coming back to the endless greenery and the endless blue skies: The rows of green trees remind me of the words of John Keats “A thing of beauty is a joy forever”. How true!
My mom and I set out on a journey which eventually turned out to be just how it should be.
On Day One, our first destination was my cousins’ place at Trichy. Chatting and laughing with my cousins, I rediscovered the simple joys of laughing at ourselves. We visited the famous Ganesh temple – at the foot of Malaikottai. We had our breakfast together and then my mom and I had to go to other places; so we bid my cousins a warm goodbye promising to meet each other soon.
We took the local bus, which, by the way, was more comfortable, stronger and certainly more good-looking than its Chennai counterparts. We reached Srirangam and paid a visit to Kattazhagiya Singar temple and the Thaayaar Sannidhi of the Srirangam temple. We then visited our aunt who was recuperating from an illness. Saying little prayers for her getting well soon and resolving that health comes first, we left from there.
We had our luch and took a hike to Tanjore. My Dad joined us there. It was incidentally his birthday that day. While I was feeling bad that I didn’t get anything for him, he made us feel like being together with him was the best birthday gift he could have had.
We then visited our favourite temple in the whole world. The Tanjore Brahadeeswara Temple aka the Big Temple and it is only just that it has been given the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We read its history on the information board like we do every time we are there. The temple elephant there ‘welcomed’ us and after handing over the mahout two bucks, it ‘blessed’ us unmindful that we were interupting its dinner.
The grandeur exuded by the colossal monolith sculptures, the intricate depictions of Hindu mythology and dance postures, the elaborate paintings and the beautiful colours that fill them, was only bettered by the magnificent skyscape that evening.
Coming back, we went to my Dad’s native place MariammanKovil and the temple there. Then we had a quiet yet happy dinner at a good restaurant.
We stayed the night at my Dad’s place. I discovered that mosquitoes were not actually a mandatory part of every neighbourhood.
We woke up early the next day and the car was waiting to take us to Vedaranyam.
We had breakfast at a hotel enroute to the destination. That place was by far the most beautiful restaurant I’ve ever been to. It has the most well co-ordinated interiors; black and brown wooden chairs with glass-topped tables gave a nature-like setting, wooden walls with lace patterns, lamps with exquisite lampshades hanging from a neutral ceiling add class to the look. The food is excellent too. Although, for me, any place that serves great coffee is a great place to be!
Enroute to Vedaranyam, the car took us on a surprise visit to Vaduvur – known as a place where birds of different feather literally flock together. (Though not anymore). Visiting the Ramar Temple there had a cathartic effect.
Then drove we to Vedaranyam. The feeling of coming home to the place I spent the first years at school had not sunk in till I met my then best friend’s mother. She was too happy to let us in. I had completely lost touch with my friend who I learnt from his mother is now in Chennai. The fond memories of our friendship made me realise that there are some things which don’t die with time.
Then we visited the temple I used to go as a curious little kid holding her mother’s hands (which I do even now). The Durga Pooja was being done. I heard a latent voice in me making me feel one with the cosmos. The morning Pooja was over and we were asked to be there again by 6 P.M.
Then we had a simple lunch at a local mess where we had neat food served. The atmosphere was home-like (read ‘awkward’).
We decided to visit a few neighbourhood temples and then we decided to drive to Point Calimere just to kill time till we would be back at the temple.
Point Calimere aka ‘Kodiakarai’ is known for deer-spotting and its bird sanctuary. However, all we could do was some ‘Monkey-spotting’! It turned out that all the deer and birds had migrated away for want of drinking water but the monkeys still chose to stick around the place. As we came to an abrupt stop spotting a family of monkeys, they curiously gathered near the car. We could have gotten out of the car and could have had close encounters with the chimp-kind but we found that we were actually being chased by hundreds of them. So we thought it was a better idea to stay in the vehicle and drive back to blissful safety.
Not only did we spot some monkeys but we also drove through the Uppalams there and we had a look at the life of the people living at a place just 18km away from Sri Lanka.
We were back at the temple. The Goddess was dressed in a life-like way and she looked ever so graceful. The Pooja was over but by then we had already missed our bus to Chennai.
We then drove back to my Dad’s place in Tanjore; spent a peaceful night and started early the next morning to Trichy from where we would take a bus to Chennai. It was a simple yet very comfortable bus. And once again, the green fields and the smell of fresh grass. I also realised the National Highways are well maintained what with all the rows of beautiful pink flowers adorning the median all the way to Chennai and the flawlessly smooth road comparable to Kareena Kapoor’s porcelain complexion.
Also, I realised that the countryside is much cleaner than the ‘civilized’ cities. But why can’t the cities which can afford to mess up a place, afford to tidy the place up again? A thought to reflect on later with my socially responsible friends, I looked out the window and soaked myself in the soft rays of sun entering through the glass windows, breathed in the air of freedom and sunk into the soulful music playing in my ears.
Chennai, still 104 km away, what would I do in the quietude? I start writing about my rare escape to serenity. And as I write, the joys of travelling and writing gush in and complete the experience.