Monday, June 5, 2006

Vacation jottings

It feels good to be blogging again; after a long break. I haven't kept off from blogs for so long. All those days I didn't read newspapers or magazines, didn't listen to radio news bulletins, didn't watch TV news programmes. I was cut off from the world, the world I am used to.

It is very relaxing to spend a few days in a house located amidst lots of trees. I was in one such house of a relative for a few days. The late evenings are the most peaceful and rejuvenating. Darkness all around, barring the distant light of the street lamp, silence punctuated only by the cries of a few insects flying around. Mosquitos are the only spoilsport, but the repellents work well on them.

One good part of the holidays was the monsoon. This was the first time in the last 16 years, I was in my home state during the rains. The south-west monsoon enters the mainland via Kerala, and customarily the date is June 1.

In mid-May, the Met department had predicted that the monsoon would arrive early. When intermittent showers began on May 25, I wondered if the Met office had indeed got it right. The Met offices in India are very poorly equipped, and so few take the predictions seriously.

On May 27, it rained continuously through the day. And guess where I was -- driving from Thiruvalla in central Kerala to the temple town of Guruvayoor in the north of the state. Driving seven hours in the rain isn't pleasant for sure. But I had no complaints.

At the Vivekanananda memorial (pix on the left, along with the Tiruvalluvar statue to the right) in Kanyakumari, you find boards saying: "Photography strictly prohibited" -- a rule so flagrantly violated. I wanted to take a snap of the notice board. But seeing the security staff right near it, I thought I may be asking for too much; eventhough my journalistic instincts told me otherwise. After all, I am on holiday, not out to expose the security staff in Kanyakumari! We missed the sunset due to heavy clouds but were lucky to catch the sunrise (pix below) on May 22.!

Cut off from my world, I was; but not enough to insulate me completely from some current events. On the 22nd, while we were driving back from Kanyakumari, my brother-in-law, who looks after investments in a bank, was tormented with phone calls from clients who were worried about the market crash that morning. Before long, he had to divert all his incoming calls to his bank.

Caste seemed to hound me even during the holidays. Kerala Assembly elected its speaker: K Radhakrishnan. But what got more than a passing mention was his caste. There were outpouring of compliments from political leaders who said he had risen from the very lowest layer of society. Compliments are fair, no doubt; but it's the tone and tenor that matters. When everyone has only one thing -- his caste -- to talk about, there's something wrong, it looks very odd. It is most unfair to the person to make it appear that he has no creditable attributes, other than his caste. It indicates an obsession, a vicious cycle, we have to definitely get out of.

The lush greenery and lakes are so soothing. To the right is the Manimalayaar (Manimala river) captured at Thuruthikkad in Pathanamthitta district in south central Kerala. Incidentally this is just 300 meters behind a house.

One thing I noticed in most houses in smaller towns and villages was two kitchens: one with smattering of soot on the walls and other more swanky. Obviously the former is used for firewood-stove (mainly for boiling water) and the latter for LPG stoves.

The Krishna temple at Guruvayoor is a popular temple. One flipside is non-Hindus are not allowed in. A celebrated case is of singer Yesudas being disallowed entry. He is a devotee but a Christian. He wasn't allowed in even to hold a musical concert in praise of Lord Krishna. There is often a long queue to get darshan. Apparently, if one paid Rs 100 or so "to agents", one could jump the queue.

Payment is not the issue; the underhand and unaccounted method of payment is. Tirupati temple has devised excellent innovative methods to obviate the problem of crowd and long queues. Probably Guruvayoor temple authorities should think on those lines.

Guess what is the building seen to the left. This is in Guruvayoor, and I was staying in a hotel opposite to this building. I wondered who must be living in such a house. Only when I looked carefully, I found it houses the post office.


  1. I would rather go to a nearby SriKrishna temple than pay to see SriGuruvayoorappan. Somehow I did not like that 'reservation' in Palani temple. What makes you think that there should be some 'well formed' methods of payment for that priority in front of God?

    About caste/religion: Nobody bothers while enjoying the evergreen devotional songs sung by Sri Yesudas. Same is true for items used inside the temple made or supplied by other caste/religion. Ban is only to non-hindus. When do we realize that the purity of mind is what matters?

  2. Paying to jump the queue is a repulsive idea. No doubt. Why discriminate the rich and poor?

    Suppose I don't have the time to stay in a long queue for hours, and I don't have the money to jump the queue, what I would miss is only a temporal aspect -- the physical proximity to a physical structure of temple and the idol. Then -- as you suggested -- I would go to a temple where there is less rush. There are any number of other temples. It is as simple as that for me.

    In fact, I personally don't approve of the queue system wherein the rich can jump the queue. What I approve of in Tirupati is the electronic queue system, wherein you are told of the approximate place in the long queue and the approximate time of darshan. A system like in some banks and railway booking counters.

    What I meant while mentioning the payment aspect in my blog is that: if someone has to make a payment, I would prefer that over the counter with a receipt, rather than underhand. Not that I approve of the payment system per se.

    But Myna, at the end of it all, the reality is that money gets you comfort; a chance to jump the queue is one such! Whether we like to take that route or not is up to us: is it not?

  3. You are lukcy..i began missing monsoons ever since i moved out of kerala 5 years back. It is a beautiful time!

  4. pradeep,great to hear you had a nice trip across.its a pleasure to travel there in the monsoons. your latest article braught those monsoon memories back.

    there is something charming with kerala.may i hope you stopped over at parur enroute guruvayur.just wanted to mention in case you didnt know,heta pandit who has written a book "heritage guide to kerala" has a chapter on parur -and it includes your ancestral house which is presently a hotel.

    in fact the weblink i am attaching will show you the site. Your house appaears only in the book however the fourth photo on the site is parur court office.

    pradeep i think kerala is truly enchanting. to a great degree its changing for the better with attitudes making it livable and workable.i hope that continues so that its not only a vacation/retirement destination.

    iam awaiting the first available opertunity to go to kerala.


  5. Sounds like you had a great trip. welcome back. and nice account of the holidays. Wish I could make the trip too - Kerala is so beautiful!