Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Senjikkottai Vaalibargal

0 blesses 'n' curses
I was looking up on the weekend getaways from Chennai during one of the long weekends in October. I wanted to go this place called "Senjikkottai" aka "Gingee fort". I wanted to get there with my TVS Wego but ended going to Kancheepuram, instead. That was one heck of a 140 km ride. I just couldn't imagine myself riding 140 km to and fro, Gingee. I buried that plan and went ahead with life.

Suddenly one night, I rang up my friend, Machiss and asked him whether we could go to Gingee fort the next day morning. The plan was made in a matter of minutes and we were good to go. Things have not been easier. We parked our bike at CMBT and boarded a bus to Gingee at 6 in the morning. It is not the most comfortable way to travel, but it is my most favorite way to travel. When traveling in a public transport, you get to see the different cultural subset of people from various suburbs and towns around Chennai. They have their own routines which are ethnic to them. It is very interesting to stick ones head out and notice the landscapes through which one is traveling and also listen to chatters in the bus, at the same time. When you have your friend beside you, it is even more fun.

We reached Gingee around 10 in the morning and had our breakfast, the quintessentially Thamizh way, on a banana leaf. The fort was only a km away and was at a walkable distance. On our way, we saw a community gathering of school kids and old people, to plant trees along the banks of a dry lake. We also witnessed the kids having their morning breakfast and throwing the wastes into the said dry lake. This is how most things in life and society operate. We then proceeded to walk and notice a Koozh shop and juice shop. In our mind, that is where we would come and rest after climbing the Gingee fort.

We bought our tickets and started our ascent to the Rani Giri fort. Thankfully the weather was amazing. It was cloudy and cool winds were lashing on at us. After climbing a series of steps, we were out of breath. The steps were very steep and we had to stretch our legs to climb each step. We somehow made it to the halfway mark and halted at a "Mandapam". The view was breathtaking. It was worth all the effort. I could see a huge spread of fields and trees and boulders and boulders of mountains beyond it. The winds were hitting hard and I couldn't wait to get the top of the hill.

We huffed and puffed our way to the top of the Hill only to see a guy carrying his kid like a boss and a bunch of middle aged ladies getting down. I felt so inconsequential seeing that. We were just spellbound by the view and calmness of the place. We wandered off to the various ruins, formerly structures of a functioning fort. The fort was a strategically important place for many wars which were fought in the yesteryears

It was already 12 noon and we had very little water left and we had no idea of leaving this place soon. I rested for some time, while Machiss was taking photos of the place. He encountered a peculiar guy while photographing. The guy was a college student studying in an engineering college in Coimbatore. He was originally from Madurai and he had randomly traveled all the way to this place. He was telling Machiss that his goal was to travel to all the districts in Tamil Nadu. That is something I want to do as well. My philosophy has always been to know oneself first before moving on to external things. It is only pertinent to explore one's own State which is very rich in culture, first.

We stayed there till 2 pm taking in the beauty of the place. We were able to see miles and miles ahead. The landscape was so beautiful, the experience was totally unique. It is a pity that they don't allow people before 9 am and beyond 5 pm, for security purposes. It means we will never be able to witness the amazing sunrise or sunset because dang in the middle facing without obstructing the east or the west. I was looking up on the nearby Lakes that we could visit and stumbled on to a place called Uranithangal which was 6 km away from Gingee, en route to Chennai. There were Ancient Jain Caves/ Stone beds on a hill which was situated there. We decided to first have a look at the Rajagiri Fort, from the foothills and then go to the Jain Caves.

We couldn't find anything in the foothills of Rajagiri, so we took an Auto to the Koot road, had Ragi Koozh and juice and continued our journey to Uranithangal via a paltry Share Auto. None of the locals at Gingee were aware of the so-called "Jain Caves". We started walking into the village only to notice that we had strayed afar. We asked a couple people and they were referring the Jains as "Nayanaar". It was quite intriguing, I have never heard anyone use that term for a Jain. Contrary to popular belief, Jainism was not only limited Rajasthan. Jainism aka Samanam was quite a thing back in those days. They were also considered to be atheist, were viewed as bad social elements and were ostracized. I myself remembered reading a bunch of poems in Thamizh, during my school days to that effect, as a part my curriculum. We finally found some local who knew the place. They showed as a huge rock on the hill and told us that, it was the place we were looking for. I was flabbergasted and couldn't figure a way to get there. They called that place "Bandha Patti" and asked us to be careful, as the thorn trees had grown after the recent rains. We were told to take the left next to the "Transmaram" (that is how they refer to "Transformers" in this part of TN) and walk along the tiny pathway below the hill, to find an opening to climb to the rock.

We reached the said place and found a calf tied to a tree surrounded by thorn plants everywhere. One local guy helped us and showed the way. He climbed to the rock rapidly, wearing a Hawaii chappal, through the thorns. We tried to keep up with his speed to eventually lose out on our breath. He left us up there and got down. We took a few moments to relax. It was really an amazing feeling. I wouldn't have done this if I hadn't come with Machiss. I am sure I wouldn't have pushed myself this far. If I had visited this place, I would have turned my back after the seeing the rock at the top. But then at the moment, I was sitting in the cave with one of my most favorite people in the world with a feeling of contentment. I could just do this over and over again.

We got down scary stretch down and headed back to Gingee. The tea shops there did not known about the concept of a black tea, I then tutored one of the tea masters to make me a cup of black tea and drank it. We waited for the bus and then went to Thindivanam and from there we took a bus to Chennai to avoid the crowd. 

There are few things in my life that give me such immense satisfaction. One of those things is the company of my beloved friend Venkatesh aka Machiss. I always feel like that we more or less echo the same thoughts, anger, urge and everything. It is very rare to connect with anyone on such a deep level. Every movie, every bike ride, every discussion is something to savor and it is always special. More than anything, the closeness of two people is not defined by the constant conversation they can have, but the length of the silences, without it feeling awkward. That was how our bus journey was. We were silent drifting onto our own thoughts.

I was listening to the chatters of a group of students and the two P.E.T Masters who had boarded the bus at Thindivanam. I gathered that they were returning back to Chennai after a sports meet. I was observing the dynamics of the group and how the P.E.T ruled the roost. It was very reminiscent of how it used to function when I was at school. The P.E.T master was always the tough guy who reigned over us and struck fear at school. This P.E.T master was so macho, that he did not sit through the whole journey and made sure all his students were seated. They all got down at Oorapakkam and it started to rain.

The rain came down very heavily for about an hour or so. The driver was driving through the fierce rain in the Maduraivayol bye-pass and by the time we reached CMBT, it resembled that of a lake and rightly so. It was once a lake, wasn't it?

The day ended with us having thattu idly at the thattu Idly kadai at the first floor of CMBT and driving through the rain. Senjikottai has thus been captured by the VENXUS (partially, because we still have the Rajagiri to scale)


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Sunday, September 3, 2017

On travel

0 blesses 'n' curses
I wouldn't call myself a wanderlust, but I don't mind traveling. From the age of 5 to 22, I hardly traveled within the city, let alone outside the limits of the city. I spent all my childhood and weekends within the confinement of the neighborhood that I lived in. I didn't know many places in Chennai until 2011. 

I've just gathered my thoughts about traveling, so that I could refer to this after a period of time. Hindsight is always a better vantage point, isn't it?

More than the serenity of the destination, what has always amazed me, has been the journey to that place. Beauty no longer fascinates me, it is the oddities that do. I dont want to go beautiful places, i just want to go to odd places, the mundaness of the place that people look over when they view with a romantic eye.

My ideal kind of wander would be to choose to travel like a common man, stay in a humble place without any luxury and experience the place like how any local would, in that area. I don't want to eat my comfort food when I am travelling. I want to eat the food that is available there. I just want two things to be fixed when I am traveling. The entry plan and exit plan. I want the middle part to take it's own course, improvising as I travel.

There is this saying, "If you want to travel fast, travel alone. If you want to travel far, travel together". Sometimes there is this urge to travel alone. It totally puts the control unto me. But then nothing matches the joy of traveling with the people you love and share a similar wave length. If you want to know someone, there is no better way than traveling together. You get to see the multiple facets of their personality, at their most vulnerable positions. You can only maintain the facade only for so long. You either grow apart in hatred or grow together in love.

Sometimes I feel travelling alone is liberating in the sense that you are not bound by anyone. You are on your own, you choose to do or not to do something. You do things at your own pace, you don't have get lost in the mad rush to tick off the places in your to do list, just for the heck of it. It is in stark contrast to the mundane life, where taking decisions is not in your hand and ones that have, hate to take decisions and move on. You are just saddled by the grief of inability to have a say over anything and you don't want this to spill over to the one area you don't want it to spill over.

When you travel with others you are bound to be out of your comfort zone now and then. It pushes you to do things that you normally wont to do. That is when new experiences, open you up to new ideas. For people who are lazy like me, it makes it easy when people are pushing me, to be constantly out of my comfort zone. I wouldn't have traveled to most of the places I traveled, if not for me tagging along with my friends.

To put it other way.  I would only to be travelling to places that I want to go for some purpose or the other, within my reach and deter all those places out of my reach. I have made so many plans in my head and I have shelved them just because I can't get there all by myself and because I couldn't find another person who shares the same inquisitiveness about that place, that I do.

Like all things in life, balance is the key. Extremes are always a problem. A string that is too tight or too loose will not give out the right note, same is true with life. 

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Friday, July 28, 2017

Camaradarie

0 blesses 'n' curses
There are days when you wake up and do not want to face people. You just want to avoid the whole world and then sulk in frustration. If you actually take the plunge and get out, it is amazing how your day changes. There is no point in sitting and mourning over spilled milk. If you are not getting something that you need from somewhere, don't cry about it, just go "Well, I am gonna go here and find what I need". At least that's how I have been leading, all my life. It is not reflecting poorly on the places we don't get what we need, rather puts the stress on the reluctance to make a fuss about not getting it.

In my opinion, what comes towards you is more important than things you go towards. I have let go numerous opportunities because I thought I will be of no use for the other person or they really didn't need me. I honestly think the world will be a better place and free of any disappointment, if we only did what we would offer others normally, rather going out of the way to impress them. It is really not worth it. I think we should see the things, the way they are, rather than what we want them to be. The problems crop up only when you identify yourselves with something that you are not.

I have been quite lucky with attracting the right kind of people in every sphere of my life. Sometimes all it needs is the that one friend who will cheer you up, rib you, you rib him/her and you slowly forget all that ever bothered you, before that point. For the moments you are with them, the world seems a wonderful place. The friends who cheer you up, keep changing from time to time, with the roles reversing.

Eeriness will soon kick in, when you are on your own, staring at the ceiling, thinking where the next smile would be and the cycle kicks in. Let us live for the moments of camaraderie which keeps us all going. Put a smile on the person's face and see it reflect back on yours.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Rekka katti parakuthaiyya Nimbus

0 blesses 'n' curses
When I were a kid, my father used to keep me in his lap and tell stories. All the stories would be me saving people, wearing a "power shoe", tossing groundnuts into my mouth, riding an "Oo ve si" (USA) cycle to the crime scene.

The first memory of me trying to actually ride a cycle was when I used to visit my grandmother's thatched home. There used to be shops dedicated for letting cycles on hire. I would give 2 rupees, hire a cycle for an hour and try to ride it, but to no avail. My mother then got me an used ladies cycle to learn cycling. After innumerable number of falls and jamming the cycle into the curb, I learned to cycle. I rode that cycle to my school with so much pride. That feeling of having grown up. 

After moving to a new house, new neighborhood and new school, my parents decided to buy me a cycle. My first proper cycle was a "Hercules Top Gear" with 5 gears aka The Black Panther. All the kids at school would muck around with the gears, leading to it's eventual demise. Even though I had a new cycle, now and then I would hire cycles for an hour to ride the cycles with the High handle bar, like the ones on cruiser bikes. I eventually got one fitted on my cycle, after all the hire cycle shops closed down. I meddled with the cycle so much that it broke down. I had 4 different handle bars, 3 types of seats, got rid of the gears, tried to spray paint my cycle and many more. World had moved on to mopeds and motorbikes, but I was still cycling my way. I was riding cycles up until 2014, when I used the big Hercules cycle to commute from my Intern office to my home. August 14th, 2014 was last day I rode a cycle. I moved on to get a TVS Wego aka Black Panther 2.0 

I decided to get myself a cycle and bought, Kross Maximus. I am still trying to fit a high bar to have a comfy ride. I have named it "Flying nimbus", the cloud that Goku used to travel in his early ages. It was totally a different feeling ,when I rode a cycle after a long time, having used a scooter for 2 years.

There is this sense of calmness and peace that I get while riding a cycle. The world around me takes a back seat. The best of thinking is done when I am riding my cycle, not bothered by anyone. If only life happened where I am eternally cycling and at the peak state of my consciousness



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