“Sorry Sir; no cabs are available”. This was the Meru Cab informing that despite my previous night’s assured booking for a cab to airport, none were available. We were 5 of us with 7 bags (fully loaded). I was flustered. Anand, my son, who is more cool headed, opened his mobile phone, tapped a few buttons and informed that an Uber Innova was available immediately. It seemed god send as it would accommodate men and materials without much ado.
We were proceeding to Coimbatore by Air India (got a great bargain in tickets despite booking only few weeks earlier) which had a generous baggage allowance (25 Kgs check in baggage), wide seats (as against seats suitable in size for malnourished and starving human beings, in other airlines) and “free lunch”. We reached the new Terminal 2 quite early. We looked around the Terminal and were ready to board the aircraft after consuming a mixture of “bought out” items ( Pizza) and “ manufactured” items (Idli bought from home).
There were several firsts in this trip (besides using Air India after a long time). I was not carrying the universal appendage – lap top- as I had none (consequent to my early retirement). I had not booked the return ticket. I had not made any plans for the visits to the temples and relatives in the hinterland ((there are many – relatives and temples- around). Did I feel that time seems to stretch into infinity? May be.
Coimbatore has a pleasant climate for most months of the year. It is a district headquarters and has industries around it. The real estate has boomed in the last few years and a good apartment costs a fortune. The prosperity is visible in growth of new vehicles, crowd at shopping areas (textile and jewellery shops of multiple floors have crowds which would be the envy of any metro shops), expensive schools (a few even offering IB curriculum) and so on. Still, it remains a small town with a conservative populace and an understated show of wealth.
It is also a medical centre for the hinterland. For instance, it has larger dedicated eye hospitals than Mumbai.
I visited a reasonably large organic farm located in a scenic area near Coimbatore. As a city dweller, I had seen only the finished product (vegetables) and not how it grows. The fascination with creation and growth remains eternal. I am giving below some photos to get a flavour of what I mean.
Tamil Nadu cities are well connected by train and bus (private and Government owned) to most locations within the State and neighbouring one and visits can be planned at short notice. We went to Guruvayoor (Lord Krishna Temple), Tiruchirappali and Ooty (110 kms away).
Guruvayoor, located near Thrissur (Kerala) is a famous Krishna Temple of historical importance attracting large crowds each day. One particular offering (full day’s puja) is booked for a couple of decades and booking is closed now. It is popular for marriages and first rice feeding of children.
Kerala marriages are simple ceremonies of less than 30 minutes with no significant religious rituals. The Temple has put a few elevated enclosures for such marriages on the way to the entrance of the temple. The couple walk in informally clutching flower bouquet to the platform and after a brief ceremony proceed to the temple. It is simple and elegant ceremony fulfilling commitment before God and man.
The first rice feeding ceremony is a pleasure to watch. Small babies of around 6 months or more are made to sit on the lap of the parent. The temple places a small feast of rice and other items before the child on a plantain leaf and it is fed by the parent and other relatives. Some swallow the first morsel of solid food with relish while a few wail. Thereafter they have a darshan of the Lord. It is a fascinating sight and perhaps unique to Kerala. Parents from near and far come to Guruvayoor for this small but significant ceremony .
As mentioned in my earlier blog, Thursday is dedicated to Lord Vishnu (other Gods being allowed to reserve remaining days of the week) and attracts large crowds at Guruvayoor. We reached there on a Thursday at 10 a.m. (around 3 hours drive from Coimbatore) and found a large queue. It took nearly 3 hours to have darshan and come out.
The deity has an indescribable smile and seems to tell you that He knows everything you want to tell. You believe that you have left all your concerns and desires at His feet and He would take care of it in an inimitable way. The weariness of the long wait vanishes after you see the Lord and we wonder when we could come back and spend a few days here.
Tiruchirappali is an ancient town in Tamil Nadu. It has renowned temples like Srirangam (Lord Vishnu) and Uchipillayar (Rock Temple of Lord Ganesha). It is on the banks of river Cauvery. Srirangam temple covers a vast area with roads running through it and several houses falling within the temple compound. It is unique in many ways and needs to be seen at least to understand the size and dimensions.
The Rock Temple is situated literally on a rock for which we have to climb steps for around 30 minutes or so. This temple is also ancient and is part of the cultural and physical landscape. Commerce and religion co- exist and roads around the temple is a shopping area. It has educational institutions like St. Joseph School and College which has illustrious lineage of students.
The villages on the banks of Cauvery give you an impression that nothing has changed from the past several centuries. Electricity, running water seems to be recent innovation. Ancient traditions and rituals co-exist with the internet era inventions.
Avalanche is a beautiful spot located at an elevation in Ooty. We have to travel by Forest Department buses to reach there. It is a lesser known place and worth visiting.
The monsoon had commenced in Mumbai and we had missed a few of the flooded days. Mumbai by rains look great- when viewed from a window or a balcony. The rains swept roads glitter and reflect the lights giving a glow.
This bout of enforced idleness was an opportunity to look ahead to the life hereafter. While body needs edible nourishment (emphasis is on “edible”) at regular (or frequent) intervals, the mind requires much larger feedstock. It requires challenges which will arrest diversion into irrelevant areas. Cessation of gainful (is there any other form?) employment closed one compulsory channel of thought and action and converted into a voluntary one on a “nice to know” basis.
The pursuit of knowledge, which has enabled us to earn a living, rarely ceases. The intensity may ebb but the desire to learn subsists though at a pace we determine and not by circumstances. The changes in my area of learning (Company Secretary) are rapid and significant and do not allow us to rest in this pursuit.
Gym enthusiasts would know how to step up pace in the treadmill and bring it back to normal before stepping off it. However, this is more of a physical rather than mental activity. Retirement compels changing the pace of life along with reduction in the feedstock to the brain. The mobile phone falls silent. There are no mails to be replied- with or outside the deadline. There is no queue of colleagues waiting for my pearls of wisdom to resolve real or imaginary issues.
I remember reading that we should keep learning something new constantly. Photography and swimming are on the rather very short list. There are few friends who have stepped off the treadmill and are wondering (like me) whether it is mandatory to be physically and mentally very agile. I will try to meet them up and shoot air.
Writing is a good exercise, but good topics are elusive, with readers being rarer. I wish it were as easy as creating Vikram, Betal and Sindbad stories that I have been doing for my grand children for some years. But then, readers are not as loving and forgiving as the kids.
I have made a Power Point presentation to Lord Krishna ( locally in Mumbai and in Guruvayoor, Kerala) on various options and am sure that with lean season having commenced ( Exam results are announced, Engineering and Medical admissions are over or nearly over) He could devote some attention me first and then to others who are in RAC and Waitlist.
After all doing nothing also requires lot of patience.
I have lots of it.