Saturday, October 9, 2010
Holy Cow! That was an adventure. I felt like a petal of a cherry blossom tugged off a high branch of the tree in a strong and ceaseless wind:
I walk along Chamiers street, the one little portion of this city in this region in this country that I am familiar with. I walk for about 2 kilometers in the sweltering heat and think I might be near my destination of Mambalam where supposedly there is a train that might be able to transport me to Tiruvannamalai. Since I don’t know exactly where I am, although maybe close, I catch a rickshaw. I will no doubt have to haggle with the driver. He speaks one small handful of english words and the only two words I know in Tamil are ‘thank you’ and ‘friend’. We settle on a price of 30 rupees which amounts to about 70 cents and I nestle into the back of the three wheeled vehicle with it’s bright yellow base and it’s soft black roof. It is a glorified moped turned taxi. He weaves through the crazy streets that inundate every sense perception and we are so much further than I imagined. Eventually he stops the vehicle and he points down an alleyway and waves me out like a bad smell.
Through some struggle and patience and ignorant faith I decipher the communication with the many people that ‘know’ the answers to my questions. I find out that there might and there might not be a train at 6 in the morning and it might and it might not go to Tiruvannamalai.
So I was satisfied and walked on. I strolled with no destination and eyes wide open, listening, and loving the sense of overwhelm that rests in the atmosphere, in the particles that make up this place. And I come upon a Temple.
The woman selling flowers at the entrance where all the shoes and slippers are left in a pile points and waves for me to enter, nodding her head in approval. I slip off my flip flops and walk in with my hands behind my back, with a sense of humility. A lovely older gentleman immediately takes me under his wing and shows me around. This is the first Hindu temple I have ever been in in this life of mine. Everyone is so friendly. There is Puja being performed. Two men in white cloth wrapped around their waist and the markings of Siva across their forehead throw ghee on the fire while chanting the Vedas. Some perform prostration, hands in prayer bowing their head to the floor and then laying flat on their bellies. We stand before the life size alters of Ganesha and Mulagam (sp?), Siva’s two sons, and then a sculpture of Siva in his Cosmic Dance. We stand and listen to the tamboura and the veena being played by two young men The chanting and the music weave together.
The gentleman showing me around takes me through the back to where all the cows associated with this temple are. He tells me they are the reincarnation of Lakshmi, Goddess of Prosperity. They are all chained to the trough with 4 ft chains and their tails are covered in shit. I am barefoot and notice the wet, muddy ground seeping between my toes, and the word, parasite, floats into my mind, so I bow with my hands to my heart and thank him many times over as we walk outside where the flower ladies are and he directs me to the bus stand and we say are farewells.