White Noise

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

An Usual Trip To MADURAI

Hi all.. No blogging for quite some time now.. So, I thought of writing something about my hometown, Madurai.. Got to know more about a particular festival here yesterday and had a few misconceptions cleared.

Well, it all started with Gopal calling me sometime yesterday morning saying he was in Nagamalai (my area, a suburb some 10km outside the main city) in his uncle's home. So naturally, I invited him to my house and together we left for Gansa's (the inimitable Games Bond, Arun Ganesh) place in the evening.

Gopal, as you all know is a very down to earth and amicable fella. You can have a conversation with him on any topic. Therefore, we discussed college, friends, the election results, the aftermath of the enquiry, orkut, his 'FAMILY', etc.. And guys, coming to the election (or the election results to be more accurate), did you see the lead positions of the two alliances in the various channels? For the first 3 hours, each channel showed a different scenario (with Podhigai n NDTV having the max correllation). Sun and Jaya were showing the two extremes, as expected. But, I just can't fathom how the hell a TV channel can be allowed to play around with FACTS. Let it show an one-sided view of things. That can be dismissed as propaganda, but this is just taking things too far. With the mushrooming of so many 24x7 news channel, it's high time some ombudsman was set up to ensure some sort of accountability. But, of course, I'd bet such an authority already exists but is dysfunctional, as is invariably the case.

Hmmm.. Seems I have deviated from the main theme.. Madurai. Where was I? In the bus on the way to Periyar Bus Stand, right? Well, it dint turn out to be so. We were dropped some 2km from the Bus Stand and had to take a roundabout walk from the Western entry of the Railway Station to the Periyar Bus Stand. The corporation has been repairing a bridge crossing over the rail track for more than a year now (I still wonder why they started to repair it in the first place.. It was as sturdy as any bridge could be for as long as I can remember) There is also some talk that the Gubraithian work might get disrupted since the opposition has won more seats here than the winning combine.

During the journey, I was showing Gopal the various sights in Madurai, particularly the theatres. A digression is needed here to illuminate the reader about the cinema culture of the city. Madurai is basically distinguished from other places in TN by two things, posters and cinema theatres. You can find posters plastered all over the public and private spaces, including buses announcing and inviting all to stuff like nose-piercing ceremony of a 4 year old in some well-to-do family.. Theatres, of course, you only need to stroll in any direction in a blind fashion and you will be in front of one within 5 min. But sadly, it is not quite the same these days. Many have been forced to close down due to dwindling audiences. Personally, I'm incensed by the absence of a single good theatre showing English movies. Maappillai Vinayagar and its twin Manickam Vinayagar were solely showing Hollywood movies till around the time I left for college. Nowadays, all they show are Hindi or dubbed Western movies which no self-respecting person will ever see. Also there is this theatre called Ramvictoria which shows only two kinds of movies: X-rated and those starring VijayKanth. It is surrounded by drainage on all sides and you can be assured of mosquitoes forming a beehive over your head if you go there in the evenings. There is also this theatre called ...thingummy.. which is in fact Asia's largest in terms of seating capacity. It is however closed for more than 10 years now, I think. Of course, there are quite a few good (read, having balcony) and decent (read, no spit in the seats) theatres like Madhi and those in posh areas like Anna Nagar (every town has an Anna Nagar in TN, as every major city has an MG Road in India.) All said, I still prefer watching movies here simply because I can watch 3 movies (in the topmost seat, mind you) for the same cost which I'd shell out for a single one in Chennai. Also, there isn't this mad booking of tickets beforehand business.

Back to the sojourn.. We caught another town bus from Periyar to reach Gansa's house located in the Tallakulam BSNL staff quarters (his mom works there). Now, we came to know that the bus we had gotten into wont be stopping at the necessary place and we had to alight in Goripalayam itself. Anyway, Gopal dint seem to mind the walk much and I was able to show him more landmarks like the Government Rajaji Hospital, the associated Madurai Medical College and American College (where lots of Kollywood stars are supposed to have studied.) This area also houses the Collector's Office (an imperial monument.. The Brits did know how to build imposing structures), the Gandhi Museum and the best maintained Corporation swimming pool you will ever find.

So, we finally managed to reach Gansa's place by the time the Sun's rays began faltering. As a rule, all quarters look the same, and promptly, we entered a wrong one before being set on the right path. We had the usual chat about the just concluded FA Cup final (Gerrard is great!!) and the upcoming Champions League final in Paris. We also met Gansa's younger bro who has a remarkable likeness to his elder kin not only in appearance, but also in his sleeping habits. Gansa, of course seldom gets up before 11 in the hostel (yes, during college days) and follows the same slothful routine in his home too. He and his bro alternately occupy the bed now, it seems.

Gansa said there was a new place called the Eco Park (I thought it was echo park till I got there) nearby and we three set off. The streets wore a festive look with people thronging both sides of the road to catch a glimpse of Lord Azhagar as he makes his way through every nook and cranny of the city. It was the day after he entered river Vaigai. I think an explanation is in order to enlighten the reader of the legend underlying the local festival... Goddess Meenakshi is the younger sister of Lord Azhagar. She is to marry Lord Sundareswarar (called the Meenakshi thiru kalyanam.) Her bro (who is much devoted to her) is very eager to attend the ceremony and give his blessings. But, due to lack of proper communication equipments those days, he lands up 2 days after the marriage. This, he gets to know from some dhobiwallah only when he is in the process of crossing the Vaigai (Azhagar aathula irangurathu) to reach the other side of the town (where the Meenakshi Amman temple is located). He loses his temper and returns back to his base (Azhagar Kovil, some 20km away). While he returns, he takes the most circuitous path one can imagine so that every denizen can see his anger (Azhagar Oorvalam). This story I learned from Gansa yesterday. Previously, I had a garbled version which ran as follows: Meenakshi and Sundareswarar start loving each other, bro Azhagar is against the match, forbids M from marrying S. But, sis doesn't listen and does marry S. A gets angry and as a protest, drowns in the Vaigai. Thankfully, no one has asked me about the festival so far or I'd have been the butt of many a joke.

Coming back to the Eco park which we had now reached, I was genuinely surprised by it. It is probably the only place in the city with well maintained lawns. There were some real size tree-like structures made up of LEDs (some charlatan had cheated Gansa a few years ago into believing that it was made of optical fibres!!). But now that we have 4 years of engineering education behind us, we can see through such jokes. There was even a musical fountain (and boating) on the lines of Brindavan Gardens at one extreme end, which we initially mistook for a snake pond due to the noise the junta was making. Anyway, the setting was certainly far from what one would call romantic. All the same, Gopal suddenly called up Arthi who is currently somewhere near Tanjore in her home, asked her if Lakshmi was with her and straightaway received a bulb. Confused why he did this, right? I'm not any wiser either. For the reminder of our stay in the park, there was a continuous influx and outflow of messages to and from Gopal's cell.

So then, we were back to Gansa's home and soon Bala (Balachander or 'Othakada nattamai', CEG mechanical and my first sem batchmate and good friend) came along. We had a wonderful dinner. We found that the buses to Periyar had been blocked due to the passage of A as I mentioned earlier. So, those two guys dropped us in Kaalavasal taking a route through the congested market and the Jail road. The streetwise nature of Bala came in handy to avoid the policemen and their 'take diversion's. In Kaalavasal, we took a wrong bus (my fault totally, Gopal doesn't know anything about Madurai buses) and had to walk back some 2 stops distance. But, I took this opportunity to further Koval's already much enhanced Madurai know-how. I showed him 2 of the 3 prominent industrial houses located here, Fenner and TVS, the other being Madura Coats. It was getting pretty late by then and not a single vehicle was coming our requisite direction though tens of them went in the opposite way (Murphy's law always holds good at these times!!). Finally, we did get one and made our separate ways home.

Overall, a nothing out of the ordinary but nonetheless, pleasant trip to the city.