Arohara

Tiruchendur, May 2012:

I was aware of our travel itinerary bearing a visit to you. However, I wasn’t prepared for the series of seamlessly accidental incidents that were to follow suite. Little did I know, that I was on my way to striking one of the most intense and honest chords with someone. You. As we found a comfortable parking spot near your abode, I trotted off with my friends to the entrance of your shrine. I remember passing on subtle signs of liking this boy from the group I was with then; you knew about it even before I toyed with the idea of ‘what next?’. But you held your quiet. I am not sure if you paved the way for him, but I do not recall receiving any benevolent signs from you back then. You stood sheltered under your rajagopuram, as beamy as always you have been in this sanctum in the aftermath of banishing that fateful asura in the conjoining sea. Your face was clad in wet ash in a coating so thick that your kohl-sketched eyes and lip-line were as vivid and discernible as the outlines of the pictures in a kid’s colouring book. Vibhuthi Alankaaram or Vibhuti Alankara, they told me. You stood there calm and unmoving, while your fans yelled your name, pervading the air with a numinous aura. Your smile failed to waver and needed no support in itself, for it was a finery capable of holding ground by itself. I felt drawn to you like an insect to pollen. My nape tingled, and I felt butterflies in my stomach. Till date, I cannot place my finger on the ‘why’. I felt attracted to you. I stood there one amongst the throng that was besieging you and drawing your attention towards them. I was no different. For, I hoped you had spotted me. I wanted you to look at me. I desired for you to remember me. I was unlikely to forget you; more so, your face. Ever. It was the first time I had felt captivated by a stationary idol. The air was different. The crowd’s callouts failed to bother me; they sounded distant and unconnected. Rather contradictory to my sentiments for you, I must say. The push from the priests to keep moving the queue did not annoy me for it only seemed natural. I could stay there admiring you all day and still not get enough of you. I could continue to stand and look at you without getting tired. Or bored. Your heartwarming smile, the lucid posture discharging an ambience of victory, and your acceptance of me as simply as the air does the breeze had had me arrested. My dreamy temper lasted until the boy whom I liked tapped my shoulder. It was time to leave. I fluttered out of my reverie thinking, what had just happened?

Tiruttani, September 2014:

A native insect had bitten me. My body had begun to itch. It failed to cease, giving way to crimson rashes seconds later. In under a couple of minutes, my lips had swollen to the size conjured in the aftermath of a bee’s sting. I was unable to speak for they felt thick, dry and extremely itchy. I felt unable to fold my hands or flex my fingers as my limbs and flesh had ballooned. I was unable to move, for my feet and toes stung, and my legs felt heavy. As if I were injected with elephantiasis without warning or ado. Tears dripped in a steady column across my puffy cheekbones soaking my feeble eyelashes. The boy I had told you of a year-and-a-half had now married me and was smearing the holy ash all over my limbs to stop my skin from burning after the constant itching. He asked me to close my eyes and think of you. He promised me that we would visit you in the abode that sprung to my mind at that moment, soon after I get well. I believed him and did as he told. Your ashen-faced grin silhouetted my reticent contours. When we visited you a month later, I realised that Vibhuthi Alankaaram is not an exclusivity reserved for your seaside abode and that your dressing and elaboration were transferable. Nonetheless, all that time I had held an unrealised desire to see you adorned in the embers of the holy ash, and you gave me what I had asked for. Even if, at another residence. Without premonitions. Or expectations. Who does that?

Swamimalai, September 2014:

It took me time to record the memories I had dotted with you over seasons. I enjoy(ed) visiting you, no doubts; however, the process of collecting my souvenirs with you was gradual. Every time we entered your shrines, I made a mental note to remember something – anything – significant that would help me memorise the way you are in that specific abode. For, you are different in each of your six homes. Your carvings vary, and distinctly. As if the sculptors had deliberately wanted to be careful while reflecting your vibes to the analogous tales of the particular abodes, without tampering. While each one of your six padai veedu is back linked to a mythological story, it was in this veedu you preached your father the meaning of a mystic monosyllable. You became his guru and asked him to sit down signifying his discipleship towards you – a demand the latter beckoned to. After all, a child’s mischief can warm the cockles of one’s heart. May be, this is why the sight of your face lustred in a golden paste of sandalwood with a sizeable circle of sindoor on your forehead imprinted in my memory. Chandanam Alankaaram or Chandan Alankara drew my attention to your fair-sized face you have in this veedu. After Vibhuthi Alankaaram had (un)knowingly begun to top my wish list every time I met you, little did I realise that Chandanam Alankaaram will follow the sequence. For, I secretly kept hoping for it in my subsequent visits.

Pazhamudircholai, December 2015:

A babble broke out in the queue. A group of people screamed and shoved their way inside the rajagopuram. As the line inched forward, I felt a push on my back. I tripped as the crowd that was the source of the din pushed its way past me. They did not give me a second look. Pachai asked me to ignore them and focus on the reason we were here. The sequence of people in the queue progressed, and I saw you. Settled with your two-thirds, one of them by each of your side. A look of peace manifested from your countenance, the solitude transferable. Your silent gaze had an acupuncture-like effect on me – piercing and calming at the same time. I forgot my anxiety and displeasure I was engulfed with seconds back. Like nothing had happened. The corresponding tale of concluding your quests in your five other padai veedu and choosing this mountain amidst a reserve forest for penultimate settlement couldn’t have borne a finer justification. As if to complement this untroubled aura, a circular mark in red pigment adorned your forehead, and your face was smothered in a velvety layer of sandalwood paste. Watching your fans grow emotional in your presence is your routine, I believe.

Tiruchendur, December 2015:

By now, I had almost by-hearted the cheerful beam you preserve in here. This time, however, I had the chance to admire you beneath and beyond your facial profile because you were ornamented from head to toe. Your head was bedecked in an ornately sequinned and patterned crown. An equally grand, if not more, and suave dhoti swathed your legs. Garlands of flowers, big and small, pink and white, yellow and green cloaked your torso in a manner that no less than complimented your upper and lower attiresRaja Alankaaram or Raja Alankara, they told me. Perhaps, it was a pearl from your palatial garb that convulsed as a teardrop on the brim of my lash. The first of my many open and unabashed sentiments in your midst. That feeling of karunai. Long live the grin!

Palani, January 2016:

You denied me utsavam tickets for that afternoon, although we had come in at the last minute. However, by now, I knew you enough to bear in you a blind faith. When you did not permit me to attend your purpose-built prayer rituals, I was angry for a whole minute. Then I argued that you must have a reason for your signalled inklings and that you will not disappoint me had it not been for a cause. You beckoned to my thought-process for, not only did you let me feast my eyes that day on you ornamented in Raja Alankaaram, but also you treated me to utsavam at my kula deivam (the deity my clan worships) the same evening. Could I have asked for more?

Pazhamudircholai, July 2017:

Two people engaged in a discussion in front, as I stood with my fingers intertwined, the palms of both hands turned inward resting on my thigh. One asked if you were decorated in Vibhuthi, and the other pointed to your crown and sparkling dhoti disputing the suggestion altogether, calling it Raja Alankaaram. While I had believed it to be the former, after the superiorly declaration, my mind became disputed. I was confused to the point of being in turmoil. Because Raja Alankaaram would have meant that my belief of seeing you in Vibhuthi Alankaaram was false. It would have meant that my wish in that trip would have been left unfulfilled. It was past dusk and the day was drawing to a close. So was the temple. The priests were rushing the crowd in the queue. Soon after, they closed the curtains for you had to be readied to sleep after the last worship for the day. We made our way to the exit and sat for a couple of minutes near the entrance, ready to leave. The security guard who mistook us for people waiting for the curtains to reopen urged us to reenter the shrine. Why must we see you from near the exit when we had a chance to do so from far closer, he reasoned. We obliged. The curtains opened as bells began to be rung and mantras chanted in similar timbres. One of the priests offered you a sequence of wick lamps soaked in ghee in repetitive circular motions. You stood in peace as you always have, clad in a plain white dhoti. Your head was devoid of the crown, and so was the rest of your body from any sequinned or patterned attire. All of it had been removed except the layer of ash and kohl-smeared eyes and lip-line. They remained as-is. My mind automatically unknotted itself from the conflicts it was strung with in the past half hour.

Thiruparankundram, July 2017:

By now, I had souvenirs from five of your other veedu but none, even in fragments, from here. I climbed the flight of steps leading up to the shrine hoping to catch a hint, a take away at least this time. Upon entering the sanctum, I got a chance to stand close to you; the priests let me be, for the crowd was minimal that day. Rows upon rows and columns upon columns of wick lamps drenched in sesame oil hung low from all sides, close to your face. Your eyes were open, your face devoid of any makeup or coating, and your lips curved upward an inch or so. The sculpture appeared a shade of military green in the lights. The seconds stretched into minutes, lapsing me into the world that was oblivious to calls and beckons from the crowd. I thought I saw water surfacing on your eye. A droplet the size of a pearl seemed to trace a fine line on your right cheek. Was it a carving sculpted to resemble a tear-stained cheek? Or, had a tiny cleft developed in the recent years? I thought I saw your eyeballs move in circles, creating illusions of mischief. You rolled your eyes like a child up to something naughty. They orbited to corners you commanded them to. It was an impishness that revealed a playful side of you. Apparently, the wick lamps were tricking me, conjuring illusions out of a delightful kaleidoscope. I had only hoped to strike a chord with something – anything – significant when I had entered. And I had oodles of it on my way out. Who does that?

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You accepted me without premonitions and reservations when I stepped into your seaside abode five years ago. It was as if you had stamped your seal of fate when that boy I liked and I walked into your sanctum. As if there were no further questions to be asked and nothing left to be discussed. I am indebted to you for it. You let me demand from you whenever I wanted to see you in one of my three favourite alankaarams. You let me be angry with you when I thought you had failed me. Despite which, you have never judged me. You have taken it all in your stride and more so, you have answered each one of my indecisions in ways I understand.

A friend once suggested that Lord Muruga is my close friend, and so visiting you feels like visiting friends. I think it is true. The journey of getting to know you has been unhurried, nonetheless a fulfilling one. Have I ever confessed to you, that you made it this easy for me only because you took to me without any questions? I walked into your durbar, and you claimed your ownership over me. I became yours. Just like that. Which, in turn, and over time, translated into affection. Fondness. Homage.

Your sight invokes tears in my eyes today. I let them flow without restraint.

You have given me Pachai. I could not ask for more. You have rewarded my wish of seeing you in my all-time favourite silhouettes of sandalwood paste, wet ash and the ruler’s crown every time I have considered it. I should not ask for more. It took me thirty years to realise that you have been alongside me all this while in the form of two fathers – Subramaniam Kumar and Sivakumar. I need not ask for more.

Arohara.

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Why I do What I do?

A few could have anticipated the prominence, dominance and control of the internet in our lives today. Fundamental reasons have always underlined human desires. The concept of nights introduced artificial lighting. The need for entertainment presented the radio. The lack of visual leisure brought on the television. Portability introduced Walkman. Likewise, the need for internet too began with the quintessential lure of communicating faster with near-and-dear ones. Emails paved the way to shed the fear of the unknown by attempting to embrace globalisation. And chat rooms followed suit. The internet also introduced accessibility at our fingertips incorporating in us another lesson that achieving anything is possible with the right set of mind (in this case, keywords). At first, the desired results were posters of our favourite media persons. Today, it is information. When it comes to the human race, everything materialistic begins with a basic want, evolving into a cannot-do-without need. Sometimes, we lose sight in the process, much so that we no longer identify the point we are heading to or why we are doing so despite setting a goal, maintaining a calendar and rain checking on the milestones that are at times, abetted with a carrot-and-stick approach.

Although a pioneer, the internet had a purpose behind crawling into our already confused sentience. Search engines, keywords and social media were stages of jargons that knotted our lifestyles with a psychological obligation; yet, they were all done so with a reason – to regale our constitutional birthright of the freedom of speech. Profit-sucking enterprises saw a booming venture of providing the means through swifter shores, thereby introducing to us quicker modes ‘to enable’ faster communication. Another reason discovered here, the result of which was the nimble modems. Thereby, wireless internet. If we hadn’t purchased a Wi-fi connection by the early millennial years, the society might have shunned us out for good. And today, the Wi-fi is as basic a need as electricity, plumbing lines, kitchen and food; a bare essential in a house.

Must we tip our hats to those who envisioned wooing people to fall into the pit of live ‘faster’ and ‘smarter’? Or, was it our need to keep up with that friend in school who had the internet while we did not? The mindful coercion of societal and social obligations?

Doodle Bull
Via: Doodle Happy

Over time, the global computer network has curated counselling, guidances, therapies, personality tests, doctor consultations and what not, all through a stream of web pages. Had food and air been served to us by some online means, we could live off virtually. The spell is fulsome, browsing page after page, devouring their contents, accumulating the data, and yet it doesn’t feel enough. No amount of knowledge is. It’s bamboozling. Blogs, discussion centres, dedicated forums, research materials, reports, psychological backups, health expert analysis and bam! a keyword later, it’s there. As if this weren’t enough, articles talking about the behavioural traits that define one as a genius, an introvert/ambivert/extrovert, a bibliophile, or an alcoholic add to the swagger. Memes of particular lifestyle(s) we’re so innately proud of, flaunt the headlines. It is nothing short of ‘cool’ to belong to one generation. We consider it hip that we are the sensibly careful, yet the vivaciously don’t-care kinds. We have a view on marriages, kids, feminism and gender neutrality. We fight for the cause of every individual’s individuality through a string of words on an online profile. For every person privy to the internet has access to a self-fabricated account. A space that allows them to concoct whatever they like and however they do. So many people have so much to say, sometimes clipped with pictures, that there is only a chunk rallying out in the heat. The means of fighting the freedom movement have evidently evolved.

Is the internet still serving its means of ‘living faster and smarter’? Or, am I missing something here?

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Via: Pixabay

Tips, courses, workshops and everything under the sun is offered online these days. With subgenres. For instance, a writing workshop explores creative writing, literary writing, book writing, report writing, categorical writing, short story writing – the list goes on. A couple of days ago, I came across a few articles on WordPress Discover, one of which talked about why they will never let go of their blog space on WordPress. Another highlighted the five discoveries they had made in their journey of transitioning fromView atop Arc de Triomphe, Paris writing blogs to a book. And I am sitting here thinking when I should time my next cup of coffee so that I refrain from going back staring into space. Let alone having a clue about why I am doing what I am doing.

The focus people own, the clarity they bring to their thought-process, and their presence of mind to make notes of the means they follow only to give them away to those who are unsure of treading on such paths is admirable. I also feel that planning and organising a mission to Mars is more methodical. Because after the internet, the social media, the online reading, and the internal processing at the end of it, I am lost. So lost, that I cannot comprehend the whys for what I do. For instance, I do not know the reason I write. Because I have a story to tell? I do not know why I want the tag of an author someday. Because I want to see my name published in my creation? I have no reason to sing. Except, I derive a peace of mind? I do not know why I am inclined towards creative vocations. They lure me?

Do these justifications sound sane? More so, are they acceptable?

I do not know if widening my horizons, meeting new people and finding like-mindedness around are reasons for me to choose an imaginative profession. For, they are the by-products of the process. But I do know that this is all I have, to cling onto. And that, this is what I want. To write and sing. I have no other go than to practice the two crafts. And because I have them, I do not want to let them go. If I do not exercise either daily, my day is incomplete. My sense of purpose hangs in the air to the point of questioning my existence. It’s hard to widen my horizons beyond getting the technicalities in a specific song, or the lyrical aesthetics of a write-up right. So, how about, I find it complicated to focus on anything beyond the details of the craft? At any moment? How about, I sing because I like it? How about, I write because I enjoy the process?

To be honest, I have no other explanation. Be that as it may, articulation isn’t my forte. Especially when it’s about the fine arts.

Source: Pixabay
Via: Pixabay

The internet either talks about the paradigm shifts of enterprises that are changing the industrial landscape or of discovering reasons for/of doing something. The ten traits, the five habits, the three dos, the thirty don’ts, and the nine must-haves give me a reason to move on. Because I am unsure of the conviction, each article brings. Maybe, I belong in the wrong era. For, I do not know after the internet, how much of it all holds good? Where must I draw the line to read no further, to research no further, and to believe no further?

Eh, what do I know? For, I am only a writer – and another hypocrite humanironically using the internet to slate my views across.

The Eiffel Tower, Paris
The Eiffel Tower, Paris

If there isn’t any Plan, Knit one then & there

My mind often wanders to those notorious corners of the brain that store self-shaped theories of incidents ridden with guilt, hesitation, stalling, anger and procrastination. From time to time, it prods awake the precarious train of thoughts that have been pushed over time, and conscious efforts, to an unmindful recess. To a moss-gathering nook that so diligently maintains an account of all trespassing and hypothetical what ifs. What if, my bank balance runs out tomorrow? What if, plan A fails? What if, I had chosen a different course of study five years ago? What if, I wake up one morning to discover that Pachai is no longer by my side? What if, plan B doesn’t pan out in the way it is meant to? What if, there is no plan C or D? Would I leave the city? Would I look up to an automatic, run-of-the-mill backup? Would I choose family? Or, go someplace where I can push one more bitter thought to that moss-amassing corner and start afresh?

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Aside from the self-proclaimed tags of being a musician and a writer, travel is an effusive companion I inevitably look up to. It is like a faithful escort that invokes in me a different kind of pleasure every time I feed off it. I am yet to find my comfort zone while travelling solo without an agenda, yet I have discovered its certainty as of the one drug I can’t do without injecting. Over time, its aim and purpose, and mode and distance have become subjective to the point of not mattering anymore. As one travels over more and more places, the taste buds unravel acute flavours in the process. Letting the gallivanter settle on the ones they find appealing. My palate is towns. Or, places the areas of which do not exceed a radius of fifty kilometres. Because they invoke in me a sense of belonging. Without ado. They bring about an attachment that is unquestionable and demands no looking beyond. An instantaneous affiliation to the extent that I do not dismiss the possibility of settling in it should the need ever arise. Kochi, Havelock Island, Valparai, Patnitop, Koh Samui, Madurai, Pahalgam, Kanyakumari, Manali, Kodaikanal and Masinagudi are some places I would hop off to over and over. Towns and cities with which I have felt an unsaid and unexplainable bonding. If the chance were ever to materialise, I would not mind living in any one of these locations. While the course of travelling enables us to reflect upon the dearest bits off our appetising salver, in the process, they also (in)voluntarily unearth our treasure troves. The jewel in the crown. The best-loved. Our first choice.

Hands down, Valparai tops my charts.

I first visited Valparai in October 2016, and my second trip was in June 2017. Although the people, the purpose and the weather were different at both times, Valparai’s elegance is abiding. I was already charmed by the simple-mindedness that swathes this petite hilltop, yet my holiday a week ago felt like the town had washed me over. By bringing me back those savouring moments, reminding me why I had so hopelessly fallen in love with this hamlet in the first place. As hopelessly as an unrequited love that doesn’t worry about what it receives in return, for it can’t let go of its lover in the first place.

There hangs a lull of mist in the town’s air around the year except for the two summer-inflicted months. Showers in the monsoon combined with a chill in the atmosphere and otherwise cold temperatures spawn the need to snuggle up in cosy corners at most times. The central town spreads for a few kilometres where inhabitants generate and go about their daily employment. Built-in retail stores sprinkle the market’s thoroughfare like dots to attract vain-glory tourists through sales of locally produced goods. Immigrants and a fair share of locals earn their way through toiling their brawn in resorts, inns and homestays, or the numberless tea estates. A noisy atmosphere resides in the five kilometres of the town’s central and only marketplace. Else, there’s silence. A golden one at that.

Valparai

Tea and coffee (at select locations) plantations bed out nonstop like motifs embroidered in an unimpaired loop of stitches. Forests, trees and animals are given significance over us – humans. They have the right to the roads here and we, as a self-proclaimed supreme race, are mere encroachers of the town. The laid-back lullaby in the air, the draping greys over the horizon, the welcoming warmth of the sun on days it peeks over the ashen-faced clouds are heartening blemishes on one’s mood. It is like listening to a happy, sad song. Like noticing the moon has flecks. Trees, greenery and any branching structures run amok and wild for as far as the eyes claim sight, embracing every bit of the earth they can burgeon upon. If one were to get lost amidst the woods, none might know until the news of the death reaches the thick of the town, a time by which it may matter no more. An incident the woodland may whisper hereafter amidst them. Passing the avid details like a dirty little secret from leaf to leaf and trunk to trunk, of the individual who was gorged like a grotesque gargoyle in the wee hours. While the forest may divulge the details of the incident openly, a mockery of Chinese whispers could flow between the greens, passing snide remarks about us simpletons having the audacity to call ourselves a supreme race, despite being unable to comprehend their language; the basis that differentiates humankind from other things living. As humans, we cannot discern the rustling of the leaves or the ensuing quiver of the air. And here we are, declaring our dominance and intelligence over everything and everyone else.

The beguiling silence, the fetching greenery, a dreamy weather and inhabitants’ simplicity at its best. I suppose it’s easy to fall for a town as such. Much so, that departing at the end of a holiday can feel gut-wrenching. To the point of throwing a crybaby tantrum.

A prodding when there is no design in sight and the occurrence of an eventuality when there isn’t any expectation helps because when it happens, it isn’t as if we didn’t see it coming. As human beings, we are clueless of the curveballs we will be thrown with at the next bend of the lane we are walking on. Nothing lasts forever; it isn’t meant to. In a second, we are celebrating the arrival of a newborn and snap! we are in an inverted headrest attempting to compose our gushing adrenaline. The impermanence of it all brings with it a beauty, because the moment we are bestowed with powers to predict our future, we will forget to live our today.

And so, at the confrontation of a life-altering curveball, maybe I will leave home and all things that are neither fish or fowl. Travel to a town that bears no connection to any of it. Go someplace I have found easy to belong to. Seek interim solace by getting lost in it. And maybe, find my home there.

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