Missing in Action – Sadya to Superfast !

I was flying down the stairs…. A green flag swaying a few feet below… A trumpet like sound blowing from a distance… And me waving my hand enthusiastically at the flag… I felt like a Maniratnam movie heroine in the climax of a romcom movie…
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No this is not a dream sequence from a movie… These were the thrilling moments from my day today.
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This is how the scene unfolded. Just an hour earlier before this scene, I was enjoying a nice Sadya, A Kerala feast, for lunch. My friend Sitara’s mother, Bhavani Aunty, had arranged a tasty spread, in the traditional manner.
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The Lunch

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Sitara and me after a quick shopping session, sat down the kids for the treat. All of us had devised individual customized algorithms to maximize the sadya experience. I for example started with ada pradaman, and ended with the same, and punctuated every dish like pulichery, olan and erichery with ada pradaman payasams ! The kids scooped the payasam in the poli and devoured it.
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The ticking of the clock in the dining hall was the reminder that we cannot be sitting in an endless loop of the sadya ; we had a train to catch !! We somehow halfheartedly got away from the table.
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Sadya !

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The dear friends, Abhimanyu-Tharan & Rahul-Ananth tried to play till the last minute. That was their way of saying goodbye.
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We were ready, but the driver was missing ! My friend called him and he said he was on his way. Probably he too was having a great lunch ! At long last he came, and we had about 15 minutes to catch the train. He raced through the streets of Trivandrum, and we literally jumped out of the car at the station. Two porters chatting casually and having a leisurely afternoon, were pressed into active mode with our arrival. I said we had 2 minutes to get on our train, and told them the train name. They seemed to accept the challenge ! My kids and me sprinted across the platforms and impatiently walked up the moving escalator and ran across the over bridge. We were following the racing porters blindly, as I had no clue as to which platform we were to board. As we were crossing the bridge, they slowed down. I was puzzled. They simply said ‘train poiyee’. I refused to believe and thought that according to IST, there were another 10 minutes for the train to leave. But they pointed a moving train to me. It was just starting and I was hoping to catch it. I motivated them that we can and my kids ran ahead trying to stop the train.
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This is the place where the first scene falls in place. As I was waving out frantically to the guard holding the green flag, he looked at me and I shouted stop. My voice would not have reached him definitely.
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Did I say earlier that I felt like a Maniratnam heroine in a climax scene ??!!  Well, that was when I felt hopeful of catching the train. Now I actually felt like Kamal Haasan in ‘Moondram Pirai’ movie climax waving out to an unacknowledging Sridevi in the train 😦 ;(.
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The train kept moving and I believed I could still board the train. Then the train disappeared. The Jan Shatabdi from Trivandrum to Trichur had left platform no:4 at 2.20 p.m, On Time.
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We came to a standstill – the kids, me, porters et al. The other people on the platform too, as they tried to understand our plight. The porters set our luggage down, and a small crowd had gathered around us. I decided not to shed any tear. But I felt lost.
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The people there assumed I understood Malayalam and spoke rapidly asking about our problem; I assumed that they could understand my Malayalam and spoke quickly asking if there was anyway to stop the train or what the next station was. I was surprised by how well I could speak Malayalam, in that panic mode !!
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Somebody said that a Chennai express was departing in 39 minutes. Somebody else said that Nizamuddin Super fast will be starting in another 10 minutes, from the same platform. They offered suggestions to cancel the previous, buy a new ticket, talk to TTE etc etc. My kids were suggesting that we should probably go back to their friends’ grandma’s home, as they can continue playing 😉
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Kids Playing

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I made a quick decision. I decided to try the Nizamuddin. I asked the porters for the charge, and they simply said that they will load our luggage in the new train first, and did not say anything about the money. The train arrived soon enough.
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A couple of people helped us find the AC coach and the porters found empty seats and arranged our luggage. Somebody said that I could convert the previous ticket to this train, but the porters said that it is better to get open general tickets. Seeing that I was travelling with 2 kids and few luggages, they offered to go and buy the tickets. I gave him the money and he got 3 sleeper class tickets.
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I sat down, gingerly, as I was not sure if the TTE would allow us to travel in this compartment. But the kids were already playing live snakes and ladders by climbing up and down the berths !  I noticed the many missed calls from Sitara, who was anxious about whether we were able to board the train, Jan Shatabdi that is. Bhavani aunty too was anxious it seems, probably thinking we spent too much time eating ! But traditional authentic food deserves time, even if it means missing trains 😉
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When the TTE came, I showed him both the tickets, and I had to pay the balance fare (SL to AC).
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We had upgraded ourselves from chair to berth, and express to superfast – albeit at a cost. Experiences like these help us to realize that some strangers are still helpful, that labourers go the extra mile in helping customers, friends care, and, that one can have a feast and still catch a super fast 😉
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Hues of Green - from the train window !

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I am relaxing in my seat now, enjoying the varied hues of green that Kerala covers itself with 🙂
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~Punitha Lakshmi

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THE LIGHT OF COMPASSION

The Light of Compassion

The Light of Compassion

THE LIGHT OF COMPASSION

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A soul in compassion ,

A heart in expansion ;

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When the borders dissolve ,

Humanity as one evolves ;

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Who are these You and I ?

There is none in Divine’s Eye  ;

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I, Me and Mine creates a boundary ,

And puts Existence in contrary ;

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The infinite ‘emptiness’ of ether ,

Does not accomodate any ‘other’ ;

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Why is all behind a shroud ?

Is this the set way it should ?

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As we unveil curtain by curtain ,

The Light shall shine for certain.

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Gently radiate the spirit of Unison ,

Let shine the Light of Compassion .

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~Punitha Lakshmi

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This post is for the 1000 Voices of Compassion. #1000Speak .

Compassion – a work in progress

CRUISING CINDRELLA ! ~~ A drive in Fairyland !

CRUISING CINDRELLA !

~~ ~A DRIVE IN FAIRYLAND ! ~~~

Cruising on a wide open highway…. the wind blowing on my face… my lips singing… my eyes gleaming… and my heart leaping !! I could go on and on… on the roads… about the drives…

I think I am a born driver ! I have been in love with driving right from when I was a very little girl ! I have photographs to prove my passion for this art form !

I discovered the joy of driving/ riding very early in life :)

I discovered the joy of driving/ riding very early in life 🙂

Yes, driving is indeed is an art form – that which gives immense pleasure when done with joy !

And I have enough & more experience on the roads – driving in a few countries, in different modes of transport and spanning many years ! And every day on the road is an experience of life itself  – especially if it is in India !

Armed with these credentials (!!), I have decided to share my experiences and learnings about my life on the roads ! Ok, so now you know, why I had to give such a big preamble before this announcement !

The new series ‘Cruising Cindrella !’ will take you along on my drives ; and hopefully that will not be a boring drive !

“Why this title ‘Crusing Cindrella !’ ?”, you might ask ? One may argue that I am neither a Cindrella, nor do I have a smooth cruise ! I do not want either too !

Cindrella was driven in a fancy coach, which would vanish at midnight ! She wore royal clothes and glass slippers. She danced with her eyes lingering on the clock. She sneaked out at night, in fear !

I like to drive by myself, in a reliable vehicle which would be real ! I wear simple clothes and comfortable footwear, which would not hinder my driving ! I do not need to get fixed on the clock  when on a drive ! I go on drives at my will, in anticipation and joy of the journey ! Well, now and then atleast !

The joy ride continues... !

The joy ride continues… !

So you see, I am as different from the fairytale Cindrella, as can be ! But Cindrella had a real life too, where she toiled relentlessly, without rest or respite. Now, that would be close to my reality too. Alas, there are similarities …

But I do feel like Cindrella out for a ball, when I am driving ! I leave behind the stark reality and enter into a fairytale setting when I am driving, especially long distances !

The road transforms into my dance floor, the whizzing wind the music, the other vehicles the break-step and the friction of wheels the rhythm ! I waltz on the roads, in and out of lanes, weaving in between the vehicles, while maintaining an elegant poise ! The switching off of the engine at the destination provides the cadence ! I would like to think so ! 

Nevertheless, the reality on the roads is anything but a fairy land. It is more of a hazardous adventure than a dreamy cruise. And thats what makes the journey interesting, perhaps !

The mode of transport is immaterial, the driving conditions do not hinder, just the happiness of breakkng through the wall of air by oneself is reason enough to drive on !

So, strap on your seatbelts and get ready for the Drive !! Interesting insights awaits !

~Punitha

Vocalizing Silence – The Spell of Voiceless Wonder

I love Silence.

I love music. I love Silence even better.

My world was completely in Silence for a month. And mostly silent even now.

Sometimes nature has a way of redirecting one to her true personality.

Beauty of Silence...

Beauty of Silence…

It all began with a throat infection and high fever, which I as usual ignored. But the virus struck with a vengeance and blocked my voice completely. But fear not friends, this post is not about the excruciating details about my ailment or the uninteresting medical interventions I had to undergo… I know it is boring to have an ailment, but even more boring to hear about it. This is a narrative about the interesting incidents and disagreeable dilemmas during this Period of Silence !

One fine morning, I woke up and realized that I had been muted overnight by the virus ! I panicked, nevertheless went to work thinking that the virus would lose power as the day progressed. But no. Not a single syllable could escape my vocal cords for the entire day ! And I was at work ! I panicked, to put it mildly. People were curious when I could not talk.

I messaged my dad to fix up an appointment with an ENT physician, because I could not do it myself. He was surprised that I am voluntarily willing to go to a doctor ! And probably for the first time in my life I was actually eagerly, nay impatiently, waiting for a doctor’s appointment ! Even the doctor’s appointments during my pregnancy check-up months come a far second, at the most !

Evening came, and my kids were perplexed why I could not still speak –  a few hours is indeed a long time in a kid’s clock. I wrote on a piece of paper that I will be able to talk tomorrow ; I expected the doctor to give some magic medicine to bring back my voice.

I dropped my kids at their tennis coaching and quickly went to the doctor’s office. In the waiting area, I wrote down my ‘case history’ on a paper, including the origin, duration, symptoms, progress of the condition and the importance of getting my voice back asap – the last entry being stressed the most.

The doctor was quite impressed by my presentation of the case, and he was left with no questions to ask  ! But impressions didn’t matter to me, I had come here with a singular purpose – to get my voice back. So I wrote again in bold letters – I WANT MY VOICE BACK – ASAP. He put on a headlamp, much like a miner’s, and peered into my mouth. After a few moments, he shook his head gravely and said that I had viral attack with a secondary infection of bacteria. It was severe. He listed out medical terms like severe acute laryngitis, severe acute pharyngitis, rhinitis, sinusitis, beginnings of bronchitis and patches of pneumonitis . I was like ok, so ? He pointed to an anatomical model of ear, nose, throat and explained each term . I was still in ‘so what’ stance ? He finished the lecture with ‘these are your ailments now’ !! So, Fini ITIS !

Sinusitis, I can deal with easily, having been used to it for a long time.  And, I did not care for these other ‘itis’es. He ruled out tonsilitis – aah, I am glad about that ! I just wanted my voice back. I pointed to the bold letters on my self-written case history. The doctor by now could know that sentence even without reading it fully, what with me pointing to it every few seconds ! But he was still nodding gravely and broke the bad news – that it would take ATLEAST 15-20 days for me to get back my voice. Even then it would be feeble for a few more days. My mouth had been turned into an unwilling host by the viruses and the bacterias which had tagged along with the former !

I could feel tears welling up in my eyes – how could I go to work, how could I manage my kids ? And most importantly, how could I drive on the roads of Pondicherry – where sometimes horns are not enough and people expect a personal request put forward politely to them to give way ?! I was worried. I started writing addendums on my case sheet – ‘I am a mother. I am a teacher. Voice is my most important tool for both my roles.’ By now the doctor was curious to see my case self-updates ! He read and looked at me. I again pointed to the now familiar capital letterings ‘I WANT MY VOICE BACK – ASAP’ ! In response he wrote on my prescription sheet – ‘ABSOLUTE VOICE REST’ !!

I had expected the doctor’s visit to be a quick formality – where I expected the doctor to give a positive prognosis and a placebo perhaps ! But the diagnosis has turned unfavourable for any such proclamation ! So here I was struck with a tray of medicines, and still not guaranteed a quick recovery of my voice !

My kids were surprised by my condition. They asked me a hundred questions, which I was not able to answer immediately. It was a week when we were having guests, and an important religious ritual at home. So relatives came and were puzzled. Some thought I was observing ‘Mouna vrat’ (vow of silence) ! Some thought I was too tired to talk – what with my fever, cold, cough etc accompanying these ‘itis’es ! We have quite a few doctors in the family, so sometimes all I had to do was write the list of ‘it is’ es on a paper and they would come up with tests, prescriptions, treatments that I should be subjected to ! But they were outdone by the senior ladies, who shared the secret powers of their kitchen spices to concoct ‘kashayams’ & ‘rasams’ as an antidote to my curious condition ! I was as attentive as a student after lunch 😉

The only point which allopathy, naturopathy and sympathy agreed upon was in imploring me to ‘gargle with hot salt water – thrice a day’ !! And I hated that one solution the most !

Through all the gargling, steaming (not vegetables, but my own nostrils), drugging (of the medical variety), dieting (no icecreams and cold drinks) – I went to work (school), parented my kids (home) and drove my kids around town (chauffer – my evening job!) . I tried to continue life normally using all my mental faculties to come up with on the spot solutions to traverse my daily routine. I could not afford to hibernate in bed for the duration of my illness. This decision, brought its own reward ! I witnessed and experienced the most interesting responses and facial reactions to seemingly normal situations !

Shrouded in Silence…

Sharing some snippets of these humorous episodes below :

# When people realized that I am unable to talk, and that I was writing out my responses, some also spontaneously grabbed the paper to write their responses ! I had to remind them that they could talk !!

# My mobile service provider bombarded my phone with smses, as usual. Hidden in that bunch was an innocuous sms which stated something to this effect, ‘You have been renewed for RINGTONE DHAMAKA subscription service from Airtel. You have been charged Rs. 3.0. Enjoy your service !’. ‘Renew’ ??? But I had not even subscribed to it !! This had happened once before, and I had been blissfully unaware of its implications until a friend adviced me to call up airtel and ask to be unsubscribed.  This time around, in my muted condition, I felt  like an Indian middle class tax payer whose chunk of salary has been deducted at source. Better to accept in silence, than to argue with the revenue department ! So everyday I was renewed !!

# My son Abhimanyu is like Mac (yup, The Apple) ! He can work efficiently in silence, well mostly, especially if that particular activity interests him immensely. So we were able to just carry on our work quietly . I wrote down the medical terms on a paper and he googled those for meanings.

#  My little one Rahul is like Windows (the Miscrosoft release ofcourse) ! He needs to give constant updates, running commentaries to me about his every activity ! And he would not let me proceed with my work unless I ‘agree’ and am in sync with his updates & thought processes ! During normal times I can match his wit and humour ! But in my present condition, I felt like a      windows OS user, who has to dodge, accept or get ‘reminded for later’ (but never declined, mind you), the umpteen ‘updates’ that one is deluded with on logging in !

#  Not for nothing did I nickname the little tyke Rahul as ‘Google’ – he is mostly in auto-completion mode, helpfully trying to come up with suggestions to make me feel lucky, even before I complete on paper the first word of my intended sentence !! And his internal algorithm spews out only ‘his choices’, from which I have the ‘freedom’ of choosing.

#  I felt like an erstwhile valiant warrior, sent out to the battlefield after confiscating his weapons… in this case a teacher in a class of ‘enthusiastic’ students without her weapon of control – Her Voice !! But I had my Brahmasthra – The Eyes, The Stare !! I used at as effectively as possible. But to give credit to my students, they were really co-operative, helpful and even assigned themselves the task of managing the class and voicing my instructions, which I wrote on the board or notebook ! They would ask everyday, “Ma’am is your voice better”, “ Can you  talk” ! Whether it is out of concern or worry I would never know. But, did I see a faint bit of relief when I gestured a silent no ?!!

#  My colleagues/friends wishing me a good morning expected me to do the normal thing and wish them back as usual. But from their stare I could discern that they felt like the user of  www.irctc.co.in, who has to battle an unresponsive website for a few minutes to even get a rude image like ‘unable to connect’ !

# Re-visits to the ENT provided hope of a ‘perfectly alright’ pronouncement, much like that of a fan’s hope of a century during Sachin’s innings. But like the cricketer’s retirement, my microbes too were reluctant to concede to my ‘pitch’ (multiple puns intended). They were indeed planning a long stint at my pharynx/larynx !

# My phone was on permanent silent mode during that affliction !  I used it extensively and effectively as a mp3 player, camera, notepad, alarm, reminder service, messaging service etc ; anything but communicating, talking to be specific ! “ Can’t talk. WhatsApp only “ became true in my case !

#  When I was able to get some words out feebly after 3 weeks, I could only speak in very short phrases. I felt like a character out of Director Maniratnam’s movies ! Now, I have enough expertise in this form of speaking, that I could become a dialogue writer for his next movie effortlessly !

# I love singing (in solitude) and hum during manual work. I tried to hum during that period, and ended up sounding like a blocked flute !

# Some talked to me in a very low volume, almost in a whisper. Perhaps they did not want to disturb the silence I was expressing !

#  Some talked to me in an abnormally high pitch ! Perhaps they thought that along with my speaker (vocal chord) my receiver (ears) too were damaged !

Situation  slowly stammered back to normalcy. I was able to get out a few words in a very feeble voice and got progressively better.

I have never been a talkative person. And my voice is never loud,  it is soft to be heard even in a small loud group.  Ofcourse, I am fun-loving and I love to chat with close friends. But even then, I listen more than I talk. Perhaps my 2nd standard class teacher would differ in her opinion. Because, to my knowledge she was the only one to complain to my parents that I was very talkative in class, quite exasperatedly, during every PTA that year I must add ! I along with four of my friends used to talk a lot in class it seems !!

Growing in Silence...

Growing in Silence…

But I am generally a quiet person. I don’t have to absolutely talk. Perhaps that is why I always wanted to become a writer/poetess. I express myself better using the pen or the keyboard perhaps !

But my respect for the people who cannot speak by birth has grown tremendously. I wonder how they survive in this tough world, without being able to vocalize their thoughts. Or perhaps, it is easier that way. And one learns to use non-verbal means of communication more effectively and actually respond, than just reply verbally.

Oomai endral oru vagai amaidhi.

Ezhai endral adhil oru amaidhi.

This beautiful tamil lyrics by eminent poet Kannadasan from the song Kanne kalaimane (Moondram pirai) translates to :

There is a peace in muteness

There is a peace in poverty.

Indeed, the more life takes away worldly comforts/privileges/relationships away from a person, the more one gets the space to move towards Eternal Silence & Peace.

This Period of Silence gave me the time to get back to writing. I contemplated a lot, and wrote a lot. In Silence.

This Period of Silence allowed me to be silent. I love Silence.

P.S : I can imagine my friends who read this feel like a Windows OS user who tries to shut down the laptop quickly, only to be stalled by the messages of ‘Configuring updates 1 of  99 – Do not shut down your computer’ from the persistent OS ! Well, Force Shut Down is the only option for you now 😉 !!

~Punitha

Kumbakarai-Vellagavi-Kodaikanal :A trek,a village & a peek into a natural lifestyle

I could see a very faint reflection of myself in the water. I tried to lean forward to get a better feel of the depth, but the surface was slippery. I stood still and let the coolness of the water to travel up to me. A voice behind called out in tamil ‘paathu ma’ (be careful).

Self Reflection...

Self Reflection…

The village well, was the place for socializing for the villagers of this mountain retreat ! Womenfolk exchanged notes on the happenings and discussed issues that concerned the village. This well, which was a steep 15 minutes walk from the living space of the village, was drying up due to the failed monsoon of 2012, and people had to walk further down a steep path for drinking water from a spring. They were hoping the well would be de-silted, cleaned and ready to receive this year’s monsoon rain.

For urbanites, who hardly know the source of their daily water and become impatient if the water from tap flows slowly, the effort expended by villagers to get one drop of water must be astonishing.

Well-a-gavi !

Well-a-gavi !

This charming village, Vellagavi, deep in the mountains of the Palani Hills, is 500 years old. One had to trek a steep path to reach here, and that’s what we, a group of CTCians had done that morning – trekking from Kumbakarai falls to here, with 2 litres of water each. Even while sweating profusely in the hot & dry day, we had to think before we took a sip, because the stream had dried up for the summer and we would be dehydrated if we finished our water too early in the trek. This made me appreciate the sources of water even more.

A village woman expertly slid her plastic bucket tied to the end of a rope, into the well and smoothly lifted the filled bucket up. She did this multiple times, to fill a single pot. No wonder their arms are toned ! Another woman came by and asked me to come further down to fill water in our bottles.

The spring is hidden somewhere in the mountains and a pipe has been drilled into a rock to channel the water for filling vessels. It was pure, sweet water and I drank it to my hearts content ! While the pots were filling, the lady and me chatted about our respective lifestyles ! She said they truly believed the well & spring are a gift from their village diety, for their benefit. Their life depended on it.

Bipasha, Pankaja & myself walked back up to the village and she and her daughter Vani balanced the pots deftly on their heads while climbing up the steps. Me and my friends were unbalanced with our 2 bottles each !!

A daily task in their life...

A daily task in their life…

We had reached the village that afternoon after a 6 hr trek, and just lazed around. A few from our group had gone to the temple at the peak and 3 of us had decided to stay back. I wanted to mingle with the villagers and go around the place.

Muthukumaran and his family were our hosts. He narrated the history of the village, as he knew it. Long ago, some king and his men were hiding in the forest to escape enemies. Long after the war was over, 5 men came back to this Vellagavi, married local women and settled in this village. ‘Gavi’ means valley. The 500 residents in the 120 houses here, were all descended from these 5 families.

The people here consider their village sacred, so much so, that no one wears footwear inside the village. We had removed our shoes at the village entrance after reading a board which requests visitors the same. It was actually nice walking in the rocky paths barefoot. Acupuncture for free !

Our hostess gave us another cup of the steaming, strong black coffee, laced with a hint of sweetness. It was refreshing ! We were seated in the ‘thinnai’, sit-out at the entrance of a house, and he continued his notes on the village.  His house was part of a row-houses, sharing walls. All the houses in one row were occupied by immediate relatives, and it could well be considered a single house for all practical purposes. Each family owned some farm land, where they grew coffee beans, cardomam, oranges, mangoes etc. I listened to all this sipping the aromatic coffee, made from freshest beans from their farm !

With our hosts..in their thinnai (sit-out}...

With our hosts…in their thinnai (sit-out}…

His little daughter was involving us in a game of ‘matching colours’ with broken bangles. Ocourse, she won hands down every time !

It was sunset time and all the children were out improvising games and playing happily. No gadgets or toys, just natural things to keep them entertained ! A few tiny tots were packing leaves into a bundle and tying it to a stick – akin to a mule carrying load ! They did not seem to miss anything ! Happy kids !

Kids playing in the village street

Kids playing in the village street

Our friends came back after their short trek and we got down to the business of cooking. Well, CTCian Vadivel, our expert chef did the cooking while we ladies, Nivya, Aishwarya, Sasi & myself,  ‘ably’ assisted him ! Bissibelabath was the dish of the day, after the soup ! We had laid siege to our hosts kitchen and flooded it with our cooking stuff ! They were very accommodating, helpful and even cheering us !!

My friend from the well, came over to take me to her house for a cup of coffee ! I had to stop my friends (the mother-daughter duo) from feeding me dinner too ! Such was their hospitality ! They have even invited me to their elder daughter’s wedding in Palani next month !

It had begun to rain heavily. Our group assembled for a late night dinner, or rather we had to wake some of them up for dinner as they had fallen asleep overcome by tiredness. The bisibelabath awoke them fully !

We just spread a tarp in the single large hall of the village house we had rented and slept . Some of them took their sleeping bags to the terrace or verandah.

It was a cold night and with just a thin bedsheet I was happily sleeping, the events of the day doing a rerun in my mind !

The overnight bus journey from Tindivanam, the midnight dinner somewhere in between, the early morning tea in Periyakulam, the car chase by Vadivel & Praveena’s husband to get the forgotten tarp from the bus, the share-auto short ride to Kumbakarai falls along a scenic way – a thrilling start to two days of learning & fun ! The slide in the sliding pool at Kumbakarai falls was the ice-breaker for the group as we the swimmers like Nithya & Lavanya helped the non-swimmers to slide & have fun ! The breakfast carried out by Murali & Vadivel at the start of the trail gave a boost to our energy they had arranged with our host in the village for 2 mules to carry the food provisions and some extra stuff that we needed the next day. Still we were left with lot of weight to carry in our backpacks, the majority of that being the weight of water. If anyone does not know about hydraulic power, they should just carry a few litres of water in a steep ascent ! The weather was dry and hot when we started the climb, but nature benevolently turned cool which prevented any dehydration in our group. Vallabh’s stretching exercises mid-way helped in avoiding major cramps.

Durai & Vadivel had originally explored this route and we were benefitting from their knowledge of this trail and the village. This trek was long overdue and I had waited for a year to come here. When Nivya & me were thinking of organizing a ladies trek, we both were unanimous in our choice of the location – Kumbakarai to Kodaikanal !! Thanks to all who made this excellent trek possible !

The next day, very early in the morning, Aishwarya, Nivya & myself walked down to the well for refreshing. There are no toilets in this village and one has to depend on natural space for one’s morning ablutions.

More of our friends came down to the spring. The village ladies give water freely, unmindful of the hardships they undergo to get a pot of water. They helpedus in filling our bottles and infact tell us to take from their homes as they say we are notused to wells and springs !

A generous village lady giving us water...

A generous village lady giving us water…

The village was up and about early and there were geometric kolams and rangolis outside every house. It being Varuda Pirappu (Tamil new year), people were buzzing around, children wore new dresses and the elders were getting ready to visit the temple. A woman invited me home for some coffee and I clicked some pictures of her grand-daughter Mareshwari in new clothes. The little one posed merrily !

Kolam on Varuda Pirappu...

Kolam on Varuda Pirappu…

Next we got down to the very important business of making tea & breakfast ! Nivya & me had decided on black tea, but after overwhelming request for milk tea, it was converted into white tea with milk powder that we had brought ! There are no cows in Vellagavi and milk is a premium here. People bring back some milk when they go downhill to Periyakulam.

Morning tea !

Morning tea !

After being sufficiently fortified by tea & noodles, we packed our bags, did some stretches as demonstrated by Vallabh and got ready to leave. I interacted with a few more villagers and clicked a few pictures. We bade our goodbyes and my well friend came running to give me some Sita fruit. Such unsophisticated generosity really warms the heart. She had already gifted me a small pack of coffee powder and a few pods of cardomam, even though I had refused strictly. It was her way of extending a warm welcome. Vallagavi keeps  its doors of hospitality open always, much like the cuture of ancient India…

Doors of hospitality...

Doors of hospitality…

At the entrance of the village a bunch of kids were creating rhythms in odd plastic and steel containers using fallen sticks from the trees. It was such raw and natural rhythms that it left us spell-bound ! Nature is the best teacher for these kids, many of whom may not even complete their schooling.

Aala marathadi kadhaigal.... ! Tales under a banyan tree... ! Relaxed childhood...

Aala marathadi kadhaigal…. !
Tales under a banyan tree… ! Relaxed childhood…

Some of the villagers too had already left/on their way to the ‘sandhai’ (weekly fair) in Kodaikanal, to purchase things for their homes/village for the coming week. They also carried produce from their gardens to be sold at the fair. Maybe some bartering also might take place. And ya, the only mode of transport from Vellagavi to Kodaikanal (or Periyakulam) is by foot. All along the route we met many villagers returning from the fair with heavy loads on their heads, but walking as if they were carrying feathers ! A lady had simply placed her child in a big cloth, held two ends of it in her hand and walked along the steep trail ! The baby slept peacefully, rocked by its mother’s smooth walk !

Returning from the weekly sandhai (fair)

Returning from the weekly sandhai (fair)

The only sounds were the sounds of the birds. There was one particular bird, I think locally called as ‘kottu kuruvi’ , which had a clear voice and sang melodiously, its voice making one to stop and listen ! The other sounds were the rustling of dry leaves under our foot as walked, and the breeze blowing through the trees !

We clicked pictures of the beautiful mountains all along the trek. We all regrouped at Echo Point, the farthest a ‘tourist’ from Kodai would venture ! This point was just a speck in a ‘traveller’s’ journey !

We were famished and the ready to eat panner sanjis that we had carried along were put to good use in a scenic eatery there, as we taught the cook to make bread-paneer-kurma instantly ! He might have been glad when we finally exited his stall,exhausting the sabjis after multiple rounds, washed down with his masala chai. We were running off for in between to pose for group pictures and he had to call out to us to come and eat !! Finally we made our official intros (CTC intros are always at the end, by which everyone are already friends !).

Next up was the dolphin’s nose, an elliptical rock jutting out to the open space. After some dramatic pictures there, we began our final stretch of trek to Vattakanal, the entry way to Kodai town.  More beauty of this place unfolded on our path. Much of this 1 km trek from Dolphin’s nose to Vattakanal is paved by strong roots from trees, interlocked naturally and forming a neat ramp ! Nature knows the way !!

Roots show the way forward....

Roots show the way forward….

A van ride from Vattakanal to Kodai bus stand, picking up some home-made chocolates enroute, chai and then we started our return journey ! The nausea created by the steep descent of the bus in the ghat road, left me wishing that we could have trekked down easily !

We, a bunch of CTCians met as strangers and parted as friends, helping each other to accomplish a tough trek during the weekend, and learning a lot from one another in the process !

The Ladies !

The Ladies !

I have been to Kodaikanal a few times, but going by foot, avoiding all the ‘tourist spots’ gave us a better perspective of life in these hills.

Pic courtesy : Biasha

Thumbs up group !

All that we take for granted in cities, is not easily available in Vellagavi ! All that is available in Vellagavi is what urbanites rush to during vacations – fresh, unpolluted air, pure water, cool clime, natural housing, disconnected from the rest of the world ! They are indeed on permanent vacation !!

A radiant sunset over a village temple...

A radiant sunset over a village temple…

I will be taking my kids (and other willing kids) back to this village at the earliest opportunity, so that they can also perceive that a happy life is possible beyond all known comforts – mentally & physically. The sooner we learn this, the freer our minds become and the better our lives unfold.

Perhaps, when I peered into that well, I was seeing the reflection of a natural lifestyle, forgotten by majority of the world, and still preserved in places like this.

~Punitha Lakshmi

I Love chasing Butterflies !!

Yellow Nature !

Melting Yellow, Spreading Cheer !!

My early morning today was well spent – I was chasing butterflies in a garden !

It is ofcourse a regular activity for me ; one that I love and which happens spontaneously on some days !

This post is inspired by this colourful butterfly in the picture, that spread cheer & happiness to me this morning ! In the picture you can see, how the yellow of the sunlight seems to paint the flower yellow, and the butterfly in turn drinking in the yellow of the flower to spread the colour on its wings ! It was a beautiful experience !

There are many benefits from chasing butterflies ! I list some for the sake of the novice/future butterfly chaser :

.  Your eye muscles get stronger and eye sight sharper  .

The butterfly flits all around – up, down, left, right, here, there – so your eye muscles get lots of exercise in trying to keep the flier in sight ! These beings are so tiny , that in the vast open park it is difficult to follow it around. But if you are keen, your eye sight really improves as you strive to visually follow it !

.  Your mind becomes more alert  .

In trying to guess the next turn the butterfly will take, and being proved wrong again, the mind will become alert to keep up with the fast mover !

.  Your body becomes agile and your movements quick  .

Since you are being led by the butterfly, your movements needs to be quick to follow the insect. Your body needs to be agile to be able to go into the places this little one flies ! And you get all the exercise you need for the day without even realizing it !

.  You will become more spontaneous in your outlook & response  .

Many of us cannot do anything unless it is pre-planned. Spontaenity is a lost charm for some. But when you are at the mercy of this little flier, you learn to be more & more spontaneous – both in outlook & response ! It does not have a plan for the day, not even for the next minute. But it is the happiest being alive – because the lovely butterfly is spontaneous ! Your innocence shines !

.  You will become more humble  .

Human beings try to win over everything. But with the butterfly, you are really lucky if you could even click a picture of it. In my experience, when I start enjoying the company of the butterfly with a smile for few minutes, it starts settling in the flowers near me and strikes a pose ! It is a truly humbling experience.

.  You will stop worrying about possessions & start joining in Nature’s processions  .

All our life is spent in preparing, earning, accumulating, safe-guarding & then losing property & products. But, the butterfly does not waste its short life by trying to accumulate products or possess anything. But it has no lack – flowers willingly share their nectar, leaves give them a place for laying eggs and the sky offers space for it to fly and enjoy !

Before you go off to start chasing butterflies, a word of caution on spectators’ reactions !

Ÿ  People will think you are jobless  Ÿ

Ofcourse they are wrong !

But they don’t know that you manage your time better and do things quicker, so you can find time to chase butterflies and other similar activities ;))

Ÿ  People will doubt if you have any useful purpose in this activity   Ÿ

Ofcourse they are right !

There is no doubt that this is a purposeless activity ! But that is how exactly joy & fun should be – purposeless !

Ÿ  People will conclude you are crazy Ÿ

Ofcourse you get the benefit of doubt; though they may assume they are right !

But would you be prim & proper and get bored ; or be spontaneous & crazy and have loads of pure joy & fun ??!!

~ Punitha

Marathon Mantras = Life Lessons

.   Life Lessons <=> Marathon Mantras : Two-way Learnings !  .

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1. Doing a Half-marathon (21 K) is not doing just a double of 10 K run. 21 K would feel like 10 times of 10 K if one lacks stamina !

Learning : Do not double targets without sufficient analysis or preparation.

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2. Energy depletes faster, time moves slower and distance magically stretches longer after one goes past the first half of 21 K !

Learning : Just like how one would feel when mind ages if we do not keep challenging it. (note : when mind ages and not when body grows old gracefully and healthily but mind still remains young & enthusiastic ! :).

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3. The last 200 m is the longest distance in a marathon ! The finish line behaves like a horizon then – the nearer you go, the farther it seems !! But the finish line is not far.

Learning : When one has been trying hard and long for a goal and feels like giving up, not realizing the goal is very near. Because the final lap before a victory is the hardest sometimes.

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4. Pongal & Vada taste better when hot. But the longer time one takes to complete their run,the colder the food becomes – if at all the volunteers are able to scrap something from the bottom of the utensil for you ! So ‘when the running gets tough, the pongal-vada lovers get going ‘ !!

Learning : It is good to have a vision and run towards it 😉 . Only someone with a vision keeps striving even when the going gets tough !

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5. Marathon is not equal to ‘main hun thin’ or ‘main hun healthy’ magically !! The benefit of running marathons is in the training and the discipline in nutrition & exercises .

Learning : The final output in any task is but a culmination of all the preparation, learning & sincere work before that.

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6. Do not drink all the water & electrolytes available in each aid station – even if you think you are going to faint in the next 5 secs. What goes in has to come out – and in a marathon that is a big problem !! Take small sips, at regular intervals.

Learning : Do not bite off more than you can absorb ! Taking in too much work comes out as stress in your body & mind.

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7. When a few friends take to running and marathons having you as the inspiration, that is one of the biggest rewards for you as a runner !!

Learning : Life is not only about achieving our own successes, but it is also about encouraging & helping people to succeed in theirs.

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Learning & Running in Progress.... Auroville Marathon 2012

8. Marathons is about running ‘for’ something ; not running ‘away’ from something !

Learning : Live for a purpose , do not let fear chase you.

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9. Even when people look at you strangely when you ‘stop to smell a flower’ during the race – you continue stopping and smelling flowers 🙂

Learning : Live Life at your own pace, unfettered by the rat race :))

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10. On the early morning of the day of the marathon , it is best to have a cup of steaming hot coffee, sitting alone in a relaxed silence. This relaxes and gears one for the tough run ahead.

Learning : This learning is simple – Have a cup of steaming hot coffee, alone in relaxed silence, before the start of any tough task ! Silent Thoughtlessness before a tough task energizes and gives clarity of mind.

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11. ‘Dont quit’, conserve energy & sooner or later you will complete your run !

Learning : Someone told me this many years ago, and I apply this decree in my marathon runs and in my life – even though it is at times impossible to keep going. Dont Quit.

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12. The ‘joy of running’ is enough reason to run ; the ‘love of living’ is enough reason to live !

Learning : Enjoy work ! Celebrate Life ! Appreciate Creation !

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Learning & Running in Progress… .

~Punitha