Monday, December 8, 2008

Yelagiri - an abrupt trip

250 km from Chennai and approximately 125 km from Bangalore, in Vellore district of Tamil Nadu lies Yelagiri, a quiet hill station. One reason for choosing the place was because it could be covered in one day and the prime reason, being in Chennai, I was craving to experience a winter. at 930 pm on Saturday night, I left from Chennai to Thirupathur, a town near to Yelagiri. I reached Thirupathur at 230 am Sunday morning.

As I got off the bus, I saw bonfires, a rare sight in Tamil Nadu and there was a slight chill in the air and that too, before even getting ont to the hill. The first bus to yelagiri would be at 530 am. Now I had to spend 3 hours, so I broke into a conversation with two young urdu speaking localites. It might be hard to find Urdu speaking people in Tamil Nadu, but a large percentage of the muslims people speak Urdu, similar to the Hyderabadi dialect. They even said that some of their women do not know Tamil! They told me that the place was pleasant even during summers. The weather never gets as bad as Chennai, they said giving me a cup of tea. They also told me about the Jalagamparai falls which was a bit far from Thirupathur. They shortly left. The next two hours were spent reading the never ending “Atlas Shrugged”. The night was getting colder as time moved on.

530, I get onto the bus to Yelagiri. As the bus moves towards the hills, the dawn is breaking, taking its own sweet time. Once the bus gets onto the hill, we have to go through fourteen hairpin bends before we reach Yelagiri. Sitting next to the driver, I had a good view of the hills and the sunrise. At every bend, the driver was turning the steering wheel four times the circumference clockwise and then anticlockwise or vice versa. Even though the turns were sharp, it wasn’t as scary as many other hills where you get to see a steep pit to your side. The road had a two foot high wall on the side opposite to the hill.

After around 6 to 7 hairpin bends, there were groups of monkeys jumping around from one place to another. It was quite a welcoming sight. The monkeys however are not found at the top the hill. After another few hairpin bends, I get to see many hotels, guest houses and restaurants. I also came across a point known as the Telescope point, a place where a telescope is instilled and from where you can view down the hill using it. Shortly I reach Yelagiri. Stepping out of the bus, I feel a good winter chill. Finally, I had to take out my denim shirt, my t-shirt wouldn’t suffice.

I get off the bus and start walking asking directions. First of all I head to a murugan temple. It’s believed that wherever there’s a hill in Tamil Nadu, you would find a murugan temple. The temple was still not open at 730. It would take half an hour. I didn’t wait for so long. I headed down to where I got off the bus. Tackling my way through barking dogs, I made it to a local shop where I had breakfast. After that I was just strolling down the road when a board caught my attention. The board would be a new change in my tour. It read “Cameras for rent.” What a great idea? Was wondering why people living in other tourist spots never think of such an idea.

So I go inside the studio. He gives me two options, one autofocus camera for hundred and an SLR camera (professional camera where focus, aperture etc are set manually, in case you don’t know) for two hundred rupees. For a long time, I had been contemplating a camera purchase. Off late I had even been thinking of buying a professional camera over a usual digital one. The only problem being I had never used an SLR . I took this as an opportunity to check if I could use one. So now the trip changed to a photography assignment.

With the heavy camera and a heavy bag, I walked into a place called “Nature park”. What a waste of Rs.15 that was! Good it was only 15. It was just like any other garden or park with nothing to see. There was a nursery of rosesand even that was locked. The rest of the park just had lawns. The name sounded as though it would be a sactuary. I still take out my camera and click a few pictures. The SLR was a bit of a problem. Many times when I half clicked to check the light exposure, I happened to click pictures. Juggling aperture and focus was another menace.

From there, I moved to a boathouse on Punganur Lake, a manmade lake specially as a tourist attraction. It was a good scene of a lake with mountains and clouds as a backdrop. I clicked a couple of pictures and came back. Boating was to begin in half an hour. So I went out and took a handful of random pictures before I returned to the boathouse. After reaching there I came to know that we weren’t allowed to row. We could only sit on the boat. Else we could ride pedal boats, which I otherwise also never interested me.

So I left the place and moved on. Now I ask a few localites about places I have to see. It’s 11 am and I finally made my mind to go to the Jagdamparai falls a bit far down hill and a place called Mangalam which was uphill, supposed to be a place with a wonderful view. I had to wait for two hours in order to go to Mangalam. So I resolved to take a Thirupathur bus and then go to Jalagamparai falls from there. I get on to a bus when a colleague calls me. My art director Jerry asks me where I am. I laugh and tell him Yelagiri. He laughs louder and says me too. Another turning point in the trip.

Jerry, along with another senior, Madan were accompanying a professional photographer Sudarshan on a photo shoot. It was a routine photo shoot they had to do as Tamil Nadu Tourism happens to be our client. Continuing the phone conversation, Jerry tells me that they were coming uphill and stopping from point to point clicking pictures. So I decide to get off the bus at telescope point after which I would be joining Madan and Jerry. The telescope point was a good idea, though not executed at the best possible place, at least in my opinion.

I later join Jerry and Madan and we go exploring places to get the best of angles for taking pictures. Touring is very different when you go for taking pictures professionally; quite a time taking procedure. We later have lunch together and go exploring places. by the time we explored two places and exhausted my reel, it was already four and sleep had started taking its toll over me. I succumbed to a half hour power nap and soon left for home.

By 430, I return the camera and leave for Chennai, leaving Mangalam and Jalagamparai for some other time. My incomplete trip comes to an abrupt end. I came back by train from Jolarpet, a prominent junction and another close town. Through just a three hour journey, it was horrible with no place to sit. Lack of sleep added to the horror. Nevertheless, it was another great experience.

Now I’ve developed the reel and attached the pictures on this post. Jerry and Madan have come back to office after going to a few more places. They’re saying Jalagamparai is really beautiful. I’ve taken their word for it. The pictures confirm the fact.

Yelagiri, to be said in brief is not amongst the greatest tourist spots. You don’t miss much if you miss it. But if you stay at Chennai or Bangalore, it sure would be a pleasant getaway; peaceful, pollution-free, many routes for trekking and ample initiatives taken by the department of tourism.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Tranquebar - the place of the singing waves and reiterating history

Another trip which I had been planning for a long time. Tranquebar, the European version of Tarangambadi which means the place of the singing waves. The place is famous for Dansborg Fort, a Danish fort, in fact the only Danish fort in India.

3:40 at night, I reach Tranquebar after seven hours and changing two buses, the last one a three and a half journey from Pondicherry. Sharing a triple seat with two oversized men, I don’t know how much of sleep I managed. Or if at all I managed any.

The first thing I see as I step out of the bus is a group of fishermen waiting for buses to go to places and sell their catch. As I walk off the highway, I see goats sitting, sleeping and walking on the road. A truck comes along the way, waking up a couple of them. I then spot a tea shop. I have a tea, converse with the locals asking them about the places and what all there is to see, apart from the fort. To this, one of them quickly replied “we’re here”. They told me I was way too early. I thought nevertheless, I could go and see the beach.

As per the directions they had given, I walked straight through the dark night and dark roads. Ahead in a distance, a colony was visible with a decent amount of lighting. I move towards it. And there’s an old gateway at the entrance, the gateway of Tranquebar. Just as I enter, the sound of the waves reaches me, a loud and spooky sound. As I move forward, the sound gets lost. I make my way through a few European architectural structures. A few of them seemed to be churches and a few others were hotels. And then I reach a rocky beach. Towards the southern direction was a huge structure. Even though the lighting was meager, I could figure out it was the Dansborg Fort.

I moved closer to the sea. The “place of the singing waves” was at its melodious best. The waves in the darkness were very loud, spooky and mysterious. So I decided to sit on a rock there and kill time. But the scary sounds of the wave made every muscle in my body tighten. In due course of time, I conquered my fears and sat on the rock, slowly starting to enjoy the music. It was still just 430. Waiting for the sunrise, I sat down and started to pen down a few thoughts, stimulated by the sound of the waves.

Tranquebar and the symphony of mystery
The waves roar louder and louder
Bringing alive many an emotion!
They join hands to create a symphony
Or melancholy, yet of rejuvenation.

When the night is at its darkest
and stars are hidden by clouds,
the waves collide with rocks
and create that enigmatic sound.

The sound can not be deciphered by mind;
It converses with the soul.
It elevates you to a higher level,
A euphoria one can not control!

Thoughts just wander aimlessly
in a pensive state of mind.
Searching for answers and reasons,
we trivial humans can never find.

I’m still waiting for the sun to come out of the sea
and give it’s first rays, still rubbing it’s eyes
To give a new dawn and shed some light
over nature’s musical instruments in disguise

Slowly the sea turns from black to dark blue
The sun is on it’s way
A shooting star falls from the sky
What more can I wish for today?

As I write it, the sun is slowly rising. After that, I move closer to the sea. A man was standing there. A localite who had just come to see the sunrise. I break into a conversation with him. Navaneetha Krishnan tells me about the beautiful sunrise at the ozone rich beach. “The high contents of ozone helps maintain the cool temperature of the breeze and it’s ideal for people with breathing problems” said the high school physics teacher. We then were talking about nearby places. He mentioned the karaikal beach and velankani church as other places which have to be seen.

Then he pointed at a structure towards the northern direction. It was a 13th century temple built by the pandiyans, the Masillamani temple. “It is the only Indo-chinese temple” he said, a temple which was built by collaboration of the Pandiyans and the Chinese which incorporated both styles of architecture as well as prayers. Alas, the temple was reduced to a single structure due to sea erosion, cyclones and the tsunami. It was initially a temple of three mandapams which were built into what was now the sea. We went closer to have a closer look of the temple as the temple.

While taking a stroll back from the temple, I was being told about the tsunami. Navaneetha Krishanan said he was in Pondicherry at that time and he returned to see a flood of dead bodies. The rocks which were in the sea caught my eye. The looked like a group of bricks. They were in fact, the walls of the temple, another victim of the devastating Tsunami!

Later he talked about the dutch colony which had settled in the area. The Danish came in 1602 and built the Dansborg fort. They sent two german missionaries for propogating crhistianity and for social service, Barthalomeus Ziegenbalg and Plutschau. Ziegenbalg was apparently a friend of John Guttenburg who invented the printing press. Ziegenbalg, brought the printing press to India. He learnt and mastered Tamil in two years and printed the Tamil Bible. That was the first book printed in India, in the first printing press in India.

Later on Navaneethakrishanan returned and I went around seeing the place, waiting for the fort to open at 10 AM. There was a cross erected besides the sea. A memorial dedicated to Ziegelbalg and Plutschau. There was a New Jerusalem church built in the 17th century, a Zion Church and a few schools, some of which were boarding schools. One interesting fact about Tranquebar is that it is a place of great religious harmony. With numerable churches, mosques and temples in the same area.

Next I see a Ziegelbaulg memorial which enlists his achievements. I instantly developed a great admiration for the man, not only because he mastered Tamil in two years and I am still not able to talk Tamil properly, (even though I have heard it all my life and have been in Chennai for over 7 months now) but because he was the first to do many things in life. I have always believed it is more important to be the first, rather than to come first. And here was a man who was the first to carry out several tasks. Apart from the previously mentioned accomplishments of the Tamil Bible and printing press, he was also the first to start a girl’s school, first to write the Tamil dictionary, calendar etc. He also wrote a great deal on south Indian gods and conducted inter religion dialogues. I’m surprised how much a man can do in a lifetime.

Then I move along the beach in order to kill time, take pictures of the rising sun, and relax on boats on the seashore, enjoying the ozone rich breeze. Right besides me, a fisherman comes out of water with his catch. I get to see the process of taking fish out of the net. I never thought it was so tedious. The fish’s jaws are stuck to the net when it is caught in the net. So the net which comes like a huge ball is unwound and then spread out and fish which are stuck to the net are pulled out. The funniest is to see crabs being pulled out. When the fisherman manages to release legs on one side of the body and goes to the other end, the crab again entangles its legs on the first side to the net. The whole process took half an hour and the amount of fish was only enough to half fill a bucket.

So now with two hours in hand, before the fort opens at 10, I have breakfast and roam around when a man comes out of a white ambassador car. Since the car looked like a government car, I thought he had come to open the fort. But he was another visitor like me, a doctor from Thanjavur who has written a few books on traveling, a great history enthusiast. We waited for some time and the gate opened at 10 am sharp. The fort is a big structure, though not occupying a lot of space. It would hardly be 2 acres of land.

It was in a colour and architectural style alien to us at India. It was nothing similar to the other European structures in Delhi or Pondicherry or even the other structures in Tranquebar; the churches were built in german architectural style. The first floor was the godown, prison and rest area for the soldiers. The first floor was the residence of the governors and the priests. The ground floor consisted of many empty rooms and hallways which were ideal for lovers to write their names and spoil a structure of archeological and national heritage. This aspect was used to its full potential with names scribbled in all languages. Anybody could find his/her name there.

The second floor was converted to a Danish Indian museum. There were many things from pots to weapons used by the Danes. The old history enthusiast doctor loved it so much, it looked like he was getting nostalgic and as if he had eaten from those pots. A small museum rather which extended to three rooms. From the first floor, It was a nice view of the sea. It was breezy and airy.

The fort was built by the Danish in 1620. Tranquebar or Tarangambadi was a very busy port and the capital of Thanjavur back then under the Chola king Vijaya Raghunatha Nayak. They first bought the land as trading centre from the king and with his permission, the Danish built the fort. Tranquebar was the first colony of Denmark at a time when Norway was also a part of Denmark. The fort marked the beginning of the Danish East India Company. By 1777, Tranquebar was completely under their control. In 1845, the fort was bought by the British and is now under the control of the Archaeological department.

By 11, I leave tranquebar. It was a short affair as I had to come back home and catch up on a lot of sleep.

Tranquebar, a place like no other, is a place of so much historical importance, yet not a part of our history text books. It is a matter of shame for us that despite such importance and beauty, tranquebar is still one of the lesser known tourist destinations.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Rameshwaram - my trip story


Ever since I heard of two consecutive holidays on Wednesday and Thursday, I’d started planning a “Tour de Tamil Nadu” starting from Rameshwaram and covering Tranquebar. The other places were yet to be decided and so were my “casual leaves” on the following two days, Friday and Saturday.

Things went haywire when a client woke up on Tuesday evening and gave work with Friday afternoon as the deadline. Which now meant Wednesday as well as Thursday could not be off. “No problem” I thought. I thought of coming on Wednesday morning, doing my share of work and leaving by afternoon. Then Thursday to Sunday would be mine. I was yet to intimidate my boss about my desire to take two days casual leave preceded and succeeded by holidays.

Wednesday morning, I was in office partly doing my work and more keenly reading about Rameshwaram. I was done by 130 PM. I mean done with work. Now time to call my boss! This was a difficult task but I felt I would manage. I called him and told him the status of work and that the next day I wasn’t coming to office. Quiet ironic because the next day was a holiday and I had to ask for two more days holiday. He said “But you’ll be available through phone, right?” “Yes I’m going to Rameshwaram but I’ll be available on my phone.” He asked me how I was going, to which I replied “By bus” in a slightly shaky tone. “FFFFOOOOLISHHH” came his reply. “Never take a bus for more than 250 kms.” followed by “book train tickets”. I hung up saying I would find out what could be done.

I called him back in 10 minutes after checking the names and timings of trains. I called him and told him I would book tickets in waiting list itself and leave. I also said I wanted to be there on dussehra. I had pulled the right string of the religious man. He finally agreed and said “It’s up to you but it’s better you go by train instead of bus”

That was it. I hit the road saying bye to my only colleague in office. Lachu handed over Rs. 50 for me to deposit in the temple. “First let me see if I make it” I said. To which he replied. “Off course you will. You’re determined.”

After lunch and packing, I reached the railway station a bit too late to book a ticket for that day’s train. Nevertheless, I booked a return ticket. Lachu’s words somehow made things look right for me. Next I went to the bus terminal and took the 545 PM bus.

Before 615 am the next morning, I have dinner, watch a tamil movie “Ghilli” in the bus and manage a decent 5 hours of sleep. Everything was perfect except the extra letter h in Ghilli.


615 am. The bus stops. We passengers come out of the bus. I’m still yawning. I’m surprised how we reached so early while the conductor said the arriving time was 730. I go to a shopkeeper and ask him where the temple is. He gestured to the right. Suddenly a sight catches my eye. A few passengers are still in the bus. I rushed and asked the conductor “Isn’t this Rameshwaram?” He smiled and said no. That’s the next stop. That was Ramanathapuram.

So I went back to the bus and tried to catch up on some sleep. All in vain! A few minutes later, the sight was worth missing out on sleep. The bus was on a bridge on the sea. That’s when I realized Rameshwaram is an island! Hilarious as it may sound!

A beautiful sea it was indeed! With boats scattered on both sides, and the sun just rising, the view was spectacular. I knew I had chosen the right destination to visit. A few minutes later I ended up at Rameshwaram bus stop. I now go about asking directions, places to visit, having tea etc.

By 8:00 I end up in front of the Ramanathaswamy temple, one of the most important hindu temples. In fact, one out of the four ‘pavitra dhaams’. It is believed that a hindu’s life is incomplete without visiting the four pavitra dhaams. I have no idea about the other three but was glad I made it here.

I didn’t have a shower by then because I read about the “Teertha” where most pilgrims bathe before entering the temple. I’m now infront of a board which reads Teertha Rs.7, Tax Rs. 10. I was making my way to the counter when I was called from behind. A man said “slippers outside”. As he led me the way, he asked “Bath or #@$ ?” The second word sounded gibberish so I chose bath. He hastily took me to the counter, bought tickets and kept them in his hand.

I was led to this deep pond. He pulled a bucket of water and SPLASH! He poured it on me. I asked him if I could atleast take off my shirt, controlling my temper. “Half pant” came a question and “towel” went the answer. He next took me to another similar deep pond. But this one was small enough to be called a well as well. The well was divided into three parts namely Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswati. He called me towards him and poured water from all three parts.

The man was still running and calling me. He was rushing inside the temple. I was behind him in the templein just a towel. He then told me the first Teertha is Durga. The other three were Ganga Jamuna and Saraswati. I still couldn’t figure out what he meant until he continued saying each of Ganga Jamuna and Saraswati would cost me Rs. 50 each, adding to Rs. 150. He then went rushing ahead. I stopped for 2 seconds turned around and went back “ To hell with him and his Rs. 150” I thought

I later entered the temple properly dressed. There was a queue of about 40 people in front of the first idol, that of Ramanathaswamy. The temple was beautiful with various idols of Lord Shiva, Godess Parvathy, Hanuman and Lord Ganesh. There were many Shivalingas, the Chidambaram Nataraja performing the cosmic dance and a larger than life idol of Nandi the bull.

Luckily, I didn’t see the teertha man again and I found my slippers just where I removed them. After darshan I moved for breakfast and had the best Vadas ever. Later I moved down the road coming from the temple and I end up in front of sparkling blue water. I’ve atleast been to 20 beaches in my life but I’d never seen the sea in this colour! Took my phone and started clicking pics. I regretted not having a camera.

I then moved along the coast seeing a few boats, wondering if there were any boat rides. But I ended at the wrong end for boat riding. Clicking pictures, I suddenly realized that my mobile battery nearly drained out. I had to do something. I came up with an idea of finding a cyber café. If they had a charger, I could charge my mobile enough. So I headed to a nearby shop asking him where the nearest cyber café is. He told me directions. I thanked him and just asked him if he had a mobile charger. Yes came the answer. Ten rupees he said. That didn’t seem much considering the requirement. He cut a Rs. 10 token and gave it to me. The next half hour was spent there ensuring my mobile phone didn’t vanish. I left half an hour later with a half charged battery

Ramapadam (Ram’s footprints) was the next destination. The auto driver said 100 Rupees for five other places as well. So I moved to Ramapadam then. Ramapadam is a temple where they claim to have preserved Lord Rama’s footprints. It is worshipped. Above the temple, one can get a bird’s eye view of Rameshwaram. Breathtaking is the word. White sand, greenery, brown sand, windmills and temples all around, surrounded by the sparkling blue sea. The island from above made me feel like I was in some other part of the world or in another world altogether. I would be surprised if any cameraman could do justice to the view that captivates the eye with such fervour.

After that, the automan took me to a few other temples. All had some relation or the other to the epic Ramayana. Rameshwaram is believed to be the place form where Lord Rama and his Sena built a bridge of floating stones to Lanka. One of the temples claims to preserve one of those floating stones. Another is place where Lakshamana worshipped Lord Shiva and the stories go on…

My story then goes to the most boring part. An eventless hour spent at a cyber café just because I felt I had too much time. Suddenly I realized I had just around Rs.150 left with me. Red Alert! I had to find an ICICI ATM or any other which accepts ICICI . I finally found an SBI ATM. But the transaction could not be carried out. The only other ATM was Bank of India. Again Bad luck! After calling ICICI Customer care, I got to know that on public holidays, you could only withdraw cash from the ATMs of your bank. The nearest ICICI ATM is Ramanathapuram, more than one hour by bus. Going there and coming back would mean missing Dhanush Kodi.

So I had lunch from an affordable place and headed to Dhanush Kodi with the hundred something bucks that I had. Dhanush Kodi is believed to be the place from where Lord Rama built the bridge to Lanka. I waited for nearly 20 minutes for the bus. After a 30 minute ride though usual Tamil Nadu roads and unusual conifer trees, we reached the Dhanush Kodi bus stop. A swarm of people entering the bus were obstructing our way out but we somehow managed our way out through the chaos.

Next I’m walking along the beautiful beach wondering “what next?” I was sure this wasn’t it. I had read and heard about land and stones on the sea, in the direction facing SriLanka. But this was just a usual beach, unusually beautiful though but it wasn’t what I was looking for. I looked ahead along the coast and saw the coastline protruding. I felt this was it. I rather was confident that was the place. So I started walking towards it.

I could see water at the exact opposite direction to the beach as well. That was a rather narrower part of the island. Water was visible on both ends. Once again time to take out the invention of the century or should I say last century, the mobile phone to take pictures.

I kept walking along the coast in the scorching heat. It was now getting harder walking on the loose sand as it was taking much more effort. After walking for 2 to 3 kms, I asked a man how far the Setu was. He stretched out his palm and said 5 km. “Damn! 5 more kilometers on the sand?” I thought. I still continued walking looking at water at either ends. Then I saw a truck moving half way between either coasts. So I thought I could rather walk from that part of the island. Atleast it would take less effort.

I kept walking while another truck approached. I gestured him to stop and was in two minds. But once the truck stopped I just hopped on. The driver said Rs. 50. I had a financial crisis but I couldn’t let it come in my way. I nodded

I got on to the back of the truck. The backflap which serves as a door and which opens vertically downwards, was our footboard. I had to stand behind a snobbish man who wasn’t ready to move or adjust. So here I am standing on a flap, clinging on to whatever piece of metal or rope I could find around and my hands stretched out, thanks to Mr. snobbish.

The truck ride would’ve even been a boneshaker ride for people comfortably seated inside. It was like a 4wd driving on sand dunes. The trucks would be at a slight angle from the ground on every turn and where the soil was loose; trucks had made a deep trail. A slight deviation from the trails caused more havoc. The worst however were sharp left turns. I was at the right corner clinging on to pieces of metal and rope and the sharp left turns were pushing me away with a strong pseudo force. I had to balance by shifting all my weight to my right leg and countering the sideward pushes from people to my left. It was like the famous fevicol truck ad. I was sure Piyush Pandey had been here.

After the bumpy ride, I was at Dhanushkodi, the Setu with red hands, printed with rope marks. A few meters away, in the water was another piece of land. Many such pieces of land and rocks would be there on the 18 km stretch of water between Rameshwaram and Sri Lanka. Just 18 km away from Sri Lanka! That’s the closest I’d been to my birth place in the last 23 or so years! I was wondering if the other end of the sea was also as stunning.

Again time for click click click. I then entered the water. It was so calm and clear. I could see where the water was getting deeper. The sand was loose even inside water. My foot was sinking in the sand beneath the water. I’d been to places with wilder waves and sudden descends in the sea bed. This was calm and clear but still this part of Rameshwaram didn’t seem to be the right place to venture. Moreover after hardly 10 minutes, the truck was leaving back to the bus stop.

Time again for boneshaker part 2. I chose to sit above the truck. It was fascinating. I still had to hold on tight to ropes but jus to stop me from falling. Earlier I had to cling on to them. On the way back, the truck stopped at an old firangi church which has now eroded and an old railway station which has been demolished. The railway tracks until here would erode very often, so they demolished the station some 50 years back

I wonder how the firang (I’m not sure if they were British) managed to build a church in such a desolate piece of land which is all sand. I also wondered where the Vanara Sena got all their stones for the Setu because all you can see from there is sand and water

Now I’ve reached back to the Dhanush Kodi bus stand. The time is 5 PM. I have to plan my next move. With around hundred rupees, getting on to the train with a waiting list ticket would be risky. Even if I managed to the bribe the TT, I would need money for dinner and to reach home from the Chennai railway station. So my next destination was Ramanathapuram because that’s where the ICICI ATM was. I had to catch a bus from Rameshwaram.

The bus for Rameshwaram had still not come by 5:25 PM. I was remembering the bus in which I came to Dhanush Kodi. How people were hurrying to get on to the bus while we were trying to alight the bus. I looked around to see if we were going for an action replay. Not many people around. I felt we would comfortably board the bus.

At 530, the bus arrives and I suddenly feel like I’m in a Mumbai Local train. Everybody’s pushing each other to get a seat. Many people still left to leave the bus. A handful of foreigners who just made their way out of the chaos were totally pissed off. I couldn’t stop laughing at their consternation.

There were loud quarrels for seats which were getting louder but never broke in to physical fights. That’s because volume was their only weapon. The screeches of women demanding ladies seats and brawls and arguments in all Indian languages were way noisier than the crackers which would be burning in all parts of the country around that time to burn the effigies of Ravana. I reach Rameshwaram at 6 and within 2 minutes, I leave Rameshwaram for Ramanathapuram.

At 6, the Rameshwaram bus stop was the same as I had seen in the morning. The same amount of light. Only the sun had changed it’s direction.

The whole drive from Rameshwaram to Ramanathapuram was the morning’s bus ride being rewound.

I reached Ramanathapuram at 7:30. Luckily, the bus stop, the ICICI ATM and the Railway station are not far from each other. So I withdraw some money and by 8 pm, I’m at the railway station. I’m bored so I start writing the epilogue for the journey and the power goes out at 8:30. This was the first time I saw a power cut in a Railway station and hence thought it deserves a mention in the blog, even though it was just for 5 minutes.

9:30 I get on to the train. The train left Rameshwaram on time. I board the train. My waiting list ticket is now an RAC ticket. I let my RAC partner sleep on the berth and I’m writing this on the TT’s chair next to the door of the train. The time is.. My mobile is again drained out. The TT just told me It’s 1 am. I’m still asking him for a berth and he’s till walking up and down saying he’s trying. I might as well sleep on the floor over a bedsheet or wake my RAC partner and tell him to share the berth.

I don’t know how I’ll sleep or if at all I would sleep. But tonight I’m glad for visiting Rameshwaram. I don’t know if a hindu’s life is incomplete without visiting Rameshwaram or if a nature lover would feel complete by visiting Rameshwaram. All I know is that is, by far one of my best holiday destinations. The only thing I regret is not going for a boat ride. But I will definitely next time. So is there a next time? I can bet my life on it.