Date archives "February 2008"

A Road Trip to Thanjuvar

Thanjuvar is an old Indian town that has an even older temple, 1,500 years at the last estimate. It is said to be a wonder of ancient architecture, but more on that later.

The journey itself was due to take around 6-7 hours because the place was 300 KM away. Aravind told me I would be picked up around 5am and he would come over at 4.30am to wake me up.

Foolishly, or possibly just a case of absent mindedness, I forgot that this was India, so while I got up for 4.30am to leave by 5am, what they actually meant was “we’ll say we’ll leave at 5am, but actually it will be more like 6.30”.

The three guys I went with were called Prakshy, Udi and Raj.

The main purpose of the trip was for Udi to covertly go and meet his new Fiance, a girl that he’d only met once before, briefly, at an engagement ceremony at a temple in Chennai.

I say covertly because within his family there is a tradition that once you are engaged to a girl, you don’t see them again until the wedding day. In Udi’s case, this wasn’t to be until the end of May.

The first stop on the journey was a place called Pondicherry, an old French colony that still has strong ties to France. The purpose of the stop over here was not to experience and take in the culture and admire the French influence on the architecture and city lay out, it was simply because you can buy cheap booze here.

Stocked up on booze, we proceeded down to Thanjuvar which meant taking winding country roads where the farmers were out in the padi fields and workers were piling up the harvested rice by the side of the road.

The method by which you separate the rice ‘seed’ from the rest of the plant is quite simple in india. You spread out all the stalks across the road and let the cars, lorries, bikes, tractors and tuk-tuks drive across it all, therby separating the rice from the plant.

Several boozy hours later (and it should be noted that this included the driver, an otherwise respected and successful MD in Chennai) we arrived at the hotel which was very nice indeed!

Udi met up with his fiance, and the rest of us (which now included a lawyer from Thanjuvar) headed off to the ancient temple.

I finally realised a lifelong dream and went face to face with an elephant (as in, it was free to go about anywhere). I did the traditionl of giving it a rupee coin in it’s trunk, which it passes on to it’s master and then pats you on the head with it’s trunk to ‘bless’ you.

All very cool.

There are actually three temples within the main walls and I went in all of them to be blessed by the Gods. This involves doing something with a candle (who knows what? I just copied everyone else) and then having the priest put some chalk on your head.

To be honest, I did feel a little bit uncomfortable because although I was there as a tourist and gawping at the sights, most people were there to worship their Gods.

The temple done, we went back to the hotel, had a few more beers, bribed one of the workers to let us go out in the roof top swimming pool before calling it a night.

Mosquito Bite Count: 26

Three Men Get Locked in a Room

It sounds like it could be the start of a bad joke, but no, today it actually happened. The hilarity of the situation is going to be lost a fair bit but here’s what happened.

One of the rooms in my apartment has been locked since I arrived due to a faulty door handle. This morning it was eventually opened by the manager of the apartment block. To prove that the door handle was working again, he demonstrated several times that the lock was going in and out as normal.

Then, for reasons unknown, the manager, the watchman and Aravind’s father went in to the room, shut the door behind them and attempted to open it again from the other side. The door handle broke.

For about 15 minutes there was a lot of shouting on the other side of the door and the door handle was turning furiously as they tried to escape. I was on the other side powerless to help, but creased up laughing at the absurdity of the situation.

Eventually I saw a builder passing by my door (the apartment block still isn’t finished yet) and I managed to flag them down and explain the problem by means of some vigorous hand gestures.

The builder disappeared and came back with 4 of his mates and they set about trying to open the door.

After about 20 minutes the men were finally released from their inpromptu cell.

As I said, the humour is lost as I retell the story, definitely something you had to be there to get.

Mosquito Bite Count: 22