Friday, July 07, 2006

Chennai to Rameshwaram

After procrastinating for as long as I possibly could, I decided that I should update my blog at once! :D

So I’m back from my vacation in parts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. It was gooood! We were most of the time beside a beach, and as I loooooooove water, I enjoyed myself immensely!

So first of all, from Hyderabad we went to Chennai. Suffice to say Chennai was as hot as hell! On the first day we went for a day trip to Pondicherry, which was even worse than Chennai, weather-wise that is. We went to the Auroville Visitor’s Centre first and ate cake and did a bit of shopping. How’s that for spiritual?!

My parents refused to walk the 10-15 minutes that it probably takes to go to the still under-construction meditation center. I’d heard, and seen pictures too, of the uniquely shaped dome, and wanted to see it, but well, Lazy Parents prevented me from doing so. According to Lazy Dad, “We won’t be allowed inside anyway, so what’s the use?!” Well, we could have seen it from the outside!!!

Anyway, we then saw Aurobindo Ashram. It was a quiet place maybe because there were notices all over the place urging everyone to be silent! Unfortunately I’m not the most spiritual person in the world, so I really can’t say how the Ashram affected me or didn’t affect me or… whatever!

The hotel that we had lunch in was bang opposite the sea-face promenade. So we posed for pics after having a hearty meal! The colour of the sea was a wonderful blue. My friend Annie could tell us all the exact shade of blue shown in this pic!! Hehe!

So that was Day 1. On Day 2 we went to the V. G. P. Universal Kingdom Park. When we entered a ‘Human Statue’ greeted us. It was a man who looked like he acted as the villain’s third henchman in masala South Indian movies in his spare time! I could just imagine him laughing that fake laugh that villainous henchmen laugh when the hero’s mother, sister, wife/girl friend, third cousin etc. have been kidnapped and are crying for mercy! LOL!

The guy did stand perfectly still, and there were a gaggle of kids and adults cracking jokes and flapping their hands, hell bent on making him move, and in the process making fools of themselves!

But my brother, D, and I noticed that though his body was still, his eyes roved constantly! And so D directed me to take a close up of his roving eyes on the camcorder, and we acted like this was the proof needed in some serious criminal case! :D

After the ‘Human Statue’, we came across a roller coaster. I was very, very, very excited, as I’m crazy about roller coasters. I want to sit in each and every roller coaster ever built on this planet! So D and I clambered in and when the car dipped for the first time I let out a scream and clutched on to D and didn’t let go or stop screaming until the car halted at the end! I loooooooved it!!! And if anyone is wondering, the screaming is not under my control; I can’t help but scream, even when I try not to, my mouth just cannot remain close!

After the ride we learnt that digital cameras are placed at strategic places all over the roller coaster. These pictures were then displayed to us on a computer screen, and in most of them my mouth is wide-open! I look like a cartoon! And in one of the pics I look like I’m digging my nose!!! I really wasn’t though!

We then went to the V. G. P. beach, and nearly burned our soles off on the hot, hot sand! The water here didn’t look all that great.

After V. G. P. we made our way to Mahabalipuram/Mammallapuram. There we saw the Five Rathas and the Shore Temple. We also some caves and a lighthouse. As I had mentioned in my last blog, I’m very interested in ruins and old monuments. I would have liked to spend more time looking at both these monuments, but as usual, my parents are always in a hurry to get from one place to another, so I had to satisfy myself with taking a few quick pics, which are displayed below. The lighthouse pic was taken by D.

After gazing at the temples we returned back to Chennai. Next day we had to catch the train for Rameshwaram from a place called Tambaram, which is about 2-3 hours away from Chennai. So our parents had given us strict instructions to wake up as early as possible, and we were to be on our way by 10 AM. But of course, we weren’t! As it was a Monday we were caught in massive traffic jams and Dad grumbled all the way to Tambaram, “Why couldn’t you people (that is, D and myself) be on time? We are going to miss the train now! When I tell you to be dressed on time, you be dressed on time! Now we’ll have to waste a day in Tambaram, blah, blah…!” It’s really hard to get him to stop once he starts!

As is her wont, my mother grew a tad hysterical when the driver said that it would take us another hour to get there, and our train was supposed to leave in exactly an hour. Now it was Ma’s turn, “One hour?! Humari train ek ghante mein chaley jayegi (Our train will leave in one hour’s time)!!!” she screeched at the driver. The driver then took it on himself to get us there on time and drove in the most incredible manner! I was sure that forget Tambaram, I would straight away reach heaven itself! Ma screeched once more, “Itna fast mut chalaao (Don’t drive so fast!)!!” Aah! Fun times! :D

Of course now I can laugh about it, but at that moment all I wanted to do was to stuff something down both my parents’ throats! I do love them so dearly!

Anyhow, we reached Tambaram station with half an hour to spare thanks to our dare devil of a driver! So we did not miss the train and both my parents cooled down a bit.

We reached Rameshwaram next morning at about 7 AM. All I wanted to do was crash as soon as we got to our hotel. But my parents insisted that we eat breakfast first and then we can all sleep for a while.

After we finished breakfast, our steward told us that we should go boating right there right now as the hotel’s boat guy was free. I wanted to protest, but the boat guy said that it would be only for an hour and that the water comes up to only the waist. I didn’t understand what that had to do with anything and so we all trooped down to the beach.

The water was a beautiful bluish-green! Small, narrow boats were bobbing up and down on the waves. Ma wondered if we too would be riding in these boats and had her fear confirmed! Ma has a morbid fear of boats capsizing with her in them!

We saw some dead starfish on the beach. And D got totally excited. He somehow likes looking at dead things like frogs and such others!

Anyway, we scrambled into the boat and pushed off seawards.

The boatman (BM), who by the way, had the most brilliant white smile, stopped the boat a few km from the shore and got down into the water and fished out a dead crab. So there we were sitting, expecting him to fish out more stuff out of the sea, hopefully not dead! But he produced some snorkeling goggles and asked us to step down from the boat. That was when the “the water comes up to only the waist” comment began to make sense to me. My parents were horrified at the idea of getting off the boat into the water, but D and I couldn't be stopped! We got down and stood on the ocean bottom! The water did come up to only my waist. All we wore were the goggles, no wet-suit nothing! I was dressed in a kurti and pants! :))

Then BM taught us how to fix the goggles and attached the breathing pipe. At first I could keep my face down in the water for only a few seconds as I thought that I would be able to breathe naturally from the pipe. But as I found out, this is not how it works. I had to keep on breathing in and out consciously. After I got the hang of it I stayed submerged for long minutes. We saw all kinds of fish and even live starfish! I even held one in my hand, while D held a live squirming crab. We also saw some sea urchins.

After a while we got back into the boat and BM took us to where the corals were. This time we were told to keep our slippers (hawai chappals) on. This part of the sea bottom was terribly slippery. The water was much higher and the waves stronger. The three of us held on to each other’s hands tightly all the time. BM would sometimes swim ahead and then indicate with his hands to follow him. We saw heaps of corals. Most were pinkish-orange in colour. They were so pretty! I even tried sitting on a big one that was shaped like a stool! But the strong waves wouldn’t let me! :)) I wish that we had had an underwater camera to capture all these delightful sights!

It was D who lost one of his slippers first. He found it floating behind him! Then I too lost my slippers a few times. It was always the right foot one, which kept on slipping off! After a while we got back to the boat. I just didn’t feel like leaving the water, but our hour was up and we went back to our hotel, soaking wet, with sand stuck to our feet! The bathroom in our room resembled a mini indoors beach after we had washed up!

Due to the lost slippers D cut his feet on the corals a couple of times. I too got a cut. Annie was most surprised that there was someone clumsier than me, because I have a great propensity to trip over even flat surfaces!

Then in the evening we went to see the main temple, the Ramananthanswamy temple. The unique thing about this temple is that there are about 22 wells in it and before taking darshan one has to be drenched from head to toe with a bucket of water from all of these wells.

Once we were back at our hotel room, D started fiddling around with the camera and started clicking snaps of who else, but himsef! I forgot to tell you people that D is highly narcissistic! :D

I was reading ‘Shantaram’ by David Gregory Roberts, trying to ignore him, but he insisted that I take a few pics of his! I reluctantly got up and took a few pictures, after which even I got into the mood and both of us began striking silly poses with our hair in front of our faces, and horrible grimaces!

After a while D came up with a silly idea and he wanted me to record him on the camcorder. Our room had a small balcony, and as we were on the ground floor we could easily jump on to the lawn. So my brother began acting out his weird poses on the lawn with me filming him! That sure was a barrel of laughs!

The next day we hired two autorickshaws and went around to visit all the other temples of Rameshwaram. The first one we visited was called Dhanush Kodi (I think!). Apparently, it was here that Ram, Lakshman and Hanuman had plotted on how to get Sita back from Lanka. The stumps of two pillars are all that remains of the original temple, but a new one has been built on the same spot. From this place, Sri Lanka is only an hour of boat ride away. Allegedly many refugees sneak in to India from this point.

I forgot to add that the sand in Rameshwaram is so light that it looks almost white. Bordering the tar road are stretches of this white sand with green shrubs and trees. It was a different but beautiful sight.

We then visited a few more temples. One of them was called the Floating Rock temple. Apparently the rocks displayed here were those that were used to build the bridge to Lanka by the Vanar Sena. These rocks looked like dried up corals and seemed porous. Some were kept in tanks of water, and what do you know? They actually did float! And they were actually quite heavy.

We were then taken to this light blue building and told that this was the ‘House of Kalam’. Did you know that President Kalam’s hometown is Rameshwaram? I didn’t! Attached to the house is a shell factory owned by Kalam’s family.

We did a bit of shopping here too and then were back at our hotel.

The same evening we walked down to the beach and sat on some logs of wood there for a while. The entire scene was just sooooooo gorgeous! Beautiful shades of blue everywhere! And the wind was so strong!

On the way back I took the picture displayed below. I did not see the red streak when I was taking the pic, in fact Dad was grumbling again and telling me not to dawdle, so I had moved the camera just as I had clicked the button. I think D said that it is static electricity.

I will stop here, as this post has gotten quite long. I was hoping to finish everything in one post, but I think another one is in order! :D
So I’ll post the concluding part (hopefully) after a few days


Manish said...

pretty long post PR!:)
U should have gone to that meditation centre at Pondicherri. Its architecture is unique.
I tried my hand for the goggles & breathing pipe stuff in Andmaans ! But somehow after 10 min I felt qt uneasy.
Corals are really very beautiful. In Andmaan they show it from within boat itself. These boats have glass bottom.
waiting for ur next part...

Anonymous said...

hey affy!! loved ur post!! pics and story go so well together, its like reading a photo eassay!i feel like going to rameshwaram myself!!

s0ulasylum said...

hey Phoe! nice pics! snorkeling??? woman!! i envy you! :)and how did you like shantaram? and wht exact shade of blue did annie say the pic was??ur kerala pics?? :) well long post=long list of questions! sooooo...

rebel_on_loose said...

Whoa....this ws awesome...both ur writeup and specially the pics....looks like u really know how 2 shoot sum gud shots.

Hmmm now i have 2 cover Pondicherry soon !

clash said...

Great Pics :)-

The Perfect Brewing said...

Even I had been there a few weeks back. Good trip. And yeah, nice snaps !

Nomadic said...

Wow! looks like a great vacation!

I didnt know that Rameshwaram was this exciting.

so what are you at now?

niki yokota said...

awww~ beautiful family pics of bro & sis!!!!
im glad we could see u, phoenix-chan!! ^^
your tatoo looks soooo COOL!!!!
many thanks for the awesome travel pics!!!!

Phoenix Rises said...

Hey Manish!
You went to Andmans huh? Cool!! Maybe you should try snorkeling one more time. It takes time to get used to it, but after that it's os much fun!!

Hi A!
Thanks! And you should go there sometime!

Hi Soul!
Thanks! Shantaram was awesome! Very fantastical! Annie hasn't said anything about the blue yet.

Hey Rebel!
Thanks a lot! Go to Rameshwaram and Kovalam instead!

Hi Clash!

Hi Perfect!

Hi Nomadic!
Hehe! I didn't know that Rameshwaram would be so exciting myself! Am back in Bombay now.

Hey Niki!
Thanks so much! :D

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