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Introduction to India..!

INDIA | Monday, 1 August 2016 | Views [794]

The drive from Chennai to Tiruvannamalai (Tiru) takes about three hours which passes in a hazy state of excitement, jet lag and sensory-overload. Tamil Nadu province is full of vivid colours, abject poverty, beautiful green countryside, piles of rotting litter, animals with more road sense than many people, pungent smells with varying degrees of (un)pleasantness, smiling faces and resigned weather-beaten ones set amid the heat and humidity and accompanied by blaring horns, noisy cicadas and the intermittent broadcasting of local music. It is all so much to take in! India's stark realities begin to challenge you as soon as you arrive here, even from the backseat of a taxi.

I am already awed by the gratitude shown in offerings; the thanks for this life, no matter the evident hardship or poverty. Hinduism seems to be a way of life rather than merely a religion. The cow is sacred here and they stand on the roadside impassively watching the road chaos, perhaps aware of their elevated status, they don't seem to flinch at all. Some are foraging in the rubbish heaps and somehow this really brings home the problem of the amount of litter we now generate, here and all around the world. Consumerism and marketing are built on it, but really, do we need so much packaging? In places where there is not an adequate waste-management infrastructure, one is blatantly confronted by the size of this ugly and destructive problem.

We leave the relative peace of the toll road and sometime later arrive in Tiru to find the streets dotted with random processions. Small groups of people are playing musical instruments and holding aloft a decorative artefact as part of an important local festival being held today. Schools are closed and most workers are off enjoying the festivities, which I later learn include being hung up by iron hooks! My sense of adventure stops well short of either the observation of, and certainly participation in, such customs! Stalls line the streets selling anything from fruits to trinkets although I suspect that for the right fee, you could probably buy almost anything.

While Chennai is at sea level, Tiru is higher and the air feels less heavy here. There are five elements in the Hindu religion with one city designated to represent each of them. Tiru represents fire. This is because Mount Shiva is said to be a dormant volcano. A well-attended ten day annual festival held in December is dedicating to keeping it dormant! The surrounding hills hold a magnetic energy and perhaps go some way to account for the large number of temples found in the area.

Around 11kms later we arrive in Paliapattu and, despite the best attention of our driver, the sign to The Ashok Tree is a very welcome sight. Eventually it occurs to me to find my camera. I find myself wondering how or if I will ever make any sense of India in the next three weeks.

Tags: culture shock, first impressionsi, india, tamil nadu, tiruvannamalai


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