On a lazy Saturday morning I decide to take a walk down the little south Indian community in the central part of the city.
The colourful and splendid gopurum of the local temple breaks the blue of the city skyline. Lord Vishnu reclining on the Shesh Nag with his consort Lakshmi, the great churning of the sea – Samudra Manthan; there is aeons of mythology carved out on the tall and stately gopura. Inside the temple the air is thick with the fragrance of jasmine incense and sandalwood. From the sanctum, the Deity – freshly bathed and forehead resplendent with saffron and sandalwood paste – watches over the business of the world. The place is quiet except for the priest muttering holy verses under his breath. At the evening prayers more devotees stream into the temple complex and the milieu then is a sharp contrast. With the rhythmic chanting of paeans, a thousand bells toll in unison. A thousand fervent appeals go up to God.
I leave the place soundlessly.
Outside the temple gates lie basketfuls of immaculate white, velvety mogra. The tiny blossoms are strung together by deft hands to be used to adorn either the neck of the immortal or the hair of a mortal.
Ahead of the temple stand shops selling knick-knacks and flowers and little roadside eateries. I stop by at one such griddle. It’s the first meal of the day. A freshly fried batch of bondas is taken off the stove. Utthappams hiss and sizzle in the frying pan. Golden-brown vadas are served with curds so thick and creamy you can slice them with a knife. Fresh coconut milk is passed around in tiny earthen pots. Adjacent to the eatery sits the local paan-seller, his hands flavouring the ubiquitous paan. The tiny transistor radio in his establishment belts out the latest Tamil number.
Further down the lane stands Giri garu’s shop. It sells everthing that would help you on your way to spiritual enlightenment. Books on religion and spiritualism. Sandalwood oil and paste. Peacock-capped lamps. Puja articles.
Located next to garu’s is a book shop where I go to savour the sour smell of newly printed books as I browse through them. Bang opposite the book shop stands the Star of Cochin, a pale yellow building with Portuguese architecture, and pock- marked with signboards. It’s a quaint structure with flaking paint. Dull and dilapidated. Yet beautiful.
It is still early morning and the marketplace is about to set shop. I head towards the railway station to board the train back home resolving to make the little sojourn again on another lazy Saturday morning.
(Top Photo: Gopuram. Source)