My beloved mom on our long-distance WhatsApp call: “You have just come back from Mysore!”
Me: “The temple towns of Tamil Nadu are a world apart.”
My beloved mom: “Why don’t you go later, say in April?”
Me: “Nooooo. That will be too late!”
I often have conversations like the above with my mom. She is a homebody. I am usually looking for the next travel adventure.
This time it was no different. Wrong, it was different.
When I said it will be “too late” I had no idea that barely two weeks after my return from a 7-day exploration of the temple towns of Tamil Nadu, the world would be turned completely topsy-turvy by a virus called COVID-19. Especially my own city, Mumbai. Curfews. Lockdowns. Flights, trains, buses, cabs—all services cancelled. I have been living, like others in the Maximum City which never sleeps, in self-isolation since the 22nd of March. No one in my gated community is allowed to step out of one’s main doors. Today is the 9th day.
There is absolute silence everywhere. Even the pigeons have decided to give my balconies a miss. I look out from my 16th floor apartment and whoa, I see them strutting on the highway and flying in low circles over the lawns below instead. Free. I can even hear sparrows chirping. And it hits me that maybe they came to my balconies for refuge, to save themselves from the noise and pollution we heap, unthinking, everywhere and anywhere we can.
I am, like you, cooped up in my home with no idea of when this will end. This morning the numbers were 722,350 cases in 199 countries and territories globally. 33,980 deaths globally. Even as I write this paragraph, the numbers keep going up.
Dear Reader, don’t leave your dreams and passions for tomorrow! This is the one key reiteration I have had from this ongoing pandemic.
When I went to Trichy [short form for Tiruchirappalli] earlier this month and stood on Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple’s roof, surrounded by the colossal, colourful gopuras over the gateways, I had gasped at the sheer beauty around me. Gods, goddesses, local legends, and secular folks were piled up high on the towers. A heady eclectic riot of characters and stories, surreal in its vivid intensity.
The temple complex is India’s largest functioning temple and a mini-city in itself with 7 enclosures, nestled within each other, punctuated with 21 towering gopuras [entrances with towers]. Vishnu, the presiding deity lies on a coiled snake in the innermost sanctum. Over the past 2,000 years, every dynasty ruling the region has added its bit to this mind-boggling structure.
When I close my eyes even now, I can feel I am back in Trichy. Back on that roof of the tentatively-listed UNESCO World Heritage Site. The deities all around me, partly lost in their own worlds, and partly amused at my bewitchment with them.
Once we are out of this pandemic, do travel, whenever you can. Or whatever it is that makes you super-happy and does not cause harm to others. Don’t leave it for another tomorrow. Gasp at the wonders whilst there is still a gasp and a wonder—and the twain can meet. ❤
Detail: Vishnu seated under the hood of the serpent god Sheshnaga with his consorts Sridevi [Laxmi] to his left, and Bhudevi and Neeladevi to his right.
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[Note: This blog post is part of a series from my solo and independent travel to the temple towns of Tamil Nadu over 7 days in the first week of March 2020. To read more posts on Tamil Nadu, click here.]