Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Thiruvananthapuram : First impressions of a second visit

A pretty serene capital city with quite a bit of  greenery still around.
Men comfortably sported Veshtis (or Mundus) with bright and black borders, and most middle aged ones sported thick, jet black moustaches and full sleeved shirts rolled up to the elbow.  Almost all women sported long and mildly curled hair – yes – not one of them  I saw had straightened hair ( I guess the women here are either sensible or they have better things to do – or both); and sported long gold chains . A small streak of sandal was seen on several foreheads …and the ‘ohs’ and ‘gna’s and several nasal tones made me feel that the mallus never speak their language – they just sing it. 

Auto drivers were courteous – but I guess some infection from the Chennai autowallas has spread to that city…. Meters were seldom used and if they were , then the charges were rounded off to the higher tens or fives : / .  I had assumed that this place would also be like Kozhikode – where the auto drivers charged only by the meter. 

In the  Chalai market , crowded , small shops  continued to give the city a lovely ‘rustic’ ambience . And inspite of the Bhimas , the Alukkas and the Malabar golds …a lot of small well stocked shops selling finely made and classic jewelry was surprising …In other cities like Madurai, the small ones have not been able to hold their ground.  My friend helpfully told me that folks there stored their wealth in gold….

Gold – that takes me to the Ananthapadmanabhaswamy temple …where Padmanabhaswamy has demonstrated (with amply evidence indeed ) that any one who diligently worships Lord Siva is bound to get a lot of wealth !. Nothing about the temple indicated the ‘discovery’ of the treasure though …and the place was amazing – just like it was when I saw it some years back. And unlike the khaki clad, rough looking and tough speaking policemen who come in large numbers to guard temples and temple festivals in TN , the security force was mild, all clad in dhotis and towel , sported sandal on their forehead and spoke gently.  The free meals ( or Vilai illa unavu as the ruling party in TN would love to call) was ‘divine’.. the samba rice, sambar , pumpkin kootu, buttermilk , pickle and the unforgettable paal payasam – served in clean plates ; and the water boiled with pathimugham ….wow ! And the interesting part – once one is thru with the lunch , she/he has to wash the plates and tumblers clean  - ( there are folks who check it  !!) .  

The Pazhvangaadi Ganapathi temple was small, typically clean and well maintained. Amazing to see the sacks of coconuts that were broken in front of the small diety. The Attukal Devi temple was another example of ‘murthi siridhu – keerthi peridhu’. One could easily feel the divinity in the temple – and no wonder that temple draws the largest number of women on a single day in the entire world. 

Two other things that stuck me were – the large number of shops that sold ayurvedic medicines ( It appears that their numbers were more than – if not equal to – the number shops selling allopathic medicines ) and the number of book shops. 

One visit to Karaalkada ( a bit expensive) and one to Somasundaram Pillay’s ( more reasonable) made me fall in love with the fine handloom dhotis yet again and resulted in me contributing significantly to Kerala’s economy…and that was besides the rather exorbitant tax that the hotel charged.

No wonder , my folks several years back thought that they should settle in this city post retirement :)