The only way to get from Tiruvannamalai is a night bus; I didn’t particularly want to take a night bus, especially as I had already booked a non-refundable hotel. The guy at Sunshine Guesthouse said I could take a taxi there, and the driver would stop in Trichy on the way so I could see some temples, and also get lunch. Okay.
At the first temple in Trichy, the big one, we discovered most of it I couldn’t go to because I wasn’t a Hindu. Okay. I took some photos outside. My driver was pretty stoked for his assignment because he was a Hindu; he got to visit temples and get blessings as part of work. Nice for him!
He knew of another temple - Durga Temple - and we headed there. We parked too far away and burned out feet on the road and sidewalks as we limped into the temple. There was a long line for a blessing. My driver showed me how to hold my hands, and I was all ready with a 10 rupee tip. I got a small line of jasmine, and some white chalk on my forehead in return.
I was the only Westerner. No one minded me that I could tell; I got many smiles, people looking but with curiosity. I took photos only where appropriate, and looked up, amazed, at the devotion, at the offerings, at the gorgeousness of it all.
I don’t really understand much about Hindu temples, but I know I love them. I love the energy. I love the devotion. I love the beauty. I love the preciousness. I love the grime with flowers. I love it all.
I was feeling light after visiting this temple, and as we walked out from the long metal fencing, we got to boiling hot concrete, and we hopped-limped back to the car. A woman with a skinny baby held out her hand; a man shoved her aside, selling his flowers. India is so many things, all at once.
I went to a banana leaf thali place; 60 rupees (less than a dollar) for all I could eat. I asked for a spoon, which took ten minutes to procure, during which I ate most of my meal with my fingers.
Back in the car, we went to Madurai. I checked into the Madurai Residency, which was nice. It was totally affordable (1800 rupees) for what I got: breakfast (which I skipped), tons of toiletries and a sewing kit and a comb and all these freebies. After settling in a bit, I headed out. What did I want to do? There was the Gandhi Museum...but I don’t know. I kind of just wanted to go to the big temple and wander the streets. So I did.
After a while of traveling, another museum starts to look the same. It all feels pointless. While I kind of wanted to go to the Gandhi Museum, I more wanted to walk the streets and explore, like I did. I bought cookies from giant glass jars. I sampled sweets that I had no idea what they had in them. I bought a 10 rupee chai, 20 rupee coconut. I drank a 40 rupee fresh pineapple juice. I tried the Madurai special, rose milk, and I loved it. I looked for samosas but couldn’t find them (They’re more of a North Indian food, but you find them everywhere.)
I wandered in the temple, amazed at its glory. I took some photos, but mostly, absorbed the energy. After a while of wandering, I left.
I stopped in some shops. I bought one of the tops that Indian women wear, long enough to be a dress but with giant slits up the side. (Good to wear leggings under.) I bought a 10 rupee strainer to use for making chai back home, some henna paint, some barrettes. I wandered. I hunted for an ATM, trying six before I was able to get any money out. (India’s ATMs don’t always work.)
I got lost. I looked at people, at animals, at traffic. The sky grew darker, a bit with pollution, but mostly with dusk. I headed back to my room.
I showered because your feet are always filthy in India. (You have to take off your shoes to enter any temple.) I was done. Tired. I didn’t feel like leaving.
Instead of searching for food, I went up to the restaurant on the top floor. There was non-AC rooftop view and AC no view. I choose AC. I ordered paneer and peas, a lime soda, and some naan. I ate this very good meal alone, feeling good, happy, excited for what’s next.
It’s always onto the next adventure!