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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Gravity pull at Thanjavur

‪#‎TravelTales‬ ‪#‎Thanjore‬ ‪#‎GravityPull‬ - Rs. 100 for 2 km of distance is absolutely absurd. Yes, I belong to the “middle class” irrespective of income tax bucket that I fall in. I love to spend but I don’t like to throw away money. So it took me a while to negotiate but figured out no auto driver was ready to come to the hotel for less than Rs. 80.


I took an auto and reached my hotel. I was still happy as Thanjavur was the most important attraction as the whole trip was planned because of the Big Temple. I had boarded a train from Kumbakonam and reached Thanjore by 5 pm.

The timing was not good enough to visit any of the place of interest as most will close by evening. So as soon as I checked in, I decided to hit the road and for a long walk.

I love to walk in a new place. Just plain wandering. No set destination. Slow down pace. Observe place, shop, people, road or nothing. However, wherever I take a turn, I try to note down a landmark so that it is easy to navigate back. It is always okay to ask for directions but finding direction on your own in a new place is a kind of fun. emotic

For the first time in this trip, I plugged in my headphones, started playing music through phone and well, started my exploration. The first thing I found out was that the entire place was captured by “Captain” Vijaykanth. Apparently he had an election rally in Thanjore on the same day and hence city walls were painted with his posters and party flags. I kept walking.

Soon I was near the railways station wondering about auto fare I paid a while ago. Then I saw a sort of protest going on. It was a sort of junction with a few barricades which was slowing down the traffic. A few people gathered near the entrance of the railway station for the protest. There were saffron flags all around and a man speaking in angry voice using a mike and a few policeman managing the place. Interesting. I stopped and inquired and apparently found out that the protesting party was the Shiv Sena! Yes, I learned Shiva Sena was presence in Tamil Nadu and well, they can be on road as well!

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Now curiosity got better of me and I started walking from the other side of the road towards the protesting Shiv Sena workers. My phone camera on. Took a snap, walked a few feet and ka blam boom! The next thing I experienced was falling awkwardly on the ground, people rushing in and well, a policeman too. Yeah I was hit by a “slow moving” motorbike having 3 people riding it. All three also fell down and bike too fell down :( frown emoticon

I got my senses back and just realized what had happened. I had crossed the road without looking back and well, due to headphone, I guess I didn’t hear sound coming from the back. Phew! The bike just banged me. Thanks to the police barricade and well may be also due to the load that bike was driving slowly. 

I quickly got up, collected my phone and apologized to the family. I immediately accepted my mistake and asked them if they were hit badly. Fortunately, they had a gentle fall and hence, nothing to worry. They were kind enough to accept my sorry and smile. But the policeman was not kind enough. 

He was pissed off on me. Shouted in Tamil, showed his displeasure and asked me who I am and where I came from (as obviously I looked different than locals there). After a while, he asked me to remove my headphone. I complied and walked off.

I walked a few steps and there was another policeman smiling and gesturing me what was I doing walking like that? I went to him, smiled, apologized and assured him. Sigh.

Once again, I experienced that 1) Irrespective of place or situation smile really works 2) Accepting a mistake can severely take away heat from the moment and 3) Do not walk with headphones on.

Lesson learned, experience gained and well, memories added :) smile  :)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Universal Language

#TravelTales #Meenakshi #ThePowerfulCurveDuring this trip, I happened to visit temples during the auspicious Tamil month. So I was greeted with long queues at most of the temples. Meeankshi temple at Madurai was no different. 

I saw him not allowing people to enter in the queue. Well the discussion was happening in Tamil and hence, obviously I was clueless. He was the security guard appointed by the temple to manage the queue. Must be in his 50s.

I went and tried to join the queue. He didn’t allow me and said something in high pitch in Tamil. I stood there in front of him. Just smiling smile emoticon

I asked in broken English – yes, that is the trick to communicate when you do not share the same language – do not use sentences but only few words. I asked “Darshanam…. Queue?” – to which he replied something in Tamil and I understood only one word – ticket.

So I realized I had to buy a ticket. Because I didn’t have a ticket, he was not allowing me to enter the queue. Fair enough. Considering there are so many people who come to visit and try to join the queue without a ticket, it must be routine for him to talk in high pitch.

I asked – “Ticket…. Counter?” to which he said something in Tamil and pointed in a certain direction. I smiled smile emoticon I said “Thank you” and moved to the counter to buy a ticket.

I returned with a ticket, went to him, stood in front of him and showed my ticket. I smiled again. He smiled back and allowed me to join the queue.

Once in queue, well it was a long wait. Then I saw the queue got divided into two. I guess the original queue was getting longer and hence he started diverting people in a separate queue. I was moving in the queue and was wondering I will go the original queue or the diverted one as diverted queue seems shorter one to go to sanctum sanctorum.

By the time my turn came, seems the diverted queue was almost filled up. However, the old gentleman quickly pushed me to the diverted queue and then immediately blocked the queue behind me. Rest of the people after me went to the original queue.

When he was passing by, I smiled and asked him by pointing at my queue “Darshanam…30 minutes?” (Will it take 30 minutes for darshanam if I stand in this queue?)

To which, he smiling replied something in Tamil. He pointed at my queue and said 10 minutes and pointing at the another queue, said 30 minutes.

He passed by a couple of times and each time he smiled at me.

I got favor from him without paying anything. Well, it costed me smile and being gentle with him.

Smile is the universal language. Especially if you are at an unknown place or do not know the language, smile can do wonder smile emoticon

If you haven’t realized the power of smiling face and politeness, try it next time when you travel! You will be positively surprised!

As they say, smile is a curve which can set things straight :)

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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Hello Karthik!

‪#‎TravelTales‬ ‪#‎Tamilnadu‬ ‪#‎ThanjavurToTrichy‬ ‪#‎Railway‬ I had a window seat. However, it was occupied by a lady – maybe they were traveling as a family. They offered to vacate it but I just flung my luggage under the seat, asked them not to vacate my seat and went to occupy my favorite place – the doorstep of a running train.

I was traveling from Thanjavur to Trichy.

After a while when I looked back, I saw another family sitting on the opposite doorstep. They were four – husband, wife and two kids. I was sitting at the doorstep by choice as I still had a ticket to occupy my berth. Probably they were sitting there due to compulsion and didn’t have tickets.

When I looked back after a while, this young boy – must be around 7 or 8 year old – smiled at me. I smiled back smile emoticon

After a while, he came to me and asked something in Tamil. I smiled and gestured with hand and said “No Tamil”. He said something in Tamil and went back.

Five minutes later, he again came to me and asked “Your Name?”. I guess he figured out or learned how to ask for my name. I replied “Mihir”. He said in loud and clear voice – “My name is Karthik”. I smiled, extended my hand and said “Hello Karthik” smile emoticon

He went back only to come back in another five minutes and asked “What is your XXXXX”. The last word was in Tamil and I didn’t get it. He repeated thrice and went back disappointed.

After a while, a vendor passed by. They bought popcorn. Karthik came to me and gave me a handful of popcorn with a big smile. I readily accepted and thanked him smile emoticon

Then I took out camera to take few pictures from the doorstep. Again comes Karthik inquiring about the camera. I showed him how to take a picture and took a selfie. Well, he asked for it smile emoticon I showed him the selfie and he went back happily.

Trichy came soon and I parted.

What I figured out is today’s kids are not at all shy to approach a stranger. Even those kids who are from village or towns. Gone are days from my generation where we used to avoid strangers or hide in a room when guests used to come home.

He shared and shared with a smile. This was probably the only instance in my trip where I got something for free, without asking.
I also experienced difference between over pampered city kids who are difficult to manage in a tour due to their liking, disliking, wants, needs and almost everything that is showered upon them by their “new age parents” who thinks that’s the only way to ensure their child is special. I do not have a kid but I have many kids who are my friends. I also volunteer every year at my office when we celebrate “Bring Your Child To Work” day and I spent an entire day with over 750 children. So I know at least a couple of things about city kids.

This small town boy’s eagerness, simplicity, willingness to share and smile was so refreshing!

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