A midnight assembly at the Room no: 637 of Tunga Hostel can yield unprecedented consequences. This is especially severe when the following dawn smells a Saturday. The reasons for such an assembly (unlawful?) are manifold and highly subjective. If for Samuel it is late night hunger pangs, for Karthika it is the free wifi that my room promises. And then comes Varsha to resolve her debts.
Six hours later we four are on a bus to Punjabur. So three Indian women with an ‘Anglo-Indian’ Samuel were headed to Dakshinchitra, a place where the entry fee was 120 bucks. At 11 am that’s all we knew. 120 bucks. Its wonderful how much a bus journey can teach us about the realities of life. That you should note the date when your hormones will screw you, that you shouldn’t play any music disappointing to Karthika and that you should never say ‘Punjabur’ like the way you say ‘Punjab’ to the localites. (Trust me, you wouldn’t want to disappoint the bus conductor!).
After getting down at Punjabur, the haste was to find a store and resolve the hormone crisis. Once done, we relished on fruit juices. One thing about The Girls is that they depict occasional bouts of extreme frugality. And due to the same reasons, they ordered two fruit juices for a party of four, while I was reconciling with my hormones. It didn’t take too much time for hunger to join us, hence we decided to satisfy him with meals, which frankly, was no better than the mess food. Later we went hunting for Dakshinchitra under the merciless sun and the rather painful hot wind.
In many ways Dakshinchitra is unpredictable. You never knew that there are traditional homes, artisans, tourists, mehendi women, puppet players and flowering mango trees, until I said, there is. For the non –Sanksrit speakers, dakshinchitra means the pictures of the South (India). The complex is an amalgamation of the architectural traditions of four South Indian states: Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Agraharas, Tamil Weaver’s House, Syrian Christian house, Chikmaglur House, Ikat House and the Calicut House are some among the many specimens of houses that constitute South Indian residence architecture, which are amazingly replicated at Dakshinchitra. To make it more lively, these houses also harbour objects of daily life from the respective cultures. You’d be surprised to find traditional fireplaces, urns, Qurans and Bibles, saree looms, pickle bottles, and portraits of random old dead people. Notwithstanding where in South India you are, it’s the same feeling you encounter when you randomly walk into a nineteenth century house. (Time travellers say ‘Yay’!)
I wandered around these ‘living’ spaces aimlessly with the ‘Anglo-Indian’ Samuel, while the other two grabbed my phone for capturing memories in pixels. It was also by this time that Samuel’s craving for raw mangoes shot up. To console this kid, I had to stealthily get her one small raw mango from a low hanging branch of an abandoned tree. All so clandestine and all so well. After frolicking around the artists bay for some time, I found my wanderlust souvenir to materialise the The Pictures of South; a wooden dice. That should go as #9 for this year! As usual, the return journey wasn’t eventful. It never was (not regarding the time when we were stranded at the Thanjavur bus station at 9 pm).
At the end of the day we were left with mehendi stained palms, empty wallets, filled up memory cards and worn out shoes along with some of the greatest memories that a summer Saturday in Chennai could offer. Like always, you cannot refuse them.