Kanchipuram demands to be visited twice, because I did.
After talking nonsense in front of the class for three times in a week on topics like my choice, feminism, literary studies and The God of Small Things, I wanted to get away. Somehow at 1:05 am on Saturday, Kanchipuram struck. Despite having visited the same place less than a month ago, my enthusiasm was still alive. Alarm rang at 5 am and two girls, Varsha and I, were out once again in the world.
With the unlimited memories that came by at the end of the day, I think I should help all the travel enthusiasts/ bored humans, to explore Kanchi without losing your sanity.
Things to forget and not to forget at Kanchipuram. Here you go, kids.
1.Auto Drivers: The very second you step out of the SETC bus at Kanchipuram, you are surrounded. A horde of men in khaki envelops you persuading you to have a package tour across the temples of Kanchipuram. Try not to acknowledge their existence, for the first time I went Kanchying, an auto driver promised to show the entire area. But it so happened that you should finish sightseeing each spot under 10 minutes. Also they’ll force you into random textiles to lure you into buying the world famous Kanchipuram sarees.
It’s all well, if you have enough dough though.
Thus, package tour in three wheels? Bad idea.
2. The Sun: The sun is omnipresent, omnipotent and *another word beginning with ‘o’*. Kanchipuram is hot. End of story.
Walking in the temple floor without sandals under the hot sun gave me enough blisters to discourage walking itself for another week! Umbrellas are saviors. Though they might not save you from the heat, they can prevent your death in a shady town. Sun strokes are omnipresent too. Since the sun isn’t under your control, its better to forget him/her while you roam around Kanchipuram.
3.The Date: Once out of Chennai into Kanchi, its good to forget the day, date, month and the year. Why? Because a lot of things that are part of your day to day life turns into a luxury; mobile data, air conditioned shops and mango-flavored lollipops.
The bus journey towards Uthiramerur was time travel for me. Uthiramerur is that town about which you learned in your middle school history; the place where an ancient inscription on self governance was found.The houses there are made of mud and there aren’t any automobiles on the road . There was absolutely no sign of post 18th century advancement. Men drove in bullock carts and women collected tamarind from the avenues of tamarind trees. To keep it simple, it’s different. Forget the era and travel.
Not To Forget
1. Wasser/ Thanni/Vellom/ H20: Heat is to Tamil Nadu as Great Wall is to China. Without two bottles of drinking water, a trip to Kanchipuram (in fact, any part of Southern India), is a foolish idea. There is quite a dearth of shops outside the main town in Kanchi.
2. Planning: I was never an ardent advocate of planned travel, nor do I ever intend to be. However, its always best to know where in world you are going to. In hunt of the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary we were stranded at Uthiramerur. These are the consequences of asking directions to auto-drivers in Kanchipuram. At Uthiramerur, enlightened individuals (bus conductors) informed us about the absence of buses to Vedanthangal. At last we had to make a plan B: get back to hostel. And so we caught a bus back to Chennai. The moral of the story is that if you have booked movie tickets for a show at 7:15 pm the same day you decide to explore rural Tamil Nadu, you might as well google a bit before embarking on your bon voyage. Yep, occasionally planning is harmless.
3.Kovils: In an ideal world Kanchi rhymes with kovil. But since the world isn’t ideal, it doesn’t. There are more than a dozen temples with their names longer than the capital of Burkina Faso. Ekambareswarar Temple, Varadharaja Perumal Temple, Kanchi Kailasanathar Temple and more. Kailasanathar Temple is my favorite and I lean towards misanthropy. Putting both together, this temple is an abandoned place. Hardly half a dozen tourists can be found there at any point of time.This seventh century AD monument is situated in a village on the outskirts of the main town. ASI has done a good job preserving it. There are lawns and gardens around providing an ideal spot to sit and gossip. We sat there and talked about life and shit like that.
4.Kanchi cuisine: To summarize my Kanchi trip in a single world isn’t difficult: FOOD. In fact we bought too much food that by noon my backpack was unnaturally obese. There were sliced raw mangoes with condiments, chikkus, fruit juices and several packets of chips, cookies and masala snacks.
Once at Kanchipuram, one shouldn’t forget food, especially fruits. Apart from mangoes and chikkus, they have watermelons, cashew fruits, bananas of different colors and some long light-green cucumber sorta thing. And they are really cheap.
Kanchipuram is an amazing place. It offers you a quick escape from trifles of daily life.
At the end of the voyage, I pondered over the transformation that I went through in the past four months. The world is a small place. There is also disappointing feeling of being home everywhere; that, every place seems familiar. Well, that ain’t a significant turn down considering the experiences that each weekend offers. Once back in Chennai, we literally ran to Phoenix for the movie. Jacobinte Swargarajyam. It was a perfect ending to to a perfect day. (Except for the headache!)
Right now as I munch over Kanchipuram chikkus, it seems that Google has for the first time, run out of ideas. The tab ‘places to visit in Tamil Nadu’ offers no help. I’ll have to pack my bag soon to help Google discover some. Paavam Google.