Lying on the grass staring into the blue sky is traditionally overrated. But at that end of the world, it is perhaps the best thing that could happen to you. Parrots and sparrows weave out one endless composition. The evening wind is surprisingly cool. The neem leaves rustle and the palmyra trees sway according to its tune. And I am at Kailasanathar again.
Plans not working has become a plan in itself. In the bus towards Sriperumbudur, neither Atul nor I knew that it wasn’t destined to happen. Once the bus reached the Sriperumbudur station, we decided not to get out. Hence, Kanchipuram it was.
At Kanchipuram, we walked through the streets lined with unending loop of saree shops. Burgers, Boomer and some awful fries satiated human needs. An hour later we were lying on the lawns around Kailasanathar. It was almost sunset.
Yearning to bug someone so badly, I later walked into a group of kids who sat and played on a tree branch. I climbed and sat near pretending to be one among them.
“Unke per enna?”
“Santhosh”, he smiled. And we were friends.
Santhosh has lost almost all of his milky teeth, yet his smile is one of the things to see before you die. He gladly introduced me to his friends. Muthu was the eldest one in the gang. He had suffered a serious head injury when a branch fell on his head. The scars run from his hairline to the eye. Gokulkrishnan is one cheerful kid dressed in a green tee and denim pants. Krishnakumar is very shy. He smiles, still wouldn’t utter a sound. But Mavinesh talks well, though only to his friends.
In an effort to be a good stranger I started telling the Paiute story of the North Star in broken Tamil. My efforts failed amazingly. Star, sheep, mountain. These are words that I couldn’t translate nor demonstrate. Nothing could be done than to abandon the pursuit. So I asked them about school. Government school anke, they said.
I never knew that a small packet of Marie Gold biscuits can bring so much joy to others. When I took it out the boys were so happy that they snatched it from me and ran all over fighting as to who’ll have the biggest share. Finally Santhosh took lead and distributed six each for everyone. Sharing is caring, even in the 21st century. Then they came and sat with us on the grass eating biscuits, talked a bit, posed for photos and started grabbing each others’ neck calling it ‘fun'(That was the only thing I couldn’t make sense of: fun).
Sometime later, when the gardener came to water the lawns, these boys grabbed our bottles and brought it back, filled with water. This was too much niceness for a day. One thing about these kids is that you’ll feel fragile in front of them. Very insignificant. Small hearts are apparently larger.
When we got into the auto, they came again shouted goodbyes through the iron railings of the temple wall. And then we left that world of innocence. Only to the world of mangoes.
Mangoes are the spirit of summer. A bottle of Maaza at noon didn’t satisfy our mango craving. And giving up is not option when it comes to mangoes. We walked around the city at dusk hunting for mangoes. They are either too expensive or dirt cheap. We chose the latter. Sensing the possibility of a tragedy we also bought a bottle of Slice, in case the mangoes sucked. It did actually. They were horrible. Slice saved the spirit of the season!
All these played again as a string of memories on the bus back to Chennai. It was a good day (Except that I began to feel forty already).
Today, Kailasanathar Temple is to me what Lake District was for Wordsworth. Here it is possible to rediscover and re-imagine life. One cannot say no to that. Its like Francis Hodgson Burnett’s Secret Garden; a timeless place where magic, hope and love grow.