NEVER TRUST THE MONDAY
Expenditure: Rupees 107, No: of hours spent outside home: 8, No: of Eclairs toffee: 8
7 AM. HOME: Woke up to Layla and sat in some yoga meditation position, waiting. You better start now and wrap up in five minutes. I am waiting. But if you so much as sneeze even once in the next twelve hours I am treating you with some strong tablets that’ll ruin your kidneys.
Well, I didn’t sneeze.
9 AM. HOME: No. I am not going to be the oversized-shirt-wearing, shabby- haired, sleep-deprived, puffy-eyed psycho walking alone in the city scaring toddlers and babies. So I wore a kurta, put some kajal and wore big earrings. Now I look like a kurta wearing, shabby-haired, sleep- deprived, puffy-eyed psycho. I took a sling bag, abandoning the usual backpack, and stuffed it with those travel things.
Now I am off to discover this vast city called Thiruvananthapuram.
11:30 AM. NAPIER’S MUSEUM: Made of bricks and stone, this building is a perfect example of Travancore architecture: the gabled roofs and red painted walls. There are wooden carvings of horses and miniature elephants that fill the idle corners of the structure. I walked to the entrance to be greeted by a placard. Working hours 10 am to 4:45 pm on all days except Mondays.
Of course, today had to be a Monday! Napier’s Museum is closed on Mondays. The only creatures that were welcomed here today was a row of ants finding its entrance through one of the crevices between bricks. I sat in the long veranda of the building and just stared at ants and people. Most of the people who are here today might be college students. Some of them sat in the veranda and were reading hand written notes.
This is not an unusual episode in my wanderings, when karma strives to ruin my endeavors. Once I hunted down the entire beach side Chennai to find the Humayun Palace, only to be informed by some localites in front of its gate that the palace caught fire many years ago and is now closed for renovation. But not all such stories are tragedies. After continuous RTI filings to the ASI inquiring why the renovation of the palace has not been completed in the five years following the fire, I have successfully forced the government to hasten the renovation process; the renovation that wasn’t happening all these time. That was the one time I felt like a Gandhi. I felt like Mandela. I should totally join the AAP.
12:15 PM. MUSEUM GROUNDS: Don’t come to me. Please! Please! I don’t have money. I am trying to be as frugal as possible these days.
Still, the beggar woman came and said something accompanied by some gestures implying that the child she carried needed food. Her wind-blown brown hair and innocent expression could decide whether I can sleep in peace tonight or not. Not willing to change my ‘how to travel cheap‘ plan, I gave her a banana.
I walked around the museum grounds for some time taking pictures of grass and trees. Half my vacation was spent on taking pictures of grass in my neighborhood, so pictures of more grass couldn’t bother much.
1 PM. EAST FORT: It was with undying optimism that I caught the bus to East Fort from the museum. I was going to visit the richest temple in the world, the Padmanabhaswamy Temple. Having lived in Trivandrum for a decade and half, I haven’t seen many places that a true Thirontharam person should ideally have seen. This temple was one such place.
The entrance to the temple complex is guarded by some policemen. There are barricades to prevent any vehicles entering this shrine. After the recent discovery of gold in the secret vaults under the temple, the Padmanabhaswamy Temple has been under very high security and surveillance. I walked into the complex and removed my shoes eagerly waiting to enter the gopuram. There were two soldiers in blue uniform holding two huge guns.
“Aapko is kapade se andar nahi ja sakthe”, you are not allowed to go in these clothes.
“You have to wear a long skirt, saree or a dhoti” said the other man.
I felt so dumb. I fought with my mother to let me go out and sat in a bus for one and half hours only to be refused entry to all parts of Trivandrum. Sure they do have guns but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t politely convince them “Come on bhaiyya, I am wearing a kurta!”
Still, they had guns.
I left the temple complex and hoped to go into the temple museum nearby. Monday is a holiday here as well. Trivandrum might be the only city in the world where people love Mondays, for Monday is a holiday.
2 PM. EAST FORT: One sip of this tea and all I wanted to do in this world was to run and hug that old man. This is the best tea I had in a millennium! The unique blend of cardamom, sugar and thick milk creates a firework in your mouth. Literally, I burned my palette and tongue by sipping this tea with eagerness that I never felt before. I don’t usually do this, however I said to the tea-maker before leaving “Adipoli chaya”. The tea is great!
I walked around the fort staring into the shops and old buildings. The weather was travel-friendly; cloudy and cool. In one street there was a line of shops where banana chips were made. Some men hurried across selling lottery tickets. In a fruit shop nearby there were a dozen crates of ripe mangoes. There were also flower sellers making floral garlands with amazing dexterity. These flowers would soon go as offerings to the deity for the poojas in the evening.
Soon the sky grew darker as monsoon clouds accumulated for another dose of rain. It seemed as if nature was asking me to get home and I caught a bus to the suburbs.
5:15 PM. HOME: I come back home with a Balarama, a different kind of souvernir. Balarama was our childhood, how my brother and I used to spend sleepless nights re-reading the old editions of this children’s weekly. By this time my feet hurt, after walking around the city for many hours, it seemed as if the leather shoes were eating the skin of my feet all day long, leaving it in an almost-bleeding condition.
Tomorrow’s a Tuesday, where I plan to visit all places where I couldn’t enter today. Let’s see how karma works out my plans for the day.