Friday, March 2, 2012

Madurai to Ramishwaram

Unfortunately for this man Adeelz, I broke his heart as I did not make it back to the jewelry store.  Priscilla has to keep it moving and very excited to head to Ramishwaram. 

Ramanathaswamy Temple

The ride to Ramishwaram was beautiful through Tamil Nadu-a lot of untouched, natural beauty in Tamil nadu. 

Meeting Morgan!

Morgan is a local guy who I hitched a ride with to the local temple.  He is married with two little kids and lives near the temple.  His favorite phrases are, “Okay, okay, Thank you, Thank you.” These phrases are very common for Indian guys in Tamil Nadu and quite entertaining for me.  He gives me a nice local tour of the Gandhamadana Parvatam temple and introduces me to his friend, Sunil.  We all just start talking and immediately hit it off. 

We talk about all going to lunch, but little innocent Morgan is confused.  He ends up dropping me off to go have lunch in the middle of town.  I say, “Good bye” very confused, but content with just eating lunch alone.  In town, there are local men and women squeezing into riksha’s, men engaging in religious activity in front of smaller temples, and men cleaning their porch with buckets of water.  It is such a religious city and people truly follow and dedicate themselves to this religion to the T.

Walking down the main street, many of the restaurants do not have food because it is midday and they are preparing for dinner.  I end up at a hotel having some vegetarian meals when Sunil pulls up on his bike.  He takes off his sunglasses looking at me very surprised, “What are you doing here?”  And of course, I reply, “What are you doing here?”

He says he is partner in the hotel and he had to stop by to do some work.  He ends up ordering me a huge fish and says, “Enjoy.” I just sit contently eating and he mentions that I can stay with him and his family in his village instead of going back to Madurai.  I know this is a better option because going back to Madurai would put be there at midnight and that is a total inconvenience for my host.  I politefully accept his invitation and am excited to stay with a local family-always the best experience.

We part ways and I head to the big temple for the holy cleanse before pooja.  The swami went to dump a whole bucket of water on my head and I said, “Wait, Wait” as I had my purse right beneath the water.  I moved my purse and let him dump the water. Oh the holy cleansings feel so good-the rush of cold water feels even better than a hot shower- ahh!

Around this temple are amazing artistic paintings of the Gods, groups of followers chanting together, and multiple poojas in different shrines.  I met my favorite friend, Bhovani, and his master.  Bhovani has been in the temple for the past 50 years and she works with her fellow friend, Lakshmi.  I love elephants-they make me so happy. I sat with the master talking about Bhovani-her likes and dislikes and how I would love to sit on top of her for the pooja ceremony.  He smiles and says, “Not possible.” He says that I can walk around with Bhovani during the 7:30pm celebration and I agree. 

There it is Priscilla, Bhovani, and her master walking around the temple with the instruments behind us, the people smiling and laughing at my presence, and me dancing along with the music. I love every second of the attention and I love being part of this religion-I really, really do!

After my amazing temple experience, I had some difficulty parting from Bhovani-my elephant friend, but I had to meet my host for dinner with his mother, sister, and grandfather.  I talk with the locals and drink some Chai and turns out they know my host Sunil and they also know Morgan-such a small world.   I called Sunil to pick me up and ten minutes later I see a bike quickly approaching my feet.  It is Morgan and he is completely drunk! I get on the bike and he is swerving around.  I think to myself that this is not a good idea.  We drive far down the beach to Olaikuda beach where Sunil is waiting.

Off we go trekking through the sand in the pitched black dark.  I had no idea where I was headed and for a second I worried, but I felt safe with Morgan and Sunil.  At the hut, I was greeted kindly by his sister and showed to my guest room/hut.  There was no electricity (power outage) so she showed me the room while holding a candle and leading the way.  Morgan disappeared to the city and we all enjoyed a some vegetable korma, rice, and sweets after. 

We then head to the beach to meet Morgan.  I decide to live a little and have a beer with the guys.  We sit under the stars and the full moon listening to Tamil music. Coongi Coongi-Spongy Spongy my favorite song.  Morgan and I are being silly and dancing in the sand.  He picks me up and swings me around and then after a few seconds drunkenly drops me on the ground.  A local fisherman joins us and I give him the rest of my beer.  We go for a motor bike ride after to drop off Morgan who can’t find his house.  Quality local night!
Day 2

The next day I head to main town to have my poori and samba and stop by the big temple to take part in pooja.  We all stand on the steps trying to make contact with the God.  I always love staring at the faces of devotees.  Their expression says it all about their love for their God.  They would drop anything just to be right there in that moment. 
I proceeded to head back to the water where I found what I was looking for-the temple steps inside the holy water.  Everyone was engaging in a holy cleanse with full scarfs, pants, and shirts inside the water. I sat and observed the men performing their rituals taking such detail to their work and having love for their fellow God. Behind the temple, there was a place for followers to have their heads shaved bald.  I watched razors slowly taking off big heads of hair. 
I called my friend Sunil and he came to pick me up to take me off snorkeling. I thought he was going to join me and show me some good reefs, but he gave me the googles and equipment and dropped me off. I did not have a bathing suit rather I just had a dorga and a small top.  I jumped in the water with just this small dorga and top and decided to just take it off because it was too difficult to try and snorkel while holding these items on.  The water was foggy and I was unable to see so I just went out deep into the ocean, swam around, and meditated.  It was so peaceful being out there and the water was so fresh and clear.  Beautiful, beautiful moment. 
Another fish for lunch, said our good byes, and then off on the bus to Madurai.  I meet a nice Muslim woman who is a teacher at the local school.  She travels 80 kilometers to and from work everyday for the past 5 years.  The government schools do not transfer her to a new school rather she is just stuck with what they decide-not fair, but a reality of India. 

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