Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Searching across India - Part III

All residents of Chennai should and must visit the campus of the Indian Institute of Technology Madras. It is so overpoweringly beautiful, so naturally pristine and so peacefully quiet. I was put up with three other boys from Mumbai, while U was put up in the girls hostel. Y and V joined her the next day.

The conference is not quite the point of this post, so I'll stay away from relating tales about it, even though I was hijacked into giving a totally unprepared presentation! The IITM campus is just beside the Guindy National Park. Thick wooded it houses five species of deer, with the Blackbuck being an endangered species. The animals roam around in the campus in tandem with her many human occupants as if it is the most natural thing to do. I saw a mongoose family cross the road - four of them, in a straight line following each other tail, in decreasing order of length. If looked so delightfully funny. The campus has a lake, and many species of birds and many monkeys.

I was having the time of my life till I agreed to accompany U, V and Y to T. Nagar. That place eats, breathes and lives on sarees and gold! Hour after hour of Kanchipuram silks and Pochampalli cottons. They entered one shop, and I tagged along. The whole floor of sarees and women on the buying side of the counter and men on the selling side. I was the odd man out!! U actually bought two sarees I selected, which actually is due to my eye for colour and print combinations. And Y five dress pieces, and V just moved from one counter to another. Then we got out and they decided to enter another shop. I just stood outside this time and had two huge bars of mango-vanilla ice cream!

U has an unending enthusiasm for adventure and so she made us walk to the Guindy Snake park the next morning. It houses many species of cobras, pythons, vipers and other sinuous reptiles. It also has an assortment of monitors, crocodiles and turtles. All in all, a very fascinating place - as long as you got the see them from the other side of their glass walled cages. I saw a cobra up close with his hood raised and it looked so royal in its demeanour. I also saw a python open his huge mouth wide open and yawn.... it was spine chilling to get a peek inside its jaws.

That evening we made a trip to the shore temples of Mahabalipuram (or Mamallapuram as it is also called). Unfortunately the temple gate closes at 5:30 pm and we reached at 5:35 pm. So we could only look at it from the outside, but we more than made it up by climbing over the precarious rocks which line the beautiful shore line. V and me went all over the rocks, up to the very edge of the water, balancing out sandals, our cameras, a purse and a backpack and came back with all our bones intact. The sea seemed different here from the Pondicherry beach, but I have learnt the sea is different whenever you see it from a different place or at a different point of time.

The next morning, we got up at 5:30 am to catch the sunrise at the Marina. U got hold of a fisherman somehow and coaxed him to give us a boat ride. Then she coaxed us to take the boat ride. A very small boat out in the very vast waters of the Bay of Bengal, with the sun majestically rising at the even far away horizon. We got wet, splashed all over by sea water, and still had enough nerves to take pictures on the boat. I felt the enormity of the earth envelop my tiny self in an all encompassing embrace of magical proportions. After what seemed like an eternity in the open sea, We came back to the shore, and made our way back to the campus.

I was still waiting for what I had been waiting through out this trip. My first and only chance to meet her. When I stepped out of the campus and took an auto toward her house, I remembered the lines from the Alchemist: "When you really want something to happen, the whole universe conspires so that your wish comes true." It was coming true now.

Continued in the next post...