What’s life without some entertainment? So, this epilogue of sorts to the travelogue consists of some deleted scenes, because putting them in the travelogue itself will break the flow. So, ready for the ride?
Scene 1 – Chidambaram – One Deekshithar’s traditional house
It was divinely ordained that Day 2 of our trip must be amavasai and that Sriram would have to do tharpanam, come what may. So, we found one Deekshithar who would help him with the proceedings. Since we stayed 15 km from Chidambaram, it did not make sense to go all the way to the town, come back and go back again, especially since the rest of the journey was taking us away from the town. So, we get ready and get to said Deekshithar’s house at 8 AM. Sriram walks a few steps ahead and disappears into the upper floor of the house.
Me (entering the house tentatively and looking around, catch sight of Deekshithar Maami): Namaskaram!
Maami: Namaskaram! Ukkarungo. Avar mele irukkar. Wait panning. Coffee?
Me: Thank you!
At this point, it takes me a second to realise that the said “Avar” is Sriram. What can I do when I hardly ever use his name and routinely address him as only “Dei”? Fair point, right?
Maami (returning with coffee): Neenga Krithika-ku enna venum?
Me (mind voice): Who’s this Krithika? (Aloud): Erm, naan Sriram oda friend. Krithika-va theriyaadhu
Maami gives me a once over, shrugs and goes off upstairs. In the meantime, I learn of the dialogue upstairs between Deekshithar Maama and Maami.
Maama: Antha maamakkum coffee kudu.
Maami (deciding not to reveal scandalising truth): Ummkm.
Fifteen minutes later, both the maama and Sriram come downstairs. Maama stops in his tracks. He expected to see a maama as well. Not a 30-something maami in pants and short kurti.
Sriram (before any assumptions are made): En kooda velai senja.
Maama (Looking at me from top to toe): Oho. Ok ok!
Clearly, the couple being fairly traditional and orthodox had assumed that we were married. Maama seemed quite disappointed that I was only a friend. Or maybe he thought I was a “friend”. Anyway! On to the next!
Scene 2 – Chidambaram, Lakshmi Vilas Heritage Hotel
Now, this was a lovely place to stay and we had the best time possible. Just before we leave, the manager of the hotel decides to make small talk.
Manager: Nee en ponnu maathiri irukkey ma. Can I take one photo of you both please?
We: Of course! (Nicely posed for camera and all)
Manager: Nalla jodi! Nalla irunga!
Uh oh! One more person who assumed things!
Scene 3 – Kattumannarkoil – Veeraraghava Perumal temple
We wait for the Bhattar to finish archanai. He walks up to us, gives both of us a once over.
Bhattar: En ma, intha pakkam vandhu serndhu nillu ma!
Appo seri! Victim number 3 down!
Scene 4 – Trichy bus stand – Some veg restaurant for lunch
We walk up to the hotel in the burning heat. I’ve washed my face and worn a scarf around my head to protect from the heat. We find a table and sit down. A lady comes up, puts tumblers of water on the table, turns to me and says, “Salaam Aalaikum”.
Sriram: Bai-oottu amma maathiri irukkey. That’s why. Next stop is mutton biryani only ok?
Scene 5 – Srirangam – Ranganathaswamy temple
The temple was insanely crowded. Even at 3 PM, we needed to buy special ticket and all and still wait in queue for 45 minutes. An old lady (about 80 years old easily) was ahead of us. She stumbled and I caught her and said, “Paathu maami”.
Maami (turns around and looks at me): Thank you! Enna ma height?
Me (wondering who “avar” is and then realising it’s Sriram): 6 feet.
Maami: Nalla jodi. Intha maathiri amayaradhu romba kashtam.
Me: Umkmmm. (Whispering to Sriram for help): WTF?
Sriram turns around and starts playing with a child who’s behind him the queue as if he doesn’t even know of my existence, and leaves me to deal with said Maami. There is peace for a few minutes.
Maami (out of the blue): Iyengar a?
Maami: Appo Madhwa. Kazhuthuley yen karumani illai?
Me (mind voice): My mother-in-law only didn’t ask such questions. Why should I answer you? (Aloud): Practice illai.
Maami: Oho. Fashion a? Ok ok. My daughter in law in the US also does not wear. It’s ok. Intha kaalathula yaar pottukkara?
More peace. Ten minutes until darshan.
Maami (to Sriram): Perumal oda thiruvadiya modhalley sevichukkongo. Appuram thaan face.
Me (mind voice): Enakku Perumal oda thoppai only is seen. Now what?
We manage to get out of the crowd and then maami starts her personalised tour of the temple. There is Paravasudevar, here is lizard, there is one-eyed fish, there is lame horse and whatnot. Apparently Perumal gave moksham to all these. At this point, I am hoping for moksham myself from this torture. Sriram has walked about 20 feet ahead trying to escape her, like he’s got nothing to do with me. 18 years of friendship was less priority that escaping said maami. Instincts of self-preservation I guess!
Maami (again out of the blue): How many children?
Maami: How long married?
Maami: Romba naal aacha?
Maami: Kavalai padathey kozhandai. Perumal seekrama kannai thorappar.
At this point, I am just requesting all 33 crore gods to open eyes and rescue me from this lady. Thankfully, she met a long lost friend and got distracted long enough for us to escape her scrutiny. Sriram wouldn’t let me stay more than 10 minutes in the Thaayar Sannidhi just in case we ran into her again!
All this was over and above the random mokkai and singing I had to ensure by Sriram through the 6-day trip, including of Anjali Devi kaalathu mokkai paattus. But as I said, what’s life without a bit of drama and entertainment! 😀