Fiction: Beginnings

It’s fifteen minutes into the training and I’m already annoyed. Nobody told me this would be such a waste of time. I have a hundred other things to do. I’m about to text my supervisor my feedback when things get interesting. We get put into groups of four. Ah! Looks like there’s more to this training than someone droning on about standard deviation and statistical analysis. My group has three others, one is a friend I’ve known for years, a girl who’s barely 21 and looks like she’s just arrived in the city and a third person I’ve never seen before but is clearly good friends with my friend.

We are given a task to complete within the group and the work kicks off in full swing. I find him intelligent, good-looking and a bit cocky. His cockiness annoys me. Not enough to make me detest him. Just enough to intrigue me. The half-day training ends and the girl excuses herself, says bye and gets picked up by a gentleman who’s clearly her father. My friend asks what I’m doing for lunch and I tell him I have no plans. He invites me to join them. I say yes.

It’s half an hour later when the conversation steers towards philosophy. I say something that he insists on contradicting. I pause. I reflect. I try again. Again, he’s got a contrarian view. I wonder if he’s deliberately trying to rile me up. It’s clearly working. My friend watches on, a mute spectator. He smiles, cocksure of what he’s saying as he demolishes yet another argument of mine. I’m now extremely annoyed. I challenge him. He quotes something in Sanskrit. I’m struck dumb. I’m taken aback by the verses that I clearly understand.

He smiles. It’s a drop dead gorgeous smile. “You didn’t expect me to know this did you?” He asks. I admit that I didn’t. “You say you don’t like people being judgemental, but isn’t that exactly what you did?” I lower my eyes, unable to meet his gaze. Yes. I admit.

“Come here.” I hear authority and insistence in his voice. I look up. He’s steps closer. “You’re extremely interesting you know? And beautiful too.” I hold my breath, not sure of what he’s going to do next, but willing to wait and watch. He gently puts two fingers under my chin and lifts my head. He smiles, silently seeking permission. I shut my eyes, giving it to him. He kisses me. It’s a kiss that takes my breath away. It’s a kiss that makes me want more. And then I know. This is the beginning of something very beautiful.

A writer’s journey…

The last four weeks have been intense for more reasons than one. So much has changed. Practically overnight, I found myself without an anchor. I flailed around for support where none was forthcoming. But I guess what doesn’t kill you indeed does make you stronger. And it did. I did not rise from my ashes like a phoenix. I struggled. I cried. I’ve needed long conversations, medication, therapy and more to get me back on track. But I survived. I guess my success rate for survival is 100%. And so far so good. But the past month has also been one of introspection. Of what I want and what I don’t. It’s made me think back to the years and months during which I never wrote.

As I mentioned to my therapist a few months ago, it wasn’t a slow, gradual death. It was as if someone had reached over and turned off a tap. And then I died. With every unspoken word, I died a little bit on the inside. And then one day, my soul seemed to have left my body. I still existed. I lived my everyday life. Cooking. Cleaning. Laundry. Dishes. Movies and friends. Everything but what I really wanted to do. Everything but writing.

The block lasted three years. And then the words came back. They came for a reason best left unexplained. But come back, they did. I may not write as much now, but I know it not for lack of words. I know now that I can say what I want without fearing consequences. I have finally learnt to shed the baggage that came along with marriage and relationships. I have finally learnt that who you are on the inside never really changes. And I am ready. I am ready now to stand my ground and declare to the world that this is who I am. I am still anonymous to most people, but I am no longer averse to meeting people who know my name and also my twitter handle. I no longer want to hide behind the veil. Because I have no reason to.

So here I am, wanting to start a new chapter of my life, leaving behind all of the insecurities and worries that have characterised my life for almost 7 years. May the next decade be fulfilling and happy, not just for me as a writer, but also for me as a person.

On the Vanthiyathevan trail – II

Day 2 was far more interesting than we expected it to be. The beautiful Vadavaaru accompanied us much farther than we thought it would. The first stop on Day 2 was the Thillai Nataraja Temple.

Day 2 – Stop 1 – Thillai Nataraja-Sivakama Sundari Temple – Chidambaram

Not that this temple requires much introduction. Purported to be over 1000 years old, this temple was added on over the centuries, with practically every major dynasty contributing its bit to the construction and architectural style. The grandeur of the temple is awe-inspiring, making you want to spend the entire day inside. Although not exactly a part of the Ponniyin Selval trail, this temple is a must-visit, especially since our journey on Vanthiyathevan’s footsteps actually begins only after this.

Day 2 – Stop 2 – Veeranarayana Perumal-Maragathavalli Temple, Kattumannarkoil

This temple dates back to the time before Sundara Chola. Built by Prince Rajaditya just after the construction of the lake, the temple is quaint and quiet, just how temples should be. It is a simple structure, with an even simpler Sannidhi. The Veeranarayana Perumal though, stands at a massive six feet, a sight to behold.

Day 2 – Stop 3 – Amrithaghateshwara-Vidyujothi Nayaki Temple, Melakadambur

When we first thought of the Kadambur palace, we knew there was a temple in the vicinity. However, initial Google searches only showed us a Kadambur somewhere neat Kumbakonam. While we initially put it on our route map, we quickly realised that there had to be another Kadambur somewhere near the Veeranam lake, for our hero reaches the Kadambur palace almost immediately after his meeting Azhwarkadiyan Nambi at the Veeranarayana Perumal temple at Kattumannarkoil. So, we delved a little deeper and came up with this temple. Situated just off the road in the tiny village of Melakadambur not far from Kattumannarkoil. This Shiva temple’s door was partially closed when we got there, making us wonder if there was anyone around. To our relief, we found a priest who was more than happy to see visitors in the place.

This temple is shaped in the form of a chariot and is clearly a predecessor of the 12th Century Darasuram temple that we visited later in the day. Our guess is that this temple was also built around the 10th Century, towards the end of Sundara Chola’s reign.

Day 2 – Stop 4 – Brihadeeshwara-Brihannayaki Temple, Gangaikoda Cholapuram

The journey from Melakadambur to Gangaikonda Cholapuram was the most beautiful I’ve done in recent years. The road runs right next to the Vadavaaru, that meanders through fields, sometimes widening, sometimes narrowing, teasing it by coming closer and then abruptly moving away, only to come back in some time. The almost 15-km stretch is breathtaking, with vast, green paddy fields and little rivulets dotting the landscape. When we got to the highway, we almost regretting having to leave the Vadavaaru behind.

The Brihadeeshwara temple rises out of the emptiness, welcoming you with its majestic presence. Grand, yet feminine, this temple is a smaller replica of the Thanjavur temple. Built by Rajendra Chola in the 11th Century, this temple aspires to be everything Thanjavur is, but with a feminine grace. There isn’t much left to be said about the temple because several annals have been written about it, including Rajendra’s famous letter to his father from the banks of the Ganga, “I want a Thanjavur.” What we found particularly interesting was that excavations have revealed an underground passage from the temple, probably leading up to the ancient palace, whose remains we still see 2 kilometres away.

Day 2 – Stop 5 – Rajendra’s Palace – Maligaimedu

Maligaimedu is exactly two kilometres from the temple. A protected ASI monument, we still see remains of the foundations of one part of what was supposed to have been the palace of Rajendra Chola. There isn’t much to see there, since most artefacts have been shifted to the museum near the temple. We still felt like taking a look and went there. We didn’t regret it, for what can be better than seeing an excavated site?

Day 2- Stop 6 – Airavateshwara-Periya Nayaki Temple, Darasuram

Built in the 12th Century, this temple represents what we can consider the pinnacle of Chola architecture. In the form of a chariot, the temple boasts of several intricate sculptures, and also a musical staircase that’s not protected by a metal cage to prevent damage by people dancing on it. If only we were more conscious about preserving our priceless heritage!

The day ended with us crashing out at Kumbakonam out of sheer exhaustion at having visited so many places on a single day. The next day would be even more interesting, taking us on what I can only describe as a wild goose chase of temples of which we only had a cursory idea.

On the Vanthiyathevan trail – I

There are vacations. And there are vacations. The first kind are those you plan, you book yourself into a nice resort or hotel, you take a train or a flight and you go. The destination is clear. And so is the plan. And then there are other vacations. You have no idea where you want to go. You’re not sure of what you’ll find where you go. You’re not even sure whether you’ll find anything at all when you get there. And these vacations are the most memorable ones you’ll ever take.

I first read Ponniyin Selvan when I was 17. Caught in the limbo between school and college, barely able to read more than two sentences in Tamil, I picked up the book, encouraged by my grandmother first and my father later. Forty-six pages into the book, I was hooked. Never have I been so enamoured by a novel that I have read it time and again, four times at last count and the fifth in progress. After my third reading in five years I decided I wanted to go to all those places mentioned in the book. Irrespective of its historical accuracy, and inspite of myself, I fell in love. In love with Chola history. In love with the brave Vanthiyathevan and the handsome Arulmozhi. Has I been born during those times, I would probably have wanted to marry one of these men.

This love affair with the Cholas continues. Almost two decades have gone past and I’m still enamoured by the men who built such pieces of art as the Thanjavur temple. This dream of visiting the places on the Vanthiyathevan tail is not a new one, nor is it a solitary one. It is a decade-old dream, shared with Sriram. A dream that we’ve spent a decade discussing and refining. A dream that we’ve spent years trying to make a reality. Somewhere in-between, life happened and the dream didn’t quite materialise. Until this year. When we heard of the Kollidam being full and flowing into the sea after many years, we arrived at an unspoken agreement that we would do it this year. Come what may.

We would have wanted to start our trip on the iconic Adi Thirunaal festival, just like the novel does. But bad planning at our end meant that we could leave only a week later. Not that it mattered. The journey was beautiful nonetheless. We set off from Chennai one bright Friday morning. Our timing was good because the sun was merciful almost through our six-day trip, never getting too hot to handle. After breakfast in Pondicherry, we headed out to Cuddalore, the first of our six-day, multi-city road trip. The Vanthiyathevan trail would have to wait until the next day, when we were done with the minor detour that we were planning to take in Cuddalore.

Day 1 – Stop 1 – Thirupathiripuliyur, Padaleeswara-Periya Nayaki temple

Almost inside Cuddalore town, the Padaleeswara temple at Thirupathiripuliyur dates back to the medieval Cholas (Parantaka I) or even earlier to the later Pallavas. There wasn’t much we could photograph inside the temple because it is maintained and run by the HR&CE and photography banned in most places within the precincts of the temple. We went here because it was on the way and it made sense to visit the temple given its antiquity and importance.

Day 1 – Stop 2 – Devanampattinam, St. David Fort

St. David Fort was the centre of British possessions on the Coromandel Coast until the end of Second Carnatic War, when the French destroyed the fort in a bid to seal their victory against the British. This fort is almost on the sea shore and is currently in ruins. There’s not much that remains of the fort today, except a two-storey building that resembles a house more than a fortress. The building was open when we arrived and a bunch of people sitting there invited us to feel free to explore it. One of the guys there lamented that nobody was even visiting the place, leave alone maintain it, except for a few foreigners who seemed to like visiting old, abandoned ruins. A closer observation shows remains of the rampart walls and a tunnel that probably led out into the sea. I wish we had some access to someone who could tell us more about the fort itself and about whether there is any effort being done at conservation at all.

We also planned to visit Porto Novo or Parangipettai where some remains of old Portuguese buildings dating back to the 18th Century are still around. We learnt that these buildings are now government offices and inaccessible to the public. What’s the point in going if you can’t see anything anyway? So, the Porto Novo plan was dropped and we went ahead to Chidambaram that was to be our stopover on Day 1.

We decided to visit the temple only the next morning as Sriram anyway had work in the city then. We were both exhausted and decided to take a quick nap before deciding what to do in the evening. We learnt from the hotel owner that the Veeranam lake was less than ten minutes away.

Day 1 – Stop 3 – Kattumannarkoil, Veeranarayana Eri

Originally known as the Veeranarayana Eri, the name progressively changed to what we know today as the Veeranam lake. This lake supplies fresh water to much of South Chennai via aqueducts that were constructed in the recent past. The lake however, resembles more a natural waterbody than a manmade one. Constructed by the Prince Rajaditya during the reign of Parantaka II, this extends over about 15 square kilometres and supplies water via 74 aqueducts dating back to over 1000 years ago. Each aqueduct is controlled by a shutter mechanism to control the flow of water from the lake. This lake is supplied by the Vadavaaru river, which is a distributary of the Kollidam. The view of the lake brimming over with water was a joy to behold. We could actually hear the sounds of the waves hitting the lake bund, much like the waves on the shores of the Marina.

Day 1 – Stop 4 – Kattumannarkoil, Vadavaaru River

We knew that the Veeranam lake is watered by the Vadavaaru river. We also knew that the Vadavaaru river plays a significant role in the plot of Ponniyin Selvan. So, how could we skip seeing this river? So, we drove about 17 kilometres, past the Kattumannarkoil town to the banks of the Vadavaaru. It was again brimming over. Perhaps this is why we needed to wait so long to realise our dream? To see the rivers full of water?

When we returned to the hotel that evening, little did we know that the Vadavaaru would accompany us much farther than we thought she would. But that’s another story for another day.

Fiction: Becoming whole…

“I want you”, your voice is rough with desire. I look up at you. Your eyes speak a million words. I come closer to you and press my body against yours. I feel your arousal. All I want is to give. To satisfy. To make love to you. It’s been so long. I yearn for the touch. I reach up and touch your forehead. My fingers seek the lines that add character. They caress the cheeks, the lips and the chin. They caress your ear lobes. I stand on my toes and kiss your forehead and then your eyes. My lips and tongue seeks your earlobe. I gently nibble. I hear you draw a sharp breath as you grow harder between my legs. My body grows warmer, as if set on fire by your desire. You let me play. You wait for me to take the initiative, as if testing my resolve that you know I sorely lack.

My lips continue seeking your skin. From your earlobes to your cheeks. Your chin. Your incredibly soft lips. The little dip of your throat just below your Adam’s Apple. I kiss you as if to memorise every inch of your skin. You enjoy every second of my touch, never demanding, never hurrying up. It feels like you’re determined to enjoy tonight to its fullest. I make up my mind. To give you my all. To make love in ways you’ll never forget. I unbutton your shirt, pausing to explore every inch of skin exposed. My tongue seeks to taste every inch of you. My heart wants to give you my all. As I unbuckle your pants, I feel you losing patience. Now I know what it takes to send you over the edge. My mouth and my lips offer the pleasure I know you need. Your hands seek my body, satisfying itself instead with running your fingers through my hair. Minutes later you draw in a sharp breath and stop me. “Please. I want you.” My heart explodes with joy as I give you what you need. As I straddle you, you seek my wetness. You take control as I relinquish mine. I feel you fill me up. I feel you fuse into my soul. I give you my all. I feel your climax build as you stroke me. “I just want to let go” you tell me. I give you my permission and you allow yourself the freedom. That pushes me over the edge as I let go as well. I feel you go over the edge, fulfilling me in a way I’ll never forget. You gather me in your arms and kiss me again. It’s then that I realise it. You complete me. You make me whole.

%d bloggers like this: