Saturday, March 26, 2011

a quick hot one

okay, a really quick one. I have about 8 minutes left before my one hour at the Internet cafe is up.

It's almost April now and it's getting really hot. April and May are the summer months in India, when tourism is at its slowest too. Since mid 12 March I have left Chennai and moved inland towards Chidambaram, Kanchipuram, Thanjavur and now Madurai. Without the buffering effect of the ocean, it's only drier and hotter.

I travel in the morning until 1pm, by which time it's too hot from both ends--top and below. The sun is scorching my hair and skin, making me darker than ever before. From below, the stone slabs of the temples are hot enough to cook eggs on with enough heat left to warm up a glass of milk. I have no idea how the Indians can walk so casually and calmly across the stones, chatting happily on their cells, while I strained to keep a straight face as I deftly danced my feet across the stones. Naked feet and baking stones don't make a good combination.

Between 1pm and 5pm I stay in the hotel room, reading/writing/watching TV/sleeping. Very often I throw a few scoops of water over myself for the cooling...only to find that I have switched on the heater by mistake. Darn. Eh wait, no there's no heater...the rooms were like RM10 or RM20/ heater. Not the electrical one at least. The water from the tank was heated up by the sun so much that by 5pm, the water from the tap's still warm...

okay, time's up. have fun all.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Today I completed my Bharatanatyam 'pilgrimage' in Tamil Nadu. This 'pilgrimage' played a big part in my coming to Tamil Nadu.

I learned Bharatanatyam when I was in California. Heck I even did a lousy performance because I have a very bad grasp on beats and rhythm, and bharatanatyam is a lot about keeping to the beat even as the background music goes off-beat. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it tremendously and perhaps one day I will realise my dream of actually becoming a bharatanatyam dancer (of some sort hahaha).

So what is my bharatanatyam 'pilgrimage'? It's a customized tour package :), since there was no such thing to begin with. I traced my memories and knowledge of bharatanatyam to come up with a list of places to visit/things to do to pay homage to my love for bharatanatyam. They are
1. Visit the Kalakshetra Academy in Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai; see them practice
2. Visit the Nataraja bronze statue in the Govt Museum, Chennai
3. Visit the Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram

My good fortune continues as in the 2nd week I got to Chennai, Kalakshetra Academy held a one week-long dance performance in memory of their founder, Rukmini Devi, the legendary bharatanatyam dancer. I went for two of the performances and they were awesome. Not sure if I wrote about them earlier on. One of those evenings I almost couldn't get home because it got so late there were no buses anymore!

I wrote about my visiting the Nataraja bronze statue in an earlier post.

And now I am in Chidambaram, staying in a cheap (Rs 200/night) hotel room that has a small TV with 50+ channels, and I have visited the Nataraja Temple! My hotel is just outside the south gopuram of the temple, so I just left my shoes in the room and walked straight into the temple.

The temple is huge with large open spaces between shrines. I will most likely write more later once I get back home (Msia) and can upload pictures. Suffice to say that the shrines were all stone and beautifully sculptured. Every pillar tells a story it seems! Look up to the ceiling and it's either painted mural or ancient writing in Pali. Look down and ...phew~ mostly bare stone. Hahaha. I found the central shrine for Nataraja and the western shrine for Parvati (it was written Sri Sivagami Amman Temple, I believe it's for Parvati, Lord Shiva's consort) most amazing. Oh yes, there was the large water tank, the Sivanaga Tank (could have the name wrong here from memory) around which I sat for an hour just enjoying the shade and the sights of devotees washing and praying in the water, of kids playing in the water, and of foreign French-speaking (truly most of them I have seen were speaking French) tourists snapping pictures.

It's 2.35pm now and it's freaking hot. The bare stones are like sizzling iron plates and I can't walk on them so I won't visit the temple until later this evening when they do the evening pooja (prayer). So now I know what pooja many Bollywood movie female leads are called Pooja hahaha.

Time to get that cold, sugar-loaded fruit juice and return to my HBO in my room~ heck I watched The Rock and Final Destination last lame haha.

Friday, March 18, 2011

~5 weeks gone in Tamil Nadu!

This week passed by SO FAST.
No kidding.
I called my mom this morning and she was like "eh, so fast finished your volunteering already? One week liao?"

I spent the past five days volunteering in Kanchipuram for an institution I shall not named just yet. My mornings were spent in the school teaching young children aged 5-8, while my afternoons were dedicated to securing more funding options for the institution. Both tasks were important, though I certainly enjoyed the mornings more because teaching is my first love~ wooh~.

I can't believe I was already teaching Tamil alphabets, albeit only to young children who had no prior education. Tamil alphabets are now a breeze for me, though if you are picky, my pronunciation isn't perfect of course. Nowhere near perfect.
I also taught English and Mathematics, and there I used my newly learned Tamil vocabulary to...

Great effect in entertaining the teachers who stood by and tried hard to suppress their laughter as I went about muttering Tamil words as I tried to explain to the kids what I was saying in English. It was always
"Inga paar. Enga yelli? Where is the mouse?"
"Road mil yelli. The mouse is ON the road"
"Tamil-ler 'kaangal', English-ler yeppedi sollu? English-ler 'eyes'."
My Tamil teachers would be proud of me, heck yeah!

Today I had to teach continuously for 2 hours (what the heck...truly tested my creativity and endurance teaching in that heat to a group of yawning students who understood only 15% what what I was saying). In the end I had to sing to keep reinvigorate them. Taught them Rasa Sayang which I thought was easy enough, but either I remained to fail as a music teacher or they refused to memorize Malay words. Funny though that the teacher who was sitting aside learned the song really quick and could sing it well!

Oh darn, got to ciao to a temple now. Will write later...actually, probably will only write a few days later when I am at my next destination.

All the best wishes possible to all quarters of the world now.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Just a quick note to inform you all that I have arrived safely in my next destination --Kanchipuram. Will be volunteering with an NGO here for a week.

The trip from Muttukadu to Kanchipuram was kinda nice. The bus ride from Mamallapuram to Chengalpattu took me through rice fields and some real Indian villages! There is hardly a more beautiful scene than that of a wet, lush padi field with buffaloes and coconut trees in the mix, with mountains in the far back. The bus station at Chengalpattu was very busy and everyone rushed to get on the bus when it arrived. Me too! I had now I knew that if I hadn't rushed to intercept the bus BEFORE it reaches the terminus, I would stand no chance of getting on the bus. Lagi more I had my big backpack with me~~. Got on the bus and already no seat. So packed...haha...the person on the seat next to where I was standing slept and his head rested on my tummy. It was no problem, except that his head was warm, and the day was already warm enough. Hahahaha.

The accommodation here is better than expected. My dormmates are two Germans (both at a young age of 20) who are doing their obligatory social service of one year (it was the policy in Germany, abolished just recently). Mathias, the guy, is very friendly and we are getting along very well so far. We talked a lot, probably because we both lacked talking-partners for the past weeks (months for him).

Tomorrow I begin my actual volunteering work. No idea what's in store. Maybe teaching. Hopefully teaching.

Mathia and Alex (the girl) have internet access. It's going to be tempting to use their internet too...BUT I will stay off the Net.

This is written in a Kanchipuram cybercafe as I wait for Mathias to buy tickets for his parents to visit India. Kanchipuram is much more developed and richer than I expected. Even this cyber cafe is the best I have visited so far in India, and the rates are very reasonable--20 rupees/hour.

take care all.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

the blaming game

My friends here kept on asking me how come I have no girlfriend(s).

They figured that it's because I don't go to the gym and thus girls think I am too skinny. They can't seem to come up with other reasons.

They didn't seem to understand me when I told them that many people are blind, and would miss the most obvious good things before their eyes.

Some, on the other hand, have too many eyes for too many things, and always try to go after things they haven't called their own yet. In such pursuit, one is bound to make some dear misses.

For too long I have blamed myself for my apparent failures in the past.
I shall blame myself no more.
I just realised that I never gave up, I never backed away from my promises. My efforts were perhaps insufficient, but they were never less than what I could spend.
How could I have blamed myself despite these?

And now that I blame myself no more, I feel VERY stupid that I have been blaming myself so much for so long a time. I was blind too, my zillion eyes seeing only one and missing out on the rest of the world and possibilities.

(Yet true to my character...I am very sure that if given the chance again, I would be very eager to see only that one again and ignore the rest of the world. Paradoxical.)

If only I am as focused in my research!

Today is my last day in Chennai. Tomorrow a new chapter begins.

And if my friends stay true to their word and find me a beautiful Indian bride, then I can start a new book, not just a chapter. =)
Don't worry mom, I will inform you a couple of days before the wedding.

rendah varam appuram pakkalam.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

I have completed 3 weeks of Tamil class. So far so good. This coming week is my last, and on March 13 I will leave Chennai to continue my journey southward.

2 of my good friends here have left last week. Though we only knew each other for 2 weeks, and our communication consisted more of body language, common sense than actual verbal language, it was a sad parting for me. Neither of them spoke Tamil (one was from Kerala, the other from Orissa), and English was limited. They both left on the same day, Tuesday, and I applied for absence from class just to spend more time with them. In the morning Ajith sat down with for an extended time during breakfast as we talked about his upcoming exam in Kerala and his ambitions. The night before I had dinner with Pramod. He talked less after his elder brother came to D.C., wonder why. I got a call from Pramod on Wednesday afternoon telling me that he has arrived in Orissa. He began with his usual question "What are you doing there?" though he seldom understood my answer hahaha.

my brothers in Chennai. You can easily tell who are north Indians and who are south Indians based on moustache :)
Sanjay was supposed to leave today too, but his friend couldn't come to replace him at his stall so he is forced to stay on until end of March. As a result, he will miss his best friend's wedding in Orissa (I have a group of Orissa friends here!). I told him that's disappointing, but I have been through many such experiences, having spent 8 years overseas.

I have trouble forgetting and letting go. Even these guys whom I have met only for two weeks--I miss them. Last night ChinJiat called me and it's not exaggerated to say that talking to her gave colours to the four white-washed walls of my room.

Here, every night and day, I have quite some free time, particularly at night when my friends have gone home and I am alone in my adobe. The occassional bat gives me something to do by having to lure him outdoors, otherwise I stare at four walls and .......think. Thinking too much for my own good. I began to remember things that I thought I have forgotten, I began to imagine, to conjure up dreams only to stop short of the walls and be reminded of the oft cruel reality.

Solitude can be a scary thing, especially for someone like me.
Yet I have always enjoyed a certain degree of loneliness. Being alone has its merits. I wrote quite a good number of poems, short stories, essays and even a skit! Some of them were played out in my mind under the tree where I have my lunch every weekday during class break. Many more were born as my mind try to lock out the incessant horns of Chennai (India) traffic.

Today I went to the Government Museum in Chennai. Took me two hours to get there...changing buses, walking around, overshooting it then turning back etc. If I had gone straight to it, it would have taken 1hour 30 minutes I think. Yet as a tourist in a new place, even getting lost is fun because EVERYTHING is new.
My main reason for going to the Govt. Museum is to see the world-famous Nataraja bronze statue. I first learned of this statue in high school history (ChongHwa's history subject is just awesome), and have loved it ever since. My involvement with bharatanatyam grew from this high school fascination also. Today I finally completed this pilgrimage of mine, and I must say it was worth every effort of my getting here.
Having seen this, the rest of the bronze exhibition seemed worthless to my layman eyes.

There are many things that I can say, but I am in no mood to write a post. Let's end with a happy note?
This afternoon after the museum visit I went for lunch at Masthya, a famous veg. restaurant in Chennai. Family-run, several generations already. THE FOOD WAS AWESOME! So awesome that I had to suppress my urge to order more and more and more....I will try to come again tomorrow, though that means it will take me another 1.5 hours to get to lunch hahahaha....