Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Baggage compartment 62 to Thanjavur

Like every other weekend I get here, I filled it with traveling on trains to temples. The train, it turned out was one of my highlights of the weekend and was surprisingly enjoyable. I found myself a sleeper cart and although it was mid-day I was drawn to the fact that everyone was given their own little space, not letting the obvious lack of actual space get me down. (I had about 3 inches from my head to the ceiling.) From my top bunk, which was the top of 3, I could not see out of the window but was happy enough to people watch at a height that I felt hidden. It was encouraging to see families interact and play with the younger ones, pointing scenery out to them as we rushed through the countryside.  It was an incredibly relaxed atmosphere, which was probably the catalyst for my nap. I was awoken by a prod of a pen on my foot and confronted with a man whose look alone told me that he wanted to see my ticket. I gave it to him and he explained in broken English that I was not entitled to be in what may have been 1st class. He left with the assumption I would pack my things and move on further down the train. I did start this but a gentleman sitting below looked at me, smiled and with a wave of his hand dismissed the conductors advice to leave. In universal sign language he convinced me that I should stay.
I arrived refreshed but at the same time ill. I was glad I had some sleep, despite in no way needing it, but my stomach might have just realised that the continuous rice and poor quality meat was not going to stop any time soon. I was not physically ill but the entire weekend I was never 100%. I went to the largest temple in Tamil Nadu, which gates showed off its magnitude. It was old and beautiful and great but I always find myself comparing them to my first experience of Nataraja. It was very busy and full of rich Indians with their overweight over loved children; lots of photos being taken and crap being bought by the attention seeking vendors. There is a fine balance between visiting something really religious, somewhere were people go to worship, and something that is historic and touristic. Both are good in their own right, but it maybe unfair to compare them, my view will always be bias. Another interesting, and sadly flattering for me, is the amount of people who come up to me and want a photo with me. They don’t even think I am famous but just want a photo with a westerner. I remember Sarah Harrison telling me about this when she lived in Tokyo. I had 3 photos at this visit and plenty more conversations and handshakes.
The next day I visited a palace in Thanjavur, where I took photos in secret as I wasn’t prepared to pay a “camera charge” on top of paying an entrance fee. Is that even legal? The money certainly wasn’t being spent well and the palace was overrun with amateur graffiti on the walls where people had felt the urge to scribble their name and date. In all honestly I was quick to get round the palace as it was Sunday and Darren Clarke had a much more important round I wanted to see. I enjoyed his interview the day after, no one could tell if he was drunk or just really Irish, possible the two go hand in hand.
I arrived back on Monday afternoon. I rested, had some food, watched some Jackie Chan in Tamil and had an early night.

Baggage compartment 62

The gentleman who helped me keep my seat

Gates to the temple

Laura being asked to have a photo with a baby

Part of the main temple

Inside the palace

Palace corridoors

Palace courtyard

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