Featured image courtesy: Camaal Mustafa Sikan, Wikimedia Commons
Strangely, the most undesirable part of India because of the dust and heat hanging over Gujarat, holds my best memories. We visited distant relatives of my father-in-law fifteen kilometres from Jamnagar. The village was pronounced Jee-whupar, but for the life of me, I can’t find it on any map. I’m guessing it’s been swallowed up by Jamnagar, a city with dusty roads back then that I was anxious to leave.
From Mumbai, I travelled north-east to the Ellora, Hindu, Buddhist and Jain caves. They were cut into the side of a mountain over a thousand years ago. Even older, dating back to the first century were the Ajanta Buddhist caves. Some were elaborate, others simple, but all had a musty smell.
When I stayed at Colva Beach in the 1970s, there were only two other tourists — one from Australia and an English guy who’d been travelling for seven years. No hoards of Europeans or drugs governed the quiet backwater beach back then. The biggest high we got was watching a local climb a coconut tree to retrieve young coconuts.
I grew up in a city where summers were sticky and the thirty plus degree heat didn’t subside even by midnight. If I turned on the tap for a glass of water, the liquid was warm. During the high humidity of summers my clothes clung to me from perspiration that stuck like sap from a tree. So Tamil Nadu’s heat would be nothing for a seasoned tropical dweller. Right?
Ramanathaswamy means the master of Rama, so the 12th century temple was dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Darvidian structure holds great significance to Hindus and devout believers try to make at least one pilgrimage in their lifetime. As well, the island is believed to be the site where Rama (as told in the Ramayana) stood gazing across the sea to Lanka where his wife, Sita had been captured by the evil king.
I arrived in Rameswaram by train on India’s south-east coast over a clanking bridge that connected the island to the rest of Tamil Nadu. In those days, there was only the railway bridge to the island from the mainland, so with no cars, everyone walked or biked along the island’s main sandy street.
My Air India flight arrived from Singapore at something like two in the morning. Like a lost lamb, I edged my way through the chaos of coolies and taxi drivers badgering for business. After I slunk into the back of a wonky taxi seat, the driver whizzed through the darkened Chennai streets (Madras back then).