Serene


This isn’t the first time that a Chennai beach forms the setting for a post. And it probably won’t be the last. And every time I have written about the waves, it has always been with fondness, and serenity.

This week’s photo challenge, Serene comes at the most appropriate time. It has been a month of blogging madness—and a deeply fulfilling creative extravaganza. It’s perhaps most fitting, that NaBloPoMo culminates in that experience, which it perhaps the closest to me.

I wrote previously about the rather sad state of the Marina beach in Chennai. The Elliot’s beach, more popularly called the Besant Nagar beach, fortunately, does not share the same fate, and is my favourite place to visit early in the morning for relaxing—especially during Margazhi.

Besant Nagar Beach
A quiet stretch of sun, sand, and the sea, next to Arupadai Veedu Murugan Temple, Besant Nagar

Photo taken with a Moto G3, edited with Befunky.


This is the 30th, and last post of this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano. Tomorrow, I won’t have the pressure of posting something. A chance to put my blogging feet up for a while, take a short break, and try to put myself back into a more sane routine.

Throughout this month, on most days I had absolutely no clue what I would post about, often till the moment I began typing. And every time, I surprised myself. I almost didn’t participate, because I am still recovering from the health crisis I put myself into last year. But it has been an absolutely amazing journey, and you, my friends, have been the best part of this journey. To each and every one of you, who has read, liked, rated, shared and commented, thank you.

A happy reader makes it all worthwhile.


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If you liked this post, check out other posts on Chennai:
Read more posts about Chennai (hint: it mostly revolves around the sea)

Holiday


It’s a Saturday, and I’m in the mood for enjoying a holiday 🙂 Winter has pretty much set in around where we stay. The warmth of the sun will be most welcome now.

It's all fun 'n' floric in the sea
Fun in the sun. Palolem beach, Goa

This is post #18 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging

The temples of Mylapore – a photo story


Mylapore is to Chennai, as Chandini Chowk is to Delhi. One of the oldest residential areas of Chennai, Mylapore is home to a colourful bazaar as well as a number of temples. Last year, we decided to explore this area on foot.

We began our journey at the Kapaleeshwarar Kovil.

Gopuram at entrance of Kapaleeshwarar Kovil

Of the numerous beautiful temples of Tamil Nadu, the Kapaleeshwarar temple in Mylapore, Chennai is one of my favourites. The detailed sculptures on the gopurams, the elaborate kolams on the floor, and the peaceful ambience of the temple always leave me spellbound.

Kapaleeshwarar Kovil

We then walked towards Santhome Basilica. On the way, we saw a beautiful Jain temple.

Jain temple in Mylapore

The temple was closed, so we continued walking.

Santhome Basilica

Being Christmas time, the Church was decorated with colourful linen and stars.

Inside Santhome

San Thome Basilica was built in the 16th century by Portuguese explorers, after demolishing the original Kapaleeshwarar Temple which stood on the grounds.

There is a small museum next to the Church which has architectural remains from older constructions, including some distinctly Dravidian motifs. Strangely, the plaques on the exhibit attribute it to the Church, even when the stone sculpture is clearly distinct from the rest of building materials on display.

Our next stop was the Marina Beach Lighthouse.

Marina Lighthouse

No, we didn’t have to climb all the way up. But it sure was interesting to look down the flight of stairs!

Staircase inside the Marina Lighthouse

The viewing area at the top of the lighthouse is quite narrow, and it was quite crowded. Nevertheless, the view was amazing!

Marina Beach from the lighthouse

With the sweeping panoramic views of the beach done, we decided to walk towards the sea.

Sadly, the state of this world-famous beach was not as beautiful as its surroundings. Nearer the sea, the beach looked more like a dump yard than a space to relax in. The only solace, for us, was the sounds of the sea – the waves caressing the sand and filth with equal warmth. Humanity may attempt to seek redemption and forgiveness through spiritual and religious pursuits, but isn’t it ironical how that concept of cleanliness, that is the holiest of them all, is still some distance away?*

Our route map:


* I don’t mean to pick on Chennai. In fact, it is a relatively cleaner city, as compared to many of its northern counterparts (especially the temples).


This is post #14 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging

Homecoming


The shrines at every street turning.
The fifty square feet kolams.
It looks beautiful.

The yelai sappaadu and the million varieties of everything.
The nongu and manga inji.
It tastes exotic.

The aroma of freshly ground coffee.
The incense and malligai.
It smells heavenly.

The taalams of the kutcheri audience.
The rustling of the Palm trees.
It sounds familiar.

The waves rushing towards me.
The sea breeze and the sand.
It feels like home.


coconut-eyes

“Do you like Delhi or Chennai?” My cousin’s grandfather asked me in a soft childlike voice.

“Both!” I replied.

“No, no, no. I won’t accept that. You have to choose!”

“That’s like asking a child to pick a parent!” I protested.

“Of course! And you must pick one” he replied with a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

“Well, I prefer Delhi. But Chennai comes a very very close second.”

He smiled. It was impossible to tell if he was happy with my answer or not.

No matter where you are, or where you’re headed, wishing you a year in the company of friends and family.

As for us, we spent the New Year in both cities 🙂


Glossary

yelai sappaadu/ilai sappadu: literally, food on a leaf. A traditional platter typically served on a plantain leaf. For a more humorous explanation, check out this video.

nongu: Asian palmyra palm, toddy palm, or sugar palm (in science: Borassus flabellifer)

manga inji: literally, mango ginger.  variety of ginger that tastes like raw mango (in science: Curcuma amada)

malligai: Jasmine. Ladies adorn their hair with garlands made of Jasmine

taalam: beats of a musical composition

kutcheri: musical performance, typically used with reference to Carnatic classical music. Audiences across Tamil Nadu can often be seen tapping their hands to the rhythm of the musical piece.

The magic of Margazhi

Kolam at Chidambaram Temple

Stone floor of Chidambaram Temple
Stone floor of Chidambaram Temple

While I was in Chennai last year, I received a message from a friend of mine:

‘So are you coming tomorrow?’
‘I’m in Chennai right now’, I replied.
‘Ooh Margazhi. Have fun!’

I didn’t understand what she meant by that. I had visited Chennai during the winter months a few times in the past, but apart from the pleasant weather, I couldn’t think of any other reason to enjoy. I soon found out.

The Tamil month of Margazhi* is considered highly auspicious. For those who are religiously inclined, Margazhi is a month of lots of pujas — temples open much earlier and devotees visit in large numbers for the special pujas. But that was not what my friend, an ardent follower of performing arts, meant.

Margazhi is a cultural extravaganza, a haven for fans of the classical arts, with hundreds of Kutcheries — music and dance concerts — organised throughout the month. Margazhi is, in fact, now synonymous with the music festival.

Chennai takes its music seriously, and audiences don’t clap unless the performance is very good. I found that out on our last day in Chennai, when we spent close to six hours in one auditorium, listening to back-to-back musical performances (for free)!

Even those not interested in the arts — and there are probably few of those in Chennai — cannot escape the Margazhi season, for the art overflows on the streets. Take a walk in the interior parts of residential areas. The Kolams that are drawn at door-steps of every house are much bigger and colourful. The kolams at the temples, though, were my favourite. These are from the Chidambaram temple:

And if you are not interested in art, well then there’s always the sea. The cool sea breeze, on the cool sand is the perfect place to relax.

Yes, Margazhi is the time to visit Tamil Nadu.

*Margazhi begins in mid-December and ends in mid-January. The Corresponding Sanskrit name is Mārgaṣīrṣa. After the end of this month, the harvest festival of Pongal (which falls on Makar Sankranti) is celebrated. The festival marks beginning of Uttarayan – the beginning of the sun’s ascent, signifying the beginning of the end of winter.


The images in this post are my entries for this week’s Photo Challenge. To see more symmetrical images, check out the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.

Serenity

That tickles!

Every time we go to Chennai, we make it a point to visit the beach as many times as possible. Our last trip was no different.

We visited the beach mostly in the morning, when it was empty. The sound of the waves crashing against the shore, the softness of the moist sand between the toes and the pleasant sea breeze worked together to create magic.

The water was cold and I was quite content walking beside the waves. The sea, though, seemed to have other plans!

Footsteps in sand
Footsteps in sand

For more serene imagery, check out The Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: Serenity

Beyond The Sea…

waves

waves
Waves Crashing onto the Sand

I’ve always been fond of the sea – perhaps because I live in the mainland. Visiting a beach is a luxury. I love the way the waves playfully tickle my toes. At the same time they warn me – I’m aware that the sea is trying to pull me close…
It is the Bay of Bengal. The sea here is rough, and can be very dangerous if one goes too far.
But beyond the shoreline, the deep sea is calm, and the fisherman guides his little boat, in search of someone’s meal.

*    *    *

The Daily Post Asks Us To Think Beyond

Old Habits Die Hard!

In All Shapes, Sizes and Colours

A trip to Chennai is incomplete without a visit to the beach – and collecting sea shells! Here’s the latest addition to the ever growing collection – most are broken, but we still brought them home 🙂

Related Links:

These photographs were edited by my good friend
An Old Post – Somewhere Beyond The Sea

Somewhere beyond the sea…


For the past few days, I’ve been in Chennai, and its been quite a stay. To me, Chennai is synonymous with the sea. Perhaps it is because it is the one thing Delhi lacks. On every visit to Chennai, I eagerly look forward to go to the beach. This little post is something I wrote a very long time back. But the sentiments remain the same even to this date. The title of this post was given by my grandfather, who submitted it to a local magazine for publication. Hope you enjoy 🙂

Date: 14 July 2007 Time: 2:22 pm

Going to the beach after two years was something that I was most excited about. For two years I had not stepped out of Delhi. I was definitely suffering from nature deficit disorder. Being the kind of nature lover that I am, living in the urban jungle just did not do me any good. I had all the symptoms – stress, depression, poor attention… So when we went to Chennai, the first thing we had to do was to go to the nearest beach.

Unfortunately beaches are not what they used to be… Even before we could step on the sand, all kinds of vendors were trying to sell us something or the other. We did not take off our foot-ware for fear of any glass pieces pricking our feet. As we got closer to the water, we saw more and more plastic bags, wrappers and all kinds of garbage thrown about. People eating carelessly threw the packaging on the sand.

But the beach is huge and even though there are all kinds things and shops spread all over, nothing can hide the beauty of the sea. The sun had started setting and one could see the horizon. It was not the picture-postcard kind of sunset in which the sun bathes in the sea. We could not see the sun because of the overcast sky. It was a pleasant dark blue sky which merged with the sea in the distance. There were many tiny sea-shells all over the beach and we picked up as many as we could. The beauty of nature is simply amazing. Although the shells are the size of the nail on my little finger, they have such unique, intricate and colourful designs. There were smooth ones as well as ones with ridges. Most were flat molluscs but there were also the rarer long spirals and snail shells.

Everyone in my family for generations has had some kind of shell collection to boast about. There are so many shells the size of a human fist. What really amazes me is that my grandmothers and my mother hand-picked these from the beach! There are also shells which my father brought for us from the Andaman Islands which are the size of human heads. There are even clam shells that measure one metre across. My father saw these kinds of shells being used as bathtubs! Today, due to increasing human population on the shore, not many big shells are found on the beach. But there are many small ones washed up on the shore. Though there are many stores selling big shells on the streets of Chennai, there is nothing like the joy of picking shells from the beach.

Soon we were very near the water and the warm, soft and slippery sand became firmer due to the water content. There were tiny crabs crawling all over the place. It appeared as if there was a boundary line separating the dry sand from the water. This ‘boundary line’ was made by garbage strewn around. Beyond this divider of dump, the sea was clean and clear. Every time the waves came crashing on the shore, they would take away any dirt thrown by uncivil humans.

We left our foot ware further away and stepped into the approaching water with our bare feet. It seemed as if the sea was welcoming us by washing our feet. In the distance we could see huge waves – waves that were perhaps 2 metres high. But by the time the water reached us, the level was just high enough to reach our ankles. This was because as new waves came towards us, the receding waves pushed the incoming waves and reduced their force. The clash was as if there were two armies running towards each other to fight and although the approaching waves won the battle, their numbers were significantly reduced. We went further into the sea till the water level reached our knees.

When the waves came, they brought along with them many molluscs. But these were not like the empty halves of shells we found on the dry part of the beach. These were closed with live creatures in them. From what I have heard, these creatures can only survive underwater. Against their will the water brings them ashore. When the waves receded, the water took them away into the sea. Every once in while, I could see these mysterious creatures peep out of their homes in the shallow water and duck back inside. More than once did I see them ‘walking’ on the sand under a thin film of water. I might have even felt one on my foot which was buried under the sand. There were also small holes in the wet
sand which were created when the water receded. These were, I suppose, for the unknown creatures underneath so that they could breathe.

There is something friendly and scary about the sea. On the shore, the cold water came in a friendly manner and washed our legs-pretty much in the manner a dog would welcome its owner. Sea water has many different salts which are good for the skin. I have personally seen cracked heels get healed completely after just a few hours of exposure to the sea water. As the waves came crashing down at us, the sheer force of the water felt like a massage. But the force with which the water receded was greater than the force with which it approached us. Every time the water receded, we could feel it trying to pull us towards it as if saying ‘come, play with me, like those other people who are having fun swimming in me’.

The scarier side of the sea is its unpredictability. Every now and then, a huge wave would come and drench us even more. Sometimes while receding, the waves would change their course and instead of receding in the same way that they came, they would take a kind of U-turn. As a result, these receding waves would bump into the incoming waves at an angle. This caused a huge splash and sprayed water all over us.

We spent almost two hours at the beach in this manner. The sky became darker and darker and before we knew it, the evening changed into night. We could see a faint light in the distance. It could have been a lighthouse, or a ship sailing – no one could tell. The moon was out and we could see its light through the clouds. Cloudy skies are always beautiful during the daytime. But cloudy nights are sometimes spooky. For a little while, the moon came out of its blanket, which gave the clouds a silvery colour. But it was not at all scary. In fact, it looked magical. It may seem very ordinary to most people, and me too, on most nights. But this sight, on that day, seemed extra special. Perhaps it was the sea that
had passed on its charm to the sky.

Back in the car, our legs all covered in sand and beginning to itch, I could not but help recall the song, “Somewhere… beyond the sea…”