It is 10 pm right now and Google tells me that I am at a place called Agasipalli, somewhere in Tamil Nadu. With a blizzard of headlights glaring in my face. Peeking outside the bus window. As we whiz right past the highway traffic.
I had managed to squeeze in ample packets of banana chips early on, to keep myself good company in the night, and it’s kind of working. Really well, actually.😋
Anyway, the beautiful, beautiful moon continues flaring up the night sky with all its silver and the wind is just lovely. A bit cold but very very soothing.
So the driver had stopped for chai sometime back and I obviously got down because…. me.🤷
It is almost 6 AM now and we are still riding on the NH-44 searing through Tamil Nadu. I am WIDE AWAKE courtesy the refreshing chai and the surprising (and uncomfortable!) nip in the air. Tugging harder at my stole. Staring into the blue suddenly washing over everything in the distance. Taking comfort in watching the darkness dissolve into dawn. Reveling in the light pouring in, welcomingly flooding my sleeper compartment!
Merely half an hour on, the view outside is scintillating. Lush green fields. Dotted with giant, towering windmills. And covered with vast palm plantations. That are swaying with the winds.
A violet silhouette of distant hills is making itself clearer on the horizon. In the backdrop of a trail of many brown ones.
Many bright-colored roofs keep popping up on the way. Almost as sudden reminders of the people that inhabit this pretty countryside, the kind of life that flourishes here.
Oh, and the rugged grey tarmac stretches for miles ahead! As if screaming the kilometers yet to be covered. And the beauty yet to be uncovered!
Greyish-white clouds, looking as fluffy as candyfloss, seem painted all over the sky. Moving about, slowly and steadily. As if having had surrendered to the winds, wherever they may take them.
And the ones like these too, hanging pretty low, right over the fields, almost blending in. Looking like abstract melting into real.
After a long and bumpy ride, I arrive at Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of India! Having finally reached here after a 14-hour long journey from Bangalore, I feel dead tired and just need a place to crash! Surprisingly, wherever I inquire, they tell me they don’t give rooms to solo travellers around here. That is kind of a real patience-tester when you haven’t slept well for the last 24 hours. However, one guide gets me decent accommodation. Which is basically just a bed and a washroom to get by, but it works! I am so exhausted that I pass out in a minute. And after a good two hours rest, I head out for the usual South Indian breakfast of dosa and hatti kappi (hot coffee).
And then, after negotiating my way through several lanes and bylanes of tiny shops selling pretty seashells, I reach the boat jetty. And catch the ferry that glides me safe, over the treacherous waters of the Indian Ocean, to the Vivekananda Rock Memorial some 500 meters away from the shore.
Landing there, the first thing I see is a panorama of a town stretched in the backdrop of a seemingly endless wild ocean, with waters wearing colours from blue to green to grey. Soft, pale white clouds drift above.
Everywhere around here is damn windy as I climb up the steps to the roof of this Memorial.
Inside one hall called ‘Vivekananda Mandapam’, there’s a grand, bronze statue of Swami Vivekananda where he stands in his typical posture! I read, it was built in 1970 in the honour of Vivekananda who had got enlightenment on this rock.
Inside another is a meditation room, also called the ‘Dhyan Mandapam’, that is pitch-dark save for the lights blinking from a green, resplendent ‘om’ in front of me. A lulling voice reverberates in the background urging everyone to rest our chaos aside, and reach an eternal calm within ourselves. Once in 1892, Swami Vivekananda had done exactly that (for two days straight!), where I sit right now trying to find something similar in this abode of peace.
Cannot sense an iota of awakening though! No, nothing ripples through me!😕
That is, apart from the familiar desire to rush to the sea. To have the sun in my face. To feel the wind in my bones. So five minutes into the practice of trying to hold myself quiet and still, I give up. Maybe the chaos in the ocean outside has got my heart. And the one inside me simply leads me to it!
I am standing at the edge, clutching at the railings, watching the ocean and its overwhelmingly powerful waves. I try to look for the lands beyond its vast, breathing body. I can still hear the ocean roar over the fiercely loud winds as the waves break their tumult over the rocks. Often, few tiny drops come splashing at my face. It is so humbling, experiencing this magnanimity and sheer abundance of nature!
I spot this rainwater reservoir at the Memorial. A nice initiative in a place that is infamous for its seasonal rainfall and thunderstorms!
The Thiruvalluvar Statue stands all tall and majestic in the distance. It is an ode to the Tamil poet, Thiruvalluvar, who wrote Thirukkural, one of the finest works of ancient Tamil literature.
The stone sculpture now stands guard over some of the last imprints of the Indian peninsula.
There’s no boat leading up to the statue though. So I just catch a boat back to the shores.
Though the waters look rough and intimidating, we have a smooth sail. And after hardly a 10-minute ride, I alight and begin my walk towards Triveni Sangam.
It is a point of confluence. The Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal, and the Indian Ocean meet here. A point of paradoxes too. Echoing a rare coexistence of commotion and bliss.
The ground is rocky and the sand is full of stones, pebbles, silt, boulders, and everything’s slippery. Very, very slippery. I fear lurching deeper into the sea. But there are people I can see, who do not. And as I watch them, I step closer, to them, to the sea, into the daunting waters.
And suddenly, the physical act of wading through those waters in that moment, very subtly turns into a metaphor for the belief that you somehow get past everything in life. Anyhow, but you do.
Maybe, sometimes, the chaos does things to you that silence cannot? Just as the furious uproar in the sea offers me what the quiet in the meditation room could not. Maybe its storm mirrors my own. Perhaps that’s why the intimate connection?
I walk towards the Sunset Point at the Arabian Sea, probably the last point on the Indian subcontinent. But I stupidly undermine the distance to the Point and end up walking for half an hour or so. Again, me.🤷
Nevertheless, the walk in itself makes for another compelling reason to catch the Sunset there. So I carry on, taking all those slightly-weary steps, beside a long stretch of ocean on an almost deserted road. And the peace at the end of it is just worth all the rush.
No, I didn’t click the sunset. I was too spent already. This is, I guess, the last fancy picture I took, after which I ended up not really doing anything but plainly watching (just as this guy?). But also feeling. And thinking. But that’s for some other post some other day.