Adventures on an Indian Visa (week 8): Thiruvannamalai

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Day 50

Thiruvanamalai is definitely a massive mosquitoes nest, & their bites are itchy as fuck. One cannot stay under one’s mosquito net forever & I’ve thus far endured two days & nights of warfare, being bit a lot & in return splattering them (& my blood inside them) all round my room’s walls. Their corpses have attracted the ants who have been streaming into the room like vultures & polishing them off one by one.

Today I walk’d to my studies exactly like yesterday, & I expect like every morning & afternoon to come while I’m here. I begin by passing herds of immaculately uniformed schoolkids & guys wobbling about on bikes laden with steaming chambers of chi. Next comes these massive decorated festival carts with wheels as big as two men; well, what I really mean are two western men – apart from some geezers down the ashram I’m the tallest man in town, which is kinda weird.

I then pass the great temple, whose four god-carved gates tower over the town; then the busy markets, before walking down a poor village type road, full of rubbish, chickens & bricks – it’s got that industrial-age, Burnley feel, where everyone kind of lived in the street. Then comes a glorious ghat (reservoir), whose green water is dazzlingly pleasant on the eye. Beside this is a middle-class suburb, lots of one floor villas with rooftop terraces overlooking the ghat.  These have name boards hung proudly on the outside, for example one was a health educator & another was the sub-inspector for the local police force. After this comes the ashram area, where westerners flock & chill out, spending a lot more money on their generally inferior food. I mean, I’ve been eating wickedly & struggling to spend more than three pounds a day on food. The walk has inspir’d the following sonnet;

There is a town the Tamils hold
As holy as a brahmin
Where spicy shops in lanes unfold
& sundry sweets in streets are sold
Where food-stalls vie, both hot & cold
With carts of local farmin’
Now with your hunger satisfied
Stroll through the buzz & bustle
Bus, bike & rickshaw dust roads glide
With shop-on-shop perch’d by their side
As with a cry bull-whips applied
To oxen of pure muscle
From country quietude an artist flew
Now drown’d in life, downtown Tamil Nadu

On my afternoon walk back from the library – I go in twice a day – I sampled the wears of a fried fish stall; very delicious but too many bones. More palatable have been the samosas & the bananas, which you buy in bunches of ten from gypsy-type women in the street. These in turn come from the banana wholesalers, where bunches of up to a hundred green bananas cling to a bamboo style stalk. The leaves have been stripped off by now & even these are sold off in the street to guys from the restaurants – that’s in the street remember, & I’ve gotta eat off ‘em. Other food you can buy on the street-carts include apples, oranges, grapes, banana fritters, peanuts, ready-to-eat corn-on-the-cobs & fresh coconuts, which they crack the top off for you so you can drink the milk with a straw, then crack in half so you can eat the creamy flesh inside.

A most interesting sight today was a circus-like spectacle of an eight-year-old girl balancing on a rope about my head high. While her dad was selling popcorn; her mum knocking out some funky rhythms on a metal pan; & her older brother slapping out a bass beat on a djembe, the girls legs wiggl;d left & right like a supersonic pendulum. Then, she did all that again, but this time balancing a pot on her head!

Day 51

I discover’d today that the word mulligatawny, of soup fame, comes from joining two Tamil words together – molagu & tunni – which mean pepper & water. Proper cool, as has been the weather a tad recently. For the Lancastrian in me, the weather’s been great, a bit quite cloudy & rainy, with the top of Aranuchala often obscure by mist – tho’ warm enough to sleep naked. I’m not a big sun-lover, so a bit of respite from the heat is wicked.

Thiruvanamalai is certainly not a redneck place, quite affluent really, gaining an element of prosperity perhaps from the influx of pilgrims. The place is full of pedestrians & bikes – both pedal-power’d & petrol – all mingling with the Tamil animals. These constitute don’t-give-a-shit-Cows nuzzling through the roadside rubbish tips or planting themselves in the centre of the busiest roads; abandoned puppies & the same pack of dog everywhere; grotesque rats & deformed ponies; giant horn-twisted oxen trotting through the streets hauling produce-laden carts; cats, bats & packs of monkeys haunting the rooftops. I chucked a Paul-Daniels-faced monkey a banana the other day & chuckled to myself as his little hands unpeeled it – just like a human!

There are quite a few orange-clad babas hanging about the ashram, whom I have also discovered – on one of my side-street walks – are in fact unscrupulous rogues. I saw a couple of them eagerly emptying their metal carry-tins of cash – loads of it – with a lot more vigour than their semi-pathetic attempts to get some rupees out of you. They were huddled together far from the eyes of the more gullible westerner, dishing out loads of rupees & swigging back a very large bottle of whiskey.

Eating out is a bit weird; you are attended on hand & foot, with refills for food & water arriving from a team of waiters. This state of affairs, coupled with my cleaner boys at the hotel, is perfectly satisfying my colonial pretensions – all I need now is a tiger hunting blunderbuss & a bridge club. The maddest thing I’ve seen was a sleight of hand con guy, who had set up a little shrine & had two snakes & a rodent & just kept chatting non-stop & banging this little drum as he did his ‘magic’. I was quite enthralled, as were the Indians, but the point to it all was beyond me.

All the shops are the same size, & everyone is a specialist. There’s shops which contain only penny sweet jars, coconut warehouses,  spice merchants with multicoloured sacks, pharmacists, clinics, speaker shops, bookshops, 20 rupee an hour internet places, garland makers with bright fluffy flowers, tailors sat sewing to the world, the most delicious looking cakes you’ve ever seen (with complementary chewy fly), busy barbers, banks, mobile phone shops, modern looking shoe shops & guys sat in the street surrounded by old flip-flops cleaning & repairing peoples footwear (one of these guys fixed my hat)… & even an interior decorators. There’s also the chicken marts, which are a real sad thing to see. Proud cocks & white hens stuck together in cramped cages, watching agitatedly as one-by-one they get the chop right in front of their sad little eyes.

I noticed the fashion sense of the Tamils – & realised it’s not very varied at all. All the women wear saris & the men have only four possible combinations of outfits – either a pair of trousers or this kilt thing to cover the legs, with either a short sleeved or long sleeved cotton shirt (in stripes or checks, so I guess that six combos). The flip-flop is the footwear of choice, though about a third of the folk go about barefoot. They hardly ever use the paths & invariably compete with road space with everything else… mainly because the paths run over stinking sewers & are full of holes. Most of the roads themselves have strange delusions of concrete, but these are basically under a pile of crud, which during the recent rains has turned to ghostbuster goo.

Tonight’s been a bit crazy in town – the leader of Tamil Nadu – of the DMK party – has just turned up & the centre has been bedecked with banana trees, light statues & a hell of a load of Belgium flags. Apparently, it’s the flag of the DMK, but just like Belgium, the rally was pretty boring, so I didn’t stay for long. The guy on the mike sounded just like the rapid-fire, one at Wigton Cattle auction, but a bit slower & more high pitch’d, whose voice is still buzzing round my brain as I’m typing this is in bed.

Day 52

Today I decided to climb Arunachala. Waking at six, my ascent began in light drizzle, which follow’d a series of arrows & religious graffiti painted on the scattered boulders, all pointing upwards. As I climbed, the view of the town & surrounding area began to increase. Thiruvannamalai is not as big as I thought, & shaped like a dolphin’s fin protruding from the southern flank of the sacred peak. Beyond it lies a flat, nameless plain – very green – with a range of hills about 10 miles away or so.

After about an hour I reached the summit – a pleasant sensation made even more so by an encounter with the local guru. He is 30 – an orphan – & has been living in a shack just off the summit for ten years – 10 fuckin years meditating & shit. He’s the guy who’s painted all the graffiti at the summit – including one funny one indeed… his own fuckin’ web address. Talk about 21st century asceticism. He even has a mobile phone – there’s no reception on the top of the mountain however, but I’ve got his number if I ever need to meditate with him. He was a nice guy & gave me a glass of chi & taught me a little Tamil. If I make it back up, I’ve promised to bring him some tea & brown sugar.

The descent was delightful, passing through a little corner of the world that the gods promised the dragonflies. After musing on the possibility of anyone being eaten alive by dragonflies, & coming to the conclusion that they properly hadn’t, I paused for a while. About a hundred of them were buzzing around me, with some of the braver ones coming almost to my nose & hovering with their four delicate wings for a few moments, before darting off awhile. Further down the flanks of Arunachala I came across the two caves that Sri Ramana had lived in at the turn of the century. He’d been doing a similar thing to the guy at the top of the mountain, basically meditating for years. I guess that after a enough people turned up & gave him 50 rupees (like I’d just done), he steadily went about improving his living quarters. He first built a house around his original cave – where devotees still sit in silent candlelight to this day – then he moved to another cave higher up the slopes & built a villa around it. His final port of call – for 27 years – was the ashram at the bottom of the hill.

The Sri Ramana Ashram is quite a funny place – full of meditating souls, Asian & Western, with everyone leaving shoes at the door of what is quite a large temple complex. I witnessed quite a spectacle while I was there, sat cross-legged on a marble floor before the shrine where Ramana’s body is buried. A few brahmin – men & boys – were sat down singing with deep intonation some Vedic hymn like the drone of a Miltonic canto. It took the form of a question & answer thing, the acoustics of the room echoing their voices even further, & while they sang a few devotees wailed ceremoniously round the shrine. To me it was rather like a Lenard Cohen single played at 33. I even joined in for a couple of circuits, the music sending vibrations through my chest – but just before the Stepford Wives & their spiritual tupperware party began to somehow persuade my spirit to give my brand new sandals away & move into a cave. Snapping out of it, I quickly reclaimed my shoes & fled to the safety of the library across the road.

The few Westerners who come to India seeking ‘salvation’ are a bit offpiste – but looking at the predominance of middle-aged ex-hippies wandering about the ashram it is my conclusion that most of them took too much acid in their youths. I mean, so did I like, but there’s no need to turn into a thrill-less mind-junkie, lost in your own thoughts forever. There’s a whole world out there guys & surely personal salvation is to be found in how we live in the world, not hiding away from it.

Today I also I visited the famous temple that I’ve been walking past several times a day for two weeks. The experience begins with leaving one’s shoes at a little shack just outside for two rupees, then wading through several decrepit beggars & a police electronic bomb detector unit just to get inside. On the way in, a very cheeky monkey came & stole some food from a toddler’s hand, whose pathetic cries accompanied me inside the sacred space. Aranachaleswaram temple is a fine affair, consisting of 3 concentric rectangles leading to the inner temple at the heart of the complex. The inner courtyards are entered through similar gates to the main ones – N, S, E, W – gleaming white majestic edifices with the entire Hindu pantheon poised in many poses.

Deeper into the temple I saw my first elephant of the tour, which turned out to be the ultimate penny arcade machine. After being hypnotised by the gentle pacing, left & right, of his two massive front legs, I placed a rupee in his trunk. The elephant than patted me on the head with said trunk & gave the now mucus-dripping rupee to his trainer. Better still was watching him, ever so politely, use the loo. He took a few steps to one side, separated his back legs & pooed & peed AT THE SAME TIME – a feat we humans can only dream about. This got me looking at his penis – not in a gay way – the outer skin looked just like a big black brain & the ‘nob’ was as polished as an ebony jewel. It was the elephant’s eye which I found the most remarkable; possessing an otherworldly, almost alien aura, & with the loveliest eyelashes in the whole of nature.

Day 53

That spot of rain I was talking about a couple of days ago turned out to be a cyclone – apparently, they get these later in the years this far south – it’s been proper pelting it down! This rain then apparently drives all the snakes indoors – including cobras. Luckily I’m on the top floor.

 “Call that rain,” I said to a series of astonished Indians, swaggering through a downpour the listening to a bit of disco, with the arrogance of a Burnley boy who, like Eskimos & snow, knows 500 different names for rain. By evening I was wishing it would just bloody stop. The sight of Indians in umbrellas & dodgy macs, coupled with river-like, sewage-bearing streets doesn’t fit into my sun-kissed winter soiree with the Tamils. They seem happy, though, the ghats are overflowing & the state’s water supply should have enough now to see them through until next summer’s rains.

Hiding from the rain means I’ve been eating in today, & I was in my mosquito net chilling out, when I felt a wee tickle. It turned out to be an ant, which I casually flicked away. Then putting my feet under the covers I touched something weird, turning out to be a few hundred ants chomping on a bit of banana which had previously stuck to my foot & came off in the bed. I found this quite a disturbing experience, which resulted in me flailing around like a madman & vigorously shaking sheets & mattress onto the rainy street below.

Day 54

Another wet day. Didn’t venture to the library & instead pour’d all my recent work on the Kural into the following essay;

The Thirukkural is a 2000-year-old treatise on the art of living, & is ranked as the first book of the Tamils – an ancient, heroic, dark-skinned race that dwells in both Tamil Nadu & Sri Lanka. As I.A. Richards noted, ‘great cultures start in poetry,’ & it is with the Tamils that this is particularly notable. Literature is held in their national esteem far greater than any other land upon the globe, whose writers are elevated to the level of saints. Foremost among them is Thiruvalluvar, the creator of Thirukkural, a timeless text that, as the giant of Tamil studies GU Pope observed; ‘outweighs the whole of remaining Tamil literature, & is one of the select number of great works, which have entered into the very soul of a whole people & which can never die.’

In the 21st century, humanity has become obsessed with books on self-improvement, written by an assorted collection of lifestyle gurus. I believe the Kural to be the ultimate self-help book, a treatise on the unchanging realities of human existence, tracing in its pages the outline of an ideal life. The thing is, despite its universal brilliance, hardly anyone outside of Tamil Nadu knows about this book. Perhaps it is the quite unwieldy, weighty translations into English that formed the problem; dense & wordy phrases that lose the beauty & immediacy of the original. As a poet, & the poet who rediscovered the poem in the post-imperial world, to create a readable transcreation is a challenge worth rising to.

In every way conceivable
Practice virtue incessantly

What are the Kural? In Tamil, the word means ‘dwarfish,’ & has been applied to the shortest measure in Tamil poetry, the Kural Venba. This is a couplet of only seven words; four in the first line & three in the second. Such uniform curtness insists on an epigrammatical nature of composition, such as that of the English proverb, ‘a stitch in time, saves nine.’ This means that the Kural seem simple, similar to the Japanese Haiku where ideas & sensations are expressed with a modicum of words. In the hands of Valluvar, however, through the act of ellipsis, he condenses his world-view into phenomenal couplets which have become sharpened knives to unstitch the fabric of mortal existence & expose it to the world. The Kural are no less than a blueprint for life; & these neat, ordered rows of words have stamped an indelible order onto the chaos of human existence. As Reverend P Percival once wrote, ‘nothing in the whole compass of human language can equal the force and terseness of the couplets in which the author of the Kural conveys the lessons of wisdom.’

The legend says that roundabout the year 100 BC, Valluvar submitted the palm-leaf manuscript of his Kural to the 49 Pandits of the second Sangam, the high-browed judges of the Tamil literary establishment. He found the Pandits sat on a raft which floated on the serene waters of the Golden Lily tank, the fabulous centre-piece of the great Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple of Madurai. At first these judges scoffed at Valluvar, throwing scorn on the work of an unlearned man from the lower castes. Valluvar remained unphased by their mockery, & according to the set custom simply placed the manuscript on the raft. Much to the Pandit’s astonishment, the raft immediately shrank, ducking these conceited men into the water & leaving just enough room on the boards for the manuscript. Once on dry land, the sodden scholars recognized through this miracle that the Kural were indeed divine, an opinion which has remained unchanged for two millennia.

Once the Kural had been accepted by the Pandits of Madurai, their influence would penetrate every facet of Tamil society. Common Tamils took this rare blend of vibrant mysticism & pragmatic realism to their hearts, concerning as it does the everyday matters which affected their lives. By 1272, the poet Parimelazhagar had arranged the 1330 kural into the order which the modern world now knows them; divided by 133 chapters of ten Kural each. These were then divided into three sections – the Muppaal – being Virtue, Wealth & Love. The theory goes that if one fully adheres to the three Muppaal, then a fourth, Moksha (salvation), shall be achieved.

The Kural were first brought to the attention of the European mind by a series of missionaries entering Tamil Nadu via Madras (British), Pondicherry (French) & Tranquebar (Danish). The very first translation was conducted in Latin in the early eighteenth century, by an Italian priest, Father Constantius Beschi. The next translator was the German AF Cammera, whose work was published in Leipzig in 1803. Next up was a French Savant, Monsieur Ariel, who released his translation in 1848. It was Ariel who proclaimed the Kural as, “one of the highest & purest expressions of human thought.” Once the world became aware of these compact distiches of quintessential wisdom, their assemblage into the Kural has been translated into over 6o languages across the world, including 13 other Indian languages. The first English translation was published in 1853, by the Reverend Drew, whose work would go on to inspire GU Pope, a gargantuan figure of Kural lore.

History sees George Uglow Pope as the great standard bearer of Tamil, that ‘noble language’ as he called it, immersing & devoting his entire life to its study & translation. His first lesson in the language occurred when he was an eighteen-year-old in England. Later that year he arrived in Madras, where, upon first hearing the true beauty of Tamil on the lips of a humble fisherman, he became determined to learn all about the language & to be able to speak it as fluently as a native. Setting about meeting the greatest Tamil scholars of the day, he had soon unleashed his genius upon its life-long mission. By 1840 he was staying at Mylapore, about which place he would later write, ‘while visiting the villages around here, that enthusiasm for the great Tamil poet was first kindled which has been an important factor in my life.’ After mastering the language, Pope soon set about translating its literary masterpiece, & after almost fifty years, on September 1st, 1886, he completed his noble task, which he declared to be the ‘masterpiece of human thought.’ By February 1893 he would add an excellent, poetic translation of the Nalatiyar to his many achievements in Tamil, which included an unfinished, yet massively comprehensive dictionary of Tamil. For his erudite efforts he was given honorary degrees by Oxford and Lambeth, & was awarded the much-coveted Gold Medal of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1906. After a ‘long and useful’ life of 88 years, he died in 1908, when one of his last requests was to have his tomb decorated with the words, ‘A student of Tamil.’

Over a century later enter another Englishman in Tamil Nadu diving deep into the Thirukural – myself. As we are striding through the twentieth century, a new culture awaits mankind; that of a unified global village, needing its own international literature, where the non-sectarian, anti-nationalistic Thirukkural fits the bill astonishingly well. It is a book to live by; a code of moral conduct to which all creeds, castes & colors can pay fealty, whose lofty idealism has been acclaimed by all the religions of the world. ‘The Holy Kural,’ claims EV Daniel, ‘may well be the meeting ground, the common ground, of all religions.’

Thirukkural is a wonderful book, but to an English speaker it might as well be written in Gaelic. Despite being among the most widely translated texts in the world, outside of Tamil Nadu it is one of the least read. Even the vast majority of the multi-lingual Indians cannot read a word of it. On top of this, to the English-speaking mind, the translations of the Kural we possess are often too wieldy or fanciful to absorb. The most widely known & respected translations in English are the poetical couplets of GU Pope, & the transliterations of Reverend Drew & John Lazurus. I offer their renditions of Kural 36-9 as an example.

The True ‘support’ who knows – rejects ‘supports’ he sought before
Sorrow that clings all destroys, shall cling to him no more
GU Pope

He, who so lives as to know Him who is the support of all things & abandons all desire, will be freed from the evils which would otherwise cleave to him & destroy (his efforts after absorption)
Drew & Lazurus

A modern rendition of the D&L Kural above, made by a Tamil, Kalaimamani Kalladan, reads; ‘the mind’s nature is to cling to every thing; but that should realize the true thing & cling to it; & that should abandon all desires. If done so, any suffering destined to inflict a person, shall not occur.’ My own rendition of this particular Kural, forced as I was into only seven words, goes as follows;

By choosing true virtue
Bruising ruin debarred

Perhaps it has lost a little in the translation, but the essential essence of Valluvar’s original teaching remains. It has been my intention to create something new from the wellsprings of each kural – not just a vague paraphrase, but a simple maxim for the modern human mind. I felt each Kural needed to be immediately understood & when communicating universal teaching, less is always more, which Thiruvalluvar well understood. One of the chief beauties of the original is the compactness, or as PS Sundram observed, ‘its soul is brevity, & with it least is most.’

The saint’s succinct & subtle style, operating in such a short space, uses many poetic techniques; from rhyme & repetition, through strict rules of consonance called the Ventotas, to those intricate word-play & clever puns which expose the very heart of his philosophies. I have attempted to emulate as much of all this as best as possible, rendering a version that is as close to the original as I could possibly render. The project has been helped by the English language, that most flexible & comprehensive of our modern tongues. On our planet there are about 400 million native English speakers; second only to the Mandarin of the insular Chinese. When you add the billion Indians unified by the English tongue, plus the fact that English is the one true lingua franca of commerce & culture, then it is only right that the ‘global gospel’ of Valluvar should be funneled through the English language into the world at large. ‘It is our bounden duty,’ writes MS Venkatchalam, ‘to make the world realize the richness of Kural & that can be done, only by rendering it into English & thus making it reach all the nook & corners of the world.’ Despite Tamil being a beautifully sonorous language, it is extremely complex – a single word may need two pages of explanation. Comparatively, one of the traditional strengths of the English language is that flexing its inherent linguistic muscles has enabled the easy adoption of foreign lexicon, syntax & grammar. The subtle nuances & inflections of the English language have made it possible to translate the complexities of Tamil, for our words may also be variously expressed & when placed in combination can offer multitudinous shades of meaning.

Day 55

I am about half way thro my trenscreation of the Kural & have decided to leave Thiruvanamalai & go on a tour of Tamil Nadu, visiting places where Valluvar might have gone himself, & finish off the Kural back in Madurai, perhaps, where my journey into the text began. Then I’m gonna go to the Andaman Islands by boat for a well-deserv’d holiday. It’s definitely time to leave, tho’, especially as my room is progressively turning black with rain-damp. This morning I woke up to find fungus everywhere – my hat, my bag, some clothes & even my chess pieces all had a furry look & feel.

On my last day in Thiruvanamali, I saw both a lovely sunrise & a soul-searing sunset. In the morning the clouds had finally dispersed, revealing the landscape which I hadn’t seen for a couple of days, obscured as it was by clouds & mist. All round me the mountains peeked out of the milky distance like nervous children. The sunset was amazing. I had just settled down on the rooftop, listening to my tunes & reading a spot of Shakespeare, when just as ‘Patience’ by Take That came on, I looked at Arunachala.

There is a legend that it was on the mountain that the dreadlock’d god Siva produced a lingam of fire – a measureless column – & won the submission of Vishnu & Brahma. Perhaps it was some mythological memory of an ancyent eruption, but I swear down, as the sun was setting the clouds were in just the right place to produce the same effect – a mighty golden column coming out of the mountain. At the very same time there was a wee cloud just big enough to cover the very peak of the mountain, in the same spot where I was blessed in Siva’s name by that Guru. I really did feel it – the mind monkeys had cleared from my mind on that occasion & this time I felt that Siva was saying ‘nice one son’ & wishing me well on my way

Tonight, I went to the movies – situated in a fine building – to watch an action adventure dubbed in Tamil. It was quite cool actually, for dialogue wasn’t really an essential pillar of the movie, lots of cars & guns & that, its easy to get the drift of what was going on. There was also an old-fashioned interval, when the audience of 100 percent males dived for the samosas being sold by a couple of cheeky kids. I funny way to finish my experience at the sacred feet of Arunachala.

Day 56

This morning just as I was about to leave, I woke up to the sound of the rain. ‘Not again’ I cursed, but then the rains cleared & Aranachala was revealed in all her glory, a scintillating rainbow arched perfectly from flank to flank. Remarkably, the same wee cloud as yesterday was again at the summit. ‘That Siva’s at it again’ I thought & finally left town. Three buses later, beyond those scattered heaps of boulders that form the region’s hills, I was heading towards the coast, passing several large lakes where paddy fields once were – the devastating consequences of the recent rains. Apparently in the state these past few days there have been landslides, 700 bridges have collapsed, over a hundred dead

Mamallapuram is a bit of a tourist hotspot, with a fine beach & some amazing temples carved out of the rock. It got wiped out by the Tsunami in 2004, but is well back on its feet again. I’m staying in a massive marble-floored room, this huge oak table (perfect for writing), a clean double bed, a wicked fan, a big TV with all the channels & a cool balcony overlooking the street – with not a hint of damp or mosquitos anywhere

Mamallapuram is right enough; nothing too special for its reputation as a World Heritage site, but it has a beach, a few restaurants & the famous temples carved straight out of the rock which everyone visits – I couldn’t help think how voluptuous the female carvings looked – two thousand year old porn!

Around town are some proper annoying gypsy necklace-sellers, who followed you everywhere, who wouldn’t take no for an answer, & between the whole tribe of them nailed every part of the town. They were very small as well, as were the cows which were half the size of normal – it seemed I had stumbled Lilliput-style on some curious pygmy nation.

Thirukkural, is non-religious & it talks the
problems of the mankind & gives solatium
to it. Every human being should read
Thirukkural & should practice it in life.

Mamallapuram Town Panchayat

As for the kural, I spent an hour working on them sat underneath a statue of Thiruvallavar that is on the beach. This part of the beach is mainly for Indian tourists, & is accordingly cheesy. There were plenty of juice & ice guys – about 20 or so – plus fortune tellers, trinket stalls, guys with parrots in boxes & two fine looking horses – a far cry from the scraggly donkeys at Blackpool. Personally, I had a great time with an air rifle shotting at some balloons. Afterwards, my time at the beach inspir’d me to pen the following sonnet;

As I rested on a fine, empty beach, by the Bay of Bengal,
In soft seconds of existence I was alerted to a flutter of birds,
From mile or so along the coast I watch’d white robes of a mn approaching,
& expected him to pass, but on coming within a few metres,
He veer’d towards me suddenly, leaving no footsteps in the sand,
“What is your profession?” he curtly asked, “I am a sonneteer, sir!”
His magnificent eyes burrowed into the heartlands of my soul,
“By any chance, are you carrying a sylver rose?”
Astonish’d, I shew’d him those pretty blooms I’d hung around my neck…

…After humming an Upanishad he said, “I’ve been expecting you,
Ever since I felt the shimmering flux, read your Maltese proverbs rising;
As seven words a kural make, seven kural form a sonnet!”
Confirming my epiphany into the elegant depths of sonnetry
I’d had on Gozo flicking through Vassalli’s finest aphorisms!


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