31 January 2007
The last stop on the Madurai tour was the Thirupparamkunram Murugan temple, about five miles outside of Madurai. Unfortunately this was much later at night when everyone was tired, hungry, and complaining. Most of the people did not even get off the bus to walk to the temple.
The temple would have been the highlight of my day had it not been the last stop because it is a very important temple, one of the six abodes of Lord Muruga, an important South Indian Tamil god. Many people in the west are familiar with Ganesha, the god with the elephant head who is the son of Shiva and Parvati, but few know that Muruga is his brother. His temple is huge, carved in rock, and it is where Muruga married Deivanai, the divine daughter of Indra. In the main shrine, besides Muruga, the murthis of Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesha, and Durga are housed. There was no way I could have explored it in the time that was alloted to us, so I had to be satisfied with a quick walk-through. This made me a bit sad because for reasons having to do with someone in my life, I had promised myself that on this trip I would spend time at an important Murugan temple, maybe go to Palani, a town near Kodaikanal. I realized that instead of the bus tour, I should have hired a driver and gone out by myself to spend the better part of a day here. I should have planned my last day more carefully, but I was tired and wanted to rest my brain and leave the planning to someone else, even if it was a bus driver who did not speak English. Oh well...go with the flow, there will be a next time....
Less than 30 minutes was not enough time to explore this temple, so we piled back on the bus and headed back to Madurai, everyone quiet now for the ride home. Despite the heat, the dust, the migraine, the incessant touts that I experienced over these last few days, I again felt at peace here on a bus with strangers in a strange city in a strange land, and I almost fell completely asleep, dozing in and out of yogini dreams.
I woke up to people yelling. We were back in Madurai and people were yelling at the driver again. Apparently he wasn't dropping people off at their hotels, he was dropping people off wherever he felt like it. It was late, and the streets were crowded with people walking to the Meenakshi Temple so the bus driver had trouble getting through the streets. I watched everything with detachment, as I usually did, a half smile on my face -- watching group dynamics and mentally placing bets on who would win, on what the outcome would be.
Every few blocks he would kick people off the bus, and the people would complain as they tried to get autorickshaws to pick them up. Finally it came down to me and an older couple. I started to get off the bus and the husband started arguing with the driver. I assumed he was complaining about not being taken to their hotel, being dropped off in the middle of the street. They got in each others' faces with much hand waving and head wobbling. It was just another Indian adventure for me. The husband finally got off the bus, the bus left, and the three of us stood in the middle of the street. Suddenly they start speaking to me, perfect English, complaining about the bus and driver. How funny, I thought, that they never said a word to me all the day, yet we had sat across the aisle from each other.
As we commiserated about the driver's rudeness, the wife gave me their business card. They were from Andra Pradesh, a state north of Tamil Nadu. She was an artist, he ran some type of nature preserve. Two people whom I would haved loved to talk to during the day about two of my favorite subjects, art and nature. They told me to come for a visit...maybe one day...it is these chance encounters with people that I treasure the most from my trips.
They asked if I wanted to share a rickshaw with them, but we were going in opposite directions. I got back to my hotel and spent the rest of the evening in the roof-top restaurant, looking out over the temple complex, digesting not only my dinner, but also what India had taught me so far....more patience, being more present, and detaching from the outcome. Anyone on the yoga path knows that these are qualities that sink a little bit deeper into the consciousness the longer one does the work. But somehow, being here, my heart could open more fully, just as a lotus rises out of the mud and into the light.
Goodbye Madurai, hello Kodaikanal. Om Muruga...lead me from the darkness and into the light....