Tuesday, November 14, 2006


All our trips to Kerala invariably end up in temple-hopping. This time, there was an addition on the list – Guruvayoor. Guruvayoor has been taken up as a special case since we were not allowed inside the temple because women in anything other than saree or skirt cannot enter the temple – the temple management’s contribution to women’s well-being. Oh of course, they are not so bad after all, they have one mind-boggling option. If you are wearing anything other than the above mentioned clothing, like for example say, salwar-kameez, but still want to enter the temple, you can strip off the salwar, yes, inside the premises(!), or even roll it up, pick up a dirty yellow 1 metre fabric for hire, wrap it around you and be instantly permitted inside! Bhakti and decency revolves around the 1 metre long dirty cloth? I was in salwar-kameez last time and was obviously denied permission to enter as such, but the option of the hiring the yellow cloth was open. I refused. I don’t care whether I enter the temple or not, but there’s no way I will disgrace myself wearing some really dirty cloth.

But this time my parents were absolutely sure they will have none of last time’s tamasha and made me shop for skirts which I can wear on this trip. Needless to say, this time, I found myself waiting in the long queue to reach the sannidhi. I have a couple of useless hours on hand so I decide to do what the rest of the crowd is doing best – “Watch The Neighbours”. I do a little extra and study the architecture. It is definitely impressive and definitely beyond my knowledge. I watch kids playing, I watch people buying prasadam, I watch women in something that looks like the-in-thing-at-the-moment – kameez and lengthy petticoats (excuse me, but I thought petticoats were reserved for the saree and was more an undergarment than anything else). So petticoats are acceptable, so are dirty yellow pieces of cloth, not salwar-kameez. Very impressive. Wow!

I let my eyes wander again. Architecture. Pillars. Kodimaram. Kids. Women in petticoats. Stone finished floor. More pillars. And what’s this? The fully exposed thighs of a male member of the Devaswom Committee, chatting away with two others of his clan! Guruvayoorappa! What is this guy doing lifting up his mundu to unmentionable heights in front of such a huge gathering of people, including women? He chats on, looking happy at his achievement. The women look away.

Ente Guruvayoorappa, nee ithonnum kaanunnillae?

Do male Devaswom members have exclusive rights to indecent display of skin inside the temple? I wasn’t aware of this new law. I prepare to get out of the queue in which I have been standing for over 2 hours now. I definitely want to have a word with this man. I turn around to look into the eyes of the man standing behind me. What is that in his eyes? Fear? Shame? Disgust? Disappointment? Just then, my sister who has been standing beside me all this while decides to faint. I half-walk and half-drag her through the throng of people to some fresh air and by the time she is in a better shape to get back to the queue, our Mr. Display and Co. have disappeared.

The queue moves forward. Someone is chanting. Someone else gets emotionally charged on seeing the Lord’s idol and starts crying.

What in the name of God are we all preaching and practising, I wonder. I walk on.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Kerala never fails to remind its visitors of what makes it different. I was there a couple of weeks ago and here’s my list. Feel free to add yours.
  1. We cross into Kerala border by train and a message arrives on my mobile. It reads, “Explore Kerala – God?s own country with IDEA”. God?s. Duh!
  2. The people haven’t changed at all in all these years. Any new face is looked upon as though he/she is from outer space.
  3. They still introduce you as their niece / cousin from ‘MADRAS’ as though Madras is 1600 light years away from Kerala.
  4. Jeans is taboo, so is coming home after 6 pm.
  5. They glare if your hair is short, not dripping of oil or in a colour other than black. I have received enough tips on how to turn my hair black, I can even write a best-seller on the topic.
  6. They behave as though sunlight has never penetrated the countryside in the past couple of decades.
  7. Girls don’t walk with their heads held high. That’s a man-thing.
  8. ‘Nighty’ has taken over as the state costume. It may be accessorised with a towel for the ‘in’ look. Soon you may find Malayalee women recommending that the nighty be given the status of national costume.
  9. Nighty is an excellent work-wear, home-wear, night-wear, daytime-wear, temple-wear, take-kid-to-school-bus wear, pack off-husband-to-office wear, anywhere.
  10. The lungi shall be in fluorescent pink, green or orange. And it shall be tied-untied-retied about 50 times a day.