Colour mingled with colour until we felt that we were peering through an endless Kaleidoscope of wonder. It is hard to imagine a busier place than Mylapore, the way it is at this very moment and yet we seem to walk at a pace that suggests leisure, in direct contradiction to the frenzied activity we see all around us. The harvests are here. The newspaper tell a different tale, of little rain and endless hardship; Of farmers who toil in the field; Of the need for wiser water management. But irrespective ,thanks is given and the festival of Pongal lands on our door step.
Pongal , when the sight of tall strong sugarcane, purple and streaked with white standing tall like sentries at a festive affair is such a welcome sight; When we hurry off to buy turmeric, root , stem, leaves and all fresh with the earth dug up from; And the ritual affiar of boiling milk , jaggery, rice and having steaming hot sweet pongal as a marker of the occasion!
Happy gods and definitely happy people this one festival does make..
Mylapore is alive, pulsating with the life blood of the city itself. A rickshaw sits in nonchalance in the middle of the busy thoroughfare. Pedestrians, motorists and everyone else step around the yellow rickshaw, it's flaps flying in the gentle breeze, the owner barely discernable from where I stand.
The Kabaleehwar temple is at the center of all festivity. My earliest memories of the city are intrinsically linked to this temple, of squished bus rides of holding on tight to my mum's soft hands.
We walk closer to the walls and I see the familiar steps of row of steps making their way downwards to gently touch the sparkling waters of the temples 'Kulam'.
Rows of shops selling antiques, handicrafts and other wondrous things stand. I am immediately drawn to one selling little baskets made from bamboo, incredibly pretty and so beautifully made. I can't decide which one to buy. The choice is made by the need for space in my suitcase, and so I part with a little one all white with purple bands.
The streets are a splash of colour. We walk on stopping every now and then, asking questions, savouring the moments of being part of this beautiful throng of humanity.
I have to smile when I see the Sonpapdi seller and I can almost imagine the flaky sweetness, the burst of flavour as it dissolves on the tongue. Today I resist and instead take a photograph.
And then there are the beads, strung on chains, shining in the sun, their brightness drawing the eye in every which way you look.
We stop to buy some bracelets. They are beautifully made, strewn unmatched on thinly laid cloth on stone pavements, an invitation to put my hands into the heap and draw a twosome out , so perfectly unique. A rough and tumble of colour and I try again, with a sort of a childish pleasure in the activity itself rather than the adult obsession with results.
We finally pick a few pairs, neatly packed in newspapers. And in the corner sits a lady of chocolate skin and midnight black hair selling banana leaves. She peers at me through her all knowing glasses and decides I am no worthy customer, just someone walking the streets. She looks past me and calls out to someone else in a voice that could tell a thousand stories.
We stop. We walk. We talk..There are things to see and things to do.
When we finally arrive at the entrance of the temple the evening lengthens into dusk's shadows.
The Gopuram is beautiful, a tumble of Gods and goddesses looking down on the mortal from their lofty heights.
Flowers as offering? Theres plenty on offer, mingled with the sweet scent of incense - Roses, jasmines still not a bloom tightly garlanded in bunches of white.
A balloon seller sits lost in a reverie, his ware still unclaimed. Business isn't always as brisk.
We walk past a stage, lit up and see the prettiest Bharatnatyam dancers in the middle of a performance. We rest our feet for a while and then walk towards the food stands.
And then there is the little jackfruit seller, her kurta in complementary colour to the fruit she seeks to sell. Her waif like frame, propped up on tiptoes looks at something in a distance, her little hands holding onto the cart, her pigtails tightly coiled , braided and pulled back. She is who I will remember most when we are back home, dwarfed by the mighty jackfruit on offer to the willing buyer.
When we enter the street, full of food we are spoilt for choice. Definitely South Indian for me I decide. And so of all the nouth watering delicacies on offer we try the mangalore bonda, the vazhaipoo vadai and bits and pieces of other things.
There are more vendors doing the rounds here.
And then we walk back home . On our way we run into a procession. The Gods are restless just as men are I think to myself and so man made god in his image :)
This has been a festival to remember...
More information on the Mylapore festival can be found here. It is an annual event that marks Pongal and if you happen to be in Chennai around this time, its an event worth going to.