Monday, September 14, 2009

Sroyon and the Amazing Technicolour Temple

I got my first taste of Kerala hospitality minutes after I set foot in the state. I arrived at the Paragon restaurant straight from the Calicut train station, hungry, sweaty and confused. But as soon as I stepped into the restaurant (yellow and white walls, high ceiling, wooden furniture), a ministering angel in the shape of a smiling waiter took matters in hand.

Unfortunately lunchtime was still an hour away, he informed me, so the entire range of menu options was not yet available. But if I was in a hurry, something basic could be arranged. Or would I perhaps like to wait till lunchtime? In that case, maybe some coffee and a snack while I waited?

After that, I let the management have their way with me. Unbidden, they plied me with one course after another; I asked no questions but tucked into snacks, coffee, prawn, fish, three kinds of subzi, pickles, chutney, curd, payasam, papad and strange round rice. After these excesses, I was expecting to shell out a three-figure sum. The bill, when it came, was for Rs. 78.

And for as long as I was in Kerala, this treatment continued. Our trekking guide at Wayanad invited us not only to his own house but also to his sister’s, and served us grape juice and coffee. My hotel at Alleppey let me ride their bicycle all day, all over the quiet town and all the way to the beach; they charged me only five rupees “for the bicycle repair fund” which I thought was even sweeter than lending it for free. Whenever I had to go somewhere, Joseph from the hotel would offer to drop me off on his scooter. When I checked out and went off to Kottayam, they looked after my luggage so that I wouldn’t have to lug it around.

On my last night in Kerala, I arrived at the Alleppey railway station late at night, just as the IRCTC canteen was closing. I asked for coffee, but the man said there was no coffee left. To show that he was truly sorry, he gave me a milk toffee. While I waited on the platform for my train to Madurai, I chewed thoughtfully on the milk toffee, and decided that it was Kerala’s farewell gift to me. I was sad to be leaving Kerala; I felt a lump in my throat. But it could have been the milk toffee – I couldn’t be sure.

***

But let not our sadness at bidding goodbye to Kerala temper the exuberance of arriving in Tamil Nadu. So say hello to the baroque rainbow that is the Meenakshi Temple of Madurai, the technicolour temple of the fish-eyed goddess.

6 comments:

Karthy said...

Have you been reading William dalrymple? He writes about the fish eyed goddess and the temple in great detail...glad to see you seemed to have liked kerala...tourists generally do though ;D did you check out the other temple near madurai? other than meenakshi?it's this huge beautiful mammoth temple...we went there at night, under a full moon...it was gorgeous. you should (as i keep saying) take a temple tour of tamil nadu...they are a marvel!

Rick said...

3rd and 7th pics are definitely my pick.

Kerala also serves excellent noodles.
Its not a normal thing to say, noodles and Kerala, i mean, but well, they do.

Death On Two Legs said...

For same strange reason, 'milk toffee' just sounded exceptionally rich and fulfilling.

I now want one very very badly.

Sroyon said...

@Karthy: No, didn't go to any other temple. You should have told me about it earlier. Now I have left Madurai. And I am taking a sort of temple tour of TN.

@Rick: Okay, didn't try the noodles there.

@DoTL: It was exceptionally rich and fulfilling. Soft and white and rich and creamy and, for something that was pretty small, quite a taste explosion.
Okay, now I want one very very badly.

new age scheherazade said...

wow. that does not sound at all like a touristy place. i kind of immediately thought of somewhere like malgudi. maybe they thought you were running away from home, seeing how you were alone.

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