The Democratic Process

For more than two decades, I’ve been an ardent believer of democracy and the democratic process. I’ve been eager to vote. I’ve believed the wrong people and found some pleasant surprises.  I’ve been eager to vote. I’ve been eager (more in the last few years) to be involved in the political process. But I’ve also begun to wonder, in the last few years, if the democratic process and the system is perhaps flawed and not entirely meant for progress in India.

Democracy is based on votes of the majority. The majority wants and needs.

In a country like India, majority is an illusion. We are divided by geography, religion, caste, geographical cultures, religious cultures, language. And well, some times even skin colour. There are so many divisions but some mainline ideas unite us – one of them being the want to be a part of this country.

Not everyone wants to be a part of India, or a part of the state they are currently assigned to. They don’t want to be a part of the religion they are assigned to either.

And these ‘don’t wants’ form an important vote bank, as witnessed by the whole Lingayat politics in this year’s Karnataka elections.

Identity politics are very important for vote banks. Dalits, Muslim, Other minorities who have been told to be vary of the majority wave that can trample their identity. The ‘others’ who have been marginalised for so long that they would rather believe that their identity would be trampled again in the democratic state, if they did not have someone particular looking out for them. Even among the majority wave, many tend to differ. How do we define a religion that isn’t a religion at all but a collection of ideas that a vast pool of people gave a geographical name that became synonymous with the collective idea?

Each part of Hinduism can be broken into smaller subsects and individual identities, which is perhaps the future. The Lingayats, the Patels, the vokkaligas, Patidars and so on.

Politics works on two possible factors – Fear & Need. The fear can often give rise to a need or a need can give rise to a fear.

**

Who are these people who we supposed to vote into power? Who joins politics? Certainly not those who truly want to work for the betterment of the society. And the key requirement of these politicians is a vote bank. And a vote bank, contrary to popular belief, isn’t only about good work done that could translate into winning votes. While the good work does make a difference, it seems recently that more votes can be gained by keeping various sections dependent and under the thumb. The people who can be swayed with a promise – forever. A token effort, some money and the votes are won.

The only advantage democracy has is people retain the power to vote someone out of power. But that process, too, mostly works on paper. Because that process assumes every citizen is aware and participates in the democratic process. Whereas in a country like India, most of the voters are barely aware of what is happening beyond their little village. They are concerned about their loans, water and electricity issues and believe that the guy who comes once in five years would actually make a difference. And they listen to the few people who are making a difference – the kingmakers. They are swayed by money and hope. The educated class – a small percentage of voters – are the only ones perhaps thinking. But they too are swayed by identity and caste politics. After all, everyone wants to protect their own. The deciding voters are clueless for most part.

It is to the benefit of the politician to keep this status quo. To create a fear. A cause that will force people to vote for them. Each agenda is set based on a sub-region and these typically do not meet the true requirements for progress. Everyone promises a better life, but how many are voting just on that promise? Some vote for their identity, some for their money. Some vote because someone else told them to and some vote because they don’t know what is the alternative. In the end, when the results are out, fragmented by multiple purposes, nobody remains the winner – especially not the common man.

The democratic process, which intends to bring out the wishes of the common man, is fragmented and eventually, someone else ends up grabbing the power and we are back to square one.

The only slight, minuscule edge we have in this process is that every election, a small section of people might grow aware and vote for something beyond money, alcohol, religion and caste. But with a population of billion and growing, this is a tediously slow process – which means we remain powerless for longer as the majority leaves the decision making in someone else’s hands.

If the people who want to be voted are in it for the money and power, and the people who are supposed to vote for them are clueless – how does the process succeed?

Personality Quizzes & The Power of Suggestion

I came across yet another app about moods and personality. Being a sucker for personality quizzes, despite having a really good idea of what my traits are, I rarely pass one without taking it up and laughing at it.

This app touted to be a “depression, anxiety and burnout” test. The app was well-designed with soothing colours and pretty light.

Except, once I entered the site, it asked me to identify what I was feeling. Was I feeling angry, depressed, upset, sad, happy, relaxed blah blah?

Since childhood, we have been taught to identify and verbalise some feelings and emotions. Happy. Sad. Angry. Basics. We grow a little older and our vocabulary expands to include a few more words – frustrated, annoyed, elated. Simple, basic emotions that can be expressed in single words.

Social media, especially Facebook, helped us train better to identify what we are feeling and break down into simple sentences. “Mark is…

Feeling sad (with emoticon)

Going to eat an ice-cream

Feeling happy (with another emoticon)”

We had to frame our feelings into simple statements, and thereby identify the main emotion we are feeling.

However, is it possible that a person feels only one thing at one time? Giddy happiness could be accompanied by trepidation. Absolute misery could be coupled with relief. Anger, frustration and misery are often bundled together.

Yet, we are taught to give priority to only one emotion at at time. Nobody wants to know that you are a bundle of emotion.

So you choose a single emotion on the app. And thereby it leads you to further questions, and simply by the power of suggestion, you become.

The Golden Cage of Personalization

As we sign up for any new website, we often click “I Agree” on a long list of fine-print terms and conditions. Some websites try to be a little ‘ethical’ and tell you that they are recording your information – either to improve their product or to improve your life.

Initially, this was great thing for most of us middle class citizens across the world. After decades of being relegated to obscurity, it was great to have something ‘tailor-made’ for us – something we thought was the privilege of the rich. Of course, it was only online but it was still something.

Except, we failed to realise that personalized experiences are nothing more than traps, locking us in a gilded well, giving the illusion of marginally new experiences that never take us out of your comfort zone.

We are circling within the same walls, with minor twists that make us believe that we are discovering something new, while never really allowing us to see the other side.

Videos are recommended based on what we have previously watched. We’re happy we are watching new content, but really, it is just slightly different words on the same context. We believe we are discovering something new, but when it is similar to what we’ve already seen, how is it a new experience?

Travel sites throw up offers and resorts based on what I’ve searched for. I get a million experiences ‘tailor-made’ for me, discovering places without ever really seeing them. We get sanitised experiences that make us believe we’ve seen the real thing. Sort of like how the white tourist comes to India, lives in a 5-star hotel, travels in an air-conditioned car, is shown a little bit of Dharavi to show the ‘other’ side and goes back believing that they’ve seen the real India. We rarely interact with the locals beyond what has been chosen for you. We rarely hear the narrative beyond what has been designed for you.

So where, tell me, do we create free-thinking, enterprising souls? Where is the innovation that is sparked by a new idea? Where is the thrill of discovering something absolutely miraculously new?

I recently decided to wipe my history on YouTube. I did have to score through horrific videos ‘trending’ in India, but I discovered some really cool comedians from Malaysia. Of course, now my YouTube is flooded with more such people.

Google kept throwing up information about a particular kind of phone that I almost missed the innovations happening elsewhere.

Let’s not even talk about Facebook and Twitter.

And this will be the future – a world of puppets.

Remember MySpace? Many Don’t.

I’ve know that I’ve actually lived about 50% of my life (at this point) in the age when there was no public internet. There were no mobile phones. Hell, home computers weren’t even a thing when I was a kid. Infact, ours was one of the first families to have a computer at home and even an internet connection. A black and white monitor, running of DOS (I think). It took quite a while to boot. And even longer to connect to a sporadic internet connection, which hit as often as it missed. And disconnected when some moron called the landline. I played Wolf 3D and Max Payne on those computers. Pacman was one of the coolest things we could play. And Prince.

It often used to give me a jolt when half the people I encounter today wouldn’t even know about what I’m talking about. Well, I am old. Sorta.

Today’s generation is all about Facebook and Farmville and Candy Crush. They were born in the era of great phone connections, and by the time they stepped into teenage, there were mobile phones with internet connections. Anything you want to do at your fingertips.

But today I met a group of people who had no idea of what MySpace was. Remember MySpace? The big daddy of social media. Before there was a Hi5, Orkut and Facebook and all that?

Looking back, MySpace was a cluttered, rough ecosystem of what is today and what is possible. But it established the idea of an internet community before anyone else began to think of it. Perhaps Facebook wouldn’t be Facebook today without Tom’s MySpace.

Actually, on second thoughts, MySpace was perhaps cooler than Facebook is today. It was truly a community for like-minded people. Great music featured on the original ‘pages’. Blogs. A mix of everything. And that little personal touch with Tom sending you a message the moment you created an account. And a little creepiness by friending you. At least, you’d always have Tom as your friend if no one else.

But it is forgotten in the deep dark space of internet. Maybe someday Facebook, Twitter and all these will disappear into the same hole, leaving behind a closer community oriented, more data-rich (if that’s even possible) mine of people in the landscape of internet.

Why is Sustainable Fashion So Expensive?!

Most of my life, I’ve been a fan of natural fabrics. Cotton, linen, silks. Except for the few years when I realised that my dry cleaning bills could easily surpass my earnings, and I discovered the lure (courtesy a friend) of synthetics and cheap clothing.

I went through a phase of buying t-shirts for 100 bucks, and that lasted till I realised I never really stopped shopping. The t-shirts lasted one wash cycle, and I had to be back at the store to find new ones. Having grown up with the ethic of good fabrics, and a dislike of shopping, I soon returned to the branded stores to find that my choice fabrics were replaced to rayons and georgettes. They looked pretty, and unless you burned a hole in one, they’d look great and last forever. Except, they made my skin itch. But since the only other choice was skimpy banian material t-shirts, I succumbed.

Finally, as an adult on the other side of 30, I figured it is time to put my foot down and go back to natural fabrics. This time around, I did find natural fabrics, but the term ‘organic’ had also caught on, making these the new ‘cool’ waves. All your cool designers were espousing the virtues of natural, clean fabrics and driving up the price.

Pure, good cotton is hard to find today. The stuff we do get is so thin that I’ve to wear multiple layers of clothing inside to fulfil the purpose of clothing.

I’ve yet another purpose today in moving to natural fabrics that will last.

The pile of clothing that we discard ends up being in landfills. They do not serve other purposes. Nobody wants my discarded trendy crop top or sexy slit skirt. Nobody even wants my old jeans. There’s been considerable amount of news about the environmental impact of fast fashion. One such interesting (and really impactful video): watch here. Or if you’re not a video person, a fantastic piece by Bloomberg.

‘Fast Fashion’ has been the trend for a while now. Brands need to sell clothes, and if your clothes last you for a couple of years, how are they supposed to make money? Zara, H&M and several other top brands retail ‘fast fashion’ – trends that change every quarter, and clothes that do not last beyond the same period.

Setting aside the hassle of losing your favourite black top that made you look perfect and having to look for something like that again in 3 months, these clothes are piling up.

I want clothes that last.  I want good fabrics. And I want clothes that cause minimal harm to the environment.

Except, when I try to put all these three in the same box, the price tag is pretty hefty. And I’m left wondering why.

 

Being a Conservationist at a Spa & Salon 

My last visit was a little different. Since I was there for a couple of hours, with just one stylist, he had time to figure out his responses. He asked me to use various products, till I finally lost it and said “A. I don’t like chemicals on my hair, and stopping the usage of such products finally helped it. B. I don’t like chemical products, since they aren’t really good for the environment as well. So if you guys switched to better alternatives, it might be good for everyone.”

I hate salons and spas. While I love the experience of being pampered, it is often interspersed by product plugs and annoying comments about how whatever the product I’m using at the moment isn’t good for me (even if these were products suggested by the same person before they got better commissions from another brand).

However, since I’ve switched to organic brands, these conversations are more awkward. Most often, the stylist goes quiet since they don’t want to comment on the organic part of it, or how they are bad for you.

They do try to still push brands on you, most of them being some version of heat protectors, anti-frizz serums etc. Depending on my mood, I’m polite, sarcastic or plain mute.

The last time, I was getting a little annoyed and decided to confuse the guy. I told him I’m a conservationist, and I try not to use chemical products as much as possible (which is true, though that didn’t start from an eco-perspective!).

If there’s one entity that’s not yet made the attempt to switch to being eco-friendly, that’s salons and spas here. They use copious amount of water to maintain hygienic conditions, or even just wash off the chemicals off the hair and body.

Well, nothing much can be done about that (yet) from individuals. A while ago, there was a mass movement about products being tested on animals, and a lot of customers would ask if the products being used were animal-tested. Some awareness, some impact. We’ve not yet got to a stage where people are asking if the products being used are environment-friendly.  They aren’t talking about alternatives to plastics.

So having one person sitting there talking about how much water you are using to wash one’s hair makes them extremely uncomfortable. This is not a conversation they want to start yet, since that means involving more structural changes (eco-shower heads, better recycling policies, LED lighting, washing policies, hygiene maintenance).

Now to be honest, I’ve never thought much about conservation in the beauty industry. I do know that the water being used here needs to be treated before it enters the sewage system. But no clue if Indian rules enforce this. There’s a tough line to maintain between hygiene and being eco-friendly, and one reason the luxurious places use fresh products – so we know that it is clean.

But for me, I’ve found my way to shut up the annoying sales person the next I want a head massage in peace.

Where Are The Young Faces of the Congress Party?

So apparently we’ve yet another institution named after Indira Gandhi. This time, it is some medical thing. It made me wonder how many things are named after our former PM, and even as I began to search, Google threw up a Wikipedia page. Yep, there’s a Wikipedia page. A quick scroll through it shows that it is no where close to being comprehensive because I can think of about 5 things just in my city (as projects and initiatives) that aren’t included in that list. Then I moved on to search for the same thing on Rajiv Gandhi, and found this infographic on Firstpost that seems to be a slightly more realistic number.

Let’s put these things into perspective.

Jawaharlal Nehru was India’s first prime minister. Like back in 1947 till 1964. Much of India’s voting population today wasn’t even born then! Indira Gandhi then took over the mantle and ruled from 1966 to 1977.

Since then, there have been several great ministers & personalities from the Congress party.  P V Narasimha Rao, the guy who opened up the Indian economy. Mr. Manmohan Singh, who despite various controversies, is an extremely knowledge person, and the most recent PM. Why aren’t these people celebrated, highlighting the legacy beyond the 60s and 70s of the Congress Party?

The youth, we believe, are not really interested in politics. Which is probably true. Most often, we only browse the news and are not inclined to analyse it. However, in the age of social media, there are more people involved in the makings of our political system. In this scenario, India’s oldest political party is still flogging the ideologies & personalities of old, and failing to highlight their current strengths and philosophies.

Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi were politicians who did their bit, a few decades ago. The India of today doesn’t resemble the India of even a couple of decades ago. And the India of the 2030s will be vastly different from the ones of the 1950s, 60s or even the 90s.

Do the Congress expect us to follow what had been? Where are the new leaders of Congress other than Rahul Gandhi. There is a lot of young blood in the other biggest Indian party, BJP. Promising personalities who could be the future ministers of India. Perhaps the Congress does have younger, promising people, but they are not really visible in the public, not in terms of their work or their thoughts.

Exploring Tamil Nadu: Part 2 – Rameshwaram

We were supposed to be traveling alongside the river the entire journey to Rameshwaram. At least, that’s what Google maps said. Real life is a different story. There is a river, as seen by the basic overgrown with plants. But either lack of rains or a dam somewhere has stopped the water, making parts of the basin slushy and the rest barren.

Barren soon became the word of the day as we headed closer to Rameshwaram. The landscape grew flatter and more barren. There were long stretches where you could see miles on either side, and there was barely a bush in sight. Brick kilns were common, and progress was slow because the road remained a narrow two-lane ‘highway’.

Rameshwaram was a barely ignored ‘second-grade township’ in Tamil Nadu, and their sole claim to fame was the legend that stated Lord Rama built his bridge to Sri Lanka from here to rescue Sita, his wife. There’s also a place that Hanuman supposedly leaped from to reach Sri Lanka.

The town’s modern claim to fame is one of India’s most renowned personalities & former President, Abdul Kalam.

 

Salt basins and palm trees are common as you get closer to Rameshwaram, almost frightening in its starkness and flatness.

Soon, the road began to narrow again and we were on the famous Pamban Bridge.

The bridge was first a railway bridge only, built in 1914, connecting the island town of Rameshwaram to the mainland.

Rameshwaram is actually located on Pamban Island. The railway bridge was India’s first sea bridge of any sort, and the longest till the Bandra-Worli Sea Link displaced it in 2010. A road bridge was constructed parallel to the rail bridge in 1988.

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I was super thrilled by the colours of the ocean as we got on the road bridge, and despite multiple “No Stopping” signs that every other car was ignoring, we pulled over to take photographs.

As I often say, a photographer sometimes just clicks the shutter. Nature does the rest. Right as I ran over to the side with my camera, a train was on the bridge. There are very few trains, so it was a stroke of luck that I got to shoot it, and in such awesome light conditions. The wind is strong enough to knock you back a couple of steps, so I had to struggle to keep my bandanna on and shoot at the same time. The ocean looks wild, with a multitude of hues of blue that I’d last seen on the Australian coast.

We then wandered over to the other side of the bridge, which looks like an entirely different world. The colours are still vivid and varied, but the ocean is calm and serene. Infact, it looks like a postcard, with fishing boats bobbing gently in the water, and quaint little huts on the beach.

***

The town of Rameshwaram is literally a back-of-beyond town in Tamil Nadu. Reading the stories of Kalam gives one a picture of the town about 50 years ago, and seems like it has only progressed a little since then.

Since the primary visitors here were temple devotees, who preferred simplicity, the infrastructure is built to accommodate that.

It means basic hotels, with mostly vegetarian restaurants.

I ended up signing up at the most fanciest place, since that was the only one with car park, and of course, we didn’t really want to rough it out.

The sense of ‘flat & straight’ continued past the bridge, almost seeming like we didn’t move the steering at all, except to avoid pedestrians crossing the street.

It was close to 4.00 PM by the time we arrived in town, and our first concern was to find a place that served something beyond the typical idli & dosa fare popular in the region. Luckily, we passed a “Sea Star Hotel” with a massive board sporting photographs of various indistinct dishes.

The hotel turned out to be THE fanciest hotel in the place, at least from the outside. On checking in, we realised it was still for the devotees who came to the temple but didn’t want to rough it out. The food was vegetarian, the hallways had the smell of incense and decorations of flowers, and our welcome booklet included the various times of aartis and poojas happening in town.

We had two destinations here: Dhanushkodi, located about 20-odd kms from Rameshwaram and the newly-inaguarated museum of President Kalam.

It was close to dusk by the time we started out to Dhanushkodi. The moment you veer out of Rameshwaram, the bleakness starts. Salt marshes on both sides of the road, and water that seems like land.

Dhanushkodi was declared a Ghost Town after it was badly hit by a cyclone in 1964. Exposed on all sides, there are little scrub bushes that offer no protection from the wind. The visibility is great, and the road straight & long enough to land a plane.

All the earlier research I’d done indicated that you couldn’t go right till the tip in a car, and would need to rent a jeep or a 4×4. But to our surprise, the road continued. Unfortunately, there are cops patrolling the area and no people are allowed beyond the point after 6.00 PM, and we had to turn back.

(To Be Continued)

Travel Tales: Exploring Tamil Nadu (Story 1)

Most of us know Tamil as a language. We know Tamil Nadu as a state in India. But if you ask a native of the land, they’ll tell you that Tamil is not just a language or state. It goes beyond geographical and language identities. Tamil is a culture. A culture that has a heritage of several centuries and has grown while keeping its inherent identity intact.

Most of my exposure to Tamil Nadu has been primarily Chennai, the modern capital of Tamil Nadu. And of course, a few tourist towns like Mahabalipuram & Pondicherry. I’ve driven past several other towns, not really stopping to explore. I’m familiar with the language, and some aspects of the culture – being a South Indian who has several friends from this identity – but the history is buried in the temples, the local lingo and the streets.

The first stop this time was at Madurai, the temple city of Tamil Nadu. The town had been on the list for a long, long time, especially the Madurai Meenakshi Temple.

The temple, which was supposedly built before the 7th Century AD, features in Tamil literature predominantly. The temple is dedicated to Meenakshi, a form of Parvati, the wife of Shiva. The temple was repeatedly plundered in the 14th Century by various Mughal armies, and had to be restored in 16th Century. There are a total of 14 gopurams, one of which is seen in the photograph.

Starting off:

It is Diwali, and we drive on the highway looking at cracker bursting in the sky all through. The streets of Madurai are empty, even though it is barely 7.30 PM. We wonder if Diwali is big in Madurai. For the night, on our agenda, are three important places:

  • Amma Mess – known for its bone-marrow omelette
  • Arumugam Mess – Known for great meat dishes
  • Chandran Mess – Ditto
  • Jigar Thanda – a sweet delicacy of the region

The hotel is just a few metres away from all these places (What luck!) and we are set to try out all these and more in a few minutes. Except, when we get there, the street is entirely deserted and everything is shut. Turns out, Diwali is big in Madurai and no meat-serving place is open (lesson for the future!)

The hotel still serves meat, we figure, and are about to turn back when we catch sight of the bright, LED lights of a shop! It says “Jigar Thanda – Since 1952”. We figure we could tick one item off the list, and grab two specials. The place was fairly small and crowded with families, so we figure we hit on the authentic place.

Except, there is another place a few metres ahead and they too claim to be from the 50s. A quick google search tells us that the sweet drink is old, and there are several such places. The drink itself – a mix of kulfi, with an extreme dose of sweetness. Google tells us it has almonds and a few other things but all I can taste is cloying sweetness!

Day 2: We check out early and head towards the Madurai Meenakshi Temple. It is barely 10.00 AM in October, and the temperatures are hovering in the late 30s. The streets leading to the temple are quite narrow, and mostly have small garages and mechanic shops. All the roads that maps tell us to take are clogged, and we eventually end up at the ‘designated parking lot’ – which is basically a large, empty plot. The car will be hot enough to cook mutton when we return!

We reach the East Gateway. Opposite to the temple complex is another large structure, which currently holds some shops. Surprised that these ancient structures are still being used, we wander around a bit before deciding to explore it later. They are, after all, just shops.

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Tourism Boards have done their bit, and there are metal detectors at the entry of each gate.

There is also a free, safe service wherein you can leave your footwear, surrounded by notice boards that tell you not to tip the people behind the counter since they are paid.

We push our way through the crowds and leave our slippers and head to the entry only to be told that since I’m carrying a DSLR, we’ve to enter from the next gate.

Now, there were boards that said no cameras allowed but I figured I could tell them I’m gonna keep it in my bag. I wasn’t willing to walk all the way back to the car and dump in there, nor was I willing to leave my expensive gear at the footwear counter.

So, we head to the next gate, and head to the men’s & women’s lines respectively. I ask the cop on duty there if I can take my camera and that I won’t shoot, and he tells me to go back in and check it in the ‘locker’. The guy at the locker asks me if I have anything ‘important’ in my backpack and I say “Camera!”. So he tells me that I’ve to use the ‘special locker’ which costs 5 bucks instead of the simple ‘bag check-in counter’ that costs two bucks. Right.

The “Special Locker” is a tall metal locker with lopsided doors that even I could break with a firm push. The lady meticulously writes down the contents of my bag and asks me the value of the goods. Ummm… I’ve a fantastic DSLR + A couple of lenses, each worth a lakh and some basic accessories. Value? Maybe around 3 lakh rupees.

But, if I tell her the value is 3 lakhs, what if that’s cause for temptation? If I downplay it and lose it, what could be the flip side? In the end, I murmur something, collect my token, shout out a silent prayer to Goddess Meenakshi and head into the temple.

The difference is apparent the moment you step into the cool arches of the temple. The architecture, which has withstood centuries of travails, is built for the weather. High ceilings, heavy stones that can keep the stone out. The entryway has more shops, offering flowers, coconuts etc for the Goddess and other knick knacks.

The entry hallway is immensely long, and you can just about see the arches one after the other. The photographer in me in crying for a photograph, but I think one of the cops are gonna come & snatch the phone away. I get a couple of shots anyway!

We finally enter the actual Temple complex, with the Pond With The Golden Lotus and the wonderful gopura, only to see plenty of people happily taking selfies & photographs.

(Minor Rant: What’s the big deal about keeping cameras out in the age of super phones that have fantastic cameras? They don’t say photography not allowed. They only say “cameras not allowed.” One part of what I will call Tamil logic that eludes me!)

Tamil legends state that the pool could judge the worth of a new piece of literature. Authors place their works here. The good ones float and the poor ones sink.

The walls are decorated with beautiful scenes from Ramayana. If we had the time, we’d explore it panel-by-panel but I’m in a hurry to see the rest of the temple.

One section of the temple is locked (and as always, it evokes more curiosity). Different parts are dedicated to different Gods, and the sculptures / shrines of the smaller deities gleam like they were just carved & polished.

The Kambatadi Mandapam (“Hall of Temple Tree”) with its seated Nandi & a golden pillar has various manifestations of Shiva carved in stone. It also has the famous “Marriage of Meenakshi” sculpture. According to Wikipedia, the sculptures of Shiva and Kali are pelted with balls of ghee by devotees, which accounts for that fantastic shine. The tall golden pillar apparently signifies the human backbone.

We go back into the thousand-pillar hall, studying some of the sculptures. Each pillar is supposed to have a different one, and we find one with Vishnu (or one avatar of him) and several other gods & demi-gods. It seems like every single Indian god and their avatar has a place in this massive temple!

We choose not to go into the inner sanctum, because of lines that were longer than Black Friday lines. We figure we can live without having seen the actual statue, with a little bit of regret.

For more photographs, visit here.

Done with the temple, we hurried back, hoping that the food part of the trip could be completed and the mess’ would be open. No such luck. Everything remained firmly closed, and we had to eat at a smaller but pretty decent place right next door. The biryani was decent, so was the fish fry but it was no bone marrow omelette.

Thus done, we move to the next part of the trip – Rameshwaram with its famous Pamban Bridge, and India’s ghost town, Dhanushkodi – also the place from where Lord Rama built his bridge to Sri Lanka to rescue Sita.

The Sanjay Leela Bhansali Controversies

Sanjay Leela Bhansali (or SLB as he is referred to since we hate long names) has been known for movies that are essentially a walk through a beautiful palace, with some characters in between to display great clothes & jewellery. There’s a two year gap between his last movie, Bajirao Mastani, and the new one, Padmavati. And there’ve been controversies on both.

  1. Queens don’t dance. It is insulting to show them dancing!
  2. Costumes: Queens don’t wear such costumes. They are dignified and covered
  3. Intimate scene between the King and a woman! Uff!
  4. No problem with the actors but not sure if these were the ones who should’ve been. chosen to play these characters
  5. Insulting to culture!bhansali-first-poster-padmavati-deepika-padukone-sanjay_08aca446-9e79-11e7-ba2d-20fa1b34073f

Which movie were these issues for? Why, both! Same issues. New meaning to “Formula movies”?