A brief Southern sojourn(1)

shore templeA family wedding took me to Chennai in late December – and I stayed on for a few extra days to relax by the sea – first at the Radisson resort in Mammalapuram and then at Puducherry. Both destinations were busy with the holiday tourist crowd –

The Radisson is an upmarket resort which has been around for some years. It is comfortable with very average food options – but for water lovers like me, the 2 great swimming pools make up for all the other deficiencies. The 2 mornings we were there, I had very different experiences on #mymorningwalk. The first morning, I stepped on to the beach, hoping to walk southwards, to the shore temple which I could see in the distance. However, in the many years since my last visit, this approach is no longer possible as the temple complex has been barricaded from the beach side. So I turned around and walked north for a few kilometers. The weather was great and the sun was just coming up and although the beach was narrow at high tide, it was a lovely walk. Except for the landward sights – the whole distance I walked was a continuous series of resorts – of variable shades of elegance/or the lack of it. Many had constructions jutting onto the beach, including the State Government one – what of the ‘500 meter law’ (a 1991 law by which building in the 500 m from high tide line is prohibited) I wondered! The total lack of greenery was not all man made – the cyclone had ravaged this coast just a month previously.

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The next morning, I walked out of the front gate of the resort and into the town of Mammalapuram – with the intention of visiting the shore temple. After enjoying a fresh cup of filter coffee, I walked past the bustling tourists jostling for their street side breakfast, to reach the gates of the shore temple.

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The ticket office was open and here I was in for a surprise! The notice above the booking window said, Rs 30/ for Indians and Rs 500/ for foreigners.  Me in my tack suit and T, requesting for a Rs 30/ ticket in Tamil, was requested to produce ID proof of my Indianness!  I am sure the same was not demanded of the many in their sarees and veshtis – and no amount of arguing in the local tongue, would convince the very diligent booking clerk. He pointed out the large notice board which said somewhere said that an ID was required. So I had to be content with the distant view of the shore temple and closer view of the many fine pieces of stone carving, which are on display in the many shops along the main street.

And then we moved on to Puducherry for the rest of the sojourn!

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