காதரின் மான்ஸ்ஃபீல்ட் எழுதிய “A Cup of Tea” – பிடித்த சிறுகதை

katherine_mansfieldகு.ப.ரா. பேரைக் கூட கேட்டிராத வயதில் இந்த சிறுகதையை முதன்முதலாகப் படித்தேன். மிகவும் பிடித்திருந்த சிறுகதை. இவர் எழுதிய வேறு புத்தகம் கிடைக்குமா என்று தேடினேன். கிராம நூலகங்களில் ஆங்கிலப் புத்தத்தைப் பார்ப்பதே அரிது. அப்போதெல்லாம் நூலகங்களை விட்டால் வேறு கதியும் கிடையாது. மான்ஸ்ஃபீல்ட் என்ற பேரே மறந்துவிட்டது.

பின்னாளில் கு.ப.ரா. மற்றும் தி.ஜா. நுட்பமான உணர்வுகளை எடுத்துக் காட்டும் சிறுகதைகளைப் படிக்கும்போதெல்லாம் இதுவும் நினைவு வரும். ஆனால் கதைதான் நினைவிருந்ததே தவிர தலைப்போ எழுத்தாளர் பேரோ நினைவில் இல்லை.

மனித மனம் விசித்திரமானது. நான்கு நாள் முன் அந்தத் தொகுப்பைப் படிப்பது போல கனவு கண்டேன். கதையின் தலைப்பு, எழுதியவர் பேர் எல்லாம் தெளிவாக இருந்தது. எழுந்த பிறகும் காதரின் மான்ஸ்ஃபீல்ட் எழுதிய “A Cup of Tea” என்பது மறக்கவில்லை. மூளையின் எந்த மடிப்பில் எங்கே இந்தத் தகவல் இருந்ததோ!

இணைய உலகத்தில் இத்தனை தகவல் போதாதா? கதையைத் தேடிக் கண்டுபிடித்துப் படித்தேன். இத்தனை வருஷங்களுக்கு அப்புறமும் கதையின் வீரியம் என்னைப் பொறுத்த வரையில் அப்படியேதான் இருந்தது. இணையத்தில் பல கதைகள் கிடைக்கின்றன. இனிமேல்தான் படித்துப் பார்க்க வேண்டும்.

கு.ப.ரா., தி.ஜா. போன்றவர்களுக்கு இணையாக ஒரு கதை எழுதுவது ஒரு சாதனை. நீங்களும் படித்துப் பாருங்கள்!


A Cup of Tea By Katherine Mansfield

Rosemary Fell was not exactly beautiful. No, you couldn’t have called her beautiful. Pretty? Well, if you took her to pieces… But why be so cruel as to take anyone to pieces? She was young, brilliant, extremely modem, exquisitely well dressed, amazingly well read in the newest of the new books, and her parties were the most delicious mixture of the really important people and… artists – quaint creatures, discoveries of hers, some of them too terrifying for words, but others quite presentable and amusing.

Rosemary had been married two years. She had a duck of a boy. No, not Peter – Michael. And her husband absolutely adored her. They were rich, really rich, not just comfortably well off, which is odious and stuffy and sounds like one’s grandparents. But if Rosemary wanted to shop she would go to Paris as you and I would go to Bond Street . If she wanted to buy flowers, the car pulled up at that perfect shop in Regent Street, and Rosemary inside the shop just gazed in her dazzled, rather exotic way, and said: “I want those and those and those. Give me four bunches of those. And that jar of roses. Yes, I’ll have all the roses in the jar. No, no lilac. I hate lilac. It’s got no shape.” The attendant bowed and put the lilac out of sight, as though this was only too true; lilac was dreadfully shapeless. “Give me those stumpy little tulips. Those red and white ones.” And she was followed to the car by a thin shop-girl staggering under an immense white paper armful that looked like a baby in long clothes….

One winter afternoon she had been buying something in a little antique shop in Curzon Street . It was a shop she liked. For one thing, one usually had it to oneself. And then the man who kept it was ridiculously fond of serving her. He beamed whenever she came in. He clasped his hands; he was so gratified he could scarcely speak. Flattery, of course. All the same, there was something…

“You see, madam,” he would explain in his low respectful tones, “I love my things. I would rather not part with them than sell them to someone who does not appreciate them, who has not that fine feeling which is so rare…” And, breathing deeply, he unrolled a tiny square of blue velvet and pressed it on the glass counter with his pale finger-tips.

To-day it was a little box. He had been keeping it for her. He had shown it to nobody as yet. An exquisite little enamel box with a glaze so fine it looked as though it had been baked in cream. On the lid a minute creature stood under a flowery tree, and a more minute creature still had her arms round his neck. Her hat, really no bigger than a geranium petal, hung from a branch; it had green ribbons. And there was a pink cloud like a watchful cherub floating above their heads. Rosemary took her hands out of her long gloves. She always took off her gloves to examine such things. Yes, she liked it very much. She loved it; it was a great duck. She must have it. And, turning the creamy box, opening and shutting it, she couldn’t help noticing how charming her hands were against the blue velvet. The shopman, in some dim cavern of his mind, may have dared to think so too. For he took a pencil, leant over the counter, and his pale, bloodless fingers crept timidly towards those rosy, flashing ones, as he murmured gently: “If I may venture to point out to madam, the flowers on the little lady’s bodice.”

“Charming!” Rosemary admired the flowers. But what was the price? For a moment the shopman did not seem to hear. Then a murmur reached her. “Twenty-eight guineas, madam.”

“Twenty-eight guineas.” Rosemary gave no sign. She laid the little box down; she buttoned her gloves again. Twenty-eight guineas. Even if one is rich… She looked vague. She stared at a plump tea-kettle like a plump hen above the shopman’s head, and her voice was dreamy as she answered: “Well, keep it for me – will you? I’ll…”

But the shopman had already bowed as though keeping it for her was all any human being could ask. He would be willing, of course, to keep it for her for ever.

The discreet door shut with a click. She was outside on the step, gazing at the winter afternoon. Rain was falling, and with the rain it seemed the dark came too, spinning down like ashes. There was a cold bitter taste in the air, and the new-lighted lamps looked sad. Sad were the lights in the houses opposite. Dimly they burned as if regretting something. And people hurried by, hidden under their hateful umbrellas. Rosemary felt a strange pang. She pressed her muff against her breast; she wished she had the little box, too, to cling to. Of course the car was there. She’d only to cross the pavement. But still she waited. There are moments, horrible moments in life, when one emerges from shelter and looks out, and it’s awful. One oughtn’t to give way to them. One ought to go home and have an extra-special tea. But at the very instant of thinking that, a young girl, thin, dark, shadowy – where had she come from? – was standing at Rosemary’s elbow and a voice like a sigh, almost like a sob, breathed: “Madam, may I speak to you a moment?”

“Speak to me?” Rosemary turned. She saw a little battered creature with enormous eyes, someone quite young, no older than herself, who clutched at her coat-collar with reddened hands, and shivered as though she had just come out of the water.

“M-madam, stammered the voice. Would you let me have the price of a cup of tea?”

“A cup of tea?” There was something simple, sincere in that voice; it wasn’t in the least the voice of a beggar. “Then have you no money at all?” asked Rosemary.

“None, madam,” came the answer.

“How extraordinary!” Rosemary peered through the dusk and the girl gazed back at her. How more than extraordinary! And suddenly it seemed to Rosemary such an adventure. It was like something out of a novel by Dostoevsky, this meeting in the dusk. Supposing she took the girl home? Supposing she did do one of those things she was always reading about or seeing on the stage, what would happen? It would be thrilling. And she heard herself saying afterwards to the amazement of her friends: “I simply took her home with me,” as she stepped forward and said to that dim person beside her: “Come home to tea with me.”

The girl drew back startled. She even stopped shivering for a moment. Rosemary put out a hand and touched her arm. “I mean it,” she said, smiling. And she felt how simple and kind her smile was. “Why won’t you? Do. Come home with me now in my car and have tea.”

“You – you don’t mean it, madam,” said the girl, and there was pain in her voice.

“But I do,” cried Rosemary. “I want you to. To please me. Come along.”

The girl put her fingers to her lips and her eyes devoured Rosemary. “You’re – you’re not taking me to the police station?” she stammered.

“The police station!” Rosemary laughed out. “Why should I be so cruel? No, I only want to make you warm and to hear – anything you care to tell me.”

Hungry people are easily led. The footman held the door of the car open, and a moment later they were skimming through the dusk.

“There!” said Rosemary. She had a feeling of triumph as she slipped her hand through the velvet strap. She could have said, “Now I’ve got you,” as she gazed at the little captive she had netted. But of course she meant it kindly. Oh, more than kindly. She was going to prove to this girl that – wonderful things did happen in life, that – fairy godmothers were real, that – rich people had hearts, and that women were sisters. She turned impulsively, saying’. “Don’t be frightened. After all, why shouldn’t you come back with me? We’re both women. If I’m the more fortunate, you ought to expect…”

But happily at that moment, for she didn’t know how the sentence was going to end, the car stopped. The bell was rung, the door opened, and with a charming, protecting, almost embracing movement, Rosemary drew the other into the hall. Warmth, softness, light, a sweet scent, all those things so familiar to her she never even thought about them, she watched that other receive. It was fascinating. She was like the rich little girl in her nursery with all the cupboards to open, all the boxes to unpack.

“Come, come upstairs,” said Rosemary, longing to begin to be generous. “Come up to my room.” And, besides, she wanted to spare this poor little thing from being stared at by the servants; she decided as they mounted the stairs she would not even ring to Jeanne, but take off her things by herself. The great things were to be natural!

And “There!” cried Rosemary again, as they reached her beautiful big bedroom with the curtains drawn, the fire leaping on her wonderful lacquer furniture, her gold cushions and the primrose and blue rugs.

The girl stood just inside the door; she seemed dazed. But Rosemary didn’t mind that.

“Come and sit down,” she cried, dragging her big chair up to the fire, “m this comfy chair. Come and get warm. You look so dreadfully cold.”

“I daren’t, madam,” said the girl, and she edged backwards.

“Oh, please,” – Rosemary ran forward – “you mustn’t be frightened, you mustn’t, really. Sit down, when I’ve taken off my things we shall go into the next room and have tea and be cozy. Why are you afraid?” And gently she half pushed the thin figure into its deep cradle. .

But there was no answer. The girl stayed just as she had been put, with her hands by her sides and her mouth slightly open. To be quite sincere, she looked rather stupid. But Rosemary wouldn’t acknowledge it. She leant over her, saying:

“Won’t you take off your hat? Your pretty hair is all wet. And one is so much more comfortable without a hat, isn’t one?”

There was a whisper that sounded like “Very good, madam,” and the crushed hat was taken off.

“And let me help you off with your coat, too,” said Rosemary.

The girl stood up. But she held on to the chair with one hand and let Rosemary pull. It was quite an effort. The other scarcely helped her at all. She seemed to stagger like a child, and the thought came and went through Rosemary’s mind, that if people wanted helping they must respond a little, just a little, otherwise it became very difficult indeed. And what was she to do with the coat now? She left it on the floor, and the hat too. She was just going to take a cigarette off the mantelpiece when the girl said quickly, but so lightly and strangely: “I’m very sorry, madam, but I’m going to faint. I shall go off, madam, if I don’t have something.”

“Good heavens, how thoughtless I am!” Rosemary rushed to the bell.

“Tea! Tea at once! And some brandy immediately!”

The maid was gone again, but the girl almost cried out: “No, I don’t want no brandy.* I never drink brandy. It’s a cup of tea I want, madam.” And she burst into tears.

It was a terrible and fascinating moment. Rosemary knelt beside her chair.

“Don’t cry, poor little thing,” she said. “Don’t cry.” And she gave the other her lace handkerchief. She really was touched beyond words. She put her arm round those thin, bird-like shoulders.

Now at last the other forgot to be shy, forgot everything except that they were both women, and gasped out: “I can’t go on no longer like this. I can’t bear it. I can’t bear it. I shall do away with myself. I can’t bear no more.”

“You shan’t have to. I’ll look after you. Don’t cry any more. Don’t you see what a good thing it was that you met me? We’ll have tea and you’ll tell me everything. And I shall arrange something. I promise. Do stop crying. It’s so exhausting. Please!”

The other did stop just in time for Rosemary to get up before the tea came. She had the table placed between them. She plied the poor little creature with everything, all the sandwiches, all the bread and butter, and every time her cup was empty she filled it with tea, cream and sugar. People always said sugar was so nourishing. As for herself she didn’t eat; she smoked and looked away tactfully so that the other should not be shy.

And really the effect of that slight meal was marvelous. When the tea-table was carried away a new being, a light, frail creature with tangled hair, dark lips, deep, lighted eyes, lay back in the big chair in a kind of sweet languor, looking at the blaze. Rosemary lit a fresh cigarette; it was time to begin.

“And when did you have your last meal?” she asked softly.

But at that moment the door-handle turned.

“Rosemary, may I come in?” It was Philip.

“Of course.”

He came in. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” he said, and stopped and stared.

“It’s quite all right,” said Rosemary, smiling. “This is my friend, Miss _”

“Smith, madam,” said the languid figure, who was strangely still and unafraid.

“Smith,” said Rosemary. “We are going to have a little talk.”

“Oh yes,” said Philip. “Quite,” and his eye caught sight of the coat and hat on the floor. He came over to the fire and turned his back to it. “It’s a beastly afternoon,” he said curiously, still looking at that listless figure, looking at its hands and boots, and then at Rosemary again.

“Yes, isn’t it?” said Rosemary enthusiastically. “Vile.”

Philip smiled his charming smile. “As a matter of fact,” said he, “I wanted you to come into the library for a moment. Would you? Will Miss Smith excuse us?”

The big eyes were raised to him, but Rosemary answered for her: “Of course she will.” And they went out of the room together.

“I say,” said Philip, when they were alone. “Explain. Who is she? What does it all mean?”

Rosemary, laughing, leaned against the door and said: “I picked her up in Curzon Street . Really. She’s a real pick-up. She asked me for the price of a cup of tea, and I brought her home with me. ”

“But what on earth are you going to do with her?” cried Philip.

“Be nice to her,” said Rosemary quickly. “Be frightfully nice to her. Look after her. I don’t know how. We haven’t talked yet. But show her – treat her – make her feel -”

“My darling girl,” said Philip, “you’re quite mad, you know. It simply can’t be done.”

“I knew you’d say that,” retorted Rosemary. Why not? I want to. Isn’t that a reason? And besides, one’s always reading about these things. I decided -”

“But,” said Philip slowly, and he cut the end of a cigar, “she’s so astonishingly pretty.”

“Pretty?” Rosemary was so surprised that she blushed. “Do you think so? I – I hadn’t thought about it.”

“Good Lord!” Philip struck a match. “She’s absolutely lovely. Look again, my child. I was bowled over when I came into your room just now. However… I think you’re making a ghastly mistake. Sorry, darling, if I’m crude and all that. But let me know if Miss Smith is going to dine with us in time for me to look up The Milliner’s Gazette.”

“You absurd creature!” said Rosemary, and she went out of the library, but not back to her bedroom. She went to her writing-room and sat down at her desk. Pretty! Absolutely lovely! Bowled over! Her heart beat like a heavy bell. Pretty! Lovely! She drew her check-book towards her. But no, checks would be no use, of course. She opened a drawer and took out five pound notes, looked at them, put two back, and holding the three squeezed in her hand, she went back to her bedroom.

Half an hour later Philip was still in the library, when Rosemary came in.

“I only wanted to tell you,” said she, and she leaned against the door again and looked at him with her dazzled exotic gaze, “Miss Smith won’t dine with us to-night.”

Philip put down the paper. “Oh, what’s happened? Previous engagement?”

Rosemary came over and sat down on his knee. “She insisted on going,” said she, “so I gave the poor little thing a present of money. I couldn’t keep her against her will, could I?” she added softly.

Rosemary had just done her hair, darkened her eyes a little and put on her pearls. She put up her hands and touched Philip’s cheeks.

“Do you like me?” said she, and her tone, sweet, husky, troubled him.

“I like you awfully,” he said, and he held her tighter. “Kiss me.”

There was a pause.

Then Rosemary said dreamily: “I saw a fascinating little box to-day. It cost twenty-eight guineas. May I have it?”

Philip jumped her on his knee. “You may, little wasteful one,” said he.

But that was not really what Rosemary wanted to say.

“Philip,” she whispered, and she pressed his head against her bosom, “am I pretty?”

அ. முத்துலிங்கத்தின் “மட்டுப்படுத்தப்பட்ட வினைச்சொற்கள்” – பிடித்த சிறுகதை

a_muthulingamஇதில் என்னைக் கவர்வது அவரது craft. என்ன கச்சிதமான, நேர்த்தியான சிறுகதை! எத்தனை முறை படித்தாலும் ஒரு உற்சாகம் வருகிறது. கதை கிதை என்று ஒரு மண்ணும் கிடையாது. “அண்ணலும் நோக்கினான் அவளும் நோக்கினாள்” என்று ஒரு வரியை இப்படியும் எழுதலாம். ஆனால் இவ்வளவு நேர்த்தியாக எழுதவேண்டுமே! இப்படி ஒரு கச்சிதமான சிறுகதையாவது எழுதினால் என் ஜன்மம் சாபல்யம் அடையும்.

அழியாச்சுடர்கள் தளத்தில் ராம் பதித்திருக்கிறார். அவருக்கு நன்றி!

தொகுக்கப்பட்ட பக்கம்: முத்துலிங்கம் பக்கம், சிறுகதைகள்

பீச்சில் படிக்க ஏற்ற நூறு புத்தகங்கள்

NPRஇன்னொரு என்பிஆர் பட்டியல். பீச்சில் படிக்க ஏற்றவை என்றால் சுவாரசியம் நிறைந்த, நம்மை புத்தகத்தில் மூழ்கடிக்க செய்யக் கூடிய, அதே நேரத்தில் ரொம்பவும் யோசிக்க வைக்காத புத்தகங்கள் என்று பொருள் கொள்ளலாமா?

வழக்கம் போல வசதிக்காக டாப் 10 கீழே:

  1. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  3. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  4. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding
  5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  6. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
  7. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  8. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  9. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
  10. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

தொகுக்கப்பட்ட பக்கம்: பரிந்துரைகள்

கணேஷ்-வசந்த் கதை – விபரீதக் கோட்பாடு

ganesh-vasanthஇன்னுமொரு எழுபதுகளின் கணேஷ்-வசந்த் கதை. (1976) ஏதோ மாத நாவலாக வந்தது (மாலைமதி?) என்று நினைவு.

sujathaவழக்கம் போல வசந்த் சைட் அடிக்கக் கூடிய பெண்ணான தருணா; தான் சாமியை மணக்க விரும்புவதாகவும், ஆனால் சாமிக்கு முதல் மனைவி ப்ரதிமா என்று ஒருத்தி இருப்பதாகவும், அவள் வேறொருவனோடு ஓடிவிட்டதாகவும், அவளைக் கண்டுபிடித்து விவாகரத்து பெற்றுத் தர வேண்டும் என்றும் கேஸ் கொண்டு வருகிறாள். சாமியின் சித்தப்பா ஆன்மிகம், மந்திரம் தந்திரம் என்று இருப்பவர். அவரைச் சார்ந்துதான் சாமியின் வாழ்க்கை. வழக்கம் போல புத்திசாலித்தனமாக கணேஷ் பிரதிமாவைக் கண்டுபிடித்து அவளைச் சந்திக்க செல்லும்போது ப்ரதிமா கொல்லப்படுகிறாள். பின்னால் இருக்கும் விபரீதக் கோட்பாடு என்ன என்பதுதான் கதை.

vibareethak kotpaaduபிரமாதமான த்ரில்லர் என்று இல்லாவிட்டாலும் இன்றும் படிக்கக் கூடிய கதை. விறுவிறுப்பாகச் செல்லும் கதை. இதைப் போல நல்ல டைம் பாஸ் த்ரில்லர்களை இன்றும் யாரும் எழுதுவதில்லை என்பது தமிழில் எனக்குப் பெரிய குறையாகத்தான் தெரிகிறது.

அந்தக் காலத்தில் படிக்கும்போது மிகவும் த்ரில்லிங் ஆக இருந்தது. பதின்ம வயதினரைக் கவரும் விதத்தில் கொஞ்சம் செக்ஸ், கொஞ்சம் மர்மம் என்று கலந்து கட்டி அடித்திருந்தார். என் நண்பர் கூட்டம் சுஜாதாவின் பெரிய விசிறிகளாக மாற இதுவும் ஒரு காரணம்.

கணேஷ்-வசந்த் ரசிகர்கள் கட்டாயம் படிக்க வேண்டும்.

தொகுக்கப்பட்ட பக்கம்: கணேஷ்-வசந்த் பக்கம்

டாப் 100 அறிவியல்+ஃபாண்டஸி புனைவுகள்

NPRஎன்பிஆரின் இன்னொரு பட்டியல். எனக்கு அறிவியல் புனைவுகள் பிடித்தமானவை. ஆனால் இந்த லிஸ்டில் ஃபாண்டசிக்கு பெரிய இடம் இருக்கிறது. ஆனால் டாப் டென்னில் எனக்குத் தேறாதது Hitchhiker ஒன்றுதான். சிறுகதையாக வர வேண்டியதை சீரிஸாக இழுக்கிறார்.

வசதிக்காக டாப் டென் புத்தகங்கள் கீழே.

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien‘s Lord of the Rings Series
  2. Douglas AdamsHitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy Series
  3. Orson Scott Card‘s Ender’s Game
  4. Frank Herbert‘s Dune Chronicles
  5. George R.R. Martin‘s A Song of Ice and Fire Series
  6. George Orwell‘s 1984
  7. Ray Bradbury‘s Fahrenheit 451
  8. Issac Asimov‘s Foundation Series
  9. Aldous Huxley‘s Brave New World
  10. Neil Gaiman‘s American Gods

தொகுக்கப்பட்ட பக்கம்: பரிந்துரைகள்

Aruna’s Thanjavur Trip

புத்தகங்களைப் பற்றிதான் இந்தத் தளத்தில் என்றாலும் இன்று ஒரு விதிவிலக்கு – அருணா தஞ்சாவூர் பக்கம் சுற்றிவிட்டு வந்த அனுபவங்களைப் பற்றி எழுதி இருக்கிறார்.

Aruna’s Thanjavur Trip

Traveling within India was one of the high priorities of my current stay in India. From the moment I landed here I have been looking for people to travel with for the wrong company can make the whole experience sour. So when I met Senthil in Chennai at the book fair and floated the idea of a trip within Tamil Nadu and he seemed to have a fairly good idea of its history and geography and was also willing to do the trip, I was pretty thrilled. We talked for a bit and decided on a Thanjavur trip. Both of us being Tamil literature junkies interested in the state’s history and architecture lead directly to a trip that one of our favorite author Jeyamohan had done earlier called “Thanjai Dharisanam” and had written about it. Since his trip involved exploring the various Chola temple architecture and also explore the historically important Chola sites we decided to sort of stay faithful to that journey and added a few other stops that piqued our interest. We figured out the chronological order to see the various archeological sites and temples so as not to be underwhelmed by some early sites if seen after a much developed later temple. Fond memories of the characters from childhood adventure novel Ponniyin Selvan which was also a somewhat fictionalized account of the Chola history was a further bonus.

I and Senthil agreed on a date and on my return from Chennai and booked the train tickets. Even though it was booked almost a month in advance both legs of my journey were waitlisted and I was hoping to get lucky. As most people know me know, luck is my eternal enemy and true to form it didn’t favor me this time either. I was still hoping that something would shake up. Thanks to timely and wise counsel from my sister and a friend, I booked literally the last ticket on a bus the day before the departure. My memory of bus travels in India date back about 2 decades and I was pleasantly surprised to find a long sleeper seat in an air conditioned bus. The ride was pretty comfortable except for about 2 hours near Trichy. The impact of a huge bus trying to negotiate those non roads while you are lying down is not for the faint hearted or bone structured.

Senthil came to the bus stop with the driver and the car and we checked in at TTDC, Thanjavur but had to wait for a couple of hours outside since the check in was only at 7’0 clock. Instead of waiting we decided to take a walk. When I visited Chennai last December for the music season used to think that it would be anyone’s idea of heaven with all the great music and dance flowing non-stop and great food to be had at all the venues. That is till you step out and experience the garbage and filth on the street. Mountains of garbage at every turn would make you believe that this would be anyone’s idea of a perfect hell too. If that’s the status of the civic status on Chennai, then less said the better it is about Thanjavur.

Kudumiyan Malai

Once we got into the room we quickly showered and got out as soon as we can and started driving to Kudumiyan Malai our 1st stop for the day. Kudumiyan Malai is about 60 Kms from Thanjavur in Pudukottai district and it took us about 2 hours to make the trip. Senthil and I had finalized the trip after our 1st meeting. We figured we would discuss the plan a bit closer to our trip and then every time he called or texted to discuss the trip, I was buried in an avalanche of work and we hardly connected with each other. I am sure both of us were a little bit apprehensive about an intense 4 day trip with a stranger. That all changed the moment we entered the Kudumiyan Malai and started gawking eagerly at the 10th century Chola sculptures.

The temple was built by the Cholas in the 10th Century and later renovated by Pandyas in 13th Century and Vijayanagara Kings in the 15th Century. The temple begins with the entrance to the presiding deity Shikhagirishwarar (Kudumiyan). The outer Praharam has 2 beautiful but somewhat smiling and harmless looking Dwarapalakas (gatekeepers) and that may be reason why a tribe of monkeys were having a grand time playing on one’s lap. Also seen here is a very detailed sculpture of Rathi riding an Annapakshi and Manmathan with a bow on either sides.

This is followed by a Vasantha Mandapam which has a row of beautiful sculptures on either side. Noteworthy are the Vishnu and Lakshmi riding on the shoulder of Garuda, two sculptures of horse riding warriors trampling their enemies, 10 headed Ravana, a few small sculptures of Bhooda Ganas and two rishis paying obeisance to a beautiful women.The master pieces are however a sculpture of a Hiranyavadha and Shiva in Urdhva Thandava. The sculptures depicting a ferocious Narasimha (half man-half lion) tearing up Hiranya in his vice grip and Shiva with his right leg up in Thandava motion get all the details and the expressions right.

Vasantha Mandapam is followed by the inner sanctum. This is still a fully functional temple and the annual festival had just ended the previous day. The inner sanctum looked like a storm had just hit with all the remnants of the previous day’s festivities strewn about and I had to control my OCD which was nagging me to pick up a broom and give it a thorough cleaning.

The Kudumiyan temple was a later addition and the original cave temple is called Melakkoil and is of 7th century origin. This temple is at the back of the Kudumiyan temple and a man sitting and chatting with his friends in the Vasantha Mandapam, escorted us there. Before we get to the cave temple we passed the 1000 pillared Mandapam at the entrance which however houses only 645 pillars. This Mandapam also houses the temple for Parvathi and has a functioning hall which is still used by the villagers for functions.

Past this is the original cave temple. To the left of the cave temple sits Idampuri Vinayaka and to his right, musical notes are inscribed in stone. The inscriptions are arranged in seven sections. As per the staff, these are the first record to mention the solfa notes. The cave temple is virtually dark and one can see the huge Shivalinga flanked by 2 beautiful, Dwarapalakas. The staff told us that these Dwarapalakas are actually referred as Chinna and Periya Marudhu. One can only assume that the later day Pandiya’s association with the temple may have resulted in the Dwarapalakas being named as Marudus. These are very stylish Dwarapalakas unlike any we had seen before with one hand on hip.

Above the cave temple is a depiction of Shiva and Parvati on a Rishaba Vaghana flanked by 63 Nayanmars carved on the side of the hill. We thanked our guide and set out for our next stop Muvar Kovil and Muchukuntram.

Muvar Koil

We found the Muvar Kovil pretty easily. It is in the village of Kodumbalur which is about 35 Kms from Pudukkottai. This site was buried and was excavated by ASI in 1976. This is an ASI site (Archealogical Survey of India) and there was an onsite staff who explained the history of the place briefly and we bought the tickets from him which at Rs. 10 was so cheap that it may not even cover the cost of the beautiful paper it was printed on. Throughout the trip we found that all sites maintained by ASI had very courteous and well informed staff. There was no one at the site except us and even in the sweltering heat, the lonely site and the surrounding fields transported us back in time.

Muvar temple was built by Bhuti Vikrama Kesari who was the Irukuvel Chief of the Kodumbalur clan. He is believed to be the contemporary and an ally of Sundara Chola in the period of 9-10th century AD. Bhuti Vikrama Kesari’s mother Anupama was a Chola Princess and his daughter Vanathi was the wife of Rajaraja Chola. Muvar Kovil is called as such for 3 identical shrines built in a row in the temple complex. The shrine in the middle is dedicated to the king and 2 on either side for his wives Katralipirattiyar and Varaguna. Today, only 2 of the original shrines have survived along with the base remnants of the 3rd shrine. In front of these shrines we can see evidence of 16 base structures which were built for the Parivara Devatas (subsidiary deities). The shrines are bare now and do not house any of the original sculptures. There is a row of small carvings of multiple Bhoota Ganas on the 3rd shrine which form a Bhoota Regai. These Bhoota Ganas are simply adorable. The center shrine Gopuram has a Shiva and Parvati sculpture and Shiva is looking down at Parvati adoringly. We found a life sized and much more beautiful version of this same posture at Gangaikonda Cholapuram later in our trip. The sculptures here are pretty stark and simple without much detail but with clean lines.

The ASI staff informed us that the sculptures at this site used to be displayed here but for reasons of safety have been removed from this site and are at display at the museum at Tiruchinear the Main Guard Gate. Research indicates that some of these sculptures include that of Jyestha, Sukanya with her bovine headed-son, Kali with loose locks and Subramanya on a peacock.

Muchukundram

We relaxed a little under the shade and watched some merry birds before we set out to Muchukundram also called as MudhalKundram which was little further down the road. This is again an ASI site built by Parandhaka Chola in 9th Century and now being used by goat grazers. This site has a single temple with a Nandi in front and a shrine for Shiva. The back of the temple has another smaller shrine with a 6 faced Muruga sculpture. The shrine and the sculptures are very similar to the Muvar temple in its classic lines and represent the simplicity of the early Chola sculptures.

Sittannavasal

We retraced our steps and turned around to go to Sittannavasal. We had a enquire a little bit for directions and after being in the West for over a decade, the fact that we can randomly stop the car and people will earnestly help you with the directions is something I immensely enjoy. It’s like suddenly strangers are part of your journey and they have an active interest in getting you to your destination. Never mind that sometimes they give you totally wrong directions and we had to chase our own tails. But they totally mean to give you the right direction and I appreciate that I guess.

We stopped in a small village for lunch, Senthil and our driver ate lunch in a shack. Despite being teased mercilessly as being an NRI wuss by Senthil, I was not going to risk eating or drinking in a random place. This was my 1st big trip and I didn’t want to end up sick and ruining it. We had anyways had an excellent breakfast at SriKrishna at Thanjavur which writer Gopalakrishnan had recommended highly. It was so great that we made it our regular breakfast joint for the next few days.

The sun was beating up by the time we reached Sittannavasal. I have always dreamt of visiting Sittannavasal and was quite kicked to be there. Senthil had some childhood memories of visiting it with his school. We climbed up towards the Arivar Koil which is said to be built in 7-9th Century AD. The façade of the temple is recent. I was stuck by how small and simple it was. The temple has an Ardha Mandapam (hall) and a Garbagraham just behind it (sanctum sanctorum). The Garbagraham is a small inner chamber which houses sculpted images of 3 Thirthankaras. The ceiling has a carved Dharma Chakra.

Southern wall of the Ardhamandapa has a sculpture of Parasvathanatha. Ardhamandapa has the central fresco painting on the ceiling which depicts the important Jain religious scene called Samava-Sarana. The paintings are all highly damaged and we could see glimpses of bulls, elephants, anna pakshi and gods. The columns to the left has Apsaras (dancing women) with lotus and another column has a mural of a couple with a beautiful umbrella. The colors on the paintings are pretty much gone and most of them have a greying yellow tinge. The blues and greens were peeping out from some paintings. Photography is now prohibited in the Arivar Koil.

We started walking towards the Eladipattam which has been a Jain shelter since 1st century BC. It is called so because of the seven holes that serves as steps to ascend the shelter. Reasonably strenuous climb up the rock hillock lead us to the shelter were 17 polished beds are carved on the floor under a low hanging roof. One side of the bed is raised a little bit and was purportedly used as stone beds by the Jain monks. The Brahmi inscriptions on these rock beds date back to 3rd Century BCE. I have read a lot about these Jain stone beds and had visualized rock beds carved out of large stones and was a little disappointed at first to see these shallow beds. The stone beds have also been subjected to liberal doses of vandalism with some geniuses wanting to encrypt their life’s achievements on it. We rested on the shades of the shelter to look out at the surrounding fields. Even today the loneliness of the place so far removed from the rest of the world is stark. To realize that more than 2000 years back people seeking wisdom and knowledge decided to literally carve a niche for themselves here and to traverse the same path today conjures up indescribable feelings. It almost felt like a violation to try and peer through that isolation.

We started climbing down in the most unbearable heat and saw a couple who had climbed the hill to sit under a slightly hidden lone tree, cuddling and chatting. Couldn’t help but wonder what kind of society drives it’s young to literally climb mountains so that they can eek out a private space for themselves under the smoldering heat.

Our next stop was Nartha Malai. Our driver informed us that it was the annual car festival day and going there might not be very fruitful. So we decided to make a trip to Thirumayam Fort which is about 20Kms from Pudukottai. This fort is also called Oomaiyan Fort (he was the brother of Kattabomman) and was built in 1678 by Ragunatha Sethupathy. Top of the fort has a gun barrel and the fort itself is surrounded by moats. It was Mid April and a few kids were visiting the fort in the middle of the day without a care for the impending exams which was quite refreshing a scene. We decided to get back to the room and figured that if we rested a bit then we can go to the Brahadeeshwarar Temple and see it in the night and then again go again the next day in the morning.

இன்னொரு மின் நூலகம்

சினுவா அசிபி மறைந்தார் என்று தெரிந்ததும் Things Fall Apart நாவல் இணையத்தில் கிடைக்குமா என்று தேடினேன். அப்போது தென்பட்ட சுட்டி. பல நல்ல புத்தகங்கள் மின்புத்தகமாகக் கிடக்கின்றன. தரம்பால் எழுதிய A Beautiful Tree உட்பட்ட சில புத்தகங்கள், ஃ புகுவோகாவின் One Straw Revolution, வந்தனா சிவா எழுதிய Staying Alive என்று பல. உங்களுக்குப் பிடித்த புத்தகம் ஏதாவது தென்பட்டால் அதைப் பற்றி இங்கே எழுதுங்களேன்!

தொகுக்கப்பட்ட பக்கம்: மின் நூலகங்கள்