Pudokottai, India - Some excellent days start out bad - like this little tale of an adventure. After enduring some moments of introspection, I finally decided to take a day out at 2:50PM! Drizzle had been unrelenting. I wanted a place that's a bit far - but close enough to hop on a bus and get back to my hotel before the stroke of midnight.
Puddokottai was the most logical choice. Some 53 kilometers from Trichy, Pudokottai boasts of an ancient monastery of the Jain - a movement of people that I've seen in Rajasthan (Ajaya), but influenced by 9th century Pandyan Period. Problem is, my 2-year old Lonely Planet doesn't have anything on Pudokottai or the Sittanavasal temple complex. No "how to get there", "transportation tips", etc. This is tricky, to say the least, since I really didn't have the luxury of time.
By 4:30, I learned that there was a way to get there without paying the exorbitant 300 and 500 rupees that the autorickshaws were charging me! Not on your life, Jose! I took the bus - Bus no. 25, to be exact! I sat beside a nice chap, Syed, who would later offer to pay for my bus fare of 5 rupees ( he wouldn't take a no ). After exchanging email addresses with him, I hopped off the bus and stood after what would be solitary wilderness. Then I realized a group of 6 guys (Tamil Indians) alighted from another bus. They were on their way to the hill. I realized, if they were freaky elements, I am already toast! As it was 5:30 PM already, no one was there - even the day guard just left! (he actually said goodbye with a big smile.)
After a relatively painless breaking of the ice (one offered me his umbrella as it was drizzling), we walked 2 kilometer towards the foot of the hill and we became fast friends. And I suddenly had 6 bodyguards. Hahaha.
It was a fantastic place. A slippery stone-carved stair lead us above a breathless (literally and otherwise) view of the sprawling vegetation down below, but above, perched near the slope was a gated cave, with polished stones that became beds of hundreds and throusands of monks of a bygone era. There were frescoes and paintings on the wall as well. Lonely Planet - my bible will catch up on this one - if they haven't yet!
It was dark and raining while we waited for our bus beside the pitch-black highway. They were teacher trainees from the local university undergoing their own version of "internship'. As we got up on the bus, I was offered a seat - and they paid - once again! - for my 5 rupee bus fare! Am I lucky or am I lucky?
He pushed his whole weight against me, as I struggled to accommodate him between his grunts. His breathing was constant, drawing guttaral sound as he further struggled effortlessly to crush me. I was careful not to break his mantra of utter passivity, moving relentlessly through mere reflex. I was crushed. My toes curled. I was helpless to control my own breath. But a sudden shock broke his concentration. Like a bump on the road!
- Me on a bus on Pudokottai highway, with a bemoustached Indian guy in his 50's sleeping like a log!
This is the Eye in the Sky.