Tirupati Travel Notes May 2, 2008Posted by astralwicks in Blogging, india, Personal, Places, Random, Thoughts, Tourism, Travel, Travelogue, Writing.
Tags: Chennai to Tirupati, Cricket, darshan, filter coffee, india incredible, koyambedu, Tirupati, travel in south india
I have been traveling a lot. Bus, Train (ac and non-ac), Plane…I have been liberal with all modes. A fortnight back I had to reach Kalahasti. My parents are convinced that I and also the family are under some influence and the only way to rectify this would be to visit the Rahu-Ketu temple at Kalahasti, which is 60 kms from Tirupati.
Tirupati is one of the holiest shrines in India and the richest. People go there, give their hair as an offering to the Lord. That hair is exported to other countries also…to make wigs. The ‘ladoos’ of Tirupati are famous. People can eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Another think very famous about Tirupati are the serpentine queues. If you have still not visited the place you have missed a grand logistical exercise, considering the traffic it falls prey to every day.
Like all other signs of peoplekind have evolved, so has the darshan ritual at Tirupati. There is the ‘dharma darshan’. This is free of cost and takes the most number of hours. Anything from 6 to 16 or 18 hours or heavy-traffic days. Then there are various ‘special darshans’. People with more money to spend buy these, get a less crowded route till a distance and then the line merges with the general ‘dharma dharshan’ line. Saves some hours for the impatient devotee.
Then there are various other ‘sevas’ for the Lord that you can buy. And miracle of miracles…as the ‘seva’ denomination increases so does your darshan time decreases.
Anyways I had to go to Kalahasti. For that I had to reach Tirupati. So, I tool a flight to Chennai. Took a pre-paid Ambassador cab to Koyambedu. Through out the journey I noticed two things – the driver who was driving very fast and the fact that even in traffic stalemate, most of the riders were patient and silent. A lesson for the horrible Mumbai drivers.
Koyambedu or CMBT is a huge complex that houses thousands of buses to every imaginable destination in the South of India. It is, I felt, man stadiums rolled into one. A sea of humanity is what you see everywhere. There are bus platforms and all kinds of buses…regular State Transport and privately owned.
Before the onset of the journey I was in a bind as to how to travel. Should I be partial to comfort or to experience? There apparently is no connection but there is. The more comfortable you are the lesser the scope for genuine, earthy, honest experiences. The world is different behind a tinted glass.
Once I reached Koyambedu at around 8 P.M, I looked for a Coffee Shop. Not a coffee day or barista, but the regular ‘filter coffee’ stall. I bought an 8 rupee coupon and got a glassful. Shame on you Barista and CCD, I ejaculated immediately. This was coffee to wake up your sense, calm them and excite them all at the same time.
I went to the road transport bureau and asked for an AC bus, was said there were none or very late and so I bought a ticket to Tirupati for 61 rupees.
Now there are 2 Tirupati’s. One is the town at the foothills of the mountain and the second is the mountain on which the Lord resides. I got the last seat on the last row, a window seat number 44.
There was the smell of sweat all over. The bus was to begin its journey at 9 P.M. The seats were honestly not bad but that was the end of all things sensible. Once the bus left the city it was a crazy ride. Many a time I was convinced that we had met with an accident or about to meet with one. This driver could be an F1 participant I thought. At around 12, just about to hit my stop, you hit the ghats. The road there is not in the best of shape. Most of the people around me had slept off. The few remaining one were either in wakeful-sleep or were used to a feeling I call ‘death-in-waiting’. At breakneck speed, my man drive through the ghats and no science of sleep could have assailed me at this juncture!
Finally I reached my destination and I got off with a sigh of relief. Going up to the main temple town with this driver at the wheel!!
I had visited Tirupati last some 8 years back. Even at 1 in the night I could figure out that things have changed drastically. I reached the Lodge where my sister was staying with her family, knocked and awoke the wrong family, who cursed me, before finding my way.
Next morning was the journey to Kalahasti. It was hot at 8 in the morning. After an hour’s drive we reached the temple town, saved our slippers at an offering shop and began our prayer-journey. Stand in line, wait and follow the diktat’s of the priest. My sister has 2 daughters. Nimeshita is the elder and Niharika is the younger. They are terrific terrorists, especially the younger. They had already stood in various queues including the Balaji on the hill and were quite fed up of all this God business. They played as long as they could and then felt tired and pissed off. Why should we wait, they asked? We had no answers.
After a heavy and very tasty (I over ate) meal, we made our journey back to the foothills. This time again it was a state bus, a good one. This one had a female conductor. She was courteous, pleasant and did her job efficiently. I also saw women auto-drivers in Tirupati who were riding the bigger Autos (Garud I think they are called) that are popular nowadays.
My job was done. Now was the darshan of Balaji on the hill. I was not keen on waiting for 14 hours or so for the ‘dharma darshan’. I could not buy the sevas because they are sold months in advance. The next day was the beginning of a weekend and all the technology available there (yes, they give you bands on your wrists with time on it) could only guarantee a very late darshan.
So, I asked for forgiveness and told of my decision to come back without the darshan. My parents were worried for a bit. On my return I decided to take a train to Chennai. The tickets are again for Rs 61 and it takes almost an hour and a half less than the bus. Again an auto from Chennai Central to Meenambakam. I had to wait for almost 6 hours for my flight.
I bought a book. Read a short story and then the IPL began. It was the 2nd day. Sitting next to me was a gentlewoman of 55 +. She was with a troupe of tourists from Bangalore, who were on their way back from Sri Lanka. She shared her experiences with me. She was also a cricket enthusiast who was a wee bit confused with all the team names and who was playing. So was I.
Finally the plane to Mumbai came and off I flew. Back to home.