Friday, February 24, 2012


Its been a long time since I posted here (this has got to be my standard opening lines here!). Frankly, writing is fun, but preparing to write is a chore, and a writer is one who does not get bowed down by the first few steps.

But I degress. The reason I post is because I am feeling rejenuvated by a vacation after a long work spell. how long was my work spell? it was so long, that I did not know that I needed a vacation. So, it was a godsend that my bro-in-law's son had to have his mundan at Tirupati.

The best part of the trip was that it was a holiday within a holiday.

I always welcome a trip to Mumbai, and like always, I immensely enjoyed it. After the still cold Delhi, Mumbai's heat was a nice change. I hadn't sweated for months in Delhi, but was seating an hour after reaching Mumbai.

The Mumbai trip was a nice way to prepare for a trip down south, to Tirupati. Now, this was my first trip to Tirupati, but a journey to south excites me. Leaving the dryness of the north to the lush green south is a calming experience. Plus there is the added bonus of authentic south Indian food.

We left for Renigunta by a midnight train. Any hopes I had of going off to speel immediately were dashed by my bro-in-law's two year old son, who could not comprehend the sudden constricting environs of a railway compartment and immediately made his displeasure know. When you are small, you are a king.

The journey itself was quite pleasant. I was expecting lush greenery when we entered south, the view didn't change much, in my opinion, than when we were in Maharashtra. Maybe the lush freens aer further south, towards Kerala, or maybe the difference would have been more pronounced on a Delhi-AP trip.

Now, the railways are notorious for train delays. So, imagine our surprise when we arrived at Renigunta a full hour earlier! The entire family had gone to sleep, setting our alarms to 15 minutes before arrival. A chance enquiry about the station by my BIL about the stop had all of us jumping out of the berth and running to the station, lest the train leave. His son was suitable bewildered to cry out aloud.

The Renigunta station itself was very clean, which is a good indicator, in my books that one has reached south (though by that definition, the Tirupati station could be any station in the north, but I am talking impressions, not specifics).

The gate that leads up to Tirumala close at midnight, and reopens at 3 am. We reached at the gates at 1:30, and so had an hour and a half to kill, which we did by drinking very sweet coffee

Coffee Break

and walking around a huge statue of an apsara near the gate.


For a temple town, Tirumala is very well organised. When we reached to the top, I had to wait in the line for a room, which was easily got, and which was pleasantly clean and spacious.

Tirupati is a town that never sleeps. Though the temple is closed for certain times, the flow of pilgrims never stops.

It was heartening to be in the midst of all the devotees, all there to pray to Lord Balaji. You cannot help feeling pious by being there, all your pent up devotion flowing. There are public toilets constructed for the pilgrims everywhere, and food stalls that serve good food round the clock. And the look of all, men, women, children with their shaved head is endearing. I was also suprised to notice that the place was not just frequently by south Indians, but by people from north of the Vindhalays as well. I heard people talking in Marathi, Hindi, Gujarati, and there was even a family of traditional Rajasthani's. In fact, the number of people coming from Maharashtra was quite a revelation.

Everybody who goes to Tirupati has to get their head tonsured, and I mine tonsured as well. The entire process took less than five minutes. All we had to do was to go a temple-appointed barber with half a blade provided by the authorities, and he did the rest. The number of people getting their head shaved is mind-boggling. I suspect more than a tonne of hair must be shaved everyday. Incidently, my bro-in-law's son only had his hair snipped a little, while his father, grandfather and myself shaved ours!!

The Tirupati temple is a sight that can't be described in words. The majesty of the place is worth seeing. We waited for three hours in a queue for the visit, and when we finally reached there, it was a wait well worth. Its not just the gold and silver walls of the temple, its the feeling of peity that exists throughout the visit that I liked. People were focussed only on the deity, and not on anything else. The amount of wealth on display did not seem to impress them. They had eyes only for Lord Balaji. The sight of the inner sanctum in the temple is a sight to behold. No camera in the world, or the world's best photographer can capture the sight. Theres the shine from the gold on the wall, the light from the lamps, the darkness of the wood. In the center, behind many doors, lies the statue of Lord Balaji, dark and majestic.

Heads shaven, praeyers offered, we made our way down, stopping in the way to feed the deers:

Tirupati town is more crowded and a little more chaotic than the shrine, but as usual, the good people of the Tirupati shrine board have made arrangements for the pilgrim going to or returning from the hill top. As usual, the rooms provided were very nice (the building looked like a recent construction). We were all tired after the journey downhill, but were also missing meat, not having eaten it for two days (my wife's family are big meat eaters!). So, it was time to go meat hunting.

Outside the town, all we could find was pure vegetarian restaurants, but we didn't give up, and after nearly an hour of walking around, located a non-veg restaurant in a Muslim neighbourhood. The gorging on the food was intensive, and we feasted on chicken, mutton and eggs. The food wasn't great, but when you have not eaten meat in two days, it gets a taste of its own.

Back to Mumbai, we had a face a case of serious illness in Mumbai, but things worked out well. The three days I spent back in Mumbai was enough for me to recharge my bateries. I even met my friend Arun after nearly  three years, though I missed Anu. Returning, I had the feeling that the vacation ended too soon.

All in all, the trip was enjoyable, except for the illness when we returned. Though, I did miss out on a few planned trips, like a trip to Cafe Baghdadi for their fried chicken, to Mumbai Docks, to see the Flora Fountain, a possible trip to Matheran, but I can look forward to those in my next trip now that I have renewed my association with the city.