Our annual vacation is to a town built around an ancient temple, which archeology dates to the 10th century, but in mythology and beliefs, is as old as humanity itself. Naturally the temple and its town has seen phenomenal changes, both physically and in spirit. Many of the changes are in keeping with the times (such as a tuft-sporting, panchakacham wearing mama typing on his laptop at the thinnai of his agraharam house or the madisar mami showing her grandchildren’s photos in her iphone outside the thayar sannadhi) and are to be expected. And as nature (or humanity) would have it, some changes are indeed not of the welcome type.
When you go on a vacation, you overlook the negatives of the place and imbibe the positives, the memories, the history of at least a millennium and return rejuvenated. However, when some of the changes clash against all that you have been taught, it certainly jars somewhere inside.
We usually take a long walk along the bordering roads of the temple every evening. This time as we walked, we noticed something unusual. But before that, a small recap. When we were children, there were some rules to be followed without questioning. One of them was that, at dusk, we do NOT lie down, but sit and do something useful – study, pray, sing…whatever. This rule has been so ingrained that even when we are sick, we make it a point to sit at dusk, as we groan and moan and not get horizontal if we can help it. I remember feeling guilty as I was lying down in transition on the dusk that my daughter was born. Yet, as we walked around the temple, we noticed homes where people were lying down, right at the verandah, or even outside their houses at peak “vilakketrum neram”. These were the same sort of people who taught our generation the rules. Conflicting, huh?
Another disquieting observation is the complete takeover by the idiot box. Just outside the walls that exude tradition, culture and history, people are glued to their televisions – children, old people, all types. In fact, as I type out this post, there is “jackpot” going on in the television at the house we are staying in, and I remember my earlier experience with a shudder.
But who am I to judge? I am merely a visitor here. And I visit with nothing but a romantic memory of the past. People who live here are, however, unlike me, in the present and must keep with the times.
I shall therefore stick to my walks as I take in the sights and sounds of this wonderful temple town that has survived the passage of centuries – the town is certainly much bigger than me or my prejudiced and often skewed judgements.