The morning began with a surprise and it was surprises all the way, through the day. As I loaded the bags in the car at 7 am, after the night at ‘Three Wishes’, to start out for Kanyakumari, Chitra dropped in from next door to meet me and invite Beena and me for Preeti’s (her daughter) wedding. It was a huge surprise as I had not met her for quite some time and did not expect to meet her this morning. The relationship between the two families goes back a half century. Though we lived in two houses I spent more time next door, especially when Chitra’s grandmother visited. She was a master story teller and her masterpieces were James Bond and Perry Mason. The narration of the Ian Fleming classics was so descriptive that many times the James Bond movies turned out to be major disappointments.
When I reached Balaramapuram it struck me that Mani, who taught me driving and hence was my Guru, lived close to the Kerala border. He had attended my daughter’s wedding. I rang him up and arranged to meet up (another surprise) at his Hardware shop in Kollencode, a fair deviation from the Kanyakumari route. Mani’s is a story of hard work and a life dedicated for the betterment of his family. I came across him in the early 70’s when he was my grandfather’s driver in Kanjirapally. The hallmark of the man was positive attitude, hard work and honesty. He did not let circumstances get the better of his virtues. From Kanjirapally he left for Muscat, where he worked for 22 years, two years in the employ of an Arab and 20 years as an entrepreneur, in collaboration with a local. Despite the initial hardships he stuck around and saved every Riyal that could be. He now has 5 acres of land in Kollencode, a house of 4500 sqft, a Hardware store in a strategic location, three children who went on to do various streams of Engineering and a loving wife. He is grateful that he invested his hard earned money in Tamil Nadu and not in Kerala. He says that the town where he conducts his business has no place for politics and trade unionism, the result of which is unfettered entrepreneurship and an air of well being that was not the case less than two decades ago – economic liberalization has seen definite trickles even in such a small town in Tamil Nadu.
It was confirmed from the Tourism Office in Trivandrum yesterday that the Padmanabhapuram Palace would be open today. However, on reaching there I was in for a shock (or surprise?) – the 450 year old Palace was closed, thus denying me the pleasure of its treasures. The Suchindram temple was next on the visit list. The legend of the temple is fascinating – the purification of Lord Indra, who gave vent to his passion and got cursed by the husband of the woman who he forced himself on. Even the Gods are not above such failings! The Vattakottai is a beautiful rampart, which give a panoramic view of the seas and it is reported to have been constructed by the Venad kings to protect the Kumari Port.
When I reached Kanyakumari I came to know that the daughter of a former railway colleague is getting engaged tonight (the last surprise of the day). I attended the engagement ceremony after visiting the Rock Memorial, the Sangam (of the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal) and the Gandhi Mantap. On October 2nd the sunlight shines through a small opening on the roof of the Mantap on to the memorial. Thousands flock to see this architectural wonder at 12 noon every year. In the evening the Sun hid behind the clouds and denied me its view while it set.