The Kanyakumari Express chugged into the station dot 9.30 am, perfectly late by three hours. Dashing all my hopes of spending arrival hours cavorting in the trinity of the waters hugging
In Kanyakumari, once called
Sunset-moonrise-sunrise. Regular occurrence, taken for granted. But here it’s been raised to the level of a performing art form, with show timing on display at every corner. Any one of the elements from this celestial triptych, in combination with the azure confluence—
But you see, like most eminent performers, Lord Surya is classy but wont to tantrums. The spectacular morning and evening aside, he is known to rage and blaze, and I just happened to land during one of those sessions. Kanyakumari has this languorous air about it though the heat can play havoc with you. The oceanic waters were tempting and I saw myself queuing up for a ferry ticket to the rock memorials. The lines are long but quite organised. I was snaking along when all of a sudden a surge of Black surrounded me. Why in the world are these men wearing black in such heat, I wondered. They were pilgrims who had descended from Sabriamala; the shores of Kanyakumari being the culmination of their pilgrimage. They were all Shiva worshippers and black is his colour. God bless them.
The ferry ride was quick and I was a tad disappointed. I wouldn’t have minded an arrival delay this time. The
That bliss got carried forward in some measure to Vivekananda memorial, built on the rock the Swami meditated and gained enlightenment. It’s a soothing structure and a number of visitors who meditate here narrate of a serenity they experience. The place definitely has calming vibes. In contrast is the colossus 133-feet memorial statue of Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar a few nautical miles away on another rock. The mendicant bard seems reduced, or heightened, to Gulliver in stone. As if that’s not overpowering enough, the ocean breeze—gale would be more appropriate—adds its own dimensions. It gives a flight to everything. Hair flies, sarees become air balloons, dupattas take wing. Holding on is a task. Beware if you are a lightweight… you might find yourself blown to
Back on shore I walked the streets. There are two main roads cutting across town. One goes north to the railway station, and the other goes west to the bus station. Shops and accommodation is mainly found near the junction of these two roads. The ones near the coastline consider themselves more premium, though all places offer about the same average kind of facilities and food.
The quaint cobbled market on
The friend was called Anna (brother) by all and welcomed me in. He was obviously a passionate teacher and soon I was under tutelage of the master weaver. The act of weaving is considered metaphorically powerful in
My lessons were in Tamil, and all I know is the word begins with T. Language proved no barrier and at the end of three hours I had managed to weave a two-inch strip for a South-cotton maroon saree. Who cares it was sans design and just a plain band. I did it. And someone at Anna’s home will be wearing a saree I had a hand in making. The experience had been elevating.
I was still busy at the loom, when suddenly I heard an urgent voice saying “sunset time”. It was an out-of-breath Kuppuswamy sticking to his promise of taking me to the best spot to see the spectacle. We sprinted, wriggling past the numbers to reach atop a rock. I stood captivated at the edge of the endless blue ocean domed by an orange-red sky. As the big fiery ball mellowed, myriad colours filled the cosmic canvas. Breeze wafted. If divinity had a form this was it. It humbled. The moments were truly breathtaking. Lord Surya’s performance had been masterful. Cameras and thousands of voices buzzed around me. I turned to give Kuppuswamy a thumbs up. He smiled.
If sunset is divine, the sunrise matches it in aura. At all places of stay, be it the lodges or the star-grade hotels, the wake up password is “sunrise”. Frenetic activity can immediately be heard in corridors. I tumbled out of bed and checked my watch. It was . Granny should be pleased. For once in my lifetime I had woken up at “holy time”. Even the chemistry exam and its millions formulae couldn’t get me out of slumber that early. Kanyakumari did. It was worthy. Yes, dawn exudes a certain unmatchable peace.
The Kanya temple opens doors early and I stood in queue once again.
I still had 12 hours in hand. After tucking into a breakfast of half-dozen deliciously fluffy idlis at a princely price of Rs 7 (someone teach urban restaurants this economics), I was on my way to do the touristy circuit of Suchindaram, Nagercoil—where sand is given as parsadam at the Nagaraj temple, Padmanabhapuram, Kovalam and Thiruvananthapuram. It’s a 180-km/7 hours round trip, which is all about lush Kerala countryside, a temple overdose, an over-hyped beach, but an exquisite 400-year-old palace. The seat of power of the Travancore rulers dating back to the 17-18th century, the
Back to base well before time to board the train, I gave the ocean one last look. Boundless, blue and beautiful. The sky was beginning to adorn colours from the palette. Today I wont see the spectacle. I had to go.
TRAIN: 2633 Kanyakumari Express leaves Chennai (Egmore station) at 1730 to get here by 0630
Round the year, though November to January and April, especially on its full moon day, are preferred.
Timeline: Lots to do in two days
Family: Perfect destination
Food: Average Indian. Stick to traditional fare. Breakfast at market restaurants is good and cheap.
Stay options: Ample choice for all budgets. Rooms are usually rented out for 24 hours.
* Kanyakumari-Thiruvananthapuram round trip costs Rs 250 by mini coach (minimum 5 pax) or Rs 1,200 by private cab.
Tour Operators approved by TTDC:
Triveni Tours & Travels -- 04652-246184
Sabaree Travels -- 246157
Published India Today Travel Plus