Every year, my mother, my li’l sister and I took off to Cumbum for a 3 week holiday. As I was just in my early schooling years and my sister was a toddler, holiday assignments and such mind-wrecking stuff were not introduced, the three of us left for the journey ahead with mental calm, usually accompanied by my father or my maternal grandfather or Mani mama.
To reach Cumbum, one should go by train till Madurai, Dindugal or Theni and then catch a bus. We generally went to Madurai or sometimes preferred to take one of the direct buses being offered by private companies- KPN, Parveen, etc to Cumbum- enjoying plush seats and an occasional video coach.
Night trains are something I’ve always loved. My ever-fearing family, always make it a point to go to the railway station a good hour and a half before the train actually chugs its way into the station! And I, on my behalf, always make it a point to repeatedly ask when the train would arrive- sometimes, for the sole purpose of irritating them and sometimes as a vent to my restless soul and at others just to make an excuse to go take a peek at the Higginbothams stall.
Once the train arrives, I run to catch the window seat. I make sure that I catch the one that’ll enable a ‘backwards moving’ travel as I simply LOVE them! Then till it becomes so dark that there is nothing to be seen outside but a black expanse, I keep looking out. Then, I climb onto my middle berth (I don’t like lower berths as they offer no scope for my ‘mountaineering’ skills. Upper berths, I loathe due to the presence of only a thin gauze to separate one bay from another! It FREAKS me out!)
I try to dream a while. Many awesome story plots have bloomed out of such train journeys. Sometimes crazy philosophical stuff shoots out. Sample this, which was born out of the depths of my mind two years back…I sorta REALLY like it!
“Boarding a night train,
To destinations varied,
Our sleep- enclosed in the same serpentine form.
Our journeys cross one-another,
Do also, our dreams?”
When destination Madurai is reached, we board a bus to Cumbum- 3 hours more of travel. For the past 8 or so years my aunt- my mother’s sister- has been living in Madurai, so after a day or two’s stay, we leave for my birthland!
What ecstacy fills a soul during the trip, oh butwords JUST can’t say! You ACTUALLY need to undertake the journey. Vast stretches of unpolluted greenery with distant mist-covered mountains for a back-drop. It’s a picture- postcard beauty! Who said the best painter was man? It definitely is not! From God’s pallete, has arised the best of beauty for man to untiringly, feast his eyes on! The rich fields growing healthy crops which slowly shashay to the winds- ah… its elation to see it. And if you actually happen to see a white throated bird in flight along with this picture- voila…you just captured perfection! That God is a master of creation can not only be seen, but also experienced when you pass by a contented farmer resting a while under the shade of a wide-boughed tree hiding his face from the late-evening sun’s golden orange rays. Ever since I read L.M.Montgomery’s Anne books, I’ve also caught the fever of naming trees and mountain ranges. Thus have born- The headless Hermit, ‘I touch the sky’, The invincible one, The silent sorcerer, and innumerable others!
The evening’s slanting rays somehow kiss my face as it peeps out of the bus window! Prayers are born out of such touches between man and god. Man just looks up, smiles unto himself, makes a prayer and looks on again- but after something called tranquility slowly slids into his heart! Man had just seen God!
Many have been the times that I’ve experienced, what I term ‘Ultimate Bliss’ during such travels to Cumbum.The long, slender coconut trees set against a rioutously coloured twilit sky, the ‘clipped-nail’ moon shining(…or was it smiling?), the distant mountains imposingly shielding some distant hamlet and the first star blushing silver upon the world after stealthily slipping away from God’s hand! Ah…there’s beauty spread on a platter… just let your eyes open to simple joys!
Previously, every time we reach Cumbum, it used to rain. Though it was the summer rains just pouring down, my mom and I always felt that it was our land welcoming us with a rain song!
And then our 5 or 10 minute auto journey to my maternal parents home begins. All the while I’ll try to catch the innumerable movies that the town’s theatres- Sakthibala-Devabala, Yuvaraja, Amaravathi, Thambis and Crescent(now closed) are playing! The Tickets are priced from as low as Rs.3 till the maximum of Rs.10(this continues even now, much to my elation!)
Then the first step out of the auto to follow it up with one wild run towards my grandparents yelling, “Cumbum thatha,Magalam patti…eppadi irukkel?”(that’s how I call them- not out of disrespect but out of practice!)Then a wish to my dear sulking Mani mama. Dear because he is someone who should have been my elder brother but instead, due to some strange working of god’s mind, was born as my mama. Sulking, because from the second we arrive, the genius cook in my grandmother starts to prepare delicacies ONLY as per the requests of my sister and I. For a good 3 weeks my mama’s foodie wishes seem to reach no ears!
Thus begins my stay every time. Just that the last few years the stay has shortened to a week or less and Mani mama welcomes me no more as he’s been working in Bangalore, Chennai, Madurai and now Coimbatore! But Cumbum, still thrills my soul and how it does, I’ll follow it up in the next blog…