A trip of three days. Three cities. Trichy, Thanjavur, Srirangam.
I went knocking on old worn-out stones. Some that had grayed with age, some that still had old scripts paving lines on its ruggedness. We went through meandering streets which stank of money and material, into a stone den that once had my mom captive. Still does. I seemed to smell maiden dreams in the air, probably the ones my mother spun some twenty five years ago, when as a demure lass she walked through the same entrance into the Malai kottai temple of her Uchchi Pullayaar, eyes alight with hope, friends in tow and simple joys to define everything.
Distant bells echoed in my head- all the bells my mother would have heard through her three years in the city of Trichy, where every weekend meant a visit to the Rock Fort temple.
Old stone talks to you. In silent resilient tones, after withstanding years of hands that touched it: crassly, gently, caressingly and cruelly; some defying the holy scripts that run their breadth on the walls by imposing shaky hearts and etching lover names on it.
The million steps to climb seemed an invitation to heaven-hewn out of rock and made to obey the dictats of humans by enclosing it within corridors spanned by lofty gopurams.
And when we reached the top, after folding palms in front of the other many gods you have to pay respect to on the way, I was left shattered at the stark negligence with which the sanctuary above had been renovated. Cold impersonal sparkling granite in black and gray stared with brutality. Stark and bright tube lights stole away the sanctity and the few old stone columns wept silently, forcibly rendered to watch the ruin of their times.
For once I wished I could cry out loud how much the climb above had not been worth it. As the entire city of Tirichinapalli lay sprawling beneath like a little architectural scaled model, I wondered if any heart had bled when they had mutilated the beautiful stone hall that had years of prayers resonating within. In the name of renovation, a sanctuary had been violated, thoughts that drifted across times and secreted in stone had been cladded with death cold granite blocks.
And suddenly, I could not hear the whispers of my mother and her friends that I suspected I was hearing all the time I was climbing up.
My tryst with the past remained unfinished.