Meenakshi Amman Temple

If you’re thinking what I was thinking, yes! Meen as in meen kappa (fish curry with boiled tapioca/coconut/tumeric), but in this case, Meenakshi as in fish eyed, an old-fashioned compliment for women with almond-shaped eyes. You weren’t thinking that? Anyway, once we woke and had a lovely breakfast of idly, vada, sambar, chutneys, and a couple new Tamilian dishes we enjoyed, life looked far more cheerful than it had the night before. (Short story: attempted mugging) Setting off in the old streets around the Meenakshi Amman temple meant winding our way toward the center. This part of town was designed so that the streets are shaped like lotus leaves and the temple is in the middle. Specifically, I think, this: But that is most certainly jumping ahead. We avoided entering right off the bat by going into the market. The bundles of trim and lace and ribbon fascinated me. Any of my witches need a new cauldron? Safety in numbers… This temple complex covers 17 acres and the original temple is over 3000 years old, it was crushed by the Mugals (of course) and then rebuilt by the Hindus (of course) and it obvious what made it through the Mugal sacking (below). And indoor prayer areas: Non-hindus aren’t allowed in the actual shrine, but the galleries surrounding it are beautiful in their own right. Seriously. No, seriously. Even the workshop area has gravitas and incredible lighting. I am amazed by the loving care given these statues…actually, I don’t think it’s insulting to call them idols. I saw a bus called the “Passionate Idolators”. This stone figure has been rubbed with so much ghee that the stone looks hot. She’s standing on a peacock, but it didn’t make it into the picture. Every building is shot with beams of sunlight, and[…]

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Cultural Priorities: Efficiency and Safety Margins

James and I ride up to Ulloor or Medical College or Pattom fairly frequently. One of our favorite thali lunches (Sree Gauri Nivas, pure veg and de-lish-us) is across the street from the Medical College entrance and there are grocers in the area. At the end of the Ulloor-Akkulam Road, we can turn left-then-right (on the left side of the road, remember) to go to Kesavasadapuram. That takes us to the bike shop, a couple banks that’ll give us small bills for the Rs. 2000 bills the ATM spits out, and some other places we don’t need much from. Alternately, we can get in the right turn lane and wait for the light. When the light turns green, it has already turned red for the crossing traffic, as is customary at intersections with lights. I’ve pretty much gotten used to the fact that I can’t stand there at my green light and wait for everyone to stop running the red light. The folks in the crossing traffic continue to come along against their red light until the green-light traffic gets their butts in gear and cross the empty lanes between. Then the red-light traffic stops to allow the green-light traffic their right of way. And you know what? It’s terrifically efficient. So is bunching up at lights in a snarled mass of cars, trucks, bikes, buses, scooters, motorcycles, and auto-rickshaws. Anyone who’s slow off the line doesn’t cause a whole segment of the population to miss the green light, and for the most part, it’s less a snarl than a coil (a messy one, like a DNA molecule), ready to string out to fit the amount of road ahead of it. I keep seeing these kinds of things and I’m struck by both my discomfort (spurts of terror are rare)[…]

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