Last night we saw householders furiously washing and scrubbing the ground in front of their homes. This morning I realized why. Painted rangolis (mandala-like designs made with coloured powder) wishing the world “Happy Pongal” adorned the streets. I had no idea what Pongal was - till now I had thought it to be a Tamil breakfast item! Perhaps it is a village fete cake contest of sorts – whoever paints the brightest, most intricate rangoli wins ;) Some were very creative.... Keeping up with the Jones’ (or Jyotis’) inna different fashaaan. As I was buying oranges, I asked the shopkeeper what Pongal is all about. “Tamil first holiday. Three days continuous” he replied cryptically. When I asked him what the holiday was celebrating he said “Cows”, then looked thoughtful for a moment before adding “And everything!” Sounds good. My guess is that firecrackers will be involved. And broken loudspeakers.
As I sat in the German Bakery this morning having my croissant (they are killer) I heard a woman remark loudly to the Nepali waiter who had brought her a menu “After all the years I have been coming to Tiruvannamalai do you really think I need this?” Her attempt at wittiness came across to me (and probably everyone else in earshot) as arrogant, aloof and obnoxious. She continued (she must have felt she was on a roll), stridently asking a man sitting at the next table “What are you in Tiruvannamalai for?” He replied that he wasn’t sure, to which she nodded knowingly and said “Oh, you don’t know. Perhaps you’ve passed the test.” Slap time. As she continued to blabber verbosely, I tuned her out to background noise and looked at Mount Arunachala rising up in front of me. There was a layer of pristine white cloud covering the top, and I thought about the peaceful (and silent) Saddhus living and practicing up there. I couldn’t wait for Nix and I to return. As I let go of the thought an aircraft flew over the peak. It reflected the sun strongly against its fuselage as it did so giving it the appearance of a star. And then it was gone.