Friday, December 4, 2009

The marketplace of Vailankanni, Tamil Nadu.

The small oasis in the midst of the melee of the marketplace.
The dark man with the golden wristwatch selling vessels of silver.
In the glimmer, the shine and the lightbulbs, sit a host of beggars.
Old, tired beggars.
Waiting for some small silver coins.

Vailankanni, Tamil Nadu.

The 'official' flower seller.
The only one with a roof above his head, authorised by the church.
Was the costliest too.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

This is the place from where my mom got a wax offering of a boy and girl for me (Why? Guess.)

The wax shop, which sells candles of every conceivable size and colour.
And wax models of boys, girls, babies, body parts, organs . . . .
Then there are coconut shells and cradles made of handkerchiefs.
And little tin models of things, sold cheaper than their wax counterparts.

I think the whole exercise of buying so many candles and offerings is a waste.
The wares are expensive, and hungry beggars crowd the marketplace.
And really, it is the faith and devotion that matters more, right?


The main Basilica (a kind of huge church) of Our Lady Of Health, Vailankanni.

A tired beggar rests outside the church premises.
Vailankanni, Tamil Nadu

He walks upto them, paces up and down before them, obscuring from their view, the sea, the bathers and the blue horizon. .

Seen here, is one of the women loosening her purse strings, in exchange for some peace of mind!

All within the line . .

The flower sellers are most in number in the marketplace of Vailankanni town, selling garlands to be offered to the deity.
Hence, jostling with each other to get the customers attention had become a norm.
However, authorities have restricted them with a yellow line, beyond which, they aren't allowed to cross . .

Pulling out of Pattabiram station
Tamil Nadu


A kids clothes store
Vailankanni - Tamil Nadu

An old man in the marketplace, sitting listlessly outside his shop.


While the pilgrims spent like money like water on candles, wax offerings and religious artifacts; the beggars in the marketplace went scrambling after them , hoping to tug at a heartstring, or maybe get the small change returned by the shopkeepers into their own hands . .

Seen here is one such beggar, who has positioned himself in such a way, it appears he is asking God directly for help, not the people. (The white building in the background is the Basilica, the main hall of worship of the diety)
He was partially blind I think, and didnt move around much.
He stretched out his arms to beg even when thee was not a single passerby anywhere near him . .

It being a Christian pilgrimage destination, spotting Hindu priests would've been pretty difficult.
This guy however, attracted a lot of attention in the marketplace.
In his own world, skipping around with his pooja thali, reciting his prayer beads and singing out aloud.

As if trying to create for himself, a home away from home . . . .

चूड़ियाँ, हर रंग की . .

The little small-town market.
Which does its thing again and again, day after day.
Which is nothing more than a straight stretch of road, less than a kilometer in length, leading upto to the beach.

But, seen from this angle, it looks like there is no end.
To the heat, the colors, the haggling.

Down South, especially in the smaller towns, they're obsessed with colour.
Bright colours. And shine.
Fluorescents, pastel blue pink green yellow and silver and gold.
It's fascinating to see how their garb offsets their dark skintone. . . .

However, these colour schemes are not only for clothes, but their goods as well.
Seen here, is a crib set, South Indian style

Vailankanni Marketplace again.

Their dark skins damp.
The fires always ablaze.
The oils bubbling in the blackened iron kadhais.
. . . Spitting stinging red spots , to keep you away.
The goodies, open, for fly, flea and human to see.
And feast.

Oh and most of these tiny eateries have No Smoking signs.
They obviously should, there's enough smoke around the place anyway!

Where do I go, from here?

It's not often that parents really, I mean really bond with their children.
Or maybe, some parent-child relationships are just something out of the ordinary.
Just one glance at the parent and child together, and you just know . . . . .

One such bond is the one between my mother and my sister.
Seen here, they're talking for like the third time in the few hours they've been away from each other


Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Another one in the Vailankanni marketplace.
Somewhere in the middle of the vertical expanse of shops leading upto the beach, is this oasis of silver.
Three or four shops, all in horizontal line, selling shiny bartans.
Plates, pressure cookers, saucepans and utensils big and small.
And like every other shop there, there are bulbs hanging from the makeshift cloth ceilings, to illuminate the goods to a dazzling shine.

This spot is also a gathering ground for beggars.
The older ones who cannot walk around much, and some of the younger beggars who are tired come there to sit for a bit, and maybe play a game of cards and gossip.

The woman in the picture was dirtier and darker, by far, than all the rest.
And she sat away from the card playing crowd, just surveying the place . .

This picture was taken in the marketplace of a small pilgrimage destination called Vailankanni, in South India.

The marketplace in question, was small and crowded and dirty; with the sellers, with wares ranging from flowers to religious offerings to gaudy dresses for two year olds; all literally throwing themselves at you to buy.
Almost every shop, makeshift stall and handcart, had either a symbol or a name, in some resemblance to the Christian deity.

Then there was this man, a 'papad' seller, who would come daily with his handcart, at around six in the evening, the best time to sell; the buyers having come out in full force after the hot sun had set.
He wore his 'tilak' and string of beads, and the only accessory to his cart, was a bright oil lantern.
He stood, always, at a fixed point, a good distance away from the epicenter of activity.

From my three days of observation, he sold more papads than the other papad-sellers in the marketplace.

There was this Muslim man sitting on the opposite berth.
One of the fans refused to work, and the afternoon was getting hotter.
So he stands up, takes his wife's comb, and prods the blades of the fan through it's circled enclosure.
To my surprise, the fan starts whirring away immediately.

'Old trick, oft used', he says, in Hindi, and smiles.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

How long will you sing of the lost child?
Sing, instead, of change.
How long will you sing of the pain?
Sing, instead, of guilt.
How long will you sing of the wait?
Sing, instead, of the found.
How long will you sing of the void?
Sing, instead, of the colours within.

I listen.

Of the jolt, the fears, the tangled lines.

I will wait for your song, all through the night.

But, for how long?

Saturday, November 28, 2009


I took this picture whilst waiting for a bus at 11 in the night.
It is the rickshaw which dropped me and my mom to the bus depot, which was lonely and deserted.
Until our bus came, this rickshaw was the only vehicle there; and was also the only source of light at the depot other than the dim glow of the cellphones of waiting passengers.

Somehow, that night; this yellow rickshaw with its blue seating; had a life of it's own.

She had something more to her advantage than her pretty sun-tanned face, her golden bangles, humble yet beautiful attire and her adorable bundle of joy placed atop her swaying hip.

It was, I guess, her disposition.

She never did beg, and by that I mean, she never really did ‘ask’ for alms.

In a marketplace full of sellers and umpteen beggars, her strategy was not one to be missed.

She place herself behind a seller or another beggar, and fix you with a smile and sultry stare, all the while bouncing her baby up and down, making both their bangles jingle softly, as if to capture your attention and beguile you completely.

You just couldn’t miss her; and the clang of coins in her jhola got louder with her every stopover. .

Oh and that's hardly all!

Sometimes, her baby would get all hot and bothered during the afternoons, refusing to play it's role of her cute accessory in a sari sling.

She'd then swing it around, to face away from her, and charm the people herself, while baby bawled away . .


All through the rough ride from Bombay to Renikunta Junction, she sat unmoving by the window, the wind on her face trying hard to blow away the black dupatta covering her thick braided hair. Oblivious to the smells, the heat, the crowd, the cries of babies and sellers and the silent admiration of the man sitting opposite to her.

Her face blank and beautiful, her eyes unmoving, fixed at the same point; located, seemingly, at infinity.

At nightfall, while the rest of the compartment slept, she just rested her head on the bars of the window, closing her eyes every then and now.

The next day, with Renikunta nearing, her restlessness began.

As the train slowed down, her neck craned, searching.

Just as the train screeched to a halt, two women, dressed in black and white showed up near her window, screaming joyfully in a language incomprehensible to us seated in the compartment.

With a wordless joy, her face lit up. She ran to them, and the three hugged, laughed and spoke loudly and with gay abandon, while the rest of us could only look on, and smile.

The man who’d been seated opposite her through the journey flapped down her seat and rested his tired legs upon it.

The men on the platform, didn’t give the trio much more than a second glance. . .