Chris Wormald – A Photographer's travel blog.

India: Tiruvannamalai (part three)

 29th/30th December 2011

It rained and it rained and it rained. The wind blew down signs and turned saris into sails, the streets gained puddles 10ft long. Some of the cafés such as the Dreaming Tree, didn’t even try to open, some did, the Tasty Café for example, battled through the day with puddles on the floor and wet chairs and disconsolate westerners looking for somewhere dry to drink a chai; and no electricity all day long. My friend Dominic who has a rooftop dining area at his Shanti Nillian premises lost it completely – his good humour and his dining area, which landed in the garden.   It seemed a mini monsoon had happened, so I determined to get myself and the Fuji X100 very damp and take some pictures of “India Wet”.

It rained and it rained -

Cyril bailed out 3 buckets of water from his humble abode and the 12v backup for my light and fan failed, leaving me with no alternative but another wet trip to the corner shop this time for candles and matches.

and it rained

and it rained

 But Tiru had it easy compared with the towns on the coast such as Cuddalore where waves pounded the shore and boats were imperilled. Cyclone Thane, for it was He that did the mischief, caused houses to collapse and people to be electrocuted. Over 30 people died. The entire stock of cashew trees near Cuddalore were uprooted in a day. That’s a lot of farmers who’s incomes will be badly affected for years to come. A newly planted cashew tree takes seven years to mature and produce a crop. What will they do in the meantime? Get more and more into debt then commit suicide? Its a cycle that keeps happening in rural India. It makes ever more widows and fatherless children.

& it rained and rained

and it rained and it rained

A few days later all was as normal.

A few days later all was as normal.

 By this weekend I will have spent 34 days in Tiruvannamalai – I thought that I would spend 5!

I have been gripped by Tiru, it held me.

Wonderful tree, Arunachala, Tiruvannamali.

Wonderful tree, Arunachala, Tiruvannamali.

I have met some lovely people and have some very special memories (and some great CDs).

Coconut leaves, Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, India

Susan went to North India before heading back to Australia. She made sure that Helga has a new mattress and a deep cushion for her wheelchair so that her feet don’t drag on the ground, donated money for her pads and some more for a supply of treats. A down to earth, no nonsense accountant with sparkly new glasses ready for job interviews and bizarre “Dame Edna” ones for all the fun times to come. Go-get-em Susan!

Coloured powders for Mandalas, Tireuvannamali.

Coloured powders for Mandalas, Tireuvannamali.

My very well travelled friend Beth is leaving to continue her trip via a retreat centre in Bodhgaya then Nepal and onwards. Beth is a fearless, multi talented, painter, photographer, dancer, yoga teacher, art teacher, would-be film maker — the list goes on.

As a parting gift to Tiru, Beth single-handedly put on a barefoot boogie style dance party to benefit 2 local charities. She made 6000rs that’s 3000rs for the Shanti Children’s Project and 3000rs for the Arunachala Animal Shelter.

Entering into the spirit of things Ravi Chendi,the manager of the Hillside Rooftop venue started off by wanting to charge her 500rs for the three hours she wanted to rent the space then suddenly doubled it to 1000rs. I don’t know why, I wonder if he does. The electrician charged 1500rs for the use of a generator to cover the two hours when the venue would be without power. That makes 2500rs more that could have been donated – well no, actually it didn’t – Beth paid the overheads out of her own pocket. And the good neighbours of Tiru only started complaining about the noise and threatening to call the police at 8.30pm. It was a very low volume dance party, but people still enjoyed it.

UPDATE! I heard sometime later, that Beth got 600rs refund from the Hill View management who agreed that they had overcharged her!

Betel leaves, Tiruvannamali market.

Betel leaves, Tiruvannamali market.

Tiru – I am leaving you, but not before admitting to myself that I fell in love with you. I have learned from you and I promise that Jack-in-the Box that lives in my mind, always ready to jump up and surprise me and others with ready formed opinions, sweeping generalisations and occasional stupid negativity will have much stronger elastic. Perhaps eventually, he will go away and stop bothering me.

A worthy message, Tiruvannamali, Tamil Nadu.

A worthy message, Tiruvannamali, Tamil Nadu.

That bubble I stepped into – it seems so long ago now; full of interesting people, good food, music, gurus and ashrams has held me tightly on the slopes of a sacred mountain in the arms of Lord Shiva Himself.

Om Namah Shivaya.

Follow me – I went back to Mahabalipuram and updated this page –


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