When I first set foot in Trichy some 5 years back, it was the #1 hated spot on my list. If someone told me then that after spending 4 years there, I'd be blogging about Trichy one day, I would have laughed in their face. But I guess the place grew on me and I actually began to love Srirangam with all its quirks, incoveniences and eccentricities!
Way back in December 1999, we had a good monsoon . Till then, in the 3 months or so that I had been there, I used to travel daily between Srirangam to my college. Everyday, I used to cross the dried up, desert-like horizon of sand that was the Cauvery and I used to wonder what inspired so many people to write verses on the so-called beauty of Cauvery. But after the monsoon, after a week of holidays, I ventured out of Srirangam in the good old TST (Trichy Srirangam Transports) bus. The roads were awfully water logged and I was wondering how in the world I was going to manage to come back home in the evening without becoming a muddy mess. When we crossed the Cauvery bridge, I truly held my breath. The water level was almost near the top of the bridge and the river was truly in spate with the swirling waters dashing against the embankments on either side. The coconut trees on either side of the river were lush green. And the big banyan trees were bent over the river with their branches caught up in the spate. It was truly one of the most amazing sights I had ever seen in my life and I realized then why Ponni was the touted possession of the erstwhile Chola kingdom. A couple of days later, I had to travel towards Ariyamangalam to meet a friend. And the lush green paddy fields after the rain and the cool green orchards enchanted me.
After my first year exams were over, one of my good friends suggested that we both start reading Ponniyin Selvan over the holidays. Back then, I was an ignoramus and I thought Ponni was some girl and the novel was about her son/lover or something. I wasn't too keen but because of a lack of things to do, I started reading it. And the masterpiece by Kalki had me at the first page. The Cauvery, of course, is the lifeline running through the novel. I guess it inspired me to learn more about the history and culture underlying the region and I was much the better for it. Anyways, I went on to read all of Kalki's historic novels.
The thing is that at the end of four years, which I thought would be the most hateful, I ended up being very much attached to Srirangam, the temple, its culture, its distinct flavour. When I had to say goodbye to Srirangam when I was leaving for the US, my heart was truly heavy. When the Rockfort Express crossed the Cauvery and headed out, I saw the temple tower soaring majestically from amongst coconut groves and I had a strange feeling of loss.
I have been in many cities and towns in my life. I am used to moving around and adapting to places. But this was the first place that inspired in me such deep sadness upon leaving. It might not be the hippest town (sometimes, it is dead boring!) and not perhaps the trendiest, but the land between the Cauvery and Kollidam certainly holds a special place in my heart.