Balaji Darshan- A Tale of woe

I am in Chennai currently, and yesterday went to Tirupati or more aptly the hill town of Tirumala for a visit to Tirumala Venkateswara Temple in Andhra Pradesh. It is about 138 kms from Chennai. At first we had decided to take the TTDC (Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation) bus to our destination. But the crazy pick up time of 4.30 am from Park station led us to probe other options. So a quick google search later, we found lots of options for the tour, all with the same premise. Pickup at crazy early morning hour, breakfast on arrival at Tirupati, Darshan, lunch and then back reaching Chennai around 11 pm at night.

We did find a tour that left at 10 pm from Chennai and then Darshan at 4.00 am which would be perfect to avoid the crowds and traffic. But the one leaving that night just had one empty seat and there were the three of us. And then suddenly we were gripped with the fever that we had to go. So we booked an Indica car that would pick us up at 3 am, with all the trims.

Of course 3 am turned out to be 4 am. But in the early morning dawn we set out. Of course given the crazy hour we had to wake up and be ready, 2am I couldnt sleep. This of course is highly debated by my sister who claims I just thought I was awake while in fact I just had my eyes closed, for the two hours or so.

Our driver was very friendly, of course not with us since there was no mid point our shoddy Tamil and his equally shoddy English could ever meet. But he kept stopping for tea breaks and such, chatting nineteen to the dozen with his other driver mates. The scenery might have been nice, especially the early timing of the trip but there was no way I caught up with any of that. I started snoring in the back of the car even before we had even left Chennai.

Anyhoo around 8 am we reached Tirupati and after a South Indian breakfast which I totally enjoyed of Idli, Vada and a debatable Pongal or Khichadi we set off for Tirumala hill. We left our phone and slippers in the car and barefoot and sleep deprived we joined the 2 km queue. If only we had known then the queue stretched for dozens of kms more and the point where we saw the queue entering the building was just the beginning of the stretch that Nagini would be proud of, we would have thought otherwise.

But with hope in our hearts and a strange bravado we joined the queue. Of course the queue breakers tried joining with equal pertinence as our attempts to get rid of them. In fact even our driver, Raja brought a group of people from his mate’s car to join the queue where we were. This attempt was thwarted by his super bossy sister of course with a long righteous speech, but we discovered later they had somehow slipped in a few people down in the queue.

With hope still high we persevered, we had come so far and as monitors of the queue we found ourselves with duty as well. The good thing was the queue kept moving, pretty quickly at that point so we were still in good spirits. We proceeded to the area where we thought was the entrance only to find the queue snaked around to the next corner and this went on for a long long time.

This is when things started to turn ridiculous. We were to climb steel walkways up and down, random chairs had been placed in our paths and water taps that just made the path wet (side note: I hate the feeling of wet feet, especially from unknown sources), the morning was turning into an unforeseen obstacle course. Of course there were barricades on all sides, no way for anyone to even consider leaving since the ’emergency exits’ had huge locks on them (donated of course I am guessing from the good people at Godrej heavy-duty lock company), claustrophobia was in the air. We then looked around and started feeling sorry for the elderly and people with kids. Kids, why would you put them through such torture, I didn’t understand.

Three hours later, our hopes fast diminishing and water supply low, we just didn’t know what to do. By this time the moving queue had suddenly stopped. So people were just sitting where ever they could park their asses, I just sat on the floor, and think I had a little nap too.

Five hours later and feeling like if there was a emergency exit somehow open by the miracle of god, that would help lift us from this struggle, we could make our escape, renewed hope glimmered. Finally the pay counters were in sight, and of course our obstacle course had not taught us anything by this point because after that cages started. Giant people holding cages. And we were in the 300 Rupees queue, which is steep for India, and being treated like animals for that.

This is when losing my patience and hope, what was that? Just four letters combined together to form a word, with meaning, a meaning which meant nothing at that point. I just wanted to get out of that place and fast. Such torture I have never known in life. And I kept remembering that if God was omnipresent then why were we here?

Finally after what seemed like days being holed up in people holding cages, from cage no. 5 to cage no. 4 onward to cage number 1, going up, down steel walkways has given way to wood. We finally could see the tops of the temples that we had seen in the Wikipedia page. By this time of course I was cursing God, myself and my poor family who I had coerced into coming with me for this crazy misadventure.

Finally we passed the silver giant doors on to the golden temple complex that we had struggled for so long to see. It was an amazing sight and a truly marvelous place but in the end the wait for omnipresent God just seemed like a holiday wasted. 6 hours of life we will never get back, not to count the 15 hours the whole experience took.

TTD, the management body of the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple needs to learn a few lessons from other temples who have an amazing queue management system in place. According to the Wikipedia page, “The temple is visited by about 50,000 to 100,000 pilgrims daily (30 to 40 million people annually on average)” this is not a yearly occurrence so please for the love of God, arrangements need to be made and straight forward ones at that.

We were just surprised at the lack of management and the hoops we had to pass, yet people keep coming back to this temple, many times in a year. At least this first time, we had the good fortune of not knowing the procedure, but imagine having to anticipate the whole process, I think next time I will just have to ask my brother to get me a VIP Pass fora quick VIP Darshan. To the poor common man, on the other hand, lots and lots of God’s blessing to get through this whole process.



Of Milestones and Men

I will be 28 in a couple of months, not long to go before the big 30 milestone. When I was little 30 seemed so faraway and so old. Now that I am nearly there, I don’t feel old, mature and certainly not grown up. When I was little i thought people automatically turn grown up as soon as they hit an age milestone. Like at 25 you suddenly became an adult. But now I know that isn’t the case, circumstances and people’s nature turn them into adults. 

When does a person truly become an adult? In my opinion the day you get married is when you become an adult with your own family life. But this I don’t know for sure because I have never been married, nor even in a live in relationship. Maybe this theory will just turn into my childhood age-adult co-relation theory, rubbish.

Anyway since I will be 30 in about two and a half years here’s a list of things I would like to do before then.

  1. Learn a new language: I have been interested but never went through with it. But now that I live in the big city, classes of all sorts and all languages are available to me. Right now, though I dont have time to commit for 3 months but as soon as I get back from my China holiday, I will get enrolled. The onl problem right now is figuring out which language. I am currently leaning towards German and French. French seems more difficult than German with its masculine/feminine things. Watch this space for what I do and up doing and when.
  2. Learn to Drive: I can drive but i need ideal conditions for it ie no other car or pedestrians for miles around otherwise I just get awfully nervous and forget everything. they say practice is the only way to overcome the nerves while driving, but I just cant practice in traffic. Anyway this I have to do. And get a driving license too.
  3. Write a Novel: I have always loved writing, right from when i wrote an essay at 8 about how my toys came alive at night, I knew I had to do it. I always had journal of sorts where I would write. Right now I have no idea where they are. I just want to do this. No matter if it doesn’t get published. Right now I am thinking YA since I have been reading a lot of the genre recently.
  4. Become a Diplomat: Well here in order to be a diplomat you need to pass a super tough exam, and lots of competition. People literally put their lives on hold. No tv, no friends, no family time, etc. And me since I have a job its not ideal but I have enough confidence in myself that if I really work hard and sit down to study, I can do it. So hopefully I will be able to clear these exams by the time i am 30.
  5. Get in Shape: My whole life, I have never been in the best of shape. I would love to do yoga but I just cant be bothered. I feel the problem is me not owning a yoga mat, but the I have put a block in my head for some reason I don’t know. So, whether it is yoga or an early morning run, I do want to get into shape soon before I mushroom into a giant ball of fried foods and cheese.
  6. Photography: I always thought that since I did not possess a DSLR camera, that was what was stopping me from indulging in photography but actually it was just my lazy self, since I went out and brought an entry level  DSLR (the cheapest one I could find- Canon D1000) about 2 years ago, no I dont have a portfolio yet. I want to learn more about all the settings, the manual modes, AF, Focus and other greek alphabets to me, so hopefully I will have a portfolio soon and will no longer have to use my camera in Auto mode (how embarrassing, I know).                                                                NOTE: In fact I want to do this before China, so I can get some awesome photos of all the awesome places that Sean and me will be going to. Now that I have written this, I cant wait to go. Its going to be sooooooooo great.
  7. Go to CHINA: This I am doing in July, so I am sooooo excited. Actually, my interest and excitement had waned a bit in the last month or so, but now its back with double its original vengeance. And I get to see Pandas, did I mention I love pandas.
  8. Couch-surf: Well, I did host a couple from Israel last year. They were nice and sweet and not at all like the bad image Israeli travellers have in the community. They even gave us a potted orchid at the end of their stay, (Five stars) and came armed with cookies when they arrived. Well, I would like to couch-surf but have all sorts of concerns about safety, theft, psychos and many others. Who knows maybe I will couch-surf when i do get the chance and it feels right.
  9. Travel alone: Who know what this may involve, will it be a deeply enriching experience or a lonesome one. Will I make many friends or will it be annoying? I have always wanted to do this but never had the courage.
  10. Quit Smoking: I know it is bad for you but i feel unable to stop completely right now. even though I have reduced smoking a lot, I want to fully quit. 

Wow, there’s ten things on this list. When I started writing, I didn’t think I would have so many things I wanted to do. I guess making a list helps. Visualisation is important and I hope to achieve all this. after all what is life without goals?


Things I have already done so cant be on this list:

  1. Conquered my fear of heights: This I didn’t even know i had till I was on top of crane thing from where I was supposed to bungee jump off of. My heart just stopped beating and I couldn’t move leave alone jumping off. All your life you are told and trained to avoid cliffs and ledges and places from where you could potentially fall over from, but finally I did it, I think I was pushed but it doesn’t matter. it was just crazy. Oh and I did paragliding too. I was so scared to run off the cliff but my second time was just perfect. The take off was amazing.
  2. Glastonbury 2008: I was there when Amy Winehouse hit some guy for trying to touch her beehive. It was amazing. I had plans to go again the next year but things came up including a break up but I am glad, been there done that, got the hoodie.
  3. Rescued a puppy: I met Hachiko on the street late one night when I was returning from a friend’s house. Hachiko was taken home where my mum had a mini-fit on seeing the shivering puppy. She recovered fine later and we took Hachi to the doctor to get her de-wormed and vaccinated. He had some crazy worms but a beautiful soul. He would just stare into your eyes like it knew something, like we are connected somehow. Anyhow Hachiko did not live for very long but enough to have achieved a loving bond with all of us at home, we still miss him so much. Hachiko was buried near the monastery near our house.
  4. Got a job: Being financially independent is amazing, so what you don’t have money to buy all that your heart desires but you know you can save up for it one day and there is no more grovelling in front of your parents (so embarrassing) and I can finally do what I like. This also means I am putting money aside every month for my retirement and opened all sorts of deposits in the bank.

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