Thursday, June 19, 2008


I wanted to go to Warangal and Siddipet in this trip. Siddipet to see a public meeting of the man I hate – KCR - and to Warangal to see ‘Kakatiyula keerthi toranalu’. I could not go to Siddipet but made it to Warangal, along with my uncle.

We borrowed a car - new Maruthi swift – and hired a driver. The driver promised to come at 5:30 but came at 7 am. We wanted to reach the 1000 pillar temple before noon but end up reaching there around 11.

The temple is very impressive, but not what I expected. It was not as huge as I imagined it. It seems there are 1000 pillars but there is only a very tiny gap between each pillar. In other words, the walls we see are made up of those pillars.

Inside the temple, we can see four huge black granite pillars with wonderful carvings. Temple has shrines of Siva, Vishnu and Surya. The gods are still worshiped in the temple. Even on a Saturday afternoon, it was impossible for me to get a picture without people in the frame.

Kakatiya kings were Telugu kings, the script on the stones, do not look like modern Telugu, and it looks like some characters are of another Dravidian language.

Another impressive monument of Kakatiyas is their fort – actually ruins of the fort.

The entrance of the fort has a very huge door and the road goes in a zig zag fashion for the next 4 km. There are several houses inside the fort walls and it is thickly populated area. Some places inside the fort walls are used as playgrounds by local kids. On one of the boards in Telugu the name ‘Venis’ city is written as ‘Venin’ city. My uncle observed that typo and brought to the attention of the ASI officer there, who first did not see where that type was and after seeing, he corrected it immediately and said, “Yes, I noticed it yesterday and wanted to fix”.

Except the ‘keerthi thoranaalu’ on four sides, every other pillar is on the floor. We can see wonderful artwork on the many pillars. On some, they sculpt the army that was going for war; we can see several elephants, soldiers holding swards etc. On some pillars, it is the dancers in various Bhangimas. By observing, the artwork on the pillars we can learn a lot about the period’s social life. However, due to our utter disregard for our past treasures, this place is being treated like a park, where people come and play ball games; make their kids sit on the sculptures, eat, spit and do much more.

The funniest thing was this, my uncle asked the ASI employee about the location of urinals. The employee pointed to a place several 100 feet away and said, “If it is for men, they need not go that far too…”. I thought, if an employee of the Archeological Society of India is saying that, what is the point in me being upset about the thoughtless parent who is making their kids sit on the elephant sculptures there.

If I have the power and money, I would like to see this place renovated and maintained with people in period costumes, similar to how Americans maintain their historical sites.

Then a trip to this site would serve as a crash course for the history of Telugu nation.

Ramappa temple is located 70 KM from the fort.

The drive up to the 40 KM from Warangal is on a proper road, after that it is just a mud road. The temple is located in the agency area of Eturi Naagaaram. There are few police check posts on the way.

We can get a glimpse of the life of rural India on the way; the bullock carts carrying grass and paddy. Green open fields, people riding bicycle on the road, people sitting under banyan tree with cigars in their mouths, old men sitting on the cots in front of the house, groups of woman sitting in front of the house talking, washing dishes, chicken and goats running around the huts etc. It is a pleasent ride – particularly if you are not the owner of the car.

Ramappa temple has very impressive artwork; particularly the idols of Nagini, Rambha on the black stone on the walls are done with wonderful taste. By 4 pm the light from the west side – back end of the – temple becomes angular creating impressive shadows.

Due to time constraints we could not stay there for long, ideally one should spend a night nearby and visit the temple in the early hours and late hours to record the true beauty of the construction. Next time I plan to do that.

This is the side view of the temple -

The original sasanam - thou the language used is the Telugu, the script on this scripture has very little resemblence to the modern Telugu script.


Going home

Our initial plan was to go to India during September 08 and celebrate Spurthi’s third birthday in our home in Hyderabad. Suddenly during 2nd week April, we started talking about going in the summer and we found enough reasons to go immediately.

‘We could eat mangos’

That got Aparna excited about going in summer. Yes, we could eat all the mangos we can eat. Thinking about ‘Cheruku rasam’, ‘Panchadara Kalasi’ etc itself gave us enough sugar boost. Several varieties of mango are grown in South India; in Andhra, the fruit variety mangos are full of sweet juice. To eat those mangos one has to put a puncture on the top, keep the mango in the mouth and suck the juice, while squeezing it with the hand to tender the pulp. Once the juice flow becomes less, the ‘tenka’ (hard shell inside the mango) has to be brought out and licked mercilessly. Then, its time to revisit the ‘thokka’ (skin), bite the bottom side and suck the juice until it is torn. All this may sound like a hassle, particularly when the juice can be store bought, but trust me, the experience of eating a juicy mango like our ancestors did is a divine experience, once you taste that, you will never like the sugar / essence added juice in the bottle. Another incentive for daring to face the heat would be the chance to taste the new pickles, along with the chance to drink sugarcane juice, sweet coconut, ‘Munji’ etc. Summer, also is the time when schools and colleges are closed, so all our school going relatives and Aparna’s mother will be free at home. The more we contemplated, the more we were convinced that summer is the time to go home.


I completed 5 years of service in the present company. So, starting this year I have an extra week of vacation for a total of 4 weeks. That looked like enough time. It sure is a long time if one has to go to work / wash dishes / cook everyday. For a vacation, it is short. We need vacation like the academics in Canada i.e. 9 months work and 3 months vacation.

This time I got a very good deal with tickets from This is also first time we flew to Hyderabad. The new Shamshabad airport is very impressive, thou the customs staff are not. They asked me to pay 50,000 Rs (1250$) customs duty for my lens and camera. I tried to explain to the clerk that I am going back and none of this stuff is new or meant for sale; he said ‘leave these in the air port and pick up when you go back or pay the duty’. The welcome I got from the customs officer made me realize how rational toddlers are compared to the customs officers in Hyderabad. I refused to leave the stuff in the airport - the only reason anyone carries those is to use them – and refused to pay the duty. He then sent me to his superior who was reasonable. I repeated my argument, showed him the return tickets and he let me go. While coming out the guards stopped me for the filled in customs form which I forgot on the clerk’s desk while pulling out other stuff. While I was searching for the forms the guards said ‘don’t worry about it sir, give us something and go’. I understood the meaning of ‘something’, but pretended to have not heard. Went back, collected the form and came out. The flight arrived on time in Hyderabad at 11:15. All this took nearly 3 hours and we came out at 2 am. It is easy to spend millions and build infrastructure, but without proper training of the personnel, coming to this airport is not going to be a pleasant experience for the travelers. I decided never to land in Hyderabad from international travel.


Aparna had a pending mokku from 02 to visit Tirupathi. She wanted to climb the hill by foot before the darshan. We, along with my mother, flew to Tirupathi on Friday and scheduled the AAD (Archana Anantara Darshanam) for Saturday early morning. We went up the hill to check in, came down and started climbing in the evening. My mother remained in the room with Spurthi, while Aparna, her mother and I started trekking around 6:30 pm. The total distance between Tirupathi and Tirumala is 11 KM and consists of ….. steps. The journey is uphill, so it is not very easy, at the same time it is not impossible for the determined not so in great shape folks. The biggest difficulty is that, one is supposed not to wear any footwear while climbing the hill, since it is considered sacred.

While Aparna and I are in okay shape, her mother is not. On top of that, within a few minutes of starting the walk, Aparna’s mother is hurt from a piece of a broken glass. Her foot started bleeding and we were not carrying any first aid in the purse. She continued the walk with that wound, thou she never sat down in the middle, took frequent breaks. Towards the end, there are 350 steps, each step 18-20 inches tall. That is called ‘Mookaalla Parvatham’. It seems, it got the name because no one can climb that hill without holding their knees with their hands. After crossing that, there are no more steps. It is just a long walk; some times crossing the road. One has to be very careful while crossing the road or walking on the roadside as the chances of bumping on to a vehicle down the hill can be fatal. It took us 5 hours to go up the hill.

We went to the temple on Saturday morning 6 am and came out after darshan with prasad by 8:30 am. Summer is usually very busy time and Saturdays are the busiest. If it took us 2 hours, that means it will take less than 2 hours in other times. This should be encouraging news for people planning a visit to Tirupathi.


The fly-over at Mahalinga puram / North usman road is helping the traffic flow near Kodambakkam. I have not seen the horrible traffic jams in this trip. Parking is still a big problem in many parts of the city. One fly-over near Ranganatha Street is under construction. Once that is complete, it is expected to ease the traffic flow near Panagal park area.

Prakash came to Chennai during that time and we went to our usual places like National lodge, Ponnusamy and Bhagavathi Vilas etc. There is nothing to write home about those places any more. I decided to stop going there from next trip. One day I went to Indian Express office, in Ambattor - with Suresh and had lunch in the canteen. The food there was much better than the current NL food. Prakash and I took a sleeper bus for the return journey from Chennai to Hyderabad. It costs about 1000 Rs. (slightly more than third A/c train fare) and takes about 11 hours to reach Hyderabad. Sometimes there can be unexpected traffic jam, like that day when Rambabu was coming from Bangalore to Hyderabad by bus. That bus was scheduled to reach at 6 am. Due to an accident at Nalgonda, it reached around 2 pm. I feel Volvos are a better choice to travel on the road than sleeper buses.

Next time Aparna and I traveled in train with Spurthi. Train journey was very comfortable for travel within India now. Trains run on time, they are clean and economical too.


In Hyderabad, nobody stops at the red light. I heard this story; one driver stopped the car when the light changed from orange to red. Three vehicles hit him from behind. What kind of stupid, looks at the lights while driving? Drivers in Hyderabad strongly believe that only cowards stop at red light.

Everywhere in city, there are traffic jams. I used to a hire cab almost everyday, as it is cheaper. For 8 hours it costs about 800 Rs. (20$). It looks like there is a demand for cab driver jobs now. Many cab drivers I saw have migrated from nearby villages recently. They do not know the city completely and they do not have enough driving experience. One driver I hired always used to stop in the middle of the road. Once he went opposite side of the road and almost hit a lorry. One day we went to Alfa in Secendrabad for their legendary Biriyani – which by the way is not great IMHO, and hired an auto to come back. The driver of that auto was hardly 18 years. I wondered loudly ‘whether he had license to drive’. He heard that and used a swear word to let me know that I can get out of the auto, if I care about his licensee.

Nothing happened on all these days. One day I was home whole day and went to see off my cousins’ daughter to her house, which is less than 2 miles from where I stay. While coming back in auto another auto hit head-on and a bus and scoter hit my auto from behind. The driver of my auto was in critical condition, while - luckily - I survived without any fractures or major injuries.

Over all this was a great vacation for us. When we started planning the trip, we were concerned about the Indian summer and how Spurthi is going to take it etc. She had wonderful time and we hope she will have a few memories of this trip. She picked up several new words and sentences in Telugu, when her mother repeats some thing; she now says “emite nasugudu”. She can recognize all her grand parents and became friends with Deekshita and Sunitha’s daughters – Sruthi and Madhavi.

The lesson I learned is, if we expect India to offer the comforts in US you will be up for disappointment. If you want comforts, India has many. One example is, if we try to beat the Indian summer with indoor AC, it is difficult. Since the AC is not centralized, coming out and going in makes thing worse. At night, there can be voltage drop or power cut. However, one can throw the shirt off and sit under the mango tree in front of the house. For a good night sleep, take the mat up and sleep on the open terrace. That is what we did. The open sky and the shining stars never stop encouraging us, to find the shining within, and the openness in our own hearts. We had many joy-filled nights.
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