Aaraasur: an interlude

Sometimes the task undertaken at pointReturn seems too formidable. The fibre of a 64 year old is supposed to be tough but it often weakens. To survive such moments, I was given on April 29, a humbling lesson and a supply of motivation at Aaraasur, a tiny hamlet even farther away and more unheard of than Jamin Endathur where pointReturn is.

For some weeks my 80 year old Uncle had been mentioning a date he must keep. On April 29, a small temple was to be consecrated in Aarasur, to Sri Rama, the legendary Prince of Ayodhya. Uncle had in fact been an active fund raiser on behalf 92 year old Ramaswamy Iyengar, a man I had not thus far met. He had been at work building the temple for over two years. I had only a little idea who he was and none about the temple. My own modest contribution was more due to a fondness for my Uncle than anything else.

And for the same reason, I agreed to drive him over for the consecration. There were to be about 6 family members coming for the ride. In the invitation, there was a road map showing the way to Aaraasur and that perked me up a bit. From Chennai, one rode the Grand Southern Trunk [GST] Road almost 80% of the way to pointReturn and then instead of turning left, I’d need to turn right and travel 25 km to Vandavasi town. Aarasur was a further 8km. I roughly knew those parts.

We set off at 6am to keep the 8.30am appointment. The ride on the GST was slick in the hours before the sun asserted its rule. We turned right for Vandavasi at Sothupakkam. “A left turn here and another 15km and you are at pointReturn,” I said excitedly. 20km hence, there was another exciting moment that animated everyone: we passed the 8km long country road, at the end of which lay Villivalam, a village some of my ancestors had made their home. None except me had visited that remote village and there was a sombre silence. I imagined with great affection those hardy folks that must have traversed by foot or bullock cart the very road we were speeding on.

Despite it being a Sunday, there was a bustle about Vandavasi. We asked for directions and moved on in the direction Chethupattu. About 4km down, came the turn right for Aaraasur. It was disorientingly remote. A tiny whimsical bus from Vandavasi touched Aaraasur, twice daily and that was that.

We drove another 2km from the bus stop on a narrow road through fields. And there was the tiny white washed temple thronged by a crowd. There were a few cars that had brought in family and admirers of Ramaswamy Iyengar from Chennai. The rest were sturdy labouring folk, dressed the best they could for the day. They were dignified despite their modest lives. We waded in.

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