The Enigma of Tamil Nadu

DSCF9243RThe longer we’re here the less we understand.

When looking up the history of a nearby temple, I was directed to the specific references from the Ramayana related to this site. Rather than when the temple was built and how, this history is how it fits into the Hindu creation story.

When life is seen as cyclical, eternal, what is history?


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SAM_2920R“India, the new myth–a collective fiction in which anything was possible, a fable rivalled only by the two other mighty fantasies: money and God.” – from Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie.

As I read, I always look for the sentence that seems to encapsulate the premise of an entire book, and this sentence did it for me. Rushdie loves to mix metaphors, but so far he hasn’t compared describing India to nailing Jell-O to a wall.

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The colors of India are beautiful; splatters of yellow pigment splash our door. Three white stripes with a red dot are smeared on cars, trucks, elevators and windows; nearly every place the eye comes to rest. The entryway of most homes and businesses are decorated with white and colored chalk rangolis. After awhile the colors meld into a background brown and a new design is drawn.

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We’ve come into the densely templed region of the ancient Chola empire, and a part of India that is devout and fervent in their beliefs. Most temples are brightly painted, a few are dilapidated with vines growing through them. Some appear to be newer temples built over the foundations of old ones.

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The people have been gracious, if enigmatic. Not just the indecipherable head wag, but many other gestures, exclamations and attempts at questions continue to mystify us. Though we understand so little, we continue to strive and hope we can at least promote good will. As my Dad says,

“A smile is understood in every language.”