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I was in a rush on that January afternoon in 2023. I stopped by a bronze vessel shop in Kumbakonam town to buy a Pongal Pot for my friend Amutha to give as Pongal Seeru (gift) to her newly married daughter. The shop owner helped me choose the perfect sized bronze pot when I explained the purpose of my purchase and gave me his gpay number. The payment was not going through, and seeing my restlessness he said, “You do it later whenever you get the network” and he started bidding me goodbye.

Now that is unusual!! Shops let you take your purchase only after they have received payment. And this shopkeeper didn’t even have my phone number and knew I was not local to Kumbakonam. In my mental “Book of Life Experiences” I index this under “Faith in Humanity”

For me, Kumbakonam equals nostalgia.

I have been treated to quite a few doses of this during my current visit here. My daughter is doing craft documentation of the famed Chola Bronze sculptures. Swamimalai is the traditional hub for this. Mr. Solai, an artisan spent his entire weekend to demonstrate the process and answer our incessant questions.

One cannot fix payment for such kindness and sometimes offering money may be offensive. I usually return such favours with gifts. This time I did not get the opportunity to buy anything suitable, so decided to give him cash. And he promptly refused with a smile. “Aiyo! Vendam nga”. I used the family angle to finally convince him. Told him this is for his daughters. “I did not buy them anything, so you please do it on our behalf”.  Being billed by the hour is a corporate concept. But Solai believes that traditional knowledge should be shared and he does it with such passion.

Last evening, my kids and I were relaxing in the pillared corridors of Sarangapani temple. My daughter was sitting with legs bent in an inverted V position, with her hands supporting her knees. (Don’t worry if you didn’t get the exact picture 😊) An elderly man called out to her about her posture and she promptly shifted to the sammanam (lotus posture). My son wanted to know why I was smiling with wonderment and I replied, “It is nice to be corrected by our elders. It means they still care and also, they believe we will listen”.

Another highlight for me in this temple town is a small and much-loved eatery. The owner who manages the galla (Cash box) does the billing on a black slate with chalk. When asked why he hasn’t moved to a billing machine, he said, “Adhai azhuthikittu, bill maatikittu, yeduthukittu……Ithu ellam appidi kidaiyadhu. Kal slatu le easiya kanakku pottu alichidalaam. Athunaa(Bill machine) 5 nimisham neenga nikkanum.”

(Pressing the buttons (of the billing machine), billing paper getting stuck, changing the paper….Slate is not like that. With slate and chalk we easily calculate and erase. With billing machine you are also made to wait longer.)

Standing near the steaming Idli pot at the entrance of his restaurant, I asked one of the staff if I can take pictures. “Yen kekreenga? Ithu namma kadai. Yeduthukkonga” (Why ask? Its our shop, go ahead.)

In a few moments I was listening to the dosai master telling me about the greatness of Sivaji Ganesan (Popular Tamil Actor) and how he (Dosai Master) spent all 124 nights of that film many decades ago at the cinema theatre where Thanga Padakkam was screened.

While waiting for our Barotta Kurma, my daughter found that the Barotta Master has been throwing the oily dough in the air since he was 19 years of age.

Everyone seemed familiar with how we city folks post seemingly mundane aspects of life on You tube. To this end, the barotta master was very forthcoming with details. After a while he was getting overwhelmed by the speed at which barotta orders were pouring in. He called out to the server, “Order edukkathey” at which point the owner left his galla and assisted the Barotta Master by tending to the barotta’s cooking on the pan.

Sitting on the thinnai of our resort room at dawn, listening to sparrows, cuckoos and peacocks, I look back at the last few days. Time stood still. My mind is enjoying this pace, making the most of this stillness. I will bring myself back to my Kumbakonam moments whenever I am in too much of a rush.

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Urged me to visi sarangapani Koil. Though living in Chidambaram for the past 34 years, I am yet to visit him. Yes kumbakonum is one of the villages that's close to ones heart if they have visited. Call me when you go next. Will be happy to join you


You posts bring that chill feeling of cool mornings under a neem tree!

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That's a cool and refreshing thought Sowmya. Thanks

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