Seven of us (Ben, Mackey,Deepsy,Marky,Nagu, Ashwith and I) decided to go to Velankanni for a weekend trip, the destination was selected because it was a religious place and it will be easier to convince our families for another trip (men only), after the one to avalanche a couple of months back, and also because few of the gang were any way planning to go there to offer their prayers.
Six of us, excluding Ashwith, started our trip from Bangalore, we all met up near Sangam Complex in Bangalore by around 5 PM as decided, to have a couple of ‘energizing spirits’ in one of the Bar & Reastaurants (B&Rs) in Majestic. It was admirable to see the sheer number of B&Rs in these few roads, arguably even humbling the famous Ejipura main road. I must say the places there surprised even us; some of whom have been staying in Bangalore for the last 30 odd years, the B&Rs (like the one named Balaji) were really huge, having multiple rooms and multiple floors, some of the floors had nearly 25+ tables. It was hard to imagine that there would so much of place concealed behind the humble and ordinary looking entrances in relatively crowded area like majestic. It looks likes the main activity of the Bangaloreans from this region is only drinking, or else there is no way, these places could have survived the test of time.
We managed to reach the railway station a few minutes before the departure of our train, Myladudurai Exp, at 7:00 PM. In the train my dear friends were complaining about the shortage of drinks and cursing the fact that we did not take ‘liquid parcels’, we also called Ashwith who was boarding the same train from Erode, to get the much needed liquid if he could. We all slept by around 10:00 and Ashwith got into to the train at around 1:15 AM, carrying the priceless ‘liquid’, by then no one wanted to have the same, it was left for another favorable moment.
We reached Thanjavur by 5:25 and were planning to take a taxi when someone informed us about local train to Nagapattinam which leaves at 6AM, we took the tickets and got in to the train expecting it take about 2 hours to reach the destination. The train was slow and actually stopped in one particular station for more then 30 minutes. We reached nagapattinam after nearly three hours of train journey and more interestingly after a good chit chat. We took a tempo traveler from there to Velankanni and to the place where we were staying called Bethesda Inn more popularly known as MGM, the costliest hotel in Velankanni, and probably the latest too as some portions of it was still under construction, at a distance of 2 kilometers from the Shrine.
The MGM hotel looks pretty ordinary from the outside but has beautiful rooms much like the 3 star hotels with amazing interiors and fittings. The initial thrill of seeing the beautiful rooms did not last till the next day though, thanks to some of the experiences when we had there, like having to force our way to swimming pool which they initially declined stating that there was some unseen maintenance activity happening, and for the fact that there was no electricity or water in the early hours of dawn, making some of the guests literally shout at the hotel staff. This was never expected of a 3 star hotel (atleast in terms of the cost of the room, we paid around 7000 rupees for the 2 rooms for a day), even at the excuse of the ongoing construction work.
After a quick round of freshening up, we went to the Church in two Autos and after the much needed breakfast went to the Church to pray and do the planned offerings of candles and money. Bennish and Mark had decided to shave their heads, and I joined them, my fate decided by the toss of a coin back in the room and according to our friends we all actually looked good (much to our pleasant but definite surprise) with bright and hairless head. By now the heat was getting on to us and we decided to cool ourselves with a few bottles of beer in the almost open restaurant on the beach front, renowned for the fresh fish which can be picked from the lot to be fried and served on our table. Unfortunately this was one of their off days, and fish did not taste anything like the ones we tasted in our earlier visits. The beer though was enjoyed, and we also shared a small round of brandy in the local wine shop, which had surprisingly delicious dishes of egg apart from superb garlic pickle, before going to the Seagate Hotel to have a very scrumptious lunch.
Well I am not sure if it was effect of the ‘liquid’ or pure reactive instinct we all got into a tractor, to make the 2 kms journey to our hotel very memorable. We were really surprised when the driver of the tractor declined to take any money from us, a small testimony to the fact that money can be very insignificant at times, we though were thrilled by the experience and could not help but forcibly put some money to the driver’s pocket.
Back in the room most of where not in mood to sleep and kept conversing and watching TV, and decided to have a few more drinks before going to play in the swimming pool. It would be an understatement if I said we utilized the pool well, we did possibly everything we could do in a pool, playing like kids, splashing water each other and jumping over the shoulders of one another, trying to exhaust the extra energy injected by having the right ‘spirits’. We willingly finished the remaining quota of spirits in the room before going for dinner to Hotel Seagate, only after giving the finishing touching for an eventful day of spirits in the same local wine shop which had ignited our taste buds in the afternoon. We also managed to spend time walking along the beach, and enjoying the warmth of the moonlight and the sweet sound of the waves before coming back to the room in a bus.
Sunday morning 4 of us (Ashwith, Ben, Nagu and I) got up early and went to the church by 7:30 AM. One of the specialties of the place is the way of the cross, with 14 stations depicting the different events from the Passion of Christ, leading to our lady’s tank. This stretch of 700+ meters has a middle path of sand, which is for the faithful devotees who walk ‘the way of cross’ on their knees. Ben and I, who have tried this few times, and completed successfully with bruised knees, decided to skip it this time. Ashwith who was new to this place tried irrespective of me discouraging him several times, he was able to complete 2 stations successfully and having managed to bruise his knees joined us to complete the rest of the stations on foot. We went and prayed in all the 3 different shrines, offered masses and attended the English mass at 10:00AM.
It was pleasing to spend almost the entire morning in prayers, and surprisingly I was reminded of many of my friends and relatives during the prayers and had the satisfaction of praying for their well being.
For details about travelling and staying in Velankanni and information about the Shrine please refer the link below, one of the best I came across
We returned to the room and had the left over ‘liquid’, Mackey being the exception as he refused to drink as we had plans to visit the Thanjavur temple. We hired a Tavera from Velankanni to take us to Thanjavur, we had a excellent lunch from Nagappatinam, from a hotel highly recommended by Marky, again cementing the fact that when it comes to food Marks choice is one of the best.
Ben and Nagu managed to sneak out and quench their undying thirst for the ‘liquid’ and also managed to get some for Marky and me.
We reached Thanjavur temple by 3:00 and spent the next couple of hours enjoying the marvelous sculptures, paintings, the stone Bull and the innumerable surrounding Lingas among others. We also became historians/guides telling each other of their own version of the stories about the numerous Lingas, Monolithic Statue of the Bull and also some other construction details.
We reached the Thanjavur station by 5:15 and decided that the best way to kill the next 2 hours before the scheduled departure of train was to give another attempt to fulfill the our undying thirst for the ‘liquid’ in one of local joints near the station. We had a few glasses of beer listening to the unmatched and vibrant narration/interpretation by Marky, of one of the famous books about the most important Sutra you, or atleast us, can think about. Deepsy took the opportunity to record the complete narration using his mobile camera, and is thinking of making Marky really famous by posting it in Youtube. It was hilarious to note some us asking questions, as though to a Guru, and Marky with all his composure and theoretical knowledge trying to clarify their doubts. The train departed from Thanjavur at 7:15 PM and reached Bangalore by 5:15 AM.
The common thing we noticed (probably you would too) is that we were all smiling and laughing in almost each and every photo, an indication of the true fun we had on this trip, to be cherished memories and topics of chat in our special ‘high level discussions’ in the future.