Day 2 was the main highlight of our journey to India as we will be spending a longer period of time in a place called Tiruvannamalai. Surrounded with Hindu temples, ashrams and the revered Arunachala mountain at it’s core, Tiru as the locals call it, is a place where people from all over India and the rest of the world come to seek peace and enlightenment. For us, we are simply looking for a fast break from the 1st world facilities in Singapore where we often took things for granted. Here, cold drinking water, undisrupted electricity, internet and hot showers are luxuries that one shouldn’t take for granted.
Arunachaleswara Temple aka The Big Temple is the main attraction here in Tiruvannamalai.
A systematic way of life is non-existent here. In short, there’s order in disorder.
You have to give it to these Indians on how they find a way to adapt in this congested and polluted chaos of a town. What’s even more respectable is after a close shave with death on the road, they are back to normal after a few seconds.
Oh, and in Tiru, the Kashmiri boys are the hotties for obvious reasons (hmm, i think i should take a picture with one of them and show u guys how delightfully chaming they look). They are like the Jersey Shore boys from The States (without the muscles). lolz.
Tailor-made quality clothes for only SGD 18. A knock-out price as compared to the ones back in Singapore. We manage to tailor 4 pairs each. whahahahahaha! Waiting for the suits to be done may take awhile, but it’s worth it.
Parading his Jubah looking like a Bollywood star
Firman finally managed to rent a bike. For only SGD 2 a day. Envy no? Oh and his bike is assembled from a bunch of scrap metals right from the start. Even the license plate was printed on a sticker from the shop next door with some random numbers. But we’re not complaining. heee~
Petrol is SGD 5 for 4 litres consisting of a dirty mixture of low-grade petrol and mineral oil. Yupz, u read that right. MINERAL OIL. The outrageous thing is that 4L can bring us around for 200km. What we’re afraid of is that we’re not sure if we can still be alive to top-up the next round of petrol after 200km here in India’s traffic.
Our bike called “THUM B”
Ever wished of having a semi-detached 2-bedroom house with a rooftop overseeing a countryside? Here, you can get it for as low as SGD 100 per month, fully furnished. Yupz! you read that right. SGD 100. Imagine renting your claustrophobic 4-room flat earning SGD 2000 and exchanging it for a house made for a Singaporean elite for only SGD 100!! Oh, we forgot to mention, because of a kind Singaporean samaritan, we sealed this house for the whole of September FREE OF CHARGE!
A preview of our humble cottage
OK, now time for the ugly side of Tiru (and maybe the whole of India). Firstly as I’ve mentioned, the traffic is horrendous and it’s generously laden with cow dung both on the roads and walking pavements. Secondly, power disruptions are so common that you need to sleep with a working torchlight and a Chinese hand fan. Not forgetting you’ll be sweating due to humidity (way worst than Singapore). Thirdly, the tap water is saturated with so much lime that calcium spots emerge out immediately once the water evaporates. Speaking of which, you need to brush your teeth and only drink bottled water. Lastly, Tiru is quite suppressed in gender equality. Women are not allowed to exercise in gyms and pray in mosques.
Sidenote: On Day 7, we went to the Orchard Road of Tiruvannamalai called Pondicherry. A 2-hour drive which can cure any depression or suicidal thoughts due to the constant surges of adrenaline thanks to the traffic. Pondicherry is a small French colonial town. Giant supermarkets much like Sheng Shiong and unisex gyms are available here. The locals had nicer rides and there were definitely more tourists compared to Tiruvannamalai. Cafes lining the beachfront pampered by a soothing sea breeze made walking down The Promenade parallel to the beach a de-stressing affair. Ironically, we began to miss Tiru (weird) and headed back Home.
So far we are getting used to the horrendous traffic and their general way of life. I think people in Singapore can learn more about riding and driving here in one day than wasting your money in our exorbitant driving centres. So far that we are here, we have yet to see any road accidents despite the massive chaos.
“The Red Saddhu” posing with his Thum-B
Unfortunately, we are still not accustomed to the ridiculous humidity, biting bugs, frequent and long electricity distruptions. We came from a ridiculous climate as well but Singapore’s torturous humidity and heat is heaven compared to this. Even with two fans blasting at maximum, we are still feeling the heat. So once the electricity disruption starts, the whole body sweats in 5 seconds. I swear I’m not exagerating. And when you sweat, you attract bugs which carve beautiful scars on your skin. Thank God they spared the face. A nice cycle of torture don’t you think?
On a positive note, we have become more thankful during our stay here. Observing the people around, we’ve come to conclude that Singaporeans are spoilt brats who take many things for granted. You just cannot fathom how old women help in physical labor building houses under the impossible heat, the young kids maneuvering motorbikes in the suicidal heat and makes you wonder how the poor and homeless survives here. I think you’ll be either hospitalized or dead in less than a month if you were to trade shoes with them. Again, I swear I’m not exaggerating.
The Faces of Tiruvannamalai
Below are pictures of the angels we met in Tiruvannamalai. Each one of these people had an exceptionally positive aura around them and you just feel so comfortable with them in an instant as if you have known them for years.
Shah, The Bald Nun
The bald woman is Shah. A retired teacher from a private school in Singapore (what are the chances?), she had enough of office politics, quitted her job and went to shuttle between Tiruvannmalai, Malacca and Singapore (of which Singapore is the shortest stay within the 3). Her quest for spiritual enhancement is awe-inspiring for you feel a strong sense of moderation and balance in her ways unlike most of the extreme foreigners here. We met her by ‘chance’ here in Tiru on the very first day and she became our tour guide for 10 days. She even negotiated for us to stay at her friend’s luxurious house for free.
Rupa, The Italian Mafia
The Italian woman is called Rupa. Her life story was full of twists and turns. Excellent enough to be a brilliant plot for a blockbuster movie, she is staying long term here in Tiruvannamalai as she feels that this is the place where her soul belongs. Disobeying her parents to lead the normal rat race life like the one we have in Singapore, her journey took her to Holland in which she married a Danish guy which did not end well, married another Danish guy which failed too before she had enough and decided to do an all-out travel in the whole of Asia.
During her journey, she experienced true love with a Japanese man and they travelled together for one year before deciding to tie the knot. The moment they left the registry of marriage, her Japanese husband changed 180 degrees due to listening to his father’s ‘wise’ advice,”A Japanese man should treat his girlfriend like a new car. Once you marry her, she is an old car so treat her like one if you are a man.”
Having her third and final divorce, she went around Asia until she landed in Indonesia where she felt at home. She stayed there for many years but soon got frustrated as her visa kept running out every 2 months. That was her catalyst to look for something more permanent, guiding her to India before she found home in the disguise of Tiruvannamalai.
Tanabal, The Santa Claus
Last but not least, our Santa Claus in Tiru is called Tannabal. A Malaysian Indian who migrated to Tiru 35 years ago due to the magnetic pull of the Holy Mount Arunachala, he set up an Internet Cafe. An extremely warm guy who’s energy level just permeates positively through your veins, he is one of those people whom you know could make any rainy day become sunny.
In all, I’ll summarize Tiruvannamalai as a crash course in acceptance, not having too much expectations and more importantly, to go with the flow. We find Tiru the perfect place to kickstart our world journey with these life lessons ingrained within us.
Next stop: Bangalore
Overlooking Arunachaleswara Temple from Mount Arunachala.
The revered Mount Arunachala. It takes 4 hours to hike all the way up to it’s peak.
We so agree – Tiru is a crash course in acceptance! We lived there for 3 months. We rented an apartment and meditated every day at Ramana Maharshi’s ashram. There was much about it we loved, and much we, um, learned to accept 🙂
India is a truly unique place, as I’m sure you discovered! Off now to read your post about Pushkar.