Friday, January 20, 2006

Travel to India – Madurai to Chennai

(This is part of a series on travel to India. Please read parts I, II, III and IV before reading this for continuity.)




Aboard the good old Thiruvalluvar in SETC avadharam, I was headed for Chennai (formerly Madras). The green metropolitan buses in Chennai were a sight to behold after all these years. My stay in Chennai was pretty much the same as in Madurai – in the sense that there was not a single day that I stayed indoors. I was visiting friends and relatives, went to Mahabalipuram, consulted with the skin specialist, and saw Ilaiyaraaja in person (more about the latter in the next post). Even though I stayed for about a fortnight, and traveled around a lot, I could not find time to see some of my very close friends from MCC (Madras Christian College) days. I found some time to go to the college though (sketch 1). I sat at the “botany tank” and did a quick sketch of the café road intersecting the road that leads to Bishop Heber hall. The "botany tank" is a water tank adjacent to the botany department. The tank had a couple of concrete benches underneath - during my B.Sc days at MCC we would monopolize this place and try to convert it into "physics tank". A nerdy friend of mine even wrote several physics equations with chalk on those benches prompting a harsh response from the botany students. As I was sketching I noticed a couple of girls sitting there discussing how so-and-so was the butt of jokes at a party, “Semma ottu ottunaanga theriyuma di?” I shamelessly eavesdropped on them and sighed as they brought back memories of such useless banter (vettippechi) that I had engaged in a decade ago.

My mother wanting me to see the skin specialist was in the back of my mind all the time. Also, the welts pretty much appeared with clockwork regularity every day to remind me of the seriousness of the situation. This specialist is in great demand all over the country. He practices out of his house in Chennai and people queue up – believe it or not – at three in the morning to see him. The doctor does not believe in giving appointments or using the token system. You could be a business magnate or an unemployed person, he makes no distinction, you are to come there and wait in the queue if you seek his treatment.
I went to his house at about 11:00 in the morning and was not surprised to see a serpentine line. There were at least a hundred patients waiting in the line that stretched from the clinic’s door, ran along the corridor, and then spilled out into the garden. The doctor lives in one of those big houses with ancient colonial architecture. The house has a huge Nagalinga maram (the cannonball tree - Couroupita Guianeusis). The tree is an imposing sight with its big leaves, beautiful flowers, and gigantic fruits. Now and then the fruits would fall off – true to the tree's name – like cannons, creating a furor among the patients resting in its shade.

I had prepared myself for a long wait. I brought some snacks, my sketch book, and a novel. I took my place in line and sat on a tree stump. I alternated between sketching and reading while munching on the snacks. I could not help sketching the majestic tree (sketch 2). A mother was deeply absorbed in a book while her child sat by her side playing with a leaf (sketch 3). I could see that the child had the same striking features as the beautiful and dusky mother. The features are lost in the sketch as I could only manage to draw them with their backs to me.

Seeing me engrossed in my sketchbook, the person next to me requested that I draw his portrait (sketch 4). This man has a certificate in sidha medicine and runs a small practice in his town. He joked that as a sidha doctor he could only cure others and was never successful when he tried his own medication. He said that there was no other doctor like this specialist here and praised him to the skies. Following the encomium, he prescribed some medication for my allergies. He said that he would go with the meat reaction theory and doubted the credibility of the heat school of thought.
After a few more sketches (sketches 5 & 6), I took a break and started reading the novel. A lady in line who had obviously seen me sketching asked to see the sketchbook. She went through the book and pointed out the people I had sketched and even passed it around to some of my subjects - the mother and daughter pair.

I was happy when the sidha doctor had liked his portrayal and said he wanted a photocopy of the portrait. But I felt immensely satisfied and flattered when the small child kept looking at the mother-daughter sketch for a long time and said, “adhu naan (That’s me).”

23 comments:

Suji said...

I am unable to decide whether you sketch better than you write or you write better than you sketch :)

FlashGordon said...

Tank you for your visit to my blog and tour coment. Best regards from Lisbon, Portugal.

mitr_bayarea said...

Thanks for visiting my blog, your sketches are good and match with your writings..keep it up!

Jo said...

Man oh man! Such a wonderful sketching!!

arvindh said...

Suji, flashgordon, mitr_bayarea, jo

Thank you all for your comments!

St John Street said...

there is alot of very kool sketches here great job thanks for the comment at the sketch group

Alexis Leon said...

arvindh,

I have to agree with suji. You do both writing and sketching equally well.

But I salute you for your sketches. I love your style and the eye for the detail. Of all I like the first one of this post and the second one of the previous post. Have you learned sketching.

Continue sketching. Will visit this blog frequently.

Shiv Shankar said...

man ...you have too many blogs ..!!

great art work

arvindh said...

St John street,
Thank you very much.

Alexis Leon,
Thank you very much for the positive comments. I have not learnt to sketch formally. It is something that I have always enjoyed doing though. I have recently started taking some life drawing classes.

Shivshankar,
You are right, I have bitten off more than I can chew! I think I am gagging now - hence the irregular posting....Will come up with some plan to sreamline the posts

meghjanmi said...

ur sketches portray life without hiding its oddities..lovely..

arvindh said...

Thank you very much Meghjanmi. It was great visiting your blog!

Balaji S Rajan said...

Nice to see you doing things which I liked very much. I used to sketch and draw cartoons. Even today I am fond of it. At one stretch I read your full India trip and enjoyed your Bangalore trip, Madurai trip, MCC trip, and Chennai Skin specialist trip. I could understand how you would have felt when the little girl identified herself. Keep sketching..

Balaji S Rajan said...

I posted comments few days back in every post of yours. Frustrating to know that they are not there. I do not remember what I wrote. But to say in short... Simply superb. Your sketching and writing.

arvindh said...

Balaji S Rajan,
Thank you very much for all the encouraging comments. I havent been checking mails on a daily basis for some time now. Hence the delay in their getting posted. Will be able to ckeck next week.

I found your blog postings very interesting and thoughtful. I will visit your blog frequently.

Arvindh

bingo and betty said...

hope you update your work soon!

Minzie said...

..awesum..!!! pure magic..tho i had got glimpse or two of ur sketches n photographs bac in blore...fr d 1st time hv d priviledge to read u aswell...as a story teller (i read ur mail remember)...n am quite speechless..wish u cd do my potrait as well..i jus wish so...however tell u wht..rememeber d pics u had clicked of all of us...well, mine r decorating d wallpaper of my husband's mobile phone..n hez quite thrilled abt em..a BIG THANX..it comes fm my hubby's side dis time..keep up d gud work...i must say u r ONE BLESSED SOUL..god bless ya!!!!

arvindh said...

Bingo and Betty,
I shall do so pretty soon.

Minzie,
Very touched by your comments. Thank you so much for your kind words. Looking forward to your developing your blog.
I will definitely attempt your portrait (and will let you know when I do so).
Thank your husband too for the positive feedback.

Dan Read said...

I like the scratchy, nervous quality of the line in these drawings!

Mad Guru said...

These loose sketches are great! The experience you've described is much like the experiences I have when I go out and sketch people. It's always fun to see people become curious and enjoy your interpretation of them. People get this look in their eyes, like they have seen something magical.

arvindh said...

You are absolutely right! It is so much fun if one gets to interact with one's subjects.

nirmala said...

your sketches r so gud the way u draw remind me of "Malgudi days "old tv series by RK Narayan..and also u write so wel..i shud also start doing sketching like u,as u suggested keeping a sketch book always vt me..i do keep but draw flowers and scapes always iam bad at drawing figures shud try...

arvindh said...

Nirmala,
I greatly enjoy looking at the sketches of R.K.Laxman who illustrated many of R.K.Narayan's fiction.
Try taking up figure drawing too. It is challenging no doubt, but with your skills you will do a great job.

SUMI said...

wow, I thought these sketches were really interesting.