I am in Hyderabad. This is home.
You form a bond with certain places without realising it. They seep into you, ingrain your soul with their elements, fill your subconscious. Then one day, all of a sudden, you realise that despite the chaos and the denial, you are a part of them and vice versa, and if you choose to accept it, you will find peace and fulfillment.
This afternoon, I went with my aunt to a place she goes to on weekends to learn Carnatic music. Her aim is not to be a perfectionist or to attain mastery over the ragas and sing flawlessly. What she looks for is peace, and she finds it in music, in the swelling of the notes that have been sung for ages and still continue to permeate homes and be absorbed by people seeking God and a return to their roots and tradition. I was reminded of my own sessions in Vizag with my mother. She sings well; I tried to learn, realised I had other priorities, but that I enjoyed it just for the sense of upliftment it gave me, and the inexplicable contact with the Unknown. The sense of accomplishment was larger when the music felt mysterious, touched my soul and moved me to tears than when I managed to do some reasonably good singing.
My aunt and I decided to go to the temple nearby after we were done with the music class, but it was closed. So we went back there a little while ago, taking a walk to do away with the sluggishness of Saturday evening, an inevitable result of all the lazing around and inactivity of the morning and the afternoon. A gentle breeze sprang up almost as soon as we were out on the road, stirring up the dust that had lain on the road all afternoon and sending paper and other debris flying. We went to the Guruvayurappan Temple.
Ethereal and mysterious is how I’d define it. My mother went there as a girl, and I have been to the temple many times over the years, but it still fills me with awe every time I visit it. As a child, I used to be amazed by, and slightly frightened of, the huge, horizontal statue of Vishnu reclining on His snake-bed. When I was younger, the statue seemed gigantic. It doesn’t seem that way any longer (and I regret it for some reason), but it continues to entrance me. The numerous oil lamps cast an unearthly light on the stone statues; Krishna, simply arrayed in white and a bit of silver, looked out in majesty from his sanctum sanctorum.
The temple has a line of white-painted statues of the ten Avataars of Lord Vishnu. I remember looking up at them every time I went there; I did so again today. While I have stopped pondering over the stories behind them (the curses of growing up!), I still look at them with fascination. I am so glad I know and remember the temple, and that it hasn’t changed too much. Certain things don’t stagnate if they remain unchanged; they just bring with them a sense of tranquillity and reassurance.
Some kind of subtle, incomprehensible energy vibrates through the air of holy places, reducing you to tears though you might be the happiest person on the planet, making your heart swell with gratitude, even if you think you never get what you ask for. This is the power that makes you question all the suffering and insanity of life, and then, in unknown ways, assures you of its presence and concern.
The streets of Hyderabad are chaotic and crazy. The dust chokes you as you try to weave your way through the vehicles that dash, crawl or struggle their way down the road. It might take you a while to get used to the startling dialect of Telugu spoken here if you’ve spent twelve years listening to another. The heat is stifling. However, the rain surprises you, making up for all the hours of discomfort, and right now, a pleasant, cool breeze is floating in through the windows. The rain has stopped, but I can hear the lively patter of the water sliding off the leaves onto the moist, fragrant earth in the garden. More importantly, I know this is a place that I can always come back to, whose minarets, temples, people and rocky hills are familiar to me and will haunt me throughout my life, wherever I might be.
I know I am here for a reason that I cannot explain, and that this is home.