It was our visit to the Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple after about a year. Rain greeted us as we arrived and continued at sporadic intervals throughout our stay there. We chose to stay at the Ramakrishna Home, less than 200 metres from the main entrance to the temple. The exterior of the Home now sports a new look; it was probably refurbished last year, the 50th year of its founding. You can dine here in air-conditioned comfort (on the first floor) if you like. The room we stayed in was clean, but there was no mirror or hook/hanger in the bathroom, no regulator for the fan in the room either. These are things managements in hotels must look at.
In spite of the rain, there were morning queues outside the main temple entrance. We had to wait patiently for two hours outside before being whisked by the security staff, metal detector and all, and directed inside. We managed only one darshan the first morning, but made up for it in the evening with three – surprisingly, the morning crowds had vanished and it almost seemed as if we were in just another Kerala temple. But, of course, Guruvayur is special and the special feeling sticks to you as long as you are there.
We did not miss our visits to Mammiyoor, Venkatachalapathi and Parthsarathi temples. The automen are a friendly lot here and are willing to ferry you around at nominal rates. This is generally the case throughout Kerala, which makes it such a relief for the tourist. And to think about travelling in autos in Chennai!
Right now, though, the roads in Kerala are in a pathetic state and urgently need repair. Potholes litter most main roads. It took us almost three hours to travel by car from Guruvayur to Palakkad; normally, it would take half the time. There was no sign anywhere of restoration work either. Private bus owners, I understand, had gone on strike a few days earlier demanding better roads. What about the common citizen here, the daily bus traveller, the car driver, the two-wheeler driver? One shudders to think of their plight.
Whatever it is, when you are in God’s Own Country, it’s the good things that you notice – the greenery, the clear water flowing in the rivers, the lush paddy fields, the rice husks laid out on the roads to dry, the absence of garbage on the roads (what do they do with garbage really, shouldn’t we find out?), and the energy in the people as they walk down the streets.
Kerala has an underbelly too… but who cares anyway?