Our trip to Madurai late last year (?!) was V's third overall and his first during 'vacation'. The first few trips and the one this time were very different.
V has grown up
He proved it when it was time to go to bed. He said, "Amma maduaii vanaaam...maddas poonnum".
This time he made his presence felt by erasing the beautifully done 'kolam' every time his Paati, meticulously drew one; showed off his skill with the scissors as cut to pieces the pages of his Thatha's precious magazine; Asked a lot of questions to the 'Maamis' who came just to see him, like, "Ithu yaaru?' (Who's this), Yaen vanthey? (why did you come) etc... The good ladies smiled sheepishly as they remarked, "He's grown up...does he go to school"?
And when we came back, instead of the usual 'let us go back or let us not go home', he resorted to lying on the stair case landing, face down, kicking legs while crying "Aathuku vaannaam' ...
The last two times we carried a suitcase exclusively for V (thanks to me!) and this time we packed all our stuff in that single case. Firstly, V's requiremnets in terms of clothes have come down. Secondly my sense of obsession is dying a slow death. Finally, I have come to understand the place better. Madurai is still conservative and it is difficult to get all the stuff one gets in Chennai. Last time around, I packed a '50-pack' diaper bag and a box of wet wipes and a potty seat and some pairs of socks and what not only to find 'Pigeon' wet wipes, detergents and fancy potty seats, available at a store near by. Though it is one of those very rare stores, it was enough to make the big footu reach the mouthu!! So this time when I managed to damage V's winter cap on the evening we left and when H asked if we could look around and try to get one before we left I said we could easily manage to get one in Madurai and we got what we were looking for!
A changed Town
There were a lot of foreigners around, thanks to the attraction that the 'Meenakshi Temple' has become. H, a native of the town was surprised at how much it has changed. Though one could n't find fancy restaurants and stuff, the town has changed. I remember how as a newly wed, I was thronged by flower sellers who demanded that 'annan' (Brother, they referred to H here!) bought some 'malli-poo' for his wife. There was no such thing this time. People who wanted to know why I had n't worn bangles, three years back, were talking about how necessary it is to change with the times, this year. However, even with the new shops and fancy retail chains, Madurai's enchanting flavor has not disappeared. We entered a Titan watch show room and was greeted with a 'sollunga saar'. This was also the time when I understood the aggression displayed by some of my colleagues (hailing from this region) when I was working in Chennai. They are not loud, nor are they artificially polite. You get the information you want from them. They don't push you but make you think. It may not be unique to this region, but with so many young women 'manning' the shops, little wonder that they say it is Meenakshi Aatchi in Madurai (A euphemism to indicate that women rule...in some places!)