'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

'Edunshaple' etc..

A few weeks back, at home in central Kerala, I read 'The Story of a Village', a novel by SK Pottekkat. The scene is an early 20th century boy's school in north Kerala. Like any class, Sridharan's (the main character of this novel) class has its share of bullies who terrorize those who cant physically stand up to them; but even the biggest bully does not touch Kumaran (not sure about the name) who is quite short and frail. Sridharan asks a classmate about the secret of Kumaran's 'immunity': the answer is "They are scared of his dad - he is an 'edunshaple' "

(Note: The 'u' in the word is that of 'cut'; the 'a' is the one of 'shape'; and the 'e' at the end of this word ought to be pronounced as the 'e' in German word 'danke' or 'u' of 'Tamil Nadu' -well, these two sounds sound pretty close to me!. Moreover, the 'd' and the 'l' are retroflexed).

I muse: "well, that is a new word! 'Edunshaple'could possibly only be 'Head Constable', since from the context, the gentleman seems to be in the police. Interesting!"

I mention this word to Pop. He says: "Nothing new in it. It used to be a common word - even in my own village - for a policeman (it is a respectful word, mind you!), even in the 1970's."

Yeah, respectful it is. An 'entry level'cop would feel 'elevated' when called "head constable" - just like say, a lecturer would if addressed: "Professor!". I tell Pop: "Nice word, it rolls so smoothly off the tongue (note: the 'p' can easily go to 'b' in 'Mallu' and then it rolls even better)! Sad, the spread of education and stuff has probably killed off such earthy innovations."


Just a couple of days later. I set off for a long walk in the countryside from another Keralan town (not all that far from where I had the above exchange with Pop). When I start off, I am told, by way of guidance: "You turn off the (tarred) road and then a little distance inside, you see a (water) pipeline. Just follow the pipe and you can go deep into the country and also get back without losing your way".

I find the pipeline uneventfully. A kilometer or so farther down, it hits a shallow valley of lush rice paddies - a concrete footbridge runs across the valley and also carries the pipeline. On the other side, it is wildly green and very quiet. Tempted to explore, I take a foot-trail diverging from the pipeline it and follow it into progressively denser greenery and to further trails; and it is not very long before I discover I am sort of lost. I look for someone to ask how to get back.

A a bunch of school boys all about 10 years of age, come in the opposite direction. Their faces wear an odd, puzzled expression on seeing me. As I deliberate whether to ask them the way (and also what could possibly be so mysterious about self to them), they pass me. A little ahead, one of them asks the others aloud: "What is your name?" (in English). Collective laughter! Then, there is a louder response from another boy: "tumhara naam kya hai?"(means the same as the previous query, in Hindi) and more laughter! Oh, yeah, these guys think I don't know Malayalam! What do they take me for, a Hindi-wallah on a walkabout in Kerala or what??

Anyways, I call after them: "Hey, I seem to have lost my way. Can you guys help?" The boys stop and stare, perhaps more puzzled on hearing Malayalam.

Finally, one of them asks: "yes, where do you want to go?". Self: "See, I came across that bridge over there and well, I need to get back to it". Silence. They don't seem to know!

One of them eventually asks: "Which bridge?". Self: "The bridge with that pipeline on it; it must be about 3-4 kilometers from here"

A smart bloke from the gang figured it out: "Oh, you mean 'akkidett'!. Say THAT. What you do is... (he gives some directions and then adds) .. "if you get confused again and ask someone the way, ask for 'akkidett'. Do remember that!"

Needless to say, he meant 'AQUEDUCT', and that is what looked like a footbridge to me really is!. Amazing, is this ancient Rome or what, in the ruralest Kerala?!

And yes, 'Edunshaple' might have passed on, but at least some of 'his' siblings are very much around!

1. Just a thought, spelling the word 'edunSCHaple' could perhaps give it a very authentic German feel!

2. Am reminded of a literary episode - from Chandu Menon's classic novel 'Sarada'. A lawyer's servant tells a visiting client "Master is not at home; went to 'kolomb' for a meeting". The client searches long and hard for "kolomb, where the lawyers have a meeting" and gets all kinds of answers from folks including "it is a place on an Island in the south. Why on Earth would local lawyers hold meetings there?!" until finally he finds out: "it is not kolomb, but 'kolobb'!".

2. If I remember right, Yakov Perelman's 'Physics for Entertainment' has a scathing critique of the physics of Roman aqueducts. Those monumental structures, many of which still stand in the Italian countryside, won't even have happened if their engineers had known even basic hydraulics!

Friday, August 26, 2005

A Pigeon Hole Puzzle

Found a nice puzzle at 'geomblog', maintained by Suresh Venkatasubramanian ( or should one say "sue - raysh ven-cut-a-sub-ra-money-un"?).

In a mathematical competition 6 problems were posed to the contestants. Each pair of problems was solved by more than 2/5 of the contestants. Nobody solved all 6 problems. Show that there were at least 2 contestants who each solved exactly 5 problems.

Spoiler Warning:
If you want to try the puzzle, desist from reading further. What follows is a (tentative) solution (thanks to 'enu' for discussions; enu has an independent solution posted here as a comment).
Let the problems be numbered 1-6 and the sets of solvers of each problem be S1 to S6. Let there be N candidates.
Define roof(x) = the smallest integer strictly greater than x. eg: roof (3) = 4. roof(2.5) = 3. Note that this definition is a bit unconventional. Those guys who got exactly 5 are called special solvers.
The 'Cardinality' of a set is the number of elements in it.

A special case first:
Let N be so that 2N/3 is an integer and let there be exactly 4N correct answers totally (ie sum over problems of number of solvers of each problem). let each problem have exactly 2N/3 crackers.

Consider roof(2N/5). This is the least overlap between each pair of the sets of solvers (statement of problem).
The 'worst case' is when 5*roof(2N/5) (which is anyway greater than 2N) is as close to 2N as possible. This happens when fractional part of 2N/5 is 4/5 and 5*roof(2N/5) exceeds 2N by just 1. It will eventually be argued that the greater 5*roof(2N/5) exceeds 2N by, the more the special solvers.

We look at the overlaps of 5 sets each of cardinality roof(2N/5) on top of any one of the S's (say S1)each of which has 2N/3 elements - note that these 5 sets are intersections of the chosen S1 with solver sets of other problems. Obviously, these overlap sets can overlap among themselves but ** the SUM of the cardinalities of the 5 overlaps is at least one more than THREE TIMES cardinality of S1(which has 2N/3 elements) ** - because as in prev. para, 5*roof(2N/5) = 2N +1 at least.

So we CANNOT have the 5 overlaps so that the overlaps cover NO element of S1 MORE THAN 3 TIMES. In worst case, at least one element of S1 gets covered 4 times by the overlaps. this element corresponds to one guy in S1 who has cracked 5 problems.
(Note: If 5*roof(2N/5) exceeds 2N by more than 1, at least 2 elements in S1 are covered more than 3 times - so, we have 2 solvers in S1 who have got 5 problems. Nothing more to prove).

Now, this same argument goes for each of the six sets S1 to S6 (all have the same cardinality as we assumed)=> a solver who got 5 is present in each of the six sets. And all the six sets cannot share the same special solver (then he would have got all six problems; impossible!). So there ought to be at least two such special guys who got exactly 5. Special case settled.

1.If one of the S's, say Si had LESS THAN 2N/3 elements, the sum of the cardinalities of the 5 overlap sets overlaying set Si (with roof(2N/5) elements each overlap) will exceed thrice the cardinality of Si by MORE than 1. Then from among the crackers of problem of Si, we readily have at least 2 guys who solved 5 (recall, nobody solved 6). So, no problem can have a solver set of less than 2N/3 guys.

2. The sum of total correct answers (summed over all problems and all solvers) can be 4N+1 at the most -in the above special case, we had 4N (also note that if there are a total of 4N+2 or more correct answers, there already are two or more special solvers and the problem disappears). But this case of 4N+1 correct answers need not be dealt with specially - with 'only' 4N answers we already have the required number of at least 2 special solvers. 1 more correct answer from someone will only increase the number of special solvers. Nothing to worry.

3. The sum of total correct answers can of course be less than 4N but that would lead to one or more of the S's having less than 2N/3 elements - this is already done above in (1).

4. If 2N/3 is fractional, we would have necessarily have to have some sets of solvers with floor(2N/3) elements or less. let Si be such a set. Then, 3* cardinality (Si) is STRICTLY less than 2N. of course 5 *roof(2N/5) is always strictly greater than 2N. So, the sum of the cardinalities of the 5 overlapping sets on Si will be at least two more than thrice the cardinality of Si => at least 2 special solvers in Si itself.

With that we seem to have exhausted all possibilites :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

On Business...

Aabout two years back. The HR boss of my (then) office in Chennai (let us call him Sankar) summons me. He says: "See, as you probably know we are conducting a walk-in interview in Bangalore day after tomorrow (a saturday). One of the folks who were to travel to Bangalore to assist the Tech Managers conduct it has taken ill. Could you go? We leave tomorrow night, reach Blore in the very early morning, conduct the interview over the day and travel back to Chennai the same evening (to reach Chennai by Sunday morning); it will be a bit hectic but we have booked by A/C sleeper (train) and we booked rooms at ----- (a five-star hotel in Bangalore, also the venue of the interview), so that we can snatch a few hours of sleep there."

I am interested. I have never traveled anywhere representing any organization - this will be my first 'business trip'. Moreover, although I have been giving interviews for more than half my life, I have never TAKEN an interview. That should be interesting as well - just being on a panel! But then, I have some work at a relative's in Chennai on Sunday (the day after the walkin), which cannot be postponted. I tell Sankar: "Fine with me. Only thing is I positively need to be back in Chennai on Sunday morning.". Says Sankar: "That is not an issue; we have booked everything. And yes, note down some good possible questions, brain-teasers... you know!"

Friday evening. I am told the railway bookings have (mysteriously) not got confirmed and so a 'Qualis' has been booked to take us overnight to Bangalore (the tech biggies would fly to Bangalore only the next morning). There are six of us including Sankar and self. The Qualis arrives around 9 pm and we presently start off. Sankar occupies the seat next to the driver saying: "I have slept in the afternoon ( "How?" I wonder, for today has been a working day) so I can stay awake the whole night. If the person sitting next to the driver falls asleep, it can distract him." Interesting, I muse. So, five of us troop into the rear of the vehicle - and I discover that leg-space will be a major problem for the next few hours.

The "few" soon stretches to "many" as the highway is being widened ("The (then) Prime Minister's Dream Project" of creating fast corridors between major cities is being frantically implemented) and the 350 kilometer journey takes 9 full sleepless (not quite so for Sankar; spread-eagled in the one roomy seet in the vehicle, he mostly snores steadily and equably) hours. Bangalore and the hotel are eventually reached and we stagger out bleary-eyed.

Now it is just a matter of a couple of hours to get ready for the interview; only one room is booked and we queue up for the five star shower. Breakfast follows. By 8, the managers arrive fresh from the airport (Blore is but half an hour by air from Chennai), and soon afterwards, the candidates begin to troop in. Sankar allots us work: Disappointment! it is clear from the outset that there won't be need for any of us on the interview panel. I am to help in scanning the profiles of the candidates and shortlist some for the interview. After a few minutes of this, I feel bored and bad about rejecting people and ask for the task of an usher - to receive the candidates, ask them to fill up a questionaire, hand over their profiles to those checking them and to lead those shortlisted into the chambers where the bosses are ensconced. One needs to be on the feet throughout but that is better than poring over resumes. The chap who is ushering is happy to trade places with me - he hates to stand at the door "like a servant".

Sankar flits energetically between people seeing if everything is going well - eventually, when things are smoothly progressing, he retires, ostensibly to make some more 'arrangments'. As for self, I get to more than burn up the breakfast calories (and a heavy lunch in between); the only awkward moment comes when a chap whose profile failed to make the short-list comes to me saying: "I am disappointed; I thought I deserved a look-in. Did you see my profile?" I reply "No, sorry. I just handed it over inside" and he says: "Well, can you check it once; you are from the HR department of the company, right?". I tell him: "Not really. You could meet Mr. Sankar...." Then he asks: "Now its probably too late, anyway, what are you in the company? Admin/accounts types or...?" and then he answers himself: "anyway, what you are is none of my business. Seeya!"

The proceedings drag on till 4 pm by which time the last candidate has been disposed off. Now, there is plenty time till 9 pm - when the Qualis, after depositing the managers at the airport for their return flight would begin its journey to Chennai with us. It is awkward to sleep at sundown and I desist from it. I step out, meet up with old pal Sheshadri, who has been told that I would be in Bangalore; we go walkabout in the downtown.

I reach back to the hotel by 8 and find only one of the guys in our party (let us call him Joe) in the room and looking gloomy and... preparing to sleep! He says: "Hey, they say, we are staying back here. When taking the bosses to the airport, the driver apparently cribbed to them he hasnt had a sleep and they took pity on him and told Sankar to book one more room here for us to sleep overnight; We leave for Chennai only tomorrow morning. I am feeling bad because I have a friend's wedding to attend tomorrow in Chennai and am gonna miss it. The gang has gone to have a beer or something. I am feeling just terrible!"

Yep, terrible it is. I HAVE to be back in Chennai tomorrow morning. And I can't even afford to sit around and sulk like Joe. I grab my bag and the day's newspaper and rush out; Soon I reach the city railway station. The overnight mail train to Chennai is about to leave. I take a general ticket and squeeze into the unreserved compartment. It is jam-packed in there and I just about manage to find enough space near the door (and the lavatory) to spread my newspaper and settle down. The people near me bolt the coach-door. The train leaves and soon after, halts at the Cantonment station. Another huge crowd seems to be outside and trying to get in and banging away on our bolted door. My fellow-travelers dont budge. the heavy blows continue to rain on the outside of the coach till the train moves again. I heave a sigh.

It is yet another long chilly night as we trundle on towards Chennai. In spite of extreme fatigue, I do not catch a wink of sleep in that crammed nook of the coach - immeasurably more crammed than the qualis had been yesterday (and very smelly to boot). By six, I stumble out of the train in Chennai station. It would be a long day on my relative's assignment...

The next day, monday, I am back at office, having slept almost 12 hours the previous night and still feeling very flat. As I enter, Sankar sees me. He says: "Hey! Why did you run away like that? When we got back to the hotel, Joe tells us you left in a hurry. Our plans had changed; we actually left Bangalore around 11 pm by the Qualis and were back here in Chennai by 7 or so. You could have at least called up one of us on your cell and confirmed our plans before rushing to the station! Anyway how was your return?" I say: "Well, perhaps I should have called you up. But when Joe told me, there was no hint that the decision to stay there could be changed without notice".

Sankar: "Okay, anyway, how much was the train fare? You should be reimbursed".

Self (a bit awkwardly): "It was nothing much, just about 100 bucks".

Sankar: "Still, send me an email with that info, I shall process it.. In my opinion... you were on company's business ... the company ought to bear all relevant expenses; well, anyway, let me discuss it with the management"

Self: "you mean, whether those 100 bucks where 'relevant'?".

Sankar: "Not exactly. You know,... well, let us see...send that mail anyways!"

NOTE: The names of some folks featured here have been changed to protect MY identity. Any reader who feels like commenting may please desist from speculations/revelations as to their real names and spare me from (further) trouble!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

More On 'Anamika'

In the first post here, I had wondered whether in ancient India, the ring was indeed worn on what is known today as the 'ring finger' (this finger has the name 'Anamika' in Sanskrit, which possibly signifies lack of any distinctive features like, say, the ring).

Yesterday, I encountered an interesting fact. In a Jewish wedding, the bride wears the ring on her INDEX FINGER (source: 'The Spinoza of the Market Street' by Isaac Singer). Here is a page with some relevant info.

From the above, it seems clear that the 'ring finger' was no constant across the cultures of the world. In India, the 'Anamika' might well have got fixed as the ring finger due to Christian influence...

An aside: I remember reading somewhere that 'Saundaryalahari', a famous devotional poem in Sanskrit attributed to Sankaracharya, is considered to be of South Indian origin by experts due to (among other things) the fact that the poem contains a reference to the nose stud ('mookkutti'), an ornament apparently not worn in the North.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


The year 1995 was not a very good one. Poor planning led to severe setbacks in Academics; a spell of unemployment followed. Sometime during those dim days, I happened to read 'The Prophet's Path' by O.V.Vijayan. It was in this rambling and strangely spiritual novel that I first encountered the parable of Footprints (See here). I had never before read anything that touched me like this story. The assurance that there is someone Up There who watches and who cares was profoundly comforting. It filled one with hope and a feeling of being carried forward and guided by a mysterious and benevolent Power. Vijayan did not specify the source of the story - from the context, I guessed it might be due to some Sufi mystic or Sikh Guru.

A few months after that, taking a break from the search for work, I accompanied Sheshadri and Ashwini to the Aurobindo Ashram in Pondichery. While we sat near the Samadhi of the mystic, I felt a strange 'high' and (getting talkative) proceeded to narrate the parable to my fellow-travelers. I remember making a connection with a certain passage in the Gita (which I had begun reading but a few days previously) where Krishna assures Arjuna: "I might have told you much already. But this is THE lesson, the most supreme secret of all - you are very dear to me" and remarking: "Intriguing, isn't it, both the Gita and that parable, though their origins are far separated in space and time, say the same thing?"

A few minutes afterwards ( and having 'recovered'), while we were looking for curios in an Ashram-run showroom, I was stunned to see a poster with the Footprints story printed beautifully on it. A wave of mystical joy nearly swept me off my feet. Even the agnostic Sheshadri said it was a remarkable coincidence. Ashwini was less impressed: "It is a matter of interpretation. You are making a Big Deal out of it!"- she remarked.

I bought the poster and gifted it to Suresh. A passionate believer, he was deeply moved when he read the story and heard of my 'encounters' with it. He said: "Truly, Bhai, your experience is too much of a coincidence to be a mere accident. It is a sure sign from above that He cares for us."


Aeons seem to have passed since those heady days when I owned little and was firmly convinced that the world belonged to me. I held on to the belief in the Footprints and remember telling the story (and how it had changed my world-view) to many people. But, with Time and the twists and turns in material circumstances, the tide of my spiritual life seems to be gradually ebbing away...

A few days back, Ramana Rao sent me the link put up at the top of this post. He had found the page while browsing and was reminded of me.

As I explored further from that link, the 'story of the story' began to unravel. I was surprised to find out that the parable is less than a century old (and was neither Sufi nor Sikh (nor Monastic Christian) in origin) and has almost had court-cases fought over it. Some of the details are here and here.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The 'Fat Man'

"...There was even less sign of a crack in Japan's determination to fight to the end [compared with that of Nazi Germany], which is why nuclear arms were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to ensure a rapid Japanese surrender....(but) perhaps the thought that it would prevent America's ally the USSR from establishing a claim to a major part in Japan's defeat was not absent from the minds of the US government either." - Eric Hobsbawm

Anand reminds us the 60th anniversary of the nuclear attack on Japan falls this week.

Perversely speaking, Nagasaki is very much a 'poorer cousin', remembered only in conjunction with Hiroshima. On the other hand, Hiroshima has been well remembered solo in various ways: Every year, one sees photos of the nuked-out Townhall of Hiroshima in the papers; and most public acts remembering the tragedy happen on August 6th. In my rather limited experience, I know of a military-journalistic work documenting the 'atomic mission' to Hiroshima and a strangely haunting French movie on how the destinies of Neverre (a town in France) and Hiroshima get entwined... And of course, the 1994 Asian Games were held in Hiroshima as an act of remembrance.

The one article on ONLY Nagasaki I have seen was many years ago in a Malayalam children's magazine - on how the 'Cheshire Homes' came to be set up by Leonard Cheshire, who witnessed the bombing of Nagasaki and was deeply moved by the suffering he saw. That really is that.

I have heard that the Japanese use the word 'Hibakusha' to refer to all victims of the nuclear blasts - no distinction made between those who died and those who were wounded but survived. It was felt that using the word 'survivor' or even 'wounded' for some victims was insulting to the memories of those who perished.

The very sensitivity that refused to distinguish between the victims of the tragedy, now seems to require of us to DECOUPLE the memory of Nagasaki from that of Hiroshima. It is often said in justification that the nuclear attack was unavoidable and that it actually saved the lives of millions who would have died if the Allies had made a 'conventional' invasion of Japan. Even if one were to admit that the nuclear attack indeed did the trick and quickly ended the war (even this is not all that clear!), questions remain: Were *two* attacks separated by 3 days really needed? Was the second attack really essential? Was not the launch of the 'Fat Man', the bomb that killed a hundred thousand people in Nagasaki, an act independent of the Hiroshima bombing, one of (immensely large-scale) military terrorism, rather than merely a PART of a morally justified (however perversely so) attempt to bring peace??

Monday, August 01, 2005

Palni, Revisited

July 26th 2005:

We are up very early and leave our home - a village in North-Central Kerala - by 5 in the morning. There is a gentle drizzle which rapidly intensifies into a heavy unrelenting shower. By daybreak ( a very grey and rainy one) We drive thru Palghat and take the road leading out towards Palni in a South-Easterly direction. The rain stays with us, falling in sheets, but gradually shows signs of thinning out...

We presently see the sheer mountains which form the southern wall of the Palghat pass leading into Tamil country. Past the border village of Gopalapuram, the rain quickly peters out and stops altogether. For some distance the vegetation is drippy with last night's showers and there is a stiff, sprinkly breeze but eventually, the full rain-shadow effect comes into play and it gets very dry (wonder how inspite of the 30 km width of the Palghat pass, the moisture-laden monsoon from the west hardly brings any rain to these parts). Vegetation mostly shrinks to scrub and a smattering of grass covering the semi-arid grounds - and the odd 'tarwad' bush with clusters of yellow flowers ('tarwad' is their Marathi name. Right now, I can't remember their name in any other language. a Pune botany expert told us once, these thrive only in low rainfall climes). It is very windy - indeed, on several of the hills around we see huge windmills (all of these have 3 blades - unlike the traditional Dutch ones, which have 4 each... Wonder which number is better. Btw, why do fans have only 3 blades??). Despite low rainfall, robust pockets of agriculture flourish... Pollachi, which we presently pass has long been a thriving vegetable-market-town.

Palni is eventually reached. As we near the base of the holy hill, a horde of cyclists swoop down on our Kerala registered car - each one of them has a swathe of holy ash on his forehead, each speaks a sort of 'pidgin Malayalam' and each claims to be representing the Temple in an official capacity as 'expert guide'. Eventually, one of them shooes away his competitors(?) and marshalls us towards a group of further, more specialized individuals - one trades in all the Pooja items, another sells 'pure silver' beneficial charms to be deposited in the temple coffers and yet another would take us up the hill and back and get us 'proper darshan' and get all pujas done 'properly'. There are further experts in the association- for instance, a barber who could collect your hair as a holy offering - who we decide not to approach. I am reminded of a travelog to Palni written in the mid-sixties wherein the author, a devout pilgrim, had complained bitterly about the unscrupulous 'agents' there; we, pilgrims traveling in more resigned and compromised times have decided to watch and entertain these characters as interesting specimens from a socialogical zoo.

The Palni hill (an isolated granite dome rising from a flat plain, quite some distance from the portion of western ghats known as Palni hills) is only a few hundred feet high and has proper stone steps to go up. From the top, the views are impressive. The Anaimalai hills of Western Ghats loom overpoweringly in the west. Below, one could see the sprawl of the town and the Saravana lake beyond it (strangely, the surface of the lake seems still AND wrinkled; the ripples do not seem to move!) and then to the east, the featureless plains of Tamil Nadu stretch to the horizon..

The temple is extremely rich in myths and legends. The presiding deity is Murugan (he is identified with Subrahmanya or Skanda of the Sanskrit mythology but unlike the latter, who is perpetually a youthful unmarried boy, Murugan has two wives; In Palni, I guess, Murugan is represented at various times of the day in his various forms). Much is written in Tamil on the temple walls about these legends - a bit of history can be read as well, connecting the temple with Jatavarma Sundara Pandyan, a 13th century king.

Palni temple has traditionally attracted a large number of devotees from Kerala - especially those from the 'backward' communities. The reason probably is that in times when Kerala temples did not allow Dalits to enter, Palni welcomed one and all. The atmosphere of the temple is of course, very Tamil, and there is an overpowering fragrance of camphor and holy ash in the stone-choked inner spaces.

The Idol of Murugan (a statue about 4 feet tall) is said to be made of five rare metals (or more probably, contains traces of 5 rare minerals) endowed with exceptional medicinal qualities. I recall an article by N.V.Krishna Varier, an eminent scholar and polymath from Kerala, who had written several years ago about how the 'Abhishekams' were causing the idol to slowly dissolve - originally, this had given the 'Prasadam' from the temple, a beneficial medicinal quality but now, with increasing numbers of devotees and offerings, the idol was in danger of being seriously damaged (some greedy priests allegedly used to scrape the metal off the idol and were mercifully caught). Now it seems the 'abhishekams' are no more performed. When we have the 'darshan', the idol is draped elaborately in saffron shawls and wears a head-dress like a Franciscan cowl that reveals only the face - strangely, the serene metallic face of the young Lord swathed in the cowl reminds me (horror!) of the suffering King Baldwin from the movie 'Kingdom of Heaven'.

Our return trip is the morning's drive, in reverse - from the hot and mildly-sultry Palni town we return to yet another rain-drenched monsoon twilight in Kerala....