For the last ten days, I have traveled across Tamil Nadu, with students from an American University, giving them a ‘crash’ course in Indian Art and Architecture. Are 10 days enough to get an idea about India, especially the South, especially when the country is so diverse. I think that we have managed to provide a good introduction to this beautiful country, and hope that some of this students of art come back for a longer duration to practice as well!
We were on a tight schedule, visiting cities, temples and crafts back to back. The same morning, we had left Pondicherry behind and had just made a quick step at Chidambaram, the first big temple on the itinerary. The same evening we were supposed to be in Tanjore, the city known for the Brihadeeshwara Temple or the Big Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Little did we know, that the traffic had something else in store for us.
We were just seven kilometers out of Chidambaram, when we saw a big line of vehicles in front of us. The reason unknown, the driver and I got of the bus to see what was wrong. While Muthu, our driver, just asked around for the reason for the jam, I decided to walk ahead and see what was wrong. The line went for a couple of kilometers and I am guessing that by the time we were moving (after a 2-hour wait), it was at least 5-kilometers long both ways. I thought only New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore were known for bad traffic!
Once I reached the bridge, I finally understood the reason for the delay. A bus had broken down on the narrow bridge, leaving no space for traffic to move ahead. Another bus, which had tried to move ahead of the broken down bus, was at an angle, thus traffic could not come from the other end. There was no movement at all. There was a lot of crowd though, who rather than helping out had decided to make this into an afternoon picnic. No one was in a hurry, but then, isn’t that the beauty of South India.
Finally, sense (or was it nonsense) prevailed and a group of people tried pushing the bus. I don’t think that this idea worked as the bus barely moved an inch and they had at least 500m to push! They finally gave up. What they needed was some horsepower, and after much wait, we finally got a tractor to pull the bus away.
A lot of the people had already lost their patience and had started turning their vehicles back, trying to find an alternative route. We had nowhere to go so enjoyed the party in the bus! A crazy taxi driver thought that he could fly over the jam, and created a mess of the traffic as he got stuck, in the middle of nowhere. Oof! The person, who enjoyed this jam, was a lady who owned a small tea shop. It was boom time for her, selling not only tea but chips, cold drinks and cookies!