The Unadorned

My literary blog to keep track of my creative mood swings with poems n short stories, book reviews n humorous prose, travelogues n photography, reflections n translations, both in English n Hindi.

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I'm a peace-loving married Indian male on the right side of '50 with college-going children, and presently employed under government. Educationally I've a master's degree in History, and another in Computer Application. Besides, I've a post graduate diploma in Management. My published works are:- (1)"In Harness", ISBN 81-8157-183-5, a poetry collections and (2) "The Remix of Orchid", ISBN 978-81-7525-729-0, a short story collections with a foreword by Mr. Ruskin Bond, (3) "Virasat", ISBN 978-81-7525-982-9, again a short story collection but in Hindi, (4) "Ek Saal Baad," ISBN 978-81-906496-8-1, my second Story Collection in Hindi.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Vizag: The Smiling City


Warm Up! Up!
Vizag: The Smiling City

I just returned from a 4-day trip to Vizag, one that I wistfully looked forward to for quite some time. It is a city where I lived for five long years, at a time when it was going through many changes, so much so that I used to feel like a stranger whenever I returned to the town from a fortnight’s leave. Roads got widened felling the trees; buildings were razed to give way to apartments; parks added rinks and tracks; a submarine was heaved out of the sea to make it a showpiece on the beach and so forth. In a way, the old charm of the city began to wear a new gloss that even surprised its dwellers. And they began to get convinced, ’Aha! I may grow old but not my city!’ It was a time when the world feared a digital catastrophe in the shape of Y2K but was successful in tiding it over thanks to the exodus of software professionals from India to the US. Even, as somebody was telling for the sake of humour, a constable underwent a crash course, left the government job and then flew to the US to help them in rewriting their legacy codes. And he earned in dollars and changed his old house in his villaged from its roof of palm leaves to its concrete avatar. The dot-com bubble burst in no time and people came back from the States and sold their laptops and trendy fashion objects through the duty-free/paid shops. It was the time when cell phone suddenly came up as a fashion fad in a big way and even an old hag on the road scratching her ear gave the impression that she was talking to somebody through her cell phone. Yes, I stayed in that city between June 1998 and February 2003.  
For a Net Result

The trip was nostalgic through and through; and it was rejuvenating too. Otherwise, December is the best month of the year for a trip to Vizag; one need not have to creep about its sultriness. As for me, it could not have been at a more appropriate time. I recall my last visit to this place was some six years ago and that, too, was so brief that I had hardly the time to revisit my favourite spots to rekindle the old feelings of endearment. Now I had almost five days—Wow! Five long days of sojourn, not a joke! Good enough a spell it was, to catch up on things, to meet old friends, to visit new landmarks and so forth. My most important gain from the visit is that it helped me to fine-tune my new project: Oh yes, it’s about my novel-in-progress “The Roadshow”.

How?

As anybody who has ever dabbled in writing would vouch for me, the text one churns out would ultimately be of any worth if he has lived the character he is writing about and has soaked in the ambience of the place the story is set in. After all, what is fiction all about if it is not people and places? In my novel I have devoted one chapter to a boozing scene—two friends drinking in a bistro, talking of big people and lofty ideals and the backdrop is the old abandoned lighthouse. Well, this was the spot I had seen a decade ago and that, too, was not so minutely. Depending only on Google search engine will not be of help, especially when one is trying to say something with confidence. I thought I should revisit the spot and be sure that there lay no big gap between what I have written and what it exactly looked like. So I took an early morning trip to this place. The declared destination was VUDA Park on the beach road but as I reached there, I coolly strayed into the premises of the abandoned lighthouse. It was locked, and the door that stood between me and my destination of exploration had an inviting hole. I just slipped through it. And, lo, I was surprised to see there was nothing so very different from what I have written except that there was just a boundary wall between the venue of boozing bistro and the lighthouse. That is a minor slip; a mere sentence will take care of it.
A beacon of Hope

And inside the premises of a run-down house and verdant wilderness stood a derelict old lighthouse whose outer colours still retained much of its shine. There were splinters of glass bottles strewn all over the place and aluminum foils dazzling in the morning sun. And I found the traces of the nightly boozing activities there and felt vindicated. Aha! I had thought it right and wrote it true to the ambiance. Now was time to soak in it. Oh no, it was only a morning exploration. Then I found a closed cigarette pack too, lying neatly on the concrete floor. I just wanted to test if my sense as an ex-smoker continued to be sharp enough and I looked at my colleague who accompanied me to the spot. ‘I’m sure there’re no cigarettes in the pack. What do you think? Do you think there’s any left in it?’ He did not accept my challenge as such, nevertheless went on to pick up the discarded pack and open it. It was really empty and I felt mighty vindicated. Nay I felt like Sherlock Holmes. I knew a smoker, even after his fifth peg of whisky, is most likely to remember that there is still one more cigarette left in the pack. It had once happened with me: after coming back from a month’s leave I had actually scrambled for my cigarette pack because I was sure there was still one cigarette left in it, one that I had not finished some thirty days ago! One may ask me, ‘Well, do you intend to say that smokers have tremendous memory?’ And my answer would be, ‘Yes. A smoker is selectively efficient in memorizing things. He has the ability to remember how many fags are left in his pack but will definitely forget the amount of change he has brought back from the tobacconist!’

And then there was one more setting to be set right. It was the temple of Astalakshmi at Madhurawada. In the novel there are two chaps that are on the run, trying to hide somewhere at least for three days before they sail for Port Blair. And for the venue of their hideout I have chosen a flat near Astalakshmi temple of Madhurawada. Did I actually know of the spot beforehand? Oh yes, as a place I knew of Madhurawada, a growing spot in the map of urban Vizag that still accommodates housing ambition of the middle class there. But I located the landmark of the temple from among the Google stuffs and thought it could be the best fit for my narrative. Now I wanted to be sure that actually there is one such temple at Madhurawada and there is some place nearby to serve as the hideout for the duo. It is not going to be just a hideout, for there are so many things waiting to happen in the plot here: old doubts will get clarified; new ones are going to be sowed; hints about the future happenings are going to be dropped here, and so forth. So I went there.
An Abode for AstaLakshmi

And here, too, I found the setting picture-perfect, nay more enigmatic than I had imagined it to be. Secluded and not far from the depleting wilderness of Kambalakonda, with construction activities there yet to reach its maddening pitch, with roads and potholes coexisting agreeably, with houses on the outskirt constructed but not occupied, the place was perfect for a fictional hideout. My chaps would remain safely lodged here to unfold many more aspects of their yet underexplored personalities. Besides its ability to live up to the requirement of the plot, what I liked about the place was the landmark: the temple of Astalakshmi. And I visited there, as though it were god’s recipe for my peace of mind for the day. It was a pleasing spiritual rambling that afforded me an occasion to see and reflect as to why there should be so many Lakshmis—one for wealth, another for issues, the third one for victory, another one for paddy and so on. And I arrived at my own explanation: Success can come in very many ways, not necessarily in the shape of material acquisitions only, and that is why goddess Lakshmi has to appear in various forms. One should be in a position to recognize her, for she is everywhere around us. She is in the mellifluous tune of a bird in the grove and in the soothing view of the verdant landscape. She is in the morning ray of the sun offering us health, wealth and wisdom and in the cool resplendence of a rainbow whetting the imagination of a poet. She is in the chiaroscuro of a cloudy sky and delicious fragrance of marigold; in the succulent sweetness of a mango and in the sweet smell of jasmine in the braid of the sweetheart; in the lisping drawl of a child and in the sparkle of dewdrops in an autumn morning…she is just everywhere, full of beauty and solace. One should spot her and win her favour, for oneself and for others. And therefore we have Astalakshmi…I can only explain thus far.

And then I chased the sun.
Go On, God won't mind!

It was a challenge for the lazy fellow in me to take a snap of the sunrise. The first day I was late but the cloud on the horizon hid my laziness. I had at least an answer why I could not take the snap. The next occasion I was busy exploring the abandoned lighthouse and that was a convenient excuse why I failed to click the rising sun. The next day I was caught half way through: the sun rose gloriously but behind the hovels of the fishermen on the beach. And no luck there! But the next day I succeeded. I could not reach Tineti Park by the time the sun showed up on the horizon, yet I plodded straight to the beach through the lane going in the middle of the shacks. And there I caught the sun, my laziness notwithstanding. I liked its glorious resplendence; I liked the distant mist beyond Rushikonda; and I liked those early dinghies inside the sea with shining sails riding the silvery waves of the small hours. And I liked my snap.
The Great n the Glorious

And in the end, the forgetful soul in me realized that there are always things in the world that are simply unforgettable.  

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By
A. N. Nanda
Coimbatore
8-12-2012
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5 Comments:

Blogger NS said...

Dear Sir
“ Vizag: The Smiling City” is the post wonderfully enjoyable to the readers containing fine pictures of sky, sea, monument, temple and the sunrise. “ The forgetful soul in me realized that there are always things in the world that are simply unforgettable” is a true saying that nobody should forget. Interestingly, it is applicable to the smokers whose selective memory is really thinkable. I enjoyed Vizag as I toured, even beyond that with the stuff stocked in the post. Y2K , lighthouse Glass bottles ,the beautiful Ashtalakshmi Temple and variety of (eight) Lakshmis are exposed in an fascinating way.
Thank you for such interesting article
---------- N.Subramanian Tirupur

4:22 AM  
Blogger A_N_Nanda said...

Thank U NS. The city has its old charm intact without itself growing old. Somehow I felt I belonged there, even to this day.

8:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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1:05 PM  
Anonymous Annamraju said...

what you have written about the temple made us very happy. The purpose of the temple was exactly to provide an experience, like the one you have described, to a person who comes there. since you have not mentioned the spatika linga shivaalayam, i assume you have not visited the place after it has been included in the premises. please visit the temple again and give us your valuable feedback.

1:25 AM  
Blogger Anant Nanda said...

Thanks Annamraju. I wish I get another chance to visit Vizag. This is the city I always like for its charm, for its success in blending the essence of the past and the present.

7:46 AM  

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