Chennai Journal
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Dad has arrived safely in the U.S. and is settling into his new place. It was a grueling flight, with a long stopover in Frankfurt, and he didn't get much sleep until the Frankfurt - Detroit leg. But he seems to like his new place, and he is surrounded by older people and activities, which was difficult here. When Marty left him after the assessment and check-in, he was already absorbed in a game of bingo. I have spoken to him only once, but once he gets a phone in his room, we will be able to talk every day. Marty says he is more animated and talkative than he has been in a while--probably due to being surrounded by people. Dad is definitely a people person.

It is harder on those he left behind. The house seems quiet without him and Ganesh, and his room sadly empty. Leela now goes to her own little room after dinner, no longer needing to stay up to watch TV with Dad and walk him to his room for bed. She has a small T
V and cable, which she is enjoying, but the hole left by Dad is large. Ganesh has called a couple of times and he will also be able to speak to Dad when the phone is in. But we are not sure how long Dad will remember much about Ganesh or Leela, or how he knows them. (Without me there, he thinks Marty is a friend from high school.) He has never forgotten my name or that I am his daughter, but I fear that being away from him for a while might confuse him about me, too. Marty has taken over pictures similar to what we did when Marty left here.

This was a long weekend -- January 26 is Republic Day-- so Roberta and I to
ok a short trip to Madurai, a temple town located about an hour's flight south of Chennai. We really enjoyed the city. In addition to the fabulous Sri Meenakshi Temple, the city has a museum devoted to Mahatma Gandhi and a bustling tailoring industry. We toured the temple the day we arrived and again this morning. This morning it was jammed packed--today was an auspicious day for weddings and a number of happy couples and their guests thronged the temple. It costs 50 rupees to be married in the inner sanctum, where only Hindus are allowed.

The temple is dedicated to Meenakshi, a goddess consort of Lord Shiva, and the name according to our guide literally refers to the eye of the fish. The fish's eye never closes, and so the goddess never stops watching over her people. People from all over India come to pray at this temple. At one point, they may circle nine times around a shrine devoted to the planets--a thousand or more years before Galileo, Indian astrologers and astronomers knew that the sun and not the earth was the center of the solar system. There are many other points of devotion in the temple complex. It was fascinating to spend time there.

Near the north entrance of the temple are temple ruins that house a bustling market of vendors selling household items and textiles.
A long row of tailors whips up whatever you like---a copy of your favorite shirt, Indian or western style clothing--in a matter of hours. Roberta and I both succumbed and for only about $100 between the two of us, got some new threads.

We also enjoyed the Gandhi museum. Depicting the life of Gandhi in words and pictures, the museum contains the original loincloth that Gandhi was wearing when he was assassinated, as well as other memorabilia. It was in Madurai that he first donned the loincloth, Indian homespun, and he was never seen in anything else after that. The museum is free and popular with school groups---the charming youngsters below were waiting with us for the museum to reopen after lunch.

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