Chennai Journal
Sunday, May 27, 2007
My Madurai

I picked up a lovely book over the weekend, called "Multiple Facets of My Madurai" by Manohar Devadoss. A few months ago, Roberta and I visited this temple city of the south, located an hour's plane ride from Chennai. The book is a series of sketches and little stories about the city's history, the author's experiences, and the Meenakshi Temple. He grew up in Madurai, but has lived in Madras since early adulthood.

As you will see from following the link above, Devadoss and his wife Mahema have had serious misfortune in their lives---first, in December of 1972 they were in an auto accident while traveling between Madurai and Madras, which left Mahema a quadraplegic. Then, Devadoss discovered that he had a rare eye disorder, that over time would leave him nearly blind. Yet, he continued to draw and has written three books, and the couple is very active and inspiring to all who meet them.

Perhaps the most amusing part of the book to me was the description of various kinds of dung--cow dung, elephant dung, and horse dung. Cow dung is used to line floors, and for fuel. Orthodox men take the urine and sprinkle it for religious purposes. Elephant dung--huge mounds in the streets--attracted bare-foot boys who believed that jumping in the dung was good for their feet (and fun). As a boy, Devadoss found dust on the curb near his house and examined it under a magnifying glass, discovering that it was horse dung. This was the least respectable of dung---"horse dung" my father would say, "is an untouchable among dungs."

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