From Place to Place
The names of places like Ariyakudi, Chemmangudi, Lalgudi and Kunnakudi might ring a bell with Carnatic music lovers, but many might not know where exactly these places are located. Ariyakudi is one of the small villages where inadequate electricity and bumpy roads are not uncommon. The crops rely on infrequent rainfall and water stored in big earthen tanks, empty and dry for most of the year, sometimes for years in succession. Though the village is connected to the nearby town Karaikudi by a narrow road, albeit one without potholes, regular buses were sparse during my schooldays. However, colourful private mini-buses and lackluster state buses are making frequent trips now, seated to the full. The recently renowned Venkatachalapathy Perumal temple, which is one of the few Vaishnavite temples in the area, is attracting a lot of outsiders. Insiders also travel in good numbers; though rains are still infrequent, agriculture is no longer a livelihood for many a youngster. More and more petty shops are appearing, but the old, thatched, bicycle-renting shops are nowhere to be seen.
Till eleventh standard, I studied in the Alagappa Preparatory and Model High schools at Karaikudi, a town which apart from Alagappa University, is also known for its Kamban Kazhagam. Even before realising the importance of people like Thea Po Mee, Aa Saa Ganasampathan and Ka Ku Kothandaraman, I had opportunities to listen to them. Education was not pressured on youngsters. Bedtime was at 9 o’clock and studying after that was considered unnecessary.
In the middle of my high school years, my parents moved to Srivilliputhur, but I continued my studies in Karaikudi. Srivilliputhur is a tinsel-town that has not changed for years. Neither Andal nor Thamaraikani could bring change.
One year pre-university course linked secondary and tertiary education till late seventies. To some, the red brick buildings of American College at Madurai, where I underwent this course, resembled a prison- but the students enjoyed freedom. Teachers treated them as friends. The boys did their bit of contribution to the city that never slept. But still, they studied and many passed.
Coimbatore a modern city, which also upholds traditional values, was the only place other than Chennai that housed three engineering colleges in those days. One of them, CIT, accomodated me for 5 long years. The Tamil Mandram of the institute was well known among the local city colleges. Students there, for some odd reason, showed lot of interest in cultural activities than their counterparts in arts colleges. Toffel and Gmat were never in the agenda and studies came after the pleasure of comradeship in campus life.
Thekkady, a mystical travel destination with a splendid artificial lake in front of the Periyar Dam, now in the middle of an inter-state controversy is the place where I started practicing civil engineering.
Kochi, one of the world’s finest natural harbours located at the centre of ‘God’s own country’, is also one of the three regional commands of the Indian Navy. Constructions in and around the fortified garrison, among many others, provided me opportunities to learn.
Then, I moved to Hong Kong, a vibrant city where ‘East meets West’, dubbed ‘Asia’s World City’. Hong Kong is a former British colony, a financial hub, and a duty-free city. Shoppers have a wide range of choices from European apparels to Chinese tea ware. Huge land reclamations have now slowed down, but the sophisticated transport network and the number of tall buildings is still growing. For over decade I had opportunity to work for Hong Kong’s metro rail, considered to be one of the most efficient in the world. Tamil language and literary activities, though not significant, continued.
In the middle of the Year 2009, my Hong Kong employer deputed me to Chennai. The company, part of a consortium which was chosen as the General Consultants to the Chennai Metro Rail project, deputed me among others to this project. I am honoured to be part of a battalion of consultants and contractors committed to improving the infrastructure of the capital city, and it is a privilege to use international design and construction standards which I have learnt overseas. The city on the Coramandel shores and with 400 years of history and rich legacy fascinates me.
After a long stint in Chennai, I was reverted back to Hong Kong in mid-2014. Since I am returning to Hong Kong after nearly five years, many have asked me whether I am going to now settle down in Hong Kong. But isn’t staying in just one place against the way of mankind? An urge in us encourages us to move from place to place…