Weddings and engagements are more than just about two people getting hitched. They are also a great excuse for friends of the lucky couple to take a break from the stressful routine of life. It’s like getting two birds at one shot; one, you get to participate in the happy occasion of your friend’s happily ever after, and two, you successfully get away from work (or whatever it is that you are getting away from) minus the guilt!
One such opportunity came to me right in the middle of a stressful year of postgraduate education when a friend of mine decided to celebrate her engagement at her hometown. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect; I needed a break, and the dates fit right in between two hectic schedules in my academic endeavour. That was how it happened; a charming little weekend in Trivandram (aka Thiruvananthapuram).
I boarded the early evening train from Chennai Central so that I could enjoy the view of the changing scenes outside my window before it became too dark outside to see anything. If you are a person who enjoys the journey as much as the destination, then I suggest you start early so that you don’t miss out on the sights. The Super AC Duronto Express took 13 hours to reach the Trivandram railway station, but my friends and I managed to hop off at Peta, a small suburban station off Trivandram city, when the train halted there at a signal.
Setting foot at the Peta railway station, I marvelled at the Indian Railways and the magical role it played in my life. I had stepped into the train from a large, noisy station, amidst pushing crowds of people and the strong stench of shipped fish. As I stepped out of the same train a few hours later, I found myself in the quietest, emptiest, smallest station I had ever seen! Peta welcomed me, as have all other places in Kerala (every single time), with the alluring smell of rain-aroused earth. Walking towards the road through the old-fashioned building of the station, I let out a sigh.
To a big city girl like me, the less-crowded suburbs of Trivandram were a great change of pace. I stayed over at my friend’s place during the weekend, and enjoyed the quiet, green neighbourhood. As much as I loved lazing around in Peta, I was also looking forward to exploring the city. As it was my friend’s engagement weekend, we did what girls best do when they get together, anywhere in the world – we shopped! If you are one of those girls who likes to accessorise (and who doesn’t?), I recommend you to head over to Statue Junction where all the colours come together in exquisitely-crafted earrings, in a variety of sizes and shapes, made from everything ranging from quilled paper to terracota. I spent quite a fortune there on a couple of gorgeous jumkhas, so don’t forget your purse if you ever plan on going there.
Later that evening, we took an autorickshaw down to Shanghumugham beach, where we enjoyed the serenity one can experience only where the sun, sea and sand meet. An interesting element of the Shanghumugham beach is its stone structures; a 35-metre long giant sculpture of a mermaid who seems to be emerging from a shell, a man relaxing on the lawn nearby, and a few other such non-conventional structures constitute this list. The sculptures attract several picnickers to the beach; they, in turn, attract many crows (who come expecting an occasional snack or two) to the area. If you have a fairly good sense of humour, you will enjoy the amusing sights that the crows offer when they innocently perch on the sculptures in the most awkward places!
Another significant attraction at the Shanghumugham beach is the beautiful old arattu mandapam used for performing religious ceremonies in honour of Sri Ananthapadmanabhan, the Hindu deity of Trivandram. Unlike the Marina in Chennai, this beach is not very wide; the water’s edge is only a short walk from the road. To me, the beach seemed alive, like a quirky little person; the wind was gusty, the sea was wild, and the waves were cheeky enough to push us over each time we turned our back on the water to take a picture!
The next day, flaunting a pair of my new terracota earrings, I attended the engagement ceremony of my friend, and wished her all the happiness in the world. At the end of the ceremony, I was served a sumptuous saddya on a plantain leaf. I thoroughly enjoyed this traditional meal of the Kerala Hindus including rice and about 30 different vegetarian delicacies. I washed it all down with a cup of payasam, a soupy South Indian dessert, topped with delicious cashews. That, marking the perfect finish to a pleasant weekend, I took a bus back to Chennai, carrying home fond memories, plenty of selfies, wild(er) dreams, and a pot belly! 🙂