Early morning Madurai Calling

I woke up at 3:55 with a strong feeling that I was in Madurai, in my hotel room with its three huge windows, twin beds, and one Kiruba Devi. Kiruba Devi who laughs like water following the rhythm of an old Tamizh song my father used to hum while fiddling with the remote control to put udaya news.

On stage, in front of Pa Ranjith, we were like little children – giggling, nervous, stomach churning but held despite this all by the affection he was throwing at us with his smile from the first row. When we felt like we were going to combust and die, we took turns to steal glances at each other, and then at him.

I was talking in English to an audience that understood it in Tamizh and only she could’ve taken my words and translated them with more love than I’d put in. The previous night, we were all squeezed into a tiny room where a lot of orange juice was consumed and many more tamizh songs were sung.

When I woke early that morning and looked outside, I felt a stab. Madurai was still there, looking like a dream. It’s probably why it’s called Thoonga nagaram – it doesn’t need sleep to dream. If I ever get a chance at life again, I want to be Madurai.


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