Author: Ten Para
The stones of Stunland sing and dance to a tune that not many hear. Actually, that should read as “not many care to hear”. Let us face it, when was the last time we placed an ear to a stone and listened to it’s music? Sea shells, maybe, but the music of the stones is so subtle.
We used to take an annual trip to the southern tip of India when we were young. A trip to wonder, amidst the heat, water and waves, almost white sand in your hair, a delicate waft of smoking grass in the wind, the dogs of the woman (1) and a lighthouse in a long lost ring (2). Each trip was a new trip but with two points of stability that completed my tripod so to say (sorry, that is not the latest ipod). This involved listening to the music of two different rock formations.
The first was a black rock (3) in the midst of large waves that beat incessantly on it. You had to get into a boat to reach it. A boat that was thrown up and sideways as the waves battered it, lifting the breakfast you just had and churning it all inside your body. If you are lucky, you can have your neighbours all over you. Once upon a time, a man considered wise sat upon it and found a version of his truth. I sit on it amidst the flailing hands and feet and listen to the water converse. The silence of the waves, the start of a fight, the talkback, the roaring rage, the breaking down into tears and the comforting solace, the arms around the shoulder, walking away only to return again and again. The myriad tunes that change and change, chord patterns, chords with no patterns. This is where I heard my first violin concert when I was all of six. Sometimes I wished there were fewer humans but then how can I do without the ghatam? Creating my own world in the crowd where every drop of water tells a tale full of laughter and tears, longing and belonging, arrival and departure. And the rock who apparently just stays still, immovable. Spare an ear for the rock that absorbs the soul of the water and yet returns enough for the water to flow back.
Does the rock have a soul? I wonder, lying down on the rock with my ears pressed to it. Which is the music of the rock and which is the music of the water? Are they separate or have they become one? Do their stories retain their identity or do they just become one single blur? Much like our lives?
If you lie with your left ear pressed against the rock and the right ear caressed by the waves, if you lie like that long enough, you may hear the music of the rocks. This is not a “rock” concert but the gentle wisps of breath moving through your nostrils as you count holes on the pale white rock in the black-lit forest. If you listen long enough, there is the music of silence. I leave a small piece of my soul for the rock and water each year as an offering. And talk to them even as I sit miles away listening to mundane theories about geometry or algebra! The return boat trip is always a tragedy but the sunburnt ear that stands aloft like a red hibiscus is worth it.
We move a little to the north of the marriage of the rock and water to reach a place that was so peaceful and quiet in times past. Where Siva is on Vishnu who is on Brahma and a huge Hanuman granite idol with a huge Nandi as well (4). People pray. I do what I do best in a temple. Stand with folded hands and salivate over the prasadam. Closed eyes and chanting all around but one pair of eyes is always open trying to find out where the prasadam is and how big the portions may be. Butter on a leaf and panchamritham (5).
I need to take a break as I am drooling now.
This is a place that has four pillars made of a single rock. Each of the four larger pillars has a group of smaller pillars around it. Place the right ear on a pillar (only because the left ear is sunburnt) and strike it gently with the left index finger (the right hand is engaged in a repetitive motion to the mouth so I can lick all traces of prasadam from it). Each pillar gives a different musical note as you strike on it (6). Everyone prayed to the God’s in the idols. I pray to the God’s in the pillars. Ear to rock, music in the soul and still, a hand that searches vainly for more panchamritam!
These stones stay with me in Stunland even as Pythagoras worked his way round curves that want to be lines and lines that want to be curves. If you see me, as you often do these days, listening to you with an attentive gaze and a smile on the lips, you will feel happy that I listen with empathy.
I still share conversations with the stones of Stunland! Even as we converse.
Oops. How did I let that slip?
- Relates to the story of a self realized master known as Mai Amma. She always had a pack of stray dogs around her, like her disciples. She was known to swim naked to the rocky cliffs and meditate there. The dogs would swim behind her and were always by her side. Local people used to give her food and she was known to feed the dogs first and eat whatever remained after the dogs fed. I remember my father showing me a pack of dogs behind rocks but do not recollect seeing her.
- Relates to the deity of the temple at Kanyakumari that has a nose ring with a large diamond. Legend has it that the diamond used to reflect light so strongly that ships often confused it with a lighthouse. The temple authorities decided to close the eastern gates of the temple (so that the light from the diamond can be stopped from reaching out to the sea) after an accident where a ship ran aground. The eastern gates are now opened only on few days.
- Now known as the Vivekananda Rock. Earlier known as the Sripada parai. This is the rock where the Goddess Kanyakumari meditated and has a footprint that is now enshrined in a temple on the Rock. Swami Vivekananda meditated for three nights on this rock before he traveled to the US to deliver his famous speech.
- The temple at Suchindram.
- Panchamritam is made of cow’s milk, yoghurt or curd, banana/tender coconut/sugar/jaggery, honey and ghee. Yummy does not do justice to it.
- Pity it is now encased in a wire mesh to prevent vandalism. I remember spending hours there.