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Blessings of Arunachala: A Serialized Travelogue - Part 6 of 12

Parag is a software developer turned writer who loves travel, the open sky, animals, books, and writing.

Resting at the homestay in Tiruvannamalai

After taking a photo of Arunachala, I thought it might be a good time to have evening snacks.

There’s a restaurant, Akasha Inn, opposite Ramana Ashram. I stopped there for coffee and Idlis and called Bala, the homestay host.

“Oh! you’ve arrived in Tiruvannamalai? I’m also near the ashram. I’ll join you at Akasha Inn,” he said.

After a relaxing snack break with Bala, I quickly went to the supermarket next door to stock up on fruits, veggies, and curd for a couple of days and started for the homestay, which was about 700—800 meters away. Bala had come on his bike, so I followed him to the homestay.

After about 100 meters of so we turned right into a small lane. This lane was full of guest houses. A couple of them were ashram guest houses, while the others were privately owned.

Ramana Ashram has one main guest house inside the ashram campus and several other guesthouses scattered around a kilometer radius from the ashram. They were built by the ashram trust over the years to accommodate the increasing influx of tourists and devotees from around the world.

Bala mentioned later that some devotees, especially from Germany, were third-generation devotees. Their grandparents had met Ramana Maharishi when he was still alive. Their family took to the teachings and since then, generations have been visiting Tiruvannamalai regularly.

We proceeded in the lane, turned onto another lane, and stopped at Bala’s house to get the keys. The apartment where I was going to stay was in the adjacent lane behind the host’s house.

It was a two-storeyed building with three small 1 BHK apartments and a terrace. One apartment was on the ground floor and the other two on the 1st and 2nd floors. Mine was on the 2nd floor.

I looked around after dumping all the stuff in the living room. The apartment was perfect for me. They had made a 1 BHK apartment in about 350 square feet of floor space.

It had a small living room with a work table, a small bed, a couple of white plastic chairs for sitting, and a bathroom. The bedroom and the kitchen opened directly into the living room.

The bedroom had a large bed and a platform where I could put stuff for daily use.

The kitchen was small and fully functional. They had a working gas stove, utensils, a refrigerator, and a dispenser with a drum of freshly changed drinking water.

Along with what was already equipped in the kitchen, I had also carried an electric cooker with some rice and grains from Pune. However, I was too tired to cook that day. I was also feeling sweaty and grimy from the drive, so I had a long shower and a quick meal of theplas (an Indian delicacy much like chappatis) which my mother had packed for me, along with curd and fruits that I had bought from the supermarket.

By the time I was done with the meal, fatigue began to set in and I was ready to hit the mattress for a long and good sleep.

Getting to know my neighbors

I woke up at 9:00 AM the next day! The only plan I had for that day was getting the home setup, cooking, and resting. I had booked the homestay for a month so I wasn’t in any hurry to venture out. I felt like taking it easy for a day or two and thought it best to stay indoors with a little hike to the terrace after dinner.

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Eventually, I found out that all three apartments in the building were occupied. I met my neighbors from the first floor the next morning when I went to the terrace to get my clothes from the drying line. They had just completed a yoga session. They said they enjoyed the sun and preferred to start yoga sessions at 8:00 in the morning. They were a German couple in their late sixties. Both had retired from work and spend most of their time traveling the world with India being one of their favorite destinations because of the yoga ashrams and other spiritual places.

We had a nice long chat. I enjoyed listening to their travel stories from different parts of the world.

The person on the ground floor was also from Germany, but he was much younger, probably in his mid-twenties. He didn’t seem too interested in yoga or spirituality, which was a bit surprising because there’s not much to do in Tiruvannamalai besides Ramana Ashram.

My nights on the terrace after dinner were very beautiful. With the temperature having cooled down by then, I often experienced by a light breeze -- a very welcome change from the heat of the day. The sky was clear and filled with a vast array of twinkling stars. And then there was the direct view of Arunachala (shown in the pic).

During my entire stay, I spent many hours on the terrace, laying on a jute mattress, looking at the stars, Arunachala, and listening to music. They were golden hours of solitude.

© 2021 Parag Shah 333

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