Team: Alphabet Soup
Read the previous part of the story here:
Chapter 6 on Aashish's Blog
Cyrus weighed the pros and cons of taking up a hotel near the airport or head straight to Vajrakshipuram. The last flight out of Delhi to Cochin didn’t leave him with many options. After giving it much thought, he decided to start for Vajrakshipuram immediately.
The sheer impulsiveness of his decision had rendered him with stranded. Taxis were pre-booked and the ones which weren’t refused to ply. Cyrus followed the advice which a helpful cabbie offered.
‘No taxi going tonight. ! ! All sleeping. All drunk. Highway, ask lift. Give lift’
Cyrus heard the rumble in his tummy. Chancing upon a roadside eatery on the periphery of the road leading to the airport, he stopped to answer the grumbling in his empty stomach.
Having been directed by cabbies to try his luck on the main road he flagged down a truck. The truck driver was on his way to Trichur & offered to drop Cyrus off at a point where he could get to Vajrakshipuram on his own.
Jennifer had a late start to her journey. However, stubbornness was one of the many traits she had acquired from her parents, and so, once she had decided to do something, she wanted it done immediately. And so, she started for Vajrakshipuram in her car.
After an hour long drive, she decided to take a break at the highway petrol station. It was all by chance that Jenny and Cyrus were in the same shop and were queued before each other for payment. The truck driver had dropped off Cyrus near the petrol station. Realisation dawned upon her as she scouted her bag to pay for the food she had purchased. In her rush to leave for Vajrakshipuram, she had forgotten to withdraw money.With no cash in her bag, she looked embarrassed, and was about to return the goods she had bought when Cyrus offered to help her by paying for them.
His eyes fell upon her noticably innumerable tattoos & weird piercings. She saw him noticing them and smiled. He started forming a character assessment of her in his mind.She seemed innocent at the same time, there was a fire in her eyes. As their eyes met, he was breathless for a moment before snapping out of his law school mindset.
Over a small thank you conversation, she told him she was on her way to the temple. Cyrus asked, "Oh great! I am headed towards the temple too. A truck driver dropped me off here. Can I join you? ".
Jennifer nodded her head in confirmation and extended her hands,
'Jennifer Joseph'. She introduced herself to the good Samaritan.
'So, what is a pretty lady with don't-know-how-many tattoos and piercings doing in a temple, may I ask?'
'I am a professional photographer. I work on a few freelance projects. Currently working on a project on temple architecture as well as a bit of prying and prodding of my own.' She winked.
You don’t seem to be from this part of the country, what has brought you here?'
' Umm... I am a law student at The National Law University, Delhi. I have heard a lot about this festival. This festival intrigued me and I wanted to visit and take a look for myself.'
‘So it is true, lawyers are liars! Try another excuse, and this time be creative.'
Cyrus was impressed at Jennifer's sharpness. But he didn't want to let anyone know of his reason for being in Vajrakshipuram.
'Suprising as it may be Madam,that is the truth. My dad was a history researcher and I have read his papers regarding this temple, its myths and traditions. Got me curious and here I am.'
After carrying on with some small talk, Jennifer dropped Cyrus outside a hotel. She had however done her own research and had pre-booked a room at Hotel Devikrupa. All she needed now was a quick nap, change of clothes and get prepped with her camera for the festivities.
Cyrus managed to coax the manager of the hotel to get him a room at last minute notice. Jenny, however, still played on his mind and he repented for not having taken her mobile number. But soon, he began to think about the purpose of his visit. He had to focus on that now. Being a law student, he couldn't afford to have any sort of distractions in his work.
It was mid-afternoon. Jennifer decided to wear her only traditional dress to ensure an unrestricted entry to the temple, without any problems. The outfit managed to cover most of her visible tattoos.
Since the deity is visible only on the day of the procession, not many people visit the temple interiors. She began clicking the pictures of the domes, the pillars and the tiny chambers. Without her knowledge, she was moving into the restricted area of the temple.
'What are you doing Kutty? Don't you know this is a restricted area?' An angry male voice boomed.
She had forgotten to switch off her camera flash and the light had caught the attention of one of the priests passing by.
'Sorry! I - I didn't know that.' Jennifer hadn't noticed the sign as she was immersed in her work.
‘Devi maa, why are all these bad omens occurring now?’ the priest muttered.
‘Child! A sign is put up right there. Don't tell me you did not see that!?' Before she could offer him an explanation, he called out to the other priests.
Escorted by a milieu of priests and temple authorities, she saw a motley group of few men, and a woman carrying a child already laying await outside the temple office.
'What happened?' A fat guy in the office asked.
'Caught this one, clicking pictures in the restricted area.'
'Who are you?' the fat guy questioned Jennifer.
Jennifer thought for a while. She knew all hell would break loose if they knew that she was a Christian, 'I am Jaya Lakhshmi.'
'You are a Hindu. Don't you know there are restricted areas in temples and that there might be a reason for us to make it restricted?'
'Yes, can someone give me a chance to speak?' Jennifer was getting restless with all the accusation.
'I came to learn about the temple architecture. I am a professional photographer. I was awed by the sculptures and wandered a bit too much. I didn't notice the sign. Please forgive me.'
'Alright. We will let you go this time. But listen carefully. Photography is restricted in the temple premises. You need the authorities' permission even if you have to cover the processions. Keep this in mind. You may leave now.'
The priest who caught her enquired, 'Are you letting her go? For all we know, she might be someone indulging in black magic. Look at all the paintings on her. Shiva! Shiva!'
'Namboothirippadey!. She is speaking the truth. Let her go.'
Jennifer left hurriedly from the room, before they decided to change their mind. On her way out, she winked at the little girl who smiled back at her.
Read the next part here.