Once I was in the Southern Indian city of Madurai, the Hindu temple there is just magnificent, one of the most
pleasantly odd and sacred places on earth.
the whole town is dominated by the sprawl of the building and peered down upon by it’s many towers.
Such towers, these are a gallimaufry of carvings, crammed full with the soap opera pageant of Hindu gods and
the temple is unusual in that it allows non Hindus to roam through it’s many rooms and various spaces.
Much of it is shrine room after shrine room, all supported by ancient carved stone pillars, the stone here is smudged
to blackness from centuries of exposure to candles and incense.
In every nook and cranny a god.
Each deity flower garlanded,forehead daubed with coloured ash, surrounded by gifts and offerings.
The best bit though is the seemingly random acts of worship.
from somewhere behind an ululation, then you are engulfed and overwhelmed by the surge of people.It’s a gong
This time, the worshippers are all clad in black,like a gang of ninja assassins, they have bandannas tied around their
foreheads… their all crying.
Later i was sitting peacefully beside the sacred pool, the bathing ghat, which acts like the town square and public
meeting place. None of that hushed European solemnity here. All is abuzz with natter and gossip.
I was approached by two young men. They were smartly dressed in white shirts and black chino trousers, about 19, your
typical, well educated, friendly students, curious and interested.
one of the things i always liked about Indian trains is that not only would people talk to you, but usually strangers
would strike up conversations between each other.
‘What Religion are you?’, a traditional opener.
I was keen for the company, not really having had a conversation in the previous week!
next it was ‘And what is your good name?’
‘Richard, and what is yours?’
One of them replied ‘why, I am Lenin’
Vladimir Illych! For a moment this threw me, but then I recalled that the neighbouring state, Kerala, had hada
Communist Government for the previous 20 years, I’d already met a couple of Ivans and kinda imagined the young
Trotsky and Stalin, hair pulling tussle, fighting it out in the Indian playgrounds!
i turned to the other ‘And what is your name?’
he muttered back something along the lines of ‘lenin’
doublet and hose, double doppelgangers!
I said ‘gosh that’s unusual, both of you friends have the same name… and Lenin at that’
one look perplexed, a smile broadened, ‘no! like Ringo’
together they said ‘John, Paul, George and Ringo’
Bolshie Scousers and Bolsheviks!
more famous than Jesus, but possibly not than Shiva
made me chortle. all together now: ‘so you say you want a revolution, whoooah!’
* gallimaufry, i have no idea if i’m using this word correctly, but i have always presumed that here i mean,
galleons of sculptures, a surfeit, a glutton abundance of carved garudas, a satiation, a full Devon creams tea worth
of cathedral gargoyles, you know, when you’ve licked out the cream and jam pots. Just Blossom marvelous