A weekend in the Madurai Kamaraj University

A weekend in the Madurai Kamaraj University
I was off for a three day National Training Programme Climate Change News Coverage for Aspiring and Young Vernacular media persons in Madurai. Instead of my role as a student, I was going to deliver the keynote address. A definite rise in status! Familiar with Madurai now, having come here for three years to do my PhD from 2012, it was good to get off at the familiar, dirty, Periyar bus stand, with it's dozing cows and just waking up shop keepers. Women sat around weaving strings of jasmine and other flowers as Tamilian women love to adorn their heads with malli poo (jasmine).

The people of Madurai are so proud of their University that even if you don't speak Tamil and you just go up to a conductor in the half light of the dawn and say University -- he will eagerly point you to a bus and tell you to go in and make yourself comfortable.

In minutes he is back with his conductor in tow and off goes the bus, groaning and rattling up the bridge out of the town. The University is 5km out of the town and soon one leaves the squalour of the bus stand for the beauty of the Nagamalai hills. There maybe three or four other people in the bus and it picks up passengers as it goes rattling along. Soon the conductor comes up to you and leans against a bench to steady himself, in the lurching bus and hands you a ticket. I hand over a ten rupee note out of habit and he returns a one rupee coin as my change. It is almost with a shock that one realises, that the value of the rupee, still holds good in some parts of India.

I sit with my back pack and my bag on the seat beside me and let the fresh morning air bathe my face. As I was asking around in the bus stand for the University bus an old man in a white shirt and a white lungi had also been helpful saying No 55 University. Now as the University gate neared, he eagerly half stood in his seat and sad, Madam, University almost in unison with the smiling conductor.

They waited till I stepped down with my luggage and only then trundled off. The massive gates of the University beckoned on the opposite side of the road. Three security guards were opening up the walking section and wished me a cheery 'Good morning'. It felt good to be back among old friends and I walked the 2km to the faculty guest house, hitching my back pack higher and strapping my bags across my chest.

The familiar smell of the neem trees and the large amount of bird droppings below assailed my nostrils. A whole pack of peacocks scuttled across the road and slid into the undergrowth. I could hear the Seven Sisters squabbling in the trees too and far in the distance the clink, clink of a cycle being ridden by a student coming towards me, could be heard.

Taking the turn I reached the Faculty Guest house and was greeted yet again by a cheery' Vannakkam Madam how are you?". The same caretaker who has been at the guest house ever since I began coming, rose up and gave me the keys of my favourite room.' I brought you a jacket.' I said, cause he had told me he felt the cold. Beaming he limped ahead of me, to my room intoning the same directives he always did. Close the windows at 5pm, so no mosquitoes come in and when you leave to go to the hall too, every morning, or the squirrels will make a nest of your pillow.

It was good to be back.

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