Old trees and memories


The trees smell older here. They were larger too, covering most of the sky. Or is that because we looked up more often? Of course, we were no taller than 4 feet then. The walls, the doors, the idols, seemed to loom with a larger significance. Was it because they were inseparable from the aroma of incense that permeated every corner of the temple? Taking on a personality that had nothing to do with stone and mortar.

I came here with my grandmother (my mother’s mother) many evenings. Probably between 1979 and ’84. I cannot remember if my brother or my mother were there too. I can only remember grandmom’s cotton sarees that she wore.

After school and the quick snack of spiced puffed rice (still my absolute go to snack evenings after work), with four hours to go before dinner and bed time, some evenings we would walk up here. She wasn’t ‘religious’. Did not insist we pray every day at home or in a temple. If I thought I would like to sit in the temple verandah and listen in, I could. I could also leave any time I wanted. I more often stayed. The songs themselves did not have a particular meaning to me as I was not too fluent in Kannada or Sanskrit to understand every word. There was though, a feeling. Sitting with her as the sun set, on the stone floor, with a dozen or more people, with just the music. Sankey tank was an open lake then, and the breeze, that I can still feel.

The rear of the temple complex was just sand. And there were shells in the sand. On days when there was time yet for the music to start, I would rummage in it for shells to save. There was no “compound” around the complex, if I remember right. Just a lot of open space… And the trees.

Cameras were expensive then and we didn’t have one. The only images I have are deep in layers of memory.

25 years later. Driving to work in the last year or so, remembered that one of the routes I could take was via Malleswaram. I can’t tell why I never went back to this place. Even to revisit a childhood memory, in all these years after moving out of the area.

The stone floors are the same. The sand was all gone. Beneath it, I read later, was found another temple. Shiva’s, with a Nandi. Even older than Kadu Malleshwara. All of this lay buried under the sand in the days we strayed over the mounds of sand, looking for shells. I had no idea and was simply wide eyed looking over this space. It is quiet, before 8.30 in the morning. A few students walk in, with notepads. Perhaps they’re on a history assignment from school.

Of course, now the narrow space to the left of the temple, which was right where we sat all those evenings ago, is occupied by cars and bikes. It breaks the heart a little. People parking, walking up and down, busy.

Just like I was, to get to work. To really linger and get behind those layers, will need a calmer time.

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