I would like to share my experience with the CTCians. I was whining the whole time my mother told me that I had to go with them to Kanchipuram for cleaning the Agneeshwar historical temple in Kalakattur. I woke up at 5 AM the following morning, which was a Saturday, much to my disappointment. I was actually looking forward to spending the weekend by just sitting around, watching TV basically being a couch potato.
We, my parents and I, reached Guindy at 6 AM as per instructions given to us. We were the first to reach there and slowly as the time went by, more and more of our team members started joining us. The van was delayed by a complete and long 1 hour due to a small confusion with the vehicle. We went through the subway to get to the other side of the road, where the van was supposed to pick us up. At 8, the van came in sight and we started boarding it, and we finally took off. I would also like to mention that I was doing all this half-heartedly, and I was also scared that I would be unfamiliar with everyone else and left alone.
I was proven wrong, and I started having conversations with some of the members and I started having fun when I realized that this could actually be different and new to me. We had breakfast at a hotel in Kanchipuram and we visited a small temple.We started on our journey again and we filled up fuel, picked up Subash Anna, who travelled through his bike and met us there and we got some plants from a nursery. We walked down a narrow road to reach the temple, and we were surrounded with a huge lake on our right and a huge stretch of fields to our left. It took us about half an hour or so to reach the Agneeshwar temple, where we climbed down one side and started unpacking bags of tools which we needed to clean the paint off the walls of the temple.
All of us started working on it immediately and we took our tools, gloves and masks and started scraping the top layer of the paint away. It was a hard job to be honest. But we did it. There was a pump near the temple which was really useful to us. We used it for drinking, cleaning and refreshing ourselves, and to make the paint wet, which made the activity a lot easier. My mom, Bency Akka and I went to the land to back of the river, where we crossed a small stream to get to the other side of it. I walked away with my camera, intending to take some pictures of birds I saw earlier, which were sitting near some open land.
We crossed back and resumed the work when I finished what I went there for. That too wasn’t easy as I had to stop every 5 minutes to pluck the thorns that kept penetrating my slipper sole. We rejoiced when we came to know about a well nearby that the locals told us about. We were really happy as we were all full of sweat and stickiness from the whole event. We enjoyed a lot in the well, splashing and swimming and also taught Bency Akka to swim. We took a couple of pictures and headed back to the temple, where we were served delicious curd rice, with potatoes and pickles. We had a small pooja in the temple and we headed back to the van. I was tired and weak by the time we reached the van.
We headed to the farm, where Mr. Jayabalan explained about the various herbal plants around us which can cure a whole lot of diseases and about the general lifestyle of a man in the modern world. He took us to a tour around the 50 acre farm, full of plants and a couple of ponds, where we again swam after a couple of minutes. It was late evening by the time we swam to shore. I had so much fun with the dogs there and we changed our clothes and planted the saplings we brought earlier along the road leading to the farm. We had a kashayam, prepared by the people there and bid them goodbye.
We started going to Padapai, where we were supposed to join with another CTC team and have dinner there. It was late night when we reached there and they were already cooking dinner. We were served vegetable biriyani, and chicken and vegetable barbeque, which was absolutely stunning. We ate up and got ready for the night, sleeping beneath the twinkling stars and the moon in the night sky.
It was my first time camping under the open skies and I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep. I was about to drift into sleep when I was bitten by mosquitoes and I suddenly realized, it was like an oven inside my sleeping bag. I slept through it restlessly, and I finally fell asleep. I was woken up in the morning, when the others were already up and about, preparing for the maintenance activity of the man-made forest.
The person looking after the villas in construction to our side was kind enough to lend us one of the villas to freshen up. I brushed my teeth and started working as soon as I got back. I was responsible for digging a hole around the plant to hold water like many others. We had a bananas and vada as snacks and we had a tea soon after. We rested for a while, before starting to water the plants.
It was really funny when we starting standing in a line formation to finish the job sooner as one or the other of us were constantly shouting either for water or for more buckets. We ran out of water near the end and we settled down for breakfast, which was pazhaya soru with vadasand pickles and vegetable biriyani from the night before. 2 or 3 of us ate from the same leaf. We ate on the side of the small road and started watering the remaining plants. We rested for a while after we finished the maintenance and soon our team was boarded to leave to Chennai. We said goodbye and had a small introduction about each of us.
We stopped near the bus stand to have some delicious and cold lassi and rosemilk and fruit mix, which was relaxing after standing below the hot sun. We were still travelling towards Chennai when we spotted an accident on the side of the road, where a small girl was weeping. We stopped the vehicle and one of our team members, Raghavi Akka, gave first-aid to the girl and her mother, who was badly injured near her knees. We comforted them and directed them to a nearby hospital, before starting off again.
We were near the bus stop in Tambaram, where the policeman stopped us for checking. 21 of us were travelling and Masu Anna, our organizer, instructed a couple of us to sneak behind the van to avoid paying a fine. We ended up paying/bribing the policeman with Rs.100 and it was really hard for me to leave without a proper goodbye. It was my second event with CTC but my first as a camping.
I really learnt a lot of things and I’m deeply honored for having this privilege to travel and be with them at such a young age. I really look forward to having another event with CTC and participating as a volunteer in many more such things. Thanks to Masu Anna, our organizer, and the photographers Arun Anna, Subash Anna and Ramesh Anna. This wouldn’t have been a successful event without your help. I would also like to thank everybody in this program, for helping us and for encouraging me and being friendly towards me.