“Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far.” – Swami Vivekananda
I am sure you’ll agree with Swami Vivekananda. Who else could have said it better other than the learned Swami? And what better place to think of Swami’s words than in Kanyakumari?
Kanyakumari (renamed as Kanniyakumari) is meeting point of three great water bodies namely the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. Kanyakumari is the divine land where Swami Vivekananda is believed to have attained enlightenment while meditating on a large rock in the middle of turbulent waters. Kanyakumari offers a unique spectacle of the rising sun in the east, like a phoenix rising from the ashes; the setting sun in the west, like a long lost lover getting to meet it’s beloved after ages. Somewhere in the far off distance, the color of water keeps changing from green to blue to muddy yellow, which may look like a supremacy contest or absolute surrender of one ocean to another depending upon your state of mind.
From Dhanushkodi to Kanyakumari
There is a special train between Rameshwaram and Kanyakumari that runs thrice a week. A decent train that is just perfect to enjoy the seaside ride overnight. Kanyakumari has numerous options for a traveler but our sole purpose was to visit the Vivekananda Rock Memorial and spend as much time as possible watching them waves crash against the rocks.
However, the weather gods were not merciful and the ferry just didn’t leave while we were in Kanyakumari. Bad weather and high tide obstructed our journey to the Rock Memorial. This didn’t leave us with many options but to sit all day long at the southernmost corner of India and watch the fishermen disappear into oblivion.
The towering statue of Sant Thrivallluvar stood overshadowed the expanse of the ocean and that reminded me of the Great Indian Travel Spirit.
Swami Vivekananda, Sant Thrivalluvar, and Eknath Ranade; they all have at least two things in common. Kanyakumari and Travel. While sojourns of Swami Vivekananda are famous across the world not much is known about the other two personalities that I have mentioned.
Sant Thiruvalluvar wrote Thirukular. One of the most revered ancient books in Tamil language. A great traveler who penned down his experiences in the form of a book, which is said to be one of the bestselling books of the millennium. Once Leo Tolstoy wrote a letter to Gandhi and quoted Thirukural in his famous “A letter to the Hindu“.
A 133 feet statue of Thirukural has been built adjacent to the Rock Memorial. It rests atop a 38-foot high pedestal that represents the 38 chapters of “virtue” in the Thirukkural.
Life and Travels of Eknath Ranade
Swami Vivekananda swam across the troubled waters to ‘seek himself’ on the rock which hosts his memorial today. Constructed in the year 1970, it was possible only because of undying efforts of Eknath Ranade. Like his spiritual guru, Ranade too traveled across the length and breadth of India so as to make the memorial a reality.
Shri Eknath Ranade launched the campaign of one-rupee folders throughout the nation, which were used to mobilise the donations of the common man, starting from as tiny an amount as a rupee. Ranade traveled to Arunachal and Nagaland to seek contributions and succeedeed to a large extent.
The Kenyan ‘Nomads’
We met an Indian turned Kenyan turned British family waiting for their train at Pondicherry station. The train was delayed by some seven hours and they were busy playing cards.
Raj, Meera (Raj’s wife), and Shashi (Raj’s Sister) travel to India frequently. Not to visit their ancestral homes, not to buy or sell property, neither to fix marriage of their kids. They visit India unfailingly, almost every year, sometimes twice a year just to random locations in trains.
Meera is 50+ and she doesn’t mind traveling in a passenger train, even if it means traveling without a seat. They traveled from Kanyakumari to Madurai in a passenger train.
As we bid goodbye to them in Rameshwaram with a promise to see them again, little did we know that soon will be ‘too soon’. We accidently met them again in Kanyakumari.
It was a great learning experience to meet them and learn about their lifestyle in London and how cleverly Raj’s mother moved her family to England. Brick by Brick.
My mother was a clever woman. She always wanted better for us. Long ago, when she used to live in Kenya, all these countries including India were British Colonies. So she was a British Citizen by design. One by one, she got us all shifted to England. Now, the entire family is a British Citizen. But India, it just stays within you. And you keep coming back even if you have the entire world pitted against you.
Indians, contrary to the popular belief, are great travelers. And if you have any doubt, just catch that train running from Rameshwaram to Kanyakumari. You’ll meet numerous crazy travelers like Ranade and Raj.