how ridiculously beautiful it all looked form the sky. palm covered city which never seemed to end like blanket of green with little concrete rooftops poking out as far as the eye can seen. especially around the airport when the road goes through a narrow lane and climbs a bridge over a canal you wonder whether there is any city at all. later the same day after we reach the main venue for the screenings (none of which we sat for) and then bandhu shows us around to the other venues for the december film festival. we drive past sleepy, pretty houses and ostentatious government buildings to the 60s modernism of the new theater and the dramatic downward spiral of kala bhavan. we are invited to crash the dinner party for the jury and listen to stories about the chennai film industry from sadanand.
all of the next morning we drive past more theaters starting with the open air theater of the palace gardens. the mascot hotel where the jury lived in was a far cry from our own seedy keerthi with its covered courtyard and room handles that come out in your hand. from the mascot hotel the views across the city were gorgeous.
kovalam was a rickshaw ride to the south and as it was a thursday afternoon most of the tourists were white men and women lounging over long lunches in between their ayurvedic massages. the promenade was being strengthened against the tide and the sand was black. the lunch was divine- fish wrapped in banana leaves and prawns in coconut.
we were almost too late for the evening meeting when, on the way back, we stopped over at the padmanabhaswamy temple and decided to see the palace to its east. low lying with verandahs wrapping around the building and the gardens where a tamil film was being shot. the lower floor was in heavy masonry punctured with tiny courts through which light filtered in wile the upper in intricate woodwork. two wooden rooms – one for dance and one for song were connected by a long verandah like corridor. the guide told us stories of trvancore which we only half heard- kausik being preoccupied with the paintings and me with the scale of the architecture.
the closing ceremony of the film festival had its share of embarrassments- for the jury as well as the entries when after the ceremony a man decided to felicitate a blushing amol palekar by singing ‘jaaneman jaaneman’ with his daughter on stage.
the party rocked hard on the 6th floor of the mascot. all the rooms were thrown open as rooms became smoking, eating and drinking zones. the corridor was the place for loud angry discussions on chauvinism and bengaliness of which there was a little too much in all the rooms. but the real fight i had was when i was told that i am too smug about myself because i have not read ‘maximum city’. paro- the queen- helped me fight; and the food she had sourced- exquisite syriam christian duck, pork and beef was divine.
it was lazy the next morning. we left directly for a fish lunch at saagara which might become quite a feature on our next trip. when we got to the temple complex we realized that god was asleep and would wake up only after we had left trivandrum. instead we walked through the grid of the old fort district where old palaces have been transformed to house government departments and banks.
on this trip i missed seeing the kovalam beach resort- that cross section we used to admire when it came to building on terraced land. i also could not manage a trip to the center for development studies- reportedly laurie bakers masterpiece; but instead managed to have a coffee in the funky india coffee house. the building is a strange medieval spiral tower that rises form the bus stand with small little nooks from where you can peer at fragments of the surrounding city. i pitied the waiters who have to constantly walk up and down the ramp carrying trays of fantastic coffee.