31 May 2016:
Went into Trichy with Ashwanth, Claudia, and Arun this morning before conducting focus groups in the evening. What a great day!
Started off by driving into the city of Trichy and exploring the island of Srirangam, which is a small spot in the middle of a tiny body of water in the city of Trichy where Srirangam, a complex of six different temples, stands. Only Hindus are allowed in the final, sixth temple, which is the most sacred out of all in the complex, so Ashwanth, Claudia, and I walked around the open areas while Arun went further inside.
Outside the Srirangam complex was an elephant, painted in oranges and whites and wearing small bells and jewelry. A trainer stood nearby, and for 10 rupees, the elephant would tap the heads of temple-goers and offer them a blessing. Seeing as we hadn’t been able to spot an elephant at the Brihadeeswarar temple as promised, we were all quite excited about spotting this one.
After having thoroughly explored Srirangam and received blessings from the elephant, Arun led us through the streets of Trichy to meet back up with David and Prince. He pointed us in the direction of another beloved Trichy attraction, Rock Fort Temple, and warned us of that the steep steps to the top of the temple would be particularly hot in today’s heat.
At first, we didn’t quite understand what Arun was talking about, but upon arriving at Rock Fort things became a bit clearer. Rock Fort Temple is, quite literally, a temple that sits upon a huge rock. The rock is nearly 85 meters tall and is allegedly over one billion years old. After climbing nearly 500 steps to the top, you reach a towered temple that offers a panoramic view of the whole city. The climb itself might have been nice, but because it’s a temple, all visitors are required to be barefoot, and in the midday sun, the rock steps get scorching hot.
After climbing the steps of the rock fort, we were fairly wiped out so we stopped to get a Limca (a refreshing lemon-lime drink made by Coca-Cola that’s served especially in India), and then drove over into a Biryani restaurant, where we ate to-die-for Biryani served in a traditional Tamil-Nadu/southern-Indian style: on a flattened banana leaf and with various toppings and gravies in circular silver bowls. Everything is eaten with one’s hands and after the meal, a spicy-flavored palette cleanser called “sweet beeda” is served alongside a small bowl of warm lemon water (for “finger cleaning”).
After our afternoon adventure in Trichy, we headed back to Tanjore to meet at the Vodafone branch office and head out to the villages for our evening interviews.
Our first stop was at the home of one of the Vodafone agents whom we had met the day before. He welcomed us into his home, which was situated along a green field full of grain and just off a small paved road. The agent introduced us to his father and his dogs, one of which was a small puppy that couldn’t have weighed more than 5 pounds. We all talked a bit about ourselves and our lives, and the agent brought us around the back of his home to show us his mango trees. “Take one!” he insisted, and after a bit, we left for our focus groups, mangoes in hand.