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Published: September 20th 2019
“I don’t want to die!”
That’s what I screamed when my driver Muthu decided to make me happy by turning around on the highway and heading back to a temple that I had spotted.
He was driving me from Auroville to Madurai. As always, I had my eyes peeled for interesting temples along the road. I’ve got a weakness for Ayyanar temples, and through the low scrub trees I saw the telltale horses rearing into the sky.
I was in the backseat, friend Vinod was in the front with Muthu. Vinod had been driving when I spotted the sculptures and casually said, “Ayyanar.”
“You want to see?” Muthu asked.
“It’s too much trouble. Never mind.”
I saw there was no place to cross the median to go back on the other side of the four-lane highway, so it would be impossible to turn around.
Vinod stopped the car. Muthu hopped out of the passenger side and exchanged places with Vinod, taking the wheel.
“Never mind, I don’t want to see it!” My tone was more emphatic.
Then I started screaming. Muthu was doing a U-turn across the two lanes of traffic approaching
from behind us, then he pulled to the shoulder and drove the opposite direction of the two lanes of oncoming traffic. I buried my head in a pillow. Vinod was laughing. Muthu was chuckling.
I’ve heard too many stories of confused, mostly older drivers, going the wrong way on expressways in the USA and getting creamed. My driver was now one of those bad stories, only he wasn’t confused, he was doing it intentionally.
“What are you doing, what are you doing‼⁈?? Ohhh nooo!” My cries were met with laughter.
Muthu stopped and yelled at a man wearing a lungi herding a goat with a stick. He asked him how to get to the temple. I was just thinking hurry up, hurry up! The man waved his arm, and we kept driving, still meeting the opposing two lanes of traffic. We finally found the exit—I mean the entrance ramp, and drove the wrong way down that, too. He circled around and we were at a dead end, looking at the man with the stick. Now all of us were laughing, but I was mostly just relieved to be alive.
He turned around and followed the road
to the temple, which was closed, but I could snap a few photos of the rearing horses, the scary looking guardians, and the painted terracotta horses. Ayyanar temples are all over Tamil Nadu—each village has some kind of guardian deity who rides his horse at night, protecting the village from evil, intruders, bad stuff. Ayyanar often has helper deities, and sometimes one of his associated deities is featured.
I was just happy to be alive to see this one.
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