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  • Thothathri Raman

Will Pedal only for long distances

"I dont like to ride half a kilometre or less, for me cycling is a long distance ride affair. I want to see the world float by for a long time as a ride leisurely at my will", the 22 something youngster who reaches her workplace near the famous Temple for Dance, Chidambaram, on her ubiquitous BSA Ladies bike. Her home to work spot is precisely half a kilometre but most of the time Shanmughapriya likes to take detours and long lanes to stretch her cycling trip to her workplace. The extremely peppy and livewire girl is proud her work which is to take care of the footwear of the pilgrims. "On normal days I would take home 50 to Rs 60 but on heavy rush days like festivals the collections may even go up to Rs 300", without any demure or regret. "why not? this is a honorable work and quite responsible one too. I am comfortable with my work", she says.

Born with three other siblings one of whom, her elder sister is now married, life has been a bumby ride all along. Not having the fortune of having her parents as they died one after the other when she was fairly young, Shanmughapriya is being taken care by a good natured friend of her mother today with her two younger brothers having started working in small jobs. "My main regret is that I could not study beyond 9th standard owing to family circumstances" says the divine beauty who cannot be missed by anyone passing through the massive ramparts of the breathtaking ancient Temple complex.

Cycling is her first passion and she is happy that many of the people coming to the temple to work are all using cycle for their commute. Chidambaram being a small town but hedged by some of the best known cities and towns of great vintage including the famous Tanjore city housing the garguantan Brahadeeswarar Saivite temple built by the warrior king RajajaCholan in the 1100s, it is not uncommon to see people cycling long distances to reach their workplace.

The present temple according to Wikipedia, was built in the 10th century when Chidambaram was the capital of the Chola dynasty, making it one of the oldest surviving active temple complexes in South India. Most of the temple's surviving plan, architecture and structure is from the late 12th and early 13th centuries, with later additions in similar style. The cycle enthusiast Shanmughapriya is also quite knowledgeable about the various aspects of the temple and could reel out the ancient history and various events connected with the temple.

The story of the temple that was pillaged and plundered by successive invasions of the Muslim Sultans, the Portugese, Frech and the British through 14th to 18th century also is a valiant one that saw the people fighting back to restore the ancient glory of the temple at different time strops. In many ways our child's story also coincides with the place where she works to survive as no trials and tribulations of her life has affected her inner spirit or resolve to be a powerful icon of the temple town seen by all but noticed by few.

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