42. The Junction Function

@Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India.

The visit to Coimbatore was in no way related to it being the second largest city in Tamil Nadu or it being a major commercial and industrial centre which a few people did dare to compare to Manchester and Leeds. It was not a history trip either, even as the region was ruled by the Cheras, Cholas, Pandyas, the Vijayanagar Empire and also the Madurai Nayaks and even became part of the kingdom of Mysore until being liberated by the forces of British East India company who ruled the place as a part of their vast Empire which existed all over the world, thanks to their naval power and the ideas of Renaissance which goes back to the classical antiquity. Even as the software field, education and healthcare has improved, the city still remains known more for the textile industry on which it has capitalized. It has served as the eastern entrance to the Palakkad Gap, the principal trade route between the west coast and east coast as well as the whole Tamil Nadu. As the gap is the lowest pass through the Western Ghats and also the only break which occurs in that stretch of the continuous Ghats which separates Kerala and Tamil Nadu which has resulted in the difference in the language and traditions of both states as well as prevented many invasions which could have happened, but didn’t even come into the picture, Coimbatore is of further importance to both states.

After being annexed to the Madras Presidency which stretched from Tamil Nadu to Malabar, the region of Coimbatore played a significant role in the Indian independence movement and after independence, there has been rapid growth of the city due to industrialization. As it is surrounded by the Western Ghats mountain ranges on the West and the North with reserve forests, the city is more green compared to the other cities which are situated further away to the centre and the coasts of Tamil Nadu. It also gets lots of rain, and there are times when there was more rain than what was on the other side of the Western Ghats; still the heat sometimes gets a little too high. The linking of Palakkad district of Kerala with Coimbatore district of Tamil Nadu has been a boon more to this city which is still developing at a good rate. The Palakkad Gap has played a major role in enabling migrations into Kerala from other parts of India, especially Tamil Nadu, rather than the other way around. It also helped the Chera Kingdom to rule parts of both states together, especially Coimbatore, Erode, Karur; also due to their proximity to the border and Coimbatore’s similarity to the regions on the other side of the Western Ghats. Even if not proven, it could have always served as a border town.

The strategic importance of this gateway to Kerala would have been concerning the invaders from the other side of the Ghats, as it is in Kashmir during an Indo-Pak war; back in history the tactics would have been further simple though. The city has a large number of Keralites and also resident Malayalam speakers. Most of the people from Kerala are students who are studying for medicine or engineering in the colleges which are located close enough; Coimbatore is a place with easy access to almost every side. There are also people working, especially with the software boom which has been a steady process until recession and is coming back up. The city is the second largest software producer in Tamil Nadu, next only to Chennai, thus making it not just a garment manufacturing city. There are wind turbines on the outskirts of the city and the textile industry has made sure that the clothes are cheaper and of better quality compared to the rest. The 1998 Coimbatore bombings would be the worst chapter in the city’s history when fourty six people were killed and more than two hundred citizens injured. But the city has never stopped growing and continued to be what it has been.

Colimbatore Junction is a major railway station and junction in South India and also the second busiest railway station in Tamil Nadu in terms of passenger movement. Due to its strategic location so close to Kerala on its border and also because of the restriction imposed by the Palakkad Gap, almost every train passes through this area and it has become a medium through which Kerala and Tamil Nadu are connected, as well as some of those trains which pass through many states of India. But still there are cries for more trains and the number of passengers are always increasing due to the rising number of students and workers from other states who temporarily live in Coimbatore and go back home on regular intervals; sometimes so often as once in a week or so. Coimbatore Junction also yields the second highest revenue as long as Southern Railways is concerned. As a continuation to what was mentioned in the first paragraph, what got me to that city was the inability to get a direct train from Chennai to Cochin. There was the need to return on that day itself, as the trip could not be pre-poned unless there was the presence of a time machine or any random time travelling device or at least a teleporter. This made being at Coimbatore a necessity, as most of the trains went through there and the chance to find the right train was more.

There was also the chance for bus travel, but that would be a little jerky and the time consumed would be so variable. The train proved to be the right form of transport as there came the Bangalore-Ernakulam Intercity Express with an almost empty chair car which came as the biggest blessing ever; that was just my fifth or sixth journey in a chair car and for the first time in a semi-empty compartment. The train even managed to reach the destination in time. But the journey was not just about staying at Coimbatore or waiting for the train in that railway station itself, as it evolved into a tour all by itself even as there was always this backup plan in my pocket which I would call the right plan at that moment. There was a quick journey through the churches of Coimbatore, which started with a few CSI churches which proved to be big enough, and may be bigger than all the other churches which were to be seen later. May be the Church of Christ the King came the closest to breaking that record. There was surely the huge Bethel City Cathedral of the Indian Pentecostal Mission which eclipsed the rest; but that would be more of a hall though. Our Lady of Fatima Church was beautiful enough and added to some shopping, it was all good; there was not enough IPL jersies there which bothered me at that time, but not any more as IPL is semi-dead for me with the termination of Kochi Tuskers Kerala.

There was also the stylish mall which had its name written only in Tamil which made it impossible for me to figure what the name was. It was huge and some part of it was still under construction; it had KFC and they made me realize that my Shopper’s Stop card which a few people from Kolkata gave me was of no use for discounts. Even the chicken popcorn was not good enough and adjusting with Krushers ended up as the best option. St. Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Church was also there, built beautifully in a perfect Kerala style, but didn’t open at that time. The best church of Coimbatore, in my opnion was St. Michael’s Church in the name of the leader of the army of angels, also known as ‘Sancto Michaeli Archangelo’ as written on the top along with ‘Sanctae Mariae Immaculatae’. The church was surely old and beautiful, but in a bad condition with no maintenance as one could see that both the paint and the cement looked as if drained away to a good extent. Fortunately, the interiors were better maintained and it looked fantastic from the exterior as well as the interior side; with some maintenance job, it would look perfect and be a better monument to the archangel. The sad condition of the church tormented me for sometimes until getting caught in that natural beauty which surrounded the train route on the way back to Kerala.

Diving out —>