Rest and relaxation in southern India

Trip Start Oct 26, 2007
Trip End Oct 26, 2009

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

INDIA - Final thoughts. The thing that struck me the most about all of India, from the northernmost tip of Darjeeling, to the southernmost side of Kerala, was the palpable sense of comraderie and love there is between children and adults. Happy children are cherished, loved, revered, fawned over. In addition, I noticed the respect and ease with which people treated eachother. This is a generalisation! But for the most part, India was a very easy, gentle place. It was manic, and crazy, and dirty, and discombobulating, and frustrating at times.. but the overall sense was like that Bobby McFerrin song, "Don't worry, be happy". I never saw so many smiling, happy faces. And perversely, those smiling happy faces were most likely to be found in the poorest parts of India. I have not finished with India, methinks! But there is more of the world to explore, and it is time for me to go. I am grateful for the friendships I have made along the way (with the possible exception of the 22yr old spy in the internet cafe, who snuck my email address and has been sending incoherent emails since I left!)

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30 Nov 2007 After a false start the day before yesterday, when I missed my plane from Delhi to Kochi, I am now safely surrounded by coconut trees and flowing rivers in the Indian state of Kerala. It is just heavenly. I'm living in a HUT.. complete with mosquito net on the big bed, and ceiling fans in the room, as well as the porch. It's HOT (about 85f) but you know me - bit of a heat wimp, so 85 is HOT! I'm enjoying the breeze off the water, and watching the canoes and pleasure boats go by.. I'd like to stay for weeks, but alas can only stay one week. After all of the toing and froing in India, it is a nice change to be in one place for a good while.

On my first morning at Keraleeyam, the Ayurvedic Resort where I spent a week before traveling south to Trivandrum, I was sitting on the front porch of my hut enjoying the feeling of the breeze hitting me gently. I will remember that forever. The morning sun was blazing in the sky, but you could tell it was not going to be a blistering heat. The reflection of the sun on every ripple on the water was sparkling. I would have liked to extend my stay here to three weeks, and indulged in a slimming treatment.. but as it was, one week enjoying fresh fruit every morning, and powder bunch massages daily was enough. As I wrote in the guest book when I left "Wonderful setting. Lovely people. Marvelous massage. Magic memories. I will miss my last hut on the left!"

I made friends with a canoeist who lived around the corner from the resort. Dodie took me out for a river ride on my second day, and from there on I met with him almost every day for a paddle on the river. Most tourists were content to sit back and let others do the rowing, or more likely they rented a house boat, and took a cruise.. but I wanted to get some exercise, and paddling has always been fun for me (even if my paddling technique is laughable!) And laugh the locals did, continually. There were some days when I got tired of their laughter. Granted, I could understand it the first day when I was told I was holding the oar upside down (!) (why didn't you tell me? I asked Dodie!) But, after righting that wrong, I think the laughter was in part directed at Dodie, for allowing a white woman to paddle.

Dodie took me to his house, on the way home our first day. This is frequently done in India.. people take great pride in showing their homes. I met Dodie's mother. I had found out earlier in the day that Dodie's father had died just four months previous. I conveyed my condolences at her husband's recent death. I noticed the framed photo of her husband, and the candle-bulb alongside it, hanging on the wall as you entered their house. So when I met Dodie's mother, she was tearful. She went into a bedroom and brought out a photo album. "Ah, a photo album!" I said, with glee, thinking this will lighten the mood. I opened the first page and realised it was an album of her husband's funeral, with the first photo being a full-on picture of his corpse. Talk about quickly changing my expression from delight to suitable somberness! I was alarmed, as it was quite a big photo album. It seems that people hire photographers to document funerals. Dodie and his family are Catholic. There are many Catholics in Kerala. I spent several minutes flipping through the pages, and making occasional comments like, so sad, ohh.. It was awkward! But it seemed to mean a lot to Mrs Dodie.

I took several photos of her and Dodie, and his brother who I met later. The next day I returned with the photographs, which also made Dodie's mom happy. Dodie's niece Leah was a gorgeous little shy girl, but after a few minutes, and with Dodie's laughing lead, Leah was shy no more, and helped her uncle prepare coconuts for his unusual guest. Dodie shimmied 25 feet up the coconut tree, one of many in his yard, and threw down six or seven coconuts. There was an awful moment when I thought he was going to come crashing down, as he had grabbed onto one of the palm leaves, and it looked like it let go.. but he must have suction pads on his feet, because he held! There's a funny photo of his mum running towards the tree.. I think she had her worries too!

The next day Leah joined her uncle and I for our daily river ride. She dressed up for the occasion in a pretty pink frock! She was a lovely little girl who clearly loved her uncle. And he doted on her. Dodie's a lovely guy, and will make a great husband to some local girl! I've noticed how caring and affectionate children and adults are.. it's lovely to see. And the norm is for young women to marry early and have children. It's rare for men and women to be single in their 30's, although Hareesh, my happy auto-rickshaw driver, was 28 and not planning to think about marriage until he was 35!

I met Hareesh one day when I walked along the river path to the second bridge, on my way to town. The heat was intense, so I opted for a drive in, and after meeting Hareesh, I arranged to meet him whenever I needed a lift. He ended up being a true friend in need, and we had many philosophical conversations about happiness and life! What a lovely guy. I am probably fond of Hareesh because, when asking my age and hearing I was 44, he said "I would say 28-35!" hahaha! and are you married.. every single Indian I have spoken to more than "Hello" has asked my age, and whether I'm married. It's the done thing! So I've gotten used to saying I'm 44.. and no I'm not married. He was shocked.. and that's why I love him.. haha.

On my fourth day at Keraleeyam, an American woman joined my dinner table.. at first my thought was "drat" as I have enjoyed my time alone, and at times flee the Americans and English I come across. But Allison, from California, was a wonderful exception to my rule, as she was a delightful dinner companion. She had just arrived from Mysore, after having spent weeks working in Bangalore. She worked for Oracle in California, and had come out to train new Indian staff. Allison was leaving the next day for a riverboat tour, and then returning in two days for another night at the resort. She, like I, fell in love with the peacefulness. We had a great chat over dinner, and arranged to meet up for breakfast.

When she returned in two days, Hareesh took us on an evening tour of the local temple and the beach.. which was gorgeous. The soft sand and the cool breeze were welcome after another hot, hot day. Allison had taken some beautiful photographs, and it made me think I seem to have a block against my new Canon camera. I am not taking the type of photos I used to.. and I wonder if it's part laziness, part ineptness?! I'm not going to worry too much, and will continue working with my new camera.

So it was great to make another friend on my travels. When I drive down the west coast of America I will surely stop by to visit Allison and her two cats!

I left Keraleeyam on a riverboat, that took six hours to get to Kollam. The riverside scenes were lovely, more of what I was used to in Keraleeyam, as well as new sights like the age-old Chinese fishing nets. Big, long wooden poles erected like levers to raise and lower into the water. Birds, birds and more birds. Beautiful hawks, with auburn red feathers.. called Fishhawks, and the most gorgeous, brilliant blue Kingfishers! Cranes, crows, the ever present pidgeons! Happy to say they have been leaving me alone since Kathmandu.

When I arrived in Kollam I was met by Girish, who drove a 1950's Ambassador, a white round-edged automobile whose seats were covered in towels! I was driven an hour and half to Graceful Home-stay, my next lodgings. It is an aptly named place, as Giles and Elsie, the couple who run it in the absence of Giles' sister, are graceful and kind. A wonderful base, if ever you find yourself in Trivandrum - is Graceful Homesay

I have spent a wonderful 10 days here, with most being devoted to the week long film festival, which you can read about in my "Lights, Camera, ACTION" entry! Elsie was dying to feed me, as during the festival I ate lunch and dinner out. Since the festival ended she has been making dinner, and is a wonderful cook.

I have got into a nice routine, since Keraleeyam, of eating fruit for breakfast, and vegetarian for lunch and dinner. I've continued with a big plate of fruit.. papaya, pineapple, orange, apples.. and juice for breakfast. Around 1:30 I have been going to a restaurant close to the internet cafe, and having a traditional Keralan lunch, then I've had a bit of fruit for dinner during the Film Fest. Since the Fest ended, I'm now having lunch and dinner! I think going forward I will try to eat less at night.. and have my main meal at lunch. I have not had a drink since leaving Delhi, where I did have a couple of glasses of wine. (Considering how Delhi affected me, I'm surprised I didn't hit the bottle in a bigger way when there!) I feel very healthy, nutritionally! And there's something about Keralan spices that really work well with your body. I haven't thought about my health too much, as it's such a thrill being on the road. I have not had any back pain, no stress, no headaches. I have not been sleeping so well, but I think that has more to do with the bedbugs and mosquitos and squawking birds and screeching squirrels, more than anything else! I'll miss the food, but as I recall, Sri Lankan food is also beautiful, fresh. The pineapples and bananas are plentiful there as well. Keralan food is gorgeous. Click here and here for more info on Kerala's yummy food. Recipes

Malayalam is the language spoken here in Trivandrum, and in other southern parts of Kerala. It's very pretty.
Malayalam background
Sample of Malayalam alphabet

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