November 25 th
A Surprise Around Every Corner
Between the funky internet connections and computer glitches, I have not been diligent with my blog communications from India. Now we are settled for our last few days in Kerala. We have been traveling with wonderful friends, but it is nice to be on our own again.
It’s hot. Humidity in Kerala must be 50-60%. The river in front of our place is mesmerizing. It moves slowww and so are we. The much welcome pool is blue and white check tiles, and I swear I can smell cinnamon on the breeze. It’s noon the Muslim callers are singing (moaning) again. David calls them the Muzzies. We wake each morning to frolicking, playful South Indian music that comes from across the river. The birds in this quiet valley along the river are incredible. I would give my left elbow and one toe for a pair of binoculars and bird book.
Thought we might take a backwater boat trip today, but at 2 AM we decided to cancel. It would have been 3 hours in smoggy traffic to get there. Just don’t want to do that again.
We took a walk late this afternoon in hopes of finding a cup of tea. I doubt many Westerners stay in this resort on the fringe of town. We’re quite a phenomenon. Always wanted to be the center of attention (in high school). The women scowl at us and the men just stare. But if I put my hands together, pronam and bow slightly, grins spread across their faces. One toddler saw us passing and sang out in his best English, “Bah bah black sheep have you any wool.” I responded with, “Yes sir, yes sir, . . . . “ And he didn’t quit for blocks. We passed a butcher shop—four bamboo poles holding up a plywood roof. Three or four men just gabbing with each other and cutting up meat. A side of beef or goat hanging street side.
This neighborhood is made up of middle class looking houses. Some use rocks, tile or even marble for their front yards. Others are surrounded by encroaching jungle. Walking down an enticing trail, we found the homes of the poorer peoples. (Don’t worry, it’s quite safe here.) A couple acres of banana, papaya, or rubber trees surround the bigger estates on the river side of the road.
Have you ever been in a situation where all your emotions fire off in the same moment? A little intimidation, compassion, confusion, embarrassment and even disgust. We stepped into a tea shop. This bone thin creature nearly leaped out of her chair at the excitement of seeing us. She had maybe two buck teeth left, and one eye crossed. She was more wrinkled than a linen dress on a hot day. Alert but most likely demented. She waved her scythe at us when she talked (though we didn’t have clue what she was saying). Earlier that day I had seen other older folks with scythes cutting back brush in the front of the bigger estates.
There was a schmaltzy, Bollywood musical on the TV above our heads. David and I started waving our arms and swaying in our seats which made her even more excited. When the owner, who was quite tolerant and protective of her, walked back into another room presumably to make more tea, she got out of her seat and stood in front of our table. With her mouth wide open and full of crackers/biscuits, she pantomimed how she needed more food or help. David just pantomimed right back.
He dug into his pocket for something to give her. When the owner returned, she acted as if she knew nothing about this money that was on the table obviously for her. I’m sure he wouldn’t approve of her begging in his shop. The energy got a little strained. We finished our tea, smiled, bowed to everyone, and continued our walk.
PS Another friend I met along the road.