Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I love Kerala

The apartment has marble floors and wooden trim. The furniture is carved from wood, the dining room table seats eight and is topped with glass. The guest room has it's own bathroom with a glass enclosed shower and access to the balcony, which overlooks the neighbor's pond, a cow shed and a temple, banana, papaya and coconut trees. The pillows are the perfect height, the bed is comfy, there is AC. The curtains are a filmy cream color, topped with an overlay of a darker cream that blocks the light and the heat in the afternoons. It is dreamy up here...
At mealtimes, watch out! Food comes out in droves! Bowls of curry, cooked vegetables, rice, bread and meat... All from the hands of Sabitha, our beautiful and gracious host. Her husband Babu sits and talks with us about life in the US and differences between all of our cultures. Fahra, their young daughter, gets ready for badminton practice. She is a national competitor, and travels to different places in India to compete. Her parents accompany her, which is how we met this wonderful family. They happened to be in the seats opposite ours in the overnight train to Ernaukalum Town in the state of Kerala. They were returning home. Babu overheard Pri and I planning our trip, and offered to have us stay in their home. It was so nice of them, and after spending over 24 hours on the train together, felt that we got to know them quite well. We accepted. Their driver was there at the station to pick us up, and little did we know that we would be entering a palace...
The apartment is one of four in a building that belongs to their family. In each of the four apartments live a brother, his wife, and their respective family. They are very close knit, and very loving. We were introduced to each one yesterday, knocking on each door, Sabitha leading the way. We met each equally gracious and beautiful hostess, who then proceeded to bring out the food, home-cooked Keralan delicacies, each more delicious than the last. We ate dried beef jerky with crackers, ice cream with raisins and cashews and a most delicious sweet called soon-pak (looks like a cake, with the texture of cotton candy, melting in your mouth). We ate mini-samosas, fried plantains and pound cake with lime soda. We ate idiappam, beef stew and more fried plantains with a drink of blended figs and milk. Food and family- what a delicious mix!

Babu arranged with his cousin's sister's brother-in-law to reserve his houseboat for a tour of the backwaters in Allepey. Just to give you an idea, this is the high-season in Kerala. Tourists are here from miles around to relax in this tropical paradise. (Temperature around 30 Celcius.) Hotel rooms are hard to come by, and as most people come for the backwater tours, these boats are in high demand. Our luck at finding this family was unbelievable, this whole part of the trip has been like a dream. He arranged a decent price for a two bedroom boat, all meals included (we were the only two on the boat, the other room went unused). However, they cooked enough for four! Not only were we stuffed from meals at Sabitha and Babu's house, the food on the boat was almost as good! We traveled with a crew of three, the captain, the cook and the everything-else-helper-guy. They all wore lungis- like a skirt, that lots of men in Kerala wear- it's probably really comfortable in this heat!
We floated for a while down picturesque waterways lined with people living their lives by the river- bathing, washing clothes, doing dishes, kids coming home from school in uniforms, people poling by in long canoes with various sundries in them... We stopped for an aryuvedic massage- they lather you in oil and make you wash with medicated water... After that, we ate (yet again!) and stopped for the night near a huge rice paddy field while the sun went down behind the palm trees. We watched fireflies, and the moon was half-full, and two little puppy dogs came and frolicked at the shore.
The mosquitoes were enormous!
The next morning we got up early, stretched a bit on the balcony, and headed back to civilization.

I found the trip extremely relaxing, and would definitely do it again. My mom said that Kerala is where Walt Disney got his idea for the Jungle Boat ride at Disneyland- I don't doubt it!
I was reminded of the Ganges, but then I wanted to turn away from that memory. So grey, cold, frenetic, and desperate. So picturesque, but so melancholy. Surely the Ganges is holy- but I felt much closer to my peace watching night fall over the quiet waters under the palm trees.

I have so much more to write, but it becomes difficult to find time- especially when staying with family. There is always something to do, someone to meet, a meal to eat... Ah, the life!

Later this afternoon we board a train for Varkala, a beachy community where we will continue our adventures...

1 comment:

Amazonas said...

Yeah! More postings. I love it. Gives me a few minutes of diversion from my desk job. I had a similar experinece when I was in Kenya...just happend to start talking to someone who invited me to stay with them and I ended up staying at a luxury B&B the guy owned instead of the youth hostel where I was heading. Made for such great memories.

The water travel sounded amazing - and the all the food, massages and fireflies. Blissful!
Thanks again for sharing. Miss you!