Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Life in Vaikom

We had two tours in India. The first one was sponsored by the ship for Captain’s Club Members and those travelling with them. That is how Moiya, Dave and I spent our first day in Cochin. The evening ended with a show at a hotel. The sun was setting over the sea, chairs were set up on the hotel lawn, and before the show, proper, there was a demonstration about how emotion is interpreted through dance. When Moiya and I try to go back to that first day in India, we keep listing how much happened in that day. How could we have seen the Chinese fishing nets, the murals that capture the myths of the Indian gods, shopped on Jew Street, and kept our noses on the coach window as we saw India pass by us, block after block.

The next day we were signed up to see rural India. The catalogue description of the trip was short. “Located in the district of Kottayam, Vaikom is one of the oldest villages in Kerala and is a fine representation of rural life in Kerala. During your visit you will be able to walk through and see what life is like here on a typical day.” We had no idea that the following would happen. We were loaded into tuk-tuks that took us down the narrow roads and into the village. Ropes of flowers were hung around our necks, the smell of which I didn’t really process until I arrived back in the ship and was going up the elevator. “Oh, I had no idea of the smell of these flowers, until I got into this elevator,” I apologized to the other occupants who were riding up the shaft with me. “Don’t worry – it is fantastic – like gardenias,” they said. By that time the red mark that had been put on my forehead was smudged and I was looking for some quiet time to process an amazing day. I don’t know how to describe the feeling of returning back to the ship. Much of the time in the village I had been on the cusp of a good cry, but not the one that comes from sorrow. This emotion was wrapped up in the wonder of the village. I watched women weaving mats from reeds, their hands working deftly and their toes anchoring their work to the ground while they thatched the material that slipped up and down through their fingers. An old woman was weaving baskets. We watched, left to go see something else and I said to Wyona, I want to buy one of those baskets. Wyona slipped into her merchant mode, grabbed me, and then one of the tour guides who was standing idly by the side of the stream and asked him to find out how much for a basket. There was some price negotiations, and the purchase was finalized. Wyona wore the baskets on her head for a while. They will be my most treasured souvenir. Across a creek, a woman stood on some stairs by a canal, cutting her vegetables for dinner. Another woman, seeing my interest, paused to take the large pot off of her head and show me the fish she had caught, small ones – maybe 50 or so of them. I watched Wyona and Moiya play with the children who walked alongside the group – the boys wanting to know people’s names and where they were from. While other tourists were snapping pictures of houses, or of a woman making medicinal powder from bettle nuts, Wyona was snapping pictures little boys’s faces, and asking them where the little girls were. Did the village only have boys, she asked? I loved seeing the laundry on the lines, ducking under ropes or slipping around a tree to see the cocoanut husks shredded by a woman making rope. Clay pots were being thrown. The wheel was manually operated by another woman who sat cross legged on the ground, making sure it kept moving by rotating it with her hands. Three days and the pot would be dry. No need for a kiln. The weather was perfect. I could hear the birds in the trees. The jungle smells were delicious, new to me – perhaps the reason I missed the fragrance of the flowers I was wearing until I got back home. I have some lovely pictures, which I will post when I get more internet time. The boat is perfect in all ways, except concerning the speed with which I can send pictures up to a blog. Arta

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