India Travel Diary : 03


Monday January 28th, 1991 > Ernakulam, Kerala
Arrive in Ernaculam at 8 AM, jungle dense da doo run run, went to the Coffee Hut for some chai and parkdale toast. A lot of heavy eye contact with the locals, those dark eyes are very difficult to peer into or read, it was intense with man to man checking out the new westinoids, know what I mean. Afterwards we went down to the waterfront to do a scat sniff, ahh, seems the beach is a great place for locals to pinch a few at sunrise, then you have to wait for high tide to take it all away, so no beach today.
So we went walking around the run down shops, the heat was so dense, no clouds, no wind. We went home to our hotel room, till the sun went down, pulling away from the scorching jungle as we watched it setting into the Indian Ocean. . Before going to see the KathaKali dance we enjoyed some dosai consumption, served by Armand our one eyed waiter at some whacked out dive, and it was tasty and simple. We went to see PK Devan in Cochin; he explained the KathaKali dance and the training for it’s impeccable presentation.
napo b india
Pk Devan Kathakali make up instructions 1991
We took many pics, of them doing their makeup for the dance, as he explained the main tenets of Hinduism, PK Devan has continued this family tradition which began over a hundred years earlier.
 This all took place at the India Foundation. We got lessons on making colors for face makeup using coconut oil, turmeric, red ochre, yellow and so on. After we went to the white people restaurant, not so good and pricey. We have to start managing our money better, we have to start thinking like locals, got to start staying in the 25 to 40 rupee rooms.  Where living on the Ritz here too much, it’s like we’re scarred to let go of the west.
Tuesday January 29, 1991
Got up at 5 AM to the sight of twenty-one mosquito bites on Sabubu’s face. So much screaming and freaking’, no mosquito net, close to jungle, duh. Oh ya. So decided to head towards Kovalam Beach and open ocean  away from the mosquitoes. So we decided to postpone our further inland journey to  Peryar Jungle Reserve to check out the jungle cats, we could get it on the way back up the continent.
Went to get tickets for Trivinandrum, then went to homeopath to buy some calendula cream for Sabubu’s twenty one bumps, stopped for a Massala Dosai and did some sketches of one another. My drawings were very tight almost academic while Sabu’s were full of fun and nervy. So I got another insight into my loose but  rigid mind, I got a look at what I was and what I could possibly improve. Always looking to release the power that comes so easily to me when I am clear and busy re-routing old behaviors.  We are riding in 2nd class three tiers. It’s a great way to touch down on the local culture in transit; it’s also much cheaper than first class. The eye contact is rather heavy and friendly, and you get a  great jaw muscle workout answering the millions of questions .
Sabu found an incredibly fabulous piece of cotton for me, a lungi with owls printed on the fabric and fire eyeballs. On the train I got my first dotti-tying lesson from an old guy with a white Rajasthani moustache all dressed in white. The temp is 32c, all along on either side of the tracks huts and children playing. We have decided on Kovalam Beach which is near the southern tip of India in the state of Kerala, we will make this our ultimate start point. We have been on the subcontinent for eight daze now, but seems like a month. We are changing our style to stretch the rupees, at Trivinandrum we will get the bus for 1.6 rups for Kovalam, rolling along, it’s 3:45, rice paddies, coconut palms and banana trees.
ZumZum is the sacred water at Mecca, and a mahout is an elephant boy.
Wednesday January 30, 1991
Lost day in Ernakulam, somewhere, something must of happened, we took the morning to  spread out, plan, hunker down in your hotel room, examining the big picture, and compressing it into our packs. Thenin the early afternoon we  took the train to Trivinandrum, slow poke second class.  So that’s what happened, no big deal.
Riding second class is a fun high energy experience
Riding second class is a fun high energy experience
Thursday January 31, 1991
Just as a recap on last night after we popped off the train, 2 hours behind schedule. No cheap bus rides out of Trivinandrum to K Beach. We had a chai, relaxed and had another dotti lesson from a local, it seams the tying of the dotti changes every hundred miles or so.
Then the autorichshaw ride to Kovalam in the night, fierce traffic and a funny quirky driver.  Stopped for gas, had to wait for a while, Sabubu walked around but it was easy to see that she would be nabbed in an instant if I weren’t standing close by. Then our driver had to stop for a cigarette, this is when after many questions the driver got where we had to go, he wanted more rups to go down the hill to the beach plus more for the journey, there was no one around, he would have to ride back to town without a fare. So we finally agreed to another ten rups. He refused to go down the hill to the beach, so we walked off, with the sound of his cursing us. We also discovered the elbow pinch, if you piss people off they like to pinch your elbow or forearm and bitch. We wandered down the hill to the beach and finished up somewhere with the 90 rups emergency room feeling, fashed bashed and fagged.
 So after a long dream night we went to change some money with Swiss and French tourista pooting and squinting in the sunlit day. Well money change completed with little effort, we scorched our tender tootsies on the beach, we left in sandals at around 10AM and returned after 1 PM in the heart of the day. We ran on the beach howling and looking for small shady patches to cool our feet , we looked like pasty rookies, as we made our way to book a room at the Swami Guest House. Got the best view on the beach, 2nd floor balcony overlooking the ocean for 125 rups, there goes our tight budget rule. We went for a spin cycle in the surf and turf, got a burn, made the locals and sun weathered tourists laugh with our tender white flesh. Had a mid afternoon siesta and later went out for some bbq kingfish and rice, complete with a late night walk on the beach. Sabubu had a dream that night that two tigers had eaten me, and in the dreams I liked it a lot. When she found me all that was left was my legs, leg go my ego. let go your ego, hmmm.
 Friday February 1, 1991
Today turned out to be one those be on your own days. Remembering when I was ten years old I visited the home of Paul Leroux,  a friend of my cousin Peter. In his home where many artifacts and art he had brought back from India, somehow seeing these things gave me a sense of comfort, of home. I decided at the age of ten that if I ever had enough money I would go and visit the country.
Sabrina and I met about a month before going to India. In November I had completed the installation of the last artwork the three fastwurms would ever create, the “Massasauga Lily” installation in Toronto and I finally had enough money saved to do it. Sabrina and I had been introduced by a mutual friend Duncan. Once I had discussed my plans we decided to travel together through South East Asia. We hardly knew one another when we left and the first  month where a test for how we would get along. I was nervous about going, not really knowing what to expect.  But she had traveled to Mongolia and many other places, at this point I had only been to Japan and Europe, I figured we could make a good team combining our strengths and wits.
There is an image I have seen here in India, it depicts a monkey on a tigers back, and the monkey is playfully covering the tiger’s eyes. The combination of India and travelling with a monkey child has really pushed me into opening up, letting go and simply going along the river.   I don’t see how I can travel with her. Then, suddenly I feel at any moment I will have to strike out on my own but then another layer of western tension falls away. I really don’t want us  to  be like so many other people that came as couples and end up wandering the subcontinent alone.   Tomorrow we move to the beach cuz the bugs are eating us alive despite the deet ninety-five percent, bats come out of the edge of the jungle every night across the rice paddies and fly over our heads munching up the clouds of mosquitoes. Well the rain came after we talked about it, we noticed that we hadn’t seen cloud for weeks and wished for them to come. They came and brought the rain and now it won’t stop.
Saturday, February 2, 1991
Rain, stayed in and did some painting, playing, sleeping and went out for late lunch and walked
 Sunday, February 3, 1991
Bought a rabbit badge for Kim, though as of now it appears that I am no longer part of the Fastwurm collective. I still think somehow this can all be worked out, possibly. Kim doesn’t like Sabrina, so I figure that was there motivation for sending the “you’re out of the group, letter”, which I have brought with me. At this point the bombers are now refueling in Mumbai, so the Gulf War has been turned up a notch. I had to give Sabubu some space, I don’t know what is but I am sure we will talk and work it out.
(This morning with Sabrina, we hung out with two kids at the second beach with the Moslem temple in background, with  the  pink minaret’s gleaming in the sunlight by  a tourmaline green sea. Well these kids wanted cash, we talked for a while then I started to sniff the air and look around, then I started running. “ I can smell rupees”, I kept shouting. They ran after me, and then I stopped running and began to dig in the sand and low and behold a 150 paise piece in the sand. It even surprised me, even though it isn’t worth much. More kids came and we  had mangoes I had bought earlier. We drew in the sand for a while, then we played mimic the beggar. We helped one kid who had a bad cut, we rinsed it in the sea, and put some calendula on it and a clean band-aid. We gave him  a pen, a 150 paise and a band aid, the rest of the kids got mangos and pens, we got off easy).
In the early afternoon I decided to walk along the beach on my own, I walked along in the surf and after a few kilometers came to where there was this Elvis monument, could have been Shiva.  It had a four-foot stone wall around it and on the top part of the wall was broken glass. A lot of westies and it being Sunday, a lot of home wallas, so when I saw the Ganesha Temple (Shree Ganesh) with graffiti “ free the elephants ‘ I decided to head inland, so I wandered along a road in the jungle until I came to a small village, I was surprised at the number of little houses, and so many children asking for pens, which I only had a few on me. The houses had raised dirt walkways; I found a small ore sample on the ground and a small quartz crystal. Over hill and over dale I went till I had not rupees and nor pens nor chocolate…. which reminds me
 So…  here I was going deeper into the jungle when some old farty man in a rag toque shouts out at me “ go back to the beach” and he wouldn’t let up, soon a crowd gathered. I started looking for a back way out, I really didn’t want to turn my back on them and run, the ladies doing laundry where smiling but slowly more men where coming out of lane ways between the small houses, then I saw my first growling dog. I got a very tense escort back to the beach road, a very tense ten minutes with a rabid  mob, I simply made weird contorted faces like a monkey and kept my eyes on one and all, it confused or freaked them out enough to keep there distance.  This experience really scared me, cause I had never experience a mob focused on me, and me alone… though they weren’t violent, there was nothing friendly or pleasing about it. It woke me up to where I was, who I was, and the lofty image of the happy wandering curious westerner nice guy faded away. I really had to wake up and start paying attention to subtle signs around me of what is happening.
 So I shimmied back to the westerners  beach with the leather skinned westies. Had a fried banana with kulfi and low and behold, along comes Sabubu, she had had a rough day also. The sun came out, so it was time to swim with my little monkey-traveling companion. “Oh honey, by the way, did you pay the baksheesh bill this month?”  Not funny, said the little monkey.
 I remember when we were on our way from Mumbai to Ernaculam; we were in our coupe just cuddling  as we pulled into a station. The train came to a stop, and up to our open window from the darkness came two eyes in a partially decomposed scull, staring at us, blinking eyes in the dark and what appeared to be exposed jaw bone, one arm missing, the other reaching threw our window with finger-less palm extended, asking for rupees.  That nose less, lip less face with the bright clear eyes. Haunting, I would say and we dug deep carefully depositing the coins in the fingerless palm and watched his thumb press the coins firmly, Ram Ram.

© napoleon brousseau 1991

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