“India Travel Diary 04”


Monday, February 4th 1991

From Kovalam Beach to Kanya Kumari headland

napo b  kanya kumari
On the beach meditation Kanya Kumari

Last night we fell asleep laughing, ongoing repartee and bad jokes, “put a condom on that fart”; “Ya, well put a condom on that joke”. The ultimate test for couples, Indian food and dutch ovens can drive couples apart or bond them molecularly. Cloudy today, flies are out in full force, very gross outdoors, slow hot wind, flute music coming from somewhere, the fishermen are gathering in the habour, folding there nets leaving, and we are leaving. Our feelings are stronger than ever to leave it all behindia and go look at tiger steaks and monkey poop. Somehow got a gut feeling about new westies on the beach, on furlough from the Gulf war. The vibe is getting heavy, so today we are heading for lands end Kanya Kumari and then up to the interior to you know what… the dream location, the Peryar Tiger Preserve.

We done went down that coast in a bus box like a dog with it’s tail on fire, going to dip it’s tail in the confluence of the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal, and the Arabian Sea. Lands end, but first we experience the expression “Oh, you know it’s just a hole in the wall”. We’ll we stopped for food and chai in a hole on the side of a large dirt and vine covered hill, just a few feet from a two lane roadway. The sun was so incredibly hot and blinding, I pushed back the dirty curtain hanging in front of the entrance of the hill; I remembered from my general military training that you shut your eyes for two seconds before entering a dark space so your pupils will dilate and adjust to the darkness instantly. I stepped into the total dim lit space, I could see approximately thirty people all staring back at us. All men, sitting at tables eating something that looked like dahl bat. We were standing in a big dirt walled space, with an earthen floor. I could see guys bringing food from an adjacent space behind another dirty curtain, when the outdoor curtain opened, the sunlight would reveal the primitive, surreal setting, something out Hieronymus Bosch  painting, with a little Massala on the side. Had some chai, and looked at my food, hungry but could wait for the next stop and Nagercoil or even KK. We all got hustled back onto the the human steam box and continued our plunge down the coastline at a ripping speed. This was our first experience of the bus driver trying to speed off into the next life. Got to Kanniya Kumari at 5 PM and rented a top floor room at the DVK Lodge. I went to the roof and did a panoramic shot of the horizon; in a few days, there will be a full moon. They say you can see the moonrise from the Bay of Bengal and the sun set in the Arabian Sea, at the same moment. We went for a walk and shop for provisions, ate some dough thing. Then went looking at sari’s in amazing colors, patterns, embroidered in silver and gold thread.

On the way back, on a side street, we came across a wedding party, the people came out and invited us to join the festivities and enjoy an unexpected fun evening. We got off on a roll, we danced, ate food, exchanged stories. The harmonium and tambala was hypnotizing, we also met a fine hunchback named Charles Darwin who kept us partying till the late hours.

We danced some more and wrote our names and addresses on paper hand shakes and laughter took pictures; then we wished all the best to the groom and bride and wandered off in narrow rat lined alleys.  From the dark shadows children’s voices laughing asking ‘what’s your name’, “hello, hello” ,“Pen”. A common question I get and I reply, ‘She’s is your wife?” and I say “Yes and I love it cuz’ you know, I’ve got a secret”, then I whisper “she’s my partner in crime”.

Tuesday, February 5, 1991

I’ll do my entry later, last night as I fell asleep, I flew out over the foothills of southern India, Sabubu with one foot in the Bay of Bengal and the other in the Arabian Sea, my feet dipped in the Indian Ocean, her head crowned with the lush peaks of Marunthuvazh Malai (Hill).

I had a dream last night, at around 3 PM India time, 8 degrees latitude above the equator. In the dream my mother was on the phone, I had called her and she was crying because her aunt Kate had died. I said she shouldn’t be sad cuz she was her great aunt and very old and not to fear death. As I showered this morning I heard my Aunt Frieda’s voice talking about Aunt Kate and laughing. I answered her “ it’s Tuesday here, and I love you wherever you are, and it’s ok to cry at the loss of your Aunt Kate.

Went to the Kanyakumari Amman Temple, and experienced expressway shamanism with the entire running rupee anointing extravaganza. A crow told me more for nothing, cuz the Crows are my brothers and they watch over me. But no crows to warn me in the Temple of Indra with the third rate Brahmin priest who took me threw back halls into small anti chambers, behind altars having me touch ever sacred relic at hand, I have a certain pre disposition to pick up on objects; so the laying on of hands had me tripping, surfing the ectoplasmic repository of centuries of touchers. I lost sight of Sabubu.

Kanyakumari Amman Temple
Kanyakumari Amman Temple

He didn’t want both of us to be touched by the artifacts but something different happened, and he took me on a  flying fish in a frying pan flipped onto a slippery plate touchy tour then moments later I’m back outside with the eyes of Sabubu sad on me. She wonders about my centre and why I can be so easily swept along. To me I was being overwhelmed, which is my nature to abandon myself, I love the freefall, the suspension from all matter around you. I obviously didn’t loose sight for that long, for I did hear the crow speak to me, “wake up Napo, take control”. Spoke with people on the beach about meditation and got a lecture on it’s essentiality to learning to centre the mind. I know, I know, thank you, to them I’m a white and soulless westerner.  Soothe thy soul Napo, soothe thy soul.

Shareen selling her handmade dolls.
Shareen selling her handmade dolls.

We met Shareen selling small dolls on the shore at the ghat, after an hour Sabubu was able to coax her into coming to diner with us. Her presence in the restaurant  caused a lot of raised brows. People threatened to leave if the Westerners didn’t have the young girl thrown out. We refused to budge, some people left, we told the waiter we would cover the tab of anyone that left and to bring us a menu. We spent an hour eating, talking, drawing. After we parted ways, we gave her a few rupees. Sharin asked us to come to church the next day at 6 AM, we slept in till seven.

goofing_inKKTamilNadu

Sabu and the St Joseph Primary School Students
Sabu and the St Joseph Primary School Students

Today we went by a small school house near the beach, it was 9:30 AM all the kids came and surrounded us, we met the teacher and got to see inside the one room classroom, we had pani and got to see how the kids transcribed there lessons on a small slate. I realized why a pen would be so handy to them. Imagine having to jot down what you learned that day at school and then having to memorize it because the next day you would have to erase it and fill it with new information. With a pen, you could review your notes on paper.

Swimming in the Bay of Bengal, Kanya Kumari
Swimming in the Bay of Bengal, Kanya Kumari

Afterwards we  walked along the Bay of Bengal, and decided to go swimming naked in the pounding surf, later we came across a group of women at a well, we took many pictures then we where invited to the house of one of the women.  They all came along and we crowded into the small house, they served us coconut milk and cassava slices and we took more photo’s.

One woman brought a chicken and put it on my lap, I gently stroked it’s neck until it fell asleep, this made the women laugh and impressed them. Meanwhile a few women where trying to fit Sabubu with amazing earings. But the holes in her ears weren’t big enough, though she insisted they were. That was it, that morning I got a panorama of the moon setting and the sun rising simultaneously.  They also issued a Bandh by the governor of Tamil Nadu for February 6th and 2000 military troops have been dispatched throughout the countryside.

And last but not least, this morning on the beach a young kid came crawling like the dog boy I had seen on arrival in Mumbai. He was on his knees with one hand out for money, his friend with his arms out, saying look, look at my poor crippled brother. I got on my knees and dragged myself past him and then got up and laughed. The bottoms of his feet where dirty from walking, his friend was embarrassed, and they ran off. One thing for sure, when you call them on the Rupe Rip they back away fast.

Wednesday, February 6th, 1991

The Mountain, the Farm Family and the tiger bite. Sabubu go up mixed up, and down and uneven. So we kept a distance until we had our single one-hour kiss. Continuous contour maiden form fitting kiss then looking out the window at a nearby mountain we decided to go there and climb it. And as we discovered it was an extremely long walk in the blistering sun, when we got there we sat looking and wondering where we would get the energy to start the climb.

Then a  Sabuddha came walking along and said “please come to my house, my family is waiting there for you”. We looked at each other then got up and followed the bearded man to a large farmhouse. We got a tour of the rice paddies, we got local history lessons, we sat in the large study looking at artifacts and books and talked for hours then they invited us to eat with them.

Farmer Abdul's Family in Kanya Kumari
Farmer Abdul’s Family in Kanya Kumari

We got our “how to eat with your fingers” lesson, how to mix the rice with the dahl and fish chowder and buttermilk. They also served us some ultra spicy hot baked fish, which made my sinuses run like the Colorado, and mouth burn. Though I had trained myself eating scotch bonnets before I had left, this hot was nothing so familiar only once; I was loosing consciousness at the dinner table.

In Sicily, six years earlier I had passed out in my food after eating a clove of garlic. Everyone at the table had warned me but I had to show off and totally embarrass myself. This time one of the children had offered me caramelized palm sugar chunks from a bowl on the table. They showed us that if you eat sugar after you eat something hot, the sugar would take the burning away in an instant. They taught me the proper technique of flushing your sinuses by blocking one nostril and letting the snot fly on the other, I sprayed myself, and they found that very funny.

After that I was able to enjoy all the ultra hot food as we spent the next two hours talking about politics and what was going on in Tamil Nadu. Farmer Abdul, had snatched us from a very bad situation earlier in the day when we had our sites set on heading down the road towards the mountain. The next village on the road was a suspected rebel strong hold and many people where being rounded up for interrogation, and our lives would be in danger had we continued our quest to climb that mountain.

The walk back overheated us, we slept once we got home, and woke up around 9PM. We wandered the deserted town looking for whatever we could eat, with no luck we went home and had tea biscuits and back to bed. The heat was so extreme, with no wind moving that we moved to the roof of the lodge. The stars kept us awake, and when the giant moon with that Cheshire Grin kept us hovering between sleep and a lucid meditative state. Sleeping by the full moon, or trying to sleep is a transcendent experience. That’s if you can sleep. We gave up at 5 AM and got up.

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