Thursday, December 17, 2015

Driving into a Village in Kerala

The train arrives at the Kottayam station. I had completed another train journey complete (this one 7 hours long).  More golden travel advice. If possible make sure you have two things confirmed and sorted before you start your journey. This is relevant if it is a week long journey or a year long trip. 

These two things (Travel Tips) are:
-       Your mode of transportation (tickets for travel confirmed, multiple printed copies in your hand)
-       Your accommodation (where you will be staying on each night, contact details of the person, don’t be lazy with this that is if you are okay with spending a night on the street)
Best Friends in different age groups
An aunt, was to receive me at the station. I met this aunt at an event back in the city I grew. We enjoyed our little conversation that night and we decided to meet up after the event to connect further. We had some common experiences living in that city and that was a good enough reason to stay connected. Over several cups of coffee, we shared stories and observations of the other people sipping coffee around us. We would walk around malls, go shopping together, and have long pointless conversations. 

You don't need to always have friends in the same age group. This aunt, was much older than me, but we still connected after our first few meetings. I kept in touch, with short messages and letters, when I moved away from home for University. Over time, the messages got shorter and life got busier. A few months later, I got a call from her. She told me she planned to visit India, and do a South india road trip with her daughter. She asked me to come along. I wanted to spend more time with them and decided to organize my all india adventure around their trip. I was going to spend the next week with them going wherever they went. This would be fun.

The Great South India Trip
She planned to start in Kottayam, Kerala. They would spend some time in their ancestral village near Kottayama and then visit and tour the city of Kochi. They would then take a ferry ride from Allepey to Trivandrum. After a day of sightseeing in Trivandrum, they would drive to the edge of Kerala and India, and tour the beautiful city of Kanyakumari. From there we drive to Madurai and then end the journey in Chennai.

She invited me to come along on this journey. I was super excited. I was from South India, but I did not see too much of it myself. We scheduled the trip as such that it would align with my days on the backpacking trip across India. Thus I was here at Kottayam, walking towards my friend and her daughter for the first leg of this journey.

There is a car waiting for us outside the station. The joy of finally open the door of a car, with a working air conditioner, after, days of being shoved around in auto-rickshaws and packed trains. I take my window seat and we are off to our next destination once everyone is settled in. I meet my friend's nephew and get to know her daughter better on this journey. Her daughter is four years younger to me and she was like a little sister to me. We ride ahead, and then stop for lunch at road side restaurant. 

The Food You Eat in Dhabas
These roadside restaurants are popularly known as dhabas in some parts of the country. For some reason the food is always tastier here. Also I had this notion, that all the dhabas, I visited up to now, were part of one big national or international brand, like Mcdonalds, but at the dhaba level. But that was not true. The dhaba I was at here in Kerala, was not out in the open. It was on the second floor of a newly renovated building. There were glass utensils on the table and table cloth and crockery too. I remember a big thali, one silver spoon and a large wood table, at the last dhaba I went too. This was quite different. This was very different. This seemed like a dhaba for high end travellers. After lunch, aunty tells me we have a long drive ahead of us. We are going to one of her sisters homes in rural Kerala. It is quite far away, like deep deep in the forest. I did not even know how to pronounce to name of this village we planned to stay in for the next few days

We stop at a human refueling station (grocery shop). We buy some chips, cold drinks and all the other possible junk food to keep us alive through the night. The roads get rougher as we leave the city. Bump - bumpety - bumpety – bump… we go, down this deserted forest path. I don't even know where we are going now. It seems like my hosts do. So I avoid being worried and enjoy being lost. It is nice to have some adults in control of things around you again. I wish I was a little baby for life sometimes. We finally, take a sharp turn, and I see some village houses in the distance. We enter the gates of one and are welcomed by a barking dog. It is this huge bungalow in this huge village estate. This bungalow belonged to the family we stayed with. Fields where different kinds of fruits and vegetables were grown surrounded it. It is a beautiful house. Every modern amenity a human would need is around. Televison - check, Washing Machine - check, Refridgerator - check, Internet - check. You can live your whole life within these four walls. The other houses in the village were not as developed. But my hosts were the nicest people ever. My aunt's relatives treat us to papayas, and five to six different varieties of banana chips. 

The conversation around the dinner table at night is in malayalam at most times, but listening to my aunt over the past few days, has helped me understand some words in the language better. I sleep well that night


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