Thursday, December 17, 2015

Notes from the Southern Tip of India

That afternoon, we leave Trivandrum and head to our next destination, the southern most tip of India, Kanyakumari. We reach our destination, late in the afternoon. The heat was now getting to us. The car had become a boiling pot of sorts, with the rays of the sun entering the car and being reflected and refracted through us. I was glad this afternoon car journey lasted only three hours. Travel is hard work. Even though it is romanticized as the ultimate cool thing to spend your time doing. Sitting in a mode of transport for ten hours, staring out at an unchanging landscape, is travel too. It is not just monuments and good food and all fun. But every time you reach your destination, all the work you put into the long journey seems worth the effort. Just to be in a new place with new people is such an exciting feeling. The newness of the moment, the freshness of the experience are things you want to hold on to. Jon Krakauer wrote about this in his book, 'Into the Wild'. The protagonist of the book Alexander Mccandies is quoted here as such:-

'The core of mans' spirit comes from new experiences.'

Our hotel room is on the 7th or 8th floor of an ocean facing hotel. Our room has a view of the famous Vivekananda Shrine and the Thiruvalluvar Statue in the distance, that we plan to visit the next day. We had nothing to do that evening, so we go down for a walk. We visit the local market, and aunty buys some accessories for her daughter and some other stuff too. Chai (Tea) is consumed. A confirmed ritual for tired out of state travelers. Some of the locals at the tea stall, tell us to take the shuttle to the sunset point a few kilometers away from where we were. We look outside, and see a golf kart, emerge from a straight road in front of the shop.

'Sunset Point. Sunset Point' screamed the driver. We jump in to watch the sunset at the southern edge of India. What a beautiful sight it was. Aunty and her daughter take the shuttle back and decide to do some more shopping that evening. I feel like taking a long walk and tell them to go ahead. I then start walking in the direction of my hotel, which was the direction the shuttle went towards. I thought I would find my way somehow.  The road was on a high hill, the ocean waves, forming ripples of water below and crashing into the rocks on the hills. I just walk and keep walking. It is such a beautiful metaphor for life. Just walk and things my turn out alright. I find a sea aquarium on the way and spend some time there. I then visit the Swami Vivekanada memorial museum with images about Vivekanada's life. I was largely inspired to go on this journey, because of people like Swami Vivekananda and Jon Krkauer. The metaphor of travel for life was what I resonated with most. My traveling companion watch a movie that night. I sit on the balcony, observing the statues in the distance and sea beyond. I sleep when sleep comes.

We take a ferry to the Vivekananda shrine. Swami Vivekananda was an Indian hindu monk, who was a chief disciple of the saint Ramakrishna. He played a major role in the revival of Hinduism as a major world religion in the 19th Century. He is well known for his, "People of the world unite speech…" at the Parliament of the World's Religions Summit in 1893. His story and idols and books were spread out across the shrine. He visited Kanyakumari and this particular point in the middle of the ocean, during his travel across India. A traveling monk, trying to understand life, was definitely someone I wanted to get to know better. We are done with Kanyakumari and head to our final destination, Madurai that night. It is an overnight journey and I think about what Vivekananda would have seen in his journeys across the country. I wonder why he felt the need to travel and meet people? I wonder what impact these long journey and interactions with people had on him? The road seemed endless and we had an overnight journey in front of us. The car was cool, and I soon put my head on the window next to me and shut my eyes, for a good long night of sleep on the road.


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