Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Perks of Long Unproductive Walks

I love how inviting and welcoming families in India are. If you are their guest, they will feed you like you are from the royal family of some faraway SuperImportant Land. We were at the breakfast table at my friend’s home in Kochi. The conversation that night with his mother and grandmother, was mostly about, life in Kochi, their garden outside the home, the quietness of country life, the noise in Kochi and life back at our common old home country. After a light dinner, we go up to the terrace. My friend tells me that this is were most of the barbecue parties are organized. 

Oh the joy of big country houses. This is also where my friend asks himself, those big philosophical questions of life when life seems to be going in no direction. 'What is this life?' 'Why am I alive?' I look up and see the night sky illuminated with stars that seem to shine brighter than ever before. It is like each star is shining just for you telling you in a hushed tone that maybe your purpose  'Is to merely shine and exist’

Maira Kalma, the illustrator, once spoke about her upbringing and mother's outlook to life as such, ''she was the kind of woman that would go to museums, operas, art gallery openings and there was never a test, to prove what you learned. It was that kind of freedom to observe all the things around you, without ever having to perform. she let her children do the same….'

The ability to just observe. To sit down and dream. To spend hours sipping coffee at a cafe down the road. Einstein seemed like one really clever man when he said,

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”

Yet the empty spaces in life are considered unproductive. To just walk around your city and do nothing for a day, seems like a luxury. A luxury that only a few can afford. Everyone else needs to run. Run fast behind some objective. Never pause to observe. Never pause to wonder. Run for if you pause, they will catch up. But to stop and ask why we ran this race, in the first place, is a crime. Normal people don't do that. We need to achieve things in life and become somebody. Anyone that walks around for no reason is stupid and lost. Why is that a bad thing?

We plan to walk around his neighborhood that morning. J.R.R Tolkien's words come to my mind, 'Not all those wander around are lost.' Wandering around city streets, countryside roads, farms, rivers and more will definitely be one of my most cherished memories about this trip. I haven't done this in ages. There was always something to think about on most evening walks I took as a student in high school. Like these walks had some pre-defined purpose to give me answers to questions that mattered to me then. How would I finish that school project? How do I ask that person out on a date? What do I do next year when I have to apply to college? But now on this countryside road in Kerala, there was nothing I had to work towards, I just had to walk and wander and wonder… I felt like the richest person in the world that day.

Okay enough of the ‘being nowhere’ talk. Stop acting like a fairy and come back to planet earth. But it sure felt good to have nothing planned for the day. We walk to a lake nearby and notice an empty wooden structure near the shore. We approach the structure and find out that it was built by some of the local fishermen, for protection from the sun, during the hot summer afternoons. It was built in a funny sort of way. Part of the structure extended out into the lake. When you went in, and just lay down, you were half on land and half above water. There were gaps for cool air to come in between the wooden planks that formed the base of the hut. It was good for two people. We just lay there all afternoon. Silent. People walk by and think we are fishermen too. To be misrepresented is a gift sometimes. This seemed more comfortable than a king size bed in a five star hotel. I could just lay there forever, with the cool wind blowing in from below acting like a natural air conditioner. I stretched and every muscle in my body responded. Ah!

Two hours later, we continue our explorations and walk out of the hut and into the green estates and farms up front. We are told there is a restaurant that serves a good traditional lunch closeby. We have the address noted on our phones and find our way to the entrance of the restaurant compound. We open the gates and walk in and just wander around. We see a local family come out of their home and stare at us. We ask them about this special meal for tourists. My friend understands the local dialect, and looks quite worried when he hears their response. Then we turn around and there is this huge man, standing right behind us, with a file on one hand and sunglasses on his head, pushing his hair back. As soon as we maintain. eye contact, this is what he asks us,

'Who are you? What is your business here?'

Scared we answer.

'We were looking for this restaurant. We heard some recommendation about the traditional spread offered here. Can you direct us there?

Do you have a reservation?

Nope.

Then please leave. We only allow guests that have made prior reservations. You are trespassing on private property now. Please leave.'

I look into my friend's eyes and we know it is time to go. Go anywhere as fast as we can. This guy may just pull a gun out and shoot us. As we walk off into the distance, I turn back for one last glimpse of the man and his estate workers. He is shouting at the male members of the family and then looks at us in the distance. I catch his stare again, and know that if he had the chance to shoot people down, without bearing the consequences, we would have been sure targets today. I shut the gate and we know we are not coming by this place for a long time. We knew we were not wanted there and headed in the opposite direction.

Sat-chit-ananda
@AbhishekShetty_

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