India 1: Our India Odyssey Begins

India 1: Our India Odyssey Begins

Writing this travelogue  may be a bit more difficult than I envisioned . To get to an Internet cafe one has to walk,  or rather climb , the semi vertical rough path past the kitchen and yoga room,  past the cows  with small white Cranes on their heads  (no I don’t know either!)  up the several flights of stone steps to reach the auto rickshaw which you had ordered earlier. And then when you get there I am told  there might be no Internet or electricity. So I haven’t bothered.  Besides,  that would mean moving and apart from busy mornings I have assumed a horizontal position more or less permanently!

One night earlier this week Charles had an important document to email on my  behalf,  so he spoke to Nivid the owner of this small piece of Paradise who organised the coconut guy (his job is to  shin up the trees  because coconut is in everything we eat) and then to stand on the roof of the office and hold an antenna up to the sky until an Internet connection was made. It was a funny sight and I wondered how his job had been advertised?  Tree Climber? Chief Coconut Collector, salary commensurate with ability?
That sums India up so well!  Frustrating at times for sure, but people are so generous and willing to go out of their way, with much head waggling and nodding, to be of help.
 
I love India.  I seem to love the best  any countries which begin with an I, so  Italy, Israel and India are so special to me for very different reasons but India has a particular energy about her that makes me feel nurtured and held. Perhaps that is why she is known as  Mother India?  I  am so happy that my children are loving it too on their first trip here. In the South,  in Kerala ” God’s own country ” it is entirely different to where I was before in Delhi,  Jaipur and the mountains of The Himalayas. It is more prosperous for a start. So far I have seen no heart rending beggars nor lepers and there are some quite big and  lovely  houses and the people are well dressed and look content.
 
But back to the beginning.  We all only just managed to beat the sudden  snow storms at home. The connecting flight from Dubai to Calicot obviously is a route not used by many Westerners. Or women for that matter!  ALL the  many men travelling have got a moustache! We have photographic evidence. See if you can spot my son in the picture!
 
 
IMG_0223
 
 
We were met at Calicot (not to be confused with Calcutta) by a lovely young man called  Biju and a driver Jerry who recently passed his test at the Kamikaze school of driving :-) The  mini bus was very tasteful (not) with tartan loose covers, six non working fans and a large TV.  No seat belts provided or required. ” Elf and safety ”  clearly isn’t an issue in India!  Towards the end of our rather exhilarating 3 hour road journey I had to  go and  spend a rupee. Biju said we must  go to his home to use the loo as oh no Madam surely wouldn’t like  to go there, no no NO, and he waved outside,  so a swift detour was made, off the main road and  into the suburbs and we arrived at his parents home,  four complete strangers,  travel stained and weary, tipping up unannounced  to use the facilities!  Can you imagine a taxi driver in Luton or Leeds or anywhere for that matter doing the same?  They were so welcoming and gracious as we all trooped through their house to use the bathroom,  then afterwards  we sat politely conversing with his father and whilst we ate sweet baby bananas  he told us proudly that he was chief customs officer for this region RETIRED! I had to stifle a smile as he sounded just like Peter Sellers (“oh goodness gracious me!”) as he emphasised the retired! He was very proud of his former job and  had his name and title carved on a sign at his front door. Achievement and education are so important to Indians.
 
Since then,  Biju’s mum who didn’t speak a word of English  but  stood nodding and smiling at us,  has twice sent over  delicious cakes full of cardoman and almonds that taste a little like  Jewish lockshen pudding. That is so kind,  to go to the trouble of using her ingredients and baking a lovely cake for people who popped by to use her toilet!  The people around us here are so generous and warm and seem to  gain pleasure from giving.  It is very heart warming and humbling  and such a lovely experience to be the recipient and reminds me to just be very grateful,  and aware that taking and  saying thank you gracefully allows them  the opportunity to be givers, which is also a blessing.
 
 
IMG_0248
 
 
When we finally arrived here  after our epic 19 hours travelling,  the car stopped in a clearing with nowhere further it could go.  Out we got and had a steep downwards walk  of a good 5 minutes to Chera Rocks where we are for our first week.  First past  the cows  who live in the garden of a little house and  then as we came through the dense high palm trees  we caught our first glimpse of the beach and the Arabian Sea shimmering in the afternoon light. All weariness fell away as we all wowed and oohed and ahhed!  I have travelled more than my fair share and been in some wonderful locations but this is truly a precious jewel of a place.  It’s just perfect, very simple and totally natural. It is the naturalness which makes it so special, a  true idyll.  There are no sunbeds,  no umbrellas,  no TV’s,  no vendors,  no nothing and  not even any other people apart from fishermen and the odd villager passing through.  It is  just  nature at its glorious magnificent best. I am  in Jacqui heaven!
 
There are 8 rooms in 2 wooden buildings with old-fashioned loggias on the front and  a palm thatched roof. We each  have a very solid  deck chair  and we are not near the beach, we are on it! The sound of the waves is the only music we need which is perhaps a tad poetic but the perpetual  rhythmic noise of the sea so near  is soothing to my Cancerian nature and reminds  me how much  I have always wanted  to live near water.
We were met by our course organiser Vanessa and Manu, her French partner and  were garlanded with necklaces of beautiful sweet smelling white jasmine  and given glasses of fresh lemon soda to drink, so wonderful and welcoming.  I was shown my room which is large and sparsely furnished but there were wild orchids placed along the doorstep and on the bed, together with a pretty fan and a lovely journal to write in.
 
There are just 7 of us here in total. We eat at one table together, all 9 of us  and I have to walk all of two yards to dine by candlelight on the beach.  It is another couple of yards to a hammock in the trees  which is my favourite prone position for dolphin spotting, and sunset watching.  I go from one horizontal posture to another all day long!
 
 
IMG_0238
 
 
The food we eat  is caught  that day by the fishermen right on our  beach and my kids are in raptures at every meal.  It is food cooked with love and you can taste it. I am starting to embrace the different delicate spices  and tastes  although I have never really  liked Indian food before. This  is entirely different to  any Indian  restaurant in England  and certainly nothing like the food provided by the Indian Aid Organisation when I was teaching  in the Himalayas.  We have sweet kingfish steamed in banana leaves and served with fragrant rice swirled with fine slivers of fried  onions or delicious fish curries or huge grilled tiger prawns. The whole beach is covered in mussel shells and all day when I am not scanning the sea for  dolphin I watch the mussel pluckers bobbing about in their old car tyres plucking supper from the sea. Every meal is a seafood treat except for breakfast which is fresh mango and papaya and tiny impossibly sweet bananas from the trees on the property, all studded with red pomegranate seeds and green grapes like little rubies and emeralds.  After that we have delicious eggs from very happy hens, and one can really taste the difference.
 
So here I am and later I will describe what I do when not prostrate and replete and  of our  trip  out to Tellicherry  (such great names!)  to an Ayurvedic clinic for massages.  Charles described his experience  to me as ” I was abused Mum! “
SO dramatic.  I can’t imagine where he gets it from…..
 
  This is not so easy to write on an I phone and  I have to wait again for a connection before I can send but then that is all  part of the charm!