The sand here is very soft.
I read somewhere that if you begin any piece of writing with a simple declarative statement it really has an effect. “The sand here is very soft.” Does that statement get my point across? My verbosity wants to add that it is an inky, velvety, gun-metal grey (one of my favorite colors) with an insane glitter factor (this *is* India after all…) And it is so soft. It is not all black though. In fact it looks decidedly like halva. Do you know what halva is? Well, it looks just like this:
I arrived at this soft-sand beach on the last day of May. I chose to come somewhere easy to kick back after the month in the ashram. I picked my hotel based on the review of the bathroom and Western food; it met my needs in both areas. [Though to be fair, by relying on the Lonely Planet and heading to The Beach Hotel, I missed the chance to stay at the Sunrise resort right next door for one-tenth of the cost. C’est la vie (the bathrooms were worth the 90%.)] I was having mixed feelings about embarking on travel after my stay at Prashanti. It was weird and unfamiliar to want to cut my trip short. I even emailed my travel agent to see if my ticket could be changed [yes, with no penalty…] I was not sure why I was feeling this way. Part of me said it was because I had already been gone so long, another part said it was to do with not being ready to deal with “India” after being quieted away for so long, and yet another part was pulling at me saying, “Do you have any idea how much shit you have to take care of when you get back to Hong Kong?”
I was unsure. I knew I would be flying to Trivandrum and from there, I just did not know how I was going to feel. I left Prashanti early to travel to Bangalore with Mayouri – who was just beside herself with excitement to see her family again after a month. She could not believe how long I have been away from my home. Her excitement was infectious. As we drove along the more distance we covered the more interested I felt myself becoming in getting “back out there.” It was weird. I felt myself mentally transitioning from, “Yeah, I get why some people do not want to visit India, it just seems… hard,” to, “Wow, look at that!” As we cruised along amidst cows, auto rickshaws, ox-carts, stray dogs and stray children things started to look more interesting and far less daunting. We passed a shop with this sign: “Plastic World – For the Perfect Shopping Experience!” Wow. And right outside, its own impressive heap of plastic rubbish next to the rusted car, grazing cow and lazing dog.
Getting closer to the city center of Bangalore I started to really get interested. I have always loved checking out cities. I was reminded of how I loved Athens when everyone was like, Athens is such a dump. And the same with my love for Beijing and Saigon and the places everyone else heads out from. Clearly not everyone shares this fascination, but urban geography and particularly the cultural influence on said geography is infinitely interesting to me. If I have time – I mean, it is up to me at this point, so if I make time, I would like to check Bangalore out with a little more time. I guess we will see. We got to the airport in time for Mayouri’s flight and while she waited she photographed me repeatedly as I embarked on my first cappuccino after a month. Once she was on her way the reality that I had several hours to kill in the airport hit me. Now, the Bangalore International Airport is pretty good, but it is no HKIA. [I am spoiled.] There was not going to be a wide variety of restaurants or free wifi (for more than 15 minutes) so I got out the novel I had brought with me under the mistaken idea that there would be time to read at the ashram.
And so began my day long affair with Balram, Aravind Adigawas’ Man Booker Prize winning White Tiger. It was the perfect way to pass the day and I highly recommend the read. I am also glad that I read it after the ashram because I had a lot better context geographically and culturally. [Not only do I know who Hanuman is now, I have mastered his asana.] I sat in the airport, had some veggie samosas, wrote a bit in my journal, listened to some music and read my book. Not bad.
When it was time to head towards my gate I made my way to security. Security here is divided by gender. I laughed a little. There was hardly anyone in line and four ladies working the x-ray and one in a curtained booth, ostensibly to scan our persons. I walked up and put my bag on the [not moving] belt for the x-ray. I noticed that the chair where the scanner sits was empty. The scanner was searching the bags that she had just taken off the x-ray belt on the other side while two security ladies watched her and one sat in the scanner’s co-pilot seat doing nothing. There were now eight people in line, though ‘line’ is not a really accurate description of the arrangement of people. Miss Scanner removed two cricket balls from the offending bag and began to search another one. The lady near the curtains looked bored and if she had been interested at all, she would have come across as helpless. Now there were a dozen of us. A couple of brightly clad matrons shoved my backpack aside and placed their purses on the belt. I watched, really pleased to not be in a hurry and thus not bothered by this clearly ridiculous system. Not bothered. Not bothered. Miss Scanner began on a third bag. Since I had been standing there not one item had been scanned. Not bothered. Not bothered. I kept thinking about what Christelle and Nunhun said over and over – This Is India. T.I.I. [The Blood Diamond reference intentional, of course.] Finally Curtains Didi called me over. I suppose her boredom had a limit. I walked through the x-ray and then into the curtained vestibule. She did a thorough scanning with a strange looking wand and I was glad that it was gender specific. When I came out my bag was not visible. Anywhere. Hm. T.I.I. T.I.I. “Uh, where is my backpack?”
“Oh.” Five minutes passed as I stood with a degree of triumph to be on the “other” side tempered only by the small detail of my M.I.A. backpack. There were now easily fifty people in line on the machine scanning side. “Uh, where is my bag? Is it in the machine? I don’t see it.”
And it did eventually come. It only took about a half an hour. Shame for those people who might actually have a flight to catch. Or do the planes operate on Indian Stretchable Time as well? I did not know.
I passed the afternoon in BIA reading and people watching. And bird watching. The place is filled with sparrows. I am not sure how they get in, but they seem to enjoy being there. Maybe they feel a special connection to a place where everyone flies. Or, perhaps it is just good eating.
I was flying on Kingfisher Airlines. Kingfisher is the number-one selling lager in India. For all intents and purposes, I was flying Air Budweiser. Albeit with a way nicer logo, though I do appreciate a hefty Clydesdale. The plane was tiny, and I was seated next to a really gigantic man. Nice enough, but Damn. The plane left on time with little pomp and circumstance and the flight was as uneventful as I like.
Once in Trivandrum my luggage beat me to the belt and there was a car waiting to take me the 20 km or so to Kovalammmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
It had obviously been pouring rain earlier in the day s the roads were sort of… missing. On clarification my driver said that the road condition had nothing to do with the rain, though it had been pouring and would continue to do so: “The Monsoon is here.”
I got to the hotel, checked in and took one of the most rewarding and lengthiest showers I can remember. And handed over a bag of laundry I hoped to never catch wind of again. I slept pretty well, though still rising at a rather ungodly hour, or maybe it is THE godly hour. Either way, it is early as f*ck. I woke up to perfectly sunny skies and fresh coffee and toasted baguette. T.I.I.? Okay, then. I wondered if the rain would come. I sort of wished I had another book to read as Balram had only lasted a day. I looked to the left and saw a book exchange. I picked up A Confederacy of Dunces, which I have never read though often considered. As the forward was written by a person favorite, Walker Percy [I have said it before and I will say it again: READ The Moviegoer] this time I went for it. I have to say, thus far… Ignatius J. Reilly makes me wanna punch him in the big fat gut. He also reminds me of a former, super annoying co-worker who can only be described as a delusional, narcissistic, social retard. Let’s hope Ignatius works it out. [That was not very yogic, was it?] Suddenly, I noticed I had a headache and so I arranged for an Ayurvedic massage thinking maybe my doshas were out of balance. The massage was alright, super greasy and the full Monty, so beware and understand why they say you must have a masseuse of the same gender. I was still feeling rough though. Like… the flu? No! I arranged to have one of the guys at my hotel take me to a pharmacy [no fem hygiene products any woman I know would use, btw…] and I managed to find some paracetamol. With diclophenac. WTF is that? Uh, yeah it is an opiate. I thought that sounded familiar: Thank you, Ex #5. A category H prescription drug to be sold only by prescription purchased OTC for less than the bottle of water needed to swallow the tablets cost. T.I.I. Anyhow. I took the tablets and then a nap. I woke up an hour or so later wondering if I had malaria as pay back for mocking people who take all those anti-malarial drugs, or meningitis because I make fun of people addicted to that hand sanitizing gel. I did the only thing I could think of and took another shower.
I was better. [Not taking any more of those pills though man. They have some VERY interesting side effects that are not convenient in the developing world.] I even took a yoga class. And met the first pervy yoga teacher of my life. Could he have tried any harder to cop a feel? The answer to that question is NO. He even asked me out afterwards. What? The guy who took me to the pharmacy came by later to see if I was feeling better. He told me it was his birthday and he wanted to take me out. He would pay he very urgently insisted. It was sweet. I could be the kid’s mother and I have no idea if it really is his birthday, but I simultaneously played the sick and temperance cards. I just wanted to chill.
Delicious food, good night’s sleep, and not one drop of rain. A lovely three days. Thank you Kovalam.
The sand is very soft there.