We are in Kerala! In the land of green and all things clean! The air is fresh; the vegetation is lush; the people classy! This is such a contrast to where we just came from-Bangalore. The streets are lined with shops, muck, dust, and chaos. On the contrary, the streets here are lined with gold shops, vegetable vendors, and men clad in white mundu! Sound like a foreigners description of the India paved with streets of gold? Well, exaggerated though it sounds, it truly is like that.
Our drive from the Nedumbacherry airport to Vazhoor was more than eventful I can say. Grandparents have waited for so long that they were literally at his bidding. He wanted to see an elephant! Duh! Yes! He hits mallu land and he doesn’t ask for a toy, no! He wanted to see the mammoth itself. So they looked around and found the forest departments elephant rescue center in Kodanad! Luck wasn’t quite in our favor since they were closed for their weekly holiday on Monday. Neil was inconsolable of course. But they promised to show it to him sooner than later.
When one drives in Kerala, the driver and the passengers need some special sort of mind-set to brave it. It is not like driving anywhere else in the world. Hugging curves and almost smooching the on coming traffic, it is both hair-splitting and nerve-wracking. Sabu, our driver, took these crazy bends at some 80 freaking km/hr. It goes without saying that I had my heart in my mouth. There is no comparison between driving in Texas (straight stretch of concrete with lane discipline) and driving in Ende Keralam!.
That night, when we got home, the rain Gods decided to let loose. It has been incessant since then. It rains then stops. Rains some more and then stops. So what does one do when the weather gets like this? One gets poetic. Why else will I be writing? This kind of weather inspires one to write. Number one reason why such great literature springs out from here. It is romantic to watch. There is some comparison somewhere in Malayalam literature for this down pour to that of a woman bathing in a stream I’m sure. It covers the vegetation droplet by droplet from top to bottom. The land is drenched with a certain wetness that is indescribable. The mud, mingled with rain becomes the lick-able kind. The green vegetation is dribbling itself so wet that I want to stand under it and get wet. Climbers hug to trees; shrubs droop with the wetness and kiss the ground; streams of water gurgle down streets; and buildings get so soaked that they blend into everything around them. This place, outside our home, with all these pepper, coffee, cocoa and rubber trees is truly a place of rest and contemplation. The crickets compete with the sound of the rain during the day, and in the night add to this the croaking of a hundred frogs. Your mind goes into a lull and travels to a distant place altogether. You will sit, switch off from the everyday, and simply travel into space.
My mornings are quiet and peaceful. My companions through the day are a toddler, the toddlers grandparents a.k.a my in-laws, Neil’s great-grandmother, and some hundreds of species of insects. Neil would not sit without his television shows or his toys in Bangalore. But here he doesn’t even have the time to think of them. The rain is the number one contender for attention right now. He watches it drip, drop and patter on the ground. He runs off into it sometimes to get himself wet. Then there are these visitors from the wild who make their presence felt in the night. Centipedes are a dime a dozen here. Fearless Freddy knows no bounds and drags his grandfather and goes after it every time he sees one. These things are called “atta” here. Neil and his grandfather have currently become atta exterminators. With stick and dustpan in hand, they both set out to catch them, and then, of course let them out into the night. He has become a master atta spotter.
Then there is the cocoa harvesting. His grandfather collects all the fallen cocoa fruit and brings them home from the estate. Together they sit and crack it open to get the seeds out. Then they hand them over to our relative up the street, who takes it to the cocoa collector. The street we live on houses three generations of brothers from the family. Vinod’s grandfather along with his two brothers bought property here many years ago. It has now passed on to their sons, who now watch over the plantations. So over 15 acres of land on both sides to the little man’s disposal; to run, frolic, and explore to this heart’s content.
For the longest time I was worried about the move back to India. How will we fare? Are we being unfair to Neil? Are we depriving him of opportunities that might come his way if he were to grow up in the U.S. vs. here in India. Well, all those doubts have been put to rest. Neil has seen, learnt, and understood so much in the last two weeks, than he ever did these two years of his life. Yes, going to school and establishing your academic foundations are essential, but at the same time, it is also important to learn how this planet has evolved. He has to learn that there is no replacement for family; he has to know that the earth is not just another place to live. Most importantly, he has to learn that life has to be cherished with the ones you love.
So for now, bare necessities it is, and we are loving every minute of it.
“I mean the, Bear Necessities
Oh, Mother Nature’s recipes that bring the Bear Necessities to life.
Where-ever I wander, where-ever I roam,
I couldn’t be fonder, of my big home.
The bees are buzzin in the trees
To make some honey just for me.
When you look under the rocks and plants,
Take a glance at the fancy ants
And maybe try a few!
The Bear Necessities of life will come to you!”