At some point I lost track of how long we had been in Varkala… Every morning I had woken up and thought “today we should leave” only to not. Oman was approaching which meant that we HAD to leave as we had been invited to visit my yoga instructor’s, Sujith, village to celebrate with his family.
Sujith really made a big impact on my ashram experience. Not only did he help further my yoga practice, he was always so happy and carefree. During yoga practice he would pat me on my head like I was a well behaved puppy when I would get the yoga poses right. Under normal circumstances this would have annoyed me to no end, however with his child-like charm and caring teaching skills, I became very fond of him within my first few days of being at the ashram.
In typical Raine fashion, I left my packing to the last minute and literally jumped onto a moving train sans tickets. This caused a penalty of Rs500 for boarding a train with no ticket. We were finally on our way to go meet up with more friends – with a valuable lesson learnt on what not to do when it comes to Indian Rail.
Onam is a big festival celebrated predominantly in the south of India. It is the harvesting festival and reminded me a lot of Christmas where families get together and basically spend the day eating, drinking and being jolly. In true Indian flavour and with their love of colour – many beautiful pookalams are created outside homes and on shop entrances, which I suppose would be the equivalent to their christmas tree then. Some of these pieces take hours to create and are really very special.
Sujith comes from a small rural village near Thrissur called Guruvayur. Being the first person in his household to leave the village was seen as a massive accomplishment. Having met his family, it is easy to see their pride for son who has up and till now been their pride and joy and seen as very successful.
Going to his village I experienced a truly wonderful Indian experience (one of many that was going to occur). Arriving at his home, he parents ushered us into the front room of their home to a feast of fresh coconuts, dates, pineapple and other locally grown fresh veggies. Upon a little investigation it turned out that this room was a very multipurpose room – being the dinning room, TV room and bedroom for the whole household. The humility I experienced is difficult to explain and I was blown away by how little the family had yet how much they offered us. I was also struck by how excited the village got to see foreigners, which meant that we attracted quite a gathering of people, with the same questions about ‘good name’, marriage and job. The only question I seem to answer correctly is the first one – but I’m working on a my explanation as to why my family have not married me off yet at 27 and on why I would voluntarily choose to be unemployed (funemployed wasn’t really understood).
En route to visit his parents we visited the local Elephant farm. I use the farm very loosely. The ground houses 64 elephants which are used by the local temple as temple animals. I am continually surprised by the Indian taming methods of these great creatures and am dumbfounded that Africa hasn’t learnt to do the same with our mass of elephants. However I will say that I am not a fan of the idea of enslaving these enormous creatures purely for recreational use. Hopefully I will see A wild animal one day this trip, I am starting to think that this is a rare occurance here.
I also got to experience the coverted Kerala house boating experience and on a raining day, my friends and I headed out on the famous Kerala backwaters for some relaxing time. The backwaters have an eery, yet comforting and very quiet feel and if you have ever read ‘God of small things’ you would know what I mean. If you find yourself in Kerala – you should definitely try it out.
The trip would not have been complete if we didn’t visit a temple and so we headed to Shri Krishna Temple, where we saw a play performed by the village’s local children. I totally love the colour and makeup, even though I was not too clued up as to what was happening in the play.
Unfortunately our time was limited and very early the next day we made our way to train station in Thrissur to head back to the coast to continue our trek up north.
I am very happy that I got to get off the tourist route and travel the road less travelled. With 1.3 billion people in India and with this ‘countryside’ under my belt, I am now convinced that there is no open land in India. Towns and villages are so entangled that I am never sure where the one starts and where the other ends. It certainly takes a getting used to.