Monday, 6 September 2010

Terracotta and Butterflies

Monday 6th September, Thiruvananthapuram,

    Well, my trip to Mumbai finally ended, and though it was certainly sad to say goodbyes to all the great people I'd met along the way, especially my excellent roommates R. K. 'n T. S., I was really excited to be leaving the teeming metropolis behind me; I was tired of the constant avoidance of hawkers and scammers, tired of the never-ending noise, tired of the packs of filthy flea-bitten dogs roaming the streets, and perhaps even just a little bit tired as well. Perhaps I was also hugely excited about where I was moving on to; the wonderful South Indian State of Kerala, and its capital city Thiruvananthapuram. Quite a mouthful I hear you mumble through cheeks stuffed with jumbled letters. Luckily, I hear the locals still call it by its Anglicised name Trivandrum, which, while much easier to say, lacks a certain charm. Thusly, I endeavour to learn how to pronounce it properly before I depart in 4 days. And I want to learn how to pronounce it while drunk on 'naughty orange' Punjabi vodka. What lofty dreams and ambitions I hold for myself.

    Also, I know 4 days is a rubbishly short time, but I have been here for two days already, making it almost up to a week! And I unfortunately have to move on to pastures anew following this, so look forward to hearing about my adventures in the UAE – the United Angry Eejits, as I have now decided to call it. Despite the short amount of time I have here in Triv (it's easier to type – I never said anything about learning to type it out every time), also dubbed the 'Evergreen City of India' by none other than Mohandas 'Mahatma' Karamchand Ghandi, I will certainly make the most of it, if my lovely mates Mithun and Prithvi have any say in the matter.

    I'm staying in an absolutely stunning traditional Keralan-style apartment-room, with a high ceiling crowned with beautiful terracotta tiles and the deep red and brown mahogany beams and walls. Please note that I have no idea what kind of wood they actually are, and that mahogany was pretty much plucked out of the air because it sounds nice, ok? Finishing off my wonderful stay is the apartment's wonderful owners, close friends of P 'n M's, and delightful hosts. Mugs of steaming hot surrchai (to steal a word from my wonderful author companion Tejpal), dosa and bananas help start the day off, as does a vigourous wash in the marvellously Indian washing arrangements – a shower head and bucket, a bar of soap and lots of cold water. It's actually an amazing way to start the day, despite the coldness of the water (it's not that cold) and I thoroughly recommend it. Get yourself a big blue bucket, a smaller cup, a bar of good soap that won't dry your skin out, and a flexible shower head. Set the water to just under tolerably cold (it'd be no fun if the coldness was bearable!) and get a scrubbing. Try and make sure that lots of the water your using ends up in the big blue bucket, as having it a third full by the time you're finished means you can have great fun tipping the whole thing over your head and really giving yourself a good-morning jolt!

    So far the trip has involved wandering along beautiful black sandy (explosive Thorium) beaches, drinks in licence-less seafront bars, silly photo adventures at the base of a huge red-and-white lighthouse, all day-biryani-and-the-aforementioned-Punjabi-vodka sessions, washed down by discovering the Indian-Canadian comedian Russell Peters and discussing the stupidity of much of old-traditional India, with its ridiculous and archaic arranged marriages, downright awful caste system (which still very much exists despite everyone in Mumbai's best efforts to ensure we thought that wonderful Modern India had done away with it once and for all) and religious differences. Oh, and I watched and waited with the largest child-like grin on my face as a huge and semi-divine butterfly landed on my hand, all to the tune of Monsieur Hancock's 'Headhunters'. I think I love Kerala.

    Just a brief music update now (which is absent from the Mumbai posts, as they were originally destined for the Study India 2010 blog) as, basically, I think I have better things to be doing while in Kerala. For interesting listening while swanning around India, I would heartily recommend an eclectic mix of David Bowie, especially Life on Mars?, followed by the fanbloodytastic Blackalicious album 'Blazing Arrow', and then washed down with liberal helpings of The Avalanches superb mashup album 'Since I Left You'. Got that? Good. Now go forth and live!

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