Monday, June 05, 2006

Home is Where The Heart is

Swathes of dark green velvet sliced through by streaks of shimmering silver. Paddy fields of jade stretching towards the horizon, interspersed by thick coconut groves. The most beautiful houses I have seen anywhere. Bougainvillea running riot on every wall it can find. Backwaters where time seems to stand still. Picture Postcard perfect. Gods Own country. Seen through a bus window.
Reality intrudes. Rudely. Living in Kerala is a little difficult for anyone from Tamilnadu. The most difficult thing to get used to is the food which is the really important part for most of us. Eight in the night means shutter time for most shops and the whole town is probably asleep by nine. The one and only exception to this general rule is the wine shops which do a brisk business even at the unearthly hour of ten pm. Most buses stop running by nine thirty, and women stepping outside the house as late as seven in the evening is considered scandalous. Which makes life difficult, especially in an IT company, where late working hours are a general norm. Not that there are many of them here as yet. The supposed IT capital of Kerala, Kochi, proudly boasts of two buildings in its ‘InfoPark’. But we are still emerging so everybody is on their way here. The rain is a way of life here, to be battled with time trusted weaponry – the black umbrella and rubber slippers. ( I already have the black umbrella, will probably succumb soon, to the temptations offered by the rubber slippers).
I find a lot of surprising similarities to my hometown here. Both are highly touted tourist hotspots. There too all shops (except obviously the wine shops) close by eight during off-season times because nobody in their right minds could possibly want to wander about in the cold, doing of all things, shopping. Except crazy tourists. Most of them shivering in the cold and yet insistently in shorts. It has always amazed me to see normally sane people, lose their minds once they come on a ‘holiday’ to a place where nobody knows them. Most of the local population prefer to walk, so we have exactly two buses for the entire town, which is not much in terms of size, to begin with. Obviously these two don’t really run very late at night. The last bus from Coimbatore is at 7:30 pm because the Ghat roads are difficult to drive on late at night. ( Late night driving does offer some very interesting experiences though. Will describe those in my forthcoming posts). The rain I have already described ad nauseam in my previous post. Only here sweater and socks replace rubber slippers. Life without either of them is unthinkable. The weather outside is irrelevant. It has been said, and rightly I think, that if any person is spotted walking around in Coimbatore, in the hot sunshine, wearing a sweater, that person would definitely be from Ooty.
Home is never far away, I guess, no matter where I travel.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Cochin Diary

I stay in a flat with four of my friends, in Cochin. This account of our morning schedule was written a long time ago ,soon after we moved in.
It's six in the morning and the alarm rings. I wake up swich it off, feel really lazy and think i'll sleep for five more minutes. Merlin's alram rings and i realize that my five minutes has as usual turned into half an hour and as usual, again, Nithya is already in the kitchen. Regretfully, tearing myself away from my warm bed, i get up and waking Merlin, go and help Nithya in the kitchen. The coconut that we bought last night in a fit of culinary extravangce has to be broken and there's nothing around remotely capable of doing the job. I try the iduki for a long itme but it dosent seem to even make a dent . Each of us takes a turn but nothing seems to shake the unbreakable coconut. We then try the marble slab in the kithchen and obviously i am the one who ends up breaking off piece of the marble. We finally decide to do what we should have done long ago - take it up to the terrace and break it on a stone there. So merlin and me set out to the seventh floor to break our coconut. The job is done in less than a minute. We come back triumphant, its already seven and we have to rush.
Merlin and Nithya have a bath while i scrape the cocnut and gowri cooks the brinjals. Before we realize, it's eight and we run out of the house, scattering all things in our path. We rush to the bus stop and wait- we are just in time for heaven... "Heaven??" u ask? actually thats the name of our bus, proudly sporting a sticker that says "Welcome to Heaven". What kind of a bus could this possibly be you wonder? Renaming it "Hell" is a well-worn joke by now. Resembling a tin can on wheels we wait in perennial anticipation of the time when it will fall apart. In fact its a wonder that it still hasn't, considering the way its driven. The bus arrives, bursting at the seams,and we somehow manage to squeeze in and try holding on soemwhere tightly. In less than a minute we are off on our ten minute roller coaster ride. The driver dosen't know the meaning of the word 'slow'. He either drives at breakneck speeds or brakes to a bone jarring halt, with us holding on in fear of our lives and wondering when we will head out of the windscreenand hoping at the same time that we will not be squeezed to death. All men are equal to him, he tries his maximum to kill them all. A few lucky souls get space to sit in between, but soon info park nears. We fly around the last curve and we get down, happy that we have survived today.