And I am so terribly behind with posting. Not that I’m complaining after having spent a month in India for which I feel privileged, dumbfounded, enlightened, heartbroken, joyous, humbled, confused, enriched…. I defy anyone to come away from India and feel they have an understanding of how they feel about that place and its people.
Our trip was restricted to Kerala and a little of Tamil Nadu as we didn’t want to spend our month traveling long distances (although I do regret missing the experience of the trains) and we planned a gentle introduction to the country, its people, its food (no global fast food chains here) and the climate by spending several days at Cherai Beach on Vypin Island.
I guess, unless you travel with one of the big tour operators where tourists may be somewhat shielded from the raw everydayness of Indian life, there is no gentle introduction to this enigmatic land. The first obstacle we encountered was how to eat – we were traveling cheaply (lots of homestays and small, independent hotels) and food wasn’t part of the accommodation – mainly vegetarian meals and curried vegetables for breakfast didn’t take too much getting used to and at least, near the beach, there was a wonderful range of seafood.
The seafood leads me onto the second dilemma we encountered very early on during our stay: the Indian’s relationship with the sea. We are avid swimmers and love to get in the sea (yes, even the English Channel) but were unnerved to learn, on the day of our arrival, that a lad had gone missing in the water. Then, after a couple of days watching the domestic tourist buses turn up late afternoon, we realised that the Indians just don’t swim. Some male youths may get in the water properly but as soon as they get beyond chest depth, the ‘lifeguard’ blows his whistle and they come back to shallower water. And, to be honest, although there are miles of beautiful golden sand, the litter and other pollution (yes, it is true, there is still some human defecation in places of extreme beauty) are not particularly inviting. As mesmerised as we were to watch the romantic scenes of the cast net fishermen every morning, it was also dumbfounding to watch them return to the sea the plastics and other refuse they had just dragged ashore in their nets – probably to then drag it all back ashore the following day.
But the landscape was beautiful and the people, whether on the street, from the accommodation or working in the eating places were friendly and helpful and pleased to share insights into their culture.
This is our photo journey of Vypin Island:
Domestic tourists would arrive by the bus load towards the end of the afternoon and then disappear again after sunset:
Very few Indians got into the water when they came to the beach and often, if they did, they would be fully dressed:
It was fascinating to watch the cast net fishermen each morning:
A sight highly recommended by the tourists books, these static nets that are raised and lowered by a series of boulders working as counter-balances and purportedly introduced by the Chinese, are best seen on the north tip of Vypin Island.
As well as the lone cast net fishermen and the small crews that work the canoes, Kerala has a considerable fleet of deeper water fishing boats:
It was on Vypin Island that we first met some of India’s animals – domestic and wild:
And started to become aware of the spiritual diversity of the country. Christians, Hindus and Muslims live their daily lives, side by side, in seeming peace and understanding of one another.
And finally, a few photos for no other reason than to celebrate how wonderful the light is in this part of the world: