I think what is most striking to a Mumbaikar who travels outside Mumbai is how time just slows down. I have a feeling that if they didn’t look at their watches, they can safely finish half a day’s work in what would really be 3 hours or so. Where does this grand assumption come from? Well, that’s how I felt when I left Mumbai and came to Kerala. Everything here is remarkably slower. Time takes its time to pass.
Very early in the morning, my mother woke me up to see the train pull into God’s Own Country. Surprisingly, there was no newness attached to it. (I’m not sure what I was expecting. I abandoned expectations yesterday, remember?) Every scene looked incredibly familiar – the houses, the coconut trees, and even the landscape! I’d seen all of it in my own coastal village and that’s why Kerala didn’t seem alien to me at all. The only difference is that the people are so mellow (like we established) and the greenery is here is the real deal. What we have in our village on the Western coast is a snippet of this. And that’s why coming here doesn’t make me want to rearrange myself. I can accept this place like my own hoping that it will accept me the way I am.
The drive from Ernakulum to Munnar was long, but paced and undisturbed. The driver wore a lungi and had almost white hair, a soft voice, and a poised demeanor with a reassuring smile. We had a fantastic, authentic, vegetarian lunch on the banana leaf. My appreciation for all kinds of vegetables comes from the food I have at my South Indian friends’ houses. So much so that if I knew I could eat vegetables the way they make them, I wouldn’t mind turning vegetarian. I have cabbage which was sautéed in oil and crackling mustard, spiced beetroot, pickles of three kinds with chapatis, and finally, hot rasam and rice (my favourite). The buttermilk was a little too spicy for me, so I let that pass. The payasam, which was served as dessert not only lazed on my tongue, but also made me want to go back for more. The water that they serve in restaurants is not clear. It was rose coloured, and when asked why it looked and tasted the way it did, we were told that they add herbs to it. It’s a little disconcerting to drink water like that, so I didn’t have a lot of it. Bottled water for me then on. I completed the meal with a banana. I ate a banana after a meal! The Gods must have surely been happy.
There is strength in numbers, they say. Seems like this place believes in it wholly. Yesterday, I saw a dozen tunnels, today I must have seen a hundred churches. Easily. No, really. The only thing that seems to compete with the number of trees here are the churches! And what’s more all of them are just so beautiful. Now I know why Kerala is called God’s Own Country. Here, Jesus is literally everywhere.
As I laced my way to Munnar, I saw spectacular plantations that are taped on the hills and here, the trees are citizens. Munnar town is everything that they described in books. It has small houses with people who are never in a hurry. It has quaint shops selling spices, tea, and home made chocolates. In the distance, the mountain stands guard and white tufts of clouds parade in front of them. Down below lies a sleepy town which rests like a small baby in Nature’s cradle.
When I look outside the window of my room, I can see a narrow lane that leads to an old British church, which is a stone’s throw away. God is right here. I’m not sure if that means anything.
The hills call
The silence sings
On my window sill
His harbour rings
P.S.: I have already bought lots of souvenirs for friends back home. 😀
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