India Morning / 15.12.12

I woke this morning as the sun came up, around 6:30, and decided to walk. The small path by our hotel led into the palm trees, and wound around the streets of the village just off the beach area. It was good to get a sense of this place beyond the tourist-focused hotels, shops, and restaurants. People were getting ready for the day; smoke was wafting around corners to sounds of splashing water. A man was gathering coconuts. I heard a noise and looked up. His partner was up the palm tree with a machete, chopping. His feet were bound together with a frond, and with this he pushed his body up the tree, 25 feet off the ground. Goats moved along the road, and cattle egrets pecked at bugs on the animals. The day was already feeling warm, and the smell of India was unmistakeable–thick and lush and inhabited.

I walked down to the shore, past the blue and green palace-like mosques, and wet my feet in the ocean. Soon a man approached me. He greeted me with a familiar air, even though I’d never met him. He introduced himself as a photographer, but without a camera. Now he was waiting for tourist season in a month, and then he will work here in Kovallam at a restaurant for awhile. He spoke five languages, including English and Arabic, which are valuable gifts to travelers and businesspeople. But this morning he was just walking. “Now is the time for walking,” he told me. “Now and in the evening, but the afternoon is too hot.” His name was Mohan.

Mohan invited me to come down to see the fish market. I could see the people gathering by the water, and guessed that Kallie was still sleeping, so I went with him. He told me that the fishermen go out in two shifts — early morning (3 a.m.) and evening (5 p.m.). Some go up to 150 km to get the big fish. There were colorful wooden fishing boats filling the harbor, five-person skiffs. Many of the fishermen were on shore, mending their nets. “Too many fishermen here!” Mohan said good-naturedly, “maybe 2000 boats.” As we approached, a boat came ashore and the fishermen laid down their catch.
“The people are waiting for the fishermen to come in. Then they offer a price. The best price gets the fresh fish,” Mohan informed me.
Sure enough, soon a man walked away carrying two fish by the tail. One of them was half-eaten down to the spinal column. Noticing my interest, Mohan told me, “Sometimes the crabs get in the nets, and they eat the fish.”

As we walked he showed me the old church, and the new church. “Do you belong to any religion?” he asked.
“I’m a Christian,” I said.
So was he. Kovallam, where we are staying, is a Muslim town. Mohan said that before 1995 the village was mixed, Muslims and Christians. But in 1995 there was fighting. “Very bad.” After, the Christians lived in the one village, the Muslims the other.
“Now, no problem,” said Mohan, “all are getting along.”

I thought about the fighting in 1995 and wondered how we’d respond if we had to live with our enemies as neighbors. Would we stick to our guns and carry on hostility, maybe even in God’s name, or would we make an effort to love them, treating them as we would hope to be treated? Perhaps it’s the thought of our children that would bring us to common ground…

By now the sun was getting high, and I felt I should get back. Before I left I asked him to teach me a word in Malayalam.
“How do you say, ‘Hello’?”
“Hello is hello,” he laughed, “everyone says ‘hello.’ But you can say ‘suprabatam’ — it means ‘good morning.'”
I thanked him, and told him maybe we’d come back at five. He said that was fine.

As I walked back along a narrow path through the village, I surprised a couple children. One was a boy still getting ready for the day, but he immediately yelled out, “School pen? Money?” I smiled gravely and shook my head No. He was a young boy, going to school, and he had a family. He did not need to beg from me, but to him I was an opportunity to get something. I continued along the sea shore, past the vendors opening their shops, and back up to the hotel room where Kallie was just stirring.
“Good morning,” she managed through squinty eyes.
Yes… it was a good morning. An India morning.

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  1. Jim said on December 16, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Hey Everyone, So glad to hear you made it in one piece to India. I was also excited to finally figure out that I could post comments on your posts. Keep up the good work, and I hope the horns don’t drive you nuts!

  2. peterehresmann said on December 17, 2012 at 8:57 am

    Great to hear from you Jim! Thanks for checking in! We wish you could join us!

  3. netzy said on December 18, 2012 at 6:10 am

    Andrew – those pictures are great – thanks for sharing… I think of you all daily and so enjoy reading about your travels. Blessed day to all of you. Hope you all can hook up with Autumn when she arrives.

  4. Autumn Durfey said on December 21, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    Hi Friends –
    So happy you made it to India and secured the Visas. I too will be in India in a few days and would love to see you all. Please inform me of your whereabouts!!! I will be stationed in Mumbai, but am free to travel on weekends!
    Hope to see you soon! Keep up the pedaling :-)
    Much love,

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