After ranting so much about the challenge that is called Max yesterday let me write something positive and friendly about traveling with a kid: it forces you to slow down and look at the things along the way. Things you would normally either never encounter or just sort of fly by thinking of the next temple to explore, museum to visit, attraction to see.
Like today – it was a scorcher like yesterday and the day before and the day before …. – we set out by foot to buy some supplies: baby shampoo, cheese – nothing urgent more like one of those missions one undertakes to get the kid some exercise, because it is 10 am and he is bouncing off the walls with energy (and admittedly, mom is having a serious bout of cabin fever as well). So we walk through the neighborhood, stopping every few paces to stir in a water puddle with a stick, use the “welding machine” – a piece of wood he carries expertly over his shoulder – to fix a broken chain or gate, and jump over every hole in the street (many, I might add). Everybody is sweating profusely, we are loosing water by the gallon, literally, but the upside is that we get to see the neighborhood, look at the houses and cars which makes us realize that we are in a neighborhood, not unlike the one we live in in Sunnyvale: old small poor houses are next to what must be the Indian equivalent of MacMansions. Fancy, big, maxing out the lot on which they were build on with elaborate details, imported cars and obviously a gardener to take care of whatever hasn’t been build over. Gentrification – we Californians so know it.
Things Along the Way
Merely a couple of blocks down the road the scene changes and the poor little houses dominate, small shops that are selling the usual hodgepodge offering of bananas, chips, water and a few plastic buckets alternate with place to reload your mobile phone cards and other small – very small businesses. We stop at a corner because somebody is cutting down a large tree. Forget about the motorized chain saw, we are talking axe and machete. A guy, probably in his forties with not a gram of fat on his body is climbing up the tree as if humans were meant to do that and with a few well-placed hacks of his axe cuts off large tree limbs. On the ground, his helpers mainly look, wave the traffic by and occasionally help with the big rope that lowers the cut off branches to the ground. Without Max we would have glanced up, said something like “oh, look, how interesting, he is using an axe” and walked on. With Max the whole thing resulted in a large break, were we watched not one but several branches fall, marveled at the monkey-man who was up and down the tree, smiled and waved at the locals who were gathered to watch as well. Little things along the way we would have otherwise missed.
While there, Max toddled into a little tailor shop and watched the tailor finishing up a garment on the type of sewing machine I have last seen when my grandmother was still alive (she died in the seventies) and even she had it only for sentimental purposes rather then using it. It was one of those foot-pedal driven things – although I have to say this one was retrofitted with a little motor the guy switched on and off by pushing a pedal-like thing next to his knee. Not far down the street I saw the “pressing service”: two people with a wooden cart with a flat surface and one of those heavy irons that get filled with hot coals. They were walking up and down the street pressing stuff for the residents. Again, unconcerned as only young kids can be Max stopped to stare and fortunately people were – as always – extremely gracious and friendly taking it as a compliment that somebody would stop to watch rather than an insult.
The Importance of Structure and Repetition
I am also learning the importance of repetition. It has been a theme for a while but now while traveling it has become even more obvious that everything becomes more bearable for a kid if it involves patterns and repetition. The first time we took the ferry to Kochi it was okay, the second time it was good and ever since he wants to go every day. In his mind this is what we do here, we take the ferry to Fort Kochi – he doesn’t even particularly like it there, the important thing is that we do it. I think that is the secret behind his going to school without much of a fuss – it provides the pattern and repetition he so needs to structure his day.
Sometimes Attention is Welcome
With not much else to do today we ended up taking a tourist boat ride from Kochi, which was nothing special but still fun and relaxing. Max for once enjoyed getting a lot of attention because he got sit next to the captain and actually stir the boat for a bit. Made his day! The picture shows him looking back at me through a window in the back of the captain’s cabin.
We took the ferry back and for once I wished the people there had adopted the noble art of queuing from the British. We were almost stampeded when trying to enter the ferry by a horde of mainly young guys who seem to have thought that their only purpose in life is to get onto this ferry and grab a seat before some elderly woman/man or a mother with kid could do so. It was an isolated incident but since it almost send me – along with Max whom I was carrying – into the not so appetizing waters it was a memorable one. The evening ended with a monsoon like rain which we narrowly escaped to a roof-top restaurant that serves cold beers. It was great sitting there hearing as much as watching the rain hammer down. All the traffic had come to an abrupt stop – no honking to be heard – life seemed to stop for a few minutes. Then the rain lessened, traffic started rolling, people emerged from wherever they had been hiding and we ordered a second cold beer.