Getting used to India

Getting used to India

We are back in Kochi and in our permanent apartment. It is much nicer than the one before which really was a dark, damp, smelly, mosquito-infested dump (am I being blunt?). Moreover, we are well-rested and no longer jet-lagged which helps a lot. Sitting up at 2:30 am in a smelly hot apartment and counting both the mosquito bites and the dead mosquitoes in the hundreds wasn’t much fun. This apartment is airier and lighter, the kitchen is actually useable, the dishes not crusted with some greasy substance and so far we haven’t seen a single mosquito. Max is sleeping – bliss, with one word. And maybe we are getting used to India a bit more.

Maybe we are also getting somewhat used to India. I don’t want to use the overused “culture shock” expression but it takes some getting used to India, the smells, the dirt, the heat, the poverty one is surrounded with, the traffic, and, well, the bathrooms. The pleasant climate and nice hotel in Munnar helped ease us into the India experience somewhat.

Getting used to India
One last hike around the tea plantations and a little bouldering. (c) Tina Baumgartner

We took a last little hike through the tea plantation this morning and were trying to avoid the large group of tea pluckers around the corner as Max had already, in no uncertain terms, declared that he for one wasn’t into being hugged and petted by a bunch of strangers and no cooperation was to be expected. They found us anyway climbing around one of the big rocks strewn about the tea hills and before I could do as much as say hello, one of them had picked up Max and was galloping down the steep hill with him towards her co-workers in her cheapo flip-flops. I always thought of myself as a reasonably all-terrain kind of gal but I certainly couldn’t keep up with her. Max enjoyed the “ride” down the hill but not so much the inevitable attention he got afterwards. Suffice it to say it was another of those hasty, embarrassed retreats. I just haven’t figured out how to make a child who doesn’t want to smile and wave smile and wave – any advice is highly appreciated.

Around noon we said good-bye to the friendly staff at the Copper Castle. We were most likely the only tourists who stayed for five nights in the history of the hotel judging from the number of British and French travel groups and Indian families we have seen come and go during that period. On the way down everything seemed less daunting as it was when we drove up – definitely getting used to India.

I mentioned the fact that Kerala is very conservative and therefore an almost “dry” state before. We, European drunkards that we are, began phantasizing about Gin ’n Tonics, wine, rum and coke, beer – anything short of after-shave and eventually made our way to the official liquor store twice in Munnar and today in Kochi. I have to say, I never felt quite as ostracized and “dirty” before buying booze. It is an exclusively male undertaking and it’s not the elite of mankind lining up in the dingy liquor stores. One feels inferior, like publicly admitting to a very major short-coming, in short, it’s a shameful act. Once it is over and the purchases are chilled, though, I have to admit: never has a Kingfisher beer straight from a magnum bottle tasted so good.

Getting used to India
Rural serenity
(c) Tina Baumgartner

But after these experiences I understand better why the waiters at Copper Castle made a habit out of presenting us our bottle of chilled water like it was some expensive French wine – complete with a white towel to wrap it and a presenting of the bottle to the discerning guest who ordered it. Maybe the illusion helps people to avoid the shamefulness of buying booze.

I bought a couple of Indian photography magazines at Varkeys – the preeminent supermarket – today. It’s a funny read, very different from the photo magazines I know from the US and Europe. One of them features and article about a one day Fashion Photography Workshop in Mumbai which is teeming with phrases like: “Mr. K.O. Isaac, President of something or another addressed the participants wherein he made a mention of the Society’s glorious past spanning 150 years” or “the Society issued certificates to participating students” (none of which, it seems touched a camera during the entire “workshop”).

Anyway, this was a typical “tidbit” blog of a uneventful day (counting almost being killed by oncoming trucks and buses about 15 times today as the non-event as which it is treated here) . Tomorrow we are hoping to make our way to Old Kochi and see some of the sites there. The trip should involve a lengthy rickshaw and a ferry ride – hopeful that is enough appease Max and keep him cooperative for even the shortest of sight-seeings.

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