What a title.Inspiring.
When I set out to write a few words with this topic in mind, I am reminded of the enormity of the task at hand and the scores of able writers and their innovative imaginations which have previously presented colourful vistas of all corners of this world through their words. I feel as if scratching the surface of this gigantic task is in itself a herculean task of which I may not be worthy.
What is the most beautiful/exotic place in the world? A loaded question. One that cannot be answered. Perhaps, What is the most beautiful/exotic place you have seen would be a better question.
For me, unquestionably, it would be Kerala. God’s own country. The land of plenty, the land of greenery, the land where nobody likes to work, and every body’s business is everybody else’s business.
After two trips to “The United States of America”, many would beg to differ with me. However, the old adage stays true, beauty really does lie in the eyes of the beholder. The US did offer me some fantastic panoramic views, rolling plains, countrysides with horses and cows, the usual picture that children begin to draw or paint sceneries whenever asked to, or the ideal image that has had poets writes paeans about.
But they lack soul. Or maybe it isn’t so evident.
Whatever be the case, an early morning stroll through a quiet lane in my “gaon” of Tripunithura on a cool December morning is definitely sure to invigorate and refresh my senses and make me feel like a brand new person.
The journey to Kerala is in itself worthy of a book and I won’t presume to think of anybody who has made the journey to ever forget it easily.
The 30 hour journey begins with 2 days prior preparations at home. Buying the little things, toothbrushes, socks, locks for the bags, etc is a much needed exercise dutifully carried out by everyone. Then mum begins to cook. After years and years of discussion, for every trip we end up making either Lemon Rice or biryani and carrying a bag full of food that is never finished.
Then begins the epic journey. We start by always reaching LTT station atleast 2 hours early. To beat traffic. And wallow in the dirty, dank, moist and inhospitable atmosphere of LTT. Thankfully, we have confirmed tickets.
After boarding the train comes the inevitable unpacking, dad wearing a lungi and me and mom slipping into more comfortable footwear. Then begins the all important survey of our neighbours for the next 25 or so hours. And not surprisingly, it is always, always so easy to connect with them on a personal level. As if we’ve known them all our life.
Details are shared quickly, what I do, where I work, etc. Grouses are commonly dispatched with, how dirty the roads are, how its going to be worse, the rains, the trains. It’s all a way to unwind. And without knowing, its time to order dinner, which thankfully we dont have to do.
We order for breakfast and lunch the next day. I’m already looking forward to not eating all that food.
Dinner over, everyone settles in again, for a round of talking shop. The lazier ones want to sleep. Which is usually a good idea, since it gets a big number of hours out of the way. I am already counting in reverse. Maybe I’m suffering from OCD. Who knows.
Bunk beds. The next most important thing in the train. People go to great lengths to assure themselves of a lower berth. We just book early. And get them.A jealous and rueful look passing over the other’s faces, we go to sleep.Only to hear about fifty chainsaws roaring through the damn compartment. If I didnt know my father too snored, I would have complained. But my mother now says I snore too. That leaves me with very little choice but to sleep.
And morning arrives, bringing with it the usual coffee/tea guy. He’s a really popular guy wanted by one and all, and like the police in bollywood, always comes late.
By now I am really desperate.For a bath.For a comfortable chair.For some food. And the 15 or so hours left only break my heart even more. I look out the window. No use. Goa, in all its beauty is shimmering in mist outside. All I’m interested in is getting there. Is that too much to ask for. Apparently, yes.
I read a book. I read the newspaper. I read another book. I listen to some music on my Ipod. All the while, the train is unaware of my predicament and chugs along lazily. Stopping everywhere. Like a politician, asking for votes. I look at my watch.7 more hours to go. “WHAT!!”, I say to myself.
And finally, in all its beauty, comes Kerala. I can feel it in my bones. The greenery changes, the houses look different. And a few known faces smile at my from passing hoardings. I stand at the door and wave out to the children along the tracks. Who think I am crazy.Or suicidal.Or both.
Some even wave back…Glad I made their day….
When I get down at Ernakulam, none of the problems seem too big.Its raining, the coolie is out to fleece us and the taxis and buses run on jet fuel through lanes which would scare a bicycle rider.It doesnt matter. What matters is that I am in the loving arms of my grandparents once again.
I have reached the end of my journey….
I am home.