A bright new church in Kerala

I was fortunate enough to be invited to an elaborate Indian-Christian wedding just a short distance from Kanyakumari, the tip of India. It was incredible. We rode with the groom in a shiny white car covered in flowers and walked the beautiful bride to the church. The whole village watched as the marching band led the entire wedding through the streets and confetti fell from the sky as the sun began to sink into the horizon. The bride wore a maroon and gold silk sari and a white veil. The 2000 guests ate dinner in shifts taking turns at the long, white tables where 137 chickens, 18 goats and tons of vegetables and rice were served in deliciously crafted curries. Meanwhile, all of the men (and only the men!) danced to loud techno music as the girls and women watched from their plastic seats. The next day, we were taken to see the elderly Aunts and Uncles, who live in a coconut orchard in a village by the sea. They sat with us on the deck of the old wooden house and served us cold mango juice. This village marks the last place to remain untouched on the coast before the disastrous Tsunami erased everything in its path.

Our last days in Mysore conjured up a mixture of feelings, but mostly I was sad to leave. On the last morning jog with Misha, the good puppy, I realized that I would never again take her for another run. She happily chased a black and bright pink butterfly, oblivious. I never thought I would get so attached to this place, to the people here, the whole community. I will never forget them.

As we descended into Trivandrum on a gorgeous Sunday morning, the Kerala coast sparkled against the bright blue sky and the white surf foamed as it hit the palm-lined shore. My stomach flipped when I saw the ocean from the plane. From inside the comfort of my mosquito net, I can hear the waves crashing on the black sand beach. The air is humid and the sky is dark with a hazy moon. We walked for hours in Kovalam exploring the beaches and found ourselves among a vibrant fishing village. Hundreds of colourful fishing boats with chipped paint scattered the shore and the sea as men with dark, golden-brown skin pulled heavy nets from the waters containing squirming silver fish in every shape and size. The women were standing by ready to carry the day’s catch back to the village in crates where it will end up on display along the winding paths, where the dead, round eyes will stare up at the blazing sun.

At the far end of the village, people climb in and out of a large pink mosque. A man carrying a small child asked me for a school pen. I found one at the bottom of my bag and handed it over to him. He smiled and thanked me, grateful for the simple gift.

We have been to the very end of India, where the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean, and the Arabian Sea all come together in turbulent, jade-green waves crashing into one another as they race for land. And we have been to a bright new church in the village by the sea, an empty church with large wooden windows that can be unlatched and opened up to nothing but endless miles of ocean.

We have now made our way to Varkala, a small, somewhat touristy village built along the dramatic red cliffs overlooking the vast Arabian Sea. The fishing boats go out all day and determine what the dinner menu will be at the various cliff-side restaurants. I knew where to eat as soon as I saw the huge Blue Marlin on the table outside. They carved out a chunk of the pink meat and cooked it in a coconut curry served with coconut rice. This was the best meal yet, in candlelight looking at the ocean. In the morning I drank real coffee and ate eggs and toast while dolphins flashed their dark fins out of the water. The ocean changes with the sky, turning from deep grey to blue-green to purple.

It’s strange to become a tourist overnight. I am no longer a part of an Indian community. I am just another Westerner trying to enjoy what India has to offer. I have no real purpose or reason to be here other than to indulge in the beauty of India’s beaches. There is almost nothing Indian about this and I find it a little depressing, despite the spectacular scenery. But this feeling is slowly fading, as I become more and more a tourist again. This is what I was used to. I had forgotten.

Leave a Reply