Leaving Kerala

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Asia » India
February 3rd 2020
Published: February 4th 2020
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Leaving at 10:30, the hotel staff all line up outside to say goodbye - what a wonderful gesture. After a couple of days you get to know them personally. We immediately leave Kerala and cross into Tamil Nadu which is a predominantly Hindu religion whereas Kerala is Christian. Gudalar is a Dravidian culture which is one of the oldest in the sub-continent. The first immigrants into southern India introduced the Dravidian culture.

Going back down the mountain on a narrow switch-backed road. Going slow this time as there are buses coming up and the switchbacks are really tight. Around a bend in the road, there are huge pipes lined up against the mountain slope carrying water from Kerala on the mountain down into the valley. This is a massive agricultural area supplying food to a great deal of southern India. The valley is blessed with fertile soil. We pass by plantations: mango, coconut (yellow coconuts are only for drinking coconut water; brown coconuts are for cooking), bananas, papaya, peanuts, tamarind and sugar cane, vineyards and fields of cauliflower. Banana trees only produce one large bunch. New plants are then produced from cuttings and it takes 5 months for the next plants to produce.

Cotton trees that are used for making cotton material line the side of the road. The pod looks and smells similar to a cucumber. When mature the pods open up like milkweed and the fluff is soft and filmy unlike the cotton from the plants used in s. U.S. However, down the road there is a field of the traditional cotton plants as well. Sugar cane is used to make jaggery which I gather is sugar or syrup. There are women sitting on the side of the road with stalks of sugar cane for sale spread out around them.

Towns are not as modern as in Kerala. Traffic is heavy and everyone passes whether there is oncoming traffic or not. Every vehicle is blowing their horn. To add to the confusion, there is a cow wandering down amidst the cars and motorbikes. People give way to the cows.

There are narrow streets with commerce right out on the edge of the street. If there is no job available, anyone can have their own business selling things. Along the road you may see people selling food, fresh or cooked, trinkets, toys, blankets or anything else you can imagine. I have seen older men pushing a cart and offering to cook something for you right there.

Commerce in India is so much different than North America. In N. America everything is on a massive scale and becoming more massive as companies are bought up by other larger companies. In India the majority is small scale. Shops are 8x8 feet, side by side along the street. In some areas, each store will sell the same thing, e.g. pots & pans, or motorcycle repair or fruit. Other places each shop is completely different; selling watermelon, repairing motorcycles, selling clothing or trinkets or medical services, or chicken or baked goods. For those who can’t afford rent, they either use a push cart or just spread their goods on the ground along the roadway. Everyone buys food every day as there is little refrigeration for the average person.

We pass by brickyards where the bricks are being made by hand and laid out in the sun to dry. Loads of coconut shells are on their way to be used for fuel or to make fibre called coir.

Some in our group need money and we have been trying for days to find an ATM that will recognize our cards or dispense money. In many cases the machines are empty.

Hindu temples are in abundance in this area, in every village and even in the fields to ensure good harvests.

We arrive at our hotel about 4 p.m. tired from the drive and anxious to relax. Upon entering our rooms we are horrified to find that they are unclean and smelly; this is not a 4 star hotel as advertised. It is unsafe for us to venture onto the streets in this area. The staff attempts to pacify us by saying we are being given rooms on the next floor up but they aren’t ready yet. This was B.S. because they weren’t any better. We moved out. We all felt that it would be better to sleep on the bus rather that in that hotel. Nancy worked hard to find a decent hotel for us and we are now staying at the Taj Gateway Hotel - one of the best.

While we are driving through the city to get to the new hotel, I made some observations: the people here are of darker skin; ladies carry loads on their heads without using their hands to hold them; women are sitting on the curbs selling their fresh produce; many more cows in this city (these are loose cows that don’t belong to anyone in particular); hundreds of school girls just being released from school wearing red and white Punjabi suits as uniforms; in the midst of the squalor there is a Mercedes-Benz dealership and a store selling crystal chandeliers big enough for a palace.

I chose not to go to dinner tonight - too much food and I need a break. Relaxing in my room while the others are in the dining room.

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