Today has been a jam packed day which has left me feeling very grateful for the wonderful life I lead, excited for the journey I’m on and a little overwhelmed to be quite frank.
Before getting into the details of my day, I set my alarm for 5.20am this morning to be ready for a 5.30am Vinyasa flow practice in my room. With clothes folded on the side of my bed ready for my self-practice (I need to do this otherwise looking for clothes at that hour is not ideal), I pulled myself out of bed, rolled out my mat and slowly began Surya Namaskara. It was certainly a challenge to begin my practice again. It’s just not the same without my teacher and classmates around me. There really is something to be said for group practice, even when we are doing our own self-practice. But, I know my mind needs controlling and with a few gentle reminders of how wonderful this makes my body and mind feel, I kept going. Surprisingly I worked up a similar sweat to what I did in the Shala, which is always a good sign as it means I’m not cheating myself to make the practice easier. As the sun rose, I could see the swimming pool outside my window beginning to glow and I remembered how truly relaxing and magical my environment is here at Jasmine Palace. What a perfect way to begin the day. With crows squawking, monkeys making ‘monkey’ noises in the distance and surrounded by coconut trees, this really was a wonderful experience. Tomorrow I shall do it all again.
After a lovely continental breakfast of fresh papaya, watermelon, pineapple, toast with jam, and black ginger tea, I was ready to meet my driver for our 9.30am start. By this time I already felt like I’d seen so much of the day. It’s incredible how much more you can do when you get up early.
As promised, in his bright white shirt and pants, my driver was waiting for me outside, ready to take me to Kanyakumari where I would take a ferry to Viviendra rock, see a 133 foot statue in the ocean, visit Gandhi’s temple and watch the sunset over the meeting point of three oceans: Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. The sun also sets and rises in approximately the same place all year round. Just as our sun rises in the east and sets in the west, the sun here rises in the east and sets in the east. Incredible. Also, that bad smell in the car, which I thought was me, wasn’t me. Its still in there.Phew!
Driving through the narrow, winding streets of Kovalam headed south, I couldn’t help but be in awe of how lush and green the area is. Coconut trees grow like weeds here, but are far more appealing. Banana crops and rice paddies also grow in the open fields. What I loved most about this journey was just seeing life in India. The tiny colourful shop fronts which are falling apart, dishevelled but are someone’s livelihood. They are just incredible to look at. Banana branches hang everywhere, and in all three types; red, green and yellow - and most people tend to be selling the same things: clothing, fruit and veg, drinks and confectionary. How people compete with each other to make any sort of living, I don’t know. I’m not photographer but I can’t stop taking pictures. This place would be a photographers dream. Everywhere you look is something of beauty, as ironic as that sounds for such a dirty country.
My driver took me down a steep driveway to a water boat place where I was offered to take a ride through the backwaters and then to the beach. Although very expensive for Indian standards, 2500 rupees, I agreed to take the tour. Its not every day you get to travel through the backwaters. This experience gave me a wonderful opportunity to see how many people live. Along the banks of the river were whole families bathing or washing their clothes. This green water was as clean as it was going to get for them. Amazing.
In terms of the trip itself, it was wonderful weaving through the mangroves. We were completely hidden from the world and for the first time, there was silence.
I was then taken to a floating restaurant where i sat and had a soda lime salt and sweet - my favourite drink in India. Whilst sitting there sipping away, I couldn’t help but think about how different this experience was, how memorable it would be and how lucky I was to be sitting in that very spot. These are the precious moments in life which I want to truly experience. Only then can one feel truly fulfilled.
After a trip to the Arabian sea, where I jumped about in the water for a few minutes, my journey came to an end. Regarding the sea, I’m not sure what it is about being in a different ocean but it’s always a powerful feeling for me. As though the ocean holds great power and to have the privilege of touching a different part of the ocean somehow has a powerful spiritual impact upon me. It’s just such an amazing moment, everytime for me.
2.5 hours later we arrived in Kanyakumari and I was taken straight to the ferry entrance. This would take me to Vivekananda rock, where Swami Vivekananda meditated from 25-27th December 1892, and Tamil statue which honours the poets 133 chapter work Thirukural hence 133 feet tall. I couldn’t help but giggle to myself about how out of control the Indian people can be. Everyone is pushing, pulling, yelling, shoving, pushing some more. To get on and off the ferry was like herding wild cattle into a yard. People are literally trampling over one another trying to get in or out of the ferry. I’m not sure what the massive rush was, but it left me slightly beaten on the otherside.
At both monuments, which are on separate islands, it turned out that i was the main attraction - not the rock or statue. People are constantly asking to have their photo with me. Generally I don’t mind but it gets tiresome, especially when I just want to absorb the beautiful view. It becomes not so beautiful when you’re constantly being harassed and are just trying to hide, or remain somewhat discrete. I was hot and starving, so I struggled a little more today with tolerance levels, but nonetheless remained happy and smily as usual.
Sweaty, hungry and exhausted, I made it back to shore where I walked back up the hill, through some markets to meet my driver. I was then taken to Gandhi’s temple, via a huge market place full of people and every possible item for sale. The temple is quite special as not only does it overlook where the seas meet, but in the temple there is a small hole in the pink roof which, on Gandhi’s birthday October 2nd every year, the sun shines through it and hits the shrine inside which once held his ashes. Amazing. It only shines through on that one day. With a rushed walk back to the car, as the sun was going to set soon, my driver took me to a look out point where everyone goes to watch this incredible moment. It was a little odd watching one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world with my driver, but hey - when in India!
As stunning as the view was, I found the most fun in taking pictures of other people. Indian people can be so funny with the pictures they take, for example trying to look like they are holding the sun with the most sour puss face on.
What makes this sort of experience extra special for me, is seeing the different groups of people which are drawn to it. For example, there was a group of old men who came to share this moment together whilst for others they could be with their family, a child, or simply alone. Regardless, everyone is there to witness the end of another day. It’s incredible how this appreciation for such beauty is universal. Regardless of culture or country where you live, we are all admirers of this natural magnificence.
As my driver has done this many times with his clients he was ready to leave as soon as the sun was down. Knowing we had a 3 hour journey ahead of us, back to Kovalam, I was happy not to wait around. I hadn’t eaten anything all day and i wanted to make it back before the hotel restaurant closed.
The trip was long, and I slept for some of it, but it showed me how alive India remains at night. Temples glow with candles and coloured lights, people roam the streets, shops are open and in full swing. The place is thriving. Every shop or stall I looked at recieved my full attention, regardless how brief. It’s mind boggling how people live here but it’s also something which is so fun.
As I have an early morning again tomorrow, I shall leave it there. I’m exhausted after todays effort and tomorrow I have a 4.5 hour drive ahead!
p.s. photos will come - just struggling to upload with current internet