The Heat Index was 40 C ie about 104 F with high humidity that made any stroll in this historic city a challenge. As the sun began dipping down, crowds began gathering along the waterfront, now the hub of activities, with people of all ages and religions, mixing easily, vendors of all sorts crying for a sale, children greedily eyeing the sweets and the icecreams and local snacks such as unripe mango in pepper powder selling briskly, hundreds of hijab clad women and girls, clamouring along as if a gaggle of birds singing a song of freedom, Hindus and christians and
this lone Jew enjoying the sunset.
Into this public space, suddenly a large cruise ship enters, demanding the attention of all those present, out comes the phones and we were photographing people who were photographing us
and it sailed into the sunset on its way to touch another port in a day or two, I guessed Male in Maldives might be their next stop
and they sailed on
there was a campaign to keep the beaches clean and a large group of volunteers marched up and down holding placards and others picking up the rubbish. Their point was well taken as Indians were being shamed into a better behaviour, you are spoiling mother earth and we are looking after it, so please dont do it, I liked the campaign and a young girl among them caught my attention. She did not look Indian but much more Irani, possibly a high school student on exchange who was diligently picking up the rubbish, I wished them all well
Evans-Pritchard the eminent british anthropologist of yore surprised himself while studying the Azande people of Central Africa that he began reasoning about things the Azande way. Being with Omaha Indians and living with them, my own thinking becomes modified when I meet another tribal person.
My haul of tribal jewelry made by a mother and daughter from Rajasthan. Almost all of this would end up in Cuba
I was secretly hoping that I would run into this young woman and her mother, but this being a vast land where people can disappear for ever, I didnt hold my breath
As I turned the corner of the row of shops, I saw her standing there with her mother sitting down with their wares spread out before them. A smile of recognition appeared on her face and I greeted her warmly which she returned. Is this your mother I asked, yes , she normally stays in the room and makes the jewelry. I wanted to buy only things the two women had made. The last time I took some of their jewelry to the Omaha Indians and they had loved them, even more so when I told them they had been made by tribal people like themselves from India. A man joined our conversation, and she said, this is my Papa and he smiled a little with a little tenderness coming out.
She is used to bargaining, but Pigpen approaching Mr Clean who does no recognize the tough opponent (from the Peanuts), she a poor tribal girl did not recognize that she was bargaining with another tribal with millenial history of bargaining. It was an amicable exchange and we agreed on a price which they seemed to accept without much grief or grunting. I wanted to take a photo and they were happy to pose
The family had left their village in Rajasthan and they have this small four feet by four feet display of their goods most of which they made by hand and some display items of prefabricated jewelry and baskets and other tchotchkes. We stay here in Mattanchery the man said, we rent a room from a house and we dont take rest, we work during the day and in the evenings we come to the seaside to sell ourwares.
For foreigners who are seeking the soul of India, I will say: these are the soul of India which you are seeking,not the saffron robed gurus and charlatans, and Jiddu would say , you really dont need a sadhu or guru or whatever, be yourself and be kind to others and give the gift of time by trying to listen to their stories, make it important, let them feel important for a little while. They dont have to know my titles and credentials and the job that I do, but for a moment let us deal as human beings one to one, these poor people, children of the earth, tribals of a desert land in far away Rajasthan.
we left each other happier than we were before. I hope to see them again and in fact tomorrow evening before taking the taxi to the airport to go to yet another home, I might stop by to say hello to these fellow tribals from Rajasthan.
I had stopped earlier at the beachside table of an artisan engraver, a burly man with a serious look, around whom hijab clad mothers and children and stern men and kids with serious faces were looking with great deal of attention. I ordered some rings for some of my sweetheart students in Cuba. His daughter was standing and in her limited English she wanted to know about me and my family and my country and she introduced me to her husband and her 10 year old son whose name is Farhan Akhtar meaning Little Star! I reciprocated by showing them some pictures from the phone and they nodded their heads in contenment
As my Omaha Indian teacher would say to me: Doctor, all good things in life are free, dont look for things to make youreslf happy but be happy with the things you have and dont be unhappy with the things you dont have
In the course of one day of 12 hours, how many interactions have I had?
I did not tell you about the long discussion I had at the TEAPOT with the owner who is an erudite local who laments the loss of the local character, with innocent tourists not realizing that they are the reason for it. It wa strange to note that with so many hundreds of local people gathered around the beach and the sunset and the shacks and the shops, there were not too many foreign visitor faces even though along the tourist ghetto, one can see an array of european faces in various shades of red.
I also ran into a Bhutanese who used to be a receptionist at a hotel but now works at Lucky Star Restaurant and I had a chicken Biryani there and had a little chat with him. I had to tell him that I cant finish the entire meal and that I had ordered so that i can chat with him while he worked as a waiter at Lucky Star
Time for a delicious kerala christian dinner to celebrate the Palm Sunday so keenly observed here in Cochin by the Christians