Now that I think back, I have my own definition of India. This thing grew inside of me, gradually, and became the line I will always identify India with. To me, being in India is like being sandwiched between the ass cheeks of a fat, greasy woman: you are definitely in an unpleasant place, but for chrissakes, you are still in a woman’s ass. So, why do you complain? No, you can’t. If you do, I think it’s your big mistake. What is it so special about it, so? Well probably, the smell. A lot of people identify India with the reek of piss. I am not sure whether my sense of smell grew stronger having been in East Asia for so long, or just the stink of piss is not there.
Don’t get me wrong: it is true that cows roam free in the streets, people shit everywhere and sometimes the garbage is something you better start reconsidering as a part of the landscape, but this is not the point. It doesn’t smell that much, it is just the way it is. India is FULL of smells, and not only the foul ones are the ones you want to remember. The spices are everywhere. Colors, red, blue, yellow, pink. The smell of nature and oblivion, also. Especially in Kerala, there are places where the nature is so verdant you will be able to feel its subtle smell, and soak your nostrils in it.
Yep, let’s start with Kerala, the coconut state. After an easy landing in Trivandrum and discovering its beach and the temple (and discovering that Hindus, to the contrary of their colleagues in South East Asia, are not keen in letting any foreigner inside of their prayer places…and probably for a good reason), we were off to Varkala. Yes, a touristy place, indeed, but we were lucky enough to decide to travel in India in April, in total off season, so no tourists anywhere. This was great, only slightly ruined by the sticky heat, seriously, one of the stickiest, most tropical and obnoxious heat waves I ever experienced in my life. It was just bad, so bad that if you walked during the wrong time of the day, you’d take constant sweat showers, no matter where you were heading. So now you know: to the contrary of what every guidebook or travel website will say, you CAN travel in India in April. You just have to be ready for a sticky heat, in the South.
Going back to Varkala: according to a few older folks we met on the road, this used to be a secluded, paradisiacal hippie hang out where marijuana grew almost as much as the coconut trees all around the shacks. A few Lonely Planet editions and a few years later though. The situation has really dramatically changed: Varkala definitely retains some picturesque cliffs and a very nice, wide beach, but oh man, that strip of bars and shops, how it is annoying and congested with white ghosts!! And yes, even now in low season, they’re still there, and the prices are still quite high for my penniless wallet. Luckily for us and for the environment it is though impossible to completely modify something which has probably been another way for centuries and centuries. If you are brave enough to walk a bit far off after the main cliff, going over the hill and the string of restaurants where a piece of roti is sold for at least double its price, you will still be able to find a piece of that lost heaven.
TO BE CONTINUED