Before leaving Munnar, I had an appointment for an Ayurveda oil massage at 8.30 am at the Swati Ayurveda Centre.
Again and again it comes up that “traditional” medicines are actually referred to as as “non-traditional” in the West. What is it? Discursive power of the language? An attempt to marginalize the Other? Or simply blind ignorance? No matter that these ancient and wise systems are more human-oriented than the Western symptom-driven medicine.
I decided to walk there to warm up before the procedure. On my way, I met Muru, our guide and driver from the yesterday’s trip, who kindly offered me a lift on his motorbike. I decided to stick to my decision though.
Somehow Muru embodied a local Indian man for me – with so many social roles to play – a father, a husband, a tourist guide, a driver, and much more that I didn’t know of. Actually, I admired that.
The treatment started at 8.30 as scheduled. The procedure I chose is called shirodhara (oil massage). It’s based on an extensive use of the original Ayurvedic oils. The session included a one-hour full body oil massage, followed by twenty minutes of dipping oil onto my forehead from a special hanging jar. I especially liked the latter as it was very relaxing.
This is how it looks like. The image is taken from the Internet. Apparently, I was unable to take photos at that moment 🙂
Before leaving, I met Tessa and we had a final chat in Munnar over breakfast. Afterwards, Tessa introduced me to the J family (yes, one letter ‘J’, no mistype here) in the JJ Cottage (now two letters ‘J’) where she was staying. This was the family to whom she dedicated her beautiful poem Home from Home:
Farewell Jesni, Jenson and Jackson
farewell Mr. and Mrs. Jane;
farewell to Murugan and your lovely babes
your daughters, your wife and your watchful care…
The bus to Kochi was a pleasant 4-hour ride, faster than to Munnar since we didn’t stop at small villages this time. After taking two more local buses, I reached the North (Tower) train station. From there, a train was bound for Kannur.
The timing was great. I decided to take Tessa’s advice and stop at Kannur on my way to Goa. Apparently, there was an interesting temple in a village nearby, and some religious ritual would happen there the following morning.
That night I had three interesting encounters. First, I met a middle-aged couple Ajid and Reka at the railway station, who visited Fort Kochi for their vacation. I shared my Indian experiences with them, and we took a picture together :).
Why was it so easy to make acquaintances in this country? Because I was a foreigner? Because I was white? Because all sides had a genuine interest to connect, transcending all socially constructed divisions along the way?
Then, already on the train, I met a group of four entrepreneurs who traded in ropes made from coconut skin. The men invited me to their village in Kerala!
Finally, on the same train I met a 19-year-old Gopesh who studied for a flight attendant at a private aviation institution in Kochi. Somehow, he was adamant about bringing me to his village that night. I later realized he must have been gay.
What does it mean to be gay in India? In a country full of social restrictions, where conservative abidance to tradition is still preferred to self-expression? A country gravitating toward the bottom-left corner on the World Values Map? It takes courage at least. Did I deprive Gopesh of a chance to express himself? I probably did. Well, at least we became friends on Facebook.
While waiting for the train to Kannur, I read an amazing story about a differently abled girl in the Hindu newspaper.
So the day was full of emotions and new people, as it had been so far. An overnight journey to Kannur was lying ahead.