I relaxed and rested against my seat. Outside the window a new landscape rolled past, it looked very Indian but was still so different from the places I had seen in Chennai. Here the coconut palms were everywhere, and so were the white catholic churches too. Can you guess where we are?
If you know anything about South India you probably guessed it already: We are in Kerala. The west cost state famous for coconuts, fish-curry, tea hills and backwaters. And tourists. Luckily we avoided the high-season for travelling and we were mostly surrounded by other travelling young couples.
The first hours of the car ride was hot, but as we started ascending up the mountains the air became more cool and it was nice to roll down the windows and feel the fresh air.
Our driver, who we had assigned for a week, was a short white dressed Malayali man with a big white dot on his forehead. I liked him immediately as he was playing loud music non-stop all through the trip.
Before coming to India I had kept myself busy getting to know something about the contemporary Indian music. When we visited a shopping mall I could sometimes sing along with the radio hits, to A’s family’s amuse. None of the others were particularly interested in North Indian movie soundtracks, and I doubt they had seen Amir Khans movies. It was not until this car ride I felt like I could enjoy Indian music fully. Now and then I would ask A to ask the driver to tune the music just up a little more.
It turned out that our driver did not really speak English or Tamil, and A can’t understand Malayalam, the language spoken in Kerala. Luckily they both could speak in Hindi. How many languages do you have to learn to be in this country?
One of the first places we stopped at was a local “Hotel” aka restaurant. (I think all the restaurants in Kerala want to be called Hotel, just to sound more special) We were hungry after a long morning travel.
After spending most of my first two weeks in India in a very safe environment, I honestly felt a little nervous to be out like this. What if I would do something totally wrong? I could think of so many possible scenarios: My big baggy punjabi-pants suddenly falling of, or dipping my dupatta in something disgusting. What if I would forget to not stare strangers in their eyes, or just mess up in general? What if I would eat with the wrong hand in public? What if people would laugh at the foreigner in Indian clothes? I tried my best to follow A and ignore that people were looking at me.
The driver showed us in to the restaurant and we were led to the special AC Family area. Apparently the main room of the restaurants here are mostly occupied by single (male) costumers, and groups would more likely pay extra for a calm family room.
Without seeing a menu A ordered crispy masala dosai and chai. And so he looked at me: “What do you want to eat?”. I had no idea what they served. My mind touched the unknown possibilities of what delicious things they might be making.
For a moment I browsed through a list of all the things I already had eaten, and the new dishes I still had to try. After a moment I remembered what the name was of the perfect choice. “I want a big Samosa!” Samosa is a crispy triangle-shaped snack filled with spicy mashed potatoes and peas. I felt like a samosa with a big cup of tea was the best breakfast I could possibly come up with. I felt proud over my creative answer.
When I looked up I saw that A looked at me in disbelief.
The young waiter couldn’t keep his face straight and had let out a sudden laugh, before he managed to stop himself. I had no idea what was wrong, but A looked so funny I had to laugh too.
After catching his breath for another moment A could finally speak again. “You know that we are eating breakfast, right? You cannot have samosa for breakfast. Samosas are only eaten as an evening snack.”
Apparently this was extremely humorous for everyone around. I just couldn’t get why. Finally we finished ordering, and soon we were both eating the big crispy Dosai pancakes with the thin Sambhar-sauce to go with it.
I dared myself to visit the restaurant bathroom. I am not exactly sure how it happened, but before I left I emptied half a dipper of the washing water over my dear Indian clothes. Now I looked like a five-year-old who had peed on herself too. When we left the restaurant I did my best to walk gracefully in my sticky wet pants, past the room filled with staring aunties.
India Susanna: 1 – 0 .
I am so in for this game!
This week of travels were so full of funny incidents. The coming days I was mixing North Indian Poori with the South Indian Sambhar, and say the wrong thing to the wrong person. A few days later I did what I was afraid of: I almost dropped my pants in public. Allan was at times bewildered, at times laughing and, sometimes, he saved me in time before I did the worst mistakes.