6am- Sarah’s big cleanse day. She drinks her nasty dirt medicine and guys down warm water to start the process. She isn’t allowed to lay back down in bed, but I continue to sleep until 6:45am – or at least attempt.
This morning, I woke up to a couple of messages from my ‘new’ Coimbatore ‘friends’ about my weekend adventures. Today, I’m going out to Kovai Kutralam. This evening, I’m meeting a lady and her family for dinner at her house and tomorrow we will be visiting her grandparents hometown. Yes, I’m a bit excited!
As I was waiting for Mughun Devi to pick me up and take me to Kovai Kutralam, I walked around the corridor. Devi saw me walking around, and she introduced herself to me. She studies Econ&IR at UPenn as a junior. She grew up in Bahrain, and her parents have a house in Thiru Kerala. She is an Indian citizen, so unlike Sarah and I she can stay in India indefinitely. We chatted about life and reagent and the hospital, until Mughun arrived.
Mughun picked me up at the hospital, offered me a helmet, and we rode his motorbike 35 km out to Kovai Kutralam. At first I was weary about jumping on the back of a motorbike with a guy I didn’t really know, but then I realized his superb driving skills. After that, I enjoyed the breeze on my face and the views as he dashed down the road. We encountered rain on the drive, but we kept going. The sun peaked out through the clouds at intermittent intervals. We arrived at Kovai Kutralam, bought tickets, and waited for the bus to drive us up to the falls. When we dismounted the bike, Mughun took one step and his sandal broke. He left the sandals at the bike and treaded barefoot the remainder of the way. Unfortunately, the falls are a couple of kilometers from the ‘entrance’ and on federal grounds, so we couldn’t walk the way up to the falls. We enjoyed the ride on the small bus. We unloaded the bus and walked 1-2 kilometers to the falls. The views were gorgeous! In the past couple of weeks, I have only seen greenery in the distance, not walking through it. I enjoyed the short walk to the falls. The falls weren’t gushing over the hills, not were they dribbling down- just a steady stream. We snapped and posed for pictures. Even though the background was amazing, my traveling outfit wasn’t! We walked down to the ‘wading’ area. Due to the mist/fog & cooler weather, I decided not to immerse myself in the water. If I had decided to swim, I would have felt out of place in my bathing suit as most of the women were wearing pants and tops (full attire) in the water. We sat and chatted on the side, enjoying the views, the sounds of the waterfall, and people watching. While we were sitting and observing, a monkey from100 meters away also observed a girl remove small cake from her backpack. The monkey dashed over to her, scared her, and the girl dropped the cake. The monkey ran a little ways away with the cake and started eating it. A couple of the other monkey friends came to partake in the cake eating, but the monkey didn’t share with all the monkeys. It did make for a great story and awesome pictures. We continued to wade with our feet in the water and enjoyed the peacefulness of nature for a couple of hours. We decided to catch one of the last bus back down the way. We mounted the motorbike, and rode to Dhyanalinga. When we arrived, I realized we (Sarah and I) were here a couple weeks back- called Isha Yoga. We entered and tried the campus . . . again. We ate sandwiches and a fried banana at the canteen.
One thing that I have been contemplating about being in a ‘Hindu’ culture: is it ‘wrong’ to visit temples and partake in their rituals or should I politely decline the experience. A couple weeks back when Antima, Sarah, and I were here meditating in the temple, I prayed to Jesus Christ, not the Hindu god. I realize it is all the matter of the heart, not about actions. However, at the same time, I don’t want to disrespect their culture &/or religion. Please tell me your thoughts on this. I know this blog isn’t read worldwide, so if you reading this, send me an email regarding your thoughts. Thanks!
We arrived back at AVP at 5:30, and I was due to be at Arthi’s (friend of Jagendeep, friend of Sankar (from Dallas, TX)) after 6pm. Mughun offered to take me to Arthi’s (about 11 km away). I raced upstairs, chit chatted with Sarah about her cleanse day – & she was happy I wasn’t here today and wouldn’t here tonight. I jumped in the shower while she viewed the pictures. After 15 minutes, I ran back downstairs with rain jacket (started raining again) hopped on Mughun’s bike, and we were off. We arrived in Viwasapuram. Unfortunately, due to AV Hifield, the apartment complex, being fairly new, google maps didn’t guide us to the correct site. We were driving around residential areas, not the good ones. We phoned Arthi who came and met us in the main road. Mughun actually spoke to Arthi in the phone in Tamil (the native tongue) and told me this. My first comment to him was ‘you’re not leaving me are you?’ Arthi told him not to leave me until she arrived. I don’t know what I would have done if he left because I was in the middle of India, didn’t speak the native tongue, and lost. Arthi arrived, Mughun went on his way.
Arthi drove me to her place. As we arrived at her place, I realized Mughun and I were on the wrong side of the main road. We entered the gates to her apartment complex. We parked the car. As we walked up to her flat in the fourth floor, her parents in law, mother, children, and husband were all there to meet me. Even though Srthi was my main translator, we managed to communicate with body language and hand gestures. Her husband speaks English, her father in law speaks broken English, and the others only speak Tamil. We visited for a little bit and life went back to ‘normal’. Adviad (4.5 yr old son) came in from the playground with a fever and vomiting- the mother in law took care of him. Arush Manikandan (6 month old) just finished feeding and the mother was rocking him to sleep in a blanket, tied in a hammock like form from a hook in the ceiling. Arthi showed me her wedding and reception photos explaining to me who everyone was and the people I would meet over the past couple of days. As I was halfway through the first album, Arthi disappeared. I viewed the albums with the father in law at my side. Arthi returned with Malathi when we finished the second album, and I recognized some of the people. By this time, I was ready for bed. However, Arthi started to serve dinner: idly and chutneys. We ate.
My bedtime routine usually started with dinner, followed by cards/chit chatting/reading, but the night was just getting started in Arthi’s home. Arthi explained to me that Malathi is a beautician. Malathi brought a silk Sarah make up and jewelry. After dinner, she dressed me up like an Indian doll- makeup, hair, jewelry, mahidi (henna tattoo), silk sari, etc. Even though my body and eyes wanted to sleep, my mind wanted to experience true Indian culture. After an hour or so of being ‘beautified’ by Malathi, we went outside to snap pictures. After 200 pictures and 90 minutes, the camera battery died. Arthi asked, what do you want to do now? To which I replied ‘sleep?’ – as it was 1 am in the morning.
We finally slept at 1:30am. In the ‘master’ bedroom with bathroom attached: Arthi, husband, Arush Manikandan. In the second bedroom, clean, folded clothes along with dirty clothes. In the floor in the front room: mother, Malathi, myself, and Ardvaid- on the floor. The mother in law and father in law had left to return to their home (3 hr drive away).
In Indian culture (particularly this family), when a man marries his wife, his parentss me to live with them. The woman (wife) leaves her family, her god, and lives with man (husband) and his parents. For Arthi & Naveen (husband), Naveen’s parents care for their children Monday – Friday. On Friday night, they trek 3 hrs to their hometown for the weekend. For the weekend, Arthi’s parents come to care for their children. Arthi’s parents live with her brother, Arun, who lives 5 km away.