As I prepare what may be the final installment of the Burnett India Epic, Lori and I are sitting in yet another spectacular room in another spectacular hotel in Kovalum, a town named after the right winger with the best set of hands to ever play for the Habs. Our villa overlooks the Arabian Sea; the sky is always clear and Orion looks down on us, albeit lying on his back instead of in his usual straight up stance, appearing more like Vishnu lying on a five headed serpent than the Great Hunter.
Our last full day was spent on tour. It was supposed to be preceded by a quick visit to the local hospital, but upon our arrival at 9:30, the doctor had yet to arrive and there was a lineup over an hour long. The reason for the visit was to see if the alien had finally been exorcised from my leg. A second visit to another doctor was undertaken yesterday to verify if all of the rope stuffed into my leg in Munnar by the first doctor had come out. He too, plunged cold steel into my pus-filled, infected and highly sensitive wound just to find out if he could hurt me more than doc 1. It was a tie. Doctor number 3 examined me tonight, and pronounced me on the mend, offering a new set of antibiotics that are second generation super strong, guaranteed to have me fully healed in two days. I will be taking probiotics after finishing the antibiotics regime. I have never heard of probiotics, but as a counterpoint to antibiotics, it makes sense. Are there neutral biotics too? You know, the wishy washy biotics that can’t decide whether to be pro- or anti-? What about amateur biotics? Those who can’t make the pros? Obviously, the medication does have a dangerous side effect; it turns you into a lunatic. Which brings me to my next subject.
After visiting the largest teak palace in India, ornately carved and spaciously divided into 14 chambers, we headed off to our next destination.
Ramesh, our fine guide of the day, had advised us that there would be a full solar eclipse during the late morning. The light was beginning to change. It was if it was cloudy outside yet we remained under bright sunlight. In this particular eclipse, the moon passed in front of the sun but at a distance whereby it did not block out the full perimeter of the sun. Imagine a ping pong ball in front of an orange. Aside from the bizarre lighting that was being cast, the most noticeable feature of the event were the strange shadow formations. When I held out my hand, the shadow on the ground looked like an x-ray. The centre of my hand and fingers were dark, as usual, but the shadow of my palm’s perimeter and my fingers was lighter in colour than the middle of my hand.
We were standing under a tree. All of the leaves’ shadows had an eerie aurora around them as light and shade took a brief vacation from the cosmic rules.
We continued south to the bottom of the country. Today is day two of the four day celebration of Pongal. It is the New Year for the state of Tamil Nadu, in which the south tip of India is located. I think that the holiday is named after the god who smelled the worst, but I’m not certain of that fact. It appeared that along with us, every second Indian was interested in visiting the town of Kanyakumari with its temple that was the subject of a major festival today. The importance of this temple to the Hindus is similar in stature to visiting the Ganges River. However, one cannot just saunter up to the place, say open sesame and walk in. No sri. A devout Hindu must prepare himself for 41 days prior to the visit. Preparation includes celibacy, abstinence from alcohol, meat and any food other than basics, wearing black from head to toe, going barefoot, sleeping on a floor – preferably outdoors, and wearing a chain around one’s neck. Once these conditions are met, one was allowed inside the temple. Apparently, several hundred thousand devotees had no trouble making the grade. They were all in town and jammed up every street, nook and cranny. We could not get close to the shore. Our ever thinking guide arranged for us to have lunch at a hotel with which he does regular business. At the end of the meal, he arranged for Lori and I to get a roof top view from the 7th floor of the hotel. We were no further than 800 meters away from land’s end but from our vantage point could clearly see the differing colours of the three major bodies of water that met up at India’s tip.
We hopped back into our car and with Sijou, our intrepid driver snaking our way through the back roads, found ourselves on an ashram where Vivekananda, a major force in Hindu religion, developed his philosophy and taught his disciples around the early 1900’s. In addition to the spirituality of the place, it was a haven for peacocks, one of whom we saw. It fanned out its tail, looking as vain as a…. well you know the rest, and flew into a tree. I had no idea that those birds could fly. At this point we were on the beach and no more than 200 meters from the end of the sub-continent. Lori filmed the scene of the waves rolling in and out, crashing onto the beach trying to create a piece of video to inspire tranquility and meditation. I provided the background by chanting the music to Wipe Out, the ultimate surf accompaniment in the background. She was not totally pleased.
We began the drive home and arrived back at the hotel after the last visit to the hospital. Tomorrow will be an easy and relaxing start of the day prior to our getaway which will take us back to Chennai, followed by a ten hour layover, then it’s off to Montreal via Frankfort as the karmic wheel completes its cycle.