South India: Watered Down

The hull is splintered. Upside down. And forgotten. The remains of the tiny fishing vessel clutter the shore, but like the beauty of a colorfully abandoned conch, it continues to spread the Good Word. Did its owner survive the massive wave? A young girl and her friends have turned the wooden carcass into a playground. Jump! Child. Laugh. And shout. You inspire me to dig beneath the sand.

My senses are overrun – a foraging pendulum grasping the air, begging for answers. Who constructed the pieces of this puzzle? India.

I’m a visitor in this enigmatic southern village; an Oceanside town smothered by coconut trees and heavy rainfall. Broken dirt roads lie flooded. Men wearing dhotis drift by. Women walk in small packs, in silence, their solemn majesty reined beneath an ornate sari.

I haven’t slept. The undulating energy of this country has found its way into my soul. And I don’t want to miss a beat. Not one. I sip tea and watch the village come alive. The carpenter’s hammer is playing an early morning beat. My elderly neighbor is chanting her daily prayers. And a hopeless scooter is creeping down the street; the day’s milk delivery is right on time.

Every morning, at exactly eight-thirty, a group of schoolchildren bang on my front gate and scream for my attention. Dreamy and disheveled, I greet them on the terrace. “Mr. John!” they shout – delighted, it seems, by my mere presence. Through word fragments and other bits and pieces of language, gestures and wide eyes, we communicate. Each one of us swimming in our unequivocal humanity, with an unspoken, but resounding internal hope, that somehow everything is being understood. Moments later the kids wave a last goodbye and with childhood laughter and proprietary whispers, they disappear up the road.

March 24, 2011