Smile Like You Mean It

My first friend here in Kerala was my trainer at work.  He’d been lumped with task of getting me up to speed in my new profession, and he proved himself to be a genuine, sweet soul with remarkably little pretension.  He’s been a particularly welcoming presence since the first day I came to interview at the company, teaching me the ropes of the various systems in place – both formal (an entire new lexicon of terms to understand) and informal (where and when to get the best local chai).  We bonded over anecdotes, philosophies and – thanks to a shared interest in amateur photography – ‘snaps’, as they’re known here.

I was gutted when I was unable to attend his wedding in early ‘09.  I think he was, too: “I had told so many people you were coming!”  Fortunately, I had a chance to atone for my sins when his house was finally finished.  (That’s a story in itself, going right back to before he was born and his father’s decision to strike out on his own in business, hoping to one day provide better for his children than his parents could for him).  Along I went for the housewarming with the four good men pictured, also colleagues, all of whom have been and continue to be remarkably open and welcoming.  Several unintended detours across Trivandrum eventually led to the chess-patterned paving and impressive façade of my colleague’s newly built home.

…read more at The NRI…

Friendly Neighbourhood Festival

By Varkala standards, the air was a little bracing one January morning last year when our elderly neighbour informed my girlfriend and me that the local Hindu temple would hold its festival at the end of the month; it would run for four days.  Now, this temple isn’t large or overly celebrated; just another neighbourhood temple, really.  That, combined with the fact that I was still relatively new in India and had no idea what the phrase ‘temple festival’ actually meant, led me to a somewhat understated reaction.  A festival, I thought.  How quaint.

Over the next couple of weeks leading up to the festival, excitement and expectations grew.  On the final night, there would be a Kathakali performance that lasted all night, and six or seven elephants would join a parade at dusk down our street.  It sounded like good fun, but I’d heard of festivals nearby that had fifty or even a hundred elephants.  How incredible could six or seven be?  You’ll enjoy, said our neighbour.  Sure, I said, trying to believe him.

…read more at The NRI…