A new homebase, nolens volens
After the overwhelming acquaintance with India in Madurai, we were keen to flee the city and try to find a more tranquil place, somewhere ideal to stay a while. We travelled south, to Kanyakumari, the subcontinent's most southern point, where the three seas meet (Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean). We found a room right next to Temple of the Virgin Sea Goddess (Kumari Amman Temple) and were curious about the small beach right behind it, looking out directly at the rock with a memorial dedicated to the famous Hindu apostle Swami Vivekananda. The queue of pilgrims was unbelievable, occupying the whole street and far around the corner, all day, every day. Needless to say we weren't taking the ferry to this tiny island and also not going to see the huge statue on the even smaller island next to it, of the ancient Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar (the work of more than 5000 sculptors, it was erected in 2000 and honours the poet’s 133-chapter work Thirukural – hence its height of exactly 133ft (40.5m). But we had a good view from our balcony.
The beach behind the temple was crowded with worshippers and very polluted. We can not get used to the sight of people throwing anything and everything everywhere. The site was swarming with local tourists and we watched for a while and enjoyed the happening with all its chai-sellers, popcorn-vendors and cotton candy-merchants, and a solitary fisherman among the bathing pilgrims, who catched a fish every two minutes with merely a bowline. We found out (from our beds) that the temple opens at 04.30 a.m., with impassioned singing and chanting. Every morning. It turned out there wasn't much to do for us, except admire the countless souvenirshops with every creative object made from shells mankind could ever think of and get to know some more local dishes.
We moved on to Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), upwards along the westcoast, leaving the Tamil Nadu region into the Kerala region. Found a very airy homestay on a hilltop on the outskirt of the city, when we entered, it felt as if we could finally breath out and immediately take a big inhalation, this time filled with clean air and the smell of coconutpalmtrees. Next to our bedroom we had a verandah available to us, excellent for schoolwork and just experiencing some space again, after being cooped up in dim, small rooms for quite some time now.
Then it was time for the inevitable part of travelling through India: we started taking turns getting felled by foodpoisoning, starting with the middle son, then the mom. Biggest advantage of the mom being sick: the rest of the family didn't want to leave me alone at dinnertime and it had come to our attention we could order from Domino's; the boys enjoyed their pizza tremendously. Had a real informative talk with an Indian who now lives in the USA, about religion, politics, care for environment, culture changes and so on, it's so interesting that you can learn tenfold in a conversation, to what you'd learn from any book. Except for the zoo, there was not much else to do, and since the place was far above our budget, we had to keep moving as soon as my body allowed it.