I’m proud to say that I have failed to wake up early enough to see the sunrise every single day and have only managed to catch sleepy eyed glimpses of it on the half ocean that’s visible from my room. That too because the jing-bang of the early mornings had started and I wanted to sound proof the room by closing the window.
But once I even did it on purpose. I trotted over to the window, slid open the glass to once again look at the ominous brightness of the ocean in the morning. In Delhi, amidst the clutter of houses the sun shine is only evident around 10 or 11 and maybe even later depending on which direction your house faces but here the sun’s knocking loudly at your door early in the morning – full glory.
The light sensitivity of sleep drenched eyes. The reflection on the surface of the sea is so brilliant that my eye lids curl up to save the retina. And then I rub my eyes back into the pillow. Nothing better than the joy of going back to sleep.
The Kanyakumari beach is lined with boats (little bows of color that make you reach for the camera instinctively) and dark brown rocks (the rough edges of our country sticking out of the water or reluctantly sinking into it).
And then once in a while rocky ridges stretch out into the sea. Like a walkway into the ocean, surrounded by water on three massive sides. Endless stretches of water. So unstable, just jellying around like that, making you dizzy. And the waves reach higher up than normal once in a while, so you can imagine a tsunami, think about how high the wave might be and how fast it could run to you and how hard it would hit you and how hard you’d struggle to stay alive before the ocean tells you what a vermin you really are.
And then you divert your thoughts and look over to the horizon at the tiny specs of boats carrying men who are going fishing (presumably) but you can’t see them, just the silhouette and your imagination.
Right where middle-street comes and joins S Car Street, you can see a busy gully entrance on the left. I have discovered Pappu Tiffin Corner here. I have added it to the map and Google says it’s looking into it. But here you can have dinner, breakfast, lunch and evening snack all really well made with a lot of vegetables and all really cheap. There’s Pongal (curd rice), vegetable rice, puri, idli and dosas and a profusion of sambars and chutneys. A meal here would cost Rs. 40 to 50 on an average. Mind you, anna would be angry if you fill water in your bottle from the jug on the table. It’s only after you’ve made friends with him that he’ll allow. He’s strict anna.
The other eateries around are all fairly decent and you can also get yourself a Marwari veg thali for Rs. 100. But nothing is really that earth shatteringly amazing and Pappu corner serves me just fine. It’s only much later that I will lose my mind over food and forget all about budget. But all that’s to come in the future and you probably will miss out if you don’t follow. But hey, no pressure.
Then there’s the Maria ferry which will take you through a very complicated rope guided way to the ticket counter. If you are not sure of yourself you will also get very confused like that family which entered before us but stuck to the sides looking about clueless. Where do we go now?
At the counter pay Rs. 17 to the lady for the ticket and turn left to head down the hallway with Fatehpur Sikri style jaali windows out in the open by the sea and wait in a queue with the others as the ferry empties its previous lot.
Then you pick an orange life jacket. The first time you do it carefully. You want the best deal because some of them look squashed. Then make a dash to find the best strategic seat. But you won’t because you don’t have a strategy yet. It’s only when you’ve done this at least once that you know the front corner seats are most coveted with the best view. But you also realize by then that it doesn’t matter because the ferry is a joke. It takes less than two minutes to get to the Vivekananda rock memorial. Then you don’t care about the life jackets either. Squashed or not they are too much junk to handle on those tiny grey seats.
But what you care about is being on a gigantic rock in the middle of the ocean. And you care about the wild waves that crash onto the rocks. And here you lose yourself in a kind of trance, just watching the water go back and forth and back and forth, churning till eternity.
And I remember Chandratal in the morning. Will the ocean be like a mirror too if there was no wind and no moon? Would it reflect the sky exactly? How uncanny would that be!
Vivekananda Rock memorial is your perfect ‘tourist spot.’ It’s for the Bengalis who come to gloat over Shami Bibekanondo and for the Tamils who come to Sripada to see Kumari’s footprints.
We are pilgrims and are guided from the moment we alight from the ferry. Again there are ropes to channel the crowd to a specific route. Men appointed at stations with whistles who’ll tell you where to deposit your slippers and where to go after that and where never to go.
White heat absorbent paint on the floor will take you around the courtyard and up the stairs into the meditation hall. I resist but then find my feet burning on the sun baked rock. Then following rules feels nice. But you are still screamed at when you take photos of the Vivekananda statue. You must be professional about these things. Read the sign board before you enter, else be treated like a school kid by the power drunk warden of the garbha griha where a shiny Vivekananda statue stands erect with peace on its face. Pabla tells me she got screamed at in Sripada so had already learnt her lesson.
(More on Tuesday now. There’s that bit about an impromptu 4 kilometer walk and how Jisho and Disho helped me get back to Kanyakumari…)