Life in a Coconut House

Day 50,51,52

We cycled a shameful 2 km around the corner to spend the night in an orthodox church and dine with the young student priests. They had a jovial dinner table with lots laughing, mostly we suspected at us. The service we witnessed in the morning was not so jovial. It was smile free, ritualistic, involved a dangerous volume of incense smoke and more curtain pulling than a pantomime. We cycled on to Calicut to receive a free meal and hotel with the help of Rotary, then on to Vellore stopping briefly to catch some video footage of the tricycle with a roadside elephant and it's driver.

Day 53

This could have been the final day of the 2000km journey. We decided the trip must end with the ocean as it was important we had a sense of destination. So we diverted our route to wash off 53 days of skin caked pollution. After stringing our tent fly between some palm trees, we were invited to spend the night instead with a family living on the beach in a house made nearly entirely from the coconut palm. The floor is sand, the frame bamboo and the walls and roof are cladded with neatly woven palm leaves. This is then tied together with rope spun from coconut shell fiber. The man of the house was a motor cycle mechanic living in this 2 room hut with his wife and two young sons. They had no furniture. Just a few mats, and cooking pots. This was a poor yet simple and uncluttered life. "I give you my house and you give me yours" my father proposed. He then asked the man if he would go out to buy 3 beers, one each for himself, my father and I. The man took my fathers 500 rupee note with delight, gave us each awkward hugs and took off on his motor bike to arrive back with 2 beers and no change. After the beer, I scaled my first coconut tree to drop 2 tender coconuts which we shared with the locals on the beach. The mans wife served us a very cheap meal of rice with a couple of drips of fish curry. The first family that appeared not to try and feed us into a state of obligatory giving. Perhaps they felt that an expression of their poverty was a better approach. The  night was spent on woven mats on the sand floor of the hut.

Day 54

I enjoyed a short game of cricket with the two boys before setting off inland towards our final destination, Kunnumkulam, where I had left off 53 days earlier.

For 53 days, Thomas had become a familiar voice on the other side of the phone, calling me more frequently than a paranoid mother. Having him call 3 times per day to ask, "How are things with you", came to feel a little smothering. Especially as I had to yell back "Things are fine with me" over roaring traffic. Each morning I would pull over to answer Thomas's call to pray. This was no brief roadside prayer, but a lengthy recital of my family tree. "We pray for Shasa's Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, Step Mother, Step Father, Friends, Family, all of his near and dear ones.....". Although at times this communication felt a hindrance and frustrating, I knew, while I was alone on the road, it was really an umbilical chord for my sanity. What could have been a lonely haul of unrecognised endurance, was a journey with support and purpose, largely because of Thomas consistent interest in my well being and the many connections he planned for me along the way.

Then suddenly, 15km from our destination, Thomas unexpectedly appeared at the roadside. I immediately recognised his old Hero Honda motor cycle which he would painstakingly not allow above 60km per hour in hope for prolonging her lifespan, and his bright red helmet. It was a happy yet surreal reuniting, where 2000km strangely melted into the soil beneath a sturdy Kerala coconut palm. Into its roots and into its memory.

Thomas had orgonised an obscure yet hearty reception for us in Kunnumkulam, complete with media cameras and notable townsmen, plus a band of mentally handicapped children blowing horns and banging drums. "A band of Idiots" my father whispered not uncompassionately. Perhaps the local brass band was busy, but we much more appreciated this mob with their vacant stares and passionate cacophony. Speeches were made and gold and white sheets were placed over our shoulders as symbols of honor; a Keralite custom. Our distance was over. Now only one job was left before we could depart. To find two local recipients  to which we could personally donate our faithful tricycles.


Anonymous said...

Nice work Shasa. Here is another project going on to create a low cost all terrain manual wheelchair you maybe interested in

Tony P

rose said...

Nice Shasa!! Your story has been inspirational