We have just arrived at the Cochin International airport, and it already feels good. There is a sense of calmness outside the airport with warm air blowing around. It is 5 in the morning and guess what, Sai and I are rushing to the washroom. It was one and a half hours flight, but alas, our bladders never co-operate with us. We leave our luggage with the Devil who is busy booking the cab.
The Cochin International airport cannot be compared to the Lohegaon airport by any means. It’s enormous, gives me the impression of a colossal palace when looked from the outside. This is more luxurious, and the strictness of the air force base in Pune is absent here. We were free to click pictures here (the Devil, as usual, mentions that as we get into the cab) unlike it was in Pune.
The luggage is stuffed into the cab, and we are eager to find a place to get some rest. The Devil is taking us to his best friend’s home. Anyway, we wouldn’t wait for the bed, it’s just been 15 minutes of the drive, and we are fighting our drooping eyelids. We are woken up by the Devil, and he is struggling to find the apartment now. Apparently, he has not visited his friend for a long time. I am surprised to see Sai being woken up by him. She is a nocturnal creature, how come she also slept during the journey? I have felt that I should refer to her as a Bat, a nocturnal who migrates to a warmer climate.
Devil is standing in front of a building which he believes is the right one (really?), and we are standing along with him looking as ugly as possible. The lift opens, and a guy who resembles a co-actor from some Malayalam movie I have watched in distant past walks out. He is too adorable to be described. They meet, greet and punch each other (curious ways of showing friendship), and Sai and I have already started giggling. Their language sounds like Dothraki to us. Malayalis are funny people, I think. Anyway, we’ve reached his apartment and are being introduced to his family. We are given a room, and all I can do now is thank them for a huge ass bed! Good night.
It is 9 in the morning, and I’m lying here in a foetal position with no intention to get out of the bed. I am looking at my phone screen (that’s the first thing I do when I wake up), and I have 2 missed calls from no one but the devil (of course!). He has already gone for an outing with his best friend. And here, my best friend wouldn’t move her leg so that I can get to the other side of the bed. We are supposed to get ready within half an hour, and there is no possibility that we will be bathing today, irrespective of the weather. We are waiting for the instructions from the Devil, and once I managed to shook her up, Sai is busy prepping herself for the outdoors.
The breakfast is served- Idli, chutney and sambar; the consistency of the chutney is unusual. I have never been a fan of south Indian food but my ‘Premacha chai’ is keeping me seated here. One sip from the cup and I have passed on my first judgement, Kerala doesn’t serve good chai!
Done with the breakfast and quick goodbyes, we are on our way to Thodupuzha- the venue of our conference. The Devil is sitting right next to his friend while Sai and I are sitting on the back seat rolling all over, munching on chips and enjoying the ride. This guy, Manu, has the sweetest smile and the funniest accent. Moreover, he is Culés (Barca fan). I’ve been noticing him for a while, and I think I have found somebody with a similar taste.
It has been a while on the road now, and I find myself staring out of the window, observing the traditional bungalows, the highlighted toddy shops and the Malayali language on the boards. On the way, I just caught sight of the enormously tall coconut trees standing linear in the courtyard, while closer to the eye level grew the coffee plantations. The middle-aged men roaming around in their lungis gives a sense of odd, simple, rustic life. I say odd because I find their dressing a bit shoddy and the villages (whatever these people have referred to as villages) here are quite different from the village life I have seen in Maharashtra.
“This is it.” I agree with all the Kerala bloggers mentioning about this place being a paradise. ‘Could I live in a gorgeous place like this?’ I am asking myself.
The devil has announced the last-minute change in the plan (I usually opt for a power nap when he makes announcements in the class, but I can’t do that to him here) that we will be taking a detour to visit Nirmala college. I am least interested in visiting any college, but the fact that it is on top of a hill has made it exciting for me. I can’t wait to get out of the car for I’ve been feeling nauseatic since a while now. Distracting myself for a while and I realise, we’ve just crossed too many shades of green, a few boards (I have given up on decoding their language) and a few subsequent speed bumpers contributing to the nauseatic sense in my stomach. The narrowed pathways are working as hints for me. That’s right, we have arrived at the location. Amazing! This is different: sprawling green campus, well-organised lanes, huge buildings and minimum noise. I’d simply put it this way- beauty that inspires. What exactly do we have in Pune?
Manu has disappeared, leaving a message. We have another 20 mins to explore the campus and get back into the car. I am assuming he will be back asap. Devil is influenced by us and has made the right choice of not leaving the comfort of the car; instead decided to chit chat about the conference. Our discussion related to the conference is diverted halfway to the fun Devil and his friends have had during their teenage years. Of course, it is kickstarted by the beautiful Kerala girls walking around in the campus in traditional saree. I must say, they are beautiful. Anyway, I see Manu approaching us, and we are on the way.
If there are no more detours, we will be heading straight to the hostel near the conference venue. We are eager to get to the room and prepare ourselves for the conference because Devil has made it clear that he does not want us to read out the paper. Anyway, as I have mentioned before, hunger overpowers my every other emotion. I’m hungry, and I really need something to fill my belly. I am trying to divert myself by noting down all the Malayalam words I’ve by hearted during this ride that would probably help me deal with the Devil in future.
We are halting at some hotel now, to have lunch, maybe. Devil has pulled our bags out, and we are confusedly following him. I’m trying to figure out, where the hostel can possibly be located. I am trying to decode the boards again. I don’t see a hostel anywhere around, and I’m guessing we will be staying here for the rest of the days. We are given the keys, and I have guessed it right! I cannot be more thankful to this guy ever. No time to waste, we must rush into the room (What if he has a change of mind?). Wow! It’s a nice air-conditioned room with large cupboards to stuff our socks. Yeah, you heard it right- socks. They stink like hell, trust me. Anyway, we have freshened up, after a long wait gets the call from Devil to go out for lunch.
We are planning to order biryani. I don’t have to wait for too long because the restaurant is located right next to our stay. The Old man (yeah, the Devil is way too old for us.) too has opted for biryani, but I doubt if he is going to finish all of it because he is fond of wasting food. The Biryani is served, and I’m waiting for the complimentary salad. The devil has already started eating, and I have realised that nothing complimentary is going to be served. Guess what? I have passed on my second judgement, their serving sucks. Anyway, the Biryani has not disappointed me, it has brought an end to my nauseatic feeling as well. Well, that helped. We are done with lunch. As expected, this guy has his biryani half wasted yet is walking out of the hotel with a broad grin on his face. Never mind! Some people will never get it.
We’ve been rehearsing for the past 2 hours, and it’s time for a chai break. I’m going to have coffee, I think. We are wandering on the streets of Thodupuzha, for beverages and a few print outs we will need for the next day. Finally, we have gotten into a reasonably good café cum shop and have ordered according to our choices. In the middle of a conversation, I’m sitting here muted, staring at something I’ve been craving since forever. Pringles! I’ve decided to buy 2 boxes for myself and 1 for Sai. No, the Devil gets nothing.
We are searching for a Xerox shop for the last 10 minutes, and I guess it is a lost cause. We’ve given up, and suddenly a bike stops right in front of us. The Devil is rejoiced and is talking to the new guy. He has a lot of beard, but it is well trimmed, unlike that of the Devil. Jerome, one of Devil’s friends. I don’t know what’s the matter with me, but every person I meet here reminds me of some or the other actor from some Malayalam movie. We are done greeting him, and now we are tracing the roots back to our rooms.
We are back to our rooms and have no plans until dinner time. I think I’m going to try beef and porotta for dinner. Devil was explaining about the most appealing flatbreads this afternoon. It is a speciality here. Sai and I have crawled up the bed, hiked up the air conditioner and gotten all cosy with no intention of getting out of the bed until the devil comes banging at our doors.
Its 9 pm, we have surprisingly woken up without the alarms. I’ve already started munching on the Pringles, and Sai is getting ready for the dinner. We are planning to bum around with the dirty pyjamas on. The devil is here to wake us up and is stunned to see us all ready for the dinner. This is a rare scenario. By the way, I’m using the cupboards to hide my pringles because the devil wouldn’t let me have some more.
We are back at the same restaurant where we had our lunch in. We have ordered porotta and beef as decided. Sai and I decided to take just one each since we are not hungry. Devil has that evil grin on his face yet again. He has ordered some vegetarian dish to go with 2 porottas. 15 minutes of looking here and there, the dinner is served.
The porotta is amazingly different from the usual ones I’ve ever had. It is layered, soft, fluffy and has no stuffing in it. Similarly, beef has no bones, unlike chicken which is the most common meat I get to eat in Pune. It is soft, tender and mixes well with all spices. It tastes better than most other meat. It’s delicious. Apparently, this has become my favourite delicacy in Kerala. And as I am ordering my second porotta, I can see that grin growing wide on his face. I hate it! Anyway, I am glad, he didn’t waste food tonight.My tummy is full, and I need my bed and blanket now. We are back in the room, and the devil has some news for us (does it ever end?). The chief guest has arrived, and he will be staying in the very next room. It feels good to know that we get to stay in the same place as the chief guest. Also, a few faculty members have come to check on our comfort and to ensure that our needs are being taken care of. Devil has one of his friends coming; Kavi, who is a faculty member as well. She will be staying with us in our room.As soon as this is informed to us, Sai and I have gotten our asses to work. We do not want her to know the kind of mess we are. She will find it out at some point, but not today! We’ve stuffed our clothes in the trolley bags, and the trolley bags are squeezed in the cupboards. The table is all cleaned, and the chips are crushed into the drawers. We are done cleaning and are back inside the sheets, awaiting her arrival.
The socks are in the dustbin!