While we were at Thanksgiving this year, my aunt had asked us to come up with something we were thankful for to say at the dinner table. As with some family games, there were rules. We could not say that we were thankful for our family, shelter or our jobs. In other words, we needed to be original and creative.
We went around the table talking about music, sports, education and our cars until it hit Karthik and I. Obviously I cheated a bit and as I was telling everyone how grateful I was for our trip to India, I snuck in being thankful for my new family members and all the love we received on vacation. Karthik was the one who stepped up to the plate as he mentioned he was thankful for the moments. The little moments we have, connections, breath and the simple sentences that can change the course of your day or your life.
As I’ve been wrapping my head around the words I need to write about our adventure, I realized that’s the trick… the moments. The little things that are stuck in my mind: the tears in ammama’s eyes as we walked into the airport waving goodbye, the homeless man who lay sleeping on a broken bench, the vibrant colors mixed within the beautiful, dusty landscape or our driver waving his hands rapidly every time we walked back to our car. Those moments carried us throughout our journey and that is exactly where I’ll start.
As our driver Aron pulled onto the side of the road, he came to a stop in front of a small side cart. I saw no water and no apparent side roads that would lead us to our houseboat and so I immediately assumed we were lost.
The communication between ourselves and the driver has been a mild barrier since we began our journey two days prior. Each state in India speaks a different language and as such we were communicating in Malayalam, Tamil and English combined with hand gestures and hope. Just two days ago we believed we were being driven to our death up the side of a mountain and into the jungle, but that’s a story for another day.
Aron turned to face Karthik and instead of a face proclaiming we were lost, there was a look of danger behind his eyes. He simply said “Pirates. Be safe.”
Great, I thought to myself, we are being dropped off on a random side street and delivered to a boat captain for the evening as pirates run rampant who could capture us and hold us for ransom. Karthik caught my gaze and told me that Aron was just letting us know there’s no safe on board, so we need to just be aware of our surroundings. It was really safe and there wasn’t anything to worry about.
My mind was a mixture of excitement and curiosity and not for the first time I wondered what would happen next. If Indians are famous for anything it’s their sense of spontaneity and their zero sense of time. Throughout the entire trip, I never knew what would happen next.
Before being handed off to the crew for the evening, Aron gestured toward the side cart and excitedly exclaimed “LIMCA!” The entire journey I had expressed my hankering for the delicious carbonated lime soda as I kept wanting to have my first real Limca in India. Karthik and Aron ran across the small and busy street with me wedged between them as we went to hunt down a few cold bottles. I couldn’t have been happier to start this part of our journey than with an ice cold refreshing bottle of Limca. Too sweet to be 7 UP and nothing like lemonade, it was the perfect afternoon pick me up.
Soft drinks in hand and jewelry clenched tight between my fingers, we were handed over to the silent boat captain. As we walked down the narrow pathway lined with drying laundy, Aron screamed out “Tomorrow. I be here waiting.” We watched him disappear as the houseboats began to come into view.
Just as we had seen on an episode of Anthony Bourdain a few years prior, houseboats appeared everywhere. Hundreds of these beautiful, ancient looking vessels were floating alongside the riverbanks as newlyweds and families alike began to board their chosen vessel for their own journey.
We followed our silent guide as we walked on to a beautiful boat and then continued on straight through their living room. The captain wheeled our heavy, sagging purple luggage across a small plank connecting to the next boat and then reached back for my hand to land me gracefully in our own living room. As I turned to reach for my husband, I watched the plank rise in slow motion as though it were going to whack him in the face like a Tom & Jerry cartoon moment. Fortunately he jumped back in the nick of time and made his way across the plank safely.
Injury and death avoided, we now began to take in the luxury of our space. I should emphasize the house portion of this houseboat as it was spacier than some apartments I’ve lived in. Two huge bedrooms connected by a long narrow corridor, which lead to a busy kitchen in the back and a sprawling living room/dining room. Purple pillows lined our beige couches, a modern TV and radio accompanied the simple decor and open glass windows for us to take in each moment and everything around us. We even had air conditioning and extra pillows!
As I walked the length of our vessel, The Lavender, I let out a sigh of relief. We’re here, I thought and it’s exactly where we’re supposed to be.
If India taught me anything, it was just as Karthik said: the moments. Being fully present is of utmost importance to this country. You need presence to drive your car (or you will be in a serious accident), and you need it to live fully in each moment. I kept asking the question “what are we doing next” and was always greeted with a shrug. It’s taken me a while to understand, but that shrug meant more than ‘I don’t know’, it meant ‘who cares, be in THIS moment.”
And I’m so glad that I was.
If you can’t wait to hear about the next moment, just know it’s coming and involves a pet eagle named Apu and some delicious prawns.
Lots and lots of sunshine and love coming your way!