Thekkady 3

Taj Garden Retreat, Thekkady. The place is intensely beautiful: a hazy blue silhouette of mountain in the distance, greener foothills in front of that, then the hotel itself, which is comprised of a main building and 32 modern-but-thatched cottages on stilts, built on a fairly steep slope, all surrounded by trees, hibiscus, monstera vines, palms, winding pathways, and the croaking of many tree frogs. Or very loud crickets, I don't know. Think soundtrack of jungle movie, minus the shrieking baboons.

Random impressions:

Fish and coconut! Coconut and fish! (I'm talking about the food - Malayalis eat a lot of both, and so did I.)

I love the soft, rolling sound of Malayalam (the language spoken in Kerala - and a pallindrome). It is Tamil's closest relative, but sounds like running water, rather than the rattling stones which Tamil can sometimes approximate.

Each version of English is a translation of whatever the person's mother tongue is. In (not highly-educated) Malayalam-English: "Soup is just getting." "We used to do this" = "We do this."

While playing badminton on the sloping, roughly surfaced court: darker and darker clouds, continuous rumblings of thunder, then spatter, then heavy vertical rain – cold on my skin as we returned to our cottage, under one of the hotel’s green umbrellas. It rained almost every day, usually after some dramatic thunder and lightning, just so you know it's coming.

Honeymoon couples – girls, Marwari, with fading mehndi on their feet-ankles-calves, and bangles stacked almost to the elbow. Sometimes the young men try to show off by the way they command the waiters, and look even younger because of it.

Elderly white tourists in groups.

Indian families with small children. Many of them are Gujaratis -- how did that happen? One very loud man yakking on the cell phone from morning. Ugh. Talking about profit and paise, and long-term and buying and selling.

Bulbul – the black crest and face blend into dark mottled brown at the neck, then to lighter brown of the back and wings. Cream-coloured breast (coffee-cream, not yellow) – a whiter patch where back meets tail – small red patch just under the tail – it teases some fibre from the climbing monstera, lays it on the stem, the strand falls to the ground. I think it's building a nest in the depths of a thuja shrub across the walkway -- at about my eye level. How are they so fearless, to nest so close to the ground?

left: the view from the bed; right: the veranda (the left stair rail is perspectively challenged, poor thing)

In the outside world, power in Tamil Nadu has changed hands after an election. According to the newspaper, the outgoing Chief Minister says that the current political situation in the state is like giving a garland to a monkey.

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