Valiathura Beach – a long sunset walk

So, I’m well enough to walk. With my boots on, my foot and ankle hardly even get fatigued during the course of a day. (I’m also taking morning and night doses of something called Lyser-D, a painkiller consisting of diclofenac sodium and serratiopeptidase. All I can find about it is that it’s a painkiller – duh.) I put myself to the test today. We laughed off a couple of cabbies before finding one who would take us to Valiathura Beach for 50 rupees. The first guy started at 200 – one way! – but as we walked away, he came down to 300 both ways with an hour of waiting. Mmmhmm. We’re not as easy to target now as when we first got here, though I still feel like we overpay for such things more often than not.

Anyway, back to the walking. The driver dropped us off at the beach, asking if he should wait for us and suggesting that we should go to the “Important” beach up the road instead. James was already out of the rickshaw and taking photos of the fishing boats, so I politely told him to bug off and gave him an extra 10 rupees. Why did I argue so hard for a lesser price if I was just going to give him more? Well, I don’t really know. It’s a habit of tipping and I’m really afloat on the whole thing here in India. I’m constantly getting huge smiles or slight frowns – hardly ever the regular old “yep, it’s a tip” response. Perhaps all the frowns are faked and I overtip all the time. I don’t know. Sigh.

Was this about walking? Okay, back to that…

It took James and I about five minutes to get from the road to the waterline. This wasn’t because of distance – it was because of beauty.

First there were the women selling fish. A couple of them made the hand to mouth gesture that I have come to associate with begging children (by whom I’ve been approached about a half-dozen times, less than I’d expected). This confused me, since they were obviously in business, selling fish. I thought maybe they wanted money for having their pictures taken, like the ladies who walk around with water jugs on their heads at Elephanta Island. Finally, I realized that they wanted to sell me fish. Fancy that!

Next were the fishing boats, pulled up on shore and covered with thatch. Some were faded but originally bright colors; all were cool looking. The pier got some attentions and the boats on the other side. Finally, we reached the water.

Oh, the feeling of standing on a shore, looking out to sea. I can’t imagine a more energizing, comforting, exalting, perfectly right sight. The last time we’d been on the water was in the Mumbai Harbor on the way to Elephanta Island. That water was churned up, muddy, crude-oil infested. Oceans and seas have a different character from bays, inlets, straits, sounds, and such like bodies of water, even salt water. They are smarter, wilder, less capricious – monumental.

I have metaphorical thoughts on and near the water. For example: Singing should be surfing the emotion and tension and notes and dynamic, constantly on the edge between sinking into the music and crashing over into dissonance. My vocals have tended to be treading water, allowing (depending on) the motion of the music, the rise and fall of tones for (e)motion. Ending a surfed-on song could be a fade into the beach calm or a tumble under the wave of the music, or letting it surge past.

As we walked up the shore, the sun lighted the water and sand beautifully, and I could see that the clouds were strewn through the vaulted sky in ways that would be variably darker, lighter, more and less colorful, as the earth turned me away from the sun and allowed the light to shine obliquely above me, on the bottomsides of the clouds. James and I walked and paused, shot photos, walked some more. We started to realized that we had come a long way, and that the solid line of fisherfolk neighborhood was probably not a good place to catch a cab back into the city.

The sun was not yet down, and we couldn’t bear to miss it, so we kept walking. Once again, a group of people waved us closer, a strange beckoning with the palm down and fingers pulling under rather than the palm up “come here” I’m used to. I once again misunderstood the situation, and the shame of it has lingered. What is to be done in a place where I’m learning to avoid being a target for touts and shyster? They made the food gesture and again, I thought they wanted money for the photos James had taken of them. No – they wanted to share their dinner with us. I truly regret missing that opportunity to dine with the fishers of Kerala.

Very soon, we saw a break in the trees and buildings, and what looked to be a gathering of people on the beach ahead of us. We ambled ever closer to it, figuring that we’d probably be able to get a cab (or at least some directions) somewhere with so many people. Sure enough, right as the sun set, we reached the populated stretch of beach. I imagine it was the “Important” beach that the cabbie tried to take us to, and I was excited that we had done that whole walk (2 1/2, 3 km?) and ended up, right at sunset, in a perfect spot for great photos and an easy ride back to the hotel.

And good photos – wow. Well, check them out…

Sunset Boat
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