India is a short-term home for me.
I feel more at home all the time. It’s not my country, of course, and it’s obvious at a glance that we’re foreigners. Though I know that my whiteness will never go away, as we frequent the same restaurant and shops, people become inured to us. It’s getting more comfortable. I’m glad I lived in Hawaii first, because there’s stuff about geckos and cockroaches that I experienced in Hawaii that India can’t touch (or just hasn’t yet). I’m not scared of this place – haven’t been – but I can see where some people would have a harder time.
Still, I do not picture myself extending my visa indefinitely or seeking citizenship. And it has nothing to do with the people, the government, the land…
I had the abrupt and slightly sad realization that India would not be my final home in Jew Town, Cochi. We were staying in Ernakulam and we’d taken a ferry over to Cochi. We walked around for a while but weren’t impressed by the hawkers and pushy autorickshaw drivers. We took a rickshaw, though, from Cochi to Mattancherry to see the palace. Underwhelmed by the palace (where, admittedly, they were working on the displays), we decided just to go back to the room and shower again (and again, and again).
We walked from the palace toward the water and got caught up in the Jew Town bazaar. So many spices, so much perfume…the smell changed by small degrees every step we took and each change was just more to love. It didn’t look like much on a weekend, but it had such olifactory presence that we didn’t feel we were missing anything.
As we walked along, we came to a sign. On our right was the Malabar Yacht Club. We goggled at the sign for only a moment before pushing open the gate, feeling as though it was the gate to our real home…
And beyond that gate? Two sailboats and a powerboat on the hard and one sailboat on a rickety pier.
I deflated. Not just a sigh. Not just a minor disappointment.
Cochi was supposed to be the only real boat harbor south of Mumbai, but where, oh where were the boats? If this was the main port for sailors on this coast…oh sadness!
I followed James out to greedily look over the boats, to salve my eyes on the sheets, the shrouds, the masts and booms and rudders and…and…and…
And it wasn’t enough. If this is the best that India has to offer a sailor, I’m sorry, but I’m a short-termer here.
I’m dedicated to getting these books finished and we’ve invested everything we have into this trip so that we’ll be sure to produce. But the long-term plan is, has always been, to get back on the water. To get enough money or to find a ridiculously good deal or to just take a boat someone can’t maintain anymore. But definitely, always, to be sailors.
We are sailors. Don’t doubt that just because we are currently boatless. I know this about myself, and if there is something strange about a sailor who sells her boat, not knowing where/when/how the next one will come…well, just know that I believe in my own abilities to make things happen.
But not here. And that makes me sad. I’ve been so pleased with India. There was a scrap of an idea, an idea of sailing the Med and the Indian Ocean and the Pacific from a base in India. But India is not a sailor’s paradise.
So I’ll get everything I can from this year and when I leave, I’ll do it knowing that I probably won’t be back. If I do come back, it probably won’t be to live. And if I do live here, I’d better be rich, because the only real marina is in Mumbai and I have no idea what it takes to get in there!
I’m so glad we’re here now. This could be the last time in my life that I travel significant distances on land. It makes me think…where else can’t I sail to?