In July 2014 I took a break from the familiarity of Chennai, when I decided to leave for yet another coastal city of Kochi for training. This was the result of a distant, blurred memory from childhood of an ancient canoe, drifting from a setting sun, into a legacy of greenery. An unreasonable hope of finding a city that’s not a city at all.
The most predictable ritual before my leaving included, several months of my family trying to talk me out of it and several days of cautioning me, simply about anything and everything. However, all I could think of was a combination of blues and greens with fishing nets and coconut trees.
‘You don’t know the city’
July meant monsoon.
‘You don’t know the language’
Inlets, lagoons and canals.
‘You don’t know a soul there’
Brilliant blues. Vibrant greens.
After a 45 minute flight journey, it took me an hour or so to get into the real city. Peering through the trickles staining the window pane of the taxi, stranded beside huge metal plates of ‘METRO’ and ‘Men at work’, it dawned on me that I had exactly nothing planned:
I wasn’t sure about the accommodation. I knew no one. I didn’t know a word of Malayalam. Also, it turned out that, July meant monsoon meant potholes meant road block.
Behind the fogged up windshield, the city got on with its business. And I had mine to figure out.
Time cautiously ebbed, then flowed. My bed hosted everything, except the feet of my 5’7” self. Monsoon was cool and the showers were cold. The roommates, colleagues, teachers, bosses and mentors got contained in a single word: friends. My rug sack and SLR bag introduced me as ‘new’ to the city. The new name invited several tiring situations. The midnight rain on the empty streets was always a temptress. I learned to read the word jetty on the bus windshield.
Anxiety was losing to excitement and experiences necessitated learning.
With every passing week, the city became more and most beautiful, growing countless coconut trees, painting breathtaking sunsets behind ancient fishing nets, introducing centuries old heritage, taking breaks at countless cafes, silencing boastful antique shops, revealing the wild tattoos of prepossessing street art, splitting into alluring islands and swimming beneath darling boats.
Caution lowered its guard to let six months fly by. And somewhere, between the excitement in a boat ride and the silence of an old street, the ghost of a few minutes in a traffic jam, that got me thinking of returning, disappeared. It was home.