Saturday, April 17, 2004

an unexpected holiday

The resort was situated on a narrow strip of land between the beach and the backwaters. It was a study in contrast: the unceasing restless movement of water on one side and sluggish almost stagnant water on the other. After a wade in the sea, the backwaters boat ride was so mesmerisingly slow and hypnotic, that the fastest thing I saw was the setting sun. The sun did it best to defeat the blackness of the backwaters but failed and eventually gave up as night slid across the sky. It was the night of the rare alignment of planets, and we could see four of the five planets stringed out in the sky. A couple of locals were wading in the waters collecting molluscs, and when one of us asked to see what they were harvesting, they were childishly pleased and amused that anyone would take an interest in this most mundane of tasks. Black inky molluscs, holding their shells together in embarrassment of being brought out of the water. A cousin told me the following story, that someone had told him. It was about a nature documentary:

"An octopus and a mollusc were in combat. The octopus tried to pry apart the shells and the mollusc was trying not let the shells be pried apart. The battle lasted for 12 hours, and eventually the mollusc lost out of sheer muscle fatigue. But not of loss of will. Animals have that ability to be 100% committed to whatever they do. Hunt, mate, eat whatever. They just do it, while humans tend to lose heart, put it off for another day etc"

"100% committed" became the catchphrase of the trip, we used it at every given opportunity. But the first test we tried to apply it to ended in failure:
We wanted to order some beer, but the resort waiters kept saying that there was no beer available. They said that there was a strike in Kerala that day, and thus there was no way to procure more beer. We believed them and headed back to the lawn to sit and chat, in direct view of several tables where lots of foreigners were dining. Idly we were watching the movements of the waiters and noticed (rather, it leapt to the eye) that they were serving beer. We asked a couple of waiters, but got the same hedgy answers. We even asked the manager what was happening but he said that they’ve gone to get beer from somewhere, but the promised bottles never turned up. After a couple of hours of waiting, it was time for 100% commitment to get the beer, or else expose the hotel's reverse racism, but it was a wedding reception after all, and etc etc, so we just hung around till it was time to eat. Never solved the mystery of why the waiters refused us beer: perhaps because they wanted to stock up for the next day. Among our group there were several people who had traveled and lived in several places abroad, and not one could come up with an example of being treated so badly abroad.