I woke up feeling less like a puffer fish and more like a mammal. Still my eyes were uncomfortable, however my cheeks stung less. At least I could see the Landy from my balcony and knew I was finally on my way to KanyaKumari to start walking, except my visa was still in quandary and Indian banks were still closed. I had little money left. Oh well, I am grateful for a little luck when it happens, and managed to fill the Landy with the use of my credit card. Then I drove south out of Cochin.
‘Marari Beach, go to Marari Beach. Beautiful.’ Said the young man at the home stay before I left. ‘It is beautiful sir, beau-ti-ful!’ he said persistently, stretching out the syllables as he lifted his young hands up in the air insinuating only a mad man would pass this beach by. ‘Go sir, promise me you will go?’
I did promise the young man and he spoke no word of a lie. Marari is a very beautiful beach, with long classical golden sands that stretch in both directions to horizons wrapped in palms. Other than the bright pastel coloured fishing boats dotted on the sand, and a few beach bums who kicked sand and philosophised without knowledge or care that a certain Mr Donald Trump is to become the next president, the beach was as peaceful and as picturesque as God could create.
At first, I ignored Philip’s pestering question. ‘Sir, do you have accommodation?’ His head nodded at me, adding, ‘Sir, what is your nice name?’ And, ‘Sir, would you like to see my house?’ Then adding with temptation, ‘it is only 300 meters from the beach. It is very comfortable Sir.’
I had intended to drive on. But the beautiful beach delayed me longer than I had intended. I chatted to a young intelligent German bum who had made this cheap easy life of Kerala his home. To an Englishman who in his old age had bought into the cheap life with what pension he had it was an Andalusian Spain of forty years ago.
A few wealthy Indians were enjoying a Saturday afternoon on the sands; the men in shorts bounced about with their children between the light waves, the wives standing at a distance in gold embroidered sari’s, cheering and laughing every time their playful husbands and happy children rolled in the breaking waves. Two European girls lay about sunbathing in bikinis. A working Indian sold coconuts he had cut from the palm trees. Not much else happened of any note. Philip stood at a distance subserviently; every now and again he smiling at me. I sat and watched this strange mishmash of ordinary people and drank tea.
As dusk came I left and followed Philip on his scooter back to his house between the coconut groves, met his wife, two daughters and dog and thanked them for the welcoming glass of cold water.
I thought nothing of it at first. It was a simple working mans bungalow. Small, with two rooms each side, off the front terrace which had been converted for guests, and one central room serving as the family lounge, the kitchen, the bedroom and as a family day room.
George shuffled about subserviently as staff would have done in a great house of the old empire when the master arrived home. Carrying my bags with his head down, he fumbling with the door key and the bags, refusing to let me be of any help to him. His English allowed him to converse rather than engage in conversation.
It was his eldest daughter who intrigued me. She was eighteen, her English educated. She was charming, polite, confident and attractive and wanted to talk. She desired to talk about life outside of India. I informed her what I could about England and she told me ‘India is dirty! And if India wants to develop, India needed to be clean.’ Apparently, cleanness is next to Godliness, but the Indians were oblivious to this, and this absence of attitude was a failure and holding them back. This is the observation of an eighteen-year-old. I knew from our conversation she had the intelligence to see a big picture and think a problem through, for she believed this indifference held India back. It was an attitude, and this Indian attitude would stifle the growth of the nation. How can Indian factories produce world class products when the streets are full of shit? (My words, her insinuations.) But this is not what surprise me.
Her father struggled to find the right words to talk to me. To her father’s annoyance his daughter corrected him as he tried to tell me his story. From what I understand Philip was a jolly good young boxer. I can’t say if professional, if such a position existed in India some twenty years ago, but he was good enough to be respected for his skills. With this skill I understand he joined the police forced, but it did not work out. And I don’t know why. Philip and his daughter argued between themselves on this point. I watched and understood Philip’s agitation at his daughter probing. He fidgeted awkwardly; his voice became dismissive of her probing and an awkward silence followed.
‘Then I became a farmer.’ Philip said to me. I surmise once his boxing years passed, being a Christian he was no longer needed in a Hindu police force. He does not have a police pension.
‘And how many acres?’ I asked.
‘Oh, it is only two and a half of coconuts and bananas.’ He turned and pointed at his lush garden. And then he told me ‘my other children are doctors in Perth.’
‘Perth! In Australia?’ I asked taken by surprise and looked again at this humble man sitting on the porch of a modest bungalow in this unassuming village by the sea.
‘Yes, two doctors,’ said his daughter, ‘and I want to join them.’
I looked at Philip again and tried to think this through. He did not seem a self-learnt man. He did not seem to be a man of ambition. He lived a humble life with limited possessions. His wife stayed silent and out of sight. But someone, somewhere, somehow, understood the importance of education.
‘And all this education, through medical college has to be paid by the family?’ I asked trying desperately to fathom out this quandary.
‘Yes, it is all paid for.’ His daughter confirmed with a matter of fact discipline.
‘Yes, all paid for.’ Philip confirmed with a stern proud voice.
‘And they send money back from Perth?’ I asked.
‘Oh yes, it is expected.’ Answered Philip.
‘You are rich.’ I suggested.
‘Oh yes, – but not rich,’ he was smiling and pleased I understood he had invested his little money wisely.
Philips daughter will grow into a formidable woman. This is unquestionable. And I am also certain she will fullfill her ambition and spend her life in Australia with her brothers.
It will be interesting to know if Philip and his wife accompany their children to Australia or live their retirement out tending coconuts and banana palms at the beautiful Marari beach. Life is always changing.