On The Shore of the Arabian Sea

We waited on the beach for the day to end, an occasionally ambitious tendril of the Arabian Sea leisurely climbing up the shore to graze the soles of my shoes.

Prema and Beena had both kicked off their sandals, more water and sand-friendly than my sneakers, and waded deeper into the waves and returned already. Now, as the sun dipped further toward the horizon and the light gathered in a pink-orange glow, Prema walked alone toward it, the insubstantial form of her silhouette negotiating the fragile balance between the deepening shadows and fading light.

Roopa, Prema, and I rose this morning and bid farewell to her brother and his wife (who had ironed my jeans!). A cab drove us to the Kochi airport, where we boarded our brief flight to Kannur.

Kannur sits on the west coast, a few hours to the north of Kochi, and this is where Roopa’s dearest cousin, Nirmila, lives. It is smaller than Kochi and feels like a more traditional place as we drive through town, the roofs sagging just a little under the weight of the terra cotta tiles, which are muted with streaks of color and age. As we rode along we were distracted and missed the nondescript entrance and had to turn around, finally motoring up the drive to find a grand old house with a traditional Keralan tile roof.

Roopa’s cousin and her daughter Beena (with husband Prakash), welcomed me like family, which of course meant more food. In this case it was served in the most traditional manner, on banana leaves. Banana leaves are tender, however, and not conducive to sharp metal objects, so I was the only one to use a utensil. While I considered following the lead of my hosts and eating with my fingers, the meal today involved rice, and my experience has suggested that eating rice with one’s fingers is a slightly different skill set than using bread. Admittedly, however, eating rice with a fork, to which I am accustomed, is a clumsy proposition under the best of circumstances.

Reunions are a time for tales and conversations, but eventually we called a driver so that I could see the town. Along the coast, we entered the St. Angelo Fort, first built in 1505 by the Portugese (this area was once visited by Vasco da Gama), and later controlled by the Dutch and British.

We watched the fishing boats, garishly painted in bright blues and oranges, heading out to sea, and we explored the interior of the structure.

Finally, the air growing gold, we left for the beach, in search of sand and sunset.

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