21 Nov 2013
There’s a movie being shot at the departure area of Hyderabad’s Rajiv Ghandi International Airport. They were all excited about it, while I was seated neutrally watching them crowd the area. I didn’t know who the actors were. There I was in a strange land once again, waiting at the airport because I had another flight to catch to Trivandrum, capital of the Indian state, Kerala.
Alone, I started writing. Every year in the office, we are given an opportunity to attend one conference outside Singapore, while my colleagues decided to go Europe, Bali etc, I chose India. Yes, I don’t know why but I just did it.
I have been to India early this year and I’ve experienced all those in the reviews about the country, like fighting verbally with scammers and touts, being pushed to losing my patience by cheating vendors, pleading to a beggar to stop begging to us, running away from a man obviously following and stalking us, screaming at taxi drivers manipulating the prepaid taxi employee in the booth, pretending not see men and women a like doing their businesses in public areas and painfully controlling ourselves to rescue a woman being verbally abused by her husband at the train station. There were other things but these were the events that stuck to me. It was true that visiting the country would bring the self you thought to never had to surface out. Visiting the place would bring about awareness, both of self and externally. As they said, people would either love India or hate India, there’s nothing in between.
The friend I was with last February, hated the country until she swore never to return again, while I loved it. I don’t exactly know why but the rawness, unpretentious beauty/ugliness it has are addicting. I think it also has something to do with my personality, I love challenges and I thirst for the feeling of accomplishment every time I am able to conquer and finish a difficult task, therefore, I enjoy the feeling of success every after a day of being able to fight against my fears and misconceptions. India is different and I was back there to re-discover more things about it with open mind and heart.
Conference was in Hyderabad and I decided to go earlier to go and explore Kerala, South India and a little bit of Hyderabad. I planned to do an itinerary by myself because tour packages for 1 person is just always costly. I started researching. Honestly, it was tiring because I’d usually go home late at night, tired as a dog due to the fact that I am also juggling my time with other activities like training for my first full marathon, yoga, pole, krav maga. O yes, I also went back to learn krav after stopping for more than a year, just in case there’s a need for me to defend myself in India.
A month before the trip, I told my friend the plan I have and she suddenly blurted out, “I will tell my husband”. I thought she will only tell her husband about me, learning krav maga because I was going to India and just make that fact a laughing matter but I was wrong..
She informed her husband and her husband decided to let his parents adopt me while I am there. The couple also helped me arrange a tour while there. It was a bit more expensive than my original plan of doing it DIY but it was a lot safer. It appeased and pacified everyone who loves me, who worried about me doing this trip alone, hence, I just decided to affirm to the blessing.
Upon reaching Trivandrum airport on time, I excitedly collected my baggage and rushed outside to look for my adoptive achacha (father), who’s supposed to be holding a paper with my name on it outside the airport. I saw the huge welcome to Trivandrum signage but the people I was expecting to see weren’t there. I somehow thought to myself, ”is Trivandrum and Thiruvananthapuram, the same? Am I at the correct airport.”lol
Just to confirm and double confirm I asked the police officer posted near the entrance if it’s the same, he assured me that it is, “but where are they” I worriedly asked myself? To add to my panic, both my roaming sim cards weren’t working there. Up to now, I’m still uncertain why. The only thing I knew was, I didn’t have a back-up plan just in case they wouldn’t come…lol
While waiting, there was an incident that somehow initiated my change of mindset over Indians, I accidentaly left my tab in one chair because I was freaking out and then somehow, this man called my attention and returned to me my Samsung tab. I was not prepared for such kind of a welcoming gesture. I really appreciated it =) but…30mins have passed and my name written on a paper was nowhere to be seen.
Ok. I was looking around already, reading signage of hotels available around the area. I was thinking, what should I do if they wouldn’t turn up? Well, I kind of knew what I had to do. “Since I was in Kerala’s capital Trivandrum, I was sure that there would be a lot of accommodations available and then come what may but I had to be in Kochi by 25th. Roughly, that was what I had to do”, I told myself.
After thirty minutes of waiting outside the airport, a white car arrived rushing towards the entrance and came out the car was a tall man with white hair and mustache holding a paper which was still folded but I could already see the huge alphabets printed on it…P…ia. I’ve already seen him in photos, as my friend sent me through Watsapp before my flight and a neatly dressed young man.
Yey They arrived. Despite late, I was relieved they did. I knew he was a retired military officer, hence i, respectingly extended my arms to introduce myself and shake his hand and to my astonishment he pulled my arms towards him and gave me a warm fatherly welcome hug. My guards were all down, from then I was sure I was going to have a good time.
Trivandrum was about 4hrs away from Kottayam, my friend’s parents in-laws place. As Susan suggested, I have to try the refreshing lemon soda drink. We had it in one sidewalk shop just nearby the airport. My welcome drink was lemon soda. He said by 9pm, wed have our dinner somewhere, which we did, exactly at 9pm, military indeed.
We then reached their home at about 11pm and a beautiful lady came out of the house,and she excitedly greeted me with a hug, again, sweetness at its best. I hugged her back. as my friend’s family arranged, the guide, Domson, said the next day, he’d pick me up at 9am. Auntie and Uncle welcomed me to their home, showed me my room, bathroom and gave me water to drink. Then, that concluded my first day in India. = )