I see their postcard world developing into a kind of capitalism without planning permission. We drive through to find refuge from the squalor of building debris and the eyesore of giant billboards selling gold and diamonds modelled by light skinned Bollywood stars. Just beyond it there is nature, which springs savagely in luscious greens to the sound of bird twitter and trickling of holy water. Just beyond the noisy asphalt smelling dual carriage motorway there is the faint acapella mosque calling, the Hindu devotion songs and the church bells.
Phillip speaks cockney, ‘In a jiffy’ he splutters out through a wide set smile. He goes on to recite Robert Frost and express his love for Eastenders.The local boat which we share with his fellow Keralans stops. From the jetties come immaculately dressed women in pink and lime green saris accompanied by men who are pure muscle on bone, carrying babies in eye chalk framing their deep giant eyes.
We are the strange people. People who sit by the side of the lake and stare. We stare from our plastic replica Maharaja chairs, sipping on UV treated bottled water baring our shoulders, writing on small pads, sunburnt and mesmerized.
The hellhole eventually grew on us. We are attracted by the hustle and bustle of this daytime town. Itchy stray dogs add to the chaotic bus stand which at night doubles up as a food court with a few street food sellers selling a few of the same delicious foods. A disabled man walks past us and when offered a loaf of bread he turns it down by kissing his teeth and signaling no with his finger. He is not interested in charity. For all we know he is not even a beggar. Our incessant search for cold beer comes to an abrupt end when we force ourselves into the bar underneath an oversized neon sign saying ‘bar’. The only one in town besides the budget tourist rooftop where jimmy Hendrix is played on repeat. It is a dingy, (hardly) red-lit oversized establishment. Men sit alone eating Bombay mix and sipping on spirits which names are unknown to us.
I sit on the thin window ledge of the Wifi zone and my dust covered feet dangle over a water pipe, painted in the same deep pink hue as the guesthouse we momentarily call home. My lips are wet with the pleasant bitterness of local beer, to the scorn of our deeply Christian hosts, whose downstairs residence is beautifully decorated with an array of kitsch Catholic iconography and flower garlands. I can hear their murmurs as they pray in communion to what sounds like the holy grace in a language reminiscent of a dead tongue. I know I have been blessed by at least one of so many gods as I look at the surrounding landscape. I wave away the slow flies which signal the tropical weather outside as I bite into odd fruits that look like kiwis but taste like toffee and odd fruits that look like tomatoes but taste like kiwis.
Photos: Georgie Neve
Words: Thisbe Casellini