Postcard from: India
POSTEDJuly 18, 2004
<strong>Editor’s Note: The UTD Mercury is highlighting the adventures of UTD students who travel abroad. In this final installment, Michael Seeligson, a junior mathematics major, shares his experiences from India, where he is traveling with his family.</strong>
KERALA, India – Kerala, India is a feast for the senses.
The first glimpse of Kerala through the windows of the airplane is a beautiful view of the tops of orange, tiled roofs peaking through a sea of coconut palm trees. Once on the ground, however, I realized that the calm view from the airplane is slightly deceiving.
Kerala, the “Land of the Coconut Palms” is a tropical jungle state. The rich green foliage with gorgeous red blossoms fights to subdue the insolent concrete structures the pitiful humans have created.
Some of the air is choked with exhaust, but much is still clear and pure.
The taxi ride from the airport bombarded me with visual input. We passed so many people walking with smiling faces as we drove from the airport. Generally it seemed that, despite, or possibly due to the close proximity of life, people in Kerala are happy.
Getting out of the city, our taxi raced around others in a wild and uncontrolled race without beginning or end. We passed one car passing another car passing another car and ended up in the far right side of the road with a huge lorry hurtling directly toward us with devastating momentum. I found myself in the front seat watching in horrified exhilaration as we narrowly avoided accident after accident.
Once out of the city, traffic calmed and we encountered vast rice paddies spread out on either side of the highway, each flooded by the recent rains. The rich, emerald green fields are broken by small, dirt paths and the occasional herd of cows feeding themselves and eating some of the future crop.
But India is so much more than the visual. Out of the plane and taxi, I was bombarded with the overwhelming smell of life. Distinct from the exhaust and pollution, the trees, ferns, moss and thousands of blossoms in close proximity formed a powerful fragrance.
The humidity which carried the fragrance had a less appealing effect. Within steps of the taxi, I found that my shirt was soaked with moisture.
That was not the end of feeling wet this trip. So far, I have been caught in the torrential monsoon rains three times without an umbrella.
The rains start two or three times a day and rain harder than I could possibly believe and then stop as suddenly as they started.
After the rain, the place is the most alive. My eardrums are use to the waterfall thunder and they welcome the return of the bird songs and cricket chirps. The air is never silent.
When I said that Kerala is a feast for the senses, my favorite sense to feast is the taste.
The food is wonderful and as flavorful as the rest of the jungle is alive. The curry and sambar is spicy and rich and compliments the rice well at lunch. Dinner is often a chance for cooks to try their hands at American cuisine that we have taught them and the mix of pinto beans and chapattis is an amazing dish that combines India and home for me.
My favorite meal above all, however, is breakfast.
Breakfast is always the same. Idles – light, round cakes made from crushed rice and dhal – form the main dish. On the side, we have coconut chutney and other flavors which suit the idles nicely.
One day, I ate 21 idles and amazed the cooks. Their amazement is nothing compared to mine at this tropical paradise so far from home.