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Location: Dublin, Republic of, Ireland

Tuesday, 29 August 2006

A true episode - Kovalam Beach South India Part 1

5 years ago, I lived on Kovalam Beach, South India for a month as a beachcomber. It proved a revival of flower power.

Several Europeans indulged in thereupeutic massages, sought the beach or meditated. Later, they went up to Goa. It was my accidental Woodstock.

One Sunday morning, a rackety bus stopped next to an unscruplous toothless lady, selling pineapples. A gang of skinny grinning Malayalee youths, dressed in dhotis scrambled out swiftly like powerful commandos on a mission.

Some splashed on Calvin Klein aftershaves. Others displayed an assortment of Hurry Baby,I Am Yours, tee-shirts. One had a tee-shirt that screamed in neon yellow, If You Don't Marry Me Now, I Will Die. He looked very much alive.

The electrifying Elvis Presley Brylcreem-greased hairstyle was back in vogue. Sparkly ultra-violet sunglasses glinted like diamonds. The youths tried to look like Madras movie stars. Fat moustaches, beards and eager roving eyes completed the noisy picture.

The men had opted for an all-expenses paid one-day sightseeing Kovalam Beach Tour package over the cinema. One had to pay for a film ticket. The beach had far more tempting scenes and was free.

They stopped curiously now, under the first parasol. All was silent. It was a large parasol that completely covered the bikini-clad woman. All bent forward for a closer look. A sea of bat faces peered down as far as the eye could go.

Suddenly, passers by were treated to a lady shouting obsenities. "You bloody idiots! GET OUT!" The youths seemed unmoved. There was a slight commotion. Why was she screaming? They appeared unmoved studying intently, the science of her beanpole torso. They had never seen anything quite like it.

A spokesman for the group explained with demonstrative gestures, the woman's long shiny legs. Like art students, the youths appeared in studious repose. They placed their chins in their palms reflectively. They slicked their Presley combs back nervously. Above all, they continued to study her shamelessly.

I mean, flesh jutting out of the skimpy bra and all that.

Now, they playacted philosophers. They nodded in unison. They hummed and haw-ed. Very impressive. Very impressive indeed!

It was an interesting prospect to be sure. One didn't alway get to see such modern exhibits in conservative Trivendrum. One saw other strange things.

Like how you could die on a busy road from being knocked by a hit-and-crawl bullock cart. Also, the irate buffalo may not hold an insurance policy. Or like how if you got into a taxi, you would find your bottom sinking majestically down as the seat slipped from under you lke a hammock.

If you complained, someone would heatedly challenge you to stop a taxi in Madras. Be warned that you could end up toppling into the biggest hole in the backseat and land in the middle of the road while the taxi driver drove away with his leftover vehicle.

In other words, better not take a taxi in South India if you've signed up for WeightWatchers or otherwise, send your farewell postcards first.

The lady continued to scream.

After 5-minutes, the undaunted youths carried on with their gallery stroll to the next parasol. The lady under the shade was fat and bouncy. Rolling flesh depicted mismatched arms and legs. Like a replayed scene, the second lady heaved herself up. After slipping a couple of times, she managed to stand up, her cellulite dancing like jelly. She waved drumstick arms,while muttering angrily. They looked like rolling pins.

Watching her boulder frame, the youths grinned, nudged each other and sniggered. This was a comedy portrait to be sure. The group's spokesman encouraged their exhibit stroll on to the third parasol. And so the tour of bikini-clad women went on and on.

As they walked, their sunglasses shone like laser beams picking up signals. They moved silently in robotic motion - left circle, right circle, 1, 2, 3, swingabout and turn. Thoroughly engrossed, they looked like ghosts haunting the beach. They could have easily been aliens from another planet observing the human condition.

By the time, they reached me, all were shocked. What an Indian woman? They half-suspected me to be Indian. They simply couldn't be sure. But one thing was certain. No good Indian girl from any respectable Indian family would
ie scantily-clad on the beach showing her navel, her thighs and her bare arms. Bringing the family name down! Shame on the mother! Shame on the father! Shame on the girl! DISGRACE ON THE WHOLE FAMILY!

I was certainly a controversial exhibit.

"Give her a skirt, a needle and a thread," one grumbled in Malayalam. Another youth looked like he would like to beat me up. One more turned lecherous. "Well,might as well..." kind of thing. Another lad swung me around like a doll. Soon I too, started screaming.

My pleas were slightly more creative. "Leave me alone, you bastards."

Feeling sickened, I continued to shout. "What, what..." they asked in Malayalam, not understanding a word I said in English. Why is this mad woman screaming?

I took advantage of their ignorance.

My vocabulary turned explicit and colourful.

S-T-U-P-I-D, I spat regally.

I screamed the loudest of all, until a few fishermen came to my aid.

The spokesman who wore bright purple sunglasses had styled himself to look like a Bollywood star. His spectacles shone like glass. They almost blinded me. "What, are u a mad woman, ah" he continued to question his intellectual discourse in Malayalam. He rolled his finger round his brain to show that I had lost it.

He told the fishermen that I was an embarassment to the Indian nation in general.

Soon, the men were shooed off. They accused me of ruining their excursion but after awhile dispersed in humiliation. The next row of parasols that greeted them would contain their heavily saree-clad mothers or wives. And this time, if the womenfolk ever got to hear about their morning adventure, the rolling pins would be for real.

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