Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Trivandrum to Chennai to Bangkok

From Varkala we headed south to Trivandrum, where we caught our overnight train to Chennai. We only had a few hours to get a feel for Trivandrum, but it seemed busy – like a good state capital should be – and friendly – as any place situated the far reaches of the continent would need to be to thrive. We visited a beautiful temple with ornate sculpture near the center of the city and had yet another delicious dosa before boarding our last train in this country so defined by the tracks that cross it in every direction.

We had just one night in Chennai and were busy with last minute preparations for the next leg of the journey, so unfortunately the charms of this city – the largest in Tamil Nadu and the 5th largest in all of India – eluded us, for the most part. It’s not that the place is unpleasant, but given that it’s quite spread out and difficult to navigate on foot, it just doesn’t offer much to the short-term tourist. Still, we relished our last few moments in the embrace of Mother India. From the swirling colors of the women’s saris and the skinny legs protruding from the men’s lungi to the mounds of colorful fruits or stacks of bamboo sold street side, there are always treasures to be found here.

We reluctantly loaded our bags into a tuk tuk and departed for the airport, with our minds brimming with thoughts and our hearts bubbling over with emotions. India embodies everything that is wonderful and horrible in our world and forces you to confront those things day in and day out. You cannot hide from humanity here, cannot brush it off or turn your back to it, cannot forget or ignore. Your only option is to jump in and surrender to the currents churning around you – nearly drowning at times, but otherwise getting the ride of your life.

We leave India like you might leave a scorned lover. Exhausted, remorseful, relieved. And sitting on the Thai Airways flight to Bangkok, eating a meal at 2 AM, we were sure of one thing – we’ll be back for more.

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