Just a Fling?
I came out of my room wearing plain pants, plain t-shirt and the gold peacock sequined shawl given to me by Pias’s mother before I left Thailand (the peacock is a symbol for many things among them safe travel) to find a handsome man sitting in a chair outside his room. I explained that I had the shawl wrapped over my hair because it was wet from my Ayurvedic treatment that day and I was going to meet my brother for dinner in town which would be my first excursion from Kovalam Beach so I thought it fitting as the peacock was a symbol for safe travel. He reacted by saying that it suited me in his Irish accent and I hopped in the auto-rickshaw and headed to dinner.
I later thought about how handsome he was and how I really liked our brief interaction. A couple of days passed and I hadn’t seen him so I just chocked it up to a pleasant brief interaction. Then one night, I was walking back from a less than appealing dinner experience and I heard my name called from behind me with a hint of brogue. It was the handsome Irish man! He said he was planning to go to a music festival in town and asked me if I wanted to go as well. It was a coincidence because I had already been planning to go to see the same music festival. We took an auto-rickshaw over and had to wander around for a while to find the entrance. It was actually me who discovered the somewhat secret entrance. It was an unassuming doorway with a plain clothes older man sitting in a chair in the dark. I asked, “Music?” pointing through the doorway?
“Music?” He responded.
Begrudgingly he nodded and lackadaisically waved us in. As we approached the large tent packed with people Phil and I could see and hear the awesome performance going on. There was a man with only a white cloth around his hips and thighs refilling the fuel for the spiritual candles that were aglow on stage and six members of the band were sitting in front. The coolest part of the performance was when the singer made violin sounds with his voice and the violin then had to repeat his sounds which were all rather complicated sounding. After about two hours of listening to music, Phil and I headed to a hole-in-the-wall looking place where I ordered what was entitled “Barotta” on the large menu on the wall. It was a freshly made, round bread that pulled apart in delicate steamy flakes (much like a croissant). It was the BEST! I decided that I had to learn to make these at some point.
I knew that my feelings were more than friends and I sensed that this was the case for Phil as well buuuut…we also decided to get some street snacks on our way to the place where I ordered the “Barotta” (known to most as Parota). The guy making our pani puri and chaat asked us if we were together and Phil without skipping a beat said we were just friends in a way that sounded very decisive. Friends it is.
We spent the next week and a half running into each other and sometimes having friendly dinner and then I told him about my plans to go scooting around on Saturday (a day off of yoga) and he said he would be excited about joining me (which made my beyond friends senses perk up again). But to play the game of friendliness, I invited some other people who, as it turned out couldn’t make it. It was also the day I decided to make South Indian breakfast for a group of us to reinforce the cooking I did with Nasira in the days before.
I woke up at 7am and got the sambar (a vegetable stew with tamarind broth) started in the pressure cooker. Meanwhile, I took the fermented dosa batter that had sat out over night and thinned it out with some water and added salt. I got the sambar out of the pressure cooker and in went chickpeas that I had soaked overnight along with spices and sliced onion and ginger for what’s known as kerula curry (channa masala).
By this time, Manu, one of the guest house managers was upstairs and ready to add his knowledge to the preparing of dosa. He added grated coconut to one, onion and tomato to another and to still another he cracked an egg and added onion, tomato and sliced green chili which looked fantastic. I made mostly plain dosa. Everyone who joined the meal said it was great so I felt like I had learned something about South Indian cooking but in the back of my mind, I definitely was thinking that it didn’t taste exactly like Nasira’s. I will need to practice more to really make it my own.
On to the scooter rental where I had reserved two scooters one for me and one for Phil. We got there a little bit later than expected. The woman who managed the bike rental said that she had rented the bikes since I wasn’t there but that there was one left. I looked over at it. It was a piece of shit and later we would discover that the gas meter didn’t work and every time we came to a complete stop, the thing conked out. I also had to get off the bike for a couple of steeper hills which made for a comedic experience. But she gave us a discount and it worked enough for our purposes. We rode on one bike. Initially, I drove but that lasted for about 35 seconds until I realized that it would be confusing for me to drive on the left side of the road. Phil was used to it so he switched with me. I got on and grabbed the back handles sitting a friendly distance away so as not to infringe on any boundaries.
Five minutes in he said that I should get closer so it would be easier to drive around the curves. An hour in I was really close and it turned out that my arms around his torso was the “safest”. Riding around like that with someone that I felt a connection with all day started to dissolve the friendly boundaries. We made our way to the Agastaya Heritage Krishna Pharmacy about 5k away from Kovalam stopping to ask about the somewhat convoluted directions to the place multiple times. Finally we arrived.
The place was a large factory building which smelled amazing throughout: earthy, woodsy, fruity, tannic, vegetal, musty at times, medicinal at times. We saw some of the processes that are required to make Ayurvedic medicine happen, much of the work taking place over a matter of days or even weeks/months with certain aging processes. It was really cool to see the science behind the plant medicine. I was excited that Phil was so excited to see this place and that he knew something about some of the plants that I didn’t know. We had a lot of fun there and then headed to Trivandrum to grab a bite to eat and go to a book store where I bought a book called Yoga of Herbs (more on this later).
Back on the bike, we cruised south again to go to the Shiva Temple for sunset. Phil decided not to wear a helmet (to my dismay) and as we approached a police checkpoint I told him to pull over and put it on but it was too late, we got pulled over. The police officers looked really excited to have pulled over a couple of tourists. Phil went over to talk with the men and it looked like they were laughing and joking but also serious about getting some rupees out of us. Phil said he didn’t have any money. I said I didn’t have any money and that we were headed to an atm but hadn’t found one yet. They told us that there was one just up the street and that we should come back to pay the fine…we were back on the road again with two helmet wearers (we did not go back).
We sat on some rocks on the beach outside of the Siva Temple to watch the sun setting over the water. I thought there was some palpable tension through this but I shrugged it off. Back on the bike for a dark journey to home base. Somewhere along the way, Phil asked about a conversation we had about him teaching me some mantras and meditations in exchange for a Thai massage. He said his shoulders and back could use a massage which I agreed would be a good idea knowing full well that this was his way of making a move.
After arriving back, I set the scene for what I could remember from my Thai massage teachings. Plus also a relaxing environment: sage, incense, palo santo, essential oil, candle light. After over an hour of giving Phil a massage I was kind of tired so I laid down next to him and we talked for a while. Talking turned into a graze here or there and then I turned in for a kiss, which was well received. All in all a wonderful day that spilled out into four more days that included meditations and massage and all the feels. Made leaving Kovalam bitter sweet for sure.