Letters from India 2 - Of slums, engagement parties and Kerala

Good early morning from our Cottage in Alleppey, Kerala!

Yes, this is beautiful. I was just woken up by the very, very heavy rain. Finally! Some proper monsoon rains!
We're having a really good time in the state of Kerala. Cochin was a bit more calm than Mumbai and Alleppey definitely seems to be even more tranquile.

I guess I didn't write for some time. Sorry about that! We've been having loads of fun and very little quiet time.

Our last day in Mumbai was great: we visited the most dense bit of land in the world (about 1 million people in a square mile) which happens to be the biggest slum in the city and the most populated one in India. We took a tour from an NGO called Reality Gives, whose purpose is to show the good side of slums. We spent some time walking around businesses, bars, gyms, schools, community centres and houses. Yes, all of that in a slum! Frankly speaking, it was the very first time we didn't feel like foreigners. Nobody was begging, all kids came towards us to greet the non-familiar faces, they hi-5d us, etc. It was a great experience! All the prejudices people tend to have towards slums are not necessarily right. Dharavi seems to be a great community in which three different religions and many identities are able to live peacefully. It's a hub for entrepreneurs, innovators and hard workers. If that’s not a great example for the world to take...

Afterwards, as you know, we flew to Cochin, Kerala. On the plane, we met a local doctor with whom we had some really interesting conversations about Indian languages. We’ve understood so far that it’s truly a myth that all Indians speak Hindi and English. In schools, kids will learn their local language first, and then English and Hindi. But there are so many different languages!

The day before yesterday we crashed our first Indian engagement party. We were lost on our way back to the lovely homestay where we were at when we saw some light and loud voices coming from a huge building. We stopped at one of its windows and before we even had time to see through it to guess what was going on two nice women where taking us into the party. They were the aunt and cousin of the two twin (!) brides that where seated on a massively decorated stage. Everybody would come up in turns to be photographed with the future wifes.
Our warm guides, the aunty and her smiley daughter, explained that the two beautiful girls where 20 years old and that they were about to marry two other twins (!!). We ate with them, took some pictures, were drilled with questions and had some good laughs.
It was very interesting to hear for the first time from a 16-year old Indian Muslim girl (who is, according to her family, supposed to marry in about two years time) that she wants to become a Doctor, study in the United States and pospone marriage and kids until she has reached the success she is daydreaming of. Extremely refreshing views. A generational change IS happening in India.

The day after, we spent some good hours walking around beautiful Fort Cochin and enjoying the sun. We witnessed how some volunteers were cleaning a beach - great initiative with unexpectedly big support! I wish there were more of these initiatives in Spanish beaches which are deprived of its beauty because of the incredible amount of rubbish they host.
Also, we observed some fishermen using traditional Chinese techniques - have a look at the pictures!

At night, Sheeva, the owner of our homestay, recommended we visited Alleppey. So up we jumped on a tuktuk that brought us here in two hours only! The ride was certainly bumpy, full of holes and perils: the roads between Fort Cochin and Alleppey are not paved nor illuminated. All our driver had to see cars going both ways, cows and trees on the road was a tiny light on the front of his tuktuk.

We're now going to go out to try to get a houseboat for a day. We're very excited! Rowan wants to do some birdwatching (Kerala is excellent for that!) and I just want to chill, enjoy the backwaters, the silence and continue reading one of the many books we’ve bought here. We found an amazing library in Cochin and are now loaded with good reads.

A bientot, mes chèrs!

Lots of love

Written by Marta García Aliaga. Pictures by Rowan Farrell.
http://www.actlocalthinkglobal.net

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