Back in January 2004, my daughter and I had a week in hand after a friend’s wedding in Chennai. She suggested we went to Kerala.
Goodness, Kerala is gorgeous. If you haven’t been there, do go. I didn’t spend any time in any of the main cities, but it is the only place in India that I’ve visited where no one seemed hungry and there were no beggars – although children still ask for pens. Actually, South India is better in that respect (in my limited experience*) than the North; I suspect it is because the climate is kinder and because they are less accustomed to tourists in the places I’ve been.
A friend of mine had spent Christmas in Kerala; her daughter, then training to be a doctor, had been doing some work experience in a hospital out there, and Anna and her son had flown out to visit. They were the first guests at a wonderful hotel, the Raheem Residency at Alleppey Beach. Their own website doesn’t tell you much, so it’s worth Googling too**. So we used it as our base. And, as well as a splendid bookcase in the hall (my all-time record was reading four books in a day), it had a delightful swimming pool***.
I’m the worst swimmer you will ever see. I’m becoming worse still, as I get older and more nervous. I’d told El this, but she didn’t entirely believe me, especially when she saw me splashing around quite cheerfully. It was apparent that I always found something to hold on to and never risked floating out of my depth, but she accepted my explanation of poor co-ordination when needing to use all four limbs simultaneously. This means that I have almost no control of which direction I’m swimming in. I also mentioned my astonishingly overdeveloped buoyancy which meant that, once I was afloat, it was almost impossible for me to stand upright again.
But I seemed to be managing to flounder around happily. Until the time I tried to stand up and had nothing to hold on to.
I couldn’t put my feet down. I had to fold at the waist. I sank helplessly. El splashed towards me and grabbed and we both rose, chokingly. I found a foothold.
“Blimey, Ma” said El, “I knew you were a bad swimmer, but I never expected you to drown in the shallow end of a swimming pool.” We nearly went under again, laughing.
I’ve never let go since. Maybe I need a lucky piece of wood to hold on to? Please let it not be ebony.
*I judge prosperity, in any country, by the dogs trotting around the street. If they look well fed and uncowed, it seems that poverty hasn’t bitten too hard.
**such as this one – http://www.i-escape.com/raheemresidency.php – I tried linking it, but it wouldn’t work. So, sorry, I’m a dreadful hostess, but please copy and paste it yourself.
***I should mention that I don’t always stay in such luxury. We really fancied some pampering just then. It cost about £60 per night (without food) for the two of us – the previous week we had been in a hotel that was £60 for two for the whole week.