I have a friend in India who can’t sit still. She is the most active person I know. I’m no slouch but I am not in her league. Whenever she invites me to go on a walk with her, I leap at the opportunity because in the past, the places we have hiked to together have been astonishingly gorgeous.
On a clear, sunny morning we set out along a hilly gravel-lined path in the state of Karnataka that quickly turned into a narrow, exposed red earth trail that snaked agonizingly upwards. As we walked, the landscape grew dense with lush, tropical foliage. Small houses painted whimsical colors seem to spring right from the rich soil as if they were tropical flowers. The locals looked at us with curiosity and quickly returned to their endeavors.
Finally we reached a plateau where fields and wet paddy lined up like a green chess board. In the distance, colorful, indistinguishable dots appeared scattered in the fields; gradually the dots turned into women, dressed in cheerful sarees, hiked up between their legs while bent over at work. Along the way we passed an assortment of people, all carrying large loads on their heads. The temptation to put my purse on my head went through my thoughts but I dismissed the urge.
The sounds of human activity encroached into the silence. The path widened. We had arrived at our destination, a very small, Muslim fishing village. For such a small village, it was a hub of enterprise. We passed a noisy ice factory that was essential for the fishing “industry,” though it hardly qualified as an industry from the western perspective. I was quite taken by the men making fishing nets.
The street that lead into the town followed the coast, then turned inland. I stopped and admired the view. It was a nearly deserted beach.
We followed the main street until we came across a tea stall. Once seated, the owner came over and politely asked what we would like. He apologized for being a vegetarian stall, explaining that he was Hindu. We ordered tea and biscuits. The tea was delicious: milky, sweet and with a slight smoked flavor. We indulged in a second cup because the mini bus that we were planning to catch wasn’t due for another 30 minutes. Right on time the wobbly little bus pulled up beside the tea stall. We dashed out of the shop immediately, anxious to grab some seats or we would be forced to stand for most of the return journey. Instantly the bus filled up with villagers. It wasn’t much bigger than an old Volkswagen van.
The roof of the bus was so low that if you were standing, you had to duck unless you were 4 feet tall.
It had been a perfect outing. The sun was shining , the sky was blue, everyone was smiling, except inside that bus. It is a day like this one that makes me feel as if I am the luckiest person in the world and in complete harmony with my surroundings and grateful to have a seat on that bus.