Touchdown in Cochin, Southern India. It’s the middle of the night, and I’m far too tired/nervous to even think about attempting to navigate the public transport system on my own in the dark. The queue for the taxi rank is miles too long, and even though it’s already very late, the air is thick with humidity. I join the line - hot, sticky and ready to collapse into bed.
An hour later, and my taxi is pulling up to the hostel. I’m praying that the room will be quiet. All I want to do is put on the air conditioning, curl up into a ball and pass out. You can’t even begin to imagine how far from thrilled I am to spot a lady with a real, live baby checking in as I arrive at the reception desk, and I’m absolutely ecstatic when we get placed in the same room. I just know that the baby is going to scream and cry all night and keep me awake and smell of dirty nappies. Who brings a small child backpacking with them, anyway?
In the poor kid’s defence, it didn’t utter a peep all night and I managed to get a fair to moderate amount of sleep, despite the constant sound of beeping horns coming from the streets outside. I awoke feeling barely refreshed, deciding that I perhaps wasn’t ready to face the chaos of the world beyond the hostel walls. I was, however, ready to spend the day in bed, reading and relaxing.
If you’ve ever stayed in a hostel before, you’ll be aware that if you’ve planned to spend the day in bed, reading and relaxing, there’s very little chance that you’re actually going to get to spend the day in bed, reading and relaxing… The thing about hostels is, there is ALWAYS someone who wants to make friends, and sure enough, I’d just just got comfortable with my Kindle, when someone in the room struck up a conversation. Before I knew it, we were strolling through the streets of Fort Kochi, Kerala, trying to find me a new pair of flip flops, (considering I’d managed to break mine, three paces after stepping out the hostel door.)
It took me a very short amount of time to start feeling an indescribable warmth towards the tumultuous streets of India. The continuous bustle, rickshaws weaving in and out of the crowds, the abundance of dogs and farm creatures roaming the streets - I couldn’t help but smile at everybody I saw. I vividly remember being in awe of the colour - every person, everywhere I looked, dressed from head to toe in wonderful colours. It was almost as though I’d been living with black and white vision for my entire life, and suddenly somebody had flicked a switch and the world had come to life. Part of me wishes that the rest of the earth was as bright and brilliant, and the other part knows that if it were, then I wouldn't have such fond memories of this moment - it wouldn’t feel as special.
It seems I’d flipped a whole 180 since the morning, and had gone from not wanting to leave the comfort of the hostel, to not wanting to leave the madness of the streets. We’d met for some food with one of Marc’s friends - Sagar - and he’d shown us around, taken us to some great food spots and an art exhibition, we talked for hours, walked for hours - watched the sunset on the beach, and then sadly it was time to go back.
A lot of people say they’re unable to pinpoint the moment they fell for a country. I can’t tell you the exact moment I fell for India, but I do know, it all began in the South.