Today is my last full day in Aranmula, and I could easily stay for another two weeks at VKV, or “hippie camp” as I fondly think of it. I’ll miss going to market with Sreelatha, my cooking teacher, and eating all of the coconut/sugar/rice balls we make daily (it’s evident from the pics I hope to post soon that I’ve done a lot of “taste testing”–so much for my plans to effortlessly drop 20 pounds here). I’ll also miss Nisha, my Hindi teacher. Even though she has a wooden leg, she is the feistiest Indian woman I have ever met. Right away, she taught me the most important stuff, such as, “leave me alone”, “go far away”, and “too much”.

Besides my teachers, I’ve made friends with some locals here, too. My next door neighbor, Karthikaunni, is one sharp four year old. After some serious thinking, I have come to the conclusion that she has somehow planted a GPS tracking device somewhere on my body, because every time–day or night without fail–I leave or return home, she either is waiting for me on the wall that separates our houses or races out of her house to stalk me down for a photo shoot or music session. One time, she was rifling through my bag as usual and pulled out a tampon and said, “This what is?”. I looked at her mother, Parvathi, for a signal as to how I should handle the situation, but she was just as curious as Karthikaunni. I eventually replied, “Um, it’s a special kind of pen”, and quickly snatched it back and changed the subject. Karthi is adorable, and we have spent a lot of time together, but sometimes I feel like that blonde girl with glasses from “The Goonies”. Read: “This is ridiculous. I feel like I’m babysitting and not getting paid”. But in all fairness, Parvathi invites me over for guava and chai from time to time.

Overlooked by even the “Lonely Planet”

Yesterday I ventured out to another even smaller town. Konni is so small that even the expert “Lonely Planet” writers missed it, but it was beautiful. It was in Konni where I met Meena. After she gave me a piggyback ride, even she wanted to shake my hand like so many people did at the Taj Mahal. Only she used her trunk and was probably searching for peanuts. PS–Meena is an elephant.

After meeting Meena, I did some serious window shopping at Alukkas, a legitimate 22 carat gold store. I took my sweet time in the clean, airconditioned shop as attractive salesmen made a huge fuss about me while I tried on gold bangles, rings and wedding necklaces worth thousands of dollars over a span of three hours. After awhile, a girl gets tired of “bazaar shopping” (or shopping anywhere without fixed prices for that matter), which entails bargaining with non-English-speakers who inevitably try to charge you at least double and often triple the price an Indian would pay.

Tomorrow, I’m off to Kochin and then Goa on Saturday, where I’ll be able to wear a skirt and a tank top!