donderdag 21 januari 2016

What They Don't Tell You About... Kanyakumari

Kanyakumari is the end. Beyond the coastline there are a few rocks, but that is really it. Done. India doesn't go further south. You did it, you managed, and at the point where three seas meet and where - apparently -you can see the sun set and the moon rise simultaneously, you do actually feel a sense of accomplishment. Maybe it's my affection for the country, combined with a deep desire to do something meaningful in my life, but standing on the edge of India is special.

When the sense of accomplishment has ebbed away and you're done looking at the waves that are bashing the coast driving by ferocious winds, there's not that much about Kanyakumari that's worth your while. The town (23.000 souls) is small, with most of the activity centered at the coastline, which can be 'explored' in a day or so. It is a popular destination for Indians on holiday as well as those on a pilgrimage, which means that buildings are either hotels/lodges, tourist shops, more tourist shops, a travel agency and of course the occasional temple. Most noticeable in the latter category is the Vivekanada Memorial, 400 meter offshore. Literally drones and drones of people flock to the place where Swami Vivekanada once found his inner peace. Reason enough for me to admire Mr. Vivekanada's temple from a quiet, 400 meter distance. I'm sure he'd give his blessing.

Though quiet is not always an adequate description. The thousands of (inter)national tourists and pilgrims that come to Kanyakumari, also attract beggars, touts and my favorite: fortune telling parrots and their in-touch-with-your-inner-parrot interpreters. I'm not sure where the parrot would get his vision from and how these would be interpreted, but the people selling their services were so convinced of the parrot's abilities, they would become quite insistent in their desire to help you achieve future succes, avoid oncoming doom. Though my curiosity was piqued, I didn't feel like laying down 200 rupees (less than 3 euro) and support this sham, just to see how far someone would go to try to fool me. Nah, not me, not today.

Something else I failed to do, was getting a tattoo at one of the various pop-up, semi-improvised tattoo 'shops'. Basically there was a blanket, some wooden stamps with your figure of choice (including tribal motives!) and a guy with a simple tattooing machine. He'd stamp you with the figure, follow the lines with the needle and within minutes, you're scarred for life. It seemed a fairly popular souvenir though, judging from the number of tattooists. Even boys, not much older than 13, 14 where sitting down for these skilled artisans to do their worst.

Well, maybe I'm being unfair to the ones setting the tattoos. They're only trying to make money, based on an apparent need to get inked in Kanyakumari. They were not the only ones on blankets trying to make a living. Others, seemed even poorer and more desperate. If you see the people with disheveled hair, torn clothes and half to naked children running around them trying to sell all kinds of beads and necklaces, you know you can do worse than being a tattooist.

Maybe I haven't done Kanyakumari justice with just a day and a half, but I'm glad I didn't spent the usual 3-days-a-place. It was worth it for the 'I did it!', but Madurai awaits!

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