There have been times on this journey where I have asked myself what the heck I was thinking when I decided to embark on this journey. In S. India, I’m basically illiterate and don’t speak the language. I’ve felt helpless and clueless on a number of occasions, like the time when I didn’t know how to find a cab because I didn’t know India had yellow pages. There have been other times where I felt like I was exactly in the right place doing exactly the right thing, with the universe sending me exactly the right people at exactly the right time. Last Wednesday was one such day.
I made it out of Madurai on what seemed like an ill-fated bus ride. Though the bus was a ‘sleeper’ and I was tired, I woke up around 4am and couldn’t get back to sleep. Part of the reason was that I was pre-occupied with where to spend the next couple of days. I wanted to go to Chidambaram to check out a place near there famous for nadi leaves, palm-leaf horoscopes supposedly composed thousands of years ago. More on that later, but the question was: should I stay in Pondy or stay in Chidambaram. Since getting to Chidambaram would take another 2 hours or so and I absolutely had no clue about where to stay out there, I thought I’d try my luck in Pondy.
Showed up at Park Guest House on the off-chance that they would have a room. The place is notoriously booked up, and you either have to reserve 2 months in advance or have connections to get a room. I got there about 10 minutes before the office opened and was pacing around, hoping to not get turned away. About 5 minutes later, I look back and see Mike Gilbert, a friend from Berkeley, walking toward the office. Him and his dad Tim have been biking through S. India. After we had met up in Madurai we had tentatively planned on doing a backwater tour of Kerala together, but it just hadn’t worked out. On the bus ride up to Pondy, I thought of how we’d missed out on that and was a little bummed that I didn’t get to hang out with Mike a little more, and here he was, also staying at Park Guest House. After the office opened, they told me that I had to wait an hour or two to see if any rooms opened up, so I dropped my bags off in Mike’s room and went out to breakfast. Upon my return, I managed to score a room, so I was set.
A couple of days before leaving Madurai, I sent off an email to Mark and Yoo-mi to figure out what their schedule was and to see if there were any chances of us meeting up again somewhere in India. A few minutes into the conversation with Mike, he tells me that he ran into Mark, Yoo-mi, and Pavi and that Mark & Yoo-mi were staying at Park Guest House as well. Fantastic! I still had to find them… and their cell phone was notorious for not working, but I figured that would work itself out.
Before I left Madurai, I called Smita to help arrange for a place to stay when I reached Chennai. I hadn’t seen her since our shared journey to Pollachi with Param, after which she had left for Kerala. Her blog was full of insightful and humorous adventures, and I was looking forward to catching up with her. So after lunch, I called again, only to find out that she was in Pondicherry too! She was hanging out with Mark, Yoo-mi, and Viral!! Unfortunately, I had just boarded a bus to Chidambaram and wouldn’t be back until quite late, but we made rough plans for meeting up.
Minutes later, Ilango Rangaswamy walks onboard the bus. We had met back in December when he gave Smita and I a tour of Kuthambakkam. Back then we had discussed the possibilities of getting some of the handicrafts made in his village onto cShops or World of Good but had not been in touch since the tsunami. I was planning on contacting him when I got to Chennai, but the universe sent him to me instead. I’d also been meaning to connect Dr. Lakshmi Rahmahthullah to Ilango, as Kariapatty could learn a lot from the projects Ilango has put into place in Kuthambakkam. Ilango was actually headed to Madurai so I gave him her contact information, and smiled at another fortuitous connection made. We caught up over the next hour, and tentatively set a time to meet up again in Chennai.
After returning to Pondy and Park Guest House, while walking back to my room, I bump into Yoo-mi and Viral, who were just at my room trying to find me! Though seeing Yoo-mi and Mark was great, it was a special treat to see Viral who had fairly recently concluded a 6 month “leave of presence” where he spent much time in seclusion, silence, and meditation.
If you thought I had a coincidental couple of days, you should read about Yoo-mi’s experience!