Though it wasn’t exactly an elusive, suited-up Bond and his girl steering their luxury yacht to a lakeshore in Venice backed by some chic sax music, our welcome was adorned with the native greatness of a mellifluous live flute, and refreshing serves of elaneer, and a fresh flower to each of us. Apart from the flautist who had his lips puckered over the flute gracing us with a warm welcome melody, the rest of the reception team were waiting in the namaskaram posture beaming with smiles as our boat sputtered and stopped at the mouth of the reception cottage. Once we got off the boat, the woman from the team punctuated our foreheads with a pottu and gave us a flower each while the man handed us the Elaneer serves with dipped straws. Before I could get a full view of the reception area, they directed us towards a small wooden desk on the right side to take our seats. The flute stopped yet the rumbling in my stomach continued in its dragging discordant notes. The man from the reception team who looked as if he had come straight out of a rejuvenating herbal bath was dressed in a serene white jippa and veshti with his hair pulled back neatly in the wetness of coconut oil. He took the single chair on the other side of the desk while I couldn’t help but gulp down the elaneer in a flash with a climactic raspy gurgle through the straw setting his teeth on edge instantly. He started flicking his pen and ruffling through a few papers on the desk. The setting looked like a parent-teacher conference in a primary school in which the tension soars as the teacher slides her hand under the taut rubber band and deftly twists it to unbind the bunch of report cards and then meticulously flips through the bunch to pick the necessary evil of revelation. However, on that day, we were just the tired guests ready to flash photo IDs and sign on papers against those little cross marks so that we could sigh and speed-walk for a measly sandwich.
After he verified our booking, which was already paid for in full, he stated the obvious that our booking was confirmed, probably, expecting us to high-five each other but we were so beat we wanted the check-in to proceed only in nods and mimes. He seemed to be in no hurry as though it was to indicate discreetly that they were practising a slow-down culture; good in general, not so good for someone who could hear his own stomach cave in like a belching zombie.
Pamphlets and a Peek into the Profound Enterprise
He began, “Welcome to Coconut Lagoon!” It sounded much like an office presentation wherein the welcome note is pasted again in slide number 14.
He continued proudly, “We are spread over 30 acres and we have three types of cottages; Pool Villas, Heritage Mansions and Heritage Bungalows. Yours is a Heritage Bungalow. We are close to nature in every sense. And most importantly, there is no TV in the rooms. If you need to watch TV, you shall send a request in the reception desk. We will arrange a TV for you in the community room for an hour or so. We have a lot of free hourly activities planned every day and you could also go on the sunset cruise that comes with it.”
Though I would fight a Samurai warrior for a spilled breadcrumb right then, I could truly appreciate in hindsight the hospitable atmosphere, overlooking the contemplative pace in which it was being offered.
He pushed a sheet towards us that contained the activities listed in chronological order. My eyes brightened up for one brief moment. Without TV, Internet, and a whole lot of stale junk food, this barrage of activities should really balloon up the weekend hiatus, I thought. The activities seemed precise, reasonably placed, and far better in purpose than any of those ambiguous tasks bricked into activity trackers in software firms with Hours of Work policy, which could be illustrated as
Nine dot who?
Nine dot problem.
Before I could happily fold and tuck the sheet in my pocket, he began elaborating on the first activity, which I presumed was ‘waking up’.
“Kalaripayattu practice at 6:00 a.m.”, he said.
Wife immediately turned a wicked smile, indicating, “You should totally do this!”
The Kalaripayattu Catharsis
I cleared my throat trying to run the images of my stance, all oiled up, sporting only a panchakachham, and rapidly whisking a sword for a mock duel with the master. The sound of my sword and shield clanging with other ones reverberated in my ears raising the hair on the back of my neck. But there’s always the reality. And the reality is that I’ve had my indulgences as a pet warrior by doing a few Taekwondo moves in front of the mirror in fitting rooms and I have been quite successful in testing the seam of trousers that way. But for some reason I had a strong feeling that though I was not exactly a Bheema going to a Gadhayuddha, I could end up staggering like a jelly cake in trying to lift the shield above my waist, and in no time, find myself on the ground clenching grass for breakfast.
Moving on, he said, “Bird Watching at 6:30.”
Now, this I could do. It was right up my alley. The easiest part in bird photography is hang a DSLR camera round the neck and turn the telephoto lens, which could spiral out like a cannon barrel, and click anything that’s remotely resembles a beak. And the toughest part is someone else taking a look at that picture later. I ought to leave that honor to them.
He continued to brief on further activities that included yoga, butterfly watching, dragon fly watching, property look-around, cooking classes, recreational indulgences in cold water such as canoeing and in hot water such as steam bath, free Ayurveda consultation, village life experiences, Vembanad biosphere educational session and a few nightly cultural programmes.
We thanked him for the induction that opened the possibility of a few profound elements entering our lives in the next 2 days and informed him that we’d have some lunch first and requested our luggage be transferred to our room.
He said, “Oh! We stopped serving lunch by 3 p.m.”
3 p.m. – That’s when we arrived with the grand welcome followed by an elaborate induction session.
I inquired, “Do we not get something to eat? Maybe in a coffee shop? Some snacks at least? Because we are hungry!”
“No coffee shops. We have a restaurant at the other end of the property. It is called Aymanam Restaurant. It is still open. I’ll lead you there, sir. Please come.”
Gleefully, I asked, “So they still serve lunch, right?”
“Oh no! Lunch is over.”
Time was 3:40.
“You might get some dosas if you are lucky. We’ll see.”
“See what?” I thought.
“They close by 4 o’ clock”, he said as he led us there.
While walking to the Aymanam Restaurant, I could see the gleam in her eyes because she loves dosas. In fact, if somebody said to her that she could eat around 225000 dosas considering she ate only dosas 3 times a day at least for the next 50 years, she’d take it. Such was the gleam in her eyes. And when we reached the restaurant wherein all the tables were cleaned up with their chairs mounted on them already, I realized that I had just lost my appetite.