26.12.2010 30 °C
Shopping on Christmas Eve was fun. We had our host’s three children to buy for and even got a Christmas cake. Here’s Josey, our host, and most of his family gathered to serve us Christmas breakfast – including the cake...
But the Hindus are also celebrating at this time and the decorated streets of the nearby town of Allepey were thronged with shoppers and worshippers of all religions.
However, the noise of the traffic and the crowds wasn’t improved by the amplified prayers from several temples. But India is a very noisy place.
Even here on the quiet backwaters of Kerala, where the supermarket is a boat, there is barely a moment's silence: birds, frogs, crickets and roosters screech around the clock; clutches of washerwomen rhythmically smash their wet clothes on riverside stones; toddymen beat coconut flowers with dry bones. (See below); Brahmins scream religious incantations over tinny loudspeakers; muezzins call their flock to prayer from minarets; and there is always a background hubbub of voices.
And then there are the fireworks! No one warned us about the fireworks. Indians celebrate everything with the noisiest fireworks imaginable - and most celebrations go on all night. In November we escaped to the Himalayas to avoid the pyrotechnic pandemonium of Diwali in Delhi – but the pyromaniacs took to the hills with us. Then we came to the serene backwaters for Christmas, seeking peace and tranquility among the gentle Christian inhabitants of the waterside village of Champakulam. But, as night fell on Christmas Eve, the bombs and grenades started falling, and we realized that the old Christmas chestnut, “Silent night” doesn’t figure in the hymnbooks here.
It was bedlam until 4 am on Christmas Day when a truce was called. But at 5.30 am the Hindus retaliated with a blast of firecrackers from the nearby temple. The sonic war quickly resumed with massive explosions shaking the air throughout the day, and then a raucous fleet of “party” boats went by…!!!!
O.K. - We know we are lucky to be here, celebrating Christmas with these lovely people, but we would just like a few minutes peace – please. Still, New Year is only a week away – and, apparently, that’s when they really get into the fireworks!!!
Note: Toddy is an alcoholic drink extracted from coconut flowers. The toddyman climbs selected coconut trees three times each day and pares off the end of the sword-like flower spike. He then noisily beats the spike for several minutes with a bone to induce the sap to flow into a collection pot. It takes forty days to extract the sap from each flower – and it tastes… interesting!