I awoke to the bus conductor telling me in his gestural- not-quite-english that I had arrived: this was the last stop and I was the only person on the bus. The previous evening I had been in the mountains trudging through the supposedly spectacularly Ooty, and yet another train-ticket debacle incited me to get out as soon as possible—by bus. I've learned that towns tell me when its time to leave and its best to heed their advice.
I had chosen Kanyakumari for an arbitrary reason: it was as far away as I could go in an overnight journey. And here I was at the very southernmost tip of the subcontinent.
The light was balmy and the air relaxed on the street. I had my first banana dosa with spicy sambhar and coconut chutney (I ate it daily and I crave it to this day) and wandered down the not-too-fancy street towards the shore. Beggars, seashell peddlers and an occasional rambling cow peppered the street. A typical indian beach town.
But that shore. I was descended upon one of the most beautiful visions of my life unfurl around me. A flurry of colorful saris and lunghis undulated around bathers in the water of three meeting seas: The Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.
A priest prepared impromptu Pitr Tarpan (a ceremony to liberate deceased ancestors from purgatory) offerings amidst a huddling crowd. He waved incense and pronounced blessings over various grains and rice folded into a banana-leaf packet. The eldest male of the family descended into the waves, muttered a prayer and threw the offering behind his shoulder into the turbulent water before briefly plunging below the surface.
Down the shore, a monument to Mahatma Gandhi had been erected over the site where his ashen remains were held for observance before immersion into the ocean.
A short distance from the shore the immense statue of the famed tamil poet and philosopher Thiruvalluvar presided over the morning's auspicious activities.