Tuesday, January 15
Kerala University campus, 17:48
We started the morning by continuing with our packing and paused to have a late breakfast. The temple festival continued with several hours of continuous unaccompanied singing.
We had arranged to meet Sohan Lal this afternoon, but Narendra Modi, the prime minister, had arranged to declare Kollam bypass open this afternoon, and then take a helicopter to Trivandrum to the temple in the East Fort.
The newspaper warned that traffic might grind to a halt over large parts of the city so we did not know whether we would make it. Uday assured us that we would.
He drove us to meet Sohan in Technopark, and we only had one ten minute jam. We sat with Sohan for an hour or so. He gave us a collection of his movies on dvd, and then announced that he would take us to meet Doctor George Matthew. Oh, okay, we said.
We met him in a rambling and gently decaying house on the university campus where he served as Professor of Psychology until his retirement. He has tended the garden there for many years, and turned it into a miniature forest, with dense foliage of many kinds.
He walks us through the little jungle for thirty minutes pointing out the various flowers and fruits and at the very end I ask the name of the bright red, artificial-looking flower. “Torch ginger”, he replies. I realise that I have never wondering about ginger plants at all, or indeed about the flowers of any other edible roots and tubers.
Sohan will announce that George Matthew would like to show us an amazing church at a nearby beach, and then lead us to a superb restaurant. We will drive for about thirty five minutes, including a ten minute pause at a rural level-crossing, and I will begin to ponder on the meaning of nearby.
We will arrive in the fishing village of Veli, and leap out to look at the orange sand covering the beach. We will then look at the church which resembles a mosque and a temple as much as a church. A preposterous amount of people fill it for an evening service.
We will then drive back to a main road in Technopark where Uday will join us at Fine Dine. The diners will number five – us – and the visible staff will number eight. The place-mats will feature Tom & Jerry for no reason that I can imagine.
I will talk with George Matthew and we will find common ground in our views on selfhood. He will tell me that I will find his thoughts, and his holigrative psychology system, on his website. I will promise to send him my doctoral thesis.
I will order a hot and sour soup so hot that I immediately start hiccuping, to everyone’s amusement. I will follow this with more sedate egg biryani.
When we have said our goodbyes Uday will drive us home and we will hit a diversion that prevents us using the national highway; one of the results of the prime ministerial visit.
We will have to go right through Trivandrum to get home. Determined not to lose time Uday will manage to reach 80mph on some of the narrow streets. Irma will hunch down in the back while I sit next to Uday watching him aiming for gaps in the traffic no wider than the car.
We will both need a stiff drink when we finally sit down at home.