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Happy Kerala Birthday to me! (Feb. 18)

5 April, 2011 (04:18) | Living in Europe | By: admin

The best way to share my incredible birthday this year is with the following slide show:

After breakfast we take a walk up the beach in front of our homestay to check out the giant mermaid sculpture and the small strip of self styled merchants selling fresh fish and coconuts. We find an Indian Coffee House where the tables are sitting on the porch in front of a big deserted factory. We have 2 cups of coffee each and watch the families around us eating, trying learn the technique of right-handed eating without utensils. It is much harder than it sounds.

Bijoy has found us a reasonably priced driver named Rajeev who we are told will take us anywhere in Kerala we want to go for about 35 euros a day. This is food for thought; for less than it would cost to rent a car in Spain we can have a car and driver too. Bijoy gives Rajeev instructions to take us to nearby Kovalam Beach, which is popular with both tourists and locals. It is early afternoon and the weather is perfect for a birthday swim. The water is warm, the waves are surfable on my silly floatie toy. YAY! Happy birthday to me! I buy 2 (the first of many) scarves on the beach, we take a long sunset walk, we are happy.


PART 2 – Buying Beer in Kerala.

As we head back to the house Mark asks the driver if we can stop and buy some beer. Rajeev says “Beer? Yes sir!”.

We drive for a while then pull off to the side of the road in an area with some buildings and lots of traffic and dust. He points across the street and says “There”. Mark looks and all he can see are a few empty dirty looking buildings and one very dirty looking 2 story building with a huge snarl of men in front of it; three or four lines of men are going out into the parking lot. Upstairs is just a big crowd of men waving money and white tickets. There are no signs or anything, just lots of Indian men.
Mark says “There!?”
” Yes” our driver says and adds, “I go with you”.

I wait in the car as they head over and dodge the cars, trucks, tuk tuks, scooters, bikes and pedestrians in the dark unlit street. Mark walks up to get in line. He just chooses a line, having no idea what he’s doing. A guy tells him he’s in the wrong line so he asks our driver where he should be. Rajeev checks and says Mark needs to go upstairs for the kind of beer he wants (Kingfisher Strong). Mark heads up and the guy points to an area of the counter where men have fistfuls of rupees and are pushing and shoving each other to get the attention of the man who takes your order. Mark grabs a fistful of rupees and starts pushing his way into the crowd. Mark tells me later that the pushing and shoving was interesting; a bit aggressive, but everyone is smiling and helpful at the same time, like a big family trying to get at the turkey dinner. Mark manages to do everything right and places his order, handing over rupees for a white ticket in return. He stands looking at his white ticket, not knowing what to do next. Everyone starts shoving him harder but he stands ground and  refuses to give up his hard-earned spot at the front of the counter. Then the guy who was shoving him the most smiles and says “You need to go over there now”. He realizes he has his ticket and needs to pick up the beer at the other end of the counter. In all the jostling his ticket gets ripped, which unfortunately is the way the barman behind the counter knows he has already delivered an order. Mark explains as best he can that it was an accident, is given a warning look and handed over his 6 bottles of Kingfisher Strong beer.

We lean later that all alcohol is strictly controlled by the government and there are only 325 outlets in all of Kerala. That is why they are so crowded and manic. It’s nothing like picking up a 6 pack at the convenience mart on your way home from work. Getting alcohol in Kerala is serious business and If you didn’t need a drink before going to buy your beer, you’re sure going to need one afterward.


For my birthday dinner Nonna Deva goes all out, making all the dishes she has learned I like from watching me eat the last 2 days. What a sweetie!

But the biggest surprise is this:

1) Happy Birthday to me!!! 2) Nonna Deva actually has some birthday cake. Its the first time I’ve seen her eat anything.

Nisha went out and had a cake made for me, with my name (first and last!) spelled correctly. I cannot believe this! What a thoughtful sweetheart she is! This has been the happiest birthday I’ve had in years!