Rainbow Chai at the Bazaar

Our daily full and complete yoga practices have been following the chakras. It was no coincidence that on the day of Manipura, our inner sun and powerhouse, we had planned to explore Thirundum’s culture and bazaars. We hit the road, filled with a powerful sunrise flow and, as always, delicious breakfast served with ocean views and palm-trees swaying behind the lassies and fresh juice. I felt as ready as never to leave our little bubble. ‘Real’ India, here we come!

The half hour trip to Thirundrum in an air-conditioned taxi (five of us were too many for a tucktuck) felt like another bubble being maneuvered skill-fully through the invisible organization of the seeming total chaos that is India’s traffic. Frequently the two-lane highway was occupied by four parallel vehicles, including several helmetless riders on their bikes and tucktucks loaded with half a household full of furniture and food. It’s hard to explain how, but this loud pandemonium of movement, colours and sounds works somehow smoothly.

The morning was spent learning about Kerala’s royal history in impressive museums and palaces. The sentence which followed our guide’s reassurance that the cast system has long been abolished here was something like, ‘And here’s a picture of royal x and y who was married aged 13 and, of course, belongs to India’s highest cast…’?!?@##$@^$#? Similar to the White Australia policy back in the 70s, it seems such ingrained discriminatory patterns take a generation or two to even be considered remotely eradicated from a culture. It makes me sad, but it seems to be the reality of this land.

My highlight started when we hit the bazaar. A conundrum of movement, colours, shapes and loud noises embracing you more with every little side street you turn into. We take the reasonable tourist precautions, yet at no point do we feel threatened or unsafe. My heart squirms in delight at the site of my very first traditional Indian Chai stop. The barista, as we’d call him down under, skillfully shifts the big pot, spices and milk around in the right order. When he is satisfied, he grabs the small cup for the next client and pours the steaming hot brew into it while pulling the pouring hand away from the cup until one is around hip height, the other ways over his head. He has drawn a semi-rainbow with his Chai. Pleased with my admiring gawps passes it to the waiting client as a warm rainbow spreads in my heart.

Looking around in the blue hole in the wall, aka Chai Café, a middle-aged Muslim man sips on his Chai, his gentle face lost in thought. Not far from him a young Hindu woman dressed in a beautiful turquoise Sari chatters away to her girlfriend who wears western clothes, similar to our’s. The elderly Sikh, who just received his rainbow chai, settles on the only remaining spot on the other side of his Muslim brother. For the rest of the day, I cannot get rid of this peaceful image of diversity in harmony, which still almost brings tears to my eyes. Is global peace thinkable after all?

This theme pursues me ways past our shopping successes of bronze neti-pots, tongue scrapers (Aussie friends – pm me if you want me to bring you one home!), incents, some gifts for my children and, of course, plentiful delicious locally grown spices. After a well needed restorative Yin practice back in the bubble, some of us decide to venture to the beach for dinner. On our way we pass a mosque that’s blasting Allah’s blessings out of oversized, over-tuned loudspeakers over the relatively small beaches. The followers gather around the entrance – men and boys all in white at the front, women and children with a respectful distance, far behind… On the outskirts, the sizable bunch of daily Indian tourists are still rolling around the waves in their saris and clothing, enjoying themselves like my three year old, filling every gap with more sand and salt water by the minute. The few police who are present have nothing to do except crunch some freshly roasted peanuts on the breakwaters. The occasional Western visitor can be spotted in this diverse mingling too.

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From what I can tell, there is no felt tension or despise of the ‘other’. Everyone respectfully lives not only alongside, but somewhat with each other. What a joyful observation dashed with a dose of hope, upon which I have the best sleep yet since arriving in India five days ago. Note, this is after a day without any Ayurvedic treatments… but that’s a topic I’ll explore more in another post. For now – Namaste. The light in me greets the light in you – no matter what colour, shape or belief you have.

PS Back home I make my own chai every morning for anyone who’s around. Here’s my favourite chai recipe.

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