Monday, April 21, 2008

Kanyakumari Day 2

Mostly spent the day mooching around the town. It's a dusty little place, but pleasant enough for a wander, with a constant breeze coming off the ocean.

In the late afternoon I ended up at Tri-Seas Point (I don't remember if that's it's actual name, but it's labelled something like that on the tourist map), and perched myself on the wall to watch the waves break on the rocks and the jolly Indian tourists playing in the water.

A group of young lads occupied the space next to me. I could hear some hushed conversation sprinkled with English, "what is your name mutter mutter what country mutter mutter" and so on. Eventually the boy nearest me asked my name. He spoke quietly, so at first I assumed it was part of the ongoing discussion. Then he asked again, and I looked round. The boy who spoke was striking-looking, with chocolat-noir skin, high cheekbones and intense dark eyes. The four were all 16 years old ("tenth standard," Preethan told me), all wearing lunghis (man-sarongs), and all Christian. The revelation of their religion made me feel uneasy. It's easy being a nominal Christian in Buddhist Thailand - most of them know about as much about Christianity as the average Brit knows about Buddhism, so they have no expectations and I can wing it. But when someone here says they're Christian, they mean real Christian, and I always feel they're going to think me some kind of fraud if they discover I'm not terribly religious. The other day at the girls' hostel in Chennai I was invited to join the girls for prayer time. Luckily I wasn't expected to be able to chant chapter four verses seven to twenty-three from memory. I fumbled with my borrowed New Testament, sneaking glances around me for a clue to the general location of Hebrews and trying hard not to look like a heathen.

The boys invited me to "your church" (I think they meant "our church"), so of course I said okay. So I trailed after them as they led me quickly through the narrow laneways to the church. We went inside and they looked at me expectantly. Oh no, they're waiting for me to know what to do. I had no clue what I ought to do, so I just gazed around me in what I hoped was a suitably reverential manner. "Pray?" Anish suggested, but I wasn't going to risk getting tripped up in prayer etiquette. I considered saying I'd already prayed, or pleading presbyterianism, or something, but in the end I went with a lame "er, no". I crossed myself with water from the font at the boys' urging (is there a right and wrong way to cross oneself? I probably committed some faux-pas there too - hopefully they'll just take it as a peculiarity of British Christianity), and we left the church and went to somebody's house.

I was given bananas and coffee, and made the baby cry. I get that a lot - babies either stare in rapt fascination, or burst into tears at the sight of this ghostly pale apparition. We sat in the small sitting room for a while, they talked in Tamil around me, Anish flicked through the channels to MTV. I was wondering when and how to leave, until after a while Mishak turned to me and said, "go?". I readily agreed, and the four escorted me back to my hotel. And then I realised that I had again missed the moonrise/sunset that I'd come here to see. Oh well, I'll catch it next year.


Post a Comment

<< Home