You go to Agra for the Taj. Paris, for that tower, what's its name? Kenya, for safaris. Ladakh, for scenery. So what do you go to Thalassery and Mahe for? A genial sort who gave me brotta (yeah, brotta!) and spicy chicken curry for lunch today at the Royal French Cafe in Mahe asked me.
And I have a slew of reasons, really. Here are some.
The little STD place where I stopped to make a call early this morning doubles up as a watch showroom. It has several watches on display in the window. Very nice looking watches, I must say. Even though I remember the better judgement of my wife, who thinks we have altogether too many watches, I am tempted, so I take a closer look. Good I did, because every single watch is hands-free! And I don't mean hands-free like those thingies that attach to cellphones, I don't mean digital watches. I mean every single watch on display is missing its hour and minute hands. They look brand new, in cases and everything, but they have no hands. Yeah, I want one of those. What's the time, honey? Time for whatever you want, dumpling.
Speaking of brotta ... Thalassery is home to the "Barbiq'n" restaurant. At least according to the large beautifully produced signs all round the establishment, it can offer you your choice of: "Broast, Barbiq, Tandoori, Grild, Kabsa, Hamoose, Porotta, Chappathi, Biriyani, Goribsa, Filafil, Juice, Icecream." You know what? I'm spoiled for choice. Thank you. But what's a Goribsa?
The bus to Mahe passes a Yamaha motorcycle dealership named "SUSU AUTO". All I can say is, I'm glad I don't have need for a mobike right about now.
The bus drops me on one side of a bridge. I look across the river Mayyazhi and why do I know that's Mahe on the other side? I mean, I know, but what's the REAL giveaway? Signs that say "Corner Wines" and "Adarsh Wines" and "Indo French Open Bar" and "Galaxy Bar" and "Casino Bar." And there's one place that dispenses with the need for names and cuts to the quick. "Bar", it says. Mahe is part of Pondicherry, and liquor is cheaper in Pondicherry, and like when you enter the other Pondicherry enclaves, there's liquor on the border. Goooood Morniiing Mahe!
On Mahe's Beach Road, there are plenty of painted letters: Happy New Year 2003" and the like. But, inexplicably, this one in unmistakable large white font: "BJP PIG PARTY". I looked carefully to see whether that was really a "B". Nope, not "Big", but "Pig." Who's been getting their political ire out on the roads here?
Beach Road is lined with fishermen's homes, and ends in a little temple. Today seems to be some kind of festival, because there's loud music blaring from speakers inside the temple. And all along the road, beautifully shaped palm ornaments -- like a "V" on a little pole -- hang from strings. A magical sight. So I stop a passing young man and ask, pointing to the ornaments, "what are these?" He replies, "Ooru?" and then in English, "House?" He's asking me my "house", or in fact, where I come from. "Bombay", I say, then point to the ornaments again and ask again, "What are these?" He looks puzzled, and says in English, "Houses". I give up and walk on.
I stop at another little STD place. This has a sign that says "Mavely Institute of Calligraphy: Le Bon Handwriting, Improvement Training Programme." Nothing inside except the phone and a young woman. I want to ask her if she will improve my handwriting. Then I decide my writing can't be improved, so I make my call and leave.
The bus to Thalassery passes a barber establishment named "Sardonic Hair Cutting Saloon." What a pity my hair was cut only a couple of weeks ago. I'd have liked to have it done here, and perhaps have the barber smile crookedly to himself and pass sarcastic remarks and say "Heh heh heh" all through. Another time.