Land of spices. Part four (last one)

Between generosity and fatalism

The story of India and stereotypes in a way is also a story about Bibi, a former Irish journalist who lives here in Alleppey for six years. Alleppey is a small town settled as a narrow strip between the sea and inland waters. At one point it was the main port of Kerala, until these functions where passed on to Cochin. There’s something elusively real about this city…

Residence of Rahim, which was six years ago bought by Bibi, has been turned into a small eight room hotel. It’s located a bit aside from everything else, on the beach road. Residence was initially build by Englishmen in 1869 and then passed over to Muslim Rahim family. At that time it was well know in whole neighborhood, probably cause of the magnificent wedding hall where wedding ceremonies and other events like political discussions were held. Atypical to Indian families, Rahim family had no children, so the property is in Bibi hands now.

Little bit about Bibi.. he is a women of small stature; she uses a lot of expressive gestures when talking. I find out she has worked as a tv journalist in Ireland and London for years; at one point she was a hostess of a talk show. She was strongly appealed to Ayurveda and was dreaming perhaps some day she will have a chance to visit its homeland – Kerala, but never had the time to do it. One day, after 5 years in London, she decided to quit the job and write a book in countryside. Month later she realized writing was not her thing and decided to move back to London. But, like it happens in such moments, she got an offer from a friend to go to Kerala. She didn’t have to think for a second and accepted the offer. First impression? It was a complete disaster! She is used to and loves beautiful, well maintained roads and clean streets. She was depressed seeing the chaos around. Two or three days and everything suddenly changed, she began to feel that the place had some sort of strange magic.

The idea of a small hotel was born after a year or so. The beginning was very tough; at that time Indian law stipulated that foreigners may own only up to 51% of any local business. So I needed an Indian partner. Now the laws are more liberal, most of share capital can be redeemed. Bureaucracy in Kerela is huge and endless, so in a way she is happy having somebody to help her. And one more thing, people here are not accustomed having a women as a business partner. At first, Bibi thought they simply act very impolitely – didn’t answer my questions, didn’t greet me and simply behaved ignorantly. She was mad, how can it be that after investing so much time and money.. Thankfully everything turned out great…

Even after spending years here, she still is confused by Indian fatalism. Regardless of religion, everything here is in God’s hands. She recalls a youngster who quit job at her hotel to start his own shrimp business. When confronted about possible risk and necessity to mitigate them, he said something like: Look up in the sky, God will take care of me!

Speaking of Kerala, she reveals that life here has taught here a lot of valuable things. For example, the importance of punctuality. In India, no one is punctual; so why should I? Life in India teaches patience, here everything happens slowly and it’s useless to be angry about it. Just go with the flow.

When returned back to the US, I suddenly start to understand the true essence of the Indian peace. Although movement occurs according to its own system (probably frightening one for an American or European), this whole mess is functioning almost perfectly. Nobody is trying to outdo others, they simply need to move ahead and that’s it. Happy to cross out another point from my bucket list.

My bucket list: places that I want to visit

Sensoji Temple in Japan

Legend says that two brothers fished out of the Sumida River Khannon – Buddhist goddess of fortune and success. This temple was build in that place to honor the goddess. Information I found on the website of Japan Tourist Bureau suggests this temple has around 30 million visitors a year.

sensoji temple at night

Basilica of the Holy Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico

It is believed that in 1531 in Tepeyac Hill (which is located to the northwest of the existing Mexico City location) Virgin Mary appeared to a poor peasant named Juan Diego. Believers claim that after this meet the peasant’s cloak had Virgin Mary’s face imprint on it. As of today, this cloak hangs over the altar of the Holy Virgin of Guadalupe basilica. In spite of several controversial opinions Pope John Paul II in 2002 declared Juan Diego a saint.

Basilica of the Holy Virgin of Guadalupe

Vatican in Italy

The Vatican is the official residence of the leader of the Catholic Church. This country is not only the home of Pope but also is the home country of architectural wonders like the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica that is named after the very first Pope whose tomb is under the building’s altar. UNESCO World Heritage Center has called this the most significant sacred building on the planet. Every day approximately 10,000 people visit this place, but the Vatican as a whole has more than 18 million visitors a year.


Imam Reza shrine in Iran

Iran’s holiest city name translates as place of place of martyrdom as it was dubbed by the eighth Shiite imam Reza who is a direct descendant of Mohammed. Imam tombs is the most important Shiite holy site in Iran which is annually visited by 20,000,000 people.

Imam Reza shrine

Notre Dame de Paris in France

This house of God was dedicated to the Virgin Mary by the bishop of Paris in the 12th century. Gothic monument played a significant role in various important historical events taken place in France, for instance, the church was plundered during the French Revolution, Napoleon proclaimed himself an emperor in it and many others. Today it functions as the Roman Catholic cathedral each year welcoming more than 13 million visitors.

notre dame de paris

Aparecida do Norte in Brazil

City of Aparecida in Brazil is the largest Christian holy place in South America that annually attracts close to 8 million tourists. There’s a large shrine in the center of it that is built around 18th century after fisherman had pulled out a headless Virgin Mary statue. In 1955 locals build one more basilica that can host up to 45,000 Christians meaning it’s the second largest in the world.

Aparecida do Norte

Imam Husayn Shrine in Iraq

For Shiite Muslims the crypt of Muhammad’s grandson is the most important object outside Mecca and Medina. Special ritual that commemorates the saint’s death called Arbaeen attracts millions of pilgrims year to year. Previous year more than 7 million Muslims performed Karbala annual ritual in front of the crypt.

Imam Husayn Shrine

Varanasi in India

Varanasi is located on the banks of river Ganges, and is considered the home town of the Hindu deity Shiva. Every year millions of people come here to allow the holy river to wash away their sins, or to drown in it. For Hindu people going to Varanasi means liberation from the cycle of rebirth.