Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Employed in India for a Week

Four months on the go now - also the longest period of time that I've been unemployed since before I was even of a legal working age.

From my very first paycheck back in the day, I started saving not knowing what I was saving for. While it's easy to live a backpacker lifestyle at around $10 (USD) a day in India, a lack of income is certainly at the back of my mind. And so the opportunity to “work” couldn't have come at a better time.
 It was one of those challenging travel days in India: a three-hour ferry, a two-kilometer walk in the blazing sun carrying my 12 kg pack, and to top it off – a sweaty, cramped bus that broke down on the way up the mountain leaving us stranded and clueless. The thought briefly crossed  my mind, “why do I voluntarily put myself through this?”

While other tourists hired a jeep, I awaited the next government bus that I'd paid for with my original ticket. I wasn't even cheered up once in Munnar, as I crashed in the first sub-par and overpriced hotel I found.

In the morning, I was confident things would turn around, as they always do. While looking for a more comfortable place to stay, I stumbled into it Kaippallil Resort Inn. Sometimes you don't know you are looking for something until you walk right into it, and it turns out, I wasn't just looking for a room.

The positive energy beaming off of the manager, Benoy, in this quaint little guesthouse nestled in the hills immediately turned my disposition right around. The walls are covered with Buddhist mantras, Hindu sayings and shrines to Jesus Christ – Kaippallil is just the place to let your inner spirit out no matter what your beliefs.

Benoy originally offered me a mattress on the floor in the hallway at 50 rupees/1 USD (yes, please!) After talking to him longer, he suggested I help around the guesthouse and in return, be provided with free stay in my own private room and delicious, healthy meals for as long as I desired.

Perfect. I was hoping to find a cozy spot to chill out in Munnar for a week anyway. For not much of an effort, I was able to save a week's worth of money by showing people rooms, checking guests in and out and making fresh tea. I was even given the chance to make commission organizing trips for guests. With only 8 rooms, there was plenty of down time, including sight seeing and roaming around the tea plantations.
Tea plantations around Munnar
I spent an entire day touring with a new Swedish friend, Camilla, who also shared my room for a few nights. In the guesthouse, I occupied my time whizzing through novels, speaking with people from all over the world and learning to cook Indian food from the housekeeper, Velagany.
 Camilla and I in Mattaputty, Munnar,
Between Benoy and Velagany shoving food in my face at all times, I swear I ate more this week than the past 5 weeks in India. Though Velagany only knows a few English words, she allowed me to be her apprentice this week in the kitchen making dosas and veg curry. She even invited me after her shift back to her home to meet her family and cook a couple more dishes.
Velagany's daughter and grandson
Benoy, manager of Kaippallil
Benoy is a special character and it's been a joy getting to know him. He is Catholic, like many Indians in Munnar, but recognizes all religions as valid. More than his devotion, his spiritual and pious demeanor is unlike anyone I've met. He is practices and teaches yoga and meditation, and I've learned a lot from him, even just being in his presence. Meditating as a beginner can be frustrating and difficult, but I have found that it's attainable with patience. 

Despite Benoy's attempts to convince me to stay longer, I left yesterday on a 5-hour bus to Kochi to catch my 13-hour sleeper train to Gokarna, where I'm currently on Om Beach. Later this week, I'll take a quick peek around Mumbai before I head further north with my Israeli friend, Avia.


Anonymous said...

What a great opportunity! It looks like a beautiful place. This was your good karma working, as the Indians would say. I love it when what you're looking for just falls in your lap.

Andrea Eisinberg said...

It's true, Jess, and how often does it happen in India! :)