Today we were up by 6 and on our way by 7:30. Our first stop was Kalamandalam, a performing arts school for high school aged children . The classes were held in small studios dotted among the grounds of the school, We saw young boys beginning to learn how to drum, much more advnced musicians, plus classes of boy and girl dancers and plus young boys creating elaborate masks. This dance form is highly stylized and facial expressions (very wide open eyes and smiles and a fair bit of eyebrow wiggling) are very important. It was amazing to see how energetic the students were – especially considering how very hot and humid it was.
Lunch at a restaurant by a river was a bit disappointing – now taste whatsoever and cooked especially for North Americans. A lot of the food has been relatively bland – not at all what locals eat – but this was the worst. I guess there are a few people who like it.
Then we drove out to another village where there was an elephant festival at the Orthodox Syrian Church. We haven't quite figured out what the underlying intention was – but what we saw was literally hundreds of young men dancing to the music of very fast drumming around a tall white church. There were at least 2 main groups who played and danced more and more loudly and quickly – sort of a battle of the bands. Confetti was tossed into the air. Meanwhile out on the street elaborately decorated elephants were lining up. People with elaborate tall umbrellas paraded through and then the priests paraded out, followed by the dancers and the elephants. It was really loud and energetic and lots of fun. Afterwards we got talking to some teenage boys in the rectory. They all wanted to have their picture taken with us. There was a big picture of the patron saint Gregorious looking very much like an Ayatolla and, strangely, across the road was a huge poster of Santa Claus with his bag full of toys and holly and everything – I guess another favourite saint.
The drive home took about 3 hours and it got dark and rained. We had to stop suddenly once because there was a cow on the road – but otherwise it was smooth going. All along the road are houses with occasional busy town with various types of shops along the road. Mike and I were listening to a Teaching Company tape about the future or the US, China and India. According to the speaker, India will probably eventually become the biggest economic force in the world. It has democracy and a big population and the future looks bright for this remarkable, friendly country.