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April 1999. The Indian School Certificate Examinations were done with. No more Organic Chemistry, no more building drawings, no more Chacko tuitions! Ammu’s dad had graciously invited a bunch of us to spend a week on his Houseboat( named Ammu too) in the back-waters of Cochin. Anuradha, Kavya, Varun(Stud), Sushan, Yashas, Dhananjay and I accepted and on a nice, hot, Bangalore summer day, boarded the Kanyakumari Express for an overnight journey to Cochin.

Ammu’s dad had arranged for two cars to pick us up from the railway station and take us to his home just in time for lunch. And what a  lunch it was. I love Keralite food. Appams, Stew, Banana fritters, Chicken Kozhumbu, Appalams, Tender coconut water…mmmmmm. That afternoon, we all piled into a Temp Traveller and visited a couple of cool new buildings Ammu’s dad was working on. He was a well known Architect in Cochin. Evening rolled by, and he decided the weather was cool enough to get on the Houseboat and begin our journey.

We swam, saw porpoises, ate freshly caught fish and other back-water delicacies for 3 days. On the third day, we docked at Alleppey(the Venice of Kerala) and boarded the Tempo Traveller, for what we thought was a the drice back to Cochin. But Ammu’s dad, generous man that he was, told us that he had arranged for a another 4 days of Kerala sight-seeing, his treat. we couldn’t pass up the offer and drove straight to Thekkady, a beautiful forest preserve near the Periyar River. We spent  a day there, hiking up and down some forest trails and got to see some rare red flying squirrel, I forget the genus name.

From Thekkady, we went on to Kovalam, which is famous for its beach. We got there a little before the high tide was in, which gave us some time to quickly get into some appropriate beach-wear and hit the sand and surf. Varun and Sushan hadn’t packed swim-trunks, so they decided to brave the waves in the flannel pajamas that Sushan had sourced from Nepal (Sushan is from Nepal, btw). The high-tide came in and we enjoyed being pulled against the sand by the large waves when they receded. Varun and Sushan were trying to cart-wheel and perform all manners of funny acrobatics on each other in the waves.

About an hour later, it started getting dark, and so we decided to head out. I took off to one of the shacks along the beach, where, for a rupee, you could wash your feet and sand off your body and change into fresh clothes in moderate privacy. I got changed and was about to head to the Tempo, when I noticed, varun was still in the water. So, I went closer and yelled for him to get out. He sheepishly announced he could not. On further quizzing, I determined that somehow the salty ocean water had made short work of the flannel pajamas( only his, not Sushan’s) and all that was left was an elastic band around the waist, with some strands of flannel dangling from it. Judging by the way he was describing the cold ocean water lapping around his balls, I could tell the the ocean had not left enough flannel for a strategic covering of shaata. Shaat-ulous! Nin Oceanic Shaata, I say..this was bloody funny. I could picture Varun wading out the water, in strands of flannel, causing all the tourists left to think he was some semi-naked Mer-man arrrived from the depths, to deliver a message from Lord Varuna(Ruler of the Oceans). So, I did the only think I could think of at the time. To embarrass him further. I took off to the Temp and told Anu that Varun had asked her to buy a pair of trunks at one of the beach-side stalls and give it to him. She looked horrified! I told her I couldn’t do it as I had to go find Sushan. Not wanting to delay our hosts, she begrudgingly went off to source the trunks, wade into the water and give trunks to Varun, who couldn’t have been more embarrassed to be handed clothes by Anu. Hahahahaha. By that time, I had rounded up Sushan, Kavya, Ammu and the rest and had informed them about the Mer-man of Kovalam. When Varun and Anu got into the Tempo, Stud was greeted by howls of raucous laughter.

Of course, the funny story of the dissolving flannel and the Merman of Kovalam did the usual rounds of gossip in the Valley School circuit, and finally made it to my blog, to be recorded and documented for posterity.


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