Our ever resourceful tour guide Charles knew that after the shopping and fireworks extravaganza that was Diwali, his usual go to activities would not be available today. He made arrangements with a local man that he met at the temple to have us stop by his home to see how people celebrate Diwali morning. This man lives in a very modest home with his wife, three sons, and mother and they entertained all fifteen of us in their tiny living room. Mom prepared snacks, cookies, fried rice, and fruit out of a kitchen smaller than the one I have in the motor home. The three sons who are in their early twenties, were all well educated and working to achieve what we would call the American Dream. As they finish their education, they will all have professional positions (the eldest is already an accountant) and have a much higher standard of living than their parents who sacrificed to give them this opportunity. As the family fed us, more and more other family members stopped by. They were so gracious and giving. We heard later that they would not allow Charles to give them any money for having us over. We were touched by their warm welcome.
The women of the family offered to henna the hands of the women in our group. Their henna dye was made of ground up green leaves and they did not do the delicate filigree that I expected. Rather they put green blops on the palms of our hands and we were supposed to wait an hour for them to dry. It looked like my cat had thrown up on my hand, but the end result was bright orange circles similar to the ones these women also sported. During the henna party, the menfolk moved outside and blew up fireworks. The explosions echoed loudly in the narrow lane. Boys will be boys.
We had so much fun with this family, we could have stayed all day, but it was a long drive to Kerala, a neighboring state. We stopped at the brick factory where Charles usually stops and while the family was not working, they came outside and he demonstrated how the work is done. The clay is put into molds without any other additives, fired in an oven and voila - you have bricks. The family earns 40% profit from this work, but the demand for bricks ebbs and flows. During the rainy season they cannot work at all.
As we drove to Kerala state the scenery grew mountainous and we began to climb. The temperatures came down and we almost have stopped sweating. The hotel is in a beautiful jungly setting surrounded by the spice plants this area is noted for. As we swam monkeys cavorted around us. They are cute and fun to watch, but we have to remain ever vigilant because they are such clever thieves.
Kerala is considerably more affluent than Tamil Nadu. The birth rate is lower; average life span is higher. When Europeans first came to India looking for spices, this is the area where they found them. Coffee and just about every tropical fruit you ever heard of and some you have not, flourish here as well.