by Kristin Morrison on March 5, 2011

in India,Life as a Grand Adventure,Listening for Guidance,Travel

I’m getting pretty comfy here in Kovalam.

The room I’m staying in is not lavish by any means, in fact it’s a bit dumpy. Paint peeling from the walls and ceiling, lights that don’t work, etc. It’s about $25 US dollars a night which is very high for India. But what it does have is such a loving staff of people and a view of the Arabian Sea to DIE FOR.

My room is perched at the very top of the 5-story hotel. There are maybe 15 rooms here. The only room higher than mine is a penthouse that is unoccupied. My room is the only occupied room on my floor.

I walk up the stairs each night feeling like a princess in my tower. It’s wonderful.

The staff bring me tea at 6 AM which I drink while gazing out the wide open door watching the sun come up. Then I walk to Antony’s yoga class. It’s the quietest part of the day, my gentle morningtime walk.

Kovalam has footpath canals. Think Venice but minus the water. There’s the seaside and then behind the shops are these footpaths with shops in between the path. It’s very charming and rat-maze-like. I used to get lost but now I know my way around pretty well.

I’m no longer the only one in Antony’s class. It seems he has quite a following: people who come year after year to take his classes and experience his life-changing healing massage.

I feel a bit like Rocky training for the big fight as he encourages us to “Come on, do your maximum!” He’ll swat my leg to get me to go deeper into the pose. I’ll smile and he’ll say, “Why you smiling? Do your best!”

Then during savasana he’ll switch from tough drill sergeant to loving father as he cradles one of our lucky heads in his lap.

Last week I went on a 2-hour walk with Antony in the evening. My body was craving a long, long hike.

I’ve been doing these walks from my hotel to the Ayurvedic Center but it’s just not enough. And yet it’s been too hot to do any exercise other than morning yoga and it’s not safe for me to be walking around alone at night (yes, even in Kovalam).

Tonight we’ll go on another one of his rigorous walks.

I had a few of you email me with the idea to stay and not go to Bali. But here’s the thing: it’s hot here and getting hotter by the day. It’s sweltering. And even though I do love it here this heat is beginning to get to me.

It makes me a bit cranky.

Last week I took Lakshmi and her family out to dinner:


I invited Allen to join us. We had the waiter take this picture and Lakshmi’s dad Ashok smiled and said, “We all dark. You very white.”

At one point, Lakshmi pointed to a picture on the wall. “Bob Marley! You take picture of me with him?”


During dinner Allen read the palms of Lakshmi and her brother. (Palm reading is very big in India.)

“She will do very well in business. Big business. Very smart this one. Very lucky too,” he said in English.

When he got to her brother’s palm, his face cringed. “This one not so lucky. He has a long life line though.”

Then Allen asked Ashok whether Lakshmi was in school.

“No money. School expensive.”

“She should go to school!” Allen said angrily.

I was surprised to see Allen get so upset. I’ve witnessed such a peace-loving man these past couple of weeks.

Ashok started to cry. “I’m a bad father. I want my daughter to go to school but no money.”

It was so sad.

It didn’t soften Allen though.

“She’s extra-ordinary. You can see it in her eyes. She’s smart. So smart. She should be in school. It’s such a waste.”

“Lakshmi,” I said. “If you could be anything what would you be?”

“Maybe work in a beauty store, maybe do the henna, maybe become a doctor.”

“A doctor!!” Ashok said. “Too expensive. Much school. Too much school.” Again, his eyes got teary.

Allen and I walked back to the hotel that night trying to figure out what to do for this family and especially for Lakshmi.

Have I mentioned that they live in one room that they eat, sleep and cook in? One room! For 4 people.

They will be moving back to Mumbai in one and half months for Kovalam’s monsoon season and then come back to Kovalam in July.

I found a possible tutor for Lakshmi for the rest of the time that she’s in Kovalam but then I realized it’s just for 1.5 months. What she needs is a consistent, sustained education. I don’t even know if it is worth it to have a tutor for only a little while for her.

I’m also noticing I feel some fear about giving too much. I can see the way they look at me, perceiving me as the rich American. (And of course I am compared to what they make per day in their country.)

I can’t be Lakshmi’s savior.

Or can I?

I’m in a quandry about how much to give, what to do to help out this family.

I’m also concerned that what I have to give wouldn’t be enough and they’d want and need more. Or that it wouldn’t be used for schooling for Lakshmi.

Their shop contains very tacky gifts, otherwise I’d buy items from their store in an effort to support them.

I’ll talk about it with Antony during our walk tonight.

Perhaps he’ll have some answers…

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah April 28, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Find out how much it would cost. If it’s too much for you to afford comfortably then talk to some friends. Also (though as a traveler you probably already know this) think about all the non-essentials you probably don’t think twice about buying. If you often have dinner out and her school fees are less than the cost of one dinner per month you’d feel pretty bad about not paying it, wouldn’t you?

And don’t get caught up in the ‘but I can’t save everyone’ game. No, you can’t. This is one girl. If she has crossed your path and you are drawn to helping her, take it that there must be a reason for it. If you aren’t drawn to helping her, but only feel you SHOULD be, then don’t. Wait for the one – or ones- that call your soul’s name.

Kristin Morrison June 5, 2011 at 10:37 pm

Hi Sarah,

I enjoyed reading your suggestions. 🙂

I did end up giving Lakshmi’s family some money when I left. Due to the fact that they move back and forth every few months she’s not able to go to one regular school. I checked in with myself and that financial gift that I gave felt like enough.

Thanks for taking the time to comment.

Take care,
PS–I got an email from her father a couple of weeks ago saying in sweet quirky broken English that all was well with them.

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