Only Connect . . . .

E. M. Forster, who wrote A Passage to India, used that short phrase about the essence of connecting “the prose and the passion . . . the beast and the monk . . . ,” and while there is truth to that, it’s even more apt in a broader sense . . .

A pair of future surfer dudes

A couple weekends ago Sarah and I connected with several of the AISC faculty on our first road trip down the ECR for the Covelong Point Surf Music Yoga Festival where we watched real-live genuine-cool surfer dudes in a competition for the first time in our lives; where we sat in meditation at a thatched roof “quiet gardens” with chanting Buddhist monks at 7:30 in the morning; where Sarah undertook a strenuous outdoor yoga session with an international expert from Auroville; where I avoided being taken by a chess hustler (tip: don’t play him); and where we broiled in the sun just long enough to know it was time to cover up!

Great spill after a great run!
See what I mean?
Chanting at the Quiet Gardens
Looks like a well heeled hustler to me!
They asked me to take their photo right after they got out of the water and then shook my hand!
Am I up next?
Our neighbor Nora Lim of Think off the Mat led a session of aerial yoga

Then it was the beginning of Ganesha Chaturthi, the ten day festival celebrating the annual return of nearly everyone’s favorite god, the elephant-headed remover of obstacles, where we bought our very own clay Ganesha to be displayed with flowers and offerings, then to be immersed in the water along with thousands of others to dissolve. (We ended up missing the crowds and opting for the environmentally friendly approach and will pot our Ganesha and use the clay to help new plant growth.)

We bought one of his Ganeshas
I thought his price too high, said thanks and snapped his photo, then walked away . . but he caught up to Sarah and she instead snapped up one of his cute umbrellas at more than the price he quoted me . . .
Live and learn: Gopi, our driver shuddered when I told him what I paid for a jasmine wreath for our Ganesha
We see you playing with that plastic bag!

Then it was the conclusion of the Keralan festival of Onam, celebrating the summer harvest, where we were honored to take part in the Onam Sadhya, the traditional feast with a bewildering array of curries, chutneys, pickles, and different varieties of rice all served on a banana leaf. We were guests of expat Brit Peter Claridge (the Chennai Expat Guide) and his wife, Swapnil Midha, who just completed her latest project of voicing the new Audio Tours for Storytrails Chennai. She managed to get us a table at Ente Keralam for the popular event (it’s the best Keralan restaurant in the city and packed on that festival day), and who also taught me, at last, how to eat somewhat correctly with the fingers of my right hand. (If you want to know the secret, please come visit and I’ll show you!) I was proud to wear my new kurta in white and gold, the honored colors of Onam Sadhya, so I fit right in . . . other than dropping about 12% of my lunch on the floor.

Banana leaf ready for a double scoop of rice so we can dig in!
Swapnil and Peter guided us through Onam Sadhya at Ente Keralam
I dropped a lot on the floor but managed to miss my brand new kurta in just the right colors for Onam, thanks to Megha Radhakrishnan, another teacher at AISC, who helped me choose it

Then, midweek, on another of my morning walks, I ventured over to the beach and past the Ashtalakshmi Temple just south of our house. Even though it was a work/school morning, the beach was filled with out of town visitors of all ages, in town for festival, who thrilled at the water’s refreshing chill, the warmth and cling of the sun and sand, and the sheer joy in their sparkling smiles and laughing eyes. Often, when I would ask to take a photo and the person grinned her okay, before I could even set up the shot, several friends would hustle over and snuggle their way in, connecting and hugging and teasing and expanding the frame. Performers all.

Some gestures are universal . . .
And then you make this move . . .
So regal and mannerly . . . and lovely


They could barely stop giggling after their swim
Ah, that water feels so refreshing . .

My sun and sweat tolerance is still not much over an hour–even as I knelt at the cooling surf’s edge to put the sun behind me and where I came way too close to drenching my camera when an unexpected breaker set its sights on me–but even though I may have felt drained in body, my store of human effervescence was, as always, fully recharged as I shared the smiles and nandris and unknown words of kindness in both directions, with all of these new stranger-friends.

E. M. Forster may not have visioned these spicy dishes and wise, easy manners and kindly gods and endless beaches and all this smiling delight, but his words are spot on: “Only connect . . . .”

Author: David Hassler

David M. Hassler was fortunate enough to have become a relatively rare male Trailing Spouse when his talented wife Sarah accepted a job teaching music in the elementary division of the American International School in Chennai, India. His role includes, first of all, serving as her everything wallah, but also allows him time for exploring, discovering, and sharing new places, new faces, and new tastes around Chennai, throughout south India, and beyond. David M. Hassler is a long-time member of the Indiana Writers Center Faculty and holds an MFA from Spalding University. His work has been published in Maize and the Santa Fe Writers' Project. He served as a Student Editor for The Louisville Review and as Technical Editor for Writing Fiction for Dummies. He is currently Managing Editor for Flying Island, an online literary journal. He is co-author of Muse: An Ekphrastic Trio, and Warp, a Speculative Trio, and future projects include A Distant Polyphony, a collection of linked stories about music and love, memories and loss; And on the Eighth Day, A Tale of the Last Time Traveler, a riff on classic Sci Fi; and To Strike a Single Hour, a Civil War novel that seeks the truth in one of P T Barnum's creations. He is a founding partner in Boulevard Press.

17 thoughts on “Only Connect . . . .

  1. I love reading your posts. Your writing is delightful to read and seems to put me right there with you!! So many years in kindergarten makes my writing sound like a kindergartner!! Yours is so fun to read! Thanks for sharing. Tell Sarah hi for me!!

  2. Love this connection, David! Feel like your words and pictures are the music that takes me to the heart of the experiences you and Sarah share, inspiring my world to expand in awareness and wonder. Thank you.

  3. Who is your photographer? Very talented. So happy you included Sarah and yourself in a photo so I can really believe you’re there?
    Seriously: good stuff

  4. What beautiful pictures you take. You seem to capture the very essence of these folks. I am enjoying every post and look forward to getting them. Give my best to Sarah. You both look absolutely radiant.

  5. My heart smiles every time I read about you and Sarah. You are meeting such beautiful people and sharing your beautiful hearts with them. May you be blessed.

  6. Excellent, excellent pictures and reading — thank you for taking this time to do this …. God bless you both, be safe. Helloooo to Sarah.

  7. Greetings from Carmel, I learned about your blog from Sarah’s friend Martha Dafnos while taking a yoga class. Wasn’t that the perfect place! What a treat to see India through your eyes. I’m sharing your blog with adventurous friends. Thank you and a big hello to my favorite Cherry Tree music teacher. Barbie Schmenner

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