I had asked in the morning for two more bottles of beer, so that the boat would not have to go up and down unnecessarily. Following on the morning’s beer, this seemed excessive, but after my coffee, during which I moved also to the back, to see the ducks floating past on the lake, and then a shower, I felt as the sun began to go down that I could cope.

And that was then a blissful evening, as the sky opposite reddened, and the sun dipped down behind the trees. As the light faded the traffic on the river grew less, and then the lights began to appear on the opposite bank. I had ordered both prawns and mushrooms for dinner, and both were delicious, unlike the rather dull lunch I had had. I ate after nightfall, loving the sight in the lights on that side and this of the river flowing, and also the stylish buildings of the hotel behind me, lit softly to bring out the shape of the peaked roof of my section.

Then there was sunrise. I had been told firmly that coffee would not be available till at least seven, but having slept well I was happy enough without it. Now I sat on the other side, on the balustrade of the little verandah behind my room which looked over the lake. There the previous evening I had seen little ducks floating along, but now, before dawn, nothing else stirred as I sat there.

Or rather the sky did, and I saw the place light up slowly. First in relative darkness I saw the moon well above the lake, and then the waters were lit up, and then after quite some time the sun rose in a great ball of fire. It glowed too through my bedroom window, across from the collapsing fence which separated the verandah there from the lake.

And then there was the light on the other side, across the river that was still not too busy though some traffic had started early. There was also chanting, the resonant repetitive Hindi hymns that I recalled from a train journey to Kerala 25 years ago, when I travelled from Bhopal, after seeing Sanchi, and the train was full of a band of pilgrims heading to Trivandrum for a festival. They chanted all the way, but it was not disturbing at all.

Now in Kerala I heard what I thought was the same tune, both here and early morning when I was on the houseboat. Then, when I had moved to Quilon – a much nicer name that Kollam, which is what it is called now – it was Christian hymns that I heard, early on the Sunday morning. And at another hotel there the next day, further north on the Ashtamudi Lake, I heard first Christian singing from the nunnery across the way, and then over breakfast a long drawn out Hindu chant.

But back on that first morning, it was magical to hear the chanting, from across the river. And then later I crossed the river, again in the little canoe, to get to the  Finishing Point, of the great August Boat Race, from where the Houseboat I had been booked on was to start.

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