Everything happens for a reason.
In terms of Physics and Mathematics, I mean. Equal and opposite reaction, energy is not destroyed, probability is measurable, and nothing moves without first being pushed.
Something pushed first and we’re all dominoes, cards in a deck, dice. Each one of us is a little white ball on a giant and eternal roulette wheel.
What I’m getting at with all this platitude and positing is that the world is so chaotic with factors we cannot control and our choices are either powerful or they aren’t; it’s just amazing anything ever works out at all.
I arrived in India a day before Fay – my partner and organizer of the trip – and took a big orange bus towards town. The speed limit was low and the going slow, but we seemed to drive on forever and I’d only looked at the map of the area once so you could see by the look on my face that I didn’t know.
Other passengers ignored me for the most part, but they must have noticed me sweating a dark circle around my collar. The bus ride cost less than half a dollar.
Fort Kochi is in Kochi, Kerala, India. The Cochin International Airport is in Kochi, but it is not close to Fort Kochi which also goes by the name: Fort Cochin.
Also, the main city in Kochi is Ernakulam.
Wrap your head around that shit and welcome to my first day of travel on a bus with not a single other tourist and I didn’t see any on the roads either and nothing looked how I’d imagined. India is certainly a country one should prepare themselves to behold. I hadn’t, which was a gamble.
It flew by, the shops and side streets and hotels, and we finally took a big turn south, which I remembered being on the map. I stood and the bus stopped, my bag swung forward and hit the women across from me, and I bumbled out into the heat with too many apologies.
It wasn’t the right stop.
Everything happens for a reason, and the biggest one for this was ignorance. Roll the dice, snake eyes, shit, where am I?
I was in the heart of Ernakulam or Kochi or whatever, and the morning traffic was heavy with motorbike, motorcycle, moped, bus, rickshaw, and tiny-cars. Trucks had painted on their bumpers: sound horn. The rickshaws, too, and everyone was complying in concert, a sea of honks and beeps.
After a short hike down the main road – which was as wide and as busy as a highway but was not a highway – and past seemingly abandoned buildings and loads of rubbish, I found a café with people in it. I lingered at the door, then entered.
Nobody spoke English. Of course, and why should they and what right did I have to be stumbling my way through their country willfully ignorant? But nearly everyone got from their seats to see how they could help the lost traveler. One of them walked out to the street and motioned for me to follow.
He attempted to stop one of the passing vehicles for some reason.
A motorbike came.
My helper explained the situation: Ignorant American. But he was probably nice about it.
Then he indicated the seat behind the driver and I figured, yeah, this might as well happen because everything happens for a reason and the odds are often in my favor.
I got onto the back of the stranger’s bike and it pulled us forward, and I felt part of the experience as only the passenger of a motorbike can. You rarely feel one with a car; even when you’re behind the wheel it is a box around you, not a partnership. A motorbike is like a steed to my shiny, soft eyes and I gripped tightly to the silent driver as we swung down side street after side street, into traffic and within arm’s reach of buses, no designated lanes, all trust and teamwork. Don't think of the stats, accidents don't happen.
Bikes filled the street where the cars didn’t and people walked everywhere. It was difficult to tell which shops were open and what buildings were still being built or were just in disrepair. Bananas and chips hung out front of little holes between giant building with too many signs to understand at our pace, which was faster than the buses and cars.
The ride was over really quickly and I found myself at a bus stop. I still had no idea where I was going and the street signs were kept in different places than in the states if they were kept at all. Some banners had addresses along the bottom, but they didn’t clear anything up for me.
I was more lost than ever, but everything happens for a reason; you just don’t always get to know what the reason is when everything is happening.
A bus came.
It was blue, which probably meant something. I boarded it and showed the ticket taker the address of my homestay. He didn’t know where it was, but he knew the bus wasn’t going there, so I got off at the next stop without spending my precious rupees.
Once I was off the bus, I began walking in a direction, no clue which way was north or south. When you have no cards there is actually an eight percent chance you'll draw an ace from a full deck. So I walked.
Maybe not everything happens for a reason in the sense of it having any meaning outside of ourselves, because the only reason I could find for my predicament was that I’d made a mistake. Or a couple. Many, really. Over the course of a lifetime there are countless things done correctly and even more done not-so-much, and people always make it to the end somehow. Eventually, all the cards will be face up, the pot gets divvied, and we all go home.
A rickshaw came.
I flipped a coin and it came up heads so I showed the driver my printout and he nodded, indicated the back seat with a wave of his hand, and we were back into traffic. More than on the motorbike, I could feel the road beneath us.
More than on the motorbike, we chanced slim passages between cars and nearly rubbed bumpers with every vehicle out there. It was either hilarious or terrifying, as so many things are, and I laughed with my head out the side of the odd little three-wheeled vehicle.
After some confusing back and forth, the driver had me to the correct street and possibly the correct address. At least, it was the address that Google Maps had given me.
Spoiler alert: I was not at the right place.
A moped came.
I’d not known what to do so I had let myself in the front gate of the homestay and poked around the upstairs where travelers obviously stayed and I’d put all my stuff down because I was certain – based on nothing – that I’d been brought to the right place. The woman riding the moped saw me, smiled, and told me she would be right up to check my booking.
Imagine this: You run a bed and breakfast (this is basically what a homestay is), and when you return one morning (they were returning from a funeral) you find someone in your place, claiming to have a reservation through an online service you don’t use, via a contact you don’t know. The stranger says, “My partner made the booking. She’ll be here tomorrow.”
“What time does she get in?”
“I’m not sure…”
And I wasn’t sure the whole day I spent sitting around there, not even thinking until it was dark that I might be in the wrong place. I didn’t know the name of the place I was supposed to be staying, just the address which Google had auto-corrected to a slightly different address. The place Fay had actually booked was a few houses away and they emailed her that I hadn’t shown up. She was to arrive the next day and as far as she knew, I could have been anywhere.
Neither of us had phones that worked in the country, and internet is infrequent and unreliable in India. Everything happens for a reason and I forced myself to sleep with no doubt it would work out, whatever that reason might be.
The next day came.
Fay was to arrive at some time and I hadn’t the faintest where I should be to meet her. I sat on the balcony of the place I had stayed until noon, playing solitaire, until I finally couldn’t take the wait any longer, felt drawn away from sitting down helplessly and decided to walk the street out front helplessly instead.
As soon as I walked outside and went a few houses down I heard that familiar, not-quite-Welsh-accent, and she was there: Fay. Somehow we’d wandered to the same little alley.
"What are the chances we'd both go to that street at the same time?" Fay had asked.
"Pretty good chances, I guess."
I paid for my unscheduled stay at the place and the wife said with a head bobble, “We had the room open, no problem."
They had had three rooms and the one I stayed in had been booked before and after the day I’d randomly shown up, and I was humbled by the experience, and it all worked out in the end so, I guess, whether or not I’ll ever understand how it all happened, everything had happened quite reasonably.
The universe had taught me several things on my first day, and rather gently, too. It could have been smoother if I’d done more – or any – research, but then I wouldn’t have needed to learn all the things that I learned. So, maybe the reason things happen the way they do is because everything was pushed forward in the beginning of time and it all scattered outwardly in an ordered chaos, and all we are meant to do is go with the flow as best we can manage. Everyone is dealt a hand of cards and the game is as much skill as it is random chance.
It’s not an exciting concept, but some things happen for a reason and some don’t and we really have no way of knowing which is which so we just have to decide for ourselves whether or not to fold or go all in; sometimes you have a good hand and sometimes you just get lucky.