This was written a few days ago. I am now in Puducherry, on the east coast. I didn’t have much access to the internet so I couldn’t publish it, until now.
I’m sitting in my hotel room in Mysore, India. The Rolling Stones song “She’s a rainbow” is playing on my iPod; one of the songs a friend put on the playlist he gifted me. The song now is a pendant of nostalgia for my culture and home, of friends, of the links we make in our life. I’m not feeling nostalgic but I realized I haven’t had the desire to turn my own music on until now, and it’s like sugar after a fast.
The room lacks life. It’s brown; brown dresser, bed head, side tables, curtains. Even the yellow on the walls and the red upholstery on the only chair in the room have browned. There is a small window that looks out to the window of another brown room, even the glass is brown. Dirt and dust have settled into the crevices of the windowsill, tucked and tidy in all the places it can hide. For an average priced room in India, this isn’t so bad.
The temperature is rising in these parts so the dust feels hot too. I’m mostly dusty by the end of the day.
I’ve been in India just over a month now. A big chunk of it was spent in Arambol, Goa; relaxing, swimming, being. As the days rolled into one sunset after another my skin started to feel like mine again, browned by a sun omnipresent, the heat of each day reminding me of what it feels like to really be warm. It’s easy to get romantic and poetic here and talk about the warmth in my heart; the pull is strong, but then I’d just be obvious. We all know what it feels like to be on a beach vacation.
A pure indulgence of sun, sand and free love.
It certainly felt freeing, but Goa has that appeal and why it attracts people who know that life is lived outside a cubical, that expression is individual and that deodorant is the stuff of the devil! Go with it.
It took me a while to settle. I arrived feeling pale and pointed; hard edged and high strung. Like any good seductress however, Arambol was patient & gentle. Luring me in with a flirtatious wink; an easy sea, a happy sun, and people who really didn’t give a shit what I did for a living, what I did each day, where I was sleeping or who I was sleeping with.
I am sharing the apartment with a guy called Will. He is an English friend of my friend who originally rented the house. But, actually, he is an angel sent from the divine. We didn’t know each other before but very quickly we have moved seamlessly in the house, we laugh the good laugh ALOT – the kind of laugh that makes you hurt from joy. We’ve found little parties on the other side of teepees, on the other side of cliff faces and around fancy hotel pools (he’s mostly found them actually, he’s the connected one!) We often go the entire day without running into each other but eventually, we reconvene with the days’s stories and observations around the table or on the balcony. He instantly became a dear, soulful, friend.
This trip has been like that; gifted with the right people.
I went from Arambol, Goa to Hampi – a bewitching, powerfully spiritual town further east. For miles and miles, as far as the eye can see, all you visually feast on are God sized handfuls of boulders towering over rice paddies. I then joined Will in Bangalore for another hug from Amma and then on to Mysore. I am leaving for Tiruvaannamalai today.
I’ve not planned a lot of travel. Much of it has been spontaneous and from conversation. It has felt so freeing to do it that way. I have a few thoughts about the next stop after Tiru, but nothing is booked.
I’ve wanted to write about my experience every day. I am writing everyday actually but privately since, the puzzle hasn’t formed itself to really put it together. Even when I am writing here, I am not writing enough. Every moment has been filled with something I want to tell. Each day I am awakened more. Each day I am awed at the capacity for human suffering and abundant love. I am learning what one can withstand, of how little we need to live and, again of our enduring need for connection. This country thrives on connection. In fact, my personal space is invaded almost every day.
I do want to share a lot though; about my hug with Amma (and following her around), about chanting Hare Krishna with the Sadhu while the two of us walked over the boulders around the Durga temple. I want to write about the teenage girl who rode the train curled up on my shoulder, sleeping. I managed to write about the children in Pune who took me into their home for lunch, and took me meet all their friends and neighbors, but not yet the Russian snake catcher who appointed himself my protector and then went around town kissing the cobras. And my Rickshaw driver, tearing through the small villages near Hampi, blasting Akon. The same driver whom I took out for dinner as gratitude, simply for his charisma and his curiosity to learn the names of so many common things in so many different languages.
For now, I’ll let some pictures (which aren’t on my Instagram feed) do some talking. I’ll do my best to explain a little backstory.
I love this photo, so much. It was taken down at the drum jam in Arambol, Goa. The jam happens every night. It’s a big ‘ol hippie fest, so much patchouli! But, there is a genuine feeling of freedom here. Lots of children running around. The boy and his father were playing and laughing so much. the father swinging him around and the boy squealing with delight. I caught this moment and just loved the boys face.
I had met a Colombian artisan (pictured on the right) and spent the evening on this side of his business. It’s a bustling little hub of activity around Arambol beach just before the sun goes down. Many international travelers come here to sell their wares and make money for the next destination. It’s a time, and a place, to make great friends. People sit and converse, it’s not all about selling. The little girl on the right had met Cesar the night before, with her mother, she instantly fell in love with him and only wanted to be near him. So, she sat with us.
The children playing, underneath my balcony.
This is the sunset from my balcony. You might have to pull the photo up to get a closer look. It’s perched right between the two huts slightly to the left of the photo. Every day, early evening the sun makes it’s perfectly round appearance and it always feels like the first time you’ve ever seen it.
So many parents bring their children for the season. Many are schooled right here in Goa, and other are a little too young and so accompany their parents everywhere. The children are very much a part of the community here. I wish I were a better photographer. I am sure I could edit and chop this, but not time. But, this little girl captivated me.
I had met Will’s friends from London at a house party only a few days before this was taken. They were in Arambol for a week or so. I met them for dinner one night when they told me they hired a taxi driver to take them around to a few places the next day; Old Goa, ruins, spice plantation and, most specifically, an elephant bath. So, I tagged along. This was the end of the day. I mostly felt ridiculous and kinda weird and it just felt like a big bucket of water being thrown in my face, over and over again. But, you don’t do this every day!
I am always astounded at how interested in life Indians are. They have been so curious about me but, what i have noticed, is that they are curious about each other too. This family waved me off as I hung my head out of my bus window at the beginning of my overnight trip to Hampi.
This is what the inside of the bus looks like. It was tight for some, but I found it quite cozy. Once the blinds were closed, I didn’t have anyone hassle me. The windows open wide, I could easily fall out of I kept them open.
It’s easy to feel safe when you have a Russian snake catcher as your mate!
The circus was in town and so was the full moon. I was blessed with being on the right side of the bus. The sight of this full moon, carried way into the deep into the night, followed me on my journey. It felt very poetic.
Hampi! This was taken from the top of the Hanuman temple, as the sun was falling. Bewitching.
Men having come out of the Hanuman temple.
Of all the many temples in Hampi, Hanuman temple is the only which is teeming with Monkey’s. Hanuman is the monkey God. This explains a lot about India: Intention and magic and mystery is ripe. It is the way it is.
I’d never actually ridden a motorbike before. Once, when I went on scheduled event for scouts (oh, a whole other chapter of my life) it was dirt biking, but I didn’t get out of 1st gear the whole time. I also rented a moped on a fancy island once, but that didn’t take me very far. Unless an engine is surrounded by 4 doors and a sunroof, I wouldn’t say I’m very adept at using it. But, when the russian insisted I rent a bike, I did. Nothing like learning how to ride a motorbike on a rural country road in India. I felt brave – my dad and brother probably wouldn’t even call what I am riding a motorbike. But, it was to me. I felt really free.
The Sadhu and I deep inside the boulders of the Durga temple. This was another beautiful experience, I would like to write about in more depth. He had just given me darshan, there is a small Siva alter in amongst the caves. Unless you know it’s there, you would never find it. He didn’t speak much english but knew enough to know when I wanted a photo.
Every morning round 7am the local Elephant, Lakshmi gets brought down to the river for her bath. She bathes in the same river with all the other Indian families. I had woken early enough to see this, along with a few other tourists who were there. She is trained to take money too. This is me giving her 10rupees, snapped it right out of my hand!
Then she thanked me!
I was walking back to my little hut, which butted a corner with a full view of the rice paddies and some boulders. When I got to my door I looked and saw the moon rising. It was so magical. The picture doesn’t really capture the magnificence of it.
Bathing with an elephant!
I had walked the 700+ steps to the Hanuman temple. I was holding a branch of banana’s for the monkeys, regretfully. These ladies and girls were so curious about me and I shared the banana’s with them so they too, could feed the monkeys. It took no more than a few minutes for them to ask for a photo and we all shared cameras and took photos of each other. I have come to understand that it is not custom to smile in India when your photo is being taken. I love the girl on the right. Clearly couldn’t help it!
This was at the lily pond in front of the temple. Before going into the temple many people would douse themselves with the water, another blessing.
I love the folds on his turban. This was taken at the Lakshmi temple. I didn’t know I had arrived at this temple until I heard the chanting from inside. I was riding down the road when I saw streams of people flooding down a turn off so I followed the crowd. There was a little festival there and so I just followed what everyone was doing. Next thing you know I was praying to Lakshmi, of course i was in the men’s section though.