I’m in Goa, and it’s raining. How dare it rain! That’s not in the script. It should be clear blue skies and rich red gold sunsets all the way.
To date, the weather in Goa has been unseasonably hot and uncomfortably humid. The afternoon sun is strong enough to scorch your feet the instant they touch the sand. The heat smoulders all day and smothers all night. There is no escape. After three nights of deprived sleep, (due to the heat as well as the incredible morning racket), I opted to upgrade to a quiet air conditioned room (away from the beach, at thrice the price). So now it’s unbelievably cold at night. I swear I’m trapped in some kind of Indian Goldilocks torture chamber…
I had visions of a blue green ocean paradise. Of fine white sand, crisp and soft underfoot, like the first snow in winter. An oasis in India. I’ll understand if even the most dim witted of you start thinking I may have been over reaching with my expectations on that one!
I’ve been here about 12 days or so, and have felt ‘antsy’ pretty much the entire time. Just in case the Goa tourist board are monitoring this blog, I believe the problem lies with me rather than Goa. A local shack/shop has a t-shirt with a quote from the Dalai Lama printed on the back. The gist of it goes something like this: ‘we in the west live our lives too much in our head, rather than in our heart, and in that what we miss out on life, and on peace. We base our happiness on external things: the weather, the ideal holiday destination, the perfect partner, the better job, house, car wage… But ‘true’ happiness is a state of mind & heart which is attained internally rather than externally. If you choose to be satisfied and happy, then you are satisfied and happy.’ I think it’s somewhere in the middle of internal and external personally, but I’m not about to argue with his holiness…
On that basis the reason I have been antsy is less to do with the place (although of course it, and the interminable heat is a factor), and more to do with the fact my mind has been going into overdrive. I’m so used to doing things and engaging in distractions which fill my every waking moment back home. My mind is using this lull to cram thoughts and fill the space whilst it’s got the opportunity. It’s amazing the crap which flies around the back of your head if you take the time to listen. A good friend sagely advised that this was bound to happen, that it’s an inevitable part of taking time out, and that I should try not to avoid it, or get too overwhelmed, finding some distractions to take my mind off things but deal with the underlying thoughts/issues in small chunks. It’s hard. I guess this is what the travelling in the subconcious feels like!
As I type this, I’ve become distracted by a dog, which just strolled past my balcony, and has started to do what can best be described as some form of break dance on the grass. I suspect it’s simply trying to scratch an itch, but it looks startlingly like a back spin. I’m going to get this dog and agent…look our for sparky in the next fifty cent video!
One saving grace here is the food. I’m staying in Patnem, a relatively laid back beach in the south of Goa. I’ve discovered a few (expensive by Indian standards) cafe/restaurants which easily match the best mid-range restaurants in London. I’ve also discovered the perfect (non-alcholic) drink, Nimbu Pani (which translates to lemon/lime water). You take the juice of a fresh lime, sweeten with sugar, and top up with ice cool mineral water. I swear there is nothing like it, it really hits the spot. In comparison, coke definitely isn’t it!
Indian beaches are like nothing I have ever seen before. Stray dogs scamper across the scorching sand, finding shade under shaky cafe tables, nestling under travellers weary but relaxed feet. They dig indentations in the sand, where they quickly begin to snooze; whimpering softly, paws twitching as they dream of doggy adventures. Serene and slender Brahmin cattle lollop across the beach, then (always at noon?) stand dead still, like sculptures of fine sand, only the occasional swish of their tails indicating the presence of life.
Palolem (the next beach along) is more of a party and tourist scene. Bamboo and thatch cafes occupy every possible inch of space. So rickety that if there were any wolves around, it would take barely a puff and a half to blow these things down! Impossibly pale and pasty tourists line the edge of the shore, sun bathing. All pot bellied and greased up with factor 30. Dark skinned Indian women in flowing saris work the construction sites dotted along the shore. Surrounded by westerners, their graceful slender bodies move with almost impossible economy. They glide across the sand with heavy bales of straw, or baskets of rock perched on their heads. It’s incredibly hard work but you wouldn’t know it by looking at their faces. They look more relaxed and at peace than any one of the infinity of sizzling tourists.
I joined a Yoga class here on the beach. It’s an 8am open air class lasting two and a half hours, Monday to Friday. At it’s best Yoga practice leads to a ‘quiet mind’. During your practice you direct your attention to your movements, posture, and breath. Basically out of your mind, and into your body. Yoga is meant to lead into some form of meditative practice. Babbling thoughts pacified, you are able to center yourself, and see things more clearly. I’m still a novice so the most I achieved was an ache in the shoulders and a ‘mumbling mind’. I hope to continue, so watch this space.
Apart from eating, strolling along the beach, some photography, and visits to the opticians (I lost my glasses in a ‘freak wave’ type incident, I now have glasses in the style of the Two Ronnie’s). The only activity of note was a visit to the unexpectedly large Anjuna market (a 3 hour drive from Patnem). Built for tourists it looks like some kind of vast market trading shanty town. Frazzled westerners are able to satiate their consumptive desire for incredibly useless Indian tat! Tye dyed cotton clothes, t-shirts, beads of every colour, silver jewellery, thick brightly coloured Rajasthani sheets and pillows hang from every available space.
Traders implore you with cries of “Hello, come see my shop” or “Looking is free”, or (my personal favourite) “Two for the price of one”, which was swiftly followed from the guy in the next shop with “Three for the price of one”. I couldn’t help think that the price of ‘one’ was rather to flexible in India. After five incredibly overwhelming minutes you realise you’re in some sort of shopping hell. Every stalls sells virtually the identical crap as its neighbours. Madness, but it clearly works. I took the opportunity to buy a knock off digital watch (175 rupees – about 2 quid), a thin white cotton Nehru shirt (130 rupees – about 1.50), both were bargained down by about 50%.
Later, a cocky teenage kid tried to become my best mate, rattling off a clearly fabricated story of woe. After I politely declined his offer to show me around, he proceeded to bombard me with, give me money, pens, food drinks, and ice cream. After two minutes of this constant barrage and his yanking on my shirt sleeves I was forced to give him my ‘stare of death’, he got the message and sauntered off, on the look out for some other friendly looking sap.
At that point, shop keepers sensing weakened prey descended on me and hassled me at virtually every step. I finally decided to call it a day when some scruffy con-artist sidled up to me, pointing with a horrified look at my ear. I crapped myself with visions of deadly spiders burrowing into my ear canal, in that instant he grabbed hold of my ear lobe and yanked hard, before proudly displaying the biggest chunk of (fake) ear wax known to man. I got wise to his slick but ill judged move (I know the colour of my ear wax, and it’s not the colour of mud), and I told him to clear off!
My fingers are getting tired now, so I’m afraid I won’t have time to tell you about the Liverpudlians from hell, the silent but deadly European couple, the frequent (day long) power cuts, the killer dog fights on the beach, and the sweet little girl who says hello to me every morning. For those you’ll have to take me out to dinner when I get back.
Anyway, I hope you are all happy and well. And SHAME ON YOU, for reading this blog and NOT leaving a comment.
Till next time….
PS> My next stop is Hampi in 3-4 days, then Nanded (Hazoor Sahib Gurdwara), the Ajanta caves, and finally Mumbai in mid December. It’s all a bit whistle stop so I may not update the blog…