Thursday, 14 March 2013

good bye arambol

Entering Ganesh Travels, I'm told by the proprietor: "Ah Madame, these ladies are going on the same train as you.

I turn to see 2 women sitting in the red plastic chairs behind me,

"Hello," I say.

"Hello," they return giggling merrily.

The older of the two immediately asks: "Are you going to Delhi, too?"

"No," I answer.  "To Nasik."

And so I meet Oxana and Lisa from Siberia.  Oxana is 40-years-old, white-blond with honey-colored eyes.  She has one rasta braid attached to the back of her fair hair and is quick to interact with me.

"I love here, you too?"

"Yes," I say.  " I love it here."

Oxana continues.  "I love ocean.  Heat.  I love too much.  I very love here."

Lisa joins the conversation.  She's 27-years-old with red hair pulled back into a pony tail and big blue eyes."I love ocean too much," she smiles a huge smile. "My English not so good, but here friendly people.  Big smile every peoples.  I very much happy.  My heart feel good." She breaks into contagious joyous laughter and opens her blue eyes wide. They sparkle with vitality and happiness.

"Where are you from," I ask.

"We from Siberia," Oxana says.

"Oh my God! What's the weather like in Siberia right now?" I ask.

"Maybe minus 10, minus 15.  Spring start now.  But still snow up to..." Oxana waves her bronzed arm over my 5-foot-tall head.

We hug and kiss and laugh and smile and I finally depart with my train ticket and a plan to meet my new Siberian friends on the train station the following night.

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On my way home, walking the lanes of the little village where I stay, I hear a squeal of absolute joy.  I turn to see a little boy squatting in front of his door with a small blackboard and a piece of white chalk.  Next to him, his father squats reading a newspaper.  The boy uses his hand to wipe off his chalkboard and again squeals with delight.  He furrows his brows in deep concentration, draws a picture, and again breaks into unequivocal whelps of happiness.  He shows the picture to his father, who nods and says something to him which seems to make the child feel good.  The child repeats this process over and over with unceasing delight.  Each time the father gives feedback.  Images of the children of the western world flash into my mind - children who possess every conceivable electronic gadget known to mankind and yet seem to get so little joy from their use.  You draw the conclusion.

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Back in my room, geckos scuttle along the walls as I pack my backpack in preparation for my departure at 3am tonight.  I think about my days in Arambol: Rising at 7:30.  Every other day yoga from 9 - 10:30.  A walk through the lanes of my village into town to Tender Coconut where the owner of the stand lops the top off a coconut, sticks in a straw and hands it to me.  I slurp the vitamin-rich coconut water, then hand it back to him.  He takes his hachet and slams it through the middle, dissecting it into halves, he then slices off a wedge from the outside for me to use as a scoop, and hands it back to me.  I sit by the road, watch motorbikes whiz by as i scoop tender slices of fresh coconut from the shell and feel so happy to be alive.

Maybe i take a walk along the beach.  Maybe i go to Dylan's for breakfast  where the tall Frenchman with the shaved head but for one circle of black hair on the back of his head, walks in, tosses his pack on one of the mats on the floor, extends one arm down to the mat-covered floor, and executes a single-arm hand stand, his long muscled legs, toes pointed, rise to the ceiling.  Or some days "Hat boy" practices his hat act in the center of the room, tossing 3 red felt hats from head to air to arm, through his legs, behind as back as customers lounge about on mats on the floor, sipping ginger lemon honey tea as the ceiling fan whirs. And then maybe back to my room.  Wash out some dusty clothes in the blue plastic tub and hang them out to dry.  Late afternoon jumping over the big waves when the sea is rough or floating on my back on calm days. Dinner at Magic Park or Priya or Sai Deep where I savor a freshly squeezed black grape juice.  And then on to live music.  A different concert every night.  Every night me dancing, swaying, leaping in joy to wonderful music.

I walk down to find my landlady to pay for my stay. She looks at my ali baba pants, loose magenta top, red shawl draped over one shoulder and she asks the question i've thought about many times: "Do you dress like that in your country?"

I laugh and say, "I do, but other people don't."

"How do people dress in your country?" she asks.

"They wear jeans and t-shirt."

Because i've thought about what a strange distorted view of the rest of the world the Indian population of Arambol must have.  With this place filled with freaks, alternatives, arrayed in the wildest fashions, hair in the unlikeliest of styles, juggling in the streets, singing and dancing and cavorting like a scene from a bad  60s B movie about Haight Ashbury, what possible conclusion must they draw of foreigners?  

So, goodbye Arambol.  Although I know that geographically speaking you're part of Goa, India, culturally you're part of some warm oceanic hinterlands of freakdom.  It's been great, but i long to see India.

So, i'm off to Nasik, 4th holiest city in India.  A city i visited 4 years ago and never saw another non-indian. 
It's been great, but i long for new challenges.

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