Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Ahhh the Beach

From Calcutta to Mumbai was a relatively uneventful 30+hr train ride. I did some writing, edited some photos, finished my book, began the mammoth task of writing up my Everest ‘journal’ and slept and ate at varied intervals. The train food was surprisingly good (think Indian airplane food, without the cutlery, salt/pepper sachets and napkins) and although our cabin mates were saddled with an irritatingly tantrum tendencied 3 yr old who wasn’t yet quite in control of his newly potty trained bladder when he was sleeping, we managed to get a descent nights sleep and occasionally during the daylight hours remembered to look outside the window at the passing scenery of central India to observe the slowly changing landscape of the lush, tropical fields.
Upon arrival to Mumbai’s Dadar station we swiftly managed to obtain an onward ticket for the short journey by local train to Bandra (thankfully without joining the half mile long line-up - occasionally it pays to be a pasty white blonde girl with a backpack on who appears to be completely lost and clueless), where our Vancouver friends reside. Martin and Tonya had graciously offered to open the doors of their lovely home (and washing machine) to these 2 stinky backpackers for an unspecified number of days without a hint of hesitation, which I found incredibly generous, considering the fact that Martin and I had actually only met briefly many years ago and besides being friends on Facebook have had minimal contact since that first meeting. But as is often the case with travelers – the generous spirit of a wandering soul is ready to help a fellow traveler out in any way possible. Fortunately the sight of a familiar face from home was enough to generate the spark of friendship back to life, so after only a brief period of introductions for our other halves we were all getting along famously. (Tonya you are amazing!!)
Anyway – as I was saying - we managed to obtain our tickets without too much trouble; however making proper use of those tickets wasn’t quite that simple. Unfortunately the helpful ticket man didn’t think it pertinent to mention the slightly unusual design feature of Dadar train station: that there are actually two ‘platform ones’ – so we managed to board an incredibly packed train carriage, only to discover after several stations that we were in fact on the wrong train (heading north on the Eastern line instead of the Western one)….ooops! We jumped off and made the swift decision to switch from train to rickshaw and finally, by a stroke of luck, (when I noticed the names on the sides of the buildings on the street we were driving down) I realized that we were right outside Martin’s building. The rickshaw screeched to a halt at my order and we had arrived. Hallelujah!

Our time in Mumbai was quite a change of pace, due to the luxury of a ‘home’ to escape to at the end of each day (or in fact a home to hide out in all day if we felt like it). And although the city centre itself was quite pleasant by big Indian city standards, with some lovely European style architecture (never mind the smog and pollution) there really isn’t that much to it - so a couple of days really would have been enough, however both Darko and I had some ‘opportunities’ to pursue.

Darko was fortunately able to tag along with Martin and assist him on a photo-shoot of an up and coming Bollywood cutie, which gave him the chance to watch a fellow photographer at work. (Since arriving in Mumbai, Martin has made some amazing contacts and already shot the front cover of GQ India so it was quite a privilege for D.) He also accompanied Martin to an Indian Photographers Guild Event where Martin had been invited to speak and got to meet some of the top photographers of India. Score!!
In contrast my ‘professional’ aspirations for Mumbai weren’t quite so fruitful. Through a friend of friend I had the number of a possible ‘Bollywood’ contact who might be able to hook me up with a paid dancing gig. It all ended up being a bit of a wild goose chase, that left me feeling more like I was in the running for a chance to be a go-go dancer at a Christmas party (no thanks!) than with any hope of making it on a set with a camera – but oh well – I tried! Nil!!

Since my aspirations of making it to Bollywood had been dashed I decided to spend my final day in Mumbai as Darko’s assistant, shooting another more likely Bollywood hopeful (an Indian guy), which gave Darko the opportunity to add another angle to his portfolio and me the chance to practice my role of second shooter (which may turn out to be all I’m good for when we get back to Vancouver). And finally we were ready to take the train South and head to the beach.
After yet another full day on the train we arrived at Pernem station in North Goa just in time to jump in a rickshaw and arrive at Arambol for the last of the breathtaking sunset.

Now it might be said that Goa is to India what Bora Bora is to the South Pacific. The gem, the ‘piece de resistance’! But let’s keep in mind; it is still India – so there is plenty to keep you shaking your head. The sound of the ocean crashing on the golden sand is still interspersed with the deep guttural noise of belching cows.

The beautiful sari-clad women are still trying to coerce you into buying their wares, but essentially it is stunning here. Palm fringed beaches and candle lit dining tables on the sand as the sun goes down are the order of the day.
It was our plan to find something a little more ‘permanent’ for a longer stay in the region but on our first few days we were happy to perch on the hillside over-looking the beach in a little ‘Coco Hut’ and decide if Arambol was it. After an amazing fish dinner on our first evening in town it was decided that we would be happy to spend a few weeks hanging here, eating lots and getting fat. So the hunt for the ‘home’ began. We spent 2 days hard at it and finally found a place that suited our needs (and budget). For less than a tenner (GBP) our balcony looks out to the ocean with only a few palm trees and a rocky shore separating us from the waves (the Golden sand is just around the bend). We have clean tiled floors, a fridge and a stove, but much to my honey’s distress, an ‘Indian style’ convenience - unfortunately no porcelain throne (which we didn’t notice until after we’d moved in) – oh well – you can’t win ‘em all!!
So finally we begin to relax and unwind to the rhythmic sound of the waves lapping against the rocks, only steps away. The sun is shining, the beach is calling and we are ready to chill the f(*&k out!!!
India challenges your patience not just daily, but sometimes hourly, so Goa feels like a little corner that lets you escape the barrage of incessant hassle. The mother-hen of India that lets you hide under its wing for a while to rest and recuperate until you feel ready for the next intense round in ring. The daily assault of decisions to be made when you are on the road can be put on hold for a while and we will have time to take some space. Darko and I met, and conducted the whole of our pre-wedding relationship in incredibly enclosed quarters on a cruise-ship. Consequently we have had very little time to ourselves since we met…….ever! We were constantly by one another’s side. And India has, of course, been the same thus far – but here we can spread our wings a little and take a moment or two in solitude. Considering my desire to get more in touch with myself during this trip I’m thinking this might be a good thing. And since the last time the romance richter scale read anything past a 0.2 in the rest of India, since the beginning of time (God knows how they managed to come up with the Karma Sutra) it seems that Goa could provide the honeymoon environment we’ve been looking for!

There will also be time for work of course. Darko has his never-ending hard-drives full of photographs to edit and fine tune and I will be honing my craft as a writer. Since there won’t be a great deal of ‘new’ information about India to share with you and mostly just the hum drum stuff of day to day life going on, you may not hear from me here for a while (unless I get around to finishing the ‘Everest Episodes’). My writing may take me in a new and different direction that I haven’t even fathomed yet – or I may just spend time tailoring work for ‘professional’ publication. Who knows…….maybe I’ll finish my first novel. I’m going to meditate a little, start the yogic ball rolling with a class or 2 and maybe even spend a day or 2 in the ocean or off on a scooter exploring the rest of Goa,

but mainly I’m just going to be living and breathing – something I forget to do far to often in this current incarnation. I might read a book (Tolstoy’s War and Peace right now) or I might just stare at the ocean for hours.
Whatever I am doing, you can guarantee that every single one of you reading this (at least the ones of you that I know personally – I doubt there’s anyone else out there reading it!!!) will enter my thoughts at least once, because I miss you all and think of you often……. Oh and cos I never ever stop thinking about random stuff, day and night, try as I might!! But for the time being I’m off to ruminate on the shape of my navel and maybe get a tan.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent. Finally catching up on my reading. This post really resonated with me.

    "The mother-hen of India that lets you hide under its wing"
    "the romance richter scale read anything past a 0.2 in the rest of India"