So I had a pretty bad day yesterday…I don’t think it was anything external (as if it ever is) but just inside me. I felt very unsettled. I haven’t meditated or done yoga in a long time so I do attribute some of my feeling bad to that. In terms of how may day actually went…
I didn’t sleep well due to the heat.
None of the things I had to do got done because of one thing or another.
My upcoming trip was almost cancelled due to various human accidents.
I was late to meet a friend.
The movie we watched was rubbish.
I had a pretty crappy cold.
The restaurant we went to was amazing but I felt unable to eat anything.
After leaving, I felt like I’d eaten too much.
I argued with another friend.
I went to bed crying.
See how nothing THAT bad actually happened? But I felt devastated and angry and upset by the end of the day. I felt out of control and definitely not at peace. But i knew it was all in my mind…it wasn’t real. It wasn’t how the world really was. I didn’t manage to figure that out there and then unfortunately.
BUT today I made a resolution to meditate and try to do yoga everyday that I’m away on this trip. I’m flying to Delhi tomorrow and then going on to a small village north of Chamba (which is itself north of Dharamsala). We’re staying 7 days at this eco-friendly cottage - http://www.himalayanlap.com/orchard.html - which we’re all very excited about!! Mountains, here I come to re-energise and re-focus! :D
As I mentioned, went to Mundra, Kutch this weekend. The whole family (cousins, aunts, nephews) were heading there so it was a good excuse to escape the suffocating heat of Ahmedabad. Actually, I don’t really get to hang out with the whole family much any more as everyone is quite caught up with their own things - exams, kids, work, college… So I thought this would be a perfect time to re-ignite the family love.
I travelled up with my cousin on a night bus. We didn’t manage to get a sleeper so we attempted to snooze on our seats. I was rather unsuccessful despite an unusual amount of leg room! We arrived in Mundra (the port where my uncle works) at about 7am and headed to their house. It was a rather quaint two story building among many other two story buildings in the middle of a desert. We had the top floor for the 9 of us. We managed to fit somehow! My masi is incredibly tidy (like my mum) so no cockroach issues here (thank god). Although I did see a sneaky mouse trap in the kitchen!
I rested a bit before being persuaded to go bandhni (a form of tie-dye) saree shopping. I resolved not to buy anything. I came back with a Rs20 000 saree for my mum. Oops. Apart from that, I’m glad I ventured into the little town of Mundra. It was an old city enclosed in the walls of an ancient fort, vendors lining the streets, small gulleys leading to nowhere. It reminded me of Moroccan souks just a little. We picked up some ghathia and bundi for snacking on (yum).
Lunch was heavy. As it always is when I’m not the one making it! No time for the usual afternoon nap as we headed to some temples and then to the palace and beach in Mandvi. This was the highlight of the day. The palace was where they shot the Bollywood movie Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (one of my and my Mum’s favourites) so we did the obligatory Indian family poses as well as the odd Bollywood one thrown in. The view from the top (above the current princess’s quarters) was breathtaking. The whole palace was surrounded by lush green gardens neatly trimmed and kept by the palace gardeners but if looked further one beyond the palace property you could see it turn into a wild tangle of plants and weeds, eventually turning into sand and sea. We spent the evening on the private palace beach. The clouds were ever present but we were not treated with any rain today. We walked along the coast, watching the crabs scuttle back and worth, in and out of their holes. After a brief dinner at the beach cafe, we headed back. Sleep in the AC was glorious.
On Sunday the family went to see some temples. I’m not really a temple kinda person so I stayed at home, chilled, worked and generally enjoyed the quiet. On their return we sat on the floor and I eavesdropped on my masis reminiscing about their (and my mum’s) childhood. The evening breeze whipped through the house, leaving behind a coolness we all needed. Dinner was heavenly (everything home cooked would be to me at this point) if somewhat sweet (why do Gujarati’s put sugar in everything??)
The next morning I was left alone with my aunt and uncle as everyone else left for their respective homes. I couldn’t get a ticket for a bus that day so I ended up staying two more days. Interesting this was as the electricity was out for most of that time so I sweated off any remaining body weight and attempted to get some work done. Afternoon naps were quite the saviour.
The peaceful and “old” feel of Mundra made me wish I could spend more time here. Here, I had no expectations of “doing” anything so the boredom never sunk in. It was quite the opposite in Ahmedebad, which I considered to be a city now and by implication, a buzzing and thriving place to be (not true)! I reluctantly packed my things and boarded a night bus back. I had a sleeper this time but sleep escaped me. I arrived wearily…got off at the wrong stop and was overcharged by the only rickshaw driver there. He was friendly enough so I was more offended that usual at him ripping me off but I was also too tired at 6am to think about it too much.
I arrived home and zonked out in the morning breeze. I awoke in the mid-afternoon heat.
P.S. I have a cold. HOW? Perhaps I’m allergic to the dust. Perhaps its the going in and out of AC. But having a cold in the heat is quite the inconvenience, let me tell you.
Went to Roma’s uncle and aunt’s house today (after working all day in Barrista before someone asks me when it is I do my work). I had been invited to dinner and to be honest, I am in no position to be turning down home-cooked meals (as my sister-in-law and aunt are both away at the moment and my cousin and I are useless cooks)! We had bhel (yum) and I played games with her young cousins.
As I was about to leave, her uncle came home from work and said I should stay, he’d drop me home. So I stayed. He asked Roma in Gujarati, “Is this the girl that works at that organisation you were telling me about?” Roma replies “Yes” and explains to me that her uncle is quite anti-Muslim so he was intrigued to hear that I, someone he would consider to be Hindu, would be working for such an organisation. I quickly debated in my head whether it was worth starting up this debate with a near stranger, I quickly decided it’s always worth starting up this debate…even more so when it is with people who are directly involved in the communities I’m trying to work with. I realise I probably sounded like a self-righteous outsider to him and that in a way, I am one. He told me stories about how badly the Muslims (all of them???) had treated Hindus in the past, how Modi (the Chief Minister of Gujarat, the one who had sanctioned the riots in 2002) had fixed all of this, how the 2002 riots gave the (Hindu) public a forum to vent their anger in a way they had never been able to before. He explained the frustration people felt when it came to affirmative action in schools and jobs and the fear he himself felt when he went into a Muslim-dominated area for business and was told at knife point that he shouldn’t try to do business in that area. I was intrigued and disappointed at the same time. Of course, I want to hear all sides of a situation, I want to understand why there are such strong emotions when it comes to this particular communal tension. But I also hoped that people would look beyond their immediate news channels, that they would not generalise about a “type” of people, that they would consider themselves as people, as human, before anything else. I have heard the support for Modi in Gujarat is strong, today I saw this first hand. Of course, I felt no hatred or anger towards the uncle. It didn’t make sense to. His emotions, thoughts, beliefs and actions were a direct consequence of his experiences and knowledge. It is easy for me, as an outsider, to see a bigger picture and to fight for justice, as I see it. Would I feel the same if I were in his position? I don’t know. I’d like to think so, but no one can say for sure.
So how do we break down set beliefs based on specific experiences? How do we go beyond words to show people that the label “Hindu” or “Muslim” does not predetermine the level of your virtues or vices?
The journey of 16 children: from the slums of Ahmedabad to the spirit of Oneness.
So it’s Wednesday again! That means Wednesday meditation at Anjali’s again. Can I just say to begin with, what an amazingly simple and beautiful concept? Thank you to the family that came up with it! When I get my own place, I would surely love to host one.
Turned up late because of my usual inability to navigate myself in any country. It’s ok because the door is left open for whoever would like to join us. Meditation itself went quite well as I can actually manage to sit still for about half an hour and my mind with all its thoughts is also somewhat under control for that amount of time. The reading was about living a life with purpose, with a passion for what you do, with so much love that you don’t want to “take a break” or go on vacation. You’re life is your vacation. There was a beautiful story about Gandhi. He was writing one day, letters to the people that write to him, but the lights went out. Most people at this point (after working a 15 hour day as Gandhi did) would give up but he went outside and finished writing his responses by moonlight because he knew how important this small task was.
Some people shared thoughts after the reading as we usually do. Hesus (no idea if that’s how he spells his name, could be Jesus, apologies!!) is a beautiful speaker. Sometimes words and meanings can be lost when your not speaking in your mother tongue but with him, his sincerity and genuine passion really shines through. The positivity too! Actually, I guess this is true for most people at Wednesday meditation and at Manav Sadhna. In fact, now that I think about it, we are all constantly being “fed” inspiration from all the people and things around us. I’m privileged to be here if only for this one opportunity to be inspired on a weekly basis! One girl mentioned how it was difficult to stay on this high (where we feel like being selfless and where its not an effort to love everyone around us) when we leave this environment. She has it spot on. It’s crazy how out external space affects us so deeply internally which in turn affects our entire being. I guess the small moments of realisation we do get serve as motivation to keep going (with our practice of meditation, that is).
Dinner was ridiculously good again. And we got ice lollies! :)
Robin, a new volunteer at MS and an amazing musician, shared some of his talent with us on his tabla (a type of Indian drums) after dinner. At first, the beats were simply a nice rhythm to listen to but as he went on I remembered my days learning kathak (classical Indian dance) when I was young, I remembered the strength of the beat and the grace of the flows in between. I could hear the jingling of the anklets we used to wear. My eyes closed, I saw a girl telling the story of the beats with her body, her expression betraying the emotion in the music. After he finished one set, he explained to us how these sets were created by the masters, passed down from student to student by oral tradition. There was a whole language developed to try to vocally express the poetry in the music. Conversations expressed in a beat, emotions and stories told through sound. Like beat boxing in hip hop or scat in jazz. He had started learning 7 years ago and he told us how he had to learn how to feel the music from inside, to understand and be it. There was no other way to learn an instrument like this, there was no other way to really learn music. After some requests, he played two more sets. Lost in the glorious world of music and dreaming about learning kathak again, I found myself home.
Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.
“And me, I still believe in paradise. But now at least I know it’s not some place you can look for, ‘cause it’s not where you go. It’s how you feel for a moment in your life when you’re a part of something, and if you find that moment… it lasts forever…”
So I’ve been away for a while and I’m sure I won’t be able to remember everything to share here but I’ll give a few highlights. Goa was truly a paradise. I’ve been before but with family and (as I now know) not to the nicest beach. This time I went with my housemates for Mesel’s 30th birthday! We obviously partied a bit but mainly we just relaxed to some crazy level where I think my brain even decided to go on stand-by mode. I was quite ill before we left and I could literally feel the tension and illness fall away as I landed in Goa. We got there in the evening so we just enjoyed a light dinner by the sea and watched the stars. I love the sound of the waves and, if you know me, you’ll know I love the stars even more so I was already in heaven. We kind of wasted the night away sitting on the beach, talking, feeling, taking in the amazingness.
My friend Nikhil hired a bike so we explored Goa quite a bit too. In fact it was a relief on some days to just sit on the bike and ride so that the wind would cool us down. Some days we did just ride for the sake of it. Other days we went to different beaches, passing through beautiful towns and seeing amazing old churches. Morjim was out favourite as it was pretty abandoned, white sand and clean water. We sat there for hours as the sun melted and the stars showed themselves, constellations whispering in their groups and the moon hiding. We ate that night at La Plage. It supposed to be a very difficult place to get a booking at but Marie, being French (in an otherwise Italian and Russian dominated area) persuaded the French owner to give us a table so we enjoyed yummy fresh fish and an amazingly sophisticated evening. Other beached we went to were Calangute (very touristy), Baga (party central) and Arumbol (hippy dippy fun). We were staying at Anjuna which was actually way less busy but populated enough to have amazing food shacks all down the beach and even some crazy beach party raves on some days.
As a side note, we made friends with a drug dealer from Amsterdam (not actually realising he was a drug dealer til way later) so hanging out with him was always an interesting experience! He was a pretty nice guy though! :)
We chilled a lot at Shore Bar which was basically run by awesome hippy’s with great international food and crazily good musicians playing music every night. One night, Mesel DJ’ed there too. We even saw Megan Fox’s hotter twin hanging out there pretty much every day. I think we were too chilled out…I could feel my brain cells slowly stop trying. But it was a beautiful break from Delhi. The hot weather helped too!
On our last night we went to a drum and bass night in a club down the beach. The tide had risen a lot that day so we were all quite drenched by the time we reached there only to be greeted by an aquarium of mini sharks and huge crabs! Sufficed to say, I was not looking forward to the “swim” back in the pitch black night! The tide had subsided a little when we returned but crabs ran across the beach as we attempted to get back to our room. No one else seem bothered. I was. That night we also met a British girl on her gap year. If anyone has seen the “Gap Yah” viral on YouTube that was pretty much how the conversation progressed with her all night. (If you haven’t seen it, look it up)!
Ultimately though, Goa was beautiful because of the people I was with and the time I spent with them. Just being in Goa, it’s easy to simply get drunk, party, get high and pretend to be experiencing India. I was glad to be with an actual Indian too to get his perspective on the craziness that is Goa. We thought about the movie The Beach quite a bit as we saw hoards of young people flooding in to Goa wanting to “experience and understand” India only to then have them do all the things they would do when home (eat Western food, get drunk, party hard, sleep all day). We, of course, were doing the same but I was quite aware of my need and want to escape a little. I felt like not everyone there was aware at all. In fact many people came up to me and told me what an amazing place India is, which it is obviously, but when I asked them where they had been in India mostly the answer was just Anjuna beach - NOT EVEN ANY OTHER PART OF GOA! So I urge you please, if you’re in India to really see India, leave your beach shack, don’t expect there to be alcohol everywhere you go, don’t think people actually go round wearing genie trousers every day and not washing their hair, talk to some Indians, learn some Hindi, walk on the street, see a Bollywood movie, take an auto, visit the old cities of India, ride a train, eat some Indian food, leave your beach!
We reluctantly returned on Thursday evening. I was technically homeless since I had officially moved out of my house but managed to crash. Raaz arrives which was awesome! We’ll be heading up to Dharamshala and Himachal (the mountains) for two weeks at the end of the week. Can’t wait.
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