The International Writers
Contact in India
keyboard I'm typing on is so old I can barely see the letters,
in fact some of them have rubbed off completely and small paper
cutouts of "a" and "H" and "m" are
taped over top of otherwise blank keys. A hand written
sign in front of the computer reads: "browsing 20 rupees
per hour. No discounting, no bargaining of rates will be
20 rupees = just under 50 US cents. The mouse pad says "Happy
Birthday" and sports a picture of Minnie mouse, the surface layer
of plastic has fallen off and been stapled back to the foam matting.
It is so hot my hand is stuck to the mouse. Am in a cyber cafe
with 2 pc's, only one of which works. In the corner a TV is playing, on
screen an Indian monk in brown robes is pontificating passionately with
no volume. He is bald and jovial -a Punjabi Friar Tuck.
I am in Kerela now, Trivandrum -the capital of this southern Indian
state. It is noisy and bustling and very raw, but also extremely soft.
The people are curious and delicate with their questions, "are
you married?" coming second after "where you from?" Everybody
smiles wide at my red hair, they seem as intrigued as entertained.
The food is indisputably amazing no matter where we go; I am not
missing meat at all. As I walk through the markets, interacting
with people, making eye contact, watching their reactions, reading
their acceptance or bewilderment...I see how every surface of the world
presents to me a mirror. I learn by seeing my varied reflections
as they bounce off reality at new angles, in altered wavelengths. There's
also a social refraction where I get to observe how my own light
moves through different mediums. I am forced to re-invent myself
constantly; none of the normal cultural clues are available
for feedback. They speak Malayalam here, not much English. I feel
vulnerable...my language, humour and verbal finesse are diminished.
All I have are my eyes, my smile and my physical antics to communicate.
More and more I am seeing how this silent engagement across the infinite
cultural gap is all that's needed to make a real connection.
Being an Indian westerner seems to work for and against me over here...it
simultaneously engenders connection and distance in a way that Jena
also seems to be experiencing -my white, curly blonde, Hindi speaking
Australian companion. It's been over 7 years since I traveled
with a woman (when Tilli and I braved the Okavanga delta and safaried
in Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania). I am loving the female synergy
and our mutual nurturing and support. Jena and I are getting
along symphonically -like two wings on the same bird.
First few days in Goa was wonderful, but far too tourist laden.
We stayed in a wonderful beach hut community called YabYum, also where
my friend Hilary from London was staying. As well I bumped
into an old friend from Amsterdam called Moose who now has a PhD in Universal
Energy Healing (how cool is that!). Breakfast conversations wandered over
vast swathes of idea space -from the nature of consensus reality
to the challenges of polyamory, with a playful exploration of all possible uses
of dried apricots. The beaches were wide and wanton, with cricket
being played on the sand everyday at sunset...we even joined in for one
round much to the welcoming delight of the locals -a posse of lean dark
skinned boys in their underpants.
New Years eve was celebrated in the street under a massive explosion of
fireworks, people everywhere flying by on scooters holding out their hands
to connect with us, shouting excitedly as they whizzed by. Our group did
manage to make it to the end of one massive psy-trance party on a hilltop
in the open air. We were told it had been going for two days straight
when we arrived. All the palm trees were decorated, painted, affixed
with neon bulbs and the area was decked out in undulating strings of twinkling
lights. Hung among the trees were beautiful psychedelic
paintings with Indian motifs and modern raver images...cyber-Shiva and
DJ Ganesh. Inside the party hundreds of different chai-wallas
(tea ladies) had tables set up to make tea, serve omelettes
and other assorted snacks. There were candle-lit matted lounge areas where
one could rest from dancing and altered minds could go to chill.
The DJ booth was a giant inflatable lotus, gleaming iridescent in
blue and white. The energy of the crowd was loose and pulsing, I
suspect there wasn't a sober soul in the house...besides us of course
Tomorrow we travel to Kochin from where we'll head out towards the swampy
backwaters famous along the west coast of Kerela. Jena and I are
booking a private house boat with bedrooms, a kitchen and a private
cook for three days of leisurely coasting through the canals. I
am super excited to float though the countryside, letting India bathe
my senses while I sink into her moist meandering magic. I am
so looking forward to taking refuge in nature after being exposed to the
mad mania of Mumbai and other city spaces I've recently been immersed
in. There is a bird and elephant sanctuary as well as an ashram
en route, Amma's (Ammachi). If I'm lucky I'll get a chance to experience
her sacred embrace first hand -as if all of India were hugging me
Annie will touch base again soon, right now I am off to have masala
dosa and mango lassi at the local hotel (name for sit-down
restaurants over here)...I'm wearing fresh jasmine flowers around
my neck, sandalwood powder on my neck and watching a strangely courageous
mosquito attempt to draw blood from my arm. Whap! Another
one bites the dust.
© Annie Lalla
Fragments from India
Imagine the diameter at the bottom of a toilet bowl; it was as long
as that. I know because the head touched one side while the tail
brushed against the opposite. He was paddling for his life.
most have barely heard of it, many are intrigued, few are brave
enough to go. If this is your first encounter with the phenomenon
of Burning Man, welcome.
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