In order to become stylishly proficient in the art of doing nothing, one must first arrive at the small seaside resort of Gokarna in Karnataka, located about halfway between Mumbai and the Southern tip of the Subcontinent. I know what you’re all thinking, but no you can’t do it at home, well not in such glamorous style…read on my friends, read on!
Back to the small beach resort…
Arriving well after sunset, when one can see bugger all, one must first take a tuk tuk down a road that also seems to double as some kind of quarry for local animals and cars, vast swathes of the surface having been extracted for some industrious building project: a new tower block for the local ant community perhaps, or a temple to the god of broken car axles.
One must exit the taxi wondering a) if one’s bag is still attached at the back and b) if one’s arse will ever recover. One must then find a small beach hut (not an easy feat with only the light of the moon for guidance) and spend a night of terror: green tarantula-like creatures lurking in the darkened corners and cockroaches scuttling through the roof thatch (and if you thought that you didn’t like the idea of cockroaches under your feet, trust me that it is far preferable to having them scuttling about above your head, especially when the mosquito net has holes in it the size of small continents). One must then make a hasty departure the following morning and try to find some less harrowing accommodation, whilst trying hard not to be seduced by the very-attractive-on-the-outside and much-less-so-on-the-inside thatched huts that harbour all manor of evil beasties and nightmarish menageries.
Once ensconced in the small and inexpensive hut (un-thatched) one can settle into one’s week of doing absolutely nothing. Less than one ever imagined possible. Minus amounts of stuff. Labour un-intensive activities comprising watching cows walk along the beach, floating in the sea, drinking coffee kitkat nutella milkshakes and Kingfisher beer, smoking weed, eating toasties and playing shithead. That’s right guys, not for the faint-hearted!
In this manner, minutes melt into hours which in their turn melt into days and all of a sudden one realises that one has no idea what day it is and that one really must find out before one misses one’s flight.
And let’s be honest, smoking weed is fun and a good way to pass the time when you are a student and can only afford one DVD which you are forced to watch every day for three years, but it is the arch-nemesis of productive activity. Even the simplest daily tasks become arduous. So it is that, spurring oneself into action, one takes a deep breath; daringly stands up; faces the huge risk of leaving behind table, friends and game of shithead; walks the entire ten feet to the counter and asks the proprietor what day it is. Tuesday. Thank Sweet Baby Jesus and all the little orphaned children for that! The flight isn’t for two days! There is, however, an awful truth lurking in the shadows. There is stuff to be done; that the Valium for the flight home and those green chutney flavoured nik-naks won’t buy themselves, for example. That small beach cove won’t visit itself either. God damn having all these horrible things to do. For the first time in several days, one ventures away from one’s tiny haven on the beach with its chalets and cafés and one enters the small lively town of Gokarna with its narrow streets and famous temples. The hustle and bustle of even a small village can be rather a facer after the quietude of the resort, albeit nothing compared to the hustle and bustle that India is capable of producing when she wants. Huff!
Horridy missions accomplished, one spends one’s last days lolling about in the sea and making frequent trips to the toilet. If Goa were unfrequented with a low turn over of clientele and food in March, Gokarna in April is a virtual desert and where there are virtual deserts in India, there are things that make you go frequently to the toilet.
Before long, it as time to say goodbye to my new found friends/shithead opponents and head for the airport. Another tuk tuk to another taxi to another train station. Was I ready to leave India? Absolutely not. I had travelled several thousand miles and I had seen but a single piece of the table-top puzzle, but then perhaps India is best seen this way. Due to either illness or startling beauty, India is a place best viewed in a leisurely manner. Schedules and plans do not suit her.
To travel through India is to experience her vastness and endless transformation; a true orgy for the senses; the brightly dyed saris, the dazzling colours and wonderful aromas of the spices, the chaos of the streets full of stall holders and shoppers and chai wallahs and cows all dodging the lorries, taxis and mopeds that buzz along honking their way through the crowds. The trains filled to bursting with windows opening onto cooked orange earth and lush verdant green that flies past like a rare and exotic bird.
To be there is to experience life. Perhaps it is India’s proximity to death, disease and starvation that makes this country so rich in life. Sensuality and brutality exist as lovers under dirty satin sheets. Where there is pain we experience pleasure beyond bounds and where there is suffering there is joy, strong in all its intensity. Mother India. Unity in Diversity.