This is India

You really come into yourself and find the core of adamant strength inside yourself while facing a true problem that nobody other than yourself can do something about, although there are plenty of people in your backspace all the while. I had lots of money stolen, and though maybe it did lower my level of happiness these past days by an inch, following the one hour of crying when I realised it was gone, and waking up the next morning to realise that it wasn't all a horrible nightmare, I accepted it. At least it was only money. I moved on.

I read up on my insurance (if I got kidnapped or hit by a tsunami, I'd be bloody rich!) asked around and am trying to figure out what to do next. And it's fine. The whole situation has me kind of proud of myself. I'll do as much as I can to sort out what I can, and I am glad to have enough strength in myself to not freak out and just accept the irregularities of life.

It's only money after all.

I sat on my loft today looking out across the bunker loo and the surrounding forest and I was struck by a sense of homeliness. I love being in Auroville and India in particular, but I've thoroughly enjoyed the idea of going home, alhough now as I today cycled away from Solitude farm for the last time, smiling at the bear-hug that wonderful Khaled gave me as we parted, the goodbyes and farewells and the feeling that I will be missed; I realised that I too will miss this. I will miss India. A lot.

Sitting on the loft I could picture myself in a simple house in the forest, farming everyday, leading his life of muddy roads and hectic huge cities. I could stay here. Despite the mosquitos and huge spiders that seem to be cropping up everywhere more and more. Despite the lack of internet and newspapers and good coffee and toilet paper, and the choir of lizards that sing their nocturnal serenda for you just as the first minutes of sleep begin to draw you in. I could. Stay. But I do look forward to going home. And I hope to be able to hold on to a little bit of India. Showering with a bucket I have taken to immensely. I saves so much water I can't stand the idea that I would shower with constantly running water. The mere idea seems stupid and ridiculous.

The bindi feels normal too, I find that my face looks odd without it, but I fear it might give the wrong impression about my character and I despite the prejudice of generalisation.

I needed India in order to come back into myself, face the hysterical cities with cool, get on a train and ride the black torrent of loneliness through to Destination Unknown, lose fear and understand that though the heart of man may seem brittle at times, the soul is strong, and knowing that you possess that strength will get you through anything from bad directions, to wrong trains, to traffic accidents, to long dark lonely streets and the confusing labyrinth of beaurocracy.

And when you have in your backspace the wonderful mix of a wonderful mom, some random guys ready to shove all their money and possessions into your hands without a moment's hesitance, people in every continent of the world that you love and that love you, nothing can truly go wrong in life.


ACCIDENTS and INCIDENTS and just a tiny bit of blood

Written on the 25th and today...

I got a calendar today whilst bustling about in the village with Eleonora on her bike. Seeing January and February laid out so neatly (on 100% organic paper) in front of me made me realise how quickly time has passed, and is passing. Only one week left. Exactly one week from now I'll be stressing to catch my bus in Chennai, and in two weeks from now I will have returned to the frozen lunar landscape that I call home. Crazy how time flies.

Oh. I had my first traffic accident today. More like an incident really. It was not dramatic at all, or really noteworthy, but because I've never really made use of any vehicles other than my bicycle for most of my life, I haven't really experienced any traffic related accidents, as far as I can recall. So anyhow, we're driving towards the village on Elenora's bike and I figure she must have suffered a short-circuit as they may come while driving, and while approaching an exceedingly slow moped driver and a speedbump, instead of slowing down she hit the gas and bumped right into the unsuspecting Aurovillian. It was fine. Eleonora shrieked, I think I said "shit", and the lady drove off with no more than a sigh, a shrug and the somewhat tired comment, "this is India".

We were fine. We didn't even topple over. The front of the moped got a bit dented though. The remainder of the afternoon was spent with an impromptu visit to a salong to get eyebrows threaded, followed by a mouth-watering visit to the Bakery; only to get bread though, and then whooshing out of the village, past the kashmiri vendors and to Eleonora's place on the other side of Auroville. Cigarettes, Lila Down, pictures and puppies.

Elenora in the Chocolate Factory of organicness (not real name...)

I had a very good conversation with her regarding farming and studying in general. Whatever qualms I've had about enrolling the biodynamic training were settled and if I needed, she pretty much convinced me that I am on the right line. In a few years, being able to sustain yourself is all that will matter, having the knowledge of survival and making a sustainable way of living will be worth gold.

Man, I need to start thinking about something else or I will start growing sprouts from my ears. On a random note, my favorite meal of the day is breakfast I have realised, I could eat breakfast for all my three mails of the day.


25,000 rupees go missing mysteriously just as I prepare to pay for my brand new, actually really CHEAP mac that Rom Whitaker is bringing tomorrow. I now don't really have enough money left but hey, it's only money. Gah. 25,000 rupees is what I spend in a month in Sweden including rent. I just lost a month worth of living. Double Gah. While returning from in panic smoking 3 cigarettes in a row and crying for about half an hour I discover the biggest spider yet seen in India. It was huge. Huge. I panic, start screaming like a girl, hoping the neighbours will hear and come and rescue me, but they don't, which is too bad for many different reasons. I rush out of the house and try to bully the dogs to eat the spider, but they think I must be tricking them to go into the house where they know they're not allowed, so they just give me confused looks. At this point I discover the spray mosquito repellant, and in my thoughtless panic, grab it and resort to spraying the spider.

The spider freaks out and starts running all over the place, and I simply scream, spray it some more and hop around on the spot. It's obviously getting dazed, but as I for some reason through water on it, it is revived and starts scuttling into my dirty laundry, and this, this totally freaks me out, so I rush into the kitchen, grab the biggest bowl I can find (because I obviously don't want to get near it), manage to capture it, toss it out and watch it try to scuttle away from the house of pain. I think the mosquito repellant subdued it.

Panting, I walk back into the house and conveniently step on some broken glass from the bottle I accidently broke this morning. Just a tiny bit of blood but enough to cause me discomfort. I cry some more in my pathetic state of patheticness and then depart to the café, have loads of coffee and grumble.

Off to grumble at Eleonora's place. Food.

WORST DAY IN INDIA YET. Bloody money. Bloody spiders. Bloody feet.

Meanwhile, enjoy one of the many beautiful photos I took at Solitude Farm today. I never should have left the place, it's so tranquil. The real world hurts sometimes.


Solitude, Hendrix and the inevitable truth of home-coming

So I am on my own in treeplanting man David A. Nagel's house. It's nice in a way except that in the evenings I keep thinking that a leopard will appear out of nowhere while I'm enjoying my last evening fag. Damn Rom Whitaker and his "leopard-in-the-area-mauling" stories. David had to leave for various reasons about a week ago. For one I think he was seriously needing to go on holidays, I often forget that he's actually an older guy because he's so cool, but secondly, this business with the grumpy Tamil men apparently became too much for him to handle so he was advised to take a few weeks of time out of Auroville. As I said though, Auroville Security are on the case and there's nothing to worry about.

Bye Nino!

Meanwhile David's brother Larry has been looking after me making sure that everything is a-okay. We share the same fervent interest in classical american and british rock music, so most evenings in Aurodam are spent listening to fantastic playlists featuring Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Van Morrison, the everlasting Beatles and so on. Once the sun sets it's begun to get quite cold, and I don't know if it's simply a seasonal change (because it is wanter after all despite the 35 degrees) or if I'm just getting used to the heat. Give me another month here and maybe I'll be able to wear jeans and a sweater just like the Indians.

I get up at around 7 a.m. every morning now, which is a nice change after the long mornings of the last week. The electricity doesn't come on until 8 o'clock, so I'll scramble around the bedroom in the feeble light from the first few rays of sunlight glinting through the canopy. Black trousers and a black top. Hair in a ponytail. Bindi on as always. The gas works, so I make myself some porridge with forest honey and organic dates. Maybe I'll have a slice of sourdough whole-wheat bread with organic crunchy peanutbutter and a slab of honey too. In the dusky light I lead the shit bike I'm using out from the gate, shut the gate, and cycle away in the cool morning, bouncing along muddy red roads. In the morning things are always rather quiet, I find. One or two mopeds swing by with somebody on their way to work, and of course, the temple music from the village can be heard all over Auroville from 4 a.m. in the morning. On the main road I'll meet all the Tamil workers making their way via foot or bike from the surrounding villages.

Mmm... breakfast...

Crash. Bump. Shriek.

The road to Solitude Farm where I work in the mornings is really not more than the simplest of paths, but interesting because it includes all elements from pointy rocks that make you topple over, to sand that causes mopeds to swerve dangerously , too roots and grass, but when it rains all this becomes one fantastic dangerous mess of mud and quicksand.

Solitude Farm is a so-called nature farm working on the principles of this Japanese guy whose name I obviously can't recall right now.

The farmers at Solitude have enormous faith in the restorative and caring forces of the earth, meaning that when they farm they try to do as little as possible in a sense. An example of this idea is that they do not plow e.g. They believe that plowing is better to avoid because it forces all the nutrients up in a very unnatural way. So instead of plowing they focus more on making soil beds for the crops in stead of tearing up the earth. They make use of compost fertilisers, but in the future hope that the soil will have recuperated enough from the days of desert and deforestation that there will be no need of any kind of fertiliser. The Solitude farmers leave a lot of the farm up to nature itself. The vegetable garden is becoming a jungle, which is what they want, and everything from peanuts to papaya, banana and mango trees grow in the forest behind the farm.

The produce is quite remarkable though. At Solitude Restaurant they serve all organic, mostly locally produced vegetarian lunches, and twice a week they also do their extremely popular vegetarian sushi evenings and I must say, it's some of the best food I've ever had, and this is not only because the cook is terrific, and she is, but the vegetables farmed at Solitude are truly first class. Working there is exceedingly pleasant, albeit very exhausting. It reminds me once again how important this connection with the earth is to me, and also how much I've missed farm work without realising it. My Solitude hours are between 8 a.m. till lunchtime at around midday. All volunteers get to enjoy a lovely lunch prepared for us.

On a different note I feel like I am playing the "how-tanned-can-Amanda-get" game again. Surely I can't become more tanned than I already am, because this is starting to get a bit crazy. The long hours in the sun probably add to my exhaustion in the afternoon, but I know how far too push myself and I do enjoy the soreness of my muscles when I wake up in the morning. Makes me feel like I'm alive.

I didn't get a train ticket by the way. It's all full as always. Instead I shall enjoy Stupid Crazy Bustrip no.2. (Remember Brazil-Chile?) It's pretty much the same distance between Chennai-Mumbai, not mentioning that I first need to get to Chennai which is 3 hours away from Auroville. So I'll be leaving Auroville on the 1st of February, evening, arriving in Mumbai very early on the 3rd. I think the pure discomfort and stress that the journey keeps trying to pry into my mind is part of a general feeling of slight anxiety that's begun to creep into my mind.

This probably has something to do with Nino leaving me on my tiny own, but to a larger extent, the fact that Sweden is starting to work on Sweden time with a Swedish pace, whilst I am still in India on a calm meditative Indian pace. I guess I am simply starting to grasp just how many things are waiting to go on my todo list, or hopefully, my iCal, by the time I get home. And the stressful concept of time has me slightly overwhelmed as I play with the thought of coming home after all this time. (Which isn't very long compared to Nino and Anatoli).

Does it feel like longer because the life I lead in Sweden is so damn hectic and full? Maybe the difference to my life in Sweden compared to India life feels all the greater because of that exact reason. I was working 70 hours a week up until I took off to Switzerland in order to stop working. Of course Switzerland didn't give me much of a vacation either, but a new bundle of stuff to deal with, both good and bad. Now I've been running, or rather, gentle rolling back and forth on India time, with an Indian pace, that the thought of getting back onto the Swedish fast train must be the main source for this anxiety brewing at the bottom of my belly.

I'll just have another fruit juice and a cigarette.



Written over a matter of some days, starting 18th of January

Two weeks left. Roughly. Actually, more like one week left.

I think back now, or begin to look at things, memories, in India, because Nino is leaving and everything last week, circled around this, preparing for her departure with tickets and taxis and preparing for coming back and setting up "a life" again, applying to universities and figuring out where to live, and now as she's scrambled around all afternoon into the dark of the evening in order to pack her rucksack, I too feel as if something is coming to an end for me as well. I start thinking about my own departure, the rough 30 hour train ride awaiting me, from Pondicherry to Mumbai, coming back to Hotel Moti, Colaba Causeway, where everything began in the shadow of Hotel Taj, on the dirty streets and the roads filled with cars driving as if fighting a battle for life and death with soundhorns and swearing in hindi and marathi.

Home sweet oddly tidy home. (YES this is tidy. Nino has packed all her things.)

I think about the other journeys I've made, bouncing inside cars on muddy roads, being brought all the way from rural Nilakkottai to central Madurai by a guy whose name I never grasped, traffic all around us, waiting for my bus till midnight and being dragged from the waiting room into a bus filled with men, not knowing where I was going until the busdriver shouted at me to get off and I somehow manage to find the right bus at the new station and spend a freezing night by an open window, the bus honking till your ears bleed, Bollywood music thumping throughout the night, suddenly time to get off, train station, impossible to find the train because I can't READ MALAYALAM script, finally found a guard, found my train, cup of chai, arrival. Next time, wrong train, waiting for hours and the station in the middle of the night, Indian men staring ominously at my lonely character that confuses them so with my black hair big eyes but to them oddly light skin. Indian families squat all over the platform as we wait, one hour, two hours, pitchblack, bad english being spoken on the speakers and something else that sounds like japanese.

Train arrival, shit I'm the only woman in my compartment, scrambling up to the upper birth and travelling through time and space, not knowing when or where to get off. Black train filled with snoring and the many different scents of food and spices.

Madurai has the best train station ever. Digital signs announce the train both in Tamil and English as well as the wagon numbers as well so that one can start queuing up for your wagon as opposed to just standing all over the place.

So with Nino gone, here I am. David has gone to Bangalore due to the amount of Indian men wanting to beat him up, but I'm not much concerned. AV Security is on the case.


Snakes, crocodiles and other nasty neighbours

Written on January 13th

We woke to scuffling and raised voices. Indians tend to become loud when they are passionate about something so I didn't register the commotion at first, until the sound of somebody striking the front door reached me all the way back in the bunker loo.

Apparently the raised voices were not a matter of too much excitement. A young Indian guy had apparently come that morning asking for work and/or money, and being denied it had simply gone over the edge and kind of lost it. After much discussing with the neighbours and the police that eventually showed up after nearly half an hour, the matter was resolved in some fashion and our peaceful Aurodam home left silent save for the soft rustling of leafs in the surrounding forest.

The unemployment problems in Auroville smack you in the face sometimes. David's Tamil workers backed away from the whole scene with something like embarassment playing on their faces. I wonder if they were ashamed of having good work and good wages when there are so many that suffer and can only scrape off other people in order to survive.

It's not even just an Indian matter. The Aurovillians that have moved in from outside India are also struggling with lacking funds, struggling with rations and feeding their own families. Auroville is not a city of rich people, but a community of workers. If you can't work then go somewhere else.

We went to the CrocBank yesterday, which opposed to my Steve Irwin fantasies proved to be just a crocodile zoo at a first glance, but as we were briskly taken around by one of Rom's female co-workers from Mumbai, it became all the more interesting.

Crocodiles and snakes are becoming a bigger and bigger issue in India. As human the population continues to increase, cities are expanding more and more, pushing further into jungle areas and reptile habitat. Rom ran a very successful breeding program for India's 3 endangered crocodile species for a very long time, breeding and reintroducing them into the wild until the Indian government made reintroduction illegal due to an increase in human - reptile confrontations and deadly attacks. The CrocBank suffers over-population right now and most eggs have to be destroyed in order to keep the number of crocodiles somewhat manageable. We proceeded from there to a long journey, trying to find our way in the hopelessly labyrinth-like roads of the countryside. After some 3 hours we finally arrived at Rom's place and enjoyed an evening of treeplanting conversation, Steiner and reptiles, lounging next to Rom and J's huge, beautiful Banyon tree.

Now it's Pongal and most volunteer work has paused during the celebrations. Nino and I worked hard to sort out her VISA and journey back to Sweden -issues. Hopefully I'll work at the Solitude farm next week.

Status Contemplation

Written on January 10th

I am staying in Auroville, because I like it here.

Written on January 12th

Anatoli has gone back to Sevapur, so now only Nino and I remain on the loft and I must say it is rather nice. We've visited Pondicherry and as I write this we're making our grumbling, bouncing way to Chennai to visit internationaly reknowned reptile specialist Romulus Whitaker. A very cool dude.

On Wednesday I'm planning to work at the Buddha Garden. 6 - 9 a.m. with other youth volunteers and then breakfast all together. If not I've had my eye on an organic, permaculture, natural farm called Solitude. I might go there later. But so far we've only been getting acquainted with the area, getting oriented, travelling around to sort out practical things like phone top-up's, money withdrawals, keeping the India Wardrobe stocked up (somehow I lost a lot of my clothes somewhere along the way) tiffin containers, using internet to sort out other travels and so forth, and meeting Aurovillians and interesting guests, mostly randomly at La Terrace.

Marc's organic café has become one of Nino and mine's favorite hang-out spots.

We mostly walk the far and wide distances of Auroville now, the roads alternating between the dusty cracks that make people tie handkerchiefs around their faces, to the muddy red tracks that seem less and less like actual man-made roads once it's been raining. All my clothes have red mud streaks on them after the last two days of heavy rainfall. At night we'll make our stumbling way through the forest after having had supper somewhere.

Cobwebs stick to our faces and hair, and our torches are really rubbish and don't really illuminate anything. The forest is filled with the sounds of creatures, of slithering, of hissing and cawing and mooing. (Yes, there are cows in Auroville as well. They are very well fed and have bright shining faces and intelligently observant eyes.)

Now we're on the road leading to Chennai. Simple shops line the side of the road, houses and buildings made out of scrap-metal and other roadside junk. We pull over for a chai break in the middle of nowhere and when finished, throw our papercups in a hole in the ground that is either going to be covered up with soil and forgotten about, or burnt and become part of the morning smoke, which rather than mist, covers and enguls entire trash burning cities and countryside with the putrid odour of stuff that shouldn't be burned.

I had a conversation with Nino yesterday regarding whether or not it is possible to continue being as socially, morally and environmentally conscious in Sweden as we have been in India. For me it's nothing particular though, because this is to a great extent how I live my life. Organic food is a good example to lift up in this case. In my world organic food isn't expensive because there is simply no other alternative for me. Conventionally grown food isn't an alternative, so I don't even compare the prices. What I pay for organic food is the price of something real, and in this instance particularly I truly believe in getting what you pay for. This isn't a difficult for me but something that has become a priority in my life. So I prioritise it over other things. It's not expensive to me, just a matter of priority. I hardly ever buy alcohol and I don't buy clothing regularly (and when I do it's second-hand and all that jazz).

Not to mention the fact that the kind of food I do buy is actually, cheap. Beans, sprouts and veg. I eat a lot of Living foods and Raw foods and I consciously buy certain items of food that are cheaper and thus make the reality of living off completely 100% organic food all the much easier.

Often I find that life becomes a battle of priorities and EVERYTHING depends on just how you choose to prioritise things. Down to your economy, your lovelife and your environmental footprint on the world. I hope youth today and the generations to come especially choose to prioritise Earth. It's our only home after all.

Make one small sacrifice, eh?



Written on January 7th

The train journey there was fine, but long. I met an Aurovillian on it though, Marc from Barcelona. He runs an organic coffee chain in Auroville and has lived there for almost ten years with his family, I think. We shared a cab from Villuparam all the way there, roughly an hours ride between herds of cows with blue painted horns and otherwise adorned creatures that lined the road, causing our vehicle to swerve dangerously between oxen, scooters, dogs, pedestrians and cyclists, and the now and again lorry driving past like a hurricane threatening to blow us right off the road. I noted with glee that this cab was the first vehicle in India thus far with seatbelts.

I was met at the Aurodam Community Kitchen by Anatoli and Nino, along with the promise of vegan pizza and a Bollywood movie.

We are staying with a man called David Allen Nagel, originally from the US, but an Aurovillian since 30 years back. He takes care of the forest plantation and the water management in the area. We sleep on his roof beneath mosquito nets on comfy mats and blankets and pillows. We fall asleep to the sounds of insects and birds around us, wake up to the golden sunlight glinting through the canopy encircling our small tower in the sky.

I've heard Auroville referred to as Utopia sometimes. Utopia project.

It started 40 years ago, a group of people moved to this area of Pondicherry, a desert, barren piece of land. They had little money and just a common vision of a community of living together, and through starvation, drought and poverty they created an oasis for people from all over the world. Auroville is now a working microcosm of sorts.

There is little money exchange between Aurovillians, shops and cafés. Instead each Aurovillian citizen has a personal account into which they put money, and then in shops and cafés and in any other instances where an exchange of money might be required they simply place whatever expenditure they have on their personal named accounts. To become an Aurovillian it is advised (or required?) that you have spent at least 3 months working in Auroville as a volunteer for example. After that time you may go on a year of probation in Auroville, during which you must find work, accomodation and cover for your own expenses. If you pass probation there is then a two week "waiting time" when it is announced in the weekly Auroville newspaper that you have passed probation, and if any Aurovillian has certain complaints or other information that should be accounted for when making the final decision regarding your citizenship, this is the time. And unless if somebody files a strong enough complain about you, you then become an Aurovillian.

Education, healthcare, etc is free for Aurovillians. Most Aurovillians receive a monthly wage of about 5000 rupees, which is about 70 euros. Many build their own houses and manage their own businesses or community profitable project, but what is important to know is that nothing is ever owned by one single individual. Every house that is built, every enterprise started belongs to the Auroville community as a whole, so if you choose to leave Auroville you can't sell your house to get the money back and you can't take your business with you.

The community shares and owns everything. Sustainable houses cram in between organic cafés and community kitchens. The area is about 5x4 km and houses about 2500 inhabitants of which 40% are Indian. Auroville seems wide and spacious though. THe three of us cycle around the lush, green area, bouncing along on dusty, red dirt roads, stopping here and there in the small community clusters of the residential zone. I like it here because it reminds me of home. THe same feeling of a small community strikes me here, a feeling that has me growing increasingly aware of just how much I love my community.

A lot of people claim that Auroville is a very difficult community to get into, but above all to understand. For me this is not so. I feel like I can understand the complexities and problems that Auroville and the Aurovillians face, but in this our modern world many people or most, are not accustomed to community living nor have the knowledge of what a struggle it can be, or how precious it becomes to the people that are part of it.


An Ode to Steve & Jennie

Written on January 5th

Now, I would like to tell you the story of 2 remarkable people. Steve and Jennie.

Steve is just over 50 years old (I think) and has led the difficult life of an addict for, I’m not quite sure exactly how long, but between 10 and 20 years of his life. On January the 5th, 2010 he will have been clean of any drugs and alcohol for 11 years. Steve got cleaned up thanks to his beautiful, then 9 year old daughter whom he was solely capable of looking after, and though he still carries the scars of his past life on the coarse surface of his skin, he remains clean and smiles every morning when he looks himself in the mirror and sees his whites of his eyes gleaming healthy, pearly white as opposed to the wretched bloodshot eyes of an addict. Steve grew up in London, driving motorcycles around and crashing cars. He looks like a mixture of Iggy Pop and Axel Rose. Throw in some sarcastic Bowie decadence, a strong Londoner accent and there you go.

Jennie is a beautiful fairy from Essex (but she’s not like other Essex girls!) and a musical genius. It takes her half a second to understand any piece of music and maybe another half of a second before she’s transformed it into something utterly uniquely of her own, so unique in fact that you think she must have written it herself, whether or not it is originally Joni Mitchell, Led Zeppelin or a jazz piece. Jennie is one of the most considerate people I have ever met, one of the most talented musicians I’ve known so far and just possesses that amazing ability to smile in any situation and make everything seem bright and sunny.

The three of us would gather every morning at the Coffee Temple (or Temple Coffee? The signs around the café kept changing around…). Jennie would order a coconut porridge or a banana porridge, or the sometimes infrequently asked for banana-coconut porridge with honey. (I’d join her in the porridge craze to try and convince the owner, a chap from Brighton named ‘Les’lie, that our ideas were brilliant and perfectly doable. Like the banana-frappe with ice cream.) Jennie would have tea with milk, though during my last few days she started having coffee rather often. And cigarettes as well. I think Steve and I must have had a bad influence on her.

Steve and I would start the morning with grumbling, coffee and cigarettes. Regular for Steve, add some sugar, please. Black for me. No sugar. Steve would then attempt to place an order for cheese omelette without toast. But Ram, the little Indian waiter, would most of the time, screw this order up and get him toast anyway only to be smacked in the head by Les. In those instances I would eat Steve’s toast, or order my own with jam or honey. Morning was an important routine. The Coffee Temple attracts a whole lot of visitors from the UK and we would tend to spend about 2 to 3 hours there, sometimes just because it was just plain out nice to hang out there and sometimes because Les, Harry (Harry-Krishna = full name) and Ram would just take forever to serve us, sometimes serving people that had come after us first, which would prove long, irritated discussions and moods that could last for an entire day. Well, at least for me and Steve.

Why am I writing about this?

Because every day with Steve & Jennie was wonderful. From the hours spent at the Coffee Temple trying to figure out what to order when you’ve already ordered everything on the menu a few times around already. Getting roasted (by the sun) on the beach, Jennie driving Steve mad with talks of sun-lotion, swimming in the rather crazy waters around Varkala, Jennie adjusting her bikini subtly after each wild wave, Steve getting thrashed by the waves all the time, laying himself on a towel in the beach instead to smoke cigarettes, (and I’d join him). To figuring out where to have supper, getting lost on the way to somebody’s house, Steve & Jennie bickering, none of them really making sense but both being totally convinced of their personal opinions being correct, me rolling my eyes. Playing the guitar beneath the golden moon, Jennie’s beautiful voice, jazzy, bluesy, deep or high-pitched, sexy, sad, angry and beautiful, her fingers strumming the guitar as if it’s all she’s ever done, (but her instrument of choice is still the piano. Damn talented people…) Steve singing with a voice like Johnny Cash or Bowie, marked by the signs of many cigarettes and maybe a tad too much whiskey in the past as well and a biography filled with much sadness and much joy.

Sometimes Steve would give me a ride on Tony’s motorcycle. We’d escape all the tourists, his long blond mane fluttering in my face, my stomach thrilled as we’d fly down the road, dodge rickshaws, animals, taxis, people, round corners and surpass every other motorcycle. Jennie taught me 7 chords on the guitar just before I left. I have them written down in my journal so I won’t forget whilst I don’t have a guitar within my reach. Imagine how much I would have learned if I’d an interest in learning how to play the guitar in the beginning of my stay in Varkala rather than in the end.

Sometimes I wish I’d struggle more with parting from people. That would be easier for people to understand, whilst understanding why I rarely say goodbye or care about it much is not as easy. It may come across as being simply cold and bad-mannered. I don’t like saying goodbye, not because it makes me particularly sentimental or the likes, but because I know I’ll meet you again at some point. The last two years of my life I’ve had to say goodbye to a lot of people that I love, and though it hurt me a lot in the beginning, with certain people, and I realize this know, I know I will see them again. I’ll be back, or you’ll be back and it’s no big deal. I’ll think about you every day and you’ll think about me, and I am rubbish at keeping contact with people, but maybe it’s okay, because I’m always thinking of you, smiling because I know I’ll see you, maybe not so soon, or maybe yes, who knows?

You’ll have brilliant stories and I will too. And we don’t need to say goodbye, because that feels like something is coming to an end and that’s just not true. Because I’ll see you again before you even have time to miss me.

Until next time, all the love in the world.


A Journey through Time and Memories

Slept on the train. As I go over the eternity spent in Varkala and mull over all the expressions and experiences and meetings, I am moved and I realise this now, into a completely new chapter of my life. This is mostly because of 2 of the most remarkable, loving people I have ever met, but of them I will write at a later time.

In the upper-birth, surrounded by sleeping Indian men (on the other side, on the other births...) I laid myself down, removing only my glasses and keeping everything else on, clothes, bangles, earrings, etc. Then I did something that I haven't done very much in India because I normally enjoy and revel in the sounds, the noise, the music of Mother India, but just this once I curled together on my upper-birth and popped my ipod speakers into my ears, spinning the white wheel all the way to the Kinks, closing my eyes and letting the monotonous moaning of the train enfold my solitary self where I laid in the dark, my only half-conscious mind drifting between the intrigues and horrors of Shantaram, of which I only have 200 pages remaining. I can't believe Johnny Depp is going to play Linbaba. The music changing from "You Got Me", to "Sunny Afternoon", my thoughts circling around the past few months, of painful love's lost, of him whose heart I broke and carmically must repent for until forgiven, of them that broke my heart -a few times each, blue eyes, black eyes: the people I've used and treated badly, the people I've liked, my friends that I miss but that literally are on the other side of the world, a distance that feels greater every day.

Alone in the train the dark of night and the joyful freedom of the Kinks carried me through memories of fleeing from Jarna over a day, in a car with 3  girls screaming to the beat of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers', "Californication", escaping deeper into the Swedish countryside to smoke cigarettes and eat lunch left-overs in the backseat on paper plates. Seeing new countries, experiencing the moisture of Brazil where it's too hot to even sweat. Going through the mountains to Switzerland, passing through a blizzard and arriving into the surprising green warmth of Swiss winters. Having wine by the Rein and talking about life and Shakespeare and all that has been. Sleeping under the stairs, failing to make a fire but managing to make tea. The canals of Amsterdam, screaming an crying and having to grow 20 years older in one afternoon and suddenly whiskey and those blue eyes and 3 months that I must remind myself with startling patience and eternal wisdom of my additional 20 years, were not wasted. There is a lesson in everything. An experience that needed to be had.

I fell asleep a few times, my mind drifting off with the final, slightly distressed thought of, "how the fuck am I going to know when the fuck the train arrives in Maduari?" The conductor only answered "yes, yes" to my crystal-clear question, "what time we come to Madurai Junction?"

I woke up somehow at around 4 a.m. to use the bathroom, (the hole in the floor leading straight out to the train tracks...) and sat chilling by the window for a bit. I'd only sat for about 20 minutes when the Madurai Junction sign appeared. I grabbed my backpack, skipped off the train, bought some disgustingly sweet chai off a man on the platform, god a bit lost, waved frenetically for the rickshaw drivers wanting to take me places to bugger off, crossed the parking lot, zig-zagged between the masses of pavement dwellers sleeping on bits of cardboard under thin woollen blankets and trash, and got into the Madurai Junction Station. The station was if possible even more packed than the parking lot with people sleeping on the floor. I gazed quickly across the station, trying to attract as little attention to myself as possible.

Breakfast. I move over to a small stand, purchase a pack of 50/50 biscuits (the least sweet ones on the market and excellent to dip on coffee or chai). Mind you I sometimes find it difficult to tell the difference between the two in India. The coffee is bloody weak as, and the tea hits you like a good smack in your braincells. Add powdered milk and PLENTY of sugar to that and they actually then become quite similar to each other.

One cup of chai, please. (Expressed as a simple tap on the metal container and one finger meaning one, please.) Two samosas, please. (Point, indicate 2 with your fingers, waggle your head. All good.) I go searching for the ladies waiting room, which up until this point always has been a separate room, sometimes with a watchman outside. This time it is simply a seating area of some kind, held away from the rest of the platform seats whilst still pretty much being in the cneter of it all. First class and AC passengers have a waiting room though. I see a somewhat distressed looking European girl seated among the women and then I decide to join her to make sure that everything is okay.

Yeah, she's been here since July and has plenty of experience from India, even if she makes a comment about AC being the way to go. The world's most bloody boring compartments ever, you hardly get as much as a whiff of chai or somebody screaming at you with colourful keychains. Or Bollywood music in the middle of the night off somebody's cellphone. I decide to pretend that I am a firstclass passenger, put on my usual haughty look that makes women dislike me and men stay the bloody hell away, and enter the waiting room without a second glance. Sometimes, and Shantaram puts this better, as a foreigner you kind of become invisible in your extreme visibility. Everyone sees and stares at you, but nobody sees what you are doing, or thinks about it twice, at all. Ever.

I just walk into the waiting room, sit down on a steel chair, cover myself in mosquito repellant (Madurai is infected with them, I recall) and enjoy my breakfast. Biscuits dipped in sweet chai, 2 samosas that turn out to be really spicy, and finally a honey-nut bar to get rid of some of the spiciness as well as the nasty aftertaste that fried spicy food leaves in your mouth.

I pop my ipod in again and go from the Grateful Dead, to Jethro Tull. The mosquitos buzz at a comfortable distance away from me, some girls in the waiting room play loud Indian popular music from their cellphones. They're very stiley, rich Mumbai girls'.

6:45. Only 4 and a half hours to go. I let the Kinks take me away again.

Lost in Trains'nation

Written on January 4th

Finally got onto the train. The entire spectrum of emotions ran through me as I realised I had first gotten onto the wrong train in Varkala. Fear. anxiety, anger, regret, what-the-hell-am-I-doing-in-India-on-my-own, and finally I succumbed to something, and as the seconds ticked by and the train thundered on I understood that it didn't matter actually, the fact that I was lost. It was fine.

Because there is nothing I can't do

It wouldn't have mattered if I would have ended up in the completely wrong city, because in this moment of panic, I awoke to the realisation of my own strength. I realised that through this journey I have gathered enough "meat on my bones", enough experience to trust my own ability to survive. I can only recall having cried once or twice in India, or actually, maybe only once. I nearly but not quite, came to tears in Mumbai airport when I'd just arrived and waited for Carolin to show up for 4 hours. The only time I really cried was in Varkala when all the girls I liked so much got drunk and stoned and I could only slump down in despair, questioning youth, India and the mainstream experiences that the Ashram-hopping young people have.

I might have cried when I was sick as well, mostly because I have so damn bored with myself.

Year 2010

Written on January 1st

What a funny new year. This one will be remembered. I had a lovely supper with Karen, Jennie and Steve, the 3 britts. We had some fruit juice at the Bohemian Masala later on and enjoyed an okay Katakali performance. The music was brilliant and the dancing beautiful albeit slightly awkward at times. Then we went to the beach to watch the fireworks. I got sand everywhere. The fireworks were beautiful but some of them went a bit wrong and dropped down among the crowd of the people on the beach, causing everyone including our small party, to scatter and run in flailing panic.

We watched the fullmoon and sang Bluemoon and Hallelujah in its silver gleam, beholding the eclipse that blotted a corner of the moon on this new years day. New Year in India.

I take my time to shower in the morning. I enjoy the cool water and rarely wish for a hot, long shower anymore, although this morning the fan in the celiling kept me coolled off and I shiver as I let the cold water soak me. I leave the bathroom promptly, warm satisfaction following the brutally refreshing shower. A reasonably small cockroach has found its way into my toiletree bag, and I frown in half-concealed disgust. I don't really mind roaches and weevils. But it is a bit gross. On the way to the cliff I walk through the pretend-fog, smoke actually coming from the Indians burning their trash and "recycling" on piles on the ground and on the streets. The air is thick with different fumes from the piles and as walk through the village, making my slow way to the tourist bit with cafés and shops, I feel the smoke prickling in my nose, clogging my throat.

Soon I will leave Varkala, the lovely beach, the wonderful restaurants and the horrible tourists. The latter I shant miss.

"It's lucky the Indians have us tourists and all these shops and things to sell, at least they have something to do then and can earn money." Anonymous girl that spent a month in an Ashram doing yoga before coming to Varkala to drink beer and do shopping.

Fuck you and your fucking yoga. Pardon my french. But some people really are dim. Others are lovely, like the few couple of wonderful acquaintances I've made during my time here. Maybe I have learnt some of the most important lessons regarding India here, or rather, been given insight into what most people consider to be India. Varkala portrays very little of India though. In some corners and hidden nooks you can sense the Nag champa, you can smell the sambal, you see the flutter of a sari. But most of it is European, and you forget amongst the lattes and sun-screen, that you're actually on the other side of the world, in a country struck by poverty, where millions of people live on less than a dollar a day, in houses that don't even deserve being referred to as houses, where people die on the streets, cut off their limbs and body-parts to be able to beg for more money and sell their children to survive. This beautiful country called India.

I hold this truth in my heart as I watch the flurry of tourists on the cliff. This beautiful country called India is beautiful because of its diversity and it's infinite love of everyone and everything.

Tomorrow is time for railroad, bananas through the window, chai all day in papercups and greasy samosas on napkins. Tomorrow I will be sweaty and the toilet will be disgusting and the people will wag their head at me and I'll return the wag. And everything is real and wonderful.