On the way to Kovalam. Lovely Trains!
Train bound from Trivandrum
after a, so far, 24 hour journey from Hampi.
First by rickshaw to Hospet, then by train 10 hours to Bangalore, by
plane 1 our to Cochin, by delayed train 5 hours to Trivandrum where I hope to
catch a 30 minute bus to Kovalam to try and meet up with Emma, who I met on the
train on 12/29/07 going to Goa. I just
dropped Melinda and Jen off in Alleppey at the home stay where Dan and I parted
company 3 weeks ago and from where I first went to Trivandrum to do Sivananda
yoga, and to which I’m now returning.
It’s been a huge circle.
After giving up on reading “In light of India” I burned through Lawrence Kushner’s
“The River of Light” in 5 days. Kushner
discusses the need for us to “die” before we can be reborn; to enter the
eternal “Nothingness” to kill the ego.
Not to eradicate it, but to let it become merely a part of something
bigger, like a drop of water in the sea.
For the last week, I’ve been going in and out of
self-consciousness, self-awareness, insecurity, feeling ignored and
isolated. It’s the same story you’ve
read/I’ve written before. Examples ~
when I was practicing yoga on the mountain the temple in Hampi with Melinda and
Out of nowhere this strange Sadhu
Ganesh Baba appears, and after we finish, asked me if this was my first time
doing yoga, because “I was all wobbly.”
Suddenly, I’m asking myself whether it looks like I’ve never practiced
Another huge ego blow.
I ask the universe, “What are you trying to teach
me? Why do you put people and events into my life that seem to belittle
Perhaps today I caught a glimpse of
“So you can lose your ego.”
I heard myself answer.
I retorted, “But
I try to be so selfless, unimposing, humble, and insecure.”
And then the answer rang back, “It’s because
your ego is too fragile.
You try too
hard to protect it and have chained yourself by fear of chipping it and letting
in crack full away, too afraid to face yourself without it.
Aman, Malu, Carolina
“So that is it,” I thought – same old fears
in different colors, same old issues.
As I sat on the rusty train racing over the tracks with my
eyes closed, Mata Amritanandanyai singing through the ipod, humid heat, seat
rolling over my face, mind still, body vibrating, I again caught a glimpse of it. I could feel every life I’ve ever lived,
sensed that we all lived, and died and were reborn hundreds of times. I felt part of everything, part of the train,
the metal, the Indians playing cricket, the water, the animals; all
interconnected from some proto-DNA. It’s
just a glimpse, a moment, then the mind starts thinking, trying to understand
and control to be “aware”, and it’s gone.
Daily journaling, with all the emotional ups and downs,
moments of loneliness, moments of contentment, the myriad of daily encounters,
is so difficult to catch.
And when I
focus on the details, I lose the “big picture.”
So, even though, I miss much of the details that make this Indian
experience as rich and sometimes trying as it is, I am going for the broad
Kovalam is four beaches linked together by package tourists,
overpriced hotels and food, and beautiful sandy beaches. I arrived late in the night and wandered
around the mostly closed stores and spotty internet cafes searching for a
hotel. With the Lonely Planet Bible in hand, I cast back those that called out,
“Need a room, I have very nice room. Cheap!”
Many hotels were full, but finally I found Hotel Surya ~ it was up a
small alley from the beach. For the most
part, Kovalam plays home to package tourists, groups, and couples.
Stephanie playing photographer
My first mission, after a quick breakfast, was to find my
internet home. I spent 8 hours uploading
a few hundred photos. The owner of the
café was very happy with my devotion! I
completed the photo section at around 10:00 p.m., and headed to the Lonely
Planet (vegetarian restaurant) ~ no affiliation with the “Bible.” After dinner, I went back to my little hotel
room and slept. I had a lot of
transcribing lined up for the next day.
The next morning, I woke up, took a yoga class right across
from my hotel, ate at the German Bakery – had real coffee (always a blessing)
and a masala dosai. I love dosais; they
are kind of like huge 12 inch crispy crepes, folded over and stuffed with
anything from veggies to fish curry.
Christine, Stephanie, and Aman
usually stick to the basic masala which is potatoes, some veggies, and good
The yoga class was taught by
He was a very nice,
sweet, and thoughtful teacher.
mostly a Sivananada style class, so I was somewhat familiar with the
Only one other person joined, a
woman I later learned was Australian and traveling with her family. Then I dove
into another 8 hours in the internet, transcribing over 100 pages from my
Glad I write big!
During the 2 café days, I had hoped to connect with the cool
musician girl I met while on the train. Unfortunately,
I hadn’t heard from her, and was feeling a bit…”stood up.” After 8 hours of internetting, I received an
email from Lucy, my friend from the Sivananda Ashram.
By coincidence, she ended up sitting next to
Melinda at Greenpalms near Alleppey.
took them only minutes to somehow figure out the connection.
She wrote me to tell me from Trivandrum
, which was only
30 minutes away.
I thought she was going
to be in Varanasi
but she ditched the plan due to lack of available airfare.
So I grabbed a tuk tuk, and raced up to meet
her and celebrate her goodbye to mother India
Seeing her again was a wonderful
We picked up right where we
left off, talking of life, adventure, meditation.
Excitedly we danced through conversations,
swirling around the universality of existence, laughing, eating fish curry.
After dinner, we wandered the street till we found a little bakery set back
from the busy green and yellow rickshaw racing road.
We filled a small box with ladoos and other
Indian candies, and caught a rickshaw back to Hotel Mascot (which was by far
the nicest hotel I been in since arriving in India
) ordered some coffee, and
Lucy left India
, and I waved goodbye as she loaded into
the Ambassador (a cool 50s Chevy-looking car) and drove off, heading back to England
, away from India
, and back to the world that
eagerly awaited her.
I walked out the front door and found a rickshaw back to
Kovalam. It was dark and I was tired, so
it wasn’t until 15 minutes into the drive, that I realized the rickshaw had no
To compensate, the driver
drove along the side of the road, but when he saw oncoming headlamps, he
swerved directly into the middle of the road (ostensibly so the other car saw him)
then, at the last second, swerved back to the road’s shoulder.
I sat quietly in the back…and prayed.
Tucking back into bed, I thought of yet
another friend I watched leave India
as I remain.
On day 3, I awoke and took yoga with Vijay. The Australian woman was there, as was a
“new” classmate Ivana. We all briefly
chatted after class over the cuteness of a semi-mangy but sweet beach dog that
lived in the hotel where the yoga studio was located. That afternoon, while still internetting, I
saw that my friend emailed me that morning.
I was excited to meet up with her, and really tired of sitting in the
We were supposed to meet
on the beach, but as it was pretty packed with people and I had only met her
once, I did not recognize/see her.
was a “let down” for coming all the way to touristy Kovalam, being alone, and
feeling “cooped up” inside the café.
decided to make the best of it though, and grabbed my Krishnamurti book, some rupees,
and returned to the all-you-can-eat vegetarian buffet at Lonely Planet.
(The irony of the name “Lonely Planet” kind
of makes me laugh in retrospect.)
As I walked in, I saw that I was directly behind Ivana. She turned to around, I said, “HI,” but she
didn’t hear or see me, and look past me for her group. So I sat myself at a corner table with my
water and my book, and casually read as I waited for my sweet lime soda.
The whole gang on Day 1.
Meanwhile, Ivana’s table filled with the 10
or so people she was meeting.
Fortunately, her table was on the way to buffet.
Swallowing my shyness and anxiety, I passed
by Ivana on the way to fill my plate and again tried to make conversation.
“Didn’t I see you in yoga class this
morning,” I asked.
~ Yeah – I know,
that’s all I got~.
But she recognized me
and we chatted for few moment.
introduced me to her group, which turned out to be a group of 8 Canadian yoga
(What are the odds?)
“What strange luck,” I thought to
They asked me to join, and I
eagerly tucked Krishnamurti away for the night and pulled up a chair.
Since receiving a hug from the Hugging Mother near Kollam,
Kerala, my heart was buzzing, and now it was sending vibrations throughout, as
I instantly fell in love with this group.
Led by Hali, dynamic and charismatic yogini, the group had just finished
traveling around India
seeing the sights, practicing yoga when feasible, and enjoying some purchasing
They all planned to take the same
yoga class the next morning, so after dinner, we simply planned to reconnect in
Morning came, and we practiced. Stephanie and Carolina decided to go for a post-yoga ocean
swim, and I joined. Then, I met them for
breakfast, and later that afternoon, joined them under their umbrella village
on the beach. Then met them for dinner. The next day was the same, and that
became my routine for the next 5 days as I got to know this wonderful,
hilarious, and warm group. So many
innuendos were born during the 5 days we spent together, that an entire journal
could be filled with inside jokes.
Yoga in the morning; uhhh - yeah this was not part of the regular class.
childhood summer camp moments, there are so many, so carefree, and so timeless.
I cannot find the words to express them, so I apologize to the Canadian Yoginis
if they read this, for not doing more to capture our time together!
The Canadians totally accepted me as one of their own, and
it felt like I had been with them throughout their trip. We laughed at Indians playing Frisbee wearing
ocean soaked underwear. At the one who
kept diving out of the ocean and onto the sand to catch the Frisbee. We laughed at Christine’s Tilley Hat (which
is the only hat I’ve ever seen that came with instructions. I floated away from the beach with Carolina, past the
lighthouse point to see a Mosque across the next beach, while unbeknownst to
us, the lifeguards were crazily blowing their safety whistles at us for being
WAY too far out.
Neither was this...I'm missing something here...
I lost a contact diving
down to bring up a handful of sand.
For 2 days, Aman, my friend and Vipassana roommate, joined
us. He was working in Trivandrum, and met me on the beach in
Kovalam. Together, all of us did yoga,
hung out on the beach, and had dinner.
Aman couldn’t swim, but I coaxed into the ocean and laughed with him as
he celebrated life and enjoyed the ocean.
There is too much to say about everyone and
everything!! Too many amusing
circumstances, like when the Indian men gave a rub and tug at the waterline to
avoid coldwater shrinkage. Rather than
acknowledge the crotch stairs and parade of strutting men, Christine usually
just read her book, seemingly unaware of the sex-starved men behind her.
She was really good at that!
Stacey the man asking her to marry her at the
Too many memories, not
Mixed in with my time at Kovalam was Alice, the Jewish
Ayurvedic Kabalistic dream interpreter, Ali ~ the suave internet guy, and the drum
salesman – who just liked to talk even though I wouldn’t buy a drum, and a
black eye from a silly boogie board accident on a small close out wave. It was a colorful week!
The days at Kovalam
washed over me and I felt only happiness and contentment. I plan to visit my Canadian Yoginis again;
either in Canada or in Panama.
YUMMY BREAKFASTS at the German Bakery
Fortunately, if finding a job in San Francisco
work out, I have a backup plan.
already have been hired as Christine’s Cabana Boy, and I’m sure she will make a
wonderful boss and mother-in-law ~ though I wonder if she told her daughter
Since pictures can tell the story
as well as I, I will leave it them to tell the rest…
P.S. – After I said goodbye, I went to Vijay, who doubles as
a travel agent. I tried to book a direct flight or at least 2 flights in one
day, to Varanasi. It couldn’t happen. So I had to stop over in Delhi, which ironically is where the
Canadians were staying before catching their flight. So the next evening, I made a surprise
appearance at their hotel, the Jyoti Mahal and said goodbye again.
I just cannot get enough of them!
Hali stayed behind to visit her mother’s ashram. She and I stayed up late that night, sipping
tea, and discussing her trip, my trip, meditation, yoga and everything in-between. The next day we shared a ride to the airport
and parted, after swapping ipod favorites in the airport.