What’s on top?
During random blog reading I came across a beautiful piece of writing, my favourite quote from it and a link to the original piece below:
Stand exactly in a doorway like a cat and try to feel the religious feeling that a cat clearly feels when it stands in a doorway. Patricia Lockwood
I am reading Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A Heinlein. (The reading of this has to be prioritised as it is our biggest and heaviest book and my husband is sick of carrying it.) Written in 1961, if you can ignore the awful sexism, the intellectual, metaphysical and spiritual ideas in it are very interesting.
Discussions continue about the nature of reality (too in depth to explore here, also whatever theories I believe this week will probably change again by next week); whilst at the same time feeling lively and vibrant within this current reality.
We went to Kovalam beach for two nights, an hour’s train journey away. There were lots of Indian tourists, it is vacation time here, and a very few foreign tourists. We got lots of pressure from stall holders and street sellers: tailors services, clothes, scarves, drums, ornaments and fruit. We even got followed down the road by a man who looked well into his seventies trying to sell us marijuana.
The beach was nice: black sand, the sea shiny, glassy looking with the reflected light of the setting sun, with big frothy white waves. Our room was white, clean, with white bed linen, towels* and a top sheet** and was probably the nicest room we’ve stayed in so far.
In the evening we walked out of the tourist area, past chai stalls and tiny little shops which are absolutely packed with everything you could need compressed into the smallest of spaces, some not much bigger than a cupboard.
The train was easy, we bought tickets on the day and travelled in normal non ac carriages. On the way we had to stand but it wasn’t a long journey. We had breakfast (masala dosas) in a canteen style restaurant on the station. We were unsure of what to do but an Indian man came and explained how it worked and even came to check we had got our food okay.
It was very nice to return to Varkala. We were welcomed warmly and came back to the same room, where we had been able to leave the big backpack and lighten our load. As much as possible we intend to stay here and just go off to other places in Kerala for a few days at a time.
Photo: Crow at the edge of the Osho guesthouse’s rooftop yoga space. She/he appeared after my yoga session, stayed quite close and waited patiently whilst I took their photo. The caw caw of crows is a constant background noise. On Papanasam beach there are usually lots of crows; they eat rice off banana leaves left from pujas. However, returning ‘home’ after two days away, there were very few crows but lots of dark grey pigeons. ‘Look, the crows have been replaced by pigeons,’ I said. ‘Perhaps there’s been some kind of coo’, my husband said.
A few days ago, on Papanasam beach, during a little walk and a look at the sea after dinner, a man came up to us, ordinary, well dressed, with friends. He said hello then said: ‘Look, look at the sea, close your eyes, breathe into your chest, hold… Hear only the sea… my voice. There, do you feel comfort?’ I love that this kind of thing happens here.
This week has been about setting and sticking to a strict budget, which is easy to do whilst we’re based in Varkala as the guesthouse and the local cafe are both cheap. We’ve been eating masala dosas for breakfast, lunch and dinner, interspersed with channa masala (chickpea curry, good for vegans), beans on toast** (likewise), porridge and banana and fresh fruit and vegetable juices. We both feel much better for not overeating (and not overspending).
Saturday, session one typing up new ‘meaning of life’ type ideas, session two, typing up Varkala notes from notebook; Sunday, two sessions on Delhi section. By the second session I saw how to do it, the need to remake it more personal, with emotion, not just like a travel diary. Monday, two sessions on Delhi; I ended up with a 4,000 word draft which although needs polishing and editing was ready enough to show to my husband. I was very pleased with myself as I had been scared of that chapter. Scared of some notes I have written myself, for a book that I am writing for no other reason than my own pleasure? Crazy but true. Tuesday, day off. Wednesday, I tackled Chapter One (how we got here, the background). I had been even more scared of that chapter than of Delhi, but I sat down and approached it with a (new) calm confidence.
Maybe because I had done Delhi, maybe because of my general confidence and self belief improving? I took my own advice and reordered it chronologically, breaking it into three sections: Nothing to Lose But Our Dignity (the original ‘sell up and go travelling’ idea, and some background); No Half Measures (about decluttering and its effects); and The Matrix Fights Back (about all the obstacles we had to deal with in our quest to escape). It is currently 9,000 words, so I am being kind to myself and acknowledging that no wonder it was difficult to sort out. But I know what to do, I can see where it is flabby, where it goes off track, where it needs work. I know what to do, and that makes me very happy indeed. Thursday, two sessions on this blog post. Friday, one session on Chapter One, one to finish this post.
*Only a few of the places we’ve stayed have had towels. Standing on the train, feeling the sweat trickling down my legs, I said to myself, please let there be towels. I was dreaming of a shower, clean white towels. Any colour for that matter. We sat on the veranda while the man made up our bed. When he had finished, he brought… towels!
**Most places don’t give a top sheet as standard. Although it’s hot it feels weird to lie with nothing at all, and sometimes in the middle of the night it can feel almost chilly. We were so excited about the towels that we forgot to ask for one, and when we returned after dinner there was no one around. Later, at 9.15 at night there was a knock at the door… it was the man, bringing us a crisp white sheet! And we hadn’t even asked him!
**Sometimes it’s nice to have something plain and also beans are lacking elsewhere, so I often have beans on toast. It was lunchtime and they are only on the breakfast menu, but I really wanted them. ‘I’m going to beg, watch me get them,’ I said to my husband. And I did (I didn’t need to beg though, just ask nicely).
Thank you for reading
See you next week