Shortly after that at 6.30am we got up to wander in to town for another photo/video session. We had no luck really – everyone we approached seemed to be offish and were not keen for us to photograph or video. One woman in particular kept hounding Nikki and telling her not to take photos (of other people! Bloody cheek). We wondered if perhaps they had hammered it last night (being Friday night) and were paying for it this morning. So we let that be and carried on walking around the back streets. As I stood waiting for Nix to shoot video of a Banyan tree, a bird in the same tree shat on my foot. Nix said this was a very lucky omen and that I should make a wish. So I wished “for health, happiness and success for both of us, that we inspire countless beings, and for a tap to wash my foot”. I figured that should cover all bases. The tap didn’t materialize so I made my merry way back to the ghat to wash my foot off. As I was doing so the same woman who had badgered Nix walked over to do the same to me. Apparently she had taken offence to my toes and top of my chappal dipping in the (minging) water. I decided to attempt a logical discussion with her, pointing out that the water was already filthy (coated with a layer of scum) and there were piles of rubbish floating within a couple of feet of my foot. She didn’t have the flash of satori I had hoped for and continued to adopt an aggro stance, so I called her “pagul” (which she understood! Nicely J It means “mad” in Hindi. Funny they can suddenly speak Hindi when you insult them) and walked back down the road where I had left Nix with Pagul’s shouts ringing in my ears.
There we met a Canadian teacher who had been living in India (Bangalore to be precise) for seven years. He had a calm way about him and was a very informative guy to speak to. I’m sure he must be a good teacher. We spoke about how India (and the world in general) is changing and laughed about it a lot. He told us that the Indian education system is a throwback to earlier British rule, and as such is fairly antiquated and not all that relevant to today. Instead it was “good at churning out desk clerks” as he put it – the system does not encourage free thought, but rather advocates learning by rote. Nevertheless we argued this is still better than the poor excuse for an education system on offer to the general public in South Africa which doesn’t encourage either free thought or learning by rote, in fact it doesn’t really encourage anything except dropouts!
We said our goodbyes and went to Prema’s restaurant to have breakfast. I had a killer bowl of muesli with milk. It was so good. I couldn’t stop talking about it. It is possibly the best bowl of muesli I have ever tasted. Nix wasn’t as enthusiastic about her muesli with curd. The milk must have made the difference ;) Next stop Holy Spring.... We walked along the beach to a Temple on the hill that has a freshwater spring alongside it where locals and Westerners alike congregate to harvest fresh water in plastic containers. I was curious to see this in action, although I was not as curious to actually drink any. I have been fortunate in not falling severely ill during any of my previous India visits, and I’d like to keep my track record! At the top of the stairs to the Temple we met a Baba by the name of “Malay” (pronounced “Maleye”). He was amazing to talk to. Normally I don’t bother to talk to Saddhus (other than simply to smile and say hello), but on the odd occasion I feel drawn to one and roll with it. Today was one of those days. So Nix and I sat down with him and spoke for a good hour or so about life, the universe and everything (not bad for an hour eh – we must have it waxed to condense it all into that time frame). He has been a Baba for seven years (the number seven cropping up again – spooky ;)) and in his former life was the operations manager of a large logistics company in Calcutta before retiring and taking up the wandering ways of a Saddhu. He had arrived in Gokarna from Varanasi the day before yesterday. His English was immaculate which helped the conversation flow easily. He told us a number of things – for instance, the Beatles got it wrong when they sang “All You Need Is Love”. What they should have sung is “All You Need Is Truth, Love and Compassion” (in that order). One out of three isn’t too bad though Macca. According to Malay, seeking (and with a bit of luck, finding) truth is the foundation for love. Without truth there can be no love. And without love there can be no compassion. The logical progression made sense to me. Certainly more so than the blatant lack of logic displayed in the uptight woman’s ridiculous objection to my putting a chappal in the biohazard of a ghat (don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s an incredible place, but it is undeniably ranking). I don’t think she’d thought it through very well.... We also learnt that Gokarna means “Cow Ear”, what the colours in the flag of India stand for (orange is for devotion, white is for peace and green is for prosperity) and that there is a 1000 year old Shiva temple in the town centre. We have walked past it every day without realizing.... India has such a rich history that talking in thousands of years is commonplace. Cape Town’s oldest buildings date back about a hundred years I think! Malay told us he is in the third phase of life (as Hindus see it) – the truth seeking phase. First comes childhood, then comes involvement in the material world, then truth seeking, then enlightenment. How long each phase takes is anybody’s guess and depends on a multiplicity of factors. He said he thinks my third phase is just round the corner – maybe at age 50 ;) So 10 more years of the material world for me.... I’m not sure I can manage one more year of it to be honest, never mind 10! We also learnt something about the sacred sites for Kumbh Mela, the rivers of India and the mythology of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Apparently Brahma and Vishnu had a bit of a disagreement about who was the boss. Brahma reckoned that, as the creator of the universe, he was rightfully the King of it. Vishnu argued that as the organizer of the universe he was best suited for the title. They took their squabble to Shiva – the Destroyer, and as such, the last word on all matters. Shiva cosmically created a lingam for them to race to the top of. He decreed that whoever made it to the top would unequivocably be the boss man. Vishnu realized soon into the race that the lingam had no end and was merely a sly trick of Shiva’s to bring them to their senses, so he went back down, apologized and told Shiva that he could not make it to the top. Brahma thought he would pull a fast one (I think he might have been Nigerian in a past incarnation). He came back down and told Shiva that he had made it to the top in two days. Shiva called bullshit, and cursed Brahma. Brahma cacked himself and meditated (for several millennia I think) to atone for the error of his ways and get in Shiva’s good books. This worked, but only to a point. Shiva rescinded the curse and told Brahma that there would only ever be one place on earth where people would worship him, and this would be.... Pushkar in Rajasthan. Bummer for Brahma. I’m sure he’d have preferred Mumbai - more devotees.... Still, better than being cursed I guess. And that explains why to this day there is only one temple in India that worships Brahma, and why it is in Pushkar. I’m sure there must have been some dancing involved somewhere in the mix too.
Malay told us about Calcutta too - a place we are keen to visit en-route to the North East. It sounds like a place we could enjoy staying at and exploring for a while. Apparently three Nobel peace prize winners have come from Calcutta. The only one whose name I can pronounce is Mother Theresa ;) He said he will be in the city at roughly the same time we will be and suggested we should get in touch so he can give us a guided tour. That idea resonated with us. It’s always great to know someone in a place you visit so that you can get off the beaten track more easily and immerse yourself more fully in the experience. Nix decided to take some video footage of him for posterity and gave him some rupees in exchange. Saddhus are reliant on donations from Indians and Westerners alike. There are those who become Saddhus to escape society (I know the feeling), and there are those who genuinely walk the spiritual path in a dedicated and disciplined manner. We felt that Malay was (is) one of the devout, and as he didn’t actually ask us for anything we were glad to give him a few bucks to help him along his way. As we walked back down the hill together I also offered to buy him some medicine. Malay had been coughing from the start of our discussion. It sounded quite bad, like bronchitis or similar. So we headed to the pharmacy and renewed his prescription for an ongoing chest complaint he had suffered from since Varanasi (chillum induced by the sounds of it). He was grateful for the help. As I said before, being ill in India is shit, so we were happy we could help on that front too. We suggested he lay off the chillums. He agreed ;) He gave us his email address, said goodbye and we went our separate ways. We carried on up the road to take Nix back to the doctor to sort out her ongoing ear issue. He cleaned out her ear again and she can hear once more. Hopefully now permanently.
On the long walk home via the road we stopped off for a coffee at a little shop that looked appealing. There was a young Canadian guy sitting with his guitar who greeted us and made the coffee. He was running the shop with a local guy. We got chatting and he told us that as he has an American mother, he was given a ten year tourist visa! The Indians clearly love Americans. And that is a hell of a long time to be a tourist ;) He was down-to-earth and made great coffee/conversation, so we’ll be going back. Maybe tonight in fact when his business partner is having a mela of his own at his house as BusinessPartnerJi excitedly told us. He began to play Bhajans full-blast from his extremely loud sound system next door whilst we were all talking to demonstrate what would be on offer later. He also punctuated the music by throwing handfuls of lit fire crackers into the air. And so ended our conversation – it was impossible to talk over the decibels.... ;) God Bless India.
After a chilled lunch on the beach we hit the sea to go bodysurfing. It’s been an absolute scorcher today, so the water made for a welcome reprieve. The waves were rocking – which is most unusual. The sea is usually flat as a pancake. We loved it. And it cleared out my sinuses when I got dumped a couple of times. To top off our exceptional day Nix and I are going for a romantic dinner at a restaurant further down the beach we’ve had our eye on before we brave matey’s DIY mela ;)