Sunday, 10 May 2015

The Eternal Conscience of the Space Cadet’s mind: 2

Now, moving on from my pitch to be goanese, us wish-I-were-Goan breed peppered across the state, I’m not really claiming to be deeply knowledgeable about Goa. I’m only falling back on certain experiences to make this childish claim for citizenship. A few years in the same villages here has earned a morning ‘hi’ from many households I pass on the way to work. I’ve developed a deep respect for the local lifestyle, with a few years with Rose & Peter, at their Addams Family-esq estate in North Goa.

Meet Morticia Addams: 
Rose. Rose is an enigma, smooth faced and soft spoken. She rules her male dominated empire with a sweet smile and gentle grace...I known Rose a few years now, and really enjoy being her neighbour/tenant. Peter is her perfect Gomez, he refers to her as the ‘Boss’. I see him every evening, banging a thick bamboo cane along as he walks barefoot across the estate. Once he promised he wouldn’t ‘hurt’ the scorpion we found, and proceeded to break it into four pieces with a few blows of his bamboo stick. He cut short our squeals & wails with a straight-faced ‘dogs are here’, clarifying the cruelty he knew we would accuse him of. I once came home to find a street lamp from our lane being taken to pieces. It had stopped working, so he was investigating it’s insides. He fixed it.
Rose & Peter run their estate with the help of Laxman and ‘the boys’ – a rag-tag bunch of Kannadiga men, shy and reclusive, they’re always on the estate, fixing, pruning, cutting, picking, fixing…they carefully maintained & repainted a friend’s cycle when I’d abandoned it here one monsoon.
I've cut the most ridiculous capers while living with Rose & Peter - brought home random animals (of the two legged & four legged kind), climbed their balconies looking for injured birds, sub-let to a fab DJ (yes, we partied till 4 am too) and Rose has walked me into the house "I'm scared of the dark". I ran to her once with a half-baked space cake "Can you fix this?" She left me a beautifully baked sponge cake on my veranda. I told her this afternoon I broke her washing machine again. When the AMC guy left, she came over with all these mangoes, 'make mango shake.'

The extended family includes Molly, Martha, Choti, Spotty, human puppy Dylan & his mama, Natasha who live in the crazy near-kennel behind us, while my home is shared with similar strange, reclusive creatures. In both these houses, the humans are outnumbered by the non-humans. Our home has multiple lizards, multi-coloured frogs, an occasional scorpion, and during the day, different kinds of birds, chameleons and the stealing, scheming monkeys. A loud squawk from any part of the house usually means varied species have encountered one another. Thuds across the yard, means the monkeys have gotten into the orchards again, bouncing off the branches heaving with summer fruit.

We spend a lot of time lost in our garden. In the grass. On the swings. Staring at prayer flags fluttering in the breeze. Life is as is here at our home. At 63/1, space station, there is an ebb, there is flow, an action, a reaction, high tide, moon rise, sunset, weather change, seasons, nights, sultry Sundays. Our lives sway along in a structured flow. People sleep over, friends pass by. We gather often, under the prayer flags, especially in the evenings, where we begin serious conversations which lapse into giggles with inanities like the PeePoo Song[1].

Example: “How do you break up with someone you never really went out with?”
 “Like you get back to someone you never really broke up with?!”

We’ve recognized that laughing ourselves into helpless hiccups is a great way to forget that which wasn’t important anyway.

Private investigation: The world has its ways of helping you move on. My household here often makes me think about the meaning of ‘home’. I’ve started differentiating my references to ‘home’ as ‘home’ (here in Goa) or ‘my parents home’. When did that happen? The space station has been out in space almost 2 years now. The Cat & I have begun to speak out the same words simultaneously. Aloud. It’s shameful. I’m secretly glee-struck. She can seem all scratch and hiss, if you strike the right light, she’ll settle to placid purr.

We’re exploring perennial philosophies, exploring ideas of Inner Being here. It’s time to go old school, so we’re looking for solutions in times gone by. We recycle, emulating examples from people around us who make it possible with infrastructure to practice this lifestyle. We have enough inspiration. I earlier wrote of people playing out their anarchist fantasies, for example when concerned, conscious citizens unleashed guerilla tactics against irresponsible garbage disposal. The relentless restlessness many wandering Cadets feel when they stay in a  place too long finds expression in explorations of different lives. I’ve found folk who are equally comfortable lying in the grass, staring at the stars, or squelching some mud while pretending to be planting. 

The world is in turmoil, earthquakes, volcanoes erupting, lakes frothing over, there's something sick we've unleashed out there...and it's time to take it all be aware, conscious, and omnipresent is possible today. While I don’t believe you or I can change this world single handedly, I do believe a collective conscious is possible, a collective way of thinking exists, we only need to come together, find each other.

Our Vibe attracts our Tribe, they say.

[1] Curious Cat & I composed this for the Depo.

The Eternal Conscience of the Space Cadet’s mind: 1

I’ve been living in Goa a few years now, lost in my languid love for the place, the people, magic & solitude, the occasional restlessness that tugs at my toes… the perfect peace to play out favorite personas of the socially awkward person: something we call the chameleon complex - situations where you seek out similarly awkward social ‘misfits’ aka Space Cadets.

"Everything is so Green" describes a Space Cadet as “one who is so easily lost in reverie that he or she loses all awareness of the surrounding physical world”. I say, we’re lost in the search of spirituality in the physical world. Ever find yourself rushing into a room only to halt abruptly, struggling to recall why you barged in in the first place? Ever found your self lost in the green of your garden, staring into the trees or the prayer flags fluttering in the breeze? Basically, your mind is always miles away.

I find Goa to be somewhat like Space Cadet Central, each strange inhabitant so peculiar, that we ‘fit in’, or are ‘normal’ when around each other. Chameleon Complex.

There is a little village that curves lazily around a river basin. We hang out on the main drag, a place we call ‘Freak Street’. People of various nationalities, tattooed, leather or feather clad, dreadlocked or bald, all throng this street revelling in the cheap food, even cheaper alcohol, free flowing drugs and open bars. Freak Street is reserved for nights the world feels fucked up. We melt into the blink-and-you-miss-it corners, watching people mill about in the street, or passed out under the iconic Banyan tree. Strange, yet comfortable. The copious quantities of intoxicants consumed there could easily lead you to assume the inhabitants of Freak Street are exceptionally erratic. Life is possibly a blur for many, smoke lazily wafting through the streets, intertwining with strains of music from huddles of humans, silent cows chomping up garbage, luridly lit up with faint fairy lights…wild laughter or drunken declarations start up from seemingly empty shadows. Sometimes I see the Spoi [1]emerge from an obscure alley…

We lean back, silently observing, occasionally smiling at people who make eye contact, at ease, frayed clothes and chappals, at home amongst the acolytes of alternate living.   

I remember going to Juice Bar many years ago, sitting there, staring at people, goggle eyed, slack jawed, simply stupefied by how diverse cultures come together over chillum smoke. Coulda been possible I was just passively stoned. I even went so far as to assure my mom I wasn’t a friend of the ‘freaks’. Four years, lots of travel-tripping, conversations with complete strangers, experimenting with varied experiences, I have learnt to embrace the fricking freak I am, intrinsically a part of Goa’s strange sub-culture, caught in its web of weirdness.

Goa is not all fun & fantasy. It has its share of troublesome tourists, and all the excesses brought upon its citizens because of tourism based economy. The garbage problem of Goa is fast becoming as infamous as it’s drug cartels & corrupt politicians. Insidious whispers make their way, a hushed story about politicians endorsing drug related deaths, and corruption carving their way through the staunchest of social struggles. It cuts to the core to see incompetence and unscrupulousness strangle the Porto-Goan people who have forever been unconventional in the Indian diaspora. The people are straining against the stranglehold of greed gripping their green paradise, tearing up Tiracol to build bridges for the rich & famous who want to fly in to Goa for some golf.

The anatomy of Goa is uniquely anarchist in nature. By ethnicity non-Indian, the Goans buck ‘Indian’ tradition [2]with many of their habits. It’s perfectly fine for boys & girls to intermingle freely at church or weddings, local alcohol is liberally daubed on aching teeth or bones, and their occupations are usually seasonal. Whether from the farming, fishing or tourist based economies, most Goans have a ‘season’ they work in – a solid few months of intense hard work, interspersed with long months of languid consumption of feni. Monsoon is most people’s holiday, with the drumming rain bringing life to a near standstill, when families are forced to spend more time with each other, playing games as they watch the rain wash over their balcaos. Literacy rates in Goa are amongst the highest in the country, with almost an equal number of boys & girls going to school. Medical care available is also rated really high, with every Public Health Centre fully equipped with staff and expertise to tackle basic medical needs of the villages.

More than anything else, I find the people to be the most special. Goans are easy to spot by their sunshine happy smiles. I have a soft spot for the boys in particular, incredibly attractive, with their sun-crinkled eyes, essaying experiences of hustling through their teenage years. They zoom the streets on bikes or sputtering scooters, swinging through palm fronded avenues, with their jerseys glinting numbers in the sun. They’re a strange breed, the local boys, so different from the awkward, gawky ghanti (non-Goan) boys. Smooth talking, fast moving, football worshipping athletic bodies, the Goan boys have gorgeous smiles, almost splitting their sunburnt faces, easy street smart style speaking volumes of their acute awareness of their charm. Most have done their fair share of hustling, and by the time they are in their 20s, they have worldly experience that leaves me way too wide-eyed with wonder.

Yes, they have their intricacies of caste, and few odd instances of division along religion, but as a people they are in general very liberal, allowing us outsiders to stand live among them, and participate in their festivities as if we’ve always belonged. Holi is my particular favorite, as every village celebrates Shigmo on different days. You never know in which village you’ll be waylaid that week, thronged by mostly men, asking for money, putting streaks of colour on you. Every time I shriek ‘white shirt, white shirt’, they laugh indulgently, letting us pass in peace. Unimaginable in another India.

The Depo & I once drove up the road to find a cobra fanned across, with Floppy our neighbour’s dog, barking her head off. Soon the cobra was coiled up in a corner of someone’s yard, as people made frantic calls to local boys adept at catching snakes, ‘the cat scratched a cobra, it's bleeding, it needs medical help!’ We watched with awe as a young man came up on a scooter, obligingly took a few photos of the glorious snake for the bystanders, deftly wrapped it on a stick, stuck it in a sack, and scootered off home. He would look after and release it in a few days. Goa is possibly the only place where this would happen. This story would have only been a resounding ‘THWACK’ anywhere else.

I still sometimes sit at Juice Bar. Not the popular, glitzy one many of the tourists endorse. The one where Aunty lets me have grape juice in a glass, with giant gobs of vanilla ice cream. She’s as strange as a Goan can be, the Juice Bar aunty…she’s too busy for casual conversation, but you know she likes you if she flashes you her rare lopsided smile. 

I think about Goa, as I stir the grape juice, watching the white and purple mingle. I think of how cultures swirl together in the soporific sunshine, and how being in Goa has heightened my awareness of the possibility of an alternate life. Its natural ease of being has allowed countless wanderers of the world a place to call ‘home’. Despite being assaulted by the occasional accusations of being a ghanti, I am completely compelled to remain here a while. Goa allows me my moments of anarchy. Goa let me be Majnuneh

Welcome to the tribe. 

(To be continued)

[1] Spoi is a silent stranger I’ve been eyeballing for a few years now. I see him occasionally in the shadows of certain villages across Goa, and am absolutely fascinatedly convinced that he is a Spy. On one occasion he asked me whether I have ‘psychological problaems’ (sic).
[2] By tradition here I am referring to middle-class Hindutva principles which seem to have invaded all ‘normal’ ways of living.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Sunshine & Puppiness

Who am I? What am I doing on the planet?
Am I living the life I came here to live …?

I’m thinking about psytrance & psycho-puppies as I amble along, entranced in my Sillie Millie world. We walk a long path at least once a day, an enhanced insight into the world we live in. Every day is a new experience, as we explore the bushes and listen for the birds together, equally curious about the scuffling in the bushes, equally wary to go explore… she sniffs & I sigh at the fresh neon leaves blinging our brains in the bright morning sunlight, and keep an watchful eye out for the inevitable fresh dollops of multi-creature poop she always discovers just the second I turn my back!

From our earliest memories, we’ve been marinating in the mantra….
It’s the pursuit of happiness!

A few months ago, I found myself marinating in my mind…lost in my thoughts, always a million miles away from here & now, struggling to overcome horrific writer’s block, and general apathy. Nothing seemed to be going the way I had imagined things would be…and then, one night, we found Millie Mouse.

Millie Mouse attempts to usurp Fat Jimmy's throne

She bounces on the path beside me, the small frilly tail waving along like a little peace flag as her helicopter ears flap eagerly, ready to dive into the newest poop-pile as I revel in how she has revolutionized my world. Sure, I’m always tired, and sure, I’ve forgotten how many times I've sworn to myself that I’ll NEVER EVER have kids. I’d forgotten entirely how magical early mornings are, and I am grateful that I wake up to her puppy breath every morning when she dives headlong into my bed, excited that a new play day has begun. And when her naughty, button eyes glow in the setting sun, racing in the garden nipping fat, old Jimmy’s legs as she usurps his sand throne, she radiates pure pleasure to be alive.

And yet our mind is full of scheming, and worrying, and fretting….

As far as engaging with the everyday world is concerned, there is a deep void resonating in the recesses of my mind - at twenty-eight, I have very little material possessions. I don’t have a car, or a house, or a husband, or children, or a huge-digit salary, or any of what most of my peers are excited about and aspiring for. I own two ginormous cartons of books, a suitcase full of hand-me-down clothes (and a few bought for me by my parents in the hopes I could manage to look more ‘presentable’). My bank account has had the last laugh for this year.

And yet, here I am, lost along the long path, gazing at the hills all aglow in the setting sun The creeping fingers of dusk soften softens the gloriously green hill, bathing it with a soft golden light, thick motes of evening sunshine creating dappled shadows onto the overgrown path. Thorns prick, and overhanging branches reach out their grasping twigs. My cotton pants rip a little more, silent spectator to all the scrambles through the bramble Millie Mouse & I enjoy so much.

 Love, Medicine & Natural Trance

Our world as we know it, is essentially a lie. The corporatization of love & life has broken us into tiny fragmented societies, divided by fake boundaries and imaginary lines on a map[1].  We are morbidly afraid of each other, and everything, and believe that the ultimate source of our happiness is money[2], and more money. As we discover new conspiracies of control, here are some things that helped me change my heart.

Our craniums are crammed with new thoughts, ideas and decisions on a daily basis, and given how caught up we are in the intricate webs of the internet, we forget how to express ourselves.

I read this list of resolutions we all ought to strive for in the year ahead, and guess what, I’m already there! A good beginning has been to put aside work & technology, and get out there & explore. My world has evolved ever since early morning walks became a routine. I say hi to Jimmy, Lassie, Handsome, Fetso, Puppy & WhatsUp while they play with Millie, and though I usually forget their humans’ names, the whole act of smiling hugely while saying ‘hi’ is a complete change from my usual surly disposition. And I promise you, these aint no fake smiles, I’m honestly happy to see them. The dogs exchange sniffs and discusses details of the latest lump of poo, running amok and over the hill, and the humans smile stupidly at the cuteness of it all. Evenings are spent gushing over Molly, Choti, Martha and Dylan (the human puppy who regularly sneaks into our yard to play with Millie). It is but natural that Love brings happiness.

Speaking of which, I’ve rediscovered that happiness is the best Medicine. I befriended a fitness freak, (yes, while discussing our dogs.) and he encouraged me to exercise with him. A few stretches on a regular basis really changed my disposition. Exercise brings an incredible strength and stamina, and the rush of oxygen is an excellent wake up call for our bodies. It automatically brings in a certain amount of dedicated discipline and happiness. 

we realize that happiness is found
in the present moment…

Being in Goa has given me much to be grateful for. I see the birds & bees, the sun through the trees. Having Millie around taught me to be alive. Millie has moved on to Carl & Noel’s place. She has Spasiba (a.k.a Papa Siba), Handsome Stranger & Loafer to play with, and a giant garden to sunbathe in. Taking her home was the right thing to do, but giving her away, was even better. Her humans all secretly cried, but Millie Mouse is happy, and that’s all that matters.

Millie sunbathing in her new home with Papa Siba & Loafer 

Carl & Noel's little princess 

This has been a year to be grateful for. Despite all the deaths, murders, rapes, hunger, starvation, riots, wars & tragedies, I am alive. I haven’t been homeless, hungry, afraid or alone. My family adores me, my friends bear with me, my colleagues care about me. It’s been an important year for me to know that while this world is busy being fucked up, there are many good souls out there. Some are friends, many were strangers. Collectively, they’ve brought on a wholly different dimension to my understanding of the ways of this world. I’ve learnt to dedicate myself to tasks I’ve chosen to do. Sure, I’m slow, and quite the languid soul. But dedication has brought in a lot of free time. Time to enjoy the tranquility of natural trance. I’ve learnt to say NO. I’ve learnt to refuse to do something if I didn’t want to. And I’ve learnt to accept things life as it is, and to change what I can. As I read, travel & meet people, I’ve learnt there are many out there who agree that simplicity is the key to break corporate monopolies & capitalist empires. My friend told me about a minimalist project she has undertaken, and another told me how he’s happy earning 1000INR a day. (He drives a cab here in Goa, and trust me, for him to make such a choice in tourist season, is a huge step.)

What’s been reinforced for me this year has been that money is inconsequential, and what really counts is everyday rebellion. As our world hurtles towards further insanity & destruction, we, who believe in the possibility of a different world must continue to fight for our rights. Our right to land, clean water, freedom, safety and the truth.

Oh Heart, lead the way to the Being within
~ Sarbakhepi (the Mad One), The Fakir

In the year ahead, my resolution is to follow my heart, pick the right sides to fight for, the right people to fight with. I will not be afraid, and nor will I worry. There is a lot of love & laughter right here with me, in the guise of all the friends & family I’ve acquired over the years, all the trance dancers who stomped their way into my heart, all the dissenters who taught me to dream different, and all the doggies who pranced their way into my heart, my home.

Thank you all for believing in me, for giving me the faith to carry on,
and for all the sunshine & puppiness. 

May our tribe increase.

Psst: there's some of you out there I don't have photos of...I still love you anyway.

[1] Captain Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd International.
[2] The Dalai Lama ~ “These days, in our materialistic culture, many people are led to believe that money is the ultimate source of happiness. Consequently, when they don’t have enough of it they feel let down…”