It's new years day, the perfect time to reflect on my experiences so far and to think about how I've been behaving towards people, in particular, creepy Indian men. Over the past few weeks I’ve been in Kovalam, where the air is thick with sexual frustration, Varkala, the beautiful beach side tourist town, Neyaar Dam, where I spent Christmas in a yoga Ashram next to a lake, Fort Cochin, a full on Christian fishing town which on sign posts and graffiti everywhere reads ‘Gods own country’, and yesterday I arrived in Palolem, Goa with my friend Paul from Slovakia only to find that there’s ‘no room at the inn’. It felt like we were Joseph and Mary going from one place to the next and being told that everywhere is full, or to have people taking advantage of our situation and trying to charge us ridiculous money for a crappy little room. The experience has been a harsh one and a steep learning curve.
My legs are bruised, cut, grazed & inflamed from falling down holes, scrabbling over gorges and scratching bites from mosquitos and god knows what else which cause big red lumpy reactions from me. My right knee is killing me from falling over last night and making a plonker out of myself in front of a bunch of new friends. I like to make a good impression as always. On the beach Indian men were getting drunk and they were worse than ever. At one point I was grabbed by two guys saying happy new year and shaking my hand, then they wouldn’t let go, luckily an Irish guy called Murphy who was in the group I was with saw it and came over to grab me back off them, like some kind of prized object. Last night I slept outside in a hammock with a few other stragglers but I didn’t sleep much at all.
However my throbbing knee and itchy bites are the least of my worries. The men here are so creepy and disrespectful towards women that so far I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been groped by opportunistic passers by. It’s done so casually it’s barely noticeable, but it happens, and it makes me really fucking angry. I’ve told numerous people to ‘fuck off and get a life’, been stared at on the train for uncomfortable periods of time leaving me no choice but to shout at them ‘Yes’ ‘What do you want?’ or ‘Take a photo it will last longer’. One guy was standing at the foot of my bed on a sleeper train just watching me and he wouldn’t go away after asking him to stop about 3 times so I had to go off to find the ticket inspector, who as it turns out, didn’t give a fuck. Luckily I was travelling with a man who was sitting in the next carriage. It seems men here only listen to other men as a lot of them don’t believe that women are in fact…. REAL PEOPLE. This is one of the hardest things about Indian culture for me to deal with, but I have to remember that in the UK there are also a lot of sexist males with ego complexes and I can’t tar everyone here with the same brush as I’ve also met some lovely people.
Last night was one of the craziest New Year celebrations I’ve ever been to, apart from maybe Amsterdam where they set off fireworks horizontally down the street. On the beach here fireworks were being set off left, right, centre and horizontally, with little warning. I was a bit fearful of my life at certain points, having had it drummed into me from quite an early age how dangerous fireworks can be. This morning rubbish, beer bottles and used fireworks litter the whole beach and as I sit there amongst it all thinking about a probably exaggerated story we were told at primary school about the caretaker who found a used firework, picked it up, put it in his pocket with the intention of putting it in a bin, and then it blew his leg off.
So what about New Years resolutions I hear you cry? Well, I want to change the way I react to things and not get so angry. I found myself turning feral a while back just before I went into the Ashram. I was constantly on edge and just expecting to be ripped off or for some guy to speak badly to me, and it got to the point where sometimes I was the one getting in there first and being rude before they had the chance to, and walking around with an attitude so big, always ready for a come back remark. This has to stop as it’s not really me. I’m reading a new book at the moment called ‘The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari’ and it talks a lot about visualizing the things you want to happen and being positive so I’m going to try visualizing people being nice to me and men having respect and see if that works.
I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of moaning, but hey I like to write these things down and get them off my chest. However, I’ve seen and done some amazing things, and met some really cool people, and I think that balances out the negative parts for me. On Christmas day I washed and rode elephants, I saw lions and crocodiles, I went to see Kathakali dancers who use face paints made from chalk, soot and coconut oil, put seeds in their eyes to turn them red and wear extravagant costumes to do a traditional dancing, I’ve done a lot of Yoga, slept outside in a hammock, eaten great food, visited a temple, heard hypnotic Indian music, swam in the sea, and watched the beautiful sunsets, and tomorrow I will see two old friends, Anna and Nik, who I haven’t seen for the best part of two years.
I will finish with a phrase I just overheard from someone next to me in the internet café which I think you might like ‘May all your troubles last as long as your new years resolutions’.
Happy New Year. x