july 16, 2006
baga beach, goa, ind-ja,
i’ve now heard that i wasn't the only “gora” (gringo) to consider getting right back on the plane after landing in bombay. you've seen the pictures: whole families living right on the pavement or in "slums" (coming in 2 kinds, legal and illegal), amputees sleeping under bridges in the railway stations, kids begging on every single street, millions of dreamers and workers, now homeless, come to the "big city", bombay, to chase their dreams and catch a glimpse of the bollywood stars. not much different than LA, eh, except much much poorer and much much less hygienic (wash your skin abrasion in the local water and watch it swell to a baseball-size infection. imagine drinking it? and imagine my digestive system right now, if you will!!!) bombay. mumbai. crime, filth, drugs, billionaires, asian intrigue, glamour; the poorest, richest, and most assaultive city on the planet.
and that's without the bombs! although i hear that mumbai is already 2nd page news to lebanon and beirut. maybe i can hop over there next!
anyway, i got on the same western railways line that was bombed tuesday in mumbai last friday at 4:20 in the morning (the 1st train to run), both to get to the main domestic train station (dadar) and to push myself beyond my paranoia, knowing that terrorists usually don't strike twice in the same place, same as lightning. what i hear about the bombs is that they were set off by mr. bin laden's indian jihad progidies, the islamic student union (SIMI), who hate that india's modernizing & trying to become queen of the asian stock exchange. so they do whatever they can do to de-stabilize the country and say FUCK NO to western globalization.
anyway, i'm ouddathere.
and i’m now out in the green wet countryside of goa.
now i've taken some scenic and spectacular train rides before: the oslo-bergen train through the icy nordic glaciers. and the british north borneo old ironhorse that broke down on me climbing the hills of sabah outside kota kinabalu. and the switchbacking “el nariz del diablo” (nose of the devil) from riobamba to alausi in the andes of ecuador. but here's another: the konkan konya express from mumbai to goa. a simple passenger train along the west coast of southern india. nothing fancy. no tourists. but sooooo green, especially now in monsoon season. mixed with hundred of miles of brown muddy rice fields, the red mountain indian soil of the western ghats, surprising waterfalls and downpours -- all out the window of a 2nd class seat, with the soft maharashtra (state) wind blowing on your happy face. heaven! why fly, man? sure, you're there in an hour instead of 9 and a half, but it's the same damn trip as any other plane you take. artificial air, bubble compartments, antiseptic, and fast. but what the fuck do you see? nada, amigos. nada. take the train. ride with the locals. talk with them. try the food if you're brave. and enjoy..................
so here i am in goa. the laid back, old hippie, green as grass, rave-party scene of india. former portuguese colony (until late 20th century). they eat meat. they're christian. they know how to party. except no one’s here! it's monsoon season. "low season", they call it. no parties, no tourists, half the ayurveda shops closed. good prices. it's hard to get out of a market place alive when you're the only tourist there and all the sari-clad, brown skin girls are promising you "morning price", "good luck price, mista", just like the rest of south east asia. at least i'm familiar.
but this is where benny is. somewhere in goa. benny, the german dude who got me here in the 1st place. but have i seen him yet? NO. why? i don't know. will i see him? i don't know. we've talked on the phone, but he's elusive, non-committal; he wants me to surrender control and let go(a) to the unpredictability of india. so that's what i'm doing. i met a french guy in leopold's, the ex-pat haven in mumbai of "shantaram" fame (sidebar: highly recommended e-travels tip: read this book. soon to be made into a major motion picture starring johnny depp - on the vagaries, crime, drugs, slums, and loves of bombay's underworld). i met this jean charles and told him i had just arrived in india and i needed a plan. we had a few beers and after considering, he said, "you like bikes?" easy answer. "yes, i do." "well," he says, "head to goa's baga beach and look for this psychic healer named patrick san francisco. he used to be an indian businessman but he was told he had a gift in his hands and that he was wasting his talent, so now he sees people just over the bridge at a guest house called nani's and rani's and i think that's where you should go(a)." and he drew me a little map on a leopold's napkin...
and that's where i am. i'm the only guest at nani's and rani's guest house at the end of baga beach, looking out on the crashing arabian sea that is too rough to swim in, but amazing to reconnoiter at 3 in the morning when you can't sleep because you don't know what clock or what time you're on because you're on e-travel time. and now i've already seen patrick twice and he's treated me on friday and saturday for about 5 minutes each time only, because he has long lines of local people he sees 7 days a week where you just put your name on a list and wait outside a door and when it's your turn you sit in a white plastic chair alone with patrick standing across from you, with his long black hair and intent psychic eyes, and he looks at you or through you and then closes his eyes and waves his psychic healing hand over you, very intently, and who knows what he is doing, although he tells you exactly what he is doing or taking out of you and now my tongue IS BLACK.
he didn't say anything about this, and now he's away in mumbai, then delhi for 2 days and my tongue is black and i don't know if it's the food or some disease or what, but i really think patrick san francisco has done something to me and some black bile type stuff must be rising out of me or my liver and i feel fine otherwise and i'm reading a lot of gandhi and shantaram and who knows if i'll make it further south to rural and beautiful kerala (another state) where everyone tells me to go(a), or if i'll find elusive and crazy benny or what color my tongue will turn next......
but trust me, i'll let you know.
the rain has stopped. i'm back on my bike.....................