So here I am in Varkala post Kochi.
I’m on a Bollywood tour which was arranged by a local South Golden Beach Bollywood teacher. There are 11 of us including a 13 year old girl. I’m a bit of a ring in and it is an interesting space to be in, however, there it is a mixed class group so not everyone knows each other. I think I am an observer of people so it’s interesting watching and seeing these women starting to get to know each other and their personalities starting to emerge. I continue to feel a bit like an outsider. I’m not sure if that is about me not fitting in or me not really making an effort to fit in. There are no major clashes although I know I annoy a couple of the women (hardly surprising), however, generally they are friendly and inclusive. I still have my protective layer on so I keep myself at a distance. As we come to the end of the tour, I feel myself moving further away from the group. This may be because I’m not as involved in the dancing anymore after being unwell or it may be because I know that at the end of the week I will be on my own and I am getting ready. Anyway, it is something which I will ponder on at a later stage.
The one thing that I’m going to work on while I’m here is my totally illogical fear of being ‘ripped off’. I struggled to get a tuk tuk and preferred to walk than be ripped off and spend the rest of the day stewing over it. Now I’m not talking $10. I’m not even talking $5. I’m talking anything from $1 to 20 cents! 50 rupees is around $1. For example we paid 40 rupees more than we should have which pissed me off no end, however, it is 80 cents! How the hell does that make any difference to my life and how much difference does it make to the tuk tuk drivers life? I have had the 2 sides of the argument presented to me… don’t let them rip you off as it supports a culture with no integrity to why would you stress over it? My first lesson is to stop sweating the small stuff like this. It doesn’t matter in the scheme of things and I do not have enough influence to impact on a culture generated by poverty and the opportunity that tourism brings. They see white people as being rich which relatively is so true. I experienced that in Africa where the obvious differences in our lifestyles is so overwhelming. I have, in the past, been a ‘poor’ Australian, but we have no contemplation of what the term ‘poor’ actually means in a global sense. I’m not underestimating the impact of being poor in Australia as there are those who have had it even worse than me, however, the poverty which exists in third world countries is not even comparable. There haven’t been a lot of beggars in Kochi or Varkala, so, either these areas don’t have as much poverty as we hear about or tourists are sheltered from the level of poverty which exists. When I do encounter one, I struggle to know whether to give them some money or ignore them like everyone else does. I did encounter a crippled man who was selling hats and cards. I offered him a small amount as I didn’t really want either, however, he refused to take it so I ended up buying a card. I’m not sure if he was too proud to take the money or if it was a good business tactic as I ended up giving him ten times what I planned to (a whopping $2!). But I was impressed that he choose industry over begging…however I’m also very aware that he needed capital to even start that process. Money makes money. Poverty, without opportunity, remains poverty. It’s a sad reality.
I’m thinking a lot about what it is I want to achieve from this journey I’m taking. Is it just experience of different countries and cultures? It definitely is a large component of it however I think this is an opportunity to be more, to learn more about myself and how I fit in this world, and to develop my spiritual side. I’m already finding it a bit of a challenge. As I finish the first part of my journey I am reflective of what I have experienced and what I have learnt. I have enjoyed being in both Kochi and Varkala. They are both very safe areas in India where walking the streets at night feels completely safe. I think there is a misconception out there that India is a dangerous place. Maybe it is in some areas however these two areas are not. Varkala in particular is a very touristy area, in fact, it appears to be its only purpose from the accommodation to the shops, and even to the ayurvedic establishments. Not really my thing, as in reality, we could be on the coast of any country and it doesn’t feel like what the ‘real’ India should feel like (whatever that means as I’ve never been to India before!). But it has been a great soft entry into travelling. Being part of a group which generally has my back and in areas which are so safe, I have become accustomed to being in a different country without being smacked in the face with the reality of travelling on my own in a country I have never been before and is potentially so different to my own. I feel more ready to move onto being on my own in a more ‘Indian’ environment. The next two parts of my journey are to Hindu significant holy cities. Varanasi and Rishikesh. I think that this is where the real journey will begin.