“Namaste! Shanti Shanti!”, accompanied with folded hands and a warm smile.
This is how I would be greeted everywhere I go, and soon enough it became a habit for me too. Sometimes, you learn to drop the “Shanti Shanti” when you’re communicating with the locals, but mostly, these words would be said anytime you pass a stranger.
Gokarna is super peaceful. If you are coming here with the expectations of having a “Goa experience”, this isn’t the place for you. Sorry, I told you I’m here to spill the tea. A calm hippie community with layers and layers of fun (or debauchery, depends on how you see it), Gokarna may seem lazy and untouched, but deep in the forests, things are always happening. That’s the beauty of Gokarna. You have to stay long enough to slowly but surely peel off the many layers and expose all that gold underneath.
Soon enough, I had a small tight group of friends and multiple friendly acquaintances who would pass by multiple times during our morning swims and evening chit-chats.
Music ties everyone together here. Two of my friends, Michel and Peter, made music all day and would emerge often with their instruments and set up an impromptu gig. Peter once invited me to a secret gig in the forest, with the only instructions being, “Cross the bridge and follow the music!” Fair enough, it was a secret gig after all.
Giulia and I set off at about 10 pm, walked on the beach for half an hour, got to a bridge, realized it was the wrong one, found the right one, crossed it and found little tea candles lighting our path deep into the forest where nature met psychedelia in the most beautiful way. There, we had our first Gokarna party. Hindustani trance with a fire dancer, two booming digeridoos, electricity from a hut nearby, trippy videos on a makeshift screen and just 20 people (I was the only Indian there, surprisingly). So much energy I could explode.
Lying on the beach and letting my mind see things it wants to see in the clouds is so much fun, especially in such a peaceful little community where no one judges you for being you.
Gokarna accepts you, takes you in and brings out the happy carefree child within you. Gokarna lets you be.
After a good 2 weeks of moping around, bursting into tears and wallowing in self-pity day in and day out, wondering how life could be so unfair to me, I finally got my shit together and started figuring my next steps. Despite being told by my mother to slow down, to take it easy, I just couldn’t take the idea of not doing anything. I got on my laptop and started my research.
One thing I knew for sure – I wanted to do something which I would enjoy all aspects of, and simultaneously flip off the corporate system majorly. And voila! I found the perfect opportunity. This entailed working with rural communities of South India and helping them with their needs. I signed up right away and got accepted. I would leave for Gokarna, a small town in Karnataka, just about 8 hours from Bangalore, known for its beautiful beaches. I had a week to pack up my bags and start afresh.
This, for real, would mark the beginning of my never-ending journey.
The bus ride was pretty comfy, and I met some friends heading to the same place for a holiday on the same bus. We reached Gokarna at about 3 am, and the first thing I noticed straight away were the stars. SO BRIGHT. I was off to a great start.
As it turned out, I would be living on the Gokarna beach at a homey little resort called Hemashree Gardens. This would be the place I stay at for the next two months and make my own little family.
After getting acquainted with the place, the people and sand constantly getting into places unimaginable, Gokarna was now home. My daily routine involved waking up early, going for a swim in the ocean, having breakfast at Hemashree (the food there is BOMB) and then going around the villages, talking to women and building a relationship with the locals.
Gokarna would also be the place where I meet my traveling companion aka partner in crime, Giulia. She was my colleague, roommate, and just a really good friend. Thanks to her, I now know some kickass Italian and Spanish songs. The two of us would wander around Gokarna all day, trying new things and meeting new people.
A place so warm and welcoming, Gokarna is also a huge hippie attraction. A whole lot of music, yoga and hidden raves, this place has it all. The scorching sun became bearable because of the locals who are just so lovely, travelers who love sharing their experiences, the beautiful ocean, the amazing food and the low cost of living.
Best chai – A little stall right outside Prema, at the entrance to the main beach.
No, this isn’t a cheesy love story, sorry to disappoint all my rom-com enthusiasts. But this is a case of real, actual, painful heartbreak. Let me tell you guys a story.
Since I was a child, I have always been drawn towards traveling and food. This may have something to do with my dad being in the Army, because we were constantly on the move. After he died, my mom and I moved to Pune, a quaint little city with the perfect mix of a bustling city life and chilled out suburb feel. I lived there for 14 years, slowly feeling the boredom creep in. That’s when, after my graduation, I moved to Mumbai. As you could see in my previous post, moving out was on exciting phase of my life. But after two years of working a desk job as a writer, again I could feel that dreaded feeling creep in. Boredom. That feeling of being so settled and so comfortable that there’s no excitement left anymore. It sucks.
The next day, I quit my job. With no backup in mind, I was running around like a headless chicken. but strangely enough, that feeling of discomfort was way more pleasant than having a set routine.
One day, an old roommate got in touch, telling me about a job opportunity which basically changed my entire life path. A chance to work as a travel writer. Something that I have wanted to do since, I don’t know, forever?! Well, long story short, I got offered the job with minimum payment but all expenses paid for all my travels, food and accommodation. It was perfect. And I had to move to Auroville, one of my dream places to move to. A little village close to Pondicherry in South India. Everything seemed to be working out.
I was sitting in my room in Mumbai, all packed, ready to leave for Auroville and my new exciting life the next day, when I received the most painful call of my life. Due to some strange circumstances, the stakeholders of the startup decided to scrap their plans of the travel magazine altogether. Which meant no Auroville, no travel writing, no dream job.
After many days of anguish and tears, I got over it.
Getting over heartbreak is just a matter of time, and I know this now firsthand.
After that incident was when I realized that this is what I really want to do in life, for real.
I want to work on my own terms, travel and see things on my own terms and live on my own terms. And now, that’s what I’ve been doing!
From Mumbai to Gokarna, who knew the only catalyst needed would be one painful heartbreak? Not me.
Spending this year seeing new places and trying new things has been a blast, and I only hope to keep doing this for a long long time to come. This blog is an attempt to keep a track of all those little learnings I picked up along the way and throw them into the vast sea of the world wide web for everyone to see!
PS – All the pictures featured on this blog are my own, excuse my photography skills, they’re not the best. But I try to document all that I can.
In case you want your pictures featured here, feel free to contact me! Collaborations are fun 🙂
To be exact, it’s been a month and 5 days since I started living on my own. Mumbai never felt too far away, it has always been a 3-hour-road-journey. But somehow now, it feels farther away. But having said that, it’s not uncomfortably out of reach from Pune, a place where I have lived practically my entire life. This city as of now feels like a really expensive pair of boots, the ones you’ve been lusting after for, I don’t know, forever? And now you have them. You have them and you try them on. Hmm. Not as comfortable as your old sneakers, but you know you’ll get used to them after a couple of days. Sure, shifting base and living independently all alone in a big city like Mumbai isn’t as easy as getting used to new shoes, but that was the best allegory I could come up with to simply and aptly describe my situation.
There are a couple of things I hate about Mumbai. The smells, the humidity, the traffic. But once I learned to move past that, I noticed the people on the crowded streets, how easy it was to just strike a conversation with them. I noticed that I wasn’t the only person alone here. There are thousands of people here, as alone as me trying to make it. As clichéd as it sounds, this city is where dreams come true, but it’s not an overnight wish fulfillment company. I learned that the hard way, but I learned alright.
I think I have always been lucky. Right from the beginning, back when I was a child. I never had to ask for anything, I always got whatever I wanted before I even expressed my need or my greed. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself pampered, because we weren’t exorbitantly rich or anything, so I was just lucky. And good luck sticks, with a little assistance from good karma. I’m extremely lucky to have few people in this city who always have my back. Even though all these people started off as acquaintances, we have evolved and it would be safe to say, they have now become my 3 AM friends. 3 AM friends, you know? The kind of people you can call whenever at whatever time of the day and they will be there for you. Thanks to them, I’m not as lonely as I was before.
One word I have been struggling with ever since I have moved here is the word “home”. What is home exactly? It’s not as easy as it sounds. Home isn’t just a place you go to take a shower, crash for the night. Home is where the heart is, as cheesy as it sounds. As far as I’m concerned, Mumbai is home. Even though I’m not completely familiarised with this home, I don’t know all the hallways and balconies too well, I think I will soon. Pretty soon, I’ll know this home as well as my childhood home.
The whole concept of independence becomes obscured when you start living alone. Because now, you have no one to answer to, you are your own master and independence is so ingrained in you that it’s no longer a concept, it’s a way of life. Back home maybe, I could boast about being “independent”, but here, that’s just a part of my life and I have to deal with it regardless.
It is a common story : a young girl filled with aspirations to make it big in the city of dreams, leaves her nest and moves into the big scary real world, while her mother worries sick, tries to be as positive as she can, keeps motivating her to do her best, with the occasional threats to bring her back to ground reality. I’m trying not to just remain a “story”. I’m struggling to complete the story with a happy ending.
A couple things I’ve learned from staying here :
Deciding what to eat becomes a task every day and you will eventually get sick of takeaways and you will miss home-made food
Electricity is not taken for granted anymore.
We realize how we had taken our dhobis for granted. Those clothes ain’t gonna wash themselves.
Coming home to no one can get a little exhausting
Sometimes, coming home to no one is very very enjoyable.
You need to go shopping for things you would have never imagined going shopping for. For example- phenyl, dusters, water bottles
You realize that the house, unfortunately, can’t clean itself.
Also, finding a place to live in, in the first place is a huge pain in the behind.
Making friends requires to put yourselves out there.
Trusting and not trusting people at the same time. There’s a thin line.
I’m sure I would have added ten more points by the end of this month. That’s what makes it so much more exciting. There’s so much to learn and every day’s an adventure. And I really don’t know any other way to live.