I went to Delhi when I was 24 years old, 1980, 35 years before this trip.
It was such a very different journey then. A successful glamour model, I could afford good hotels, to jump in a phut-phut to the European camp site, ask around for the Aberdonians and when I found them jump back in, score, then return to camp and get stoned.
Yes, that was my life. At 24, I barely knew myself, I hid from myself, and heroin numbed the pain of that disconnection. By 2015, I still had my problems but having survived heroin addiction, divorce and the many other curve balls life likes to throw, I stood proud next to this wonderful young woman, my daughter, Jessica. Kind, thoughtful, funny, bright, honest and good hearted through and through, she was beautiful from the inside out, despite her crazy Mum.
At 27 I was convinced I wouldn’t see 30, yet I became a Mum, brought her up, kept us fed and watered and here I was paying for this trip from a therapist’s wage, yes, now I made a living from helping others. That fortitude and determination was now enabling me to show her a little of what I had seen. It was a good moment.
One thing hadn’t changed, I was still as awestruck and mesmerised by India as I had been pushing my way out of the sardine can that was Delhi airport in 1980. Even then, I knew I would have to come back.
Jessica and I spent 10 days travelling the backwaters of Kerala. From the moment we boarded the first flight it was upgrades all the way. We were lucky that way. We started with the sites of Fort Cochin, the folk museum was beautifully done. I remember the earth connection just walking on that warm fragrant wood. In the theatre I imagined I was one of those bejewelled entertainers on the stage as Jessica snapped away. We took in the “have to” sites: Chinese Fishing nets, fish market, locals ending their day at the beach. We even (eventually) managed to find a “proper” coffee at “Kafe Coffee” where we met our first 2 travelling friends. Back to the hotel for gluten free poppadum’s, pineapple chutney, prawns grilled in fennel, mmm followed by bedtime mango lassi – I will never forget the glorious food! Southern India’s menu is naturally GF and full of either vegetarian or wonderful seafood dishes – heaven!
The 2nd leg of our journey saw us driving from Cochin to Kollam. It had taken us several days to “arrive” and a friend’s words stuck in my mind: people either love, hate or put up with India. I think we spent most of the early days making up our minds. Overawed by the beauty of the people and places, loving the chill out factor, nevertheless we began by being cautious and careful. However, the warmth of the hospitality and general good nature of the people soon drew us in and falling in love just kinda crept up on us. We had a fabulous Christmas at the Xandari Pearl eco-hotel enjoying the celebrations at the local temple. All too soon it was time for a tear-filled goodbye at Cochin Airport, very early on Boxing Day morning Jessica returned home.
I went back to the hotel and deleted the current toy boy from Facebook. I was angry with myself that his lack of response had at times distracted me from this precious time with Jess. He’d shared my bed for almost a year and this was the second break up. The first when I was taking a retreat to Turkey… yes, sulky boy. But he’d had long enough to step up and as someone who’d hit the road at 15 I knew it was best to travel light. The result was an incredible sense of freedom, verging on bliss as I fell in love with India a little more each day – truly beautiful people in every way. Life took on another meaning, I got out of my head and was THERE, the nature, the sincerity in those brown eyes, the lack of western comforts all took me into the now, I could hardly believe the incredible happiness I felt.
Next stop was Varkala beach aka as “Happyhippyville”, where I practiced yoga twice daily and received Thai massage and stretching therapy from the wonderful Dr Chandra Kumar, with whom I now do these wonderful retreats!. This helped me back into shape after a stressful, too much work and personal angst type of year. Not to worry though, New Year’s Day brought the proverbial tall dark stranger knocking at my door, always a good omen. Then my great friend and Turkish retreat partner, Seda, arrived with her group and we spent some soul sister time.
Varkala is one of those places where you meet and make friends quickly. Before I left home, someone asked me why I had never re-married and I heard myself saying I just can’t imagine meeting someone into all the stuff I am into … and then I discovered India. Listen to my diary excerpt:
Take today for instance, a gorgeous afternoon spent boating around Golden Island (with said dark stranger). The energy in the meditation area and the temple itself were phenomenal. First time I got that here, after 7 tours to Egypt I take a bit of impressing. Then we went to Varkala main beach to grab a bite and sitting eating in a shack on the sand we got chatting to this spitfire of a Dubliner who just finished doing a Ted talk in Delhi on social media addiction, he was all of 25!
Everyday I met people who I resonated with on some level, all seekers in their own way.