Holiday with Jessica, India 2015-2016

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. 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.

Hey Vicki - can I come?

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India, the place to be!

Then the highlight of my trip, Primal at the Osho Ashram in Pune.

The lovely receptionist at my hotel fixed up my train ticket but when I got to the platform the officious attendant, British bureaucracy shining bright, told me I had to get on “NOW”. Oh, if only I had known I was boarding an anaconda!!!! To get to my seat and getting to your seat is crucial in India, I had to traverse 26 carriages. Not too bad, you’re thinking, but wait for it, the larger of my two cases was too broad to pull through the aisle. Nightmare! I had to drag it on its side leaving the other one at the far end then feeling just a little humiliated and stupid, run back for the small one. 26 carriages later, dripping with sweat. I found my seat –squished in the middle of the row in the no AC carriage just in time for a portion of curry of the day along with the gratefully received banana my neighbour had just picked from his garden that morning.

Indian city life came as a shock, it was so polluted. Oh, how I missed my hills and glens those first days but thankfully the ashram was a world unto its own with plenty to distract from the smog. Primal was intense and powerful.  Participants had to wear a big badge to indicate they were in silence, we also had to carry around our childhood toy – mine a lovely turquoise blue elephant that bizarrely matched my nail polish. Primal is all about letting go of childhood conditioning, so imagine what it was like walking around in silence, carrying “Nelly the elephant”, banished from alcohol, caffiene, nicotine and wifi, while team tantra frolicked in the forecourt too blissed out in the sensual rapture that comes in the wake of letting go of teenage sexual conditiong to even pass you a piteouious passing glance – arghhhh! That brought my stuff for sure.

Childish issues to one side there was a lot about ashram life which didn’t suit me and as soon as the course was complete I hopped on a sleeper bus – only in India. I had a massive double bed on the ground floor (yes, bunk doubles on a bus) and across the aisle a family of four kept me company until I fell asleep.

Next stop Goa. I sat on the beach integrating Primal and taking some very precious time for me. My new neighbour was a body building, yoga teaching Irishman. John and I spent the next few days sharing his motorbike, yoga class and early morning coffee. Very Goa.

But Varkala beckoned me back, let’s go back to the diary:

This morning when I popped up for my coffee a young woman came up to me and said: “You are glowing, when you walked in just now I thought, she is beautiful” That has not happened to me in a long time, the roots need doing, the fillers need topping up and my face hasn’t seen more than a smear of lippy for some days, just shows you: beauty is happiness. I’ll never forget someone I love very dearly saying to me after a long absence “I see beauty improves with age”. How we feel inside is written on our faces. I was wearing a pair of baggies that I bought 30 years before for a drop out summer in Greece, in those days a wide belt pulled in the slack at the waist. They came in useful for a second time as my preggars baggies (yes wee Jessica’s been in there too). When I pulled them out of the loft to take here I thought they’ll look ok with the top 2 buttons open – yes how the ravages of time creep up. Well they stayed at the bottom of the case until I needed something clean to nip out in, not only do the buttons do up but there is a fair skelp of fabric left to play with, so chuffed. I lost that weight without trying. I have been saying to clients for years, you have to let go of the emotional issues before the weight will drop off, then I do primal and off it fell. I am sure the 2 or more hours of yoga daily has also contributed, I can actually FEEL the INSIDE of my abs. I feel great.

I guess it sounds like I am saying happiness comes when you loose your belly. Actually I believe it’s the other way around: when you get happy you loose your belly. But the India experience is much deeper than that. The people here LOOK at you. They actually see YOU. A few days ago I stupidly (with a gluten problem) decided I fancied some porridge) I had gas / headache for 36 hours, not only did everyone notice I looked tired and the moment I got “fresh” again but the waiters told me just what to eat and at what stage, Aruveyda is so ingrained in the culture here they just know stuff like that.

As I write I have two full days and three more sleeps until I have to get on that jet plane. So, do I want to leave, course not, but I do want to return to the life that enabled this and once more play my part.  I guess I do, although I already started crying as the sun went down tonight. Can I keep this feeling inside – probably not. Will I retain the 35-year yoga body – I’m going to try (aiming for a full frontal at 60 complete with 6 pack hahaha).

India has been brilliant for me in every way.

I will be back.

Adendum 2018

The day before I left Varkala I had my palm read, the fortune teller asked if I had been thinking about buying a car, I had. “Buy it” he said, “and you will become very rich”.

I retuned to the bottom falling out of Aberdeen’s oil wealth. I bought the car anyway. I took the free time that the sudden downturn in business gave me, and finally published my book. That was June 2016. Our local economy did not improve, things went from bad to worse. The next 2 years (as indeed the astrologers had promised) was indeed karmic payback time and on a personal level I went through a dark night of the soul. I’m not sure if I am ready to share that story quite yet, but I have started working on my autobiography, so who knows.

Meantime, there’s a wee man in a turban that owes me 200 rupees………

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