At 6.45 a.m. on cue the doorbell rings and the taxi driver arrives to take me to Heathrow Terminal 4. If there were a league system in operation for skipping London and returning again then I would be premier league, I am leaving again, in the final throws of October.
The rain is pelting down, it’s dark and cold, as we load my luggage into the boot of the taxi the cold reminds me once again why I am following the sun. As I look down into the boot at the enormous quantity of baggage I am taking with me I wonder why I decided I needed all this? I close the Boot and jump into the warm cab.
As we race through empty damp streets the rain batters the windscreen. I go over the contents of the bags in my head, and feel my trouser pockets to check for my passport and talk with the driver with the taxi driver. Men are not supposed to be able to multi task, women often tell us this and claim the exclusive gender ability of multi tasking. But this morning I am managing several. The taxi driver is the same chap who took me to the airport in March, then to I was heading to India, now I am going there once again, last time I was chasing a rainbow, this time I may just create my own. My last journey with this driver we talked about about our children & universities, his daughter was at Warwick, mine had left Uni the year before, we compared notes on being Fathers & the differences between sons & daughters, this trip we did the same. We also talked about India, his birthplace, crazy India, my destination. My multi tasking thoughts also went back to my luggage. Between and during sentences with the driver I had visions of being stopped by Indian Customs, standing in front of the customs man in his braid trimmed uniform, his head shaking from side to side, as he surveyed the contents of my bags. How was I going to explain all that Italian Coffee? Could I be busted for importing too much? What would he say when I told him Indian coffee was for the most part really shitty & rather than suffer bad Indian coffee I had brought a mountain of it, decent stuff from Italy. What about all the drugs I was carrying? And the tin – with soil & dried leaves? What would he make of those? Of the neoprene boots? Tarot Cards? Were I to be stopped by Customs I would probably die on the spot, from sheer embarrassment, or I would act so peevishly, look so guilty that they would just take me in to custody simply because I looked like a wrong un.
All of it, every bit of my stuff was explainable, to myself, but so somebody else I reckoned I would appear to be an outright loony tune, or a danger to the wider community.
There was of course plenty of the usual stuff, the T shirts, flip flops, sun tan lotion, shorts, trunks, as well as the learnt through experience stuff, like a water-proof camera, an expensive lesson learnt on my last trip, waterproof cameras are a good thing. But then I bought dry bags, four of them, to carry electronic stuff and keep it dry, now a dry bag is ok, but four dry bags? And then the odd stuff, my tin, my little tin, bought in india a bunch of years ago, it’s an old raj era tin that once contained saffron, purveyed in Bombay, now in it I carry a bunch of things when I travel somewhere, there’s a little Brass Buddha, he is wrapped in a paisley handkerchief when he travels, then wherever I am staying he sits on the table next to my bed, I figure he can watch over me whilst I sleep, and maybe if he is so inclined he might infuse with me with a little wisdom whilst I sleep, that would be handy at some point some point. Another smaller tin sits inside the larger one, it once contained gramophone needles, now it contains some dusty grains of soil from my previous home. Them I carry because of the corner of the garden from which I took them. I had once scattered some of my mothers ashes in that corner, and had done the same with my dog’s ashes ( My mother was a dog lover so I figured she would like the company). Anyway i carry those few grains of dirt to remind me where I came from, not in a maudlin kind of way, but simply to remember. And my mother never travelled a great deal, so I am taking a bit of her with me. I have a little sketch done by my son when he was in primary school, it’s of a Greek Warrior, it reminds me of my lovely son & that sometimes we need warriors. In the tin also I carry a Eucalytptus leaf and a sprig of heather, both from Spain, gathered on my trip there, I like the scent of them, and they to remind me of places I\ve been to and loved.
The drugs are all I hasten to add prescription, there are several months supply and together they look like enough ordinance to treat a small country in the grips of an epidemic. I packed two woolly hats, given that the temperature is unlikely to dip below 25 degrees on my trip why I did that I really can’t explain. I have four condoms, these will last me I calculate until late 2019, and call it wishful thinking, but as I am told in India all things are possible I decide that it’s best to be well covered.
I have an armful of books, notepads, maps, pens & pencils, torches, the neoprene boots ( that I will explain another time), Tarot cards (for making important decisions) twenty five packets of liquorice cigarette papers, organic tobacco, so that if I die from smoking it will have been done entirely pesticide and additive free. A mountain of Italian coffee , a cafetiere gizmo . There is much more weirdness in my luggage, but I think you may get the idea. I really hope that I am not stopped by Indian Customs.
My plane is a big one of the Jumbo variety, eight seats wide, it feels enormous. As I find my seat I have difficulty suspending my disbelief that such an enormous vehicle can possibly lift itself into the air, that if by a miracle it can do that then surely it cannot stay there, of course I know it can, but that niggling thought remains, this thing is just to bloody heavy to fly. I was wrong of course as I am wrong, obviously, this scribble bears witness to the success of my flight and the illogicality of my thoughts. It pulls into the air and up into the sky, I don’t even notice leaving the ground, I try to settle into the flight, eight hours in this we leave London & climb into the sky, my aisle seat is roomy enough and I get ready for an eight hour flight. the chap sitting next to me is very chatty, I learn all about him, including the fact that he has the worst halitosis half a century on planet Earth has shown me. I do my best but after a while I am unable to talk to him and face him at the same time, if I am within sensory distance of his breath I feel myself retching. We continue this way until I work out that I can have a conversation with him and look him in the face, if I cover my nose and mouth. This of course looks decidedly odd, so I chip in that as part of my trip I am having dental treatment. (In part this is absolutely true, so my conscience is clear and it makes darned good camouflage ). I also chat with his wife, who is sitting the other side of him, I can’t help wondering if they ever Kiss, I think probably rarely. Poor wife, poor husband.
My fight feels never ending, the boredom and the bad breath get the best of me and I long to land. The only excitement during the flight is when an old Brit stumbles and falls on top of me. He it transpires is rather pissed, given that we took of at 10am this seems like quite an achievement, I help him back to his wobbly feet and watch him bounce along the aisle all the way to the lavatory which he remains in for half an hour. When he eventually comes out the cabin crew become agitated, it turns out he’s been smoking in the lavatory, he is escorted back to his seat and told to stay there. The remainder of the flight passes off without incident. We land at Mumbai, at 3 am I take a second flight, landing at my destination at 4am. and look for my Taxi. This is the taxi I emailed to book ( twice ), telephoned and texted. Just to make sure. In India the land where all things are possiible I realise that despite two emails, a phone message and a text it is entirely possible that no taxi is waiting for me. I give it half an hour and then just
I arrive at my beach shack at close to 7am, it’s getting light, the mosquitos are breakfasting, I am the menu, note to myself, buy & Mosiquito coils. Eventually Sunshine arrives, in the shape of a twenty two year old, ( in Hindi ) he has been fishing, he shows me the Snapper he’s caught, he’s very proud of his catch. We talk about fishing, he points towards his boat, an ancient looking canoe with an outrigger. You like fishing he asks me, yes I say, then tomorrow you come with me. I agree.
Sunshine shows me my room, I try to sleep, but it doesn’t work. Instead I go down to the Sea and swim. It’s warm and inviting and it wakes me up.
I head later for my first shopping in India this trip, determined to get useful, important supplies, I am determined to be effective, it’s time I start getting serious, this I’ve been telling myself for a while, now it’s time for action. I plan a surgical mission, to shop for the shit I need, nothing else.
I return with half a kilo of orange flower heads, a straw mat, lots of candles, a Brass Surya to hang over my door, oranges,bananas curd & turmeric a knife and my favourite purchase, for 50 Rupees, a Grass brush. Indian people it seems to me are always sweeping, most probably just sweeping dust from one place to another, but they seem to really like it. Well I always rather fancied having my own grass brush, and now I have one. So all in all my first shopping for the important stuff that I really needed was highly successful.
I spend the remainder of my first day organising my shack, doing a lot of sweeping, ( I am getting the hang of it rapidly) I have a humble little place, a shack with a corrugated roof, a balcony to sit and watch the sunset and two rooms, one a bedroom, the other kitchen and bathroom rolled into one, that’s all I need.
As darkness falls the sea laps thirty feet beyond my balcony, I watch it disappear into the darkest blackness of night, the only light the specks of the huts on the other side of the bay and the candles on my balcony. The only sound I hear that of waves breaking gently on the rocks below. I slip off to bed, make my mosquito net canopy secure and drift off to sleep to the sound of the waves, thoughts of going fishing with Sunshine for Snapper, and the idea that maybe you can buy a little happiness, for just 50 Rupees, in India where all things are possible.