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From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 21, Dated May 29, 2010

Harem Pants And Psychedelic Trance

Deepika Arwind
Writer and journalist based in Bengaluru

Salt slippers Many of Gokarna’s beaches can only be reached only on foot

imageI’M LOOKING for a less overwhelming experience than Goa — with its endless choices of hotels, food and beaches — and fighting the near-impossibility of skinny-dipping in Pondicherry’s waters (pardon me if I’m wrong, for I’ve been to neither) — and Gokarna, seems the ideal getaway in the face of these impulses. A bustling temple town on the west coast, in Uttar Kannada district, Gokarna means ‘cow’s ear’, from which Lord Shiva is said to have emerged.

To get myself a sliver of history and a potentially unadulterated beach holiday, I board the Sugama Sleeper Travels bus from Bengaluru. Twelve hours later, the bus unloads its groggy passengers on Gokarna town’s streets, where I shop for clothes — floozy dresses and harem pants (flat rate Rs 100, and still bargaining). From there, it’s a quick ride to Kudle beach, where the auto (for Rs 100, no bargaining) pulls up on a clean shoreline. Except for a few heads bobbing in the water, there’s nobody here. The other options are Om, Half-moon and Paradise beaches. They get successively rockier, and Om beach is ‘commercial’ by Gokarna standards. I’m booked nowhere, and Sunset Cafe is welcoming: at Rs 150 a night, any shack is.

Badal, our Bihari host, who came to Gokarna for the good life, cooks up a mean breakfast complete with sausages and hash potatoes — the result of endless years of trying to please ‘firangs’. He gets along well with them, playing psychedelic trance and chatting all day.

The shacks are basic: a light bulb and undulating beds. There are only two bathrooms/toilets — needless to say they are dirty. Unless there’s a conscientious hippie cleaning the bathroom ‘for the community’ (which there was), or you are willing to spend on the sole five-star hotel (not quite the same experience), there aren’t many choices.

20,000 people flock to Gokarna on Shivaratri to watch the temple chariots
steered by hundreds leading the procession

Nearest airport: Mangalore
Nearest station: Kumta, Karnataka

Outside, the water is cold and the beach, deserted. Cows sleep and girls sell beaded necklaces. You can roll on the sand or dive in the sea till sundown. I spot two white bums in the water that belong to hippie infants Baby Ganesha and Baby Stella who are afloat in the sea with their families.

At lunchtime, gorge on beer, wood-oven pizzas, extraordinary seafood from butter garlic prawns to squid tikka, and fresh salad. Try the Lebanese-Israeli selection and even some momos served at the cafes (all of which aren’t open in the peak of summer).

The day, be warned, is spent in the minor oscillations between the sea and the shack, eating and swimming, or just buoying lightly. Others, I hear, trek across the forest-hills for a glimpse of the other beaches, but I stop at a boat-ride to Om beach.

Three days and a dark tan later, I’m back in Gokarna town, making a quick dash to the Mahabaleshwar temple. There’s more to buy in the markets — zari bags, embroidered shoes, yellow leather chappals, fisherman pants and balloon skirts. And then the bus back to Bengaluru, where I’ll need my sunblock this summer, and where I’ll lament the poor quality of an overpriced kingfish fillet.

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 21, Dated May 29, 2010

The Morning After

The Fleshy Tones Of Real India
Amitava Kumar The author, most recently, of Evidence of Suspicion. Lives in upstate New York

Stone Chickens And Beach Resorts
Suresh Menon Bengaluru-based columnist, who often writes on cricket

Rafting Up The Valley Of God
Amrita Nandy-Joshi South Asian women’s rights activist. Moonlights as a freelance journalist and travel writer

How To Catch A Cloud
Deepanjana Pal Mumbai-based writer and author of The Painter: A Life of Ravi Varma

The One-Fourth Holy Land
Aruni Kashyap Assamese writer currently based in Delhi

The Torrential Luxury
Patrick Bryson Australian writer currently residing in Shillong, Meghalaya

An Aimless Gawker’s Paradise
Arul Mani Columnist and teacher at a Bengaluru college

Turban-Watching In Filmi Punjab
Annie Zaidi Journalist and author of Known Turf: Bantering with Bandits and Other True Tales

The Motorcars Of the Gopis
Arundhati Ghosh Arts management professional based in Bengaluru

Land Of Thread And Mirrors
Benson Issac Teacher at St Joseph’s College, Bengaluru. Also Freelance researcher and trainer

Goa, Be Kind. Rewind
Frederick Noronha Goa-based journalist and author

The Sands Of Time
Ramu Ramanathan Mumbai-based playwrightdirector and editor of PT Notes, a monthly theatre newsletter produced by Prithvi Theatre

The Refuge Of Small Mercies
Neel Chaudhuri Delhi-based playwright and theatre director and artistic director of The Tadpole Repertory

Harem Pants And Psychedelic Trance
Deepika Arwind Writer and journalist based in Bengaluru

Holiday At The High Wavys
Bijoy Venugopal Bengaluru-based journalist and biographer for the rock band Thermal and a Quarter

Tuning In With The Folks
Mrinalini Harchandrai Writer based in Mumbai

The Treehouse Fellowship
Mridula Koshy Delhi-based writer and author of a collection of short stories called If It Is Sweet

Romeo And Juliet In Freeze Mode
Amitabha Bagchi Professor at IIT Delhi and author of the novel Above Average

  Relax, It’s Just A Vacation
SANTOSH DESAI CEO, Future Brands, and author of Mother Pious Lady —Making Sense of Everyday India

  Candid Photographs

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