The Thread begins: Nov 9 – leaving on a jet plane…
As I stand on the edge of this adventure, I’m surprised at my level of calmness… but I trust that means everything is how it’s meant to be! Leaving for destination Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) and a two week immersion in all things Ayurveda, yoga & meditation with Terry Oldfield and Soraya in Varkala, Kerala.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS – on arriving in India near midnight, I felt like a minority for the first time in my life. After getting my visa approved (requiring my fingerprints being collected), it was out into the enveloping humidity. As we were being met by resort transfer, it was ‘spot the sign’ then get very comfortable with many eyes staring. At least I’m not blonde as well as white skinned!
Chaos & Patience – In the midst of this seemingly manic and disorganised culture, there is overwhelming patience. The first of many polarities of duality.
An Indian Bead – life continues to cycle and is no accident
When we arrived, it was early in the dry season & the resort was in recovery and maintenance mode. Every day, a noticeable step was taken to restore buildings and surroundings following the monsoon season & to prepare for the influx of tourists. The roofs were rethatched, the pathways patched, the buildings repainted…
The gardens looked wild and unkempt but following the doctors informative talk on medicinal plants – every flower, every plant, every tree & every weed has its place.
We commented on how many of us weed or spray in the failing attempt to rid our gardens of these medicinal plants. A reminder that nothing is an accident & everything has its place.
Indian Threads: Nov 18 – Greetings from south India!
One week in and some secrets have been discovered… what comes up often is the sameness – gazing out over the Arabian Sea, with the palms & the humidity, we could easily be in Queensland.
The magic is in the uniqueness of this culture – the aromas some pleasant, some not so much… the ingenuity of making do with what you have, the mindful community spirit of spreading the work out among the neighbourhood…
With the invention of disposable items, it is evident that Mother Nature suffers most – with no rubbish collection or waste disposal systems, empty plastic bottles and other items are discarded all around. There are piles of gravel and sand on roadsides, perhaps still to be used in construction but possibly the jobs have been done and this is where it will stay until someone else has a need.
And the reliability of clean water, water supply, sewage system, electricity and even (very relevant at the moment) currency* is so taken for granted.
We are so blessed in Australia.
And I’m so honoured to have another week to discover even more of India’s secrets.
*The day of our arrival saw decisive action taken by the current diplomatically elected dictator government to freeze all banks and ATMs, to remove all 500 rupee and 1000 rupee notes from circulation – in response to a large amount of counterfeit monies being dumped into the country, suggested by some locals from Pakistan as a terrorist action. This had enormous ramifications for the local economy as many scrambled to exchange their stashes (bank accounts are not a trusted place for savings in India)… in a 3 week grace period otherwise their monies would not have any value.
This saw understandably anxious locals queuing for up to 4 hrs, while tourists (whom are a needed and much relied on addition to the economy) were not permitted to exchange or gain access to any local currency. By the time we departed, with still a week to go till the grace period cut off deadline, there had been 71 deaths, mainly due to heart attacks from standing in the repressive heat waiting for their exchange. There was also a handful from violence.
It is evident that death is an accepted part of life here. At the local Papanasam Beach, the priests provide service for those who can not afford a proper funeral, blessing the ashes.
An Indian Bead – look after your own backyard for the benefit of all
In the village street outside the resort, the kids would all say hello (to practice speaking English) or Namaste with pressed palms. They asked for pens (education and notably daughters were highly treasured here) so we bought supplies and walked the laneways delivering them to smiling and grateful faces. The villagers were all very proud of their homes, some with tvs, little gardens, many with mobile phones, with clothes hand-washed then laid out in the sun (some on lines, draped over things or just on the ground) to dry as they present themselves in bold and beautiful outfits every day.
The local village is not viewed as poor, as everyone has a roof over their heads – regardless of its building materials or size of the land it’s perched on. The village huts do not have running water or plumbing so there’s a communal squat toilet block, and taps available where they fill their pots for water supply needed for washing, bathing and cooking. The resort aids in supporting this by employing the local villagers as often as possible, and the workers all seem to appreciate the opportunity, working harmoniously and diligently together to get the work done.
And then there’s the lovable Lucy, a street dog adopted by Oceano staff the previous year. She was a delight to have around, helping with guard duty, keeping other street dogs away & apparently she’s a lot rounder than she used to be!! I enjoyed watching her play with Lucky (a recently adopted kitten.) They seem to know they are blessed to be living at the resort & are great friends.
It caused me to reflect on how the street dogs are in a constant state of survival (hyper-adrenalized) but when this is taken care of for them – when they are regularly fed and live in a safe environment – how they can relax & enjoy life with playful wagging tails.
(Humans are the same of course.)
Footnote: Since my return, I’ve heard about another part of the world where a prime piece of real estate was bought by foreigners who promptly built high walls to block access to this majestic part of coastline and closed the area off to locals – bringing in their own staff, importing their own resources etc… the locals eventually retaliated to this treatment by destroying it. ** Oceano is very wise – foreign owned and targeting western travelers but operated and run by Indians employing and utilizing the local community and resources.
Indian Threads: Nov 22
10 days of ayurvedic immersion completed – daily check in with the doctors (same key questions – how’s the body/ how’s the sleep/ the quality of dreams/ how’s your elimination) along with 3 meals of ayurvedic food, herbal medicines & daily body treatments – where we were pampered with a one hr full body massage followed by a treatment, specific for our health and dosha, lasting 30 mins. Then we’re ordered to rest for at least 30 mins to allow oil etc to absorb before having a shower.
Oceano Cliff Authentic Ayurvedic Resort is world renowned for its research & treatment of chronic diseases such as MS. Amazing service from all the staff. We really enjoyed the doctors openly being available for any questions, anytime of day or night (on-call onsite at all times) as well as their information talks on medicinal plants, the science and history of Ayurveda.
This India adventure is drawing to an end as a few of us relocate to a sister resort for our final days in India as Oceano needed to keep the current therapy clients onsite.
An Indian Bead – readily disrobe in honour of your history and heritage
We were treated to a number of special cultural events as a part of our retreat.
- A Brahmin Priest ceremony and blessing for the group followed by a traditional ceremonial dinner.
- A traditional cultural dance (took 4 hrs in preparation) where even the youngsters today value the history and dream of which part they would be honoured to act…
- An ayurvedic cooking class with the amazing chef and staff, sharing knowledge and ready humour
- Our own Haven to send our prayers and intentions for our loved ones and the planet floating out over the waters
- these people are so accepting & embracing of all gods – there are statues of Mary and Jesus next to other Deities
An Indian Bead – birds were a strong message.
The crow was significant during our stay. One visited us at the restaurant and serenaded us with its amazing array of tunes as well as during our ashram visit, one delivered another message – using the mirror to remind us we are one… and we are actually fighting ourselves when we see and reject our reflection…
On the cliffs, the sea birds and eagles provided up close and personal shows of their ability to surrender and ride the waves of life… we were even higher than the eagles and were invited to view the world from the eagle’s eye.
Other Indian Beads – traditions embraced create colour for those who witness them.
Being on the Arabian Sea meant fishing was a way of life in the local villages. Colourful traditional boats graced the beaches & waves and net fishing took on new meaning!
The Indian Guru Bead – immerse in the culture… witness the good, the bad, the ugly
In the final days of our stay, we chartered a bus & English speaking guide to explore the southernmost tip of India. Our day trip started before the sun with the first stop at the fishing village Edakkallu, Kovalam, where the traditional ways are still evident and working as a collective for everyone’s benefit is supported… pulling in the nets required a team approach and even those who were physically disabled were still a valued member. As payment, everyone gets their share of the catch to take home or sell.
As we travelled into the state of Tamil Nadu, there was a required stop to complete relevant paperwork and fee payment to cross the border. Padmanabhapuram Palace was the next to explore – a magnificent 16th century palace situated in Thuckalay before then journeying onto Kanyakumari – the destination point! The southern most tip!! Here, the cows demonstrated their power as the holy animal by standing in middle of roundabout – with not a beep from the traffic patiently waiting for them to move on…
We wondered the marketplace before offering devotions to the Kanyakumari Temple. Kanyakumari means feminine so this township and temple are named after a goddess, most likely Shakti (pure energy or virgin energy).
It was at this temple that the beggars were most notable, and a couple of young girls (aged about 7) approached us while we were gathering our belongings and getting our shoes back on, asking for money as they rubbed their tummies… these girls quickly received a clip around the ear from a burly man. Our guide had warned us during our bus trip that giving donations to these children only encourages the darksided mafia presence who run child abduction rings where they steal children, give them a ‘disability’ (one of the girls had a scar that ran the length of her face) before sending them out to beg… any donations are quickly taken from the children. They do not benefit in any way from our kindheartedness.
This point is the meeting place of three bodies of waters – Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean & Bay of Bengal. It’s considered a very sacred place and many come to bless themselves in these waters. According to ‘Gitas, this is where Hanuman, the monkey god, leapt to Lanka (for the yogis out there!)
The Gandhi Memorial is also in this township – a lovely display of how he followed his dharma, with a well-informed guide sharing many stories… Gandhi’s ashes have been spread here.
Our drive back included a final pause at an amazing Hanuman Temple. It is 1300 yrs old and it took 200 yrs to complete construction. The rock carvings documenting the creation of the temple, along with the spiritual energy and reverence of the worshippers created the ambiance and deepened the experience of our after-dark visit.
Other Indian Beads – trust the chaotic order
- Auto rickshaw rides were the chosen transporation (100 rupee = $2)
- the constant sounding of horns without the use of indicators
- the complete surrender to merge or turn into traffic without looking
- there was not a whiff of road rage
Indian Threads: Nov 24
Time to pack & say goodbye to Oceano this evening. Amazing staff with little hints reminding us we are in India so relax & go with the flow. It’s been a wonderful place to base ourselves for TERRY OLDFIELD AND SORAYA‘s MMM retreat.
We farewell India with many emotions and memories, new friendships and deeper connections. Such blessings.
The Indian Treasure
The beautiful souls we had contact with during our stay were generously open-hearted with no alternative motive.
I observed shop owners totally trust we will return with payment for goods… the cleaner share a treat from another guest even though she could have kept it all for herself… how they accept their ‘lot in life’ with no evidence of jealousy or envy for us foreigners who are considered rich.
Many dream of improving their lives, even if it meant being away from their families. But it was always in service – they are very devoted to serve and ensure those they do, are happy with them.
As a group largely containing Australians, we seem to attract attention with our friendliness, chatter and open loud laughter. Our happiness and gratitude was appreciated.
Other Indian Beads – heart warming moments & memories…
- The dawn calls to prayer from nearby temples
- Our own personal Bollywood show on the bus
- Our attentive helper at Kanyakumari
- Our harmonic chanting during our leaky boat trip (where we were no game to move a muscle in case we all fall into the backwaters!)
- The sangha hit deep during our visit to the ashram
- Our therapists who provided the treatments during our stay. Mine was Reeja, a 24 yr old, who lived in the staff quarters to work and provide money for her mother who lives hours away. Reeja is an only child whose father had passed away. Reeja wants to marry someday.