Varkala – India’s Bondi Beach

The conductor at the train station proudly shows us the 50+ year old equipment which allows him to manage the passing trains without interruptions, nor crashes. The five ancient phones on his simple office desk remind me of visits to my great-granny’s when I was a little girl and the round dials were still put to use at her place.

If my yoga retreat in Kovalam was a journey to self, and the Ashram an even deeper level to that, then our next stop was going to guide us back out of this insightful, amazing outer and inner journey back to… the real world? Although once one has start journeying inwards, there is no going back. What was certain that, although pretty from the outside with Bob Marley tunes playing, over-prised vegan restaurants overflowing with worldly backpackers and yoga advertisement on every second building, it was hard to find depth in this place which strongly reminded me of Bondi Beach back in Sydney – or maybe a smaller version of Goa.

Strolling down the cliff walk to find a spot to descent the 50-or-so-metres to the beach for a swim, we pass endless cafes and sarong stalls. It gets very tiring being constantly seen as a walking dollar sign. I understand everyone is trying to make a livelihood and get a piece of the tourist-money. Within that circus, genuine human connection and honest interactions have been lost. The few young locals who are hanging here not trying to sell something, have come for a stare at exposed tourist flesh which in most other parts of the country is strenuously covered up to the last inch under the veil of tradition and religion. In other words, walking around in bikinis is common here, whereas in other parts of the country even shoulders and knees have to be covered.

According to statistics, every hour a woman gets murdered in India for dowry or related reasons. Bridal burning is also still occurring, whereby a widow has to throw herself onto the cremation fire of the passed husband. Female feticide is estimated above 600,000 yearly. Despite recent legislative efforts, rape is on the increase – including in the more prosperous, more touristy and somewhat more modernized southern states. Ever present chauvinism is felt in every stare and inappropriate interaction. Is this what happens when the strong sacral energies, part of every human incarnation, are so oppressed they seem to have no healthy way of escape? A pressure-cooker exploding in violent acts against women.

I’m not going to go into more detail as I don’t want to pretend that in more progressive, women-empowered Western countries we got it all right. But what I have read, observed and felt in India saddens me – a universe away from what the ancient wisdom refers to as brahmacharya. Not chastity in the form of sadly suppressed, then violently exploded, sexual urges, but a healthy relationships with the powerful energies in the body, not wasted, but wisely used for higher purposes. We’ll explore more of that during my Intro to Tantra session early next month back home in Australia.

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For now, the last mind-blowing sunset over the Arabian Sea comes and goes. The moment I sit to observe in silence on the overcrowded Indian Bondi Beach version of Varkala, the lifeguards start a whistle concert (Why? No one understands), a paraglider flies so low over my head I can feel the air rushed by his dangling feet stroke my hair, the masses make their usual noises… I break out laughing. India has done it again – giving you what you need. A challenge for inner peace no matter the outer noise. An unexpected opportunity to chuckle. All the colours of the rainbow, India is so much more than words will ever do it justice. The one thing it doesn’t, leave anyone untouched. And so I pack my rucksack for my morning flight to Sri Lanka very moved, very grateful and feeling very alive. Namaste. Nani – thank you, for all you have given, India.

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