india two.

date. 2020

cities. Palolem, Gokarna, Chennai

Image by Charlie Costello

January 8

A lot has happened since I last wrote. I’m currently back in India; Goa to be specific. Palolem to be exact.

I’m here because I have a break between the semesters where I can work remotely. I chose Goa because I have been feeling for some time now that I haven’t been giving myself time to be alone with myself. I’ve always been thinking about stuff, been with people, been on my phone/laptop. Even the two minutes it takes to shit, I’m on my phone. Am I really so afraid of my mind? I had to find out.

I stopped off in Israel for a few days before coming to India, but spent most of it sick in bed. So sick, in fact, that I very nearly couldn’t make the flight to India. (Now, looking back a few months later, in a completely transformed world, I’m kind of convinced this was Covid.)

At the end, I took the flight, but in such a state of unpreparedness and exhaustion that I didn’t realize until halfway here that I barely had any cash on me.

Upon arrival there wasn’t any ATM in the airport, so I prepaid for the cab with my debit card and left the problem until morning. [I also had no water or shampoo, so I couldn’t shower, brush my teeth, or drink in the meantime.]

Luckily, my hotel room came with a free breakfast.

The nearest ATM was 5 km away (along a narrow road crammed with rickshaws, scooters, trucks, and cows) but I made the trip (first morning in India!) and finally arrived at the coveted ATM. The first one didn’t work, the second machine was out of service, so I made my way to the third one, still somewhat hopeful. The person ahead of me had no trouble, but when I tried again and again to withdraw money, it kept cancelling the operation.

Oh well, I thought, I guess I’ve been locked out of my account. Thank you, India.

I paid a guy with a motorcycle 1 USD to bring me back to the hotel and then changed the few euros I had brought with me into rupees. At least I can buy some shampoo and lunch.
 

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January 9

Throughout the above process, I wasn’t nearly as anxious as I ought to have been. In fact, toward the end of the ordeal, I was feeling downright giddy.

 

Each time the panic/frustration threatened, I simply recalled to myself that this, here, now, is an opportunity to practice allowing things to take the time they require. In India, apparently, withdrawing money is not a simple task. In takes time and planning. I can either fight that reality, and lose, or accept it and enjoy (yes, enjoy) the ride.

 

Other than that, I spent the day doing some work at the hostel and Dylan’s café on the beach, strolling around, completing my checklist of daily practices, and (unfortunately) checking the dating apps.

 

Daily Practices

 

  • Meditate

  • Listen to a lesson from the Waking Up app

  • Swim

  • Yoga

  • Read (philosophy of history)

  • Journal

 

Around dusk, I sat down on some sand dunes on the beach, lit up a cigarette, and had the following thoughts:

 

It’s impossible to see the place where you are standing.

 

It’s impossible to see the place until you stand in it.

 

How can you know which direction you’re going in unless you know where you’d like to end up?

 

The present moment

Is nothing

But the accumulation of every past

That has ever existed.

 

The meaning of the present moment

Is constituted by what came before

And what follows after.

 

The meaning of history

Are the stories we tell of the past

In anticipation of the future.

 

A man without a past

Is a man without a future.

 

A man without a future

Is a man without a past.

 

To forget your past

Is to relinquish your future.

 

It is impossible to change the future,

One can only change the past.

 

To understand the past

Is to change it forever.

 

The present is an empty reflection

Of a remembered past

And an imagined future.

 

Recall a moment in the past.

There, you’ve created it.

 

Forget a moment in the past.

There, you’ve erased it.

 

Remember the past well.

It is all that exists.

 

It is impossible to exist in the present.

Knowledge/sight is always of the past.

 

There are infinite pasts,

Seem from infinite presents.

 

There is only one past,

Forever hidden,

From any single attempt to glimpse it.

 

What a shame to have spent one’s past

Longing for the future

And to have spent one’s future

Stuck in the past.

 

What a joy

To have spent one’s past

In celebration of the future

And to have spent one’s future

Nourishing one’s past.

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January 10

 Haven’t clicked with anyone yet. Still very much alone. I’m slowly allowing myself to embrace this.

 

Still keeping up with my daily practices, and still enjoying them.

 

I’m planning on leaving Palolem tomorrow for Gokarna. Let’s see.

 

I wish I had gotten involved in more ‘weird’ stuff, but that’s okay. It is what it is. 

 

 

Thoughts About Travel

  • Escape from obligations.

  • Return to simplicity

  • Loss of regulations/norms/judgement/oversight

  • Feelings of independence

  • Feelings of significance

  • Reliance on others (for info, company, help), which creates an environment of helping, asking, answering, smiling, interdependence.

  • Being alone together

  • Smiles between strangers

  • Embracing uncertainty

  • Simple accomplishments

  • Freedom to make decisions

  • The weight of having options, open space, empty time.

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January 11

So last night was nice.

 

I met Aviva, a south African girl traveling through India with her younger brother. We went for drinks and just talked for HOURS.

 

Afterwards, I walked her home (to her beach tent), but couldn’t bring myself to potentially ruin the moment by asking her to sleep over.

 

So I went home alone.

 

But then we texted a bit and she decided to come over. She’s really kind and funny and interesting and I hope to meet her again before long!

 

-

 

I arrived in Gokarna.

Gokarna arrived in me.

 

It seems like everything I’ve been searching for. My ‘mud hut’ doesn’t have wifi, and I couldn’t be happier. It feels like a relief.

 

I’m finally alone

with myself

and the world.

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January 12

Went to sleep last night around 9. I had been planning on eating dinner, but I fell asleep in a hammock, and when I woke up, I just went to bed.

 

Woke up with the roosters around 7 and went for a stroll along the beach, dotted with people doing their morning yoga, meditation, and swims. The world was waking up.

 

Afterwards, I walked to the end of the beach, past the women bathing in the empty ghat, and up the hill to the ‘Hilltop Temple’

 

When I arrived at the temple, I didn’t feel anything, so I just poked around for a bit, walked through town, went for a swim, and headed home for a shower and a coffee.

 

-

 

Individuality <> Community

Freedom <> Belonging

Cognition <> Recognition

Content <> Form

Spacious <> Direction

Peace <> Love

Future <> Past

Inside <> Outside

Time <> Space

Creation <> Reaction

Stillness <> Movement

Philosophy <> Religion

Thought <> Speech

Simplicity <> Complexity

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January 13

First day of “work” in Gokarna. I spent the morning at Hotel Om International in order to use their wifi.

 

Last night was difficult. I had been getting used to being alone, but then I spent the day at the beach talking with a nice German girl and then when I left (to tend to my developing sunburn), I suddenly felt the crushing absence of company. So much so, that I sat on my balcony reading a book and waiting for her to return so I could say hello.

 

It was not a sexual exploit, I just wanted someone to sit with, talk with, drink with, laugh with. (If only my social interactions back home could be this simple.)

 

Regarding my sunburns, the moral is to not talk to pretty girls on the beach – you lose track of time.

 

I didn’t have any aloe vera (and neither did my Italian grandma neighbor), so I checked the restaurant/hotel next door where I’ve been spending a lot of time, and they were very kind and sent someone to the market to buy some for me.

 

Physical and emotional pain go hand in hand.

 

On another topic, the question of evil. Does everything happen for a good reason? I had been thinking about this during my illness in Israel, and had been determined to accept the cold reality: Sometimes, shit happens. Some of it’s good, some of it’s bad. Celebrate the good, accept the bad.

 

Now, thought, I have a new idea. Let’s start from the beginning.

 

I arrived in Gokarna a couple days ago and went to a hostel called Hostelit, but they didn’t have any rooms available. This was bad. But then I found a wonderful place directly on the beach. That was good. But then it was only available for one night. That’s bad. But then I found a much cheaper place next door that was even nicer. That’s good. But then I was upset that I booked the first place at all, even for the night. That’s bad. But then the people at that first hotel helped me with all sorts of things (wifi, aloe vera, company, etc.). That’s good.

 

The lesson: There is very rarely a purely good or purely bad thing. Usually things have effects which are both good and bad, which in turn have their own good and bad effects. The trick is to find the good effects, and celebrate those, instead of resting with the bad affects and bemoaning your fate.

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January 14

Today started off well, beginning with an hour and half of yoga with Angelo. This was my first yoga class on this trip, and I really enjoyed it, even as I was operating at my physical limits.

 

It was interesting to see the old Italian women easily performing stances that I could only attempt. Not only were they more flexible, they were simply stronger in places that I lacked.

 

But then, in the afternoon, things took a turn for the worse. Having access to the internet isn’t treating me well. I’m falling back into old mental habits, negative habits.

 

Loneliness, boredom, worry, jealousy, inadequacy, etc.

 

I went for a walk along the breach. A long walk. And all I thought about as I passed groups of people, was how much happier they seemed. I felt like an infinite gulf separated us.

 

At a certain point, I tried to remind myself that loneliness is only a feeling that exists in my mind. It isn’t anything more than that. I closed my eyes and tried to notice loneliness, as it appears in my consciousness.

 

It didn’t really help.

 

Now I’m trying to decide whether to move to Om or Kudle Beach tomorrow.

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January 15

Today is a new day.

 

Went to sleep last night feeling down, but woke up, went to yoga, and the good mood that came from yoga never went away.

 

Did a bit of work in the morning and then went on a walk to Kudle Beach. The exercise and change of scenery was very good for me.

 

On the walk back, I even started singing out loud and danced myself down the road.

 

Kudle Beach was much younger than Gokarna, and I decided that I prefer old people, at least for this trip. Old people are just chill, they aren’t looking for anything. I can chill with them.

 

With young people I instantly fell the usual pressures of looking cool, fomo, sex, drugs, etc.

 

On the way home, I stopped to play a bongo with a random dude, took a photo with some Indians, stepped into a roadside hostel to refill my water bottle, waved at random passersby, and just went with the flow.

 

I felt much closer to people, the world, myself. It felt really nice.

 

Now I’m sitting at the restaurant next door to my ‘hotel’, Il Mio, waiting for my lunch, chicken thali.

 

Just feeling the ocean breeze in my hair and the sun on my skin.

 

 

January 16

Another tough day, emotionally, but now it’s sunset and I’m chilling in my hammock overlooking the beach.

 

Life can be nice sometimes :)

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January 17

Skipped yoga this morning. I had a headache when I went to sleep, so I treated myself to an extra hour of sleep.

 

Did some work in the morning and then went for my usual walk along the beach and through town.

 

I’m looking forward to leaving tomorrow morning. I would like a change of pace, space, new people, hotel, etc.

 

I’m feeling okay though. Maybe a 5.

 

 

January 19

I’m on my way to Chennai. Yesterday I took a cab from Gokarna to Vasco (to be near the airport), and stayed in a pretty decent hotel. It felt so luxurious to be in an actual bed with AC and wifi. I only left to pick up some lunch and then dinner.

 

I laid in bed all evening, eating Domino’s pizza, watching Netflix, and just letting myself exist.

 

I woke up at 6:30, ate breakfast, and headed to the airport. My mind is blank, other than a distant shadow of anxiety about meeting Asen later tonight.

 

January 22

My last few days in India have been diametrically opposed to the first couple weeks.

 

As opposed to staving off loneliness, Asen and I have been all over each other.

 

Instead of hours of thoughtful strolling, my days are filled with food, sex, and poolside lounging.

 

Rather than staying in a traditional Indian hut, where my shower was made up of a bucket under a faucet, we’re staying at a five-star hotel which provides us with the very best service and amenities that western civilization has to offer.

 

In Gokarna, I walked barefoot through town and ate with my hands. In Chennai, I have a personal driver and my business partners are treating me to the best restaurants in town.

 

In Gokarna, everyone was an equal. In Chennai, I have a small army of waiters, housekeeping, and doormen at my beck and call.

 

In the space of an afternoon, I’ve traversed 2000 years of cultural, technological, and social development.

 

--

As I get ready to board my flight back to Tel Aviv, I think about what this trip has meant to me. I came here to seek space, and I’ve definitely found that. And more.

 

I think that my biggest lesson was that the internet is having a much larger effect on me than I realized. As soon as I reduced my access, my mental health improved, I filled my spare time with meaningful activities, slept better, and found room to just think more.

 

On the flip side, spending too much time alone came at an emotional cost.

 

Perhaps it’s not emptiness than I’m looking for, but presence. Can I be present together with work? Together with people? Together with technology? Perhaps that’s my true challenge. Perhaps that’s society’s true challenge.

 

 

“My gaze is clear like a sunflower.

It is my custom to walk the roads

Looking right and left

And sometimes looking behind me,

And what I see at each moment

Is what I never saw before,

And I’m very good at noticing things.

I’m capable of feeling the same wonder

A newborn child would feel

If he noticed that he’d really and truly been born.

I feel at each moment that I’ve just been born

Into a completely new world…”

 

- Fernando Pessoa