Five days in and my sinuses have cleared. I am away from the pollution of a booming tech city with the highest two wheeler ownership in the world. Chrysanthemum, cardamom, jasmine, sweat, damp humidity, sandalwood and car fumes.
The experience cannot be captured on Instagram whatever filter.
The waiter dances over with our sweet tea. Two half-cups each. What is this? He demonstrates “stirring” our tea by pouring it into each cup. He holds the pouring cup higher and higher and higher. Not a drop misses. Chai juggling. Worth a shot. I’m not very good at it.
Cracked screen because I *cleverly* stashed my device under a blanket before kneeling on it. Battery that dies in half a day. No connection. Sporadic connection. Paper book reading. Pen writing. Lots of time alone with my thoughts.
No photos except those taken of me by others.
Time for a writing experiment.
Marsala tea and pistachio chocolate. Call to prayer floats on the opaline mist from the opposite peak. Sunset on the Western Ghats.
I spend far to much of my life on screen. I know I should own a kindle but I don’t. I feel the relief of a paper page at the end of a long day looking at a screen (or screens). I study social media. I rarely escape.
Need to reset and recharge? I desperately did. So my sister took me to Kerela. Eden on earth. Largely off the grid. Lovely, hospitable locals, rightly proud of their food that they have campaigned to keep toxin free. Quiet. The bumper stickers say “God’s own country” and they have a point.
I am conscious that seeing the world through a screen is training my visual learning. Exercising learning like a muscle. Visual learning for me is like the thighs of a professional track cyclist. I need to even things out.
Dark threatening clouds.
Drops of tropical rain.
Lightning. A Blackout.
We take cover at a restaurant full of locals determined for a candlelit curry.
It is a sauna.
No menu. No idea.
A customer orders for us. We must try everything. He is a professional Bollywood dancer. He has performed in Melbourne.
In the humid dark corner we eat with fingers and taste to identify the dish.
The food keeps coming. Fish curry. Chilli encrusted fry: chicken, beef in red wine, anchovies, fish, corn. Raw onion.
The spice rises. My mouth, nose, pores are running with chilli and sweat.
Relief comes with the storm and hot, sweet black chai.
The lights turn on.
The candles are blown out.
I couldn’t take photos. I didn’t want to take photos. The photos were a poor form of learning about India.
Children full of cheek and cheer,
Gypsies with no safety gear,
Humans with no human rights,
Living and working in quarries and on construction sites.
The migrant crisis a hidden sore
Due to climate change, catastrophe and war.
They are not on leaky boats nor at the train station
Stateless victims in their own nation.
I reached back into my Year 10 English teaching bag of tricks and remembered that good writing tries to create the visual through exploring and describing the senses. It’s been over a decade since I taught that class and I learned that tip from a textbook. English teaching was always a side job for me as I focused on the social sciences. I actually took English off my CV because I didn’t enjoy teaching it. I had NO idea about teaching creative writing (or anything beyond the analytical essay for that matter). Anyone that thinks that History and English are a natural pair should think about those of use like the *science* bit of social science. I said in an interview that if they hired me, I would refuse to teach English as a minor area. I got the job and learned to teach RE.
I’m not going to tell you about my intimate Ayurvedic experience. That one’s for me. Use your imagination, look it up. Highly recommended.
Years ago a Pilates instructor told me that if an exercise is difficult (plank), then that is exactly the exercise I should be doing. I was told the same thing by a yoga teacher (downward facing dog). And again an art teacher (direction of light). No matter how many hobby classes I tried and quit, the message was the same.
Right: Year 10 English creative writing here we go. Lets exercise those underused muscles. I want to be a writer. Lets mix it up a bit.