On Feb 3, 2010, at 2:51 AM, Uma Reed wrote:
We just finished two weeks at Ananda Ashram in Kerala, which was really lovely. Several friends joined us there, and we did a “farewell” music program on our last day. Internet was not so easy there–required a trip into town, and computers were not that great. So I only went in a couple of times to check if there were any urgent e-mails.
We arrived by train at Gokarna on the west coast of Karnataka state yesterday. There are a bazillion people here, filling up for Shivaratri which comes on February 12th this year. We had to take a room in town for a couple of nights. Town is a very hot half-hour hike up and over a big hill from the beach, so we wanted to get a room on the beach as soon as possible. Don’t want to do that hike twice a day in order to get some beach time! So we hit the beach for the first time today, and we are thrilled to be back. We looked around a lot, and finally found a room with attached bath (not that easy to find) behind a cafe that is on the beach, which we’ll move into tomorrow. It’s large and clean and quiet, and we’re looking forward to being able to walk out of our room and go right to the beach every morning. The weather is glorious, warm and balmy. More people and more trash on the beach than last time, unfortunately, but still very beautiful and peaceful.
We’ll be in touch again soon, when we’re settled into our new digs.
Love and pranams to all,
Uma and Shivaya
2/17/10 Kudle Beach
Last night the most extraordinary and astonishing kirtan I—we—have ever experienced.
To explain how we came to be there: Before we left the states for India, I e-mailed some of the people we had met here on our last trip, to let them know we were coming back. Among them was Yoana, a beautiful young Bulgarian woman we had met on the train with her South African boyfriend, Mike. At that time (2008), they both had major dreadlocks—Mike especially stood out because of his bright red hair and long, dreaded and beaded beard.
We had shared a seven hour train trip to Gokarna, and then spent time with them over the weeks we were here. We shared stories and sang kirtan together in their little hut overlooking the ocean. They were part of the Rainbow Family, and they traveled around the world playing their didgeridoos—for tips in cities, which financed their travels. They were two of the purest hearts I had ever met. I was especially taken with Yoana.
When I e-mailed them to let them know we would be coming back to Kudle Beach, Yoana replied, saying that she and Mike “don’t walk together in that way anymore.” But she said that she would be on Kudle Beach again at the same time as us, and was looking forward to connecting.
We had been here two weeks this time when, walking down the beach with our bags (we were moving into a new place), I heard someone call my name. I looked up to see Yoana beaming, running out of a café toward me. I was a tangle of straps and bags, but managed to free my arms enough to embrace her in an excited and happy hug. She insisted on carrying my bags over my resistance, and hauled them to our room, exclaiming, “Sometimes I am like Bajrangi!” (Hanuman)
Next day, Yoana and her new partner, Jai Krishna, met Shivaya on the beach. Jai Krishna, who had never met me, sent word through Shivaya that they were traveling with a harmonium, and I was welcome to borrow it if I wanted. I was rather stunned to receive such a generous offer from someone I didn’t know.
Yesterday again, Shivaya met them on the beach. They said that one of the friends they were traveling with had a son who was turning 3 years old, and they would be having a little party and kirtan in a café just off the beach.
We arrived at the café at the appointed time, as instruments were being carried in. Jai Krishna lost no time in getting things started. His kirtan traveled through the world of deities, calling names with such reverence that their presence was immediately felt! The shakti was off the charts, but there was a focus that kept the energy grounded in the heart, rather than using it to trance out.
It seems he has spent many years in a village in Bengal (he is British), living with Bauls (ecstatic street musicians) and learning from them. He has no interest in anything but this, and is not a “performer.” In all our years of exposure to kirtan, Shivaya and I agreed we have never met anyone so completely and egolessly immersed. Yoana innocently mused, “When you live the life for Bhagwan, it is so wonderful.”
Yoana herself is a remarkable person. She clearly has chosen an alternative lifestyle, traveling throughout the world with various friends who she refers to as “the family.”
Her dreadlocks are now gone, having been cut off in a moment of spontaneity on the banks of the Ganga in Varanasi. She relayed the feeling of being relieved of so many layers of identification as she watched the matted locks float away down the river.
I don’t know when or how she hooked up with Jai Krishna, but they are a beautiful complement to one another, living the divine life with no airs. They both radiate a light that is clearly not born of this world.
Still on the beach! 2/28/10
I’ve been lazy about sending you updates on our trip–mainly because there’s not a lot to report! We’re still on Kudle Beach, near Gokarna in western Karnataka state.
We’re both amazingly healthy, thanks to the sun and beach and ocean, not to mention the balmy breezes and tropical fruit right off the tree. We moved to a new room two weeks ago, a little house in the garden where we stayed on our last trip. (It was full until after Shivaratri.) The house is just a bedroom and bathroom, but it has a wonderful covered patio looking out to the ocean, surrounded by coconut palms and beautiful tropical plants. Very peaceful.
We have fallen into a routine of taking an early morning walk on the beach, then having tea and toast and reading the morning paper at a nearby cafe. Next we have a swim and some beach time, then back to our room to shower and dress. We do our laundry in a bucket and hang it out to dry, which happens quickly in the warm breeze. We spend lots of quiet time on our porch in the afternoon, reading, studying, watching the gentle waves. At some point we head out for lunch, or eat a fresh pineapple or papaya we get from the fruit seller on the beach. When the heat begins to subside and the sun starts its descent, we take another walk on the beach and eventually sit down in the sand to watch the bright red sun set into the ocean. At nightfall, we have a leisurely dinner–it can take up to an hour and a half to get your food after ordering! We spend more time sitting on our porch, often in the dark, before going to bed. We sleep great, lulled by the sound of the waves rolling onto the shore.
Once a week, we climb the hill at the end of the beach and trek into town for whatever supplies we might need… It’s a hot trip, but fun to see what’s going on, and to experience the incredible ocean vistas on our way over.
As it stands, we plan to stay here until it’s time to go back to America. Our days are deep and peaceful, and unless we get really bored (which we doubt), we want to keep soaking it up as long as we can.
I’ve gotten in the habit of checking e-mail every two or three days. The connections are pretty good here, so if you want to write, we’d be happy to hear from you. Meanwhile, we send lots of love and sunshine your way.
Uma and Shivaya
Tuesday, April 06, 2010 6:50 AM Subject: The final countdown…leaving India
The inevitable has happened, and we are enjoying our last bittersweet moments of life on Kudle Beach.
Life is so simple here, both our own and the lives of the local people. As I write this, three men have just walked across our field of view carrying what must be loads of a hundred and fifty pounds of hay each–on their heads. This is the main mode of transport of goods, since there is no road access to the beach. There are small wooden boats that sometimes bring goods, but they mainly transport people. We’ve seen everything carried on the head, from daily deliveries of fruit and vegetables, glass soda bottles in cases of 24 stacked three tiers high, loads of firewood which the women carry up and down the steep and treacherous hills, to a load of bamboo poles about 12 feet long lashed together. And on two occasions, we’ve actually seen full-sized refrigerators being carried on someone’s head to one of the cafes on the beach! These people are walking barefoot or in flip-flops through sand after navigating their way up, across, and over the huge hill of hot red and black volcanic rock between the town of Gokarna and this beach. This is nothing unusual here, just the way of life.
Speaking of which, the next three loads of hay have just passed–same size loads, but this time carried by women wearing saris.
We’re now seeing the end of the tourist season. A few straggling tourists are left, and most of the cafes have closed to prepare for the coming monsoon. Many of them do this by completely dismantling their structures and storing away the materials to be reassembled next fall. The “materials” are mostly panels made of woven coconut palm leaves that get tied together to make the walls and ceilings of the cafes. These panels are about a foot wide by about seven feet long, and can be used again through several seasons. The few more permanent structures (like houses) get corrugated metal bolted across doors and windows, and other businesses cover roof and open sides with plastic sheeting to keep the rain out. Gardens are being surrounded with fences made from thickly woven thorny branches. I can’t imagine how they make these without ripping their flesh open. These fences help keep out the salty water and air that destroy the plants. Everyone is hoping for a better rainy season this year since last year they only had 20 days of rain instead of the usual three months.
Meanwhile, it has gotten hotter and hotter over the last month, so our afternoons on the porch have gotten longer and longer. We go out in the morning but are back before the intense heat of the day. We go out again in the evening as the sun is setting. So now, we’ll see only two more sunsets before we hop an overnight bus to Bangalore. We’ll arrive there Friday morning and fly out Sunday night, arriving at SFO Monday afternoon.
This has been a most amazing time. For me it has been the quietest, deepest, most extended period of peace in my life. There is talk of a road going in next year (in fact, we just saw the first evidence of it a few minutes ago), and even possibly a naval base being built here in the future. Who knows if we’ll ever be back, or what we’ll find if we do come back. So we are relishing our last few days, and hoping we can bring the peace we’ve gained back with us. We’ll be in touch when we get back home. Meanwhile, we send you our love on warm breezes across the ocean.
Uma and Shivaya