Thursday, 16 December 2010


Beach life isn’t only for the foreign invaders, there is a lot of Indian tourism, a new wave of affluence has swept India and domestic tourism is rife. One thing is certain though, they don’t attempt to stay in the places of cheap squalor that attract western beach bums. You don’t find them staying in palm frond huts without toilet, shower or even electric. They must look at the conditions we pay money to stay in and feel nothing but disgust, even more so than we look at the dirt and filth around India. To be honest the conditions of man tourist huts is no better than the squatter camps, made barely more acceptable by the presence of communal toilets. Blocked and splattered with shit they may be, but at least they are subjected to some form of daily cleansing, probably more frequent than the tourists themselves. From an Indian eye though, people are paying to live in squalor on the beach, people how can afford much more; in their eyes at least. Groups of screeching Indians, crowding the surf line, are a common sight. Their innocent delight in the simple pleasures is touching; for once it’s the western eyes, staring in amazement, at the unexplainable antics of the local tourists. (Photo: Dogging, Indian style - Ohm Beach, Karnataka)

Nor are the pleasures of the beach restricted to the human species! Dogs, cats and cows all vie for the attentions of the visitors. Most cafes have their resident dogs, most bitches care for their most recent litter, heavy teats still providing for their brood. Puppies have an easy life, which is just as well, many of them will not make it into adulthood. Once the tourists leave and monsoon arrives their food supply dries up, I imagine it to be a hard life surviving on a desolate coastline, devoid of the countless scraps discarded by the casual tourist trade. But while the tourists swarm the beaches they live a life of relative luxury, rich pickings for all. From an early age they learn the benefits of being appreciated by humans, petted, pampered, adored and fed tidbits almost from birth, none are the slightest bit knarly. As adults they’ve lost their charm, though remain friendly, and become more peaceful and polite. Together they run up and down the beach, chasing each other, play fighting, frolicking in the surf. In the heat of the day they can be found laying in the surf, cooling down, delousing. It’s not unusual to see a dog run out into the crashing waves only to be engulfed in the foaming surf. Cats are like the local kids, hassle you for a pittance, but only briefly, it doesn’t take long for them to realise they’re wasting their time. Give them anything, just once, and they’ll never leave you alone. The presence of cows is nothing unusual either, they are after all everywhere in India. Not having spent time in the cities I can’t vouch for the welfare of urban cattle, I’ve been lead to believe they suffer badly, emaciated and disease ridden they wander the streets, rooting through plastic waste for the chance of the tiniest morsal of vegetable matter. My experience in rural areas has consisted of well-nourished animals, respected and cared for, with frequent vegetable matter presented to them. On Ohm beach a dwarf form of oxen are in residence, though a distinct lack of them during the hot mid-day sun credits them with more sense than the average westerner. Once the heat of the day drops, on they come, in groups, traipsing down the shoreline in search of food. They hustle tourists for it, if they smell fresh fruit they will blatantly bully it from you. Of course, often enough they are encouraged, mango skins and coconut offered as a form of amusement, only when they start sifting through your belongings, rummaging into your personal possessions, do people realize their mistake, too late. (Photos: 1] Sunset over Ohm bay; 2] Gribbit - Ohm Beach, Karnataka)

A walk across the headland to the next beach turned into a fortuitous balls-up. Not having planned to walk the whole way, I had no water and no money on me. Maybe a bit shortsighted of me, but I only went to see where the track could be found, I guess I got a bit carried away and 40 mins later arrived at Half-moon Beach, hot, hungry and dehydrated. Knowing my need for water was my first rational thought, with none available my second was to turn around and head for the facilities of my own hotel. I needed to take it easy and stay out the sun where possible, so the walk back was leisurely, up through a deep narrow stream bed, along the cliff tops and a down a rough, rocky trail. After the strenuous climb, I meandered along the cliffs, appreciating the rocky bluffs below me. Right on cue, in the hidden bay below, a pod of dolphins surfaced, half a dozen or more, lazily cruising within the confines of the bay. However hungry and tired I was, I hung around, mesmerized, all thoughts of food and water far away. A passing boat headed towards them and off the went, reappearing five minutes later, casually heading off in the opposite direction. It made my day, even falling and smacking my knee failed to detract from the experience. It does mean I have to stay out the water for a while, give the wound time to heal, they have a tendency to fester in the sea water here. I don’t mind waiting though; it gives me time to get into the flow of writing. Not that I’m grammatically challenged, I’m sat writing every day. It may be slow, but it’s sure! Do I even detect a reluctance to finish, probably, the end is in sight, and it’s been a very positive experience cataloguing the most profound incident of my life. Of course I want to do my utmost to preserve that experience, hey, I want the world to know! Wake up folks, nasty shit happens, you’d better make the most of life while you can. Treasure your loved ones, show them how precious they are, ensure the understand, it could be the last chance you have to do so. (Photos: My luxury bachelor pad - Nameste guesthouse, Ohm Beach, Karnataka)

And folks, if the regularity of blogs astonishes you, don't hold your breath, Christmas is approaching fast and I'm likely to go off-line.

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