I had an audience for breakfast – so did Rowenna. A crowd of young men stood and stared. The women did too, but stood back a bit. This made me feel a bit like the Queen and am practising my royal wave.
I really enjoyed cycling from 7am to about 10am when it’s still cool enough, and the birds are really active. I’ve seen so many Kingfishers – they flash turquoise in flight – as bright as any British Kingfisher. I’ve also seen more of the punkhaired small birds with the red flash under chin and tail, and another of the large, red eyed, russet winged black birds. Riding over a bridge, seeing the lone fishermen in their bright and colourful boats, with egrets on the sandbanks – all seems peaceful.
Later on there will be more scooters and motorbikes to contend with. Mostly ‘Hero Hondas’ but also Royal Enfields whose low and noisy engine whallops the air and hurts my eardrums.
At the top of the hill, a small breeze stirs and swirls the hot air over my sweat slicked skin, drying it off. My heart sinks as I watch a motorcyclist disappear round a bend to reemerge some way in the distance climbing yet another hill. It is punishingly hot out on the plain. I remember this: I am fried, frazzled, baked, griddled and over easy. I spot a teensy weensy morsel of shade close to a stone wall with a sort of shelf on it, amongst long tickly grass and fall asleep there. I am dimly aware of passers by honking their horns. Eventually I am woken by an Indian cyclist on his way to Goa: he tells me Darren was looking for me, but is now about half an hour in front of me. So! I missed him – or he missed me. Whatever – I suspect I was holding him up, and he’ll get to the beach in half the time without me.
I stop for lunch at a restaurant where Papa is summonsed to translate but the translation is a bit iffy. As I’ve found in previous such conversations, pride does not allow the person to admit he is not understanding so the discussion takes on a slightly surreal aspect.
“What do you want?”
“Veg tali, please”, “Fish?”, “No, veg.”
“Chicken?”, “No – veg”.
Two minutes later, he comes back. “So, what would you like?”
Repeat above conversation.
I got a vegetable Tali which was perfectly fine, but I do wander why the mango pickle comes with hard bits in which appear bone like: very, very hard bits of rind, I think.
I am vaguely following a route devised by a Mumbai company called ‘Add-venture’ and the next port of call is Ambolgad. I turn towards this village, only to find the road I was on was inland and had actually passed it and I’m now working my way backwards! Not to waste the trip, I go for a swim on the rather lovely beach (where I spotted a jelly fish and stayed well away – remembering seeing the chemical like burns the lads on Murud beach had suffered the other day). Then I climb back up the hill to the place where I’d had lunch and start looking for accommodation. I continue on down the road as everyone I ask insists there is nowhere to stay. By the time I cross the bridge to the small village of Jaipatan it’s getting dark and I know I’ll have to find somewhere here. I tried asking the keeper of a Mandir (Hindu Temple) if I could sleep there – “No” he said curtly, and disappeared pronto into his house. I pushed Rowenna up and down through the village a couple of times, getting no joy when I ask for a guesthouse. I am contemplating sleeping in the shelter of a closed shop on the marble doorstep (rash, but times were desperate!) – when I meet Ramananda Parker (known to one and all as “Parker”). He had verbal diarrhoea in a manic sort of way. He fired questions at me, like bullets – but did remember the answers and would repeat what I’d said back at me, punctuating his sentence with “Ok, Ok” at the end. He decided I should stay at his house – and (remembering Rhodes), I asked if he was married? No, but he lived with his elderly mother (who, by the way, used to be headmistress of the local school) so I thought it would be safe enough to say yes to his kind offer.
Well, Parker’s mother is now very frail, and losing her sight and hearing. Parker does his best at caring for her, but is not the best housewife – the house is very grubby. He offers me food in several different forms – I accept chai and biscuits but turn down the fish, rice. The village residents are all very curious about me and start to drop by Parker’s house to view the curiousity in large numbers. Parker thrives on the attention and reels off my itinerary to everyone who calls. I am lined up and photographed by several. The two young women who live opposite come by too – and offer me a meal at theirs – which I’m pleased to accept as I’d like to see how they live. Parker doesn’t seem to mind me popping out to the house over the street.
Their home is cleaner than Parker’s but still very basic. I get given a bowl of noodles and meat in a spicy sauce – tasty but I couldn’t eat all of it. They are two sisters in law – both in their early 20s. The youngest has a pronounced limp from a fall six months ago which hasn’t healed properly. The oldest has a young son and I meet her husband too - who runs a chinese style restaurant. The women offer me a bed in their place but I feel some loyalty to Parker for inviting me into his home in the first place.
Returning to Parker’s, the crowd of sightseers continues into the evening. I meet the someone who Parker tells me is a journalist – though he writes notes on the corner of an old newspaper which is odd. I also meet the local Chief of Police, who turns up quite late – after 10pm. The two young women come over from opposite and try to suggest I might be tired, but Parker is still high with excitement and doesn’t appear to notice. There is some discussion about where I’ll sleep – Parker’s mother has the bed in the other room (the opposite side of the room to the kitchen). There is a box under the stairs where Parker suggests I can sleep – but it’s a bit narrow and short. I tell him I will sleep on my mat on the floor and a rush mat is found for me to sleep on. There is a staircase, so I presume Parker will be sleeping up there – WRONG! At 11pm with it looking like there will be no respite unless I take action, I set up my bed: I inflate the exped mat – which is now starting to delaminate. I’ve read that when this happens – the mattress won’t last much longer, which is a poor show after only 7 months of admittedly quite regular use (in Europe anyway). I put my sleeping bag out on top of that and climb inside my silk sleeping bag, making it obvious I’m plum tuckered out and ready for kip. Everyone takes the hint – the lights get lowered and people disappear out of the back door.
I have a disturbed night as Parker sleeps in the same room as me and periodically touches me – on the head, or on the leg – POKE! I cry “Stop it!” and he leaps up off the floor and curls up on the box under the stairs that he offered me as a bed. At about 4pm he actually grabs my leg and says something like “would I want a rub with some medical ointment?” “No I would NOT- go to sleep!” And off he would toddle. I think it was all quite innocent but wouldn’t want to put that theory to the test. My exped mat slowly deflates overnight – not enough where I was lying on the floor but close to it. Indian people don’t seem to mind sleeping on hard surfaces but I am a softy Southerner.
A newly retired Terri following her heart into a world of woolly creativity. Live the dream