dancing till dawn in goa

ganesh and a napkin lotus at lunch

ganesh and a napkin lotus at lunch

ganesh arrived to mumbai late the night after i got there. he arrived in the evening to find me drinking some kingfisher (the most common beer around these parts) with some others staying in the same hotel near the train station in downtown mumbai, also known as colaba. the hotel is technically to the north of colaba on a nice location off the main drag and less expensive, but with friendly people and staff and a restaurant that serves breakfast. the next day i had planned to go to elephanta island, but it was republic day, therefore the queues to get the tickets for the shuttle ferry to the island were bound to be long, as the ferry leaves from the gateway of india, which is also where everyone comes to celebrate the institution of india’s constitution on this day, one of three federal holidays in india. i wasn’t sure the boats would be going at all.

the sai baba shrine near our street in mumbai

the sai baba shrine near our street in mumbai

anyway, we planned to get a bus that night to take us to goa. they have sleeper buses in india, which are like bunk beds, in a way, with curtains for privacy. if you have to go a long way in india and there are no sleeper trains available, taking the sleeper bus is not a bad way to go. sure, it’s bouncy, but it is better to be bounced lying down than sitting uncomfortably.

on the sleeper bus to goa - you can tell i was already getting sick by my squinty eye :(

on the sleeper bus to goa – you can tell i was already getting sick by my squinty eye ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

mumbai street scene from the bus window

mumbai street scene from the bus window

we figured out our tickets and had lunch before walking down the west side of colaba to nariman point, which is along the coast and juts out some ways into the water. the walkway was full of indians and foreigners, and the “thumb” of colaba’s hand or mitt shape was across the inlet, looking very built up, indeed, and rather smoggy, unfortunately.

nariman point looking toward mumbai's "thumb"

nariman point looking toward mumbai’s “thumb”

of course, even with all the beauty and festivity of a holiday, there are the street dogs with terrible afflictions and the children leading monkeys on leashes and asking for money. little boys called ganesh “uncle” and one group took my picture – myself a passing tourist attraction, i suppose. fair enough. we walked from there over to the gateway, where we managed to inadvertently dodge security and go in the exit. we got close to the arch (i’ll have to upload the pictures later, as i left my camera at our house for the moment) and then made a run for it, the crowd being overwhelming! we walked back to the hotel in time for a shower and change, then packed up our things to catch the bus. we hopped into a yellow and black taxi and pulled out of the neighborhood in time to see a local shrine, up for the holiday, in full swings with drums and a crowd blocking the intersection there. we went the other direction and found our bus before its late afternoon departure. the weather here is very warm, but cools off considerably at night and you want something covering you.

the moon was full and it was beautiful to see as we made stops for dinner and tea along the way. it bathed the countryside around our traveling vehicle in blueish-white light and made for a bright ride. dinner was dal and rice along the way at a little roadside stall where everyone sits outside and service is very fast, since they cater to bus travelers. the dal tasted spicy and more south indian than north. i continued my habit of drinking the water, if it looks ok to me and the source seems trustworthy. and of course only eating vegetarian: so far so good!

we got to mapusa (pronounced without saying the “u”) and took a bus from there to anjuna, where we will go to ganesh’s friend’s wedding in a few days. after some hot ginger tea (because the air in mumbai combined with the bus travel made me start feeling a cold coming on) we took a taxi to the guest house and – eventually – found it.

ganesh’s sister, usha, recently found a new house, and we picked her up to take some of her things with us to the house, along with our bags, of course. then she and ganesh went to run errands and rent scooters and i took some time to read and enjoy the sun by her new house. her friend robert made us dal for lunch and it was just what i needed after the long day and night of travels. his house here is idyllic: red columns facing a path which leads out of the grounds and straight toward a gigantic banyan tree which grows nearby. a small dog with a curly tail patrols the house and grounds, which contain other houses and a deep well just behind the house. ganesh went to visit a friend and i rested up for that evening, when there was to be a party.

goa is one of the states of india. nearly each state has its own language or dialect and different history as well. goa was once controlled by the portuguese for a long period, leading to heavy christian/catholic/portuguese influence in the area and a language that is a mixture of portuguese and the indigenous language. it is on the eastern coast of the country, the broadside to be landed by their ships rounding africa and coming north through the indian ocean. since the 80’s goa has increased in popularity, especially among the trance dancing fire spinning set, and people come here from all over the world during the season to party, usually with the aid of hallucinogens. everyone is on a scooter, as the area is full of long winding roads to get from one place to another. usha is involved with throwing parties here and it was a birthday party as well as a full moon part that night – our first full night in goa.

though i was in goa once before, with my sister erika in 2007, we came here out of the season, in late march or early april. since it was just the two of us, we stayed near the beach and rented a scooter, but didn’t take any part in partying. especially not since she ordered fish from a local restaurant which led to her feeling ill all one night. i was fine, though, and went out to eat dinner alone. i followed my ears to a place with live music and sat alone, eatingย  curry. i decided that if the band played “summertime,” i’d go up and sing a verse or two with them. like clockwork, the last song some and they announced that it would be “summertime.” after i sang with them, the guitarist told me that most of them were playing at a night bazaar that evening and i could come sing with them if i wanted. all very cool, but unlike the party last night.

ganesh and me on the scooter heading out

ganesh and me on the scooter heading out

usha and i got ready and she put on a kind of disguise – a wig of long hair over her short cut. i decided to to try my vibram five finger shoes for the night of dancing, since the party was to go on all night long with music. we took scooters and zoomed through the unfamiliar spaghetti roads on scooters and stopped in the town to have coffee before going farther into a secluded club called westend.

IMG_1686

usha looking sassy, yet peaceful

coffee bar before going to the club - one giant chillum fest

coffee bar before going to the club – one giant chillum fest

there were two areas with dance music – one more intense and the other more relaxed. the entire club was open air, with just some light projected on screens and the full moon shining above. people were everywhere, dancing, smoking, drinking, tripping. i had been worried that i would feel tired, but with my barefoot shoes and the perfect weather, it was easy to just lose myself in the music and movement and the joy of being with my good friends again. we took some time off to just appreciated the trees everywhere, harmoniously growing in the club space, covered in the moonight. i think of my sister erika when i look at the moon – especially when it is full, and i also couldn’t help but think she would have liked this party and this music.

we went back to dancing and the music was vibrating us and moving us with it, like cells in one giant pulsing organism. we were with usha’s friends, including robert. a friend of his joined and the two of them instantly began playing a very funny, almost slapstick kind of game with each other. perhaps his friend was mute, though he was so expressive, it is hard to say. an unusual man, his friend is indian but with bleached longish hair and what seemed to be blue eyes – real, clear blue rather than colored contacts, though he looked south indian and blue eyes are very rare there. robert is a yugoslavian by birth, inclined to smile a big excited smile, and even more inclined to do so when goofing off with his friend. my shoes were so comfortable and envied by many onlookers.

shoeses

shoeses

we danced until the sun came up around us and then danced some more. finally, we decided to leave to prepare for the arrival of jacqueline, usha and ganesh’s mother. we stopped on the road for some of the rich chai india is famous for and watched the sun rise orange above the palm trees. then we went back to the house and had coffee and enjoyed the morning until she arrived.

the morning after

the morning after

usha smiling with chai

usha smiling with chai

sunrise

sunrise

it has been beautiful day after a wonderful night with people i love. such beautiful nature makes a party so much more pleasurable and it is nice to have good air to breather, even if i have started to feel more sick. i’ll just need to rest over the coming days to get my strength back. jacqueline came in the morning and we caught up and had more coffee – it comes from her farm in kodaikanal, in the south – near where i lived with her six years ago.

she is going to travel in the south after this visit to goa and i think i will continue with her to varkala, a city in kerala where our old swami from yoga teacher training lives now and has his own ashram. it is the place i went after training finished, where i spent time relaxing and writing and playing music – a very peaceful beach and cliff with shops and restaurants lining it. jacqueline says it is much more full of shops and restaurants than it once was.

i am excited to go there again and excited to see her once more. the next few days here will be beautiful, culminating with a wedding.

well, all for now and will add pictures in later.

love and miss,

kira

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mumbai arrival

i arrived in mumbai early this morning and the smell of burning was less unpleasant than it sounds. in fact, there was something familiar about it. the young man who’d been sitting next to me throughout the flight, a native of mumbai who has been living in london for several years, offered to give me a ride to colaba (downtown mumbai) and my hotel, so we got our bags together in the traditional indian airport mayhem of queues and luggage and so many people. after a few minutes, we tracked down lilat’s brother and i was reminded that they drive on the opposite side of the road here. and also take traffic signals as a recommendation rather than a hard and fast rule.

many of the buildings as we drove into colaba were lit up with bright strings of christmas lights in many colors. lalit told me this was for indian republic day, which is tomorrow. i have somewhat of a knack for arriving and departing on holidays – i was in morocco just in time for ramadan, and the last time i left india, it was on august 16th – the morning after independence day. the lights were magical on domes and even haphazardly on little private balconies.

we made it to my hotel around 2 am and they dropped me off with hugs and best wishes. perhaps i’ll see lalit again while he is visiting mumbai. i had been awake since wednesday morning (aside from a few winks on the flight to london) and now it was early friday morning.

i finally fell asleep and woke up this morning for breakfast and to start my day. however, i decided a quick nap was in order, and ended up sleeping till nearly 6! oops! i got up and wandered around the area, realizing i wish i’d purchased kitty food from the states before i left, as they don’t seem to sell it here and i would like to feed little strays as i go, in memory of my sissy, who was, as we called her on our trip to brazil, the mother theresa of cats.

ganesh comes into the city tonight – my indian brother whom i haven’t seen in almost 4 years! i am excited to see him and excited for the next step in the journey: goa! ganesh has a childhood friend who is getting married and we will hopefully get a sleeper bus there for tomorrow night.

no pics yet, since i slept the daylight away, but tonight i’m planning to go to leopold cafe and see if the place is still hopping.

love and miss,

kira

away we go (part deux)

my alter ego, kira lyra, when i played at sullivan hall in nyc

it was in the 30’s when i got to the city on wednesday afternoon. i was making great time – and jet blue had let me bring my beautiful and precious little guitar as carryon – despite having rules to the contrary. hooray! i got my checked bag, packed with puffy coat and leggings and nearly anything long-sleeved i could produce after 5 months of mostly summer-climates. and i just made it to a cab without losing my arm. gray gray day, drizzly contrast to the sarasota brilliance of blue and white and green.

the taxi ride was long, traffic at 2 pm! i got to my old haunts in west 4th and left my things at the music inn for a moment as went to collect the key from the laundry down the street. the owner and the delivery man are almost always there, and always remember me, though i haven’t lived on this street since 2010! i went back to the music inn, where the chill, white-bearded owner was admiring my guitar, trying to guess her stats ๐Ÿ™‚ oh how i love her! i had to take my bags up the 6 flights to nora’s apartment – once upon a time, mine as well. i hadn’t gone two floors when a food delivery man offered very kindly to carry my bag up. man, nyc, pulling out all the stops.

the music inn man and i chatted a bit about india and life and obscure bits of history before i bid him adieu and headed up again to the 6th floor.

my show was at 7:30 that night, so nora and i had some wine before heading over to sullivan hall, conveniently located just a few blocks away on sullivan st, of course! i can’t help but be reminded of the last show i played before i left the city in july. it had been such a perfect night in so many ways.

now it is way colder and different sort of night altogether, though very fun indeed, in its own way. wonderful friends and family came out and the bands i played with were friendly and genuine. the venue was new to me, but large and with a nice pa. the show was great – you can see some unedited videos of it here. (thanks nora ๐Ÿ™‚ i had so much fun seeing my peeps – including my former boss and current friend, craig dykers.

afterward a group of us got coffee and light nibbles at caffe reggio, one of the old guard of coffee shops in the village, where alexis and evangeline and i had been in august when we decided we would all go to burning man together.

the next day, i had to hit the ground running to fill out my visa application for india, including taking passport size photos and getting a money order.i saw jesse eisenberg of the social network and zombieland on the street. now if only andy samberg would walk my way . . . (what is it about funny jewish men?) sigh.

i got all my paperwork properly submitted, after two trips up to 53rd st and met friends from my old company out for drinks before nora and i went to see alexis perform with her improv troupe at the p.i.t. what fun!

we got yummy indian food after and walked back to the west village in a food-fog. mmm. delicious.

here’s hoping i’m on track for india – leaving wednesday! in the meantime, we’re going to the cloisters today and i’ll have several days to see friends in the city before my departure.

love and miss,

kira

and away we go!

i am writing this post from the airport in sarasota, where it is a beautiful day outside, though i am dressed in jeans and long sleeves with a sweater and jacket at the ready. i am heading north!

back to the city i left for the last time in august. it is almost five months to the day since i was at the airport in paris getting ready to return to this continent, to new york – at least for the weekend. so much has happened since then: going to burning man, yosemite, the grand canyon, pueblos, memorials for my sister, visiting friends all over, going hang gliding, even bathing in the fountain of youth. i’ve watched the seasons change around me, but i must say that most of my changes have been internal ones. a lot of thinking and time alone, time with nature, time removed from the schedule of 9-6 and time reclaiming my brain for my own purposes.

the last two months have been a heavenly respite from my constant motion. it is true, i am tired of having no place to call home, even though sarasota feels very like home to me. it feels like i’ve been here more than two months – thinking back to my arrival in november, it seems like eons ago – i’ve gotten to spend time with my niece and nephew, my sister, my mother, my father, my grandmother, a couple of aunts, an uncle, and several cousins. i’ve reconnected with old friends and had fun in this quiet little town, recording music in my happy little studio, writing songs, working diligently and joyfully at elysian fields. it is a good equalizing place, helping me get back to the place of equilibrium i try to inhabit at all times, but which has been hard to maintain with the roller coaster life i have been leading since september 2011.

love and miss! boarding!

kira

 

where she’ll stop, no one knows!

warm mineral springs - nothing like a visit to the fountain of youth to prepare one for journeying!

warm mineral springs – nothing like a visit to the fountain of youth to prepare one for journeying!

the weather down here has been unseasonably warm lately – the last couple of days have been in the 80s! it makes my impending travels seem all the more difficult to believe. am i really going back to india? apparently!

last night lara and i had our annual dinner at her house – a chance to drink wine in honor of my sister and make tons of food and watch a movie, just like we would always do with erika when she was here.

this time we drank some bottles from erika’s most extensive wine collection – one of which a vintage from when i was only 9 years old! we made a bunch of roasted broccoli and little potatoes and trader joes delicacies and watched the best exotic marigold hotel. of course, i am attracted to movies about india, but all the more so since my grandmother (who doesn’t do this sort of thing) went to see it 3 times in the theater!

before the movie i read lara’s tarot cards and was delighted to see some really positive cards in her future. so many people i know, myself included, are going through times of massive adjustment and change right now, and she is one of them. it is comforting to see that, while my future remains obscure, some people are starting to come out the other side of this fog.

it is my last week in sarasota, at least this time around, and of course it is filled with a certain amount of anxiety, though i try not to let it take me over. i’ve been dreaming strange dreams and channeling a mixture of wild hopes and sudden discouragements. i suppose it is a good time to get back to india.

the last time i made this journey was six years ago, timing strangely in line with the festival that is one of my main reasons for wanting to go again: the kumbh mela. this year happens to be the maha kumbh mela, which is apparently only something that happens every 144 years – after 12 kumbh melas comes the mother of the melas.

i don’t remember knowing of the festival or really considering going. there are risks involved, not least of which included being trampled in a stampede among the tens of millions of people who will be there to take part in the festival. however, i realized just now that i was, in fact, rather close to the action of the last kumbh, the ardha kumbh mela, since i had headed north from my home in kodaikanal in march to meet up with my sister in delhi. usually, the festival lasts through february. i’ve even been to the city in which it will be held this year, the location of the confluence of the ganges river and the yamuna river. apparently (or rather, invisibly) there is a third river, of the ethereal variety, that also joins with the two earthly rivers at the same spot, but is invisible to the naked eye, called the saraswati.

the only other time i was in this place, allahabad (yes, that allah) was when i just got back from nepal to india and had very recently realized my backpack was stolen from the bus in kathmandu. my memories of allahabad are of a very dusty area of town, outside of the city proper, where my traveling companion and i were changing from the bus to the train to go back to delhi. my load was very light, since i only had a small bag and my guitar. even my body was light, since i had caught a bad case of amoebic dysentery in kathmandu and dropped all the pounds i’d acquired from eating rich indian food every day for months ๐Ÿ™‚

this time around, i will start light – i do hope to bring a guitar, but i’ll have to buy a new on in new york or india, since my little darling, stella, is coming apart at the seams – a combination of bad glue, old age, and too many different climates over the years.

wrapping up my sarasota days and planning on a trip to new york, complete with a show at sullivan hall the day i arrive, planning a subsequent trip to india, and potentially a trip to egypt on the way back to this continent – has my head spinning with places, names, dates, possibilities, responsibilities, dollars, currency exchanges, visas, you name it!

all i can do is have faith that it will all be alright in the end – and if it isn’t alright, it isn’t the end! (best exotic marigold hotel was a really nice movie, btw – if you want to see what india is like without going, it is a good place to start!)

love and miss,

kira