Cattle ruminate peacefully on the beach in between the tourists, while just beyond the girls playing volleyball a group of students is practising the graceful movements of Tai Chi, and further on a yogi is practising meditation off on his own. There is an atmosphere of peace and open-minded acceptance in this place, and music and smiles can be found everywhere. Arambol is unique.
Loekies Café on the beach road has been around for a while. This legendary venue is a magnet for the many traveling musicians that somehow find their way to Arambol, and they host an open mic stage on a regular basis. Being music lovers, we stopped in more than once, and we were not disappointed. We watched people from all over the globe go up on stage, albeit that some were far more memorable than others, and although we didn’t always understand the lyrics, it didn’t matter at all. It was great fun. Estas, the gypsy guitarist blew our minds with his skill. Others played the ukulele, tabla or sitar. Then came a marvel from Venezuela (I missed her name) on a little four-stringed “cuatro”, who performed an Ode to La Luna that made every nerve in my body tingle. Her performance seemed to channel some sublime energy current from the moon itself and filled the place with serenity and awe. As she began to sing I watched the faces of the audience turn in wonder and a hush fell over the crowd as we all sat there, mesmerized.
Getting around in Goa is easy and cheap on a scooter, and relatively safe, provided of course that you’re not afraid of India style traffic negotiation and that you have some finely tuned spidey-senses. While the back roads are idyllic and the scenery is magnificent, venture onto the highway at your own risk. We made it to Panaji and old Goa, a wonderful trip, but a moment of synchronicity came to us on our way back:
On a picturesque bridge over the river we came across a Hindu festival. Colourful flags fluttered, loud chanting could be heard coming from inside the tents and there were flowers, flowers everywhere. As we stopped to have a look we were filled with strange sensations, something noteworthy was happening, and then we looked up.
Overhead a flock of perhaps a hundred birds of prey wheeled in a spiral, catching the rising air current. It was one of those moments where the mind goes blank, you forget everything, and you just look on in wonder, savouring the experience. In a few short moments it was over. Or perhaps we had stood there rooted to the spot for longer than we realized, we weren’t sure. The air currents changed, the flock dispersed, the festival seemed to be coming to an end. By the time we got the camera set up, it was too late, but it didn’t matter.
Back on the beach we found we had arrived at THE END OF THE WORLD, but don’t worry, there was another festival underway. In India there is always a festival somewhere.
This one was in honour of the often overlooked small creatures of the world, the bugs, butterflies, worms and bees, so everyone was encouraged to make some kind of costume out of whatever could be found lying around. A procession of weird creatures moved along the beach in the afternoon.
At night the fires and candles lit up the beach, and we made our way through the crowds, discovering a strange gathering off to one side where locals were gambling, playing unknown games, laughing and celebrating. We were invited to play, but the rules were baffling, and luck wasn’t our side so we moved on.
I maintain a healthy scepticism when it comes to the huge variety of “spiritual” goods on sale in the world today. Guides and gimmicks are on offer everywhere. Though in my heart I am a mystic and a dreamer, I know that there is always going to be someone out there ready to take advantage of an easy opportunity. We all know the type, and Arambol is no exception.
Having said that, my search for the authentic “India” was not entirely without reward. In a little out-of-the-way restaurant called Kinara, I met Sadhu. At first I thought this was his name, but later I discovered my ignorance. It is not so much a name as a title for someone who is letting go of his personal identity, his ego, and striving for liberation.
sādhu (Sanskrit: साधु sādhu, “good; good man, holy man”) – there are many in India.
I spent hours in conversation with Sadhu at Kinara and gained much respect for his unassuming wisdom. He told me many stories about his life, and the Osho centre up the coast at Pune, some inspiring, others laughable. Often we were joined by the host of the place, Tekraj, from Nepal, and Jurgen, a fellow wanderer from Holland, and we became good friends and learned much.
Kinara was serving as a centre for morning meditation sessions, and over a cup of tea Sadhu and I would watch people attend the “Osho guided meditation” sessions with a totally uninspiring, purple-robed “Sanyassi” who had a permanent mean look on his face. The loud music distorted badly over the sound system, and I wondered why anyone would pay for such an experience. Sadhu reminded me – you cannot know another’s experience. It is not our place to judge what is of value to another man. Each one of us must stumble and grope in search of his own answers in his own way.
With a heavy heart we left our friends in Arambol behind, but ahead lay many more adventures. Where would be end up next?