Saturday, 17 April 2010


My holiday in India during the month of March will take several entries. If you've missed the beginning and are interested, read back. This entry is a bit long, they get shorter as I have less to discover!

I arrive on March 1st, it is dark, but an orange full moon hangs in a very black sky. Impressive. I am shown to my room, the last of three in a colonial type wooden building. Lots of crickets singing. My room is enormous, about the size of my living room and veranda combined at Quimper, about the size of the sitting room/dining room at Common Close. Panelled with plaited rattan. Good mattress. A nice rough linen duvet. At over 1000m above sea level, the nights are cool. A simple large shower room, the shower doesn’t seem to work and I can’t find any hot water. No bugs. Minimal lighting.
I go through gardens to the main building for supper. Nice tray of five little pots of vegetables, some rice, basil water, and a sweet naan for dessert. Very good, lots of cardamom but not much chili. I eat on my own, no room at the main table, too tired anyway to be sociable. Then back to my bungalow, unpacked a few essentials (can you believe that I managed to leave my face cream behind?) and bed. Three different cricket sounds in the night, and a gecko that made loud kissing noises.

My room is on the right hand side in the photo

2 March
I wake to the view from my balcony I had not seen last night. Lots of bird song. The river is 50m below, with islands of greenery and lots of rocks and pebbles that make a nice noise. Women wash their clothes, children play and bathe. Men wash their cars and the milk churns. On the island opposite is a nature reserve inhabited by tribals.

Washing the ice cream van in the river

There are fruit trees in front of my door, and basil growing on bushes! A rose outside my bedroom window! Everything is very green and there is lots of mist this morning.

Breakfast is at 8h30 and is no different to any other meal except that we get a large glass of fresh watermelon juice. Five little pots and bits and pieces. There is no mineral water. We drink water which has been boiled with basil. At breakfast I meet a lot of the people here, mostly single women, a Norwegian lady who lives in France, two Swiss, two Germans, a Finn, two Swedes, a Dutch girl, etc. We speak English. Everyone is very nice and helpful. And quiet.

After breakfast I see the doctor for over an hour. I have come here to lose weight, but he considers all my problems of weight, skin, shoulder etc are due to imbalance. So I’m not on a pure weight loss programme but PanchaKarma, which involves, unfortunately, a week of fasting ending up with a day where they give you something to vomit and clear yourself out. Sounds delicious but I have a week to get used to the idea, and what if this were the answer? The rest of the treatment is not much more mentionable. I’ll get to that later. People who are here unanimously feel better, so I’ll have to let go and do it properly.

I’m still on normal diet today, I start in earnest early tomorrow morning. The treatment includes avoiding all electronic devices (we are allowed 20mns of email a day), no direct sun, no reading scary books, no daytime sleep, no useless chatting (does he know how Western women function?), contemplating nature and brisk walks. There is also yoga in the very early morning but I prefer to take my walk then as afterwards it gets too hot for me to be out.

Lunchtime. Five more little pots, grated vegetables with spices, plain rice, cubes of something like tofu in a sauce, pretty unidenfiable most of the time, but quite good. Read a bit, slept a bit, then had my first massage treatment. Strange. You strip off completely, and two girls cover you in herbal oil (they must have used a few pints on me altogether). One anointed my hair (that won’t do any harm) and gave me a head massage, sitting in a chair, completely naked. Can’t be prudish around here! Then I climbed on a table and they poured more oil on me, sang a prayer, and massaged me both at the same time, very energetically. It took over an hour in all. Very dangerous on the table all slippery with oil.

I had a bit of tummy ache after massage, they stir things up inside you. Supper, last proper meal, good company. Saw little bats on my way back to my room, and dragon flies the size of helicopters. No mosquitoes at all, just a few bugs that like the light. At supper one person said she’d seen a cobra by the roadside during her walk. Quite large, standing erect, hood up, hunting something that wasn’t her! But she turned round and came back home. I hope I don’t meet one, I shan’t want to go out any more.
3rd March Wednesday
Up at 6h30 this morning, shower (what am I talking about, my shower doesn't work, there is only a trickle of cold water, I bucket washed the whole time I was there). Ghee treatment at 7h00. It is quite a ceremony, special and somehow holy. But I think they only do that to distract you from what they know, but you don't yet know is coming... I had to drink two or three shot glasses worth of very bitter ghee (melted butter, it's enough to put you off butter for the rest of your life), then two glasses of very hot water, then eat a few raisins (to take the taste away?). This is a three day treatment. Then I go for my first walk.

There are only three or four different directions one can walk in, one of which involves a fairly long climb. The sun is not up, or at least the mist has not burned off. I meet lots of people along the path. Some very friendly, some obviously not. We are the only "tourists" here, we are still considered a curiosity. Rice fields, egrets, birdsong all around, a red dust track, very potholed, difficult to negotiate.

It is so peaceful. It is easy to relax and do nothing, which is what I’m meant to be doing all this week.

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