Gokarna, India – A Wave of Solitude
As I sit here listening to that Windows ‘sample’ music track – The Maid with the Flaxen Hair, I try to make sense of what my first solo trip meant to me and if it meant anything at all. If I can take a trip all by myself, I can do bigger things too, perhaps I thought. I don’t know what these things are or how they came to be so important to me. The whole trip shrouds itself in mystery – the seed of a decision to revisit a place I’d been to last year, the denial of the apparent futility of this act, the strange impulse of going through with it hours before departure, the being oblivious of where the bus leaves Bangalore from, the breathless sprint of one and a half kilometres to reach panting at the bus operator’s office thinking ‘this is what happens when you go alone’ – only to be told the bus hadn’t arrived yet!
10 hours later, when I stepped onto the final, slippery stones that lead to my favourite beach, Kudle (you have to trek down to the beach from where your auto drops you), I smiled a knowing smile. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw then. It seemed like an act of personal vengeance, as if someone had entered my mind, opened a little box labelled ‘Colourful memories of Gokarna’ and thrown them into the raging sea that I had before me now. As if someone had plundered the shacks and cafes that lay so beautifully last November, overlooking the dozens of foreigners that spotted the beach. What lay before me was a naked stretch of sand that the sea repeatedly and angrily tried to clothe with waves belonging to a rather stringent moral police. Between cursing myself and trying to take in the nature’s fury, it was clear to me – I had come as a tourist once, I was returning as a traveller.
All was closed except a cafe, a cottage that couldn’t exactly close down because it was an extension of somebody’s home and that omnipresent ‘German Bakery’ that for some reason, ceased to exist for me during this trip. The important question to ask however, is – if this all bothered me? As surprised as I am to utter this, the answer to that is NO. Though the strangeness and unfamiliarity was more pronounced because I was alone and the place was deserted, I was far kinder to myself than I usually am. There were stretches when I kept joking loudly to myself as if one would talk to a dear friend, thinking ‘ I don’t remember the last time I was on a date with myself.’
Being alone on a trip is many things in one – satisfying, boring, revealing and frightening. There were times when I had epiphanies about my life and if it can matter in the larger scheme of things and there were also times when I was certain if I didn’t share it with someone then and there, the moment would be lost forever. There were times when I was giddy with a strange sort of power over my own actions and times when I felt extremely vulnerable to the vagaries of nature. So I was thinking – This incredibly beautiful sight is the reward of my own decision to take this path on the trek, treacherous though it is but one slip and who’s there to raise a cry if I go hurtling down to the waters below, anxious to swallow anything that comes its way?
There are two things I learnt about being human that day, things that make me an aspiring travel writer today and a proud, independent individual in my own country – the nature of fear and the nature of compassion. It’s amazing how far fear can spread when it often was only in our heads. It had permeated my existence so far to become an unchallenged reality. Equally amazing was the realization that we are essentially all the same, just a victim of our circumstances and thoughts. Somewhere in that realization, I broke all the limiting monologues that people around me had ever tried to bind me in and breathed – I was finally free to fly, I said, over the roar of the waves.
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