17-21 of Subhuti’s Pune Diaries
These five excerpts were written in January 2014.
Read previous sections of The Pune Diaries
Pune Diary 17: Saturday Night Market
Goa break. I have made a clear decision not to go to the Saturday Night Market. This gives me a strange feeling as I walk down to the beach, because I intuitively know that I’m going to meet people who will be going to the market and this will prove irresistible.
Sure enough, I run into two friends.
“Going to the market?” I inquire.
They nod. “Yes… coming?”
I yield to the magnetic pull the market exerts all along the Goa coast and we arrange to meet outside Lawande Supermarket, where we argue with local taxi drivers and end up paying 900 rupees for the trip.
The drive to Arpora is about 15 minutes, but, unbelievably, our local driver goes right past the market entrance as if he’s heading for Arambol, so we have to shout “Stop, baba!”
My god! Can you believe it? I thought every taxi in India knew how to get to this place, it’s so popular.
For me, it’s essential to get to the market early, around 6:00 pm, when there are no lines of cars waiting to get in. Later, it’s not an uncommon sight to see taxis backed up for one or two kilometres and sometimes impatient passengers get out and walk the final stretch.
At this early hour, stall holders are still arranging their wares: brightly coloured dresses, scarves, shawls, quilts, saris, leather pants, rings, bangles, necklaces, gold and silver jewellery, chillums, psychedelic art, incense, sandals, scented teas, pirated movies and music….
I’m not really in the mood for shopping, so I enjoy watching the western women who come here to sell. They have a fashionable uniform of cool: lots of bare, sun-darkened skin, usually decorated with tattoos and skin piercings… piled-up rasta hairdos… black tank tops, tight black mini-shorts and ripped tights… in short, the ultimate hip Goa chick… some with slightly grey auras indicating regular use of intoxicating substances.
An Italian friend of mine, Letizia, is more conservatively attired and selling her rune decks, so I swap a copy of my new novel for a psychic reading. She says my book will be a success and a revolution is on the way financially. Hmm, does this mean I’ll have money, or just learn to enjoy life without money? The cards don’t say.
Another friend, also Italian, is Akal, who lives in Candolim and sells the most beautiful range of soft, cotton shawls I’ve ever seen. Her sense of colour combinations, mostly in pastel, is awesome.
After a slow cruise around the stalls, I meet another Italian – seems like it’s in the stars tonight – but he’s male and, like me, quickly tires of shopping. This is Krishna, an artist who, strictly speaking is Swiss Italian, and we have known each other for decades.
Krishna and I head for the market’s food zone, where stallholders offer you an impressive variety of snacks and meals, ranging from pizza to pies, from chicken to cheesecake. We feast on momos, Kingfisher beer and fruit-filled crepes.
Live music is a feature of the Saturday Night Market and the opening act tonight in the central, open-air plaza features a local sitar and table player who are pretty good. Soon, however, they are replaced by an ancient American hippie who belts out the blues on his guitar. It’s 7:30 pm and I’m done.
Struggling against the surge of people flooding in the gates, I run into Aviram, a German friend, and we share a very comfortable taxi back to Candolim, smiling with compassion as we zoom past the long line of cars crawling towards the market.
Soon, I’m on the beach, in Pete’s Shack, enjoying the peace and quiet, sipping a ginger-lemon tea and listening to the ocean. Clearly, this is the best bargain I’ve found all evening.
Pune Diary 18: At Dawn with the Beach Dogs
Goa break. The crows are the first to wake. Sometime around 6:15 am they start cawing sleepily to each other through the trees and coconut palms. I’m also awake and soon slide out of my mosquito net, splash cold water on my face and head out the door, because dawn and sunrise is my favourite time of day.
The way to the beach is lit by a fading moon, hanging low over the sea and sending a silver pathway back to the beach in front of me. Behind me, the eastern sky is slowly getting lighter.
The Nepali boys who run the shack are still sleeping on the sunbeds, their heads and bodies entirely covered with shawls and blankets. But I’m not the first awake person on the beach. The early joggers are already running along the shoreline and these are mostly local Goans, who carry sticks to ward off the beach dogs.
To be fair, the dogs don’t usually harass people and especially not at this hour, which is too early for them. When they do wake up, they’re mostly busy checking out other dogs, or chasing the red Lifeguard jeeps that patrol the shoreline.
The first Westerners appear around 7:00 am: a group of hikers meet on the beach and shake hands in greeting, then stride off towards Baga, probably heading for Anjuna.
At 7:15, it’s as if someone switches on an electric light: the clouds over the sea are suddenly lit up in pink and orange. The sun is almost up and now it gets rapidly lighter. More people are walking, jogging. The neighbourhood dogs are up and the ones who know me come over for a morning pat, wagging their tails in friendly greeting.
An elderly man practices Zen archery near Oceanic beach cafe, shooting arrows at a target in the sand, while a Russian spiritual teacher – dressed, of course, all in white – sits with her disciples in a small circle between Oceanic and Martha’s.
There are sannyasin territories here: Italians congregate at Oceanic and Martha’s in two separate tribes, Germans congregate at D’Mellos and the rest of us at Pete’s, where we rub shoulders with Russians and British tourists.
Now the first sunbathers are coming down the slope from the guest houses, seeking out the best sunbeds and carefully marking them as reserved with towels and shawls. Waiters from the shacks reserve the rest with towels given to them the night before by still-sleeping tourists. Soon all beds are taken and the sun hasn’t yet hit the beach.
I stroll up and down the sand, close to the sea, watching the eastern sky until a large red ball of cosmic fire peeks over the coconut palms. Even though I know some of the other walkers, we don’t stop and chat. It’s too early for conversation.
I can’t order breakfast yet. The Nepali boys are cleaning the tables, straightening the chairs, taking away the trash. I know the routine. At 8:00 am it’s okay to sit down with my laptop and use the wifi, but not to order. They’ll come and tell me when the kitchen is ready.
A paper boy arrives with The Times of India, selling for ten rupees, bringing news of the world’s madness.
Savio’s shack next door is burning rubbish, which is not allowed, but fortunately a light offshore breeze carries it away from us.
Now, one of the waiters approaches me and we both know what my order is going to be: “Banana porridge with honey, papaya slice, black tea with hot milk separate.”
The sun hits the beach and the day begins….
Pune Diary 19: Pilgrimage to Anjuna Flea Market
Goa break. It’s 7:30 am on Wednesday morning and I’m waiting on the beach for my ex-girlfriend. We have promised each other to walk all the way from Candolim to Anjuna, where, as everyone knows, on this morning, every week, the massive flea market will be welcoming us.
She’s only ten minutes late… not bad… and we set off along the shore.
We’re in luck. The tide is out and we have flat, hard sand to walk on. At high tide, it can be awkward, because you have to walk on sloping soft sand, one foot higher than the other… kinda limping all the way to Baga. Not today, thank you.
As we pass Calangute we are greeted by lots of Indian tourists, mostly men, sipping early morning cups of chai. Some are in bathers and run into the surf with loud, enthusiastic shouts of glee. Once in the water, they look a little lost, as if they don’t really know what to do – bathing is a relatively new leisure activity for most Indians.
A few Indian women stand in the surf, fully clothed, holding hands and shrieking in fear and delight as the waves hit them.
Leaving Calangute behind, we continue north along the beach and reach the Baga River about an hour after starting out. Here, in the old hippie days, we used to wade across at low tide, carrying our bags on our heads, to avoid the long trek inland to the nearest bridge. But a new bridge, just a few hundred metres inland, makes this unnecessary.
Once across the bridge, we turn left and seek out a narrow footpath that looks unpromising, a bit like someone’s private pathway. But, if I remember rightly, this tiny track will take us up the hill that separates Baga from Anjuna.
I try to recall all the twists and turns, as civilization disappears behind us and we find ourselves climbing steadily among wild cashew trees and dense foliage.
Yes! Coming over the top, we walk in open fields of brown, sunburned grass and can see the Anjuna coastline unfolding below us… blue ocean, green palms… a stunning view. We also see, packed together by the beach, the temporary roofs of the stall holders that make up the flea market.
On the other side of the hill, we find the old, red, stone steps that take us down to our first destination: the famed Anjuna German Bakery. We walk through the back entrance into the big open dining area, which is protected from the sun by a ceiling of colourful strips of cloth.
It’s already crowded, but we manage to find a nice table and order mineral water, coffee, muesli and croissants. For me, this is the best part of the trip. It’s soooo satisfying to come in here and enjoy a good breakfast after a two-hour walk.
We take our time, ordering more coffee and snacks… then it’s time to pay and head for our second destination: the big, sprawling, chaotic flea market.
As we wander between the stalls, the ear cleaners approach us and offer to take wax from our ears. Ha! That scam worked on me once, 20 years ago. They hide a little ball of brown wax in their hand, so they can show you how much they’re taking out of your ear and charge you several hundred rupees for their expert medical attention. Not today, thank you.
Even though I nearly buy several useless things, I’m not in need of anything and wait for my friend to finish her shopping. Suddenly, she realizes she’s had enough. I pat myself on the back for my patience, having said nothing until she’s the one who exclaims, “My god, I’m exhausted! Let’s get out of here… now!”
No problem, my dear. ‘Taxi!’ (We’re not going to walk back).
Pune Diary 20: Brahman Bulls Among the Sunbeds
Goa break. It’s 10:30 in the morning and I’m heading for my sunbed on the beach when I see a big Brahman bull standing under the sunshade roof, which is made of palm leaves. He’s wedged himself in between my sunbed and the one next door and his horns are long and sharply-pointed.
Like the dogs, bulls and cows are a feature of beach life. I have no idea if they belong to anyone, or if they’ve been abandoned here by farmers and owners who no longer want them.
I also have no idea what they eat, apart from the occasional newspaper, which they seem to enjoy chewing and swallowing – a least one species on this planet knows what newspapers are good for.
Anyway, the presence of these bovine beach-dwellers is tolerated by the guest house and restaurant owners, so here they are.
Other tourist and sunbathers are watching the bull, some taking photos, some ready to run. Hmm… don’t fancy lying there with him standing next to me. I pick up one end of the sunbed and shift it noisily, cramping his space while staying at a safe distance. The bull gets the message and slowly ambles away, out into the sunshine, but not far.
I lie down, keeping an eye on him. Sure enough, the sun gets too much for him and he wanders back. I flick my towel in his face, staying well away from the horns, but it’s no good. He’s in between the sunbeds again. He’s not a mean-looking fellow, but definitely has a stubborn streak in his character.
Okay, no more Mr Nice Guy! Staying on the other side of the sunbed, I lean across and give him a good punch on his rump and yes, he’s on the move again. This time I follow him, as close as I dare, herding him away from the sunbeds and across the open sand in front of the shack.
“Keep going, buddy! That’s right!” I encourage him.
“Don’t send him here!” a cry of alarm from my Swiss friend Amira, who’s been watching the whole drama from the next row of sunbeds, on the other side of the shack.
But I’m helpless, I have to keep him moving or he’ll come back, and, sure enough, he wedges himself into the shade, right next to her sunbed.
Well, he’s out of my territory, so I don’t feel the same compulsion to risk life and limb by trying to move him again. Several people gather round to take photos. No one seems in a hurry to assist poor Amira, but she knows what to do, calling out “Ram! Help!”
Ram is the senior waiter in Pete’s Shack and responds immediately, walking fast towards the bull and making grunting noises which send a clear message “Move it, buddy!” Ram’s done this a million times before and the bull knows the game is up.
He walks away from the sunbeds, behind the shack and out of sight. Mission accomplished.
“Thanks Subhuti!” says Amira, with just a trace of sarcasm in her voice. I wave cheerily and we all relax. Time to catch some rays….
Pune Diary 21: Goodbye Goa!
Slowly, slowly, I am getting ready to leave Goa. It’s beautiful to wake up in the morning, go down to the sea and stroll along the beach while the sun comes up. It’s beautiful to sit with friends in the evening and watch the sun sinking into the ocean, then go for a meal together.
These things feel good and the warm-hearted friendliness between sannyasins makes it easy to relax and enjoy a simple life. But I’ve never been a great one for lying on sunbeds all day, reading books and oiling my body.
I’ve been trying hard to get myself a tan. My face is brown and my body has acquired a kind of ‘off-white’ colour which, with my kind of skin, is as good as I can hope. But it will take many more weeks to get a real tan and this I’m not prepared to endure.
Besides, I have to face it: a hunger for meditation is creeping up on me. Some people tell me they can meditate in Goa, but it’s not something that comes naturally to me. I need the support of a silent, buddhafield atmosphere, shared by many others, to persuade myself to look in.
I remember a story from the late 80s, soon after Osho returned to Pune, having come back from his world tour. One fine day, the Chief Minister and Finance Minister of Goa showed up at the resort, offering several acres of beachfront property for about the same price as a single mansion in Koregaon Park.
They were hoping, of course, that the Osho circus would shift, lock-stock-and-barrel, to the beach, thereby attracting people and business to their state. The message went in to Osho and he replied, “Tell them ‘no’, because the energy at the beach is ‘out’ and asleep, and my work is ‘in’ and intense.”
So that’s how we missed meditating on the beach. But I can see his point. I love Goa and I love the feeling of relaxation and physical well-being that comes to me here. But I need to balance the inner and outer, so after 2-3 weeks I feel pulled to return to Pune, joining other meditators in the Evening Meeting in the Osho Auditorium.
It’s a precious space and I have no idea how much longer it will be available, or, indeed, how much longer I will be free to come to India as I please. Life is mysterious, insecure, uncertain. What seems easy today may be impossible tomorrow.
So when Friday comes around, I’ll be heading to Dabolim Airport and boarding Air India, on my way back to the place I’ve been visiting for the past 37 years. Time to spend a little more time exploring that inner space which seems so familiar and yet still unknown.
These five diaries were written in January 2014.
Read previous sections of ‘The Pune Diaries’
Anand Subhuti has been a disciple of Osho for 38 years. He first came to Pune in 1976 and has been a regular visitor to India ever since. In the 70s, he worked in Osho’s Press Office and in 1981 travelled with the mystic to Oregon, where he founded and edited The Rajneesh Times newspaper. Subhuti has written a book about his life with Osho, titled ‘My Dance with a Madman’, and recently authored a romantic novel set in Koregaon Park titled ‘The Last White Man’. Both are available on Amazon.