FROM GOA TO KARNATAK: SEE INDIA WITH OPEN EYES
Last winter we went to warm our bodies in a popular direction – to India, Goa. A raspy charter flight with drunken fellow citizens, trashy food and seven-hour tired flight attendants – and here we are in a spicy Indian morning with slow border guards, noisy taxi drivers and insane road traffic.
We will not talk about Goa for a long time. Goa is Goa: parties, long white and yellow beaches, lobsters in cafes, Russian-speaking waiters, souvenir shops and tourist buses. We also went under the permit – so in all respects it was cheaper. As a result – we have a friend, a hotel guide. For the sake of maintaining fine Hindu harmony, we bought from him two of the most popular excursions – “Entire Goa” (waterfalls, monkeys, spice plantation, Catholic churches, etc.) and “Sea fishing”, where we were offered to fish on fishing line to a plastic bottle. For more we did not dare. Tourists on the buses on excursions for some reason speak exclusively about who has the hotel cooler and what they give for breakfast, swear, complain, take offense, compare Goa with Thailand, Turkey and Cyprus. Therefore, we planned a third outing from our village. In the neighboring state of Karnataka.
It was a long way to go there – about 3-4 hours on the way, so driving on bikes is not an option. On the eve we found a taxi driver – a young boy named Biku, who promised to pick us up at 5 am in his luxury air-conditioned car. At 5 am, he didn’t pick us up. But his friend drove in, said – Biku is sleeping, so sit down with me. We sat down and moved on.
Karnataka is a state located south of Goa, bordered by Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra and Andra Pradesh. It is much poorer than Goa, it seems – it is generally the poorest in India, and this is felt immediately when crossing the state border. People look different, otherwise dressed, houses are completely different, no Portuguese architecture to you, small dirty square houses along the road, covered with palm leaves or reeds.
We wanted to see Gokarna and Murudeshvar, who are said to be the real India closest to Goa. The taxi driver rushed us through the mountains and meadows, we saw the sun rise, we saw rice fields and people working for them, we saw women in saris slowly walking along the road with huge weights on their heads. From Karnataka, people come to Goa to earn money, and here, in their home state, they get about 10 rupees a day – that’s about five rubles for our money. You can imagine how much these strong women earn, dragging various construction debris on themselves.
In the fishing village of Murudeshvar we were in the early morning. Tourists and pilgrims come here to see with their own eyes the largest statue of Shiva in the world and the highest gopura in the world (this is a gate tower in the temple enclosure of Hindu temples). We got out of the car and went to explore the area. Tourist buses to Shiva have not arrived yet – it was too early, and we were the only white people in the district. Naturally, we were surrounded by inquisitive Indians. In the meantime, answering their questions, who we are and where we are from, we climbed the steps to the statue, which is towering on a hill above the ocean. Somewhere in the middle of the way, a monk on duty poked us with a wand and made us take off our shoes. Then we walked barefoot. Barefoot went inside the statue, barefoot climbed to the top floor of the gopuram, barefoot walked barefoot and just sleeping. This is a serious rule, and we, the guests, were ready to observe it.
And then we had breakfast in a so-called restaurant by the sea. It sounds beautiful, but in fact the restaurant turned out to be a messy canteen with pretty waiters who don’t know what to do, and in order for everyone to be well, they seat people as closely as possible. So at our table in the middle of breakfast was a company of loud Indian men, who with endless interest looked at us and how we eat. I was terribly uncomfortable. But India is India, nothing can be done – here you, the white-faced tourist, will be the most interesting object of study in the world.
From Murudeshvara we left with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it is striking the scale of the temple and the statues of Shiva, richly towering over poor villages. On the other hand, it seems that this Shiva museum inside the statue was made by a child, playing with forms and ways to decorate the fruit of his labor. Everything seems to be a fake, an incompetent remake, but these comments do not pretend to objectivity – the statue was built only in 2002, naturally – there is nothing to say about the spirit of the times and eras.
Then we went to Gokarna, a small town, but an important center of Hindu pilgrimage. That’s where we captured the spirit. But not from delight, but from enlightenment: after all, most of the people of the world live this way – in poverty, poor sanitation and disease. On the sand-covered streets of Gokarna, we saw old men and children lying there, who were most likely dying.