India has many memories for me, one of the most vivid is what seemed to be a totally eccentric sense of spatial awareness! To the extent that, in my favourite state, a burn on the ankle from a motorbike exhaust is known as a Goan Kiss!
Much of my travel in India was for work. Experiences in Goa, however, were driven by my engagement in the early years of Western yoga.
It may seem bizarre – to travel to India to be taught to salute the sun by someone from, say, Brighton. But western bodies need western sensibilities. Our hips don’t open the same way as most Indians, our backs are stiffer, and so on.
I was brought to memories of India earlier this week. During my shopping mission to the local Waitrose I chanced upon papaya fruit and mangoes. In Goa they used to say (with a wobble of the head) “Mangoes coming, tourists going.” The arrival of these fruits marked the start of the hot season; the beginning of the build-up to the Monsoon; the return of Westerners in time for spring at home.
But this year, many are stuck.
The travelling community in Goa is of course international, but it is dominated by visitors from Israel, Russia, mainland Europe and Britain.
Many have now been airlifted home. Not so the British writes veteran Yoga teacher Jane Sleven on her Facebook page.
“I’m on a small gated compound with pretty gardens and a pool (we’re not swimming, but we’re walking round it for exercise),” she writes. “We’re all helping each other. Many of us are friends with Goan locals.
“We feel safe, we have food, water, and we’re all healthy. I’m on several WhatsApp groups where we exchange advice, updates, support and encouragement. “
But she says that it’s not the case for many British holiday makers, who have been blissfully unaware of the growing global panic about Coronavirus and had therefore not many any plans.
Most are staying in humble guest houses without cooking facilities or fridges, so with the closure of the shops, markets and restaurants they are left very exposed.
“These people have been very ill equipped to cope with the scenario that has developed.” Says Jane, “they are short of food & other essentials and are of course very distressed.
“Humanitarian flights from Israel, Russia, Germany, the US and other countries have taken many back to their home countries.
“Not so the UK – who’ve done nothing!!”
Stranded UK nationals are firing off emails to Foreign and Commonwealth office and the offices of the politicians in the hope they may be returned home soon.
Jane, however, is happy to stay. She says at her age she would feel safer staying in India than risking long transit delays and self-quarantine on return to the UK.
“After 20 years of annual long stays in India, 12 in Goa, I feel extremely grateful and privileged to be here,” she says. “I’m missing my family and friends but I am hugely reassured to know they’re all safe & well.”
So as I sign off this blog from the global pandemic I am minded to paraphrase some lines from a Buddhist meditation. For all at home and overseas at this time: “May you be well, may you live free from fear, may you be filled with loving kindness”