The town of Mulki isn’t even on the Lonely Planet’s radar; it frazzled our taxi driver with skinny roads and turns to no end. But eventually we arrived at the peaceful "Surfing Swami" Ashram tucked deep in coconut palms, and next to a river that flows into the Arabian Sea. "We" consisted of myself, Sashwa, and our dear friends from Northern California - Alexei and Katja - finishing off their final week in India with us, chasing surf and exploring the South.
Chasing surf in India is not what one would expect. There isn't much surf culture at all here even with the heaps of ocean all around. The boys of the ashram are the sole exception, having formed a sort of team of old and young surfers, both local and from the states - devout devotees of Krishna. The waves they have all to themselves.
Congruent with how it is here in India, where everyone wakes to their morning puja, and Muslim chants blare through waking streets at 5AM, the surfing ashram is no exception. Though it seems play, i.e. surfing, is part of their devotion too. We joined them for their evening kirtan chanting, singing prayers and praise in front of an alter erected in thanks to Krishna. This alter is also where the boys brought our food to receive blessing before we ate our evening meals. Blessed food does taste better!
I got up on the surf board. This of course was the highlight of my own adventure as I want to be able to surf SO BAD. But so was singing with the ashram boys too. Prayer is everywhere here, in the streets, in pujas on the beach, on the faces of woman who have already done their morning offerings and started their busy day of selling fruit or caring for their families. It is maybe the most striking thing to me so far - almost like ritual is so familiar to the people of India that touching their head to the ground in front of Ganesh is as mindless and common as opening a door.
Photos by Sashwa; Words by Ann; Experienced by Both
It's hot to be a woman here in Chennai, India, literally, as I peruse the rather dodgy looking cafes wrapped in all my layers and scarves. Unlike most countries I've visited where the warning signs in Lonely Planet read "dress modestly" but aren't adhered to by the international tourist - here in India they are. I have yet to see the bare shoulders or legs of a woman anywhere, meanwhile it's humid and 80+ degrees.
The cafes though dirty, strangely lit, and often lacking the "Western fork", have by far the best Indian food I've ever eaten. The spices are decadent and every meal is an Indian meal made of spice, rice, and naan.
Chennai doesn't seem the place to go shopping, nightlife is scarce, the buildings aren't charming, and many of the shops have been closed our entire 3 days here, due to a festival happening in Southern Tamil Nadu. However, the streets are full of people, both wonderfully friendly and harassing, both well-to-do and extremely poor - for example this beautiful little girl we found with her family on the side of the street. She is adorable, yes? Behind her is a family and two stray dogs sleeping amongst the screaming horns, midday, with their faces flat down on pavement that even the barefoot warriors wouldn't lay a naked foot upon. In the photo below is her mother we assume, and her pet monkey.