Back to the Future: Another ‘Winter’ in Goa

I spent the months of August until December catching up with friends and family back home in the USA. Now that the winter chill and snow have set in, it is time for a return to my unofficial winter home, South Goa, India. I will be one of the teachers at Smriti Yoga for the next few months, providing the month long training for new students to become yoga teachers. Despite a few long layovers and a lack of sleep, getting back to India was a smooth ride. But that was all about to change on the bus ride from Mumbai to Goa…

I woke from my shallow dream in a state of hyper-awareness. My heart thumping in my chest in natural response to sensed danger. The sound of squealing brakes revealing the ongoing battle between friction and momentum, two large forces when taking into account a bus filled with 40 people. The red led lights to the left side of the blank tv screen flashed 5:56 as the brakes locked up and the back of the bus started to fishtail slightly to the right hand side.

Oh shit, are we headed over the edge of a cliff? Not the first thought you want to have on the 14 hour bus ride from Mumbai to Goa, filled at one point with narrow, perilously winding mountain roads.

After a few seconds of confrontation friction gained the upper hand and the bus came to an abrupt stop. Jimmying the curtains open revealed a scene that we were fortunate to avoid. About 15 feet to our right lay an overturned eighteen wheeler sprawled in the middle of the road, pieces of its windshield shimmering in the reflection of our bus lights. All five axles exposed to the full moon, like a dog on its back waiting expectantly for a belly rub. Or rather a turtle stuck balancing on the back of its shell, exposed and vulnerable. Thirty feet down the road another truck rested on its side among its own pool of shimmering glass, encircled by its dazed passengers who fortunately appeared to have escaped unscathed.

I watched on as a procession of Indians left the bus to go assess he situation that had awoken them from fitful sleep. They added to the slowly growing mass of onlookers powerless to do anything but speculate with their neighbors, some taking the opportunity to relieve their bladders in the shadows across the road. It is never a dull moment in India, a place where surrendering to the plot of the universe is demanded amongst so many moving parts. Nothing to do but slip back into sleep and hope the rest of the journey will be without incident.

Six hours later we arrived at the bus station in Mapusa, taxi drivers swarming to me as the only non-Indian coming down the steps, offering a ride to wherever I needed to go. After nearly fifty hours of traveling and layovers, I finally arrived at Mandrem Beach to meet up with my friends Sid and Jenny, who I will be teaching alongside for some upcoming yoga retreats and 200 hour teacher trainings. The warm waters of the Arabian Sea invited me to activate muscles and joints that had become sedentary over the past two days.

It felt fantastic just to be out of a seat and on the beach, and even better to arrive just in time to celebrate Sid’s birthday. A two hour midday yoga session by the river was just what my stiff body needed, along with some food. Sesame crusted salmon amongst a bed of tangy and sweet Asian vegetables for me. A thick cut of honey and soya glazed white fish overtop a base of wasabi and tempura mashed potatoes for Sid. Half of the meal was spent with our eyes closed, shaking our heads sideways, reveling in the flavors. Afterwards we danced upon the cold sand to the steady thump of the bass, a long way removed from the chaotic streets of Mumbai, the security scans of the airport, and the frost encrusted lawns back home.

Reunited with Gen, Jenny, and Sid in the warm Goan weather.

Reunited with Gen, Jenny, and Sid in the warm Goan weather.

By the time 3am rolled around I was more than ready for bed. And I had a feeling of extreme gratitude. First off just for having arrived safely and having my health. But also for having the unique opportunity to be here on the beach, getting ready to put my efforts towards sharing something I am truly passionate about with others over the upcoming months.

I often take for granted the ability to travel, the blessing of having the means to go different places and follow my dreams. As the plane approached its landing in the Mumbai international airport, it flew overtop a large slum of densely joined, shoddily constructed one room living areas. I get to call this slice of paradise in India my home for the time being, while countless others have to call those shanty huts, underneath the constant roar of jet engines, their home for the forseeable future. In the yogic spirit we often recite the mantra, lokah somastah sukhino bhavantu, peace to all beings everywhere. I have found peace here in the rich simplicity of the jungle, hopefully all others can find peace no matter where, or in what condition, they live.