‘Bharat Mata’: Mother India feeds the soul…
These courageous girls of Manapad carry water from the local well to their homes every morning and afternoon…what happens to our appreciation and connection to our water source when it flows endlessly out of a tap everyday?
It didn’t seem real until the Indian official stamped my passport and waved me toward baggage claim at the Trivandrum airport in Southern India at three in the morning. The speed of air travel still confounds my sailor’s mind…Instead of watching lights slowly appear on a dark horizon, I found myself huddled around a whirling belt of boxes and bags elbow to elbow with Indian air commuters returning from Dubai. After long flights on multiple airlines, my travel companion since Brisbane–surfing’s extraordinary ecofeminist, Lauren Hill (Check out her fantastic blog/Zine: The Sea Kin), and I were relieved to find our belongings amidst the chaos and head for the exit.
The sliding doors opened to reveal a sea of families lined upon a railing awaiting home-comers. The fluorescent airport lights eerily illuminated the throng against the black of night. Whites around dark eyes, teeth exposed between open lips, the flash off women’s shiny fabrics, ashen blessings on foreheads, and dazzling gold jewellery all blinked at us like navigational beacons on a horizon of humans. India. We had arrived!?! The air was a thick mix of humidity, exhaust, sweat, and spice, and I sliced through it with the vertical load of my Prolite Rhino Series 6′ 4″ boardbag on the airport trolley…
Where the crowd thinned we found, Uddi, our driver, holding an 8 by 11″ paper scrawled with “Lauren/Liz”. He bobbled his head from left to right and we took that as a sign to follow him. We strapped the boards atop the classic Ambassador taxi and hopped in.
The old headlights spat weak light on the right side of the oddly busy two-lane highway. Behind the wheel, Uddi was possessed–honking excessively and using the middle of the road like we were in a game of PacMan. We passed and dodged oncoming traffic in a series of what each felt like near-death incidents. My body stiffened. I clenched the velour cover on the backseat, fixing my eyes on the road from between the headrests, as if it might help us avoid collision. Twenty minutes into the ride, the fatigue of the 30 straight hours of planes and airports hit me. “Relax,” I told myself. “You’re not the captain now…” I closed my eyes and heard ‘Bharat Mata’, Mother India, whisper…
“Lesson One. You are not in control. You never really are for that matter…People come to India for many things. But what I give each of them are opportunities to open their minds and hearts ever wider…chances to grow from within…to loosen the stuck places…nourish their souls with the notion that everything is possible…Welcome, my Dear, and enjoy the ride…”
She’s beautiful, confident, unphased by the blazing asphalt on her bare feet…striding gracefully across the busy road. I followed closely, sensing this veteran knew what she was doing…
Despite what seems like complete chaos amongst the mix of often overloaded trucks, cars, buses, motorcycles, push carts, scooters, bicycles, farm animals, pedestrians, and whatever else you can imagine…somehow it all flows…It took a while to get used to the cacophony of blaring horns, as the rule is to honk before AND after overtaking, and whenever else the driver feels like it, really. One hand on the wheel the other on the horn!
Young boy watches over early morning harbor scene…
Spirituality knows no boundaries in India…Hindu deities displayed amongst tools in the hardware store.
Elephants are sacred, as they symbolize the Hindu god, Ganesh, Remover of Obstacles…now if he could only remove those chains!!
Angel in Manapad.
Morning duties: chai and paratha, respectively.
There comes a moment when we are called to connect to something Greater than ourselves…
Swell needs a cutie pie boat face like this!!
I AM COCONUT MAN.
Wild, strong, beautiful, bold Swami woman.
The Beyond the Surface film crew, blessed to be together…Lauren, Erik, Dave, me, Kate, Emi, Ishita, Tushar, and Crystal!
For the last 50 years, the women of Manapad have been making livelihoods, building community, and empowering themselves economically by weaving coconut leaves into sustainable arts and crafts. Go girls! Davey capturing them in action…
Emi, Lauren, Kate…catching sunrise over the lake.
A fisherman teaching me some Indian resourcefulness. We’re adding coconut leaves at short intervals along the rope to make it float!
Making films is hard work! Just ask Dave and Crystal! Ishita, Lauren, & Emi, tree pose queens.
What have we here? Morning surf check…
All smiles after a morning in the sea…
Ishita means ‘Godess of Godesses’ in Hindu. Her grandmother chose her name. Was she ever spot on! Ishita is not only India’s first female surfer, she is an inherently bold, beautiful, and fearless leader for gender equality in India today.
Tushar Pathiyan–Ishita’s partner–supports Ishita to be the greatest she can be, and epitomizes Aloha and positivity at every turn. We were so lucky to have him with us, and India is equally as lucky to have him as a leader of India’s young surf culture.
Crystal Thornburg-Homcy, the visionary and backbone behind this special project…with Emi Koch, the founder of the non-profit organization Beyond the Surface International,which was the original inspiration behind the film.
Master Yogini, Kate Baldwin, constantly inspired us with the vast breadth of her yogic wisdom, both physically and spiritually.
Lauren Lindsay Hill is surfing’s favorite eco-feminist. Smart as a whip, stoked as a grom, and lovely as butterfly. Author and founder of The Sea Kin.
Dave Homcy. He makes magic with film while always leading with his big, open heart. Chivalry is alive with Dave around!
Filming assistant, Erik Knutson, was the king of road snacks, camera tasks, and ceaseless wit. He was never intimidated by long days or food preservatives!
Between boards and camera gear, we were not exactly traveling light! My Rhino Series Prolite bag was the perfect size for my 3-board quiver.
Miraculously, a swell appeared when we least expected and we weren’t going to miss a second of it! Sunrise at the point.
My Mizu stainless steel waterbottle made thousands of miles with me and reduced lots of plastic waste!
India’s trash problem was often overwhelming…
The local catches in Varkala were frighteningly insignificant. Most fishermen I spoke with said catches had been even lower than the last few years. With fish stocks plummeting worldwide, small fishing villages like this one will be the first and hardest impacted. A contributing factor into my recent turn to eating vegan.
Yours truly, toting all my right point utensils!
It’s good to be revered…Sacred cow gazing over morning harbor scene.
There was plenty of roadside inspiration for the long bus trips…
Ganesh in the flesh.
Street art in Kochi.
Deepak was one of the people I knew I was ‘supposed to’ meet in India…
Sab Kuch Milega… ‘Everything is Possible?’…it’s a long story, but it basically comes down to me being hopelessly gullible and painfully generous with Indian shopkeepers…Luckily I had Ishita to tell me what it really meant!
After my short time in this amazing country, I am hopeful that the spirits, opportunities, and freedoms of the next generation of Indian women will continue to soar higher and higher…
A magical trip, thanks to the beautiful people of India and my extraordinary travel companions! Thank you all!
***Note to my travel companions: After my hopeless folding to those drum vendors on that last evening in Kerala, the drums were immediately seized by Australina customs officials!! :) :)
Bill O'HalloranMay 23, 2013
Nicely presented!! As always thanks for sharing, you make my fantasy life real..best, B
RickMay 24, 2013
Sounds like an amazing experience – What wonderful people! Traffic in the south sounds just as bad as it was in the north (New Dheli, Amritsar & surrounding area), but there seem to be a lot fewer major accidents than one might think. The pollution problem in India is horrifying – I remember filming in a hospital and noticing that their trash was simply thrown over the wall into the vacant lot adjacent, where it had piled up and was nearly spilling back over. There were some boys who picked through it (looking for things to keep I guess) and then burned it in piles to keep it minimized.