In our second week here, Gerard has started writing a story, an idea he’s had for years. This place is tailor-made for such a project. There’s not a lot to do other than the beach.
And for Gerard, a little beach goes a long way! Our room is quite spacious with a table to work at. He applies the same focus to his writing as he does to his painting. In the afternoon, with jazz playing through the portable external speaker of the laptop, it’s as if he’s replaced his studio in the basement back home with our room here. When I’m not playing the role of editor, I walk the beach looking for interesting shells, sometimes with our adopted dog, Blackie.
Sitting on the verandah in the cool of the early morning we discuss the writing over our large mugs of chai. This is our favorite time of the day. Eventually, we stop talking long enough to make our breakfast: fruit, curd and chia seed.
Gerard’s just getting over a cold and worried it was going to settle into one of his epic coughs. I on the other hand, suddenly and inexplicably woke up deaf in one ear the day we arrived here on the train. When I got down, the platform was spongy and my balance unsteady. At first, sensitive to music or any loud sound, my ear settled in to just being deaf. Our kindly landlord offered to go to the market with us to see a homeopathic doctor and do some shopping as well.
He is the only doctor in the market (which in all practical sense is the town) meaning the locals have no choice but to rely on homeopathy. His office is up a flight of rickety wooden stairs. In a dark room, an elderly gentleman sits at a large desk covered with small vials and papers. First, he treats Gerard, asking him a lot of unrelated questions to his cough, such as, “Why did you become a vegetarian?” Some of you may know the story of Gerard at sixteen, at Easter, looking in the fridge at leftover turkey and seeing a dead bird, rather than something to eat. The doctor and Martin both listen attentively, neither of them is pure veg but the doctor responds, “OK, now I understand.” He turns around and takes a small vial of pellets from the cupboard behind him, adds a few drops and hands them to Gerard. Then he turns to me. He asks what kind of work I did, looks at my tongue, and says, “Don’t worry, the deafness is not permanent, just some inflammation.” We wonder how he can be so sure. He doesn’t look in my ear and I don’t think he has the instrument to do it anyway. He prescribes me my own vial of pellets. A week later, I’m still deaf. But Gerard’s cough has gone. To his credit, this doctor is the first to treat his cough successfully after all our years in India.
A young Russian couple has joined us at the guesthouse. They’re not the vodka drinking rowdy Russians. In our experience, there’s two types and they fall into the more mellow, yoga group.
He’s Armenian, living in Moscow and making films, now one set in India. She organizes photo shoots and used to work for Playboy Magazine in Moscow before it folded three years ago. She admits she cried when Hefner died! They both think Putin is good to control the thugs still in the Kremlin. But they have reservation about his foreign policy. They spend their days on the beach and via a Royal Enfield, evenings in northern Goa. So we don’t see much of them. But on their last day, Gerard suggested we have lunch together at our one and only local restaurant. Always curious to hear the Russian perspective we talk for three hours over a special feast supplied by our cook.
We all end up agreeing we can’t believe what we hear on the news and the government is hoodwinking us on both sides of the boundary. After talking to them, it’s the second time we’ve heard that the Russian government controls the weather. It’s habitually rainy and grey but the sun always shines brightly for the May Day parade.
Gerard doesn’t care much for celebrating his birthday so it’s not mentioned. But today, I let it slip out at lunch to Bonnie the cook, who said, “Wonderful, I’ll make carrot halvah.” When we arrived for dinner, there was not only halvah but a big chocolate cake also. Bonnie told Gerard, “You’re like my father, I do the same for his birthday.” His helper, Reagan, photographed as we sang Happy Birthday, followed with another version asking for God’s blessing, and Gerard blew out the candles. It was all very sweet.
Leaving at 7 am the next morning, Bonnie insisted on getting up early and making us chai and stuffed parathas for the two-hour train journey to Goa. While we waited for the hired rickshaw, Martin, Bonnie, and Reagan all chatted with us and then waved goodbye. Among the many send-offs we’ve had in India, this was one of the best.