Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Surf India

Real India / Tourist India

Life here in our jungle fringed pink house between Varkala town and Varkala beach drifts gently by and feels more like home as each day passes. Our location between real India (town) and tourist India (beach) affords us the best of both worlds. Last night we ate Butterfish Tikka and Tibetan Momos whilst I watched Arsenal play Villa in a clifftop restaurant yet the evening before we nipped into town on the scooter and ate delicious Masala Dosas and Vegetable Subji for 30p in a locals joint. The large three day Hindu festival being assembled in town promises to be a riot of noise, colour and spectacular ritual yet we’ve slipped easily into the evening ritual of meeting friends at the beach as the sun heads for the horizon for a swim as the scorching heat subsides and the reddening sun seeps into the sea, it’s pigment bleeding into the sky.

Our two nearest neighbours maintain the homogeneous polarity. Below us live our landlords, the most wonderfully warm and welcoming local family. We share little common language yet through gestures, smiles, head waggles and regular gifts of coconuts, eggs and bananas we are made to feel welcome and completely at ease here. Behind us, across cobra and funnel-web infested scrubland and shouting distance from our terrace, is a household of assorted europeans who have been equally welcoming and accommodating helping us with the myriad idiosyncrasies of Indian living and extending invites to us whenever they ‘make party on the roof!’. With each friendship, Sadji at the local shop, Umesh and his son Abhi at the Juice Shack, Zoe and her twin boys Jem & Jelly, we feel less like holiday-makers and more like residents which was always our intention before setting off on this expedition. We would much rather get a taste of real-life in a handful of places across the globe than have ticked-off a hundred ‘sights’ before our return.

Mornings begin early with a solitary surf session in the silky smooth Arabian sea. I’ve picked the smallest surf season (December/January) to be here, but there’s been waves every day ranging from waist to head high and looking south from Varkala cliff the mass of sand-banks and small coves creates break after break — almost reminiscent of the view south down the western Bukkit peninsular — producing small almond-eyed curls up to proper lip-pitching barrels depending on swell size and direction. These super-fast lefts are exposing my backhand weakness as I struggle to race ahead of the crashing lip. When a bank produces a rare right the dissonant capability of my left and right side becomes jarringly obvious as I have the speed, balance and technique to make a quick bottom turn and to snake, for speed, up and down the sinuous mirrored walls before pitching back off the brink as it finally breaks down in knee deep water. As our next destination is Indonesia, the land of lefts, the next few weeks practice in the forgiving sand-bottomed waves of India will I’m sure pay dividends as the sand becomes knife-edged coral and the power, size and speed of the waves intensifies.

We breakfast on porridge laced with coconut shavings, bananas and doused in wild mountain honey from our friend Sadji washed down with a spicy aromatic herbal masala tea, and either begin work on one of our many plots and schemes in the offing or just laze on the terrace with a good book and contemplate lunch, or a swim or a pootle down-coast on the scooter. The heat of the day produces a languid tropical malaise by about 2pm yet my northern-european trained body-clock doesn’t usually allow me the orthodox afternoon doze but I tend to slow to crawl and wait for the relief of the receding sun and for the onshore breeze to dissipate before heading beach-ward once more.

There’s interest amongst some locals in this surfing game, but none here can actually do it. I’ve promised to give lessons to a couple lifeguards and our friend Abhi before I go, but the scarcity of decent learner-boards is a problem as is my inexperience in teaching! I’ve begun practicing for my new-found role with Jake and Lisa, our friends from Brighton who, to our delight, leapt upon the offer of our spare room and a tropical festive sojourn, yet the bruises on Lisa’s head and thigh and my egocentric tendency to nip off to catch waves leaving my pupils floundering in the impact zone exposes my early shortcomings as a wannabe surf guru.

Saturday, 12 December 2009



Like the other great economists before me, John Maynard Keynes and his theory of macroeconomics (1883–1946) or Jean-Baptiste Say (1767–1832) bastion of the free trade principal, I’ve developed the current era’s defining economic principal. History will show that my global wanderings during the early 21st century had some divine fiscal purpose that until now I didn’t fully comprehend. Basing myself in Brighton, the pioneering commerce centre of this New World Order was a fortuitous hand dealt to me by mother fate.

Spending time straddling this dozing tiger, India, the world’s next supreme economy, this catnapping giant has turned a light on in my mind, first illuminating stray, presumed forgotten, facts and thoughts that I’ve gathered as I’ve wandered this magnificent globe and left deep in the recesses of my mind. Then with this lights guiding, tropical warmth these thoughts have coalesced and fused into, an admittedly unexpected, global economic theory that blessed with a revelationery zeal I know to be true.

As the economic drivers of the great Capitalist era fade, dwindle then implode like a white dwarf star on it’s final yet glorious death knell, as the oil runs dry, as minerals are purged, steel becomes leaden, porky bellies slim, foodstuffs once again become localized, and the exotic lure of spices are tarnished many are placing their economic eggs in the digital basket. Bangalore and Trivandrum have established themselves as centres of the pixel economy hence most pundits back India as the future. Well, these so-called experts have their geography right but are speculating in the wrong sector my friends. My economic theory, already living and breathing in Brighton, a city fuelled almost entirely for a decade on this financial model which has established it as a centre of hope for humanity’s pecuniary fate has found it’s match in India, and in particular the future seats of power, Kovalam, Varkala and Baga .

The phenomenon I’m about to expound, like an historical cycle, once again has it’s nucleii in coastal towns. Towns which will no doubt rise to usurp the cumbersome authority of the country in which they reside to become independent city states reminiscent of 15th century city Republics like Venice, yet this time around the power centres will be chosen not for the quality of their anchorage but for the magnetism of their beaches, thereby destroying our existing, already decaying models of government. Merchants will accumulate unimaginable wealth and the Republics of Brighton, Varkala, Phuket, Kovalam, Kuta, Byron Bay and Santa Cruz will be centres of a florid decadence that our epoch has yet to encounter. The nouveau riche vulgarians will raise grotesque Palazzos to host their bacchanalian orgies in honour of the source of their wealth and the globes new currency.

The future is Nick-Nacks. The future is Now.

Indian beaches and the towns at their peripheries are rife with Nick-Nacks, most of which have over the last decade migrated to Brighton to be sold in the greatest Nick-Nack bazaar the world has ever known. Yet as many of the world’s Nick-Nack suppliers economically develop, India being a case in point, their population will begin to travel and will, of course, demand Nick-Nacks as proof of their excursion. The suppliers will become the demanders, and therefore the hitherto demanders will naturally supply creating a thriving, burgeoning, proliferating cyclic trade. Nick-Nack barons will control the circumnavigation of Nick-Nackery and with it the will of the people. Nick-Nacks as the opiate of the people? You bet.

Those with a knack for crafting a Nick into a Nack, or carving a Nack out of a Nick, those who can weave and fuse a Nack through a Nick will surely inherit the earth.

Liquidate your assets and invest in all that is Nick-Nack-esque.

The last weeks have been a blur, we’ve surfed small but beautiful Arabian waves at an Ashram in Karnataka — which I will expand upon in articles for a newspaper and a magazine — and spent several exhausting days scooting about Kerala in search of a house to rent and a base to settle in for a good while. We’ve moved in to a hip pink house with a large first floor terrace overlooking a tangle of palms, betelnut and banana trees and almost immediately upped-sticks and indulged ourselves with a languid, sedate houseboat ride through Kerala’s maze of backwaters and canals to celebrate Sofie’s birthday.