G’nite, I would call out sleepily. See you in the morning.
G’nite, my insomniac travel friend would reply. Sweet dreams.
And she would switch off the light.
We’d both be quiet for maybe two minutes and then our evening ritual would begin.
Throw off the covers because it was too hot. Take off our pyjamas because it was too hot. Make tea. Admire our shopping. Moisturise. Sit outside a little. Climb back into bed. Stretch, yawn, go to sleep and then –
Not really go to sleep.
Because she’s an insomniac and so am I and we’d just have to talk some more. And laugh and giggle and go over all the amazing things that we’d seen. The gorgeous men. The smooth men. The salesmen. And the colours, smells, spices, everything that was just astonishing.
Because astonishing things happen every day in India. Overwhelming magnificent extraordinary astonishing things.
One night, while we were not sleeping, my friend lay on her bed reading while I lay on mine looking at photographs.
Men with turbans lazing on rickshaws. Colourful women sweeping colourful courtyards. A young girl peering out a train window. A monk carrying an umbrella. Five people and a monkey on a motorbike. Giant buddhas. Kids playing cricket. Bodies burning on the River Ganges. Overloaded trucks. Decorated trucks. Truck drivers. Holy men. Limbless men. Gorgeous men.
And two magnificent women.
Us. In action. Hiking in the foothills of the Himalayas. Cruising in a shikara. Riding on motorbikes. And doing yoga.
Each one very beautiful.
Until I noticed my neck.
OH MY GOD MY NECK.
‘Jesus Christ, I said, leaping out of bed. I had no idea I had so many wrinkles.’
Luckily, insomniacs always says the right thing.
‘Your neck is really not bad. But still, try this App. Everyone uses it. It smoothes out the teeny lines.’
I downloaded the App. I learned what I could do with it. I became obsessed. I never slept again.
I could make myself smoother. Younger. Prettier. Slimmer. Taller. More bright eyed. More blue eyed. Blonder.
And very very beautiful.
I beauty-apped myself. I looked good. I posted a pic. I waited for the comments to fly in.
Wow, India really agrees with you.
Love your hair.
You look fab.
How do you stay looking so young?
And I felt instantly guilty.
Because I was smooth, but really, not.
India is anything but smooth. It is the most chaotic, overwhelming, dramatic, uncontrolled, colourful and unrelenting country.
There is no photoshopping. There are no touch ups.
And there is no beauty app.
What you see is what you get.
Wild and natural.
And very very real.
And as I reflect on my travels, I realise that is one of the many things I got out of India.
That to be real is the prize.
Sorry then for my neck, my bra straps and my sheen from the forty degree heat, but I gotta reveal everything.
And I’m not really sorry at all.
Here we are. The Insomniac. And Ms Violet Online.
N.B. You can ask Kate Carlysle to help with bookings. She is in Cape Town and knows all these gorgeous extraordinary hotels / ashrams / galleries / dogs / people and oh my god Indian boutiques!