Beautified in India

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.

They did.

Wow, India really agrees with you.
A stunner.
Love your hair.
You look fab.
How do you stay looking so young?
So jealous…

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.

Imperfect. Frantic.

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.

13312863_10207964054952002_179482837744479956_n

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!

Kategryphon6@gmail.com.

7 am on 7th.

Morning Mammie. Morning Madam. Good morning Gogo.

Hey, G’morning, I say, to each person who wanders by me.

It’s early on a Sunday. Melville. There are few people on the streets. It’s chilly but the sun is shining, the magnolias are in bloom, and there just a few empty beer bottles on the pavements.

I turn the corner and walk past Nuno’s, one of my local hang outs. The waitresses are outside, waiting for the owner to open up.

He’s always late. They are always on time. Or maybe they’re just early. They have a long way to travel.

Hey Violet, Morning Violet, Enjoy your coffee Violet.

I wave, I shout from the other side of the road, I say good morning. And I continue on my walk to De La Creme, to get my morning fix.

It’s a ritual. I’ve been known to do it in my pyjamas.

But I do wear nice pyjamas.

I see the old man dressed in blue. He’s the shouter of the neighbourhood. Unbalanced. Mad. A meth drinker. Wrinkled, scarred and always in trouble. He wanders the streets day and night. A lunatic.

Yet there he is, like clockwork, sweeping 7th Street. He sweeps, every morning, starting at 7 am. The shop owners pay him collectively.

It keeps him in meths. And warm.

I pretend I don’t see him. It’s complicated and I find it easier to pretend he isn’t there. I know, I know, it isn’t very nice of me.

I carry on. G’morning, hi, have a groovy Sunday.

There’s the homeless Ethiopian. He sits in the doorway of a charity shop. It may be where he sleeps too. The walls of the shop are pink. Today he’s wearing a pink shirt.

He blends in.

I always say good morning to him. He always gives me a filthy look. I think he too is slightly unbalanced.

Maybe I also am?

I wish I’d bought my camera. There’s a young woman leaning out a window. She’s wearing a magnificent brightly coloured African headdress. And there’s another woman coming out a doorway. She’s opening up, Bread and Roses Bistro, her dreadlocks flying in the wind.

It’s picture perfect.

I get my coffee. Resist the croissants. Have a chat with one of the locals about our kids and how we wish they’d eat more fruit. He buys six fresh out the oven almond croissants.

What the hell, I may as well buy one. Ugh, two. And a baguette.

I walk home, sipping my coffee. I admire the gorgeous clothing through the window of the vintage shop. I’m going to come back and try that little black dress on.

A neighbour stops and gives me a few avocados off her tree. They’re fat and ripe. I promise to drop granadillas off at her later. We talk about the neighbourhood. Our community.

The streets are getting busier now. Cyclists, joggers and a few early morning moms with their babes. The newspaper sellers are out and the car guards have taken up position.

The last person I see before I turn on to my road is Joe. You can tell he was once a good looking man. He has piercing blue eyes, steel grey hair, and a great tan. He’s tanned because he too lives on the streets. I always hear stories about him. He was a writer. A poet. An academic.

Something about Joe has always made me uncomfortable. I don’t know what it is. I think because he could be me. I could be him. He could be any of us.

I usually avoid his stare. This morning I chose not to. I looked him in the eye and said Hi.

He looked at me and lifted one hand to his head. A bit like a salute. Then both hands, palms out, in front of him. One hand towards me, before both hands coming together.

It was a greeting. Sign language.

Sign language for Hello, What is your name?

Oh my gosh.

Hello.

I had no idea Joe was deaf.

I’m not even sure if his name is Joe.

melville

Gaslighting

You know when you have a lightbulb moment, when you read something, spit out your coffee and suddenly go WHAT THE FUCK, WHAT, THIS IS EXACTLY LIKE READING ABOUT MYSELF!

Well, I just spat out my coffee as I read about Gaslighting.

And it made me wonder where I’ve been all this time.

How come I didn’t know what Gaslighting was?

How did I ever allow it to happen to me?

And also, that even though my experience happened a long time ago, the scars are still there.

The article took me back to a fairly long term relationship that I had. A not good one. And as I read, all the emotionally abusive things this guy used to say came flooding back to me.  The things that made me feel bad. Things that I knew were not true. But that I somehow started believing and that I allowed to eat away at me, break me up, bit by bit.

Until there was not that much more to break.

Things like:-

You’re selfish, Violet. You make everything about you.

You can’t do anything on our own can you Violet.

And you’re not very bright are you, Violet. Silly. Silly Silly Violet.

He would say these things, I would get upset, he would take them back. And even when he took them back, I was the one left feeling guilty. Ashamed. And stupid. Like I had done something wrong.

He would then make up for his words by saying:-

But you know I’m kidding, Violet.

You’ve done so well, Violet, I’m really proud of you.

You’re gorgeous, bright, sexy, I’m so lucky to have you.

But the damage had already been done. I felt bad. And I felt like I was going mad.

Seeds of self doubt. Planted in me by a master manipulator.

Years later I can see just how manipulated I was. And I think, thank goodness I got out of that relationship. And got help.

Except that as I type I realise I am not totally over it or okay and my self esteem and confidence took a huge knock.

So when I read the article on Gaslighting alarm bells started ringing.

I remembered that I still had a lot of work to do, on me.  And that my journey is far from over.

Also, that there are many women out there who suffer a similar type of emotional abuse.

And I wanted to say this:

Girlfriends. You are not crazy. You are not mad. You are most definitely not stupid.

Trust your feelings. Trust your emotions.

And get out. Now.

It is never too late.

puppet

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/08/gaslighting-the-mind-game-everyone-should-know-about/

Scarlet

My dog Scarlet is thirteen. I walk her almost daily at Emmarentia Dam and she’s always a little nervous and a lot unpredictable.

Odd, my friends call her.

Intriguing is what I say.

She never goes near the water. And lately her arthritis has been really bad, leaving me to wonder how much longer she has.

Today we went walking with friends.

And for some insane, crazy, who knows why and I’ll never get it reason, Scarlet plunged head first into the water.

Whoosh splash, she was gone.

Surrounded by ducks, geese and a huge body of cool sparkling water.

It was fabulous, this dog who has never swum before. Whichever way the ducks went, she went too.  Swimming like a pro dog Olympic doggy paddle champion of the world.

Unbelievable. Hilarious. Brilliant.

Until we realised she wasn’t coming back.

We were standing on the edge, yelling for her. And she never once turned to look at us. She was a dog on a mission.

Except this old dog was getting deeper, further and more and more distant.

I panicked. She would have a heart attack. She was going to drown. She would disappear under the water and that would be the end.

There was no-one around to help.

‘You’ve gotta go in, Violet,’ said my friend. ‘Go. Go.’

I was hesitant. I’m not a strong swimmer.

But I threw off my clothes. And I plunged in too.  It was warm and delicious, except I wasn’t feeling warm or delicious. I was terrified.

I didn’t get anywhere close. She swam left, she swam right, she ducked, she dived, she became one of the bloody ducks.

And she ignored me completely.

I had to turn back or I would’ve got into trouble.

It had been an hour. We yelled some more, one of us naked, one not. And then I threw my clothes back on and ran for help.

I found a couple of cyclists who under normal circumstances I may have flirted with, except I hate cyclists.  Now, tears streaming down my face,  I begged them to rescue my dog.

Except she did not want to be rescued. She was having the swim of her life.

And then, just like that, TWO HOURS LATER, she swam in. Shook herself off, grinned, I swear she grinned, jumped into my arms, licked me all over and we went back home.

I thought she would die from exhaustion in the afternoon. I thought her heart would just stop beating while she slept.

She hasn’t died. She doesn’t even seem tired. She’s happy and content and clearly has a doggy bucket list of things she wants to do.

I’m the one who’s shattered.

But if I think about it, it was very nice skinny dipping in Johannesburg.

And so we’re planning another activity.

Today the ducks in Emmarentia, tomorrow the dolphins in Mozambique.  Who knows what adventure awaits.

Scarlet.  She is an intriguing dog.

  • with thanks to Lesley Cowling for the doggie bucket list inspiration.

dogs