The dead fisherman of Aarambol

Adventure, backpacking, Discover, Goa, India, Travel

 

Look just past that trio of people on the beach, and you will make out some people kneeling before the shore. A group of people are sat around a body wrapped in a white cloth, with just a pair of lifeless feet uncovered.
We had walked down to the beach for a couple of beers, but instead of watching the sunset, those around the body joined hands, lighting candles. I laughed awkwardly, hoping the large hole to the right of us (pictured) wasn’t to be the grave.
As if the scenario wasn’t strange enough, an Indian man appeared on his knees, swinging a golden necklace right out in front of me like a pendulum. I didn’t even get chance to blink before he wrote in the sand, ‘100’. He wanted 100 rupees for it.
I shook my head and told him to go away, freaked out by his sudden appearance and action in my face. Frantically, he wrote 50 – and having seen his desperation, I gave in – exchanging 50 rupees for an old golden chain with a pendant hanging from it. I put it in my satchel and forgot about it, wishing i had given him more from the look on his face. He ran off.
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It turned out the hole was not for a grave but this.. 

Despite a dead body on the beach, every one reacted as though they were just watching the tide come in. We were in Aarambol, traditionally a fisherman village which was largely inhabited by a ‘new age’ hippie community.
The hippies made it apparent they didn’t want to socialize, not having acknowledged us at all in the few days we had spent staying in a beach shack there. It was because of this atmosphere, we hadn’t gone round asking what had happened, despite our curiosity.
As the sun set, we could barely make out the figure, and as the tide continued to draw in we understood the body would be swept out to sea. Confused we hadn’t seen any type of authority we wondered if the ‘man’ had even been identified, if ‘his’ family even knew or if ‘he’ would just be regarded as a mysterious disappearance. I still don’t know the answers to these questions.
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Sunset on Aarambol Beach 

The next day, we got talking to some french backpackers. Supposedly, three local fishermen had gone out to sea in their boat drunk, and a few hours later their bodies had washed up on different beaches. This was the only version of the story that we heard.
It wasn’t for a couple of weeks that i found the golden necklace, zipped inside a pocket in my satchel. The chain was fairly thick but old, a brassy yellowing color. The weight of it passed as real, unlike the pendent which was very much fake. The circular pendent had a Hindu marking on it, which could imply it belonged to a local.
Now that i think back to the man who madly sold me this necklace, i wonder if i had mistaken his desperation as poverty instead of fear. Was he a thief, and could this necklace have belonged to the fisherman? Thinking back to his actions, it seemed more likely that it had been stolen. 50 rupees was less than a penny, why was he so reluctant to recieve so little so urgently?
Again more unanswered questions and speculation, but i still have the necklace. A bad omen perhaps, a reminder of the mystery..
Should i keep it, or drop it in the ocean?

 

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How you end up in the River Ganges.

Adventure, backpacking, Discover, India, Travel
After spending a day on the banks of the River Ganges, I had at this point – absolutely no intention of getting in this cesspit of a river although admittedly i liked the idea of doing it. With that in mind, two idiotic companions ( Simon and Joe) and far too much illegal alcohol a story is born…
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Me, Simon and Joe.

I can’t remember what day it was, for as far as any traveller is concerned every day is Saturday. We were sitting up on the rooftop of our hostel trying to relax.  You see the streets of Varanasi are intimidating, chaotic, filthy and full of people you want to avoid. So after an afternoon of startling exploring we were pretty worn out mentally. If you was going to relax anywhere, the rooftop was the best bet – drowning out the noise and smells of the streets below.
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Typical day in Varanassi…

Me Simon and Joe sat up here in our fort, laughing at what we had got ourselves into. Trying to make sense of what was going on, how we would ever try and explain this madness to anyone, and who’s idea was it to come here anyway!? Its one of those moments where you are dizzy with laughter and slightly unhinged, undoubtedly time for a beer. However, being in a third world country,  even more so the ‘spiritual capital’ its not as though we could just pop down to the off license for a 6 pack, it was actually deemed illegal to drink alcohol at all.
That aside, anything goes in India for a price. We strike up a ‘deal’ and 20 minutes later our guy arrives with the goods. 6 cans of warm extra strength larger. Of course this only added to our amusement and we sent our guy back for more.
I’m not sure how many trips our guy did, or how many cans of warm larger were consumed but i remember we were all pretty tanked. Our conversation didn’t deviate far from the Ganges, and of course it wasn’t long before it was a brilliant idea. A must do in fact. Who comes to Varanasi and doesn’t dunk themselves in the holy river? We should all get in the river and become reborn again with Hindu names! We can become Bantu, Rikesh and Pooja.
Our enthusiasm was sky high, but at this point we were safe – because at this point it was still only an idea. Our guy returned with our next batch of warm beer and we began slurrily asking him questions about the Ganges river. He spoke of the magical and spiritual presence and insisted taking us out in his boat at sunrise.
We were beside ourselves, this is great – exactly what we wanted to do. Our guy would take us to the other side of the river, that way we wouldn’t be disrespecting anyone. If we wanted to, we could then dunk ourselves in the river – but we must experience it. He was to pick us up from the hostel the next morning at 6am.
The last thing i remember from that night was singing and dancing up on the rooftop to Toploader, Dancing in the Moonlight. I was actually dancing in the moonlight and was really enjoying the irony of it all.
Waking up in the early hours of the morning with a hangover is always a struggle. But when the reason is because a random Indian man is coming to pick you up and take you out on his boat it’s a little bit worse. On a boat to one of the worlds dirtiest rivers so that you can willingly get in and dunk your head under to become reborn as ‘Pooja’. So what did i do to make it worse? I googled.
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Oh fantastic, even a devout Hindu won’t get in.

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So now i’m literally freaking out, I’m even considering backing out, but our guy is waiting and we are walking down to the banks to his boat. Joe and Simon are still enthused and i realize that it’s not in my nature to be the only one who didn’t do it.
And that’s how i ended up in the River Ganges.

To be continued…

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Bantu, Pooja and Rikesh