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Varkala Vignettes

In café Italiano, a cafe like many others, is on the cliff and faces the sea

I, the only Indian, chose to sit under the thick green foliage of a badam tree, to enjoy the cool breeze and a hot ginger-lemon tea, living on borrowed time, as I ignore the call to finish a paper that I should have finished 10 days earlier.

The scenes around the tables…

Mom and her teenage son finishes their breakfast leave with a 10 Rs tip. Unlike many in his generation, the kid seems to be properly dressed and well behaved.

An optimistic romantic pop number (to love, to love…) is now on.

Chap with white cap and black sleeveless t-shirt staring out into the blue sea. The waiter waves an acknowledgement, to which our man gives a tiny nod.

The young bearded chap sitting alone watching the sea while a bearded tramp wants him to purchase a ticket. The chap politely refuses.

A 30s couple, with the guy making his intentions clear about what he wants - by pecking his girlfriend’s ear and wet tresses - while she is more concerned about balancing the coffee cup.

The music changes to Spanish guitar

A girl in her late 20s in pink tanktop showing a part of a tattoo on her back is waiting for her order to come in. she has a pierced lower lip and matted hair. She eats quietly, leaves the money under the chilli sauce bottle, picks her bag and leaves.

A german couple beyond have shared one breakfast bowl of yogurt and fruit. The girl, while paying tells the waiter that it was the best dish they have had till date. They walk out with their shades on, giving a good demo of a parting kiss before heading in opposite directions.

It is now Jesudas singing with music that is partly classical and partly ‘tamil-ish’. Some waiter has increased the volume as well.

A chap with shohaib aktar hairstyle, selling drums walks by belting out some tuneless beat. I wonder who purchases them and when, for I have never seen any transaction take place. Last year, they were in the same business. I know that since we ate at the same thali place in a shack in a coconut grove. This year, while the shack is still there, the grove has cottages that can be rented out. Perhaps the drum-selling is just a façade and they may be involved in selling something more ‘high flying’ stuff as the dusk falls.

A couple sits in front of me. The chap with thick absolutely white hair and the lady with dark brown. They speak in Italian and order espresso and indiano cafe along with sandwiches. They, amongst all seem to be laughing and speaking in fast clipped Italian. Well I assume it is Italian more because of their clothes. I assume Spanish or Portuguese would not be so fashion conscious.

A chap with a bandanna comes and a thin yet tapering pigtail, waves away the menu card and order one lemon tea. Unshaven and certainly belonging to the flower power times. The waiter messes up his order, brings him something else but our man refuses to pay extra. Flings a 10 rupee note on the table and leaves in a huff.

A new group of two men and a woman come in and one of the men wants real strong coffee! With a warning that he will turn it back if it is not strong enough. More updates when the coffee arrives.

Its now vintage Jesudas with a strong ‘ayyappa’ lilt to it.

One contented soul amongst all of us is a dog that is happily dozing resting his head on the crossed-support of a cane chair. Well almost, the fleas seem to get jealous once in a while.

A middle aged couple sit in the next table. Probably from Switzerland or has recently been to Switerland as the man wears a red cap with swiss flag on it. He has his shirt inside out and has an ‘osho’ colour jhola slung across. They get their omelette with large unevenly cut slices of fresh bread. Looks very appealing!

Our german coffee friends get their coffee (no problem with it) and bruschetta, which they eat with strong chomps and talk with clipped animated gestures. They seem to be oozing confidence that comes with being more successful then the rest or perhaps because each Euro they have in their pockets is about 60 times the local currency.

Yesudas with alapana, veena and mridangam in the background.

That’s life in Varkala. Or atleast in one part of it. There are two more parts to this town. Perhaps four if you count the normal life of the locals. The other parts are to do with the spiritual side. Pundits performing puja on Papanasam beach for the departed souls to cleanse away their papams (sins) is one. The other is the abode of Sri Narayanaguru, a social reformer. He has mainstreamed the toddy taper community Ezhavas and his birthday or the day he attained samadhi, lakhs of people descend on this town.

Perhaps in reverence to Sri Narayana guru or to the Papanasam beach, for many years alcohol was not served openly but in tea pots! In an era where we wear our attitudes and flash our brands and where qualities like respect, humility, etc. may soon be considering ‘endearing old fashioned qualities’, the bottles have come out into the open but the permits have not. Well it is boom time for the cops and the local leaders!

And so goes on Varkala, the beach resort in the God’s own Country.

vizag - varkala 07

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Sigh! Such laidback bliss. Imp, you cause much envy.

That was bliss Doc !!! But looks like you didnt right the paper and it got delayed another day !

not the right thing to read when I got some writing of my own to do. This was such an awesome slow relaxed ramble. For once I could actually see u sitting there just watching all these folks. I could actually see the ketchup bottle
Good one

well well well....no comments...my words have been used already! good to see ur blogs though :)

well folks as all good things come to an end so did my travel. nothing more in the horizon as well. anyway keep your envy on hold as this is just the start of the one month trip :)
more envious you are, the more i feel like writing... (mogambo kush hua types)

hey suresh,

sigh! envy is an understatement. but then i just came back from a nice weekend trip to Kashid, a less known beach near alibaug, and that was bliss too.

this one has really come out well. you should aim on publishing some travelogue in the near future.

i liked the way you've narrated this.


Interesting read! I need a vacation and so tried to extract some vicarious pleasure out of this ... observing people on your own.. sometimes is lots of fun.

Hey Imp,

That was such a lovely pace of narrative. Laid back and rambling, like a vacation should be.

Write more, please do.


Lovely piece! I didn't know such a rehab existed until now. Is this varkala trip from the South India vegetarian tour?

Yeah write a book Imp...!

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