If you’ve read the book Hippie Dharma by F.D. Colaabavala then you’ll know a lot about Goa and the Hippie path through Eastern Europe, into Nepal and headlining in Goa. If you haven’t read it, you should.
I understand it’s not the 60’s and the era of free love is now past commercialization and has become a cause to mock and ridicule but some essence of that magical free spirited attitude remained in Arambol. Last year Goa for me was a place of confusing, hedonistic adventure. I had no idea what each day would bring except for a couple of certainties – laughter, blistering sunshine and some good friends.
We spent our days lounging around, driving from beach hut to coffee shack to reggae party without a worry in the world and although I was aware of the dangers around, they never directly affected me, I didn’t see them first hand.
This year however, being alone and returning to the same point, things seem different. The prices have gone up, the tourism has gone down and the locals aren’t smiling. My neighbors have been robbed, girls have been followed and I’ve woken to a public beating of a man who threatened to slice the throats of all the staff.
I took a trip into the jungle behind Sweet Lake to find the Baba who had lived there for over 30 years, a man I was told you could tell your problems to and he would give you his wisdom, a place of spirituality and meditation was the promise. So onward I trekked for about 45 minutes where I found a Baba, he was sat under a smaller tree though, with not enough room for the meditating circle I had been told about. We sat and he rubbed some oil on my face for my swollen gum and he told me he had lived under the big banyan tree for 27 years but then more people moved in and he moved down to this smaller tree and now even stays in the village during the evenings because of his age. He said that he had tended to the fire under that banyan tree for all of those years but now it was different and he didn’t like it.
Trekking further into the jungle it didn’t take long to find the place I had been told about, a magnificently grand banyan tree that looked like 7 or 8 trees that had collaborated into one majestic setting, especially constructed for group meditations and meetings. And it was being used for this, there were people cooking lentils over a wooden fire and fruits on plates around the circle, people were camping higher above and some were wearing robes similar to those of the Baba but also reminiscent of those worn by Here Krishna monks. Everyone was smoking cigarettes or joints and chatting amongst their neighbors, it was aesthetically very pleasing and everyone was welcomed with big smiles and a slice of watermelon. Alex the South African that welcomed me explained that you can just sit and relax and do whatever you want here, if you want to talk to the Baba you can, or you can just sit and meditate or chat amongst the other visitors.
I didn’t stay for very long, it wasn’t that the environment wasn’t nice, it just didn’t feel real. It felt like a novelty and the actors weren’t really sure of their roles and I didn’t have the energy to wait around for the main performance, whatever it may be.
Arambol will always hold a place in my heart for providing me with months of blissful carefree Hippie Dharma but perhaps once you’ve had your love affair you shouldn’t return because something so precious shouldn’t be tainted.