Life beyond the buzz | Condé Nast Traveler India
Past the drunken stumbling tourists of Thalassa, past the bend where the Anjuna River empties unspectacularly into the Chapora River, and past the Siolim Shrine from where Goan grandmothers watch the playing children, there is a quiet stretch leading to the Arabian Sea. There, on several nights in 2018 and 2019, you would have encountered a 26-year-old, possibly 27-year-old woman sitting by the water, gazing past the palm trees at the tan horizon, looking utterly indifferent to it all.
There used to be a popular cafe on this stretch. Its location remained marked on Google Maps as “God’s Place Tea Bar, permanently closed” – a decent summary of the months I had then spent expectantly going from Vista to allegedly sublime Vista, finding little sublimity . The beauty was intact. It was the viewer’s eyes glazed over.
The “problem presented” was this most puzzling neo-convention: a young person who managed to bring together all the privileges possible: a dream job (top editor), a dream house (Bandra West, 7th floor, sunny), dream boyfriend (kind eyes, strong shoulders) – nevertheless finds himself regularly brought to his knees by all sorts of anxieties and troubles, finds himself wishing every morning that he would be crushed and quickly killed while crossing Hill Road. The doctors in the psychiatric ward at Lilavati Hospital had assessed everything and prescribed a yellow-brown pill, which helped, but being as adept in literature as I am in modern medicine, I also followed the prescription poets: left the boyfriend, left the job, and set out to wander the world alone in search of a more robust and deeper contentment.
I could, if I wanted to, cut a montage of those first months of solo travel to fit myself into the Eat, Pray, Love genre: getting high with strangers on a rooftop overlooking a Himachali valley, creating ties through hammocks with a DJ from Gurgaon who was moving to Goa to live an openly gay life, and slipping away – drunk hands, delicate buttonholes – on a street corner with a man whose name I didn’t know. But at the same time, another montage also filled in: I’m bored licking the spray off my lips on the promenade in Pondicherry, drinking three beers too quickly at Café Simla Times and stumbling home alone. ‘hosts, I’m bored eating crab sukka masala with all ten fingers at Vinayak Lunch Home in Goa, wearily count Shimla’s Chadwick Falls, and wonder what one’s supposed to do with beauty when wonder – a fragile feeling that lasts 10 or 20 minutes at most – passes and you find yourself with all the same preoccupations, the same anxieties that you brought from home.
So unappeased by beauty, I had to admit that the problem had never arisen then – had never been particular life. The problem, as Seneca warned, is “the whole thing”: the human condition itself, utterly anxiety-inducing, irritating, unpredictably thrilling and just as often disconcerting. I began to concede that there are no jobs, friends or apartments so dreamy that we spare ourselves the terror of ensuring our own stability, the loneliness we carry within, Sisyphus’ troubles of the maintenance of life. And there are few vistas so sublime that they could distract a disgruntled mind. Back in Mumbai, at least the pangs of guilt, rage, self-hatred, etc., which tended to emerge from stillness, could be put aside to work through the night, sweat in G&T at Bonobo or get drunk with co-workers at Andheri’s best dive, Shankari. One could slip out of reach of one’s psyche on the balcony of a Bollywood dynasty Diwali party; every emotional downside of being a person could be joked about in The Daily’s bathroom queue, Cuckoo’s green room, or the chatter of a low-key, dimly lit, almost hotbox proposed house scene. – fortunately – in the Worli-Versova section.