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BATIK ART BY JONATHAN S. EVANS
Confessions of an Itinerant Batik Artist

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GOA! (But I think we got there about ten years too late)

I first realized that Goa was different from the rest of India when we took a taxi from Mapusa, where the bus dropped us early in the morning, to Anjuna Beach where we had decided to stay. It was about ten in the morning when we finally approached the beach. As we rounded a corner, we suddenly came upon a field filled with half-naked dancing figures and heard the dull pounding of incredibly loud "house music". Originally this "house" music had come out of the clubs of Chicago but it had been picked up by DJs in the hot clubs in Ibiza, had been relabeled the "Balearic Beat" and was now to be heard all over the dance club world. As we traveled East, we were to come across this sound in many different settings. I personally found the music rather inhuman and irritating for it didn't have any melody, progression or resolution and the beat was brutally fast. But it was hard to ignore. It was not music to listen to, but music to dance to and was definitely linked to the new drug culture which had blossomed in Britain during Thatcherism. A whole new generation had grown up without work or opportunity prospects and had turned to acid, ecstasy or hard drugs and a new pseudo-religion in their hopelessness and frustration. If you took a lot of drugs, the music made more sense. Otherwise continual exposure to it could drive you crazy. It was funny to see this party still going strong although it was mid-morning. Obviously, Anjuna Beach was a heavy party scene.

We arrived in Goa on the day before Christmas Eve and quickly found a nice guesthouse, the "Dalroy Inn", to stay in. It was just off the beach that stretched without apparent end in either direction. Suddenly we found ourselves in the Tropics for Christmas. It was incredibly hot and the reflected light from the water and the sand dazzled our eyes. There was another beach dance party that Full Moon night; in fact there was a huge party almost every night that we were in Goa. After a day on the beach and a late dinner at one of the restaurants dotted amongst the palms along the beach, we went out to check out the scene. Nothing happened until well after midnight when the moon was a huge silver orb flying high in the night and reflected in the sea. But the music was incredibly loud, there was a good light system and over a thousand people danced on the sand under the palm trees where little Goan ladies had spread out cloths covered with fruit, cakes and drinks for sale. It was a truly fantastic sight and we danced for hours.

 

One thing about the scene in Anjuna that was immediately disturbing were the large numbers of Indian tourists, all men, who had come down to Goa to get high and to cruise the foreign women. The first morning that we spent on the beach, there were literally hundreds of Indians arriving by special buses with the sole aim of seeing undressed Western women They even came up close to take photographs of them. I opened my eyes as we lay on the beach to see an Indian standing over a woman friend of ours taking photos of her bare breasts. Of course our behaviour was extremely provocative by most standards and our friend would probably not have lain bare breasted on a beach in America. An Indian woman walking bare-breasted up Fifth Avenue in New York would attract at least as much attention, I imagine. Still, this voyeurism didn't add to the quality of our life on Anjuna Beach.

As I stepped out of the Indian Ocean, the oldest sea of all, I couldn't help thinking that perhaps we had arrived about a decade too late. Around me, the Indian voyeurs were taking a break from their photography and relentless cruising and were rolling around together in the surf. There was a lot of physical contact between them, they wrestled together, splashed one another and chased each other through the shallow warm water. It was both amusing, for it's easy to laugh at the sight of two soldiers holding hands as they played together, but also a bit depressing at the same time. The relationship between the sexes in India would appear to be unsatisfactory to both parties. But who was to say that the western system worked better? Arranged marriages generally lasted for life while four out of five western marriages ended in divorce. By expecting less from a marriage and emphasizing the importance of the family system, Indian society had created repression and a huge gap between the sexes. By demanding greater intimacy and allowing a lot of freedom in a relationship, the West had created a society of self-indulgent children who believed in instant gratification and the idea that the next relationship would be better than the last.

Christmas Day was, for me, a mercifully untraditional occasion. We spent it on the beach and didn't eat our Christmas dinner until 11.30 at night. Tai came back from the previous night's dance party with an account of being hassled by policemen on the beach who were looking for drugs at three in the morning. After Catherine and I were stopped and searched two nights running by young barefoot cops brandishing bamboo sticks, we both began to feel that Anjuna wasn't the place to be and that we should make plans to move on.

While we were in Bombay, I had been lightly grazed by a passing motor scooter as I crossed a street and although the wound in my calf had been very minor, it had become infected when I swam in the sea in Goa. In Europe, I would have expected the salt water to have cleaned and disinfected the cut, but in Asia I discovered that the warm seawater was full of organisms and that it was important to keep the wound dry and to stay out of the sea. So we live and learn. Pretty soon my leg was badly swollen and it became quite painful to do much walking. But I managed to struggle up from the beach every evening and cross the rice paddies to walk up to the "Disco Cabin", where we would watch excellent video movies every night. Video bars like this one were to be found all across Asia, we later discovered.

The nightly raves on the beach and the pulse of acid house music were beginning to bore us and I think that the New Year's Eve party was the worst. The novelty of the format had worn off and there were far too many drunken Indian voyeurs around for comfort. We were becoming very resentful of the local police and their continuing attempts to earn a little baksheesh by this time too. And even though we finally ran into Jerry, an old Ibiza face who invited us to stay at his house in Anjuna, we were anxious to leave and to see some more of India. In retrospect, I should have stayed on at Jerry's until my leg had healed but its always easy to see these things clearly afterwards. So I went onto a course of antibiotics, which I unfortunately was to stay on for some months in the end, doing heaven knows what short-term damage to my immune system. I've never done well on antibiotics and am strongly affected by them. I become nauseous and very emotional after awhile. But we both felt strongly that it was time to make a move.

 

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