Preet’s “cool.” She’s a Canadian-born Indian with Punjabi eyes and killer style. She’s learning Ashtanga yoga and Hatha yoga, and she’s training to be a teacher in both. She throws around terms like suptavandanasana, and capotadasana like it’s nothing. She has a million bangles around her ankles, copper bands with snake heads, colorful strings with pink seashells, and silver chains with tinkling bells. I don’t know how she sleeps comfortably. She says they only get in the way when she’s doing certain yoga poses. She wears hand-crafted suede vests, and turquoise beads around her neck. Besides English, she speaks fluent Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu, and has traveled extensively in America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. She laughs with her neck thrown back, and asks serious, pointed questions. She says she has a strong, intuitive feeling that Goa is going to be “really, really nice this season.”
Preet and Purnima are best friends from Bombay, so the three of us kick it every night. Purnima is like our clucking mother hen, shooing us out of the kitchen while she cooks pasta, and heaping more food on our plates. When we shop, she insists that I buy everything I like, because “You never know if you’ll find that in the States, doll!” Purnima rolls joint after joint, insisting that it “takes the edge off.” She works for the famous yoga teacher we study with, and he drives her mad with his OCD idiosyncrasies. “Oh!” she fumes. “Can you believe that he’s making me do the brochure all over?! I just spent five hours perfecting it!” She’ll take a long drag off the joint, and then her face will transform into an expression of joy. “But you know, today, he brought me fresh apple juice with foam on top! Isn’t he sweet?” They’re both completely bipolar.
If Purnima is my mother, Shukla-ji is my father. Shukla-ji is the sweet older man who owns the guesthouse where I stay. He makes me breakfast and lunch every day. He combs his orange-dyed hair over the bald spot on his head, and is always dressed meticulously. He is fluent in English, though it tends to be the old British variety, and he kicks up his feet and reads the newspaper in the sun, pausing occasionally to pull a handkerchief out of his pocket and wipe the sweat off his brow. He makes masala chai for my sore throat, and insists that I chew all of the ginger at the bottom. He scolds me if I don’t. “Sarah, ginger is very, very good for your sore throat, do you understand?” he asks, eyeing me over his glasses. I nod, and chew away. “And put on long sleeves!” he continues sternly. “Sun is setting now, it is not advisable for you to get cold!”
My life in this mountain valley has been beautiful and serene for the last three months. I will look back on this place fondly, and hopefully return many times in my life. These friends may scatter to the winds, but for now, they are my family, and I feel safe, loved, and cared for in their presence. It’s amazing how you can be so far from home, but home always seems to find you anyway.