I had just sat down to read a few pages from a travel book (The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux) to be followed by a short nap, when I head some voices outside. This was right after enjoying a breakfast of omelet and tea at the Shri Ganesha Cafe, my accommodation for a couple of days at Gokarna.
I hadn’t heard a lot about Gokarna, and definitely not about the Shri Ganesh Cafe. And my stay here was as much a surprise to me, as it was to my friends and family. I had decided to come alone down to the beaches. One of my friends had asked me for a reason. Well, I had no reason. Did I have to need a reason to take a few days leave from office because the atmosphere around had become too suffocating, and a break from everyone around felt good? Ofcourse not! Hehehe.
So, I had come down to Gokarna – a seemingly-heavenly place, half a day bus journey from Bangalore – alone. After a little research, I came to know that it has 4 very popular beaches, of which Kudle beach was popular among those staying in the town, who mainly came to Gokarna to visit the Shiva temple. I was staying at the Om Beach, more popular for the hordes of foreign tourists (a lot of them hippies – or at least that’s what used to be a few years ago), and where the bus driver stopped the bus (a couple of kilometres before reaching the main town of Gokarna) and requested all the foreign tourists to alight, since that’s where he assumed they all go! Even though it was a costly Rs 100 auto ride to the Om Beach, which I offered to share with a few of them – none of them agreed. It seems, its difficult for them to trust Indians. Especially Indians who act very friendly. What a shame, since the auto-driver eventually took them to the beach for Rs 170 since they didn’t know how to bargain.
The only place of accommodation I had heaard of, at the Om Beach, was the Namaste cafe, which turned out to be full. So, I started walking along the beach, checking one restaurant cafe (these have small huts for rooms) after another and they all turned out to be full, until I reached Shri Ganesh cafe. Where the owner replied to my question with.. “Sir, pehle chaay to lijiye” (translated as: ‘Sir, please have some tea first’). I knew I had reached the right place.
That’s how we reach the point, when after a sumptuous breakfast (with a full view of the sea and the fresh morning breeze), I was lying down for a short nap (Oh yeah, the reading part didn’t last long as I felt very sleepy very fast ) when I heard some activity outside. Activity – a change I didn’t mind in such a quiet and serene place. I focussed a little bit, and heard a very sweet voice call out – “Ooohaaaaayyyyooooooo“. Ahhh, so my next door neighbour was Japanese! Interesting!!
Curious, I quickly finished the page I was reading, and went outside but saw no one around. I went towards the restaurant – which could be described more like an open-air cafe – and saw that a group of foreigners were sitting, discussing something animatedly, and laughing. I said “Hi” to everyone and just sat with them. Guess what? They were discussing the football world cup happening this year. And immediately I was welcomed to the discussion. I introduced myself as ‘Abhijit’, which was met with “Eh?“,”Uhhh.. A.. what?” and “Sorry, could you repeat that” (this last bit was in a very very English accent – I made a point to remember that). So, I reintroduced myself as ‘Abhi’ to which everyone replied with “Hi Abbey!“. Ummm, I could live with that. The topic moved to South Africa, safety and their travel adventures there,with Ryan relating his story about how he was in South Africa for just a day – and in just a day, he got mugged. Thankfully, they didn’t take away his sneakers, which according to him, were very nice. Haha! I knew I was going to have a lot of fun in Gokarna.
A little while later, the Japanese chick said she had to make a phone call, and asked me if I could help her out. I said ‘Sure’ and we started walking back towards the huts. She said, in a very un-Japanese accent (or what I would expect to be Japanese – since I haven’t really heard one), “Hi Abbey, I am Sakura.” And the following conversation ensued:
Sakura: Why wow??
Abbey: Hehe, well, I read a lot of Japanese comics, in English, ofcourse. And the first thing I am reminded of, when I think of Japanese, is a comic character called Naruto. And in that comic, he likes a girl called Sakura.
Sakura: Haha, I have never heard of it.
Abbey: Oh, you’ve not?
Sakura: Nope. I’ve been in London all my life.
She tried dialing a number from my phone, but the lines were busy, or something like that. Damn Vodafone!
As she was handing me back my phone, she asked me.. “Oh, but, how did you know I am Japanese??”.
I replied.. “Arigato” and smiled.
p.s. Thanks to all the friends I made in Gokarna for making my visit such a great experience!