Arrive in the afternoon at your hotel, only to find that you and your (female) roomie have been put in a room with a couple-y sort of bed, when the two of you aren’t actually couple-y at all.
Explain to the somewhat embarrassed hotel staff that you and your roomie are NOT in fact, a “couple”.
Discover that in order to change to a room with two single beds, you’ll experience a little unpleasantness with the people who previously occupied that room, who were not very gallant or generous when asked to move so you and your roomie didn’t have to worry about accidental spooning.
Insist to roomie that in order to clear our otherwise delightful hotel room of any bad energy from the ungracious previous occupants, we very much need some incense.
Consequently take a late night jaunt to the clifftops in the near pitch-blackness.
Take the long-way ’round coz you haven’t yet learned the back alley shortcut.
Find yourself draped in this tout or that tout attempting to draw you into their please-come-buy-from-my-shop-we-give-you-best-price game.
Somehow agree to give the postcards you’ve painfully hand written to family and friends – on the Varanasi to Calcutta train – to a young Kashmiri man who promised, hand on heart and with his beautiful eyes, to post them the next day (he apparently did BUT they took almost a month to get to their destinations).
Wander from one brightly lit shop to the next, looking for someone to sell you some incense.
Eventually find incense, incense holder (which is really an ornate salt/pepper shaker) and matches.
Wander round some more with your roomie (who is Swedish and prone to flirting quite a lot more than you are).
Turn left at what you later discover is known as the Tibetan market.
Chat to a young boy sitting on a musical instrument store stoop (EVERY SECOND PERSON in Varkala will try to sell you a drum!).
Discover young boy knows how to play some pretty awesome rhythms.
Standing there in the dusty alleyway with minimal low lighting from various shops, find one’s previous incarnation as a belly-dancer rising up, and unwittingly respond to the drumming. Slave-to-the-rhythm-like.
Find yourself dancing more and more and more, as the young drummer realises you can in fact, dance.
He plays more intricate beats now; stopping isn’t an option.
You suddenly feel ten years younger. Maybe fifteen.
Roomie is encouraging you and even though the alley previously seemed very quiet, a small crowd gathers from all corners of the night.
Another man behind you says to your roomie: She is making me crazy.
Asks if you are Russian*. Roomie says you aren’t but offers him your phone number anyway!
You can’t stop dancing yet. Even though it’s still steamy at 10pm or thereabouts.
More admiring noises, and not just from men. But mostly men.
Roomie is NOT helping matters with her flirting on your behalf.
Eventually the heat, the jet lag and the fact that you haven’t quite danced like this for many years… catches up with you.
You take a bow and are overwhelmed by a small yet devoted audience heaping all kinds of praise on you.
Roomie fortunately does not give your number to anyone (make a note not to give her your mobile number, just in case). You both attempt an escape but get horrendously lost in the oh-so-dark-there’s-no-street-lights-here world.
Finally, you make it back to your room and burn a heck-load of incense. Kingfisher beers on the balcony, ensue.
Mission accomplished! Albeit with a somewhat side alley twist. Okay, several sideways twists and shimmies, and plenty of intricate drumming.
Incredibly, you spend the rest of the week being recognized.
Aren’t you the dancer?
I saw you dancing the other night…
Even though your one-night only performance was done in almost total darkness. In a tiny, dusty alleyway in a southern Indian beach-side town.
Despite all of your assumed anonymity, you find you’ve become a tiny piece of Varkala north cliffs folklore. The woman who dances so freely (where “free” is a synonym for whore).
You are Cliff-Top Famous, and perceived by most of the locals to be Russian.
Damn those beats.
* If you’re a female and someone asks if you’re Russian while in India, take the time to be rather insulted. You’re essentially being asked if you are a sex worker, coz many Russian prostitutes come to India. Such Russian women are considered “very free and open”. You can translate that about a hundred different ways. Even though Indians admire this kind of “freedom” they generally suspect you of being a woman with loose morals if you are. Natch.