Brendalee Wilson, who teaches specialized yoga classes for musicians at CAMMAC, is currently in India. She has written some dispatches for our CAMMAC members, to give us all a snapshot of what life is like in another country during the global health crisis. She is very much looking forward to coming home and seeing everyone at CAMMAC again.
She describes the situation:
We are living day to day in a sort of hot, (33-34°C) repetitive eternal present. Yes, we are still stuck in India and have no way to get home! It is an unbelievable situation, not just for us, but people in almost every country who are affected by the Covid-19 virus or feel threatened or have no way to earn money to pay bills, or even eat. Tomorrow we are finishing 42 days of lockdown and the Indian government has extended it by 2 more weeks. No public transportation, no trains, no planes.
Jean and I are healthy and eating very well and resting. But of course, there is an underlying current of uncertainty: how long will we be here, how will we travel, will it be safe to travel, what will it be like in Canada when we do get home, etc.
I had fine day on my birthday April 18th. After my yoga practice outside, we had our typical breakfast of fresh Indian fruit, a lunch of homemade (by me) pasta with garlic and (special for us) a nut seed topping from the Jackfruit. For my cake, I made heavenly brownies, with local cashews. This was done on the gas stovetop in steam as we have no oven.
We are coping very well, now that we have access to food when we need it. The big bonus to being stuck here is that we eat all of our meals outdoors in 33° under sun filtered by the palm trees over our balcony. And after the heat of the day subsides, we walk, with masks on, down to the village and look at the sea. Now that the police have stopped patrolling our area, with a few exceptions — south Goa is declared a green zone in India with no cases of Covid19 — we are allowed to swim just before sunset.
This is such an odd situation. Of course, one could say that about anywhere on the planet that is experiencing lockdown. Here, in the evening, streets are empty, all the battered metal shutters pulled down. It is quiet. Some animals meander: Indian pye-dogs, black pigs and their multiple piglets, and skinny brown, white, and black cows. A few human souls are walking to pick up items at the food store or the little convenience shops that stay open. No one does the normal greeting, even between the western foreigners. Locals mostly rush by on the ubiquitous scooter, many wearing masks.
But the strangest sight is the groups of young men roving on the beach where they may also play a game of football or cricket at sunset. Who are they? Young husbands and fathers who came from Nepal or northern India for seasonal work in restaurants. Most hotels and accommodations are closed now by government order. Tourists fled if they could. Not many of us are left in this little town of Agonda. But the workers are struck like we are because all of the trains and buses and planes are suspended. They have no work — money to take back home — and they wait like we do. We saw small groups of them attempting to fish last night, with nets, but no catch. I said to Jean, I hope they are not fishing because they are hungry. This would be rather upsetting as we still have access to our Canadian funds at the one ATM in town, and are comfortable. These young men are the kind who used to serve us when restaurants were still open and who have just enough English to have meaningful conversation with us. They are the same population who work in other places all around south India where tourists and yoga students gather.
Another phenomenon here is the reduction of air pollution in the whole country. People in one city up north in the state of Punjab are seeing the mountains of the Himalayas for the first time in 30 years.
So much more is going on in this country, especially for the people who work in cities and are attempting to get back to their villages. I try not to read too much online. Jean is more of a news junkie than I, and sometimes tells me what he finds interesting.
The following is a little story about what I was doing here one day a few weeks ago.
Black Market Developing in Goa – 31 March 2020
We found vegetables, milk, and cooking oil — the first food delivery in 6 days
I know that does not sound very exciting, but after several days of food shops being closed in our little town of Agonda, Goa it was a huge relief. Not without effort, mind you.
My kitchen mate, at our Jungle Resort cum youth hostel, took her scooter, with me on the back — I don’t have the nerve to drive one — and descended the dusty, bumpy, red, rock-laden road to town at 8 a.m. today.
We followed the deserted main street, me looking left and right at the shops’ metal doors pulled down tight. I scanned from the back of the scooter for any point where a gathering of locals and tourists might be waiting in a line, conjuring up images of bread lines in the Depression or during the Soviet era. Sometimes a line was just disbanding with resigned hand, head or shoulder signals meaning “Finished”. Nothing left.
We repeated this a few times, including once when we were turned away, because, I suspect, we were foreigners and for some people we mean “CORONA!” A few days ago while on a walk in the jungle on the dusty red road, a scooter with two local lads whizzed by while they pointed and shouted at us: “CORONA!”
But back to the hunt for provisions. With no luck so far, we took a road out of town and climbed 3 kilometers up a hill, away from the tourist zone. We had had a tip earlier, that one shop up there would be open this Monday morning. But when we arrived, the shop in question had just sold its last kilo of tomatoes.
Dejected, slightly, we turned around to go back into town. We passed a cement block building, completely non-descript, with a couple of locals leaving with rather full bags. This of course, is a tell-tale sign that some vegetables may be nearby. My shopping companion trundled past, but in true Brendalee style I yelled, “Wait a minute! ” and we turned around to investigate. I cautiously approached a fully-closed door of thick metal bars that looked like it belonged in a high security penitentiary. A quick glance through revealed a tiny dark room. Suddenly a hearty Indian woman appeared. I was nervous, but in a slow, friendly manner asked “Vegetables?” She wobbled her head slightly without smiling. I turned to my companion and said, “Oh my God” she has food. Then the lady disappeared into a darker inner chamber. We heard some rattling and shaking sounds and suddenly she returned with bags full of potatoes, green chilies, tomatoes, and onions. Then, again, with rice, lentils, mung beans, and TWO litres of milk. We almost fainted.
We are feeding six people 3 times a day here in the jungle hut above the town — on one electric hot plate. This haul should last a week. It all felt like clandestine operation as we filled our back packs and left, trying to contain our happiness.
Back in town, another tiny little shop on the main street was swarming with foreigners. No one was keeping the 1-2 metre distance required for physical distancing protocol. Questions were being fired right and left: Do you have milk? Do have cooking oil? Do you have eggs? Do have coffee? No. No. No. No. You get the gist. But they DID have cookies, chips, soda pop, shampoo, razors, washing powder, batteries and incense. Oh well.
One last stop before going home to the jungle. Two days back, one of our kitchen mates bought milk at a private home. She has a 3-year old daughter so this a priority for her. We returned there, and met Mr. Santos, the brother of the man who had a small store which is now closed. Santos emerged from his house with a giant box of cookies and chips. Er, we we actually looking for some food, Sir. Oh, yes, we can get you milk, but no eggs. And bananas from our trees. How many do you want? 15. Okay. He came out with a sack of 15 gorgeous fat bananas. “You won’t find this kind in the stores. They are from our tree. Do you want 15 more? These are the last ripe ones.” Okay!
I pressed our luck: “Do you have candles, cooking oil, vinegar, or mango pickles?” Bingo. “Come to my brother’s shop. He will lift the door quickly, you pick and leave.” Wow. Clandestine operation number 2.
We did get home with a very full and heavy scooter to cook a tasty lunch with the mung beans and rice. Now, if we could only find some cocoa powder and 2 eggs. I have a stovetop recipe for chocolate cake.
Brendalee Wilson, Yoga Instructor & Photographer
Brendalee has been practicing yoga for more than 15 years, and is a certified SomaYog teacher. BrendaLee has exhibited her fine art photography and colourful paintings to public acclaim. She is an avid traveller, especially to India, a linguist, and a joyful choral singer whose philharmonic choir performs at the NAC. She lives in the woods with her traveling partner, and their cat Machu.