Gokarna, India. In thinking about what has made this spa week so exceptional, I’ve realized that it is the absence of certain things here that make it all work.
First and foremost, it’s the absence of noise. You don’t realize how much normally surrounds you until it is gone – till your volume meter (essential for New York restaurants) registers a bare whisper.
We have given up on several resorts because their management has now decided that loud piped-in music is essential to entertaining their guests at the beach, at the pool, in the restaurants, or anywhere ears could be found. No, no, no.
Here, even people sitting together at the pool have the decency to speak very softly to each other. There is no splashing in the water, no yelling, no children cannon-balling and shrieking. All those things have their place in the world, but we just don’t want to be in that place.
There is grass here, but never a lawnmower. No, two guys spend all day on their haunches hand-clipping the grass and sweeping it into tidy piles which somehow disappear. The plants are not watered by noisy hoses, but tended daily by women in saris who gracefully carry jugs of water around the property and delicately supply the plants, wasting less water.
Then it’s the absence of decisions – which also translates to an absence of choices. Meals are included and are carefully calibrated to delight all the senses, without over-serving the guests. Yes, Don’s special Ayurveda diet is a little grim, but his dishes are very beautifully arranged and prepared.
I do get choices, which of course makes me feel very much in control. But my choices are limited to a selection of either a fish main course, or a vegetarian. There is no Option C. My plates are also elegant and carefully curated.
Even though I might secretly wish for a pepperoni pizza to magically appear, there’s been no cheating in our villa! We can make tea there, by plucking a few leaves from the “Queen of Herbs” bush, also known as Holy Basil (Tulsi), considered the most sacred herb of India. and dropping them in a cup of hot water. No wasteful tea bags.
Everyone here was a stranger to us. But there was no forced bonhomie or “captain’s table” kind of arranged togetherness. By ourselves, we had to opportunity to meet and dine with charming Sylvie from Montréal, who is at the start of a seven-month hiatus from work to see more of the world and hike the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. And then there is Alicia from Denver, with whom we shared several meals and a common world view.
Also, there’s the absence of judgement. Whether one follows a strict regimen like Don, or chooses to meditate pool-side, no one intervenes or applies any pressure to join the bird-watching group.
All of this is provided in an atmosphere of beauty that more than substitutes for our normal habits. There is time here to carefully arrange a bowl of flowers. There is nothing here that is not natural or provided by the property or the sea. No plastic, no packaging, no detritus of modern life.
They took it all away and gave us so much in return.