Full power Goa

Acro yoga. Osteo-thai. Juice fast. Full power. Full moon parties. Leg warmers for the women, cloven-toed leather booties for men, even in the 90-degree heat. Someone’s bike is pasted with a sticker in rainbow-colored Hebrew. Another advertises a tattoo shop down the way. This one a crystal shop on the other side of the river. Tattoos on chests, backs, feet, snaking up torsos, of lotus flowers and many-armed Shiva types. DJs, American, Australian, German, playing sets at 5PM or at 5AM. Studded leather fashion utility belts. Sunburns and babies blonde from the sun and far tanner than I. A dress without a back, a man without a shirt, almost everyone without shoes.

We all gather one night at Matsya, whose name is written double on the sign: in English posing as Devanagari and English posing as Russian. Sophia and Ira’s daughter, now en route to Pushkar on her Enfield, has insisted we will love it. A brand-new kitchen, filled with foreign appliances and foreign chefs. The menu is four lines long, written sloppily, sloping across flimsy paper torn from a notepad: lasagna, calamari, fish tacos, risotto. Our waitress has a septum piercing. She’s been here since October and says she loves the job. Our food comes slowly, on the kind of silver-colored paper plates I’d expect at a birthday party for an Indian child. (The food would be far better there.) It is overpriced and underserved, and at the end the waitress can’t give us a written bill because she’s recorded our order in shorthand Hebrew. We count out the totals aloud—the short pour of white wine, Rs250, the fish burrito, Rs300, four lasagnas. We reach the right numbers before she does, and later remind her to bring back our change.

Another woman draws a pink heart on my hand to show I’ve bought my ticket. It comes off when I wash my hands in the bathroom, which has a tree growing up through its roof. She draws the heart again and we go downstairs toward the performance area. The bunting is still being draped on stage, but already a crowd has gathered on the sheets spread out on the ground. Chillums being passed around. They’re setting up a table with raw coconut chai on offer. Finally, an hour late, the performance starts.

Helen told us about it, the hang, an instrument invented by a couple in Switzerland who have to interview you to determine if you’re eligible to pay them 2,000 euros to buy one. They invented it five or six years ago. It looks like a double-sided copper tortoise shell. “Hang Massive,” made up of two European men, finally begins to play, each song sounding the same: vague analog electronica. At some point “Storica” joins them and sings a song she recorded in Paris. If we look her up on YouTube, she says, we’ll find the song there, but we should disregard the video. She was still in her fairy stage, then.

Craig, turbaned and dreaded, white drop-crotch pants, joins them to freestyle: look at all the faces, uniting all the races, one tribe, one love, etc. Storica sings a song about being free. Half the crowd is asleep now, or at least halfway there. More than half of them, we learn through a show of hands, have heard the hang live before. They’ve come back today to do it all over again.


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