_MG_4713It’s Monday night. There’s no other place worth being than at 6 Assagao where compelling, invigorating talks and performances are held in the space of the closed restaurant, Gunpowder. The non-profit organisation that Nilankur Das has seeded, birthed and developed over the course of a year and a bit provides a space for activism talks not just of the goings on in India but from around the world. It’s a space where artists from the various fields of writing, painting and music can showcase their works. Where travellers who have set out on a journey of unconventional ways can share of their experiences.

Home-cooked Indian food is served alongside local drinks and the growing community arrives for a night of educational insight and values. Sometimes just a handful show up, sometimes there’s not enough space for everyone as was the case on Monday, the 4th of November.

A nameless collective had come together to present a 3-hour performance of what might be regarded as ‘experimental theatre’. Although, if you really dig deep, every piece of theatre is experimental. This group of 7 individuals had come together to project and inject something into the attendees psyche.

IMG_4825Bhisaji is all about movement and using his body to convey what his going through on the inside. As he entered the stage area fully clothed in white, he used a ladder, candles and his own body to press what his heart was beating to. As the evening gathered pace he stripped to black tights, going topless and finally, ending up in black briefs. Interacting with the crowd by holding a candle between him and the person whose soul he dove into. And he dived into each of the people that came within the first hour, at least 20 or so soul-dives were conducted, some lasting seconds, some lasting minutes.

IMG_4758All the while, Impana, a dancer and movement performer, expressed her emotions through traditional dance, movement and speech. Talking to the crowd, to herself, sitting by an audience member and just having a conversation with him while playing with string. For me, the peak sizzle of the evening came when she and Bhisaji began to mirror each other’s movements. It’s hard to take your eyes off people who mirror each other.

_MG_4897In the background, Dhiraj cuddled and wrapped himself in a 10-metre white cloth, contrasting it with his black outfit. He remained wrapped, hidden and still for most of the 3-hours. This isn’t lazy performing. It conveys a powerful message. That silence is power, like the silent protestors in Turkey or a Vipassana course. With silence we gain insight, our vision clears and we see things for what they really are without the distraction of noise.

_MG_4913Behind the scenes, although not hidden as they provide an on-stage presence that adds to the power of the piece, Supriya and Rohit controlled the live projection of visual mappings played on pieces of hung cloth or on the actors bodies as they performed. The visuals seemed to represent confusion and calm at the same time. Supriya also physically played with Impana and Bhisaji, wrapping herself in the cloth with Dhiraj.

_MG_4711Conducting the soundscape were two young men, Divesh and Akshay. Both talented musicians in their own right they played with electronica and ancient instruments such as the digeridoo and mouth harp, drums, bells, horns and sea shells, all brought together harmoniously to create sounds that in itself, took you on a frequency journey. At a later stage of the performance, Divesh began to draw on the easel standing by him.

IMG_4777The entire set was without lights bar the lights of candles lit during the performance by the players. The overhead rainbow canopy as though representing the colours of the human emotions. And even when the power went out, as it tends to do in Goa and indeed, the whole of Asia, without skipping a beat, the players synched up and used the cut power to their advantage until it returned. It was sewn together so perfectly you’d think it was all part of the act.

When I spoke to the performers I was astonished to learn that they had only gotten together just a few weeks prior, with just a handful of rehearsals, just flowing with what comes. As Akshay had put it, “We challenge ourselves creatively.”

_MG_4969And what they conveyed indeed seemed challenging yet it was presented seamlessly. The kind of performance that no two opinions could ever be the same. Everyone who attended had a different experience in the semi-circle stage they surrounded. A slightly different degree in the point-of-view from sitting on the floor almost as part of the stage, sitting around on the benches or standing behind the seats. Each perspective did its purpose of doing just that; a different perspective on a 3-hour performance that will never be the same when they do it again.

To find out more about Monday Nights at 6 Assagao and Thus. check out the following link:

There’s always something new to learn on Monday nights in Goa.

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Borderless Tales CoverOn January 15th I presented a talk about what I learned over the course of travelling three years non-stop from Melbourne to Jerusalem, hitching for two years through Africa after spending five months sailing the Indian Ocean – in cyclone season – and bartering while observing human nature.

Here’s the podcast of that event (although the recording was glitched so I had to re-record at home but the message is the same) held at 6 Assagao in north Goa, produced by Thus., a very crucial and much needed platform in Goa.

Categories: Adventure Travel, Africa, Asia, Hitch Hiking, India, Sailing, The Indian Ocean | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment


Octopus Surf

© Edy Rodrigues

“Come any time, grab a board and hit the waves,” Edy offered.

I couldn’t believe it. At the time, I was teaching surfing at place that took advantage  of my volunteering bartering ways, so I quit and found Edy, then based at Pink Orange but now based at Sea Bird Beach Cafe in Morjim, North Goa.

I know what you’re thinking: India and surfing? This pizza-sliced shaped nation is surrounded by water so yes, India and surfing. On the east coast you have the Bay of Bengal which produces some gnarly waves as Appu, India’s surf champ (placed first in 2016 and third in 2017) and owner\operator of Ocean Delight Surf School in Kovalam, described the right-handers to be, “Big, man. Some days we get 6-foot, some days it can be 10, up near Madras.”

On the other side of the sub-continent, you have the Arabian Sea where during monsoons it is impossible to even approach the water let alone think about going in. The undertow would suck you in like a crocodile taking a zebra and spit you out somewhere along Somalia’s coast in a flash.


© Oscar Sutherland, 2016

But during the season, which tends to kick off around September and last through until June-July, the waves are perfect for beginners. Easy going, chunky and rarely exceed the 2-foot marker.

Except when a cyclone hits as it did this year and produced some 10-footers with fast-paced barrels as Swapnil, Edy’s teaching partner experienced.

Which is why Goa and Edy’s surf school – Octopus Surf – is the best place to learn how to tame the most powerful element on our planet – water.

“I love octopus,” Edy explained the origins of the name. “Fascinating creatures.”


© Oscar Sutherland, 2016

Goa’s abundant beach breaks make it a safe spot to learn with nothing but sand to brace your wipeouts. It’s shallow for up to about a hundred meters out and the waves start breaking just 30 meters from the beach itself.

“I’ve been surfing for about six years,” Edy explained. “I love it.”

As do I. I don’t regard it a sport. Rather a connection to the water. It’s therapeutic and meditative, cleansing my being of everything and spitting me back out on the beach with a new, clean slate. I like to think that it’s not me riding the wave, rather the wave allowing me to ride it (until it’s had enough and kicks me off).

Surfing is one of those activities where you either love it or you hate it. There’s no middle ground. And I love it. I taught myself how to conquer Neptune’s anger at a late stage in life, when I was 29.

No one told me I should have started on the white-wash. Instead, I paddled straight out for Lorne’s 3-4 foot powerful breaks that taught me a lesson or three. And although I’m no world class surfer, I’m a world class wipe-outer.


© Oscar Sutherland, 2016

The best time to surf in Goa is from early morning until about lunchtime when the offshore winds change to an onshore, crumbling the waves.

On occasion, if I was early enough, I’d find myself sharing the water with dolphins, watch the Brahmani and Brown Kites head out to sea to fish or a flock of sandpipers flashing from brown to their white underbelly as they follow the local fishing boats dotting the horizon.

Fishermen on the beach would scrub their beached boats, cleaning out their nets while dogs and crows hovered about for scraps. Every now and again a fish or a few of them might leap out.

The waters of the Arabian Sea are usually quite clear and warm with a lot of glassy days. Your main traffic concern would be the tourists who seem to be so fascinated by surfers that they remain where they are in the water as you and the board you’re riding head straight for their grinning faces.


© Oscar Sutherland, 2016

And it’s always good to be able to surf without a wetsuit.

Edy and Swapnil are both locals who know the waters quite well (as does Appu in Kovalam) and are connected to the other surf schools down the coast.

The prices at Octopus Surf School are local (other schools target the tourists and charge disproportionately) and their teachings, from what I’ve seen, are easy to follow.

No matter what level you’re at when it comes to water sports, I’ve yet to meet a student of Octopus Surf that hasn’t managed to get up on a wave or leave without a smile. The boys also run surf camps for kids combining yoga and acro-yoga which go hand-in-hand with surfing.

And you’ll never see either surfers without a smile on their face. How can you not smile when your life is a beach?

If you’re ever in Goa, check ’em out on Facebook or via the website or just head to Sea Bird Resort in Morjim and ask for Edy or Swapnil.

If you end up in Kovalam, Tamil Nadu, head for Appu’s school, Ocean Delight.

Tell ’em I sent ya.

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IMG_8977I had to stop.

And not just because I had trekked 2 K’s uphill with my pack and guitar after a 42-hour journey from the southern Indian state of Karnateka to the Western Ghats in Maharashtra.


A journey spanning just over a thousand kilometers on two trains, sleeping on the floor of the waiting room of the Igatpuri train station surrounded by snoring police officers at 01:00 and a bus that planted me in the sleepy village of Bhandardara (Shendi) at five in the AM.

I had to stop because as I stood on the plateau and looked around while the rising sun painted the day with light, I simply could not believe that I was where I was.IMG_9020

The Western Ghats of Maharashtra (just under 200 km from the state’s capital, Mumbai) are home to the state’s highest peak, Kalsubai, rising up to 1,646 meters above sea level to keep watch across the vast valley where the Pravara River cuts through with the Randha Waterfall, the H20 feeding into Arthur Lake and ending at Wilson Dam.

The planet-waking orange orb that slowly came up behind a peak like the parting of heavy curtains began to warm up the day so I de-robed myself of the blanket I was wrapped in.

It was still early and the sleepy village of Murshet, sitting on a Table Top in the heart of the Sahyadri Hills, was just stirring awake. A foggy mist bedded the valley below as I walked through a small forest along the unsealed road.

IMG_9003I had been invited by Prat Chi to spend a few days at his eco-house appropriately named the Chi House.

Chi is the 22nd letter in the Greek alphabet. It’s also the 22nd star in a constellation. But more importantly, it’s the Chinese word for ‘life-force’ or prana.

Chi House is a small, round home with a fully utenislised kitchen, a double bed, toilet and shower and a flat roof sporting a vista of the kind you have to constantly rub your eyes to make sure that you are seeing what you are currently seeing – an endless valley bordered by rising hills with agriculture fields dotting the Pravara River.

The house is care-taken by the family living next door. If you should so please, they’ll cook all your meals for you but it’s best to have a little bit of Hindu in your backpocket as the family doesn’t speak English.

I had arrived after two weeks of detoxing, healing from a shattered heart and was four days from the planet’s biggest party – New Year’s that would end 2017 and present 2018 to a world that was constantly on edge with questionable global leaders making decisions that, well, need to be questioned.

Things I wouldn’t know about having been disconnected from everything up here in the hills. The family had just stirred awake as I arrived and had to clean up a bit so I headed up to the roof and meditated in this new, fresh surroundings  before I practiced yoga.

I was presented with breakfast of beaten rice with lentils and curry leaves and then headed down to Shendi village to stock up on supplies. I hadn’t cooked in a long time and I was going to utilise my time here to do just that. Especially with a pressure cooker being made available.IMG_9008

The residents of Shendi are quite friendly although very few that I encountered spoke English. All the tourists I came across were domestic. And as it was coming up to New Year’s, colourful pop-up tents were being pitched around Arthur Lake with the tourists coming to house them slowly spilling in over the coming days.

The weekend saw Shendi come to life, like it had been charged with an electrical current after flat-lining. Hundreds of people descended on the village to take advantage of the markets. The streets lined with vegetable stalls, fish mongers and small shack-like restaurants serving chai and pakodas (deep-fried onions).



I explored the lake-side but the amount of people put me off and I returned to Murshet Table Top to simply breathe in the fresh air of the mountains, cook, meditate, practice yoga and make sure my jaw didn’t drop to often due to the astounding views.

On New Year’s Day I awoke in a tent, having had to move due to the house being booked by Prat’s friends to celebrate the end and beginning of the year (there are beds and blankets to accommodate up to 15-20 people) .

I stood with them, watching the sunrise as I had done what now seemed like a lifetime ago when I had arrived. I collected my pack and guitar, bid them a happy New Year, and headed down to the sleepy village of Shendi for a 36-hour journey back to Goa, my chi vitalised and stocked up for 2018.

To make a booking, contact via Facebook or the website.



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mouse“Can you come down and deal with this, please?” the Jungle Gypsy called from downstairs. She sounded in a panic so I rushed, practically teleported, to her locale in the kitchen.

“What’s up?” I huffed, my breath catching up with me from behind.


She looked at me a little off-key before a screeching brought her back to the moment.

“What’s that screeching?” I asked, my eyes scanning the layout for the source. “Is that a squirrel?”

“There’s a mouse caught in the glue trap behind the washing machine,” JG directed my sight. “I’m late for work and I hate to have to leave you to deal with this on your own but it’s suffering.” She buried her head into my chest as the screeching continued, my eyes locking onto the source glued to a glue trap behind the washing machine.

Next to it, lying motionless, was a gecko that had free-fallen from the ceiling, landing right into the glue. Beside them was another trap with two geckos that appeared to have followed the same fate as their other buddy.

Glue traps are a horrible invention. Yet another cruel device to remove a being from the living and relocate it to the welcoming arms of death in an agonising and painful way. Like being sawed in half – slowly.

When I was a kid, I admit, I was guilty of violent acts against the smallest of nature’s visible-to-the-human-eye creatures. I’ve killed ants, spiders, pulled tails off skinks, flies, pulled apart millipedes and the never-ending onslaught of our own population controller, mozzies.

But that was before I realised that it was the wrong way to be and I stopped killing everything. Well, mozzies and flies have yet to reach an agreement with me and negotiations are still being held with ticks. The outcome being that it seems that peace in the Middle East might be achieved before peace between mosquitoes and humans ever will.

I hate killing anything. And what initially stopped me and put me on the co-existing track was the simple fact of, ‘What right do I have to take the life of another being?’ And, yes, mosquitoes are another being, but I feel like they can be made the exception. I mean, if you’re up against something that can and will inject you with the equivalent of a ruthless street gangbanger in the form of malaria, West Nile River and Zika parasites, it’s a do or die moment. Although , I’d like to think, they don’t do it intentionally (or perhaps aren’t even aware that they have picked up a  hitch hiker and then injected it into your bloodstream), the price they pay to try and control the human population is a hefty one.

I had no idea that glue traps had been set by JG’s housemate who had already left that morning. I remember as a kid, my mother would set identical traps and dispose of the mice by drowning and throwing them into the neighbourhood council bin.

Jungle Gypsy hugged me, apologising profusely for putting me in this position.

“Don’t worry,” I gritted my teeth. “I’ll take care of it.”

Just wasn’t sure how.

I had a Vipassana course coming up. The last thing I needed to add to my anger issues and other fun topics was the murder of another being (be it for mercy – it’s still taking a life) and staining my karma.

The mouse was screeching in a panic as I lifted the trap. We had just watched the animated film, Epic (about fairies and pixies. Recommended) and in it, it shows the fairies point of view of humans and how their movements seem slow and lethargic because of size. With that in my head, I moved my hand slowly, hoping to emulate the mouse’s perception of time (although, I doubt that, at that sticky point in its life, it was thinking of time).

I had to put it out of its misery somehow. I figured I could remove it from the glue with a stick. We slowly stepped outside where I picked up a stick and proceeded to try and unstick the mouse. It screeched louder so I stopped.

And sat with it on the step.

It seemed to be calming down a bit. Watching it getting stucker with every movement, like watching someone drown in see-through quicksand, I noticed that, through its struggle, it had torn off its left cheek-fur from under the eye to the jaw. There was no blood but the skin would be raw. And the torn part was still stuck to the glue.

I can’t leave it out for another animal to eat it. It would get stuck to the glue. And if it didn’t, and managed to nibble away at the unstuck bits, it might eat a bit of the glue and die of poisoning. What  if that animal had young that depended on it? I’d be responsible for wiping out an entire gene pool.

Seeing no other choice, I took a cardboard box, laid it with plastic and filled it with warm water. If I was going to drown it, at least it should go bathed in warmth. I held the trap above the water, begging forgiveness from the little guy.

“I’m so sorry,” a sadness and the sense that I was doing something wrong began to blanket me. Turning to The Universe I asked, “What else can I do?” There was no internet at home so my research resource was limited. As I began to lower the trap towards the water, The Universe appeared by my side in the form of my subconscious.

“Hold on there, Nelly,” it said. “You’re not even gonna try?”

“Name’s not Nelly,” I began as it ignored me.

“What kind of a human are you? You’re supposed to be compassionate and loving. We can’t kill this creature. What right do you have?”

“But what else am I going to do?” I argued. “Of course, I don’t want to kill this animal but it’s in misery, because of cruel human engineering. Look at it.”

It didn’t and continued to berate me with, “So because it’s a mouse it doesn’t deserve a chance?” It paused for effect. “If it were a puppy would you be so quick to conclude that a mercy killing was the only option? If it were a human baby, you would do everything in your power to save it. Everything but kill it.”

Hmm, guy makes a valid point. Why was my go-to option instantly death by murder? My only go-to option should have been (and this is now set to Default in Settings) Save rather than Delete.

“If hardened human engineering created this,” Subconscious nailed it home, “then perhaps soft human engineering can resolve it.”

“But there’s no internet,” I explained.

“You have another resource,” Subi said matter-of-factly. It waited.

As did I. A moment after it became awkward I asked, “Are you waiting for a reply or was that rhetorical?”

It sighed. “Your brain, mate. Your other resource is your brain.” It shook its head in almost disgust. “Look, lemme introduce you to a couple of very good friends. This is Logic and that’s Common Sense. They’re gonna assist you.” Subi’s shoulders slumped, a sort of all-hope-is-lost halo about it.

Well, there was no arguing the point. The water in the box was still warm and my brain came up with a few search results. I clicked on the first one (under the ads).

‘Try to mix it with soap, get it off the trap for a start.’

Mixing in dishwasher liquid, I dipped the mouse in making sure its head was kept above the water. With a stick, I managed to gently remove it from the glue.

I carefully handled the mouse hoping it wouldn’t bite me, talking to it soothingly, asking it to co-operate with me. It appeared at first that the glue was removed but, after drying the creature in a kitchen towel, it became sticky again. Its tiny claws stuck together. And its whiskers, vital for its survival, where glued together to its neck.

There was no way this rodent would survive if I released it like this (from the Latin: Rodere, meaning ‘to gnaw’. They are mammals of the Rodentia order. What makes a Rodentia? I hear you sing. A single pair of continuously growing incisors in each of the upper and lower jaws. In fact, according to research on Wikipedia, about 40% of all mammal species are rodents. They are the most diversified mammalian order and live in a variety of terrestrial habitats, including human-made environments). And if something came along to eat it – raptor or reptile – they’d die from glue poisoning.

“Well now what?” I asked aloud.

“Think, man,” Subi egged me on. “How do you get glue off your fingers?”

“Hmm,” I hmmed. “Usually I let it dry and then peel it off. But I don’t have hairy finger tips.” I examined my fingers to double check. All the while I kept an eye  on the three dogs that came with the house and realised that I could call the local vet for assistance.

“You’ll have to cut the fur off where the glue is,” she recommended over the phone.

“What about its feet?”

“I don’t know. I can’t help you there.” There was a pause. “You might just have to take it out of its misery.”

Seems to be the go-to solution around here. Again, were it a larger mammal, a puppy, a human, that solution wouldn’t never cross anyone’s mind. Sighing, I grabbed some scissors but as I held the mouse and tried to get an angle to cut the fur and not the flesh, I concluded that it would be a sticky risk.


“This is no time for a drink,” Subi spat. “Besides, you quit.”

“Not for drinking,” I said, raiding the house bar. “To see if it’ll get the glue off. Like how acetone removes nail polish.”

The house was out of vodka but there was plenty of gin. Pouring a capful into a small bowl I then dipped a cotton bud and dabbed at the mouse’s fur.

The fur came off.

Strong gin.

And then a thought struck me like the discovery of black gold.


Yes, oil.

If there was something we had, it was a ton of oil. Olive oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil and vegetable oil. Why not oil?

Why not, indeed.

I decided to use vegetable oil purely for its affordability and poured some into another small bowl. Carefully, I bathed the mouse in the lubricant and to my astonishment, the glue came sliding off the fur.

I watched as its whiskers, crucial to sense changes in temperature and to help feel the surface they’re walking on (mice don’t venture far from their burrows to find food. About eight metres is their boundary line. Their complex burrows usually built close to the food source) came unstuck. It’s toes and claws followed suit. Its mouth resumed moving freely and the only physical injury it appeared to have was where it had torn its cheek-fur under the left eye.

I wiped down the mouse but the oil wasn’t coming off. I figured it’ll dry off and decided to make a little hospital box for it. I placed the lid of a large plastic bottle with water and left  a banana so it could eat (mice eat 15-20 times a day), recuperate and, eventually, be released in a new location in a field somewhere within a few days.

As the days passed I checked on the mouse every morning before heading off to surf and when I came back. I didn’t want to interact with it too much for fear it would grow attached. My 10-day Vipassana course was nearing and I figured that the morning I’d leave for the course would be the morning I’d release the mouse, allowing good karma to carry me through the meditations.

But it’s fur was still in oily clumps, exposing parts of its thin skin. I figured it might be a health hazard if the mouse’s fur couldn’t protect it from pointy things or the cold. I mean, sure, their life expectancy in the wild is six months but you wanna make those six months count, no (in captivity, they can live for two years, depending what experiments they’re subjected to)?

Two eves before the proclaimed check-out date, I headed out to a friend’s art exhibition. I relayed the rescue effort and consulted with him my dilemma of ridding the oil.

“Try warm water and soap,” he suggested. “The best would be dishwasher liquid as it’s a degreaser.”

Of course!

The next day I followed up on his suggestion. After the mouse dried it was back to its furry ball. It had eaten most of the banana and a carrot I had added to spice up its menu.

It was climbing fearlessly on my hand and then up my arm when I cleaned out it’s box. Just chillin’ on my shoulder. I was tempted to keep it but what if it had family? What if it was a mother or part of a bigger colony that was now worried sick?

What if, in fact, it was a baby rat that was still growing?

The morning before I headed out to Vipassana I came up to check on the little fella and to let it know it was being discharged from the temporary hospital. But the box was empty.

“Never even got to say ‘goodbye’,” I complained sadly to Subi.

“Dude, you just rescued and recuperated a mouse after your go-to solution was to kill it,” it consoled me. “I’m sure it knew it was time. It probably just didn’t want to be relocated. Wants to stick around in the hood, make sure you’re doing alright.”

“I’ll take that,” I grinned. “Hope you made it out there, little buddy,” I called out.

I mean a raptor or reptile could have taken it the minute it high-tailed it (or long-tailed it. Mice tails grow as long as their bodies) out of the hospital box. But even if they did, I was at peace knowing that they wouldn’t be poisoned by any glue.

Such is the circle of life.

It used to be that we would co-live with our fellow natural species. If they got into the food, we’d just have to make better containers. The easy way out is to trap and kill but what right do we have? Even if it is ‘just a mouse’ it’s still a living being. We’ve become so disconnected with nature that we’ve created weapons of mass destruction against them and scaring ourselves from things like cockroaches and mice.

Such is inhumane nature.

It seems the only solution we have is to kill – and with cruel devices like a glue trap –  rather than use patience and compassion to find a way to co-exist. I learned a valuable lesson through that mouse: Don’t ever give up on something no matter how small or big or impossible it may seem.

If you just take a moment to think a bit, use Logic and Common Sense (which, when put together, make for a better combination than a burger with fries and a beer) things tend to work out and another life gets to live.

Such is human nature.


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