Ommmmm Beach and the Big Bad Surprise

The Indian hitchhiking experience delightfully took Jared and I to the city of Gokarna, in the southern state of Karnataka where we climbed cliffs, saw temples and enjoyed a small Indian town.

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From Gokarna one can enjoy several unhurried beaches and we chose Om Beach for the day.

 “Om”, a mystical SanSkrit sound of Hindu origin (geographically India), is sacred in Dharmic religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, and is said by some to be the first peaceful sound of creation.

 Om Beach reflected nothing but peace as Jared I stood cliff top looking down on it. A handful of people and another hand full of cows were lounging about, all doing basically nothing. On the far side of a crescent moon coast line lay a man in the shallow surf, enjoying the sun as the waves lapped up around him. He looked amazingly relaxed. THAT was exactly what I wanted to do and as we descended the cliff to the beach, I was so glad we had come. Slowly we circled along the ocean, taking in the water, sand and beautiful cliffs,  all framed by the jungle where small, relaxed huts, shaded under palm trees, offered food or simple beds for rent. We were going for a snack, after which I planned to enjoy the ocean just like the guy laying in the surf. As we approached that guy though, I realized he wasn’t a real man at all, but a stiff white manikin who had been tied with a long rope – one end around his waste, and the other going up up across the beach, then wrapping around a palm tree, under which a few indians lazily smoked. The rope kept the manikin from washing out to sea. Jared and I decided it was being used for life guard training or something like that, but as we got closer, we saw this story wasn’t quite right. Jared was the first one to say it.

 “Is that a dead body?”

 Silence. We looked. Then looked closer.

 Jared followed up with “No. It’s not.”

 Because he didn’t want to believe it. But, yes, it was.

 The Relaxed Man turned Manikin Man, had now turned into Dead Man, all alone and swollen, bleached and being nicely cooked by the sun as the lapping tide receded leaving him to dry.

 “He is an Indian who drowned three days ago”, a passer by explained. “They just found him.”

 The bloated body was stark white save violent tattoos of black and blue bruises and empty veins all over his arms and legs. Uncertain steps took us closer until a slight smell of death stopped us at a respectful distance. We stared in morbid fascination. He had the tight translucent skin of a white, black and blue water balloon ready to pop.

 It was wrong. Really wrong. No one should pop alone on the beach. Marching up to the men lounging under the palm tree I commanded with pointed finger, “Get him off the beach! He should not be here!”

They waved me away with nonchalance. “We have to wait for the police to take pictures”

So, Jared and I climbed the cliff at the other end of the beach to a food shack with ok tali and a heightened view of the whole scene. Only picking at our food, we watched the reactions of the occasional passerby. Even that far away we could see shock, repulsion and fascination in their body language.

It took an hour for the police to show. By this time we were making our way back around. When they finally picked the guy up and put him on a sheet, I was relieved he didn’t fall apart.

We didn’t hang around much after that, seeing as our pursuit of peace on the beach had been trumped by the image of a popping dead man.

Om Beach. Shanti. Shanti.

Photograph: Franck Guiziou/Hemis/Corbis via theguardian

Photograph: Franck Guiziou/Hemis/Corbis via theguardian

Jared has his own story about this:  The beach, the corpse and the cliché that hijacked my brain




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