The End of the Season
I've been paragliding in India. But here on the west coast the flying season is now over. The pre-monsoon wind is much too strong. It hurtles into the restaurant where I've just had a late, leisurely breakfast, scouring and coating everything with fine sand. I take a sip of bottled drinking water to remove some grains from my mouth.
The sea heaves, grey and restless, flecked with splashes of creamy foam where the wind rips the whitecaps from the crests of the swells. Huge cumulus clouds hang overhead, dark and menacing, seemingly defying the laws of gravity. It looks like rain. It's looked like rain for the past week. It hasn't rained.
The tourist season is also over. In January this restaurant would have been full. Now there are just four westerners having breakfast. We sit, watching the sky, the beach, the sea, the Indians. A small group of Indian tourists are in the water, the women in their saris, the men in their y-fronts, being battered by the churning waves. Others sit on the fishing boats, play cricket, stand in the shade, most of the younger generation with mobile phones pressed firmly to their ears.
A white Tata pulls round in front of the next restaurant, ignoring the "No vehicles on the beach" sign. An extended middle class Indian family - thirteen of them in all, descends onto the beach. The logo on the truck proclaims it to be a Tata Sumo. Perhaps they should rename it the Tata Tardis? Two teenage girls and a seven or eight year old boy look like stick insects in their shorts. By contrast, the mother sways gracefully like some benign hippo as she ambles across to the tables next door. One day the two girls will look like that.
Nearly all of the shops in the village are closed, along with the hotels and guesthouses. From over twenty restaurants on the beach during the season, now just three remain. Almost literally. Many of the restaurants are made from bamboo poles with palm leaf roofs. Once the season is finished they are dismantled and carted off, then brought back in October for the next batch of westerners. Most of the waiters have been sent home. Those that are left hover, or sit on the wall. They'll wait, patiently, all day, as only Indians can. When potential customers pass they'll stand and say hello or good morning, hoping to turn potential to actual, perhaps with the added possibility of a tip.
The post-tourist building frenzy has begun. On cliffside they are building another thirty-two double rooms. Behind me in the village, piles of red laterite blocks, the local building material, are a symbol of the desire to attract some of next season's tourist income...