From Copenhagen to Byron Bay: An energy crisis and a tale of two women
India first you get married and then you work these things out",
he said with amazing casualness.
possess mystical energies and can help to focus your karma".
April was convinced that the crystals and gemstones I had bought
here in India had qualities that went way above and beyond the laws
of natural science. She was a twenty-year old spiritual healer from
Byron Bay in Australia. I had been to Byron Bay. It was a hippy
hang out where much talk was of cosmic forces and "energy".
A while ago I would have treated any notions of "energy"
with my usual cynical disdain as the ramblings of a madwoman who
had spent far too much time in India - or for that matter, Byron
Bay. But now I wanted to believe because this had been a life-changing
trip at a time when I thought life-changing trips happened only
to other people.
The first week in late October was spent mainly lying on my bed in Chennai
(Madras) staring up at the rotating ceiling fan. That was to become a
regular occurrence. It felt like the end of a trip, never mind the start.
I didn't really know why I'd come back to India and was suffering an "energy"
crisis from early on. Gazing at the fan didn't help. The stale air wafted
around the room, reminding me just how vaccuous and hollow things had
become. The ceiling fan was sucking me into a spiraling vortex of self-pity.
Some people call it a mid-life crisis. Maybe that's what it was.
So I decided to leave the city, and soon found myself sitting on a stone
floor in a village house, sipping sickly sweet tea. Sanju, the hotel owner
where I was staying had taken me to meet his sister. Asha was studying
for a degree, spoke good English and was loyal. After fifteen minutes
of hard sell he turned to me and asked "What do you think?"
I knew what he meant, "What do you mean?" I replied. "Do
you want to marry?" he said. She was nineteen. Her mother was one
year older than me. I knew nothing about this girl, her aspirations, or
personality. This did not matter to Sanju. "In India first you get
married and then you work these things out", he said with amazing
casualness. She was beautiful - the option of months of possible loneliness
ahead or a hasty marriage and years of probable regret? I opted for the
former and headed back to Chennai to lie under the fan.
New Year's Eve came and I found myself in the hotel reception reading
a daily newspaper. Someone sat next to me. She was stunning! She was Scandinavian!!
But she looked so out of place, and not like a usual backpacker. It was
as though she had come straight from a bar in Copenhagen, dressed in denim
jacket, jeans, a tight fitting top and carrying a red shoulder bag. She
probably had. She worked in one. She was in India to do research for her
studies in social anthropology. We shared something! I had been a social
researcher for ten years. We also had another similarity - a mutual distrust
of the notion of "energy" and anyone who talked about it endlessly
and said they felt it everywhere they went in India. Those people had
obviously lost their grip.
We hung out together as travellers do and during a warm January we became
friends. But I lost my footing and fell. I couldn't stop falling. The
rate of acceleration was frightening, and before I could apply the brakes
I had fallen for her. There was a slight snag however - the small matter
of that thing called "chemistry". For me there was plenty, but
for her there was none. At school wasn't chemistry something to do with
reactions and energies? So I did believe in "energy" after all.
I just didn't know it. I needed to meet April in March to show me this.
There were also a few other little difficulties - a big age difference,
diverging outlooks, and us having almost next to nothing in common. The
fact that we were both preoccupied didn't help either - I with her and
she with herself, resulting in her complete failure to appreciate my superb
qualities as a human being. Apart from all of that, things were going
Now to a normal person these things would have been major obstacles, but
for someone barely clinging to the edge of reality with their fingernails,
they were merely minor setbacks which could (and should) be ignored. Then
it struck me - in my desperation I had become just like Sanju with his
utter disregard for compatibility. Anyway, we bonded - in opposition.
I gave everything but she wanted nothing, and I exuded passion while she
displayed indifference. I couldn't stop thinking of her. I was obsessed.
The more emotion I gave to her the quicker it drained away. She was a
porous pot of a woman.
She knew how I felt. I told her. Splatter! That was the sound of my heart
sinking to the floor, exploding on impact and her trampling all over it
the instant she told me she didn't feel the same. Mere rejection wasn't
going to stop me however. I wasn't about to return to the hypnotic stupour
of the ceiling fan so easily. I clung to the desperate belief that if
she REALLY got to know me then I was sure she would change her mind. I
cared about everything she did. Increasingly she seemed to care for little
for anything I said.
So the ceiling fan scenario returned. I dreamt of it when asleep and gazed
at it when awake. Most of the time I didn't know whether I was awake or
asleep. I entered a black hole of ceiling fan syndrome. She absorbed every
bit of "energy" I gave. Or maybe it just rebounded. Perhaps
she was both an absorber and a repeller at the same time. She was an absorbant
It was time to make an undignified exit. My crisis was all too rapidly
getting out of hand. I escaped to Jaipur, over a thousand miles north
in Rajasthan. Distance was to be my salvation - out of sight out of mind,
but by that stage I was already out of my mind. That's when I met April.
She was no absorbant repellant. April was a leaking radiator. She leaked
warmth and radiated "energy". April was advising me about buying
jewellery to sell back home. She told me that certain stones could answer
questions put to them when dangled on a piece of string. I asked for a
demonstration, but my request bordered on absurdity. She had to "programme"
the stone and that took a lot of time (and "energy" no doubt).
I wanted to believe in the hidden power of crystals and gemstones. I needed
April was frightening - in a nice sort of way. She was a heady mixture
of Byron Bay hippiedom and Indian mysticism, and spoke of being at one
with the eternal vibrations of the universe. I didn't quite know what
that meant but it sounded impressive. She talked of witches being burnt
at the stake for their knowledge of unseen "energy" and how
to unlock it. April was a 21st Century child, but I got the impression
that she yearned to live in that long lost age of mystical energy and
witchcraft - without the stake-burning of course.
April was young and wise, and talked of a higher force and how people
had lost touch with its energies. Without it we are nothing and merely
exist in our own self-perpetuated ignorance. I could identify with that.
April also talked of people you meet who just drain away all of your positive
energy. And I certainly identified with that. She was inspirational with
her talk of hidden energies and forces, and the astrological powers of
amethyst, garnet and a dozen other stones. This was the gospel according
to April, who incidentally was born in March.
So I started my own import export business dealing in - you've guessed
it - semi-precious gemstones. It was a major life change. I had never
sold anything before. I began my trip in crisis, turned into a gibbering
wreck, and ended up in May thinking of April, newly "energised"
and selling stones. The whole thing felt like a bad dream in a hardware
store at times with its ceiling fan vortex, porous pots, leaking radiators
and absorbant repellants. I travelled from the coldness of Copenhagen,
to the warmth of Byron Bay without ever leaving India. Maybe April was
right all along and a higher force had been at work. Perhaps "energy"
does exist. If it does, its a powerful thing.
© Colin Todhunter April 2002
Previously by Colin Todhunter
will be a small financial re-numeration" Mr Sunderjee says almost
Colin Todhunter finds himself the
unexpected 'star' of an Indian movie.
unique experience of going to the gym in India
More Travel Journeys in Hacktreks