The men of Kovalam
They were a group of young men that I first came across in 2003 and they were one of the main reasons for my repeat visits to the coastal resort of Kovalam. Kovalam is in the very south of India and it has been the destination of thousands of road weary western travellers for decades, it’s not the most beautiful of places anymore, it resembles any number of faded European beach resort from the 1960’s and not the small Indian seasonal seaside town that it actually used to be.
These young men were called Shaji, Ooni, Chandra, and Saboo. They were living the collective idealsistic dreams of most teenage men around there globe but their dreams were real and only ever shown on screen in Bollywood movies. They were four young men who were brought up on a diet of seafood, alchohol, weed and girls. Their day job was to hire out their body boards and deck chairs to the western backpackers who got stuck on the beach for a week or two. By standards of wages in India, they were earning great money. But it was all about the lifestyle.
Their days were spent lying on the beach drinking rum and smoking spliffs and occasionally handing out their boards whilst tourists went into the sea to surf Kovalams famous waves. Getting to know these young guys at that stage of their lives was a privilege for me; they were the most generous of people. I had travelled much more of India than they had, even in Goa I had never come across a more amazing existance than others in India and whilst I am aware that they knew they were lucky I am convinced that they never knew ‘just’ how lucky they were at that time. I’m sure that they know now, as I last heard of them they living in Norwich and Brighton in the United Kingdom with their British Wives.
Jason Scott Tilley