Day Seven: Green Coconuts & Kovalam Beach
An excerpt from my novel, The Immigrant Wife: A Spiritual Journey (Forthcoming March/April 2016)
The two friends gathered their materials in their shoulder bags, and then walked toward the beach. From far they spotted green coconut vendor. The thought of cool coconut juice made Shanti’s mouth water. They selected two coconuts and handed them to the seller. As he was slicing off the thick outer skin of the fruit, Shanti said, “A productive day! Wouldn’t you agree, Hema?”
“I agree! You are good company to go sketching with.”
The vendor handed the fruit to Hema. She put a creamy, slippery slice in her mouth and sucked in its sweet, milky juice through a straw. “Ahhhhhh . . . so soothing, satisfying!” She licked her lips.
“Hard to explain such sensations,” Shanti said, waiting for her turn to get the coconut.
“Hmm . . . as hard as expressing how the body feels when satisfied,” Hema said, taking another long sip.
“Similar to how I feel after I make a painting that looks like a good artwork,” Shanti said as the vendor handed her the other coconut. She sucked in a mouthful of juice that sweetened her dry mouth and cooled her throat.
They paid the vendor, who handed them pieces of hard coconut shell for scraping the creamy insides.
“Do you mean as gratifying as a pleasurable work of art!” Shanti said as she dug her spoon into the wall of the raw coconut.
“No I mean as gratifying as being with a man, but coconut does not taste as intense!” Hema said casually and giggled.
“How would you know? Have you been with a man?” Shanti said as a joke.
Hema nodded affirmatively with eyes closed, then put a creamy slice into her mouth.
“You mean pleasure in painting is the same as being with a man?” Shanti said. She was not sure if she had understood Hema correctly. To make sure, she again asked, “And by being with a man, you mean having sex?”
“Yes, having sex!” Hema looked at Shanti, “Why are you shocked? In aesthetics class, didn’t we learn that sexual experience, aesthetic experience, and spiritual ecstasy are rooted in similar emotion, shringara rasa?”
“I remember that! After that class, I wondered how delight of making art can be similar to a spiritual experience, but sexual pleasure did not enter my mind.”
“A follower of Gandhi, are you?” Hema said in mirth.
Shanti had been taken by the idea of intense experiences as explained in the aesthetics class. “What intrigued me was the knowledge that while I am absorbed in painting, my painting and I become one. And it is in the two becoming one, in the experience of absorption, that pleasure is stimulated, albeit temporary. But the spiritual experience is not a temporary experience; if one experiences it the bliss becomes permanent!”
“And you did not even once think about sexual pleasure, the joy of being with a man?”
“You are so odd!” Hema said wiggling her nose.
“Have you been with a man?” Shanti blurted out in irritation.
“You didn’t guess until now?”
“Who is he?”
“Inderjeet, the man I introduced you to at Lila’s party.”
Shanti came to an abrupt stop. She turned to face Hema. “Are you still seeing him? But you never talk about him!”
“That’s because Lila hates him! She has poisoned your mind, too.”