The Ceiling Fan

“This my house”, said the middle-aged man. It was an old colonial house in the district of Sao Tomé, dating back to the time Goa was still Portuguese. I looked up to the interesting façade. The large wooden front door stood wide open. “This my mother”, pointed to the left as we entered the house. ”She eighty”. I greeted the old woman who sat hunched on a single bed with a nod and a smile. It was unlikely she would understand English. “My mother and I live downstairs” the man said. “Guest room upstairs very, big, you see, only 250 rupees. I have nice letter from New Zealand lady, I show you. Here toilet, very clean”. I nodded in agreement it was indeed the cleanest squat toilet I had seen in India.

The man gestured me to go ahead and climb the rickety stairs that lead straight to the bedroom door. It was a huge room with two narrow metal-framed single beds that looked like hospital beds from of a World War I movie set. A ceiling fan hung overhead. I pushed with my hand on the mattress, checking its comfort. There was no give left. A small TV stood triumphant on a small table in the centre of the room as evidence that modernity had arrived.

“No door”, said the man pointing at the empty doorframe. I hadn’t noticed yet and was glad he pointed it out. It meant that the room was in open connection with the downstairs where the man and his old mother lived, slept and most likely snored. The man noticed my puzzled look and turned around to look up to the ceiling fan. “No door ‘coz then people not hang themselves from fan” he explained. My hand instinctively rushed to my mouth to contain my laughter. “Thank you”, I said politely once I had composed myself. “ I want to check out some other rooms, maybe I come back”.

When does a pilgrimage end?

A pilgrimage is a journey to a holy place with religious significance. It generally ends when the holy place is reached. The pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella in Spain has an unusual add-on. Many pilgrims continue to Finistere (the end of the world) on the Atlantic coast, something I did not have time to do when I walked to Santiago in 2005.

I named my journey from the outset ‘a pilgrimage in search of self’, a search for ‘a home within’. I traveled to many holy sites belonging to various religions during this journey. At one such site, the birthplace of Buddha in Nepal, a profound insight came to my awareness. The insight was a directive of how to return to ‘home within’ whenever I lost my connection with Self. It felt as if I reached a natural end of my pilgrimage.

I continued to visit many more holy sites, but I began to notice how certain religious activities began to bother me. One such irritant would be the (ab)use of amplifiers, as if louder meant holier. I believe that scriptures, prayers, and sacred chants posses inherent and potent resonance, which gets lost when distorted by amplification to an excruciatingly painful sound level. In the process many are forced to listen to whatever is being broadcast against their will. This surely is not what the creators had intended.

I began to realise that it was time for me to get away from such irritants and surround myself with a more nurturing environment. I got on a plane, skipping many a long train and bus journey. Off to the beaches of Goa I went, without any further ado, bypassing the hectic and polluted cities of Ahmedabad and Mumbai and many ‘must see’ sites in between.

Ah, how soothing the sound of the waves breaking on the shore
(A natural mantra for the soul that does not require religious manipulation)
Ah, how invigorating the refreshing salty waters of the biggest spa in the world
(How can anyone ever claim that such essence can be captured in a bottle?)
Ah, how soothing to stare across the ocean into the vast expanse of emptiness
(Void of cultural, religious and individual ego’s)

After visiting so many holy sites, being by the ocean has become more than just a holiday destination for me. It has also become a place where I can spiritually recharge, connect with Self and observe egoless emptiness while listening to the mantra of waves. Maybe El Camino de Santiago continues beyond the holy site where the bones of St. James are kept, so pilgrims have an opportunity to discover and experience the essence of the ocean and possibly more.

As a child I was blessed with bronchitis and was prescribed summers on the beach by the doctor as a cure (oh what a clever man). At the age of six my bronchitis was gone, but the summer trips to the ocean with the family to Egmond aan Zee on the Dutch coast had luckily become tradition by then. I felt at home at the beach, home as in the elusive ‘home within’, I have been searching for this journey. The beach is where I was allowed to just be, all day long, without question or ridicule, without critique or censorship, be one with the elements, be in my element, creating, building, be one with myself.

I cannot help notice that is since I reached the ocean I am no longer ill, as if I turned 6 again. For months I suffered from colds, flu’s, fevers and chest infections (all perpetuated by overdoses of dust and pollution). Now I swim daily and feel my body and immune system regaining strength day by day. I am done filming and ready to start editing my film. But first I will take a good break and just practice some more being ‘at home’, being one with what the ocean has to offer.

A departure date to the southern hemisphere has been set, not quite heading for New Zealand, the place from where I embarked on this journey, as I am not convinced yet if that should become my physical home again. My next port of call after India will be Australia.

Deens Deuntje

Dutch (for English see below):

Volksmuziek en folklore worden in Nederland vaak als oudbollige rariteiten beschouwd die geen plaats meer hebben in de kultuur van de hedendaagse samenleving. Op speciale gelegenheden wordt dit onderdeel van de kultuur uit de kast gehaald en gevierd met passie of het nou perfect is of niet. Is het echt of slechts toneel?

Attributen zoals klederdracht werken als een masker dat de muziekanten in staat stelt zich over te geven aan de essentie van de muziek en zang. Het verkleden is als het ware een ritueel dat de transformatie van het hedendaagse naar het verleden mogelijk en acceptabel maakt voor de muziekanten en het publiek. Wanneer het acceptabel is kan van de voorstelling zonder remmingen genoten worden.

Dit deense deuntje is gekozen voor deze video op verzoek van de muziekanten. Een ander nederlands lied dat de muziekanten speelden zal in m’n film verwerkt worden.


Folk music and folklore are often regarded in The Netherlands as old fashioned curios which no longer have a place in contemporary society. At special occasions this part of the culture is being showcased and celebrated with passion, regardless of the quality of the performance. Is this for real or just show?

Attributes such as traditional costumes act like a masks, enabling the musicians to surrender to the essence of the music and songs. The dressing-up is like a ritual that aids the transition to a culture that is no longer alive. It makes it acceptable for both the performers and the audience. Once it is acceptable it can be enjoyed without reservation.

This Danish tune was chosen for this video on request of the musicians. A Dutch tune they also performed will feature in the film I am working on.