Last year, it was at around this time, when the rains had set in but it was not raining everyday to keep the temperature cool, and the days were super hot and muggy. Ken phoned from ‘somewhere in India’ to ask if he and his wife could check into Savista. They were vegans, he said, and were looking for a vegan place at which to rest and recover.
Savista was on the cusp of preparing for the new guest season, and Ken’s soft cultured voice on the phone seemed to presage the beginning of yet another year of some of the most lovely people in the world discovering Savista and choosing to come here to spend part of their time in India. We responded with enthusiasm. And we were not disappointed.
The couple that arrived, both of them exhausted and one recovering from heat stroke, proved to be just the kind of travellers that Savista loves to open its gates to. For the next week, they stayed put, resting, eating, reading, swimming, and enjoying the place. Their warmth, affection and genuineness were infectious. We could have had them stay with us forever.
We were sad to see them go and they were sad to leave. But they promised to stay in touch about their music and their environmental activism. For months after, we received only a few hasty scribbles from Janine. Little did we know that following their return home, she and Ken had launched on the task of overhauling their lives.
Here is their story, in Janine’s words. It is, both, the past story of their lives – passionately lived, but now yielding to new urges – and a glimpse into the new life that they are slowly constructing, in which they are following their current dream. What follows is the first instalment.
Our Story – K,en and Janine
We found ourselves at Savista the day after an incredible journey to the Jain town and ultimate Jain pilgrimage site of Palitana.
Ken, my darling atheist husband was two years vegan when we planned our first trip to India. In searching for havens of veganism, he had come across an article about this temple city. Somehow something was going on in my life where I seemed to let him plan the trip. He showed me Palitana online but I never researched it myself. So it was news to him that Palitana was only legal for vegetarianism (not veganism), while it was news to me that we would be climbing 5000 stairs to the top of the main temple. But what a worthwhile adventure it was.
I went barefoot, like a real pilgrim, all the way to the top navigating around cow dung while staying on the cool limestone stripes that went up the middle of the steps. The dolley workers were persistent but after 1000 steps they gave up, realizing I was determined to make it up my own, unassisted. At some point I had to ask “Ken did you know it was going to be like this?”, to which he replied “Yes, you didn’t?” I had to laugh. “No, I had no idea but everything is fine.”
And it was. Fine and Divine. We enjoyed the amazing view as we gradually walked up the mountain, the company of a cow that walked next to us for part of the journey, and the curious faces of our fellow pilgrims. Those that chose to speak with us briefly were surprised to see us. Ken and I were the only Westerners we ever saw. People we had met in India before the trip didn’t even know where we were going. We had truly found a non-touristy, and magical place.
When we got to the top we met some young pilgrims who invited us to witness them giving puja to an aspect of the Goddess in the form of Saraswati or Durga (I can’t remember which). After the ceremony, one of them had to use the restroom. It was forbidden at the top of the city and especially in their sacred garb. He would have to walk the hour and half down the steps to the temple at the bottom, change out of his sacred robe before he relieved himself and come back up. Dedication.
As Ken and I are not overly devotional, we did not stay in the main temple long though on the way out we were invited into a private temple of Krishna to rest, which we gladly took up. We took some renegade pictures of the temple city before we descended. Idyllic blue skies, green pasture lands, and intricately carved structures and marble steeples.
The hotel we had to go back to was not in the best neighborhood. Had Palitana been a vegan city, we might have stayed the intended 5 days there. However it was not vegan, immediately apparent when we first pulled in and saw a “Jain Dairy” sign. Plus it is not a thriving metropolis. It is a revered pilgrimage site. The only “city” was a town and the one we were staying in. To continually go back to Palitana (an hour drive) everyday did not make sense. Physically it seemed impossible. Who can walk to the top everyday? Once you do that hike to the top, I would think most people would have to rest. It would take me 3 days to recover! Ken and I would both feel extreme muscle soreness and I had gotten heatstroke from our trip to the top. I must say, looking back, I have a great respect for the men that dolley people up the mountain.
The night we returned from Palitana, I could not hold down my food. As I lay on the bed with a cold rag on my forehead, Ken jumped onto the internet to look for somewhere else we could go because where we were staying was not overly glamorous. It was a business hotel in a town that didn’t seem to have much for us. Since it became apparent to us that we had “done” the Palitana experience, we could not bear the thought of staying in that town, at that hotel, for several more days. Ken searched for eco-hotels and retreats and he found Savista…
Besides having an amazing experience with a good friend in Mumbai, Savista was the highlight of our trip. I could not have imagined a better escape for us than what Ken found. Savista was the luxurious, countryside experience that we had wanted to have but had not previously booked. Besides Palitana, we were booked at Hilton brand hotels partially to play it safe and mostly because I had points I needed to use or lose. We had watched a charming movie before coming to India that had given us the idea that there was something more outside of a normal hotel but we did not know how to plan that experience. Our unexplored desire fulfilled itself on its own. Perhaps that is what happens when you go to a sacred site and the people give you blessings, because Savista was a dream come true.
The first day at Savista was extremely difficult because of the soreness in my calves from the hike up to Palitana. I could barely walk around the property so it was nice to be in an environment that felt relaxing and on a schedule that could move at the pace of the surrounding countryside.
Ken and I had picked out the Indigo room. I loved the coloring. I loved the little cookies in the morning. I loved the food prepared for us. I felt pampered. The absolute love and care that went into the property oozed out everywhere in the most wonderful ways like the doily on top of the metal water canister for beauty and the possible prevention insects taking their life in our drinking water. I bet that is why there was a plethora of birds around the property as well. They could feel it.
We had the resort to ourselves for the few days. This put us in a grateful position to have the full attention of both Bhanwar and Radhika who would invite us to a dinner with the two of them one evening. What a delight to engage in discussion with two bright minds that have equally beaming hearts.
Ken and I at this time had been in an ever fluxing state of transition. Not with each other, but with the life we had been leading. I had only come into Ken’s life in 2007. It was the life of an electronic music artist and although he is much more it is often easiest to just say a DJ. However Ken and his music partner are not just DJ’s, they are The Crystal Method, first known and popularized for their live electronic music shows. And I’m not just talking about “mixing” live. No, they were actually playing live keyboards and synthesizers and creating their tracks live on-stage. At one point they were quoted as the best electronic music show to see by a reputable paper. The duo broke out in the early 90’s and helped pioneer electronic music in the United States. The rocktronica, big beat, and cinematic-ness of their music lent well to movies, commercials, and video games. Their music helped break the barrier for this type of music. and the popular usage of it helped push electronic music as a genre into the mainstream. They were one of the first electronic music bands to get a platinum record. They have been nominated for a Grammy twice, and received four DanceStar Awards. Two for best Act. They have won numerous accolades for their music being used in TV as well.
Though my husband had great success especially in the early years of his career, after almost 20 years of touring and working with his music partner for 25… he was no longer fulfilled in the same way especially with the way that the music industry was going. Now it is almost more important to have a social media game than it is about the music. Ken wanted out of this new game.
So knowing my husband was falling out of love with the scene, I had proposed to him a year before that we should start to change our lives. Design it so we would not be reliant on the industry. We sold a big, beautiful house and marker of “success”, for a dream of downsizing, traveling more for ourselves, and one day permanently relocating to Costa Rica where we have a beach home we had been going down to for 8 years. We wanted to learn to truly live off the land. Find the harmony of living closer to Nature.
After meeting Bhanwar and Radhika, seeing what they had done with Savista, how they had dedicated their lives to their fields for many years and then retired finally to an idea they had been building for a long time… I think that inspired Ken a great deal even if unconsciously at the time. Some specific events happened when we returned home which I think would catalyze Ken’s decision. Just two months after we returned, in October of last year, Ken chose to move toward his heart’s desires. He had it all figured out, or much of it anyway. We would build sooner than later on a piece of land we had bought in a future eco-village. He would be growing food on our property according to permacultural principles. He would be allowed the chance to see what else he could do in his life than continue to be defined by his career in music alone.
At the moment that Ken decided this, I had been for at least a month, sucked into our city life through my non-profit work in a strange way. L.A. County wanted to potentially ban electronic music festivals and I was on the front lines of defending our culture and community by being a committee head on the Electronic Music Task Force. His decision was somewhat abrupt and I was not ready to go initially. I had to have a sit down with myself and I realized that the decision was truly in line with my desires as well. Although the work I was doing was part of our mission statement, it is not the aspect of my organization that I most loved. By removing myself from the city, I would be able to focus on what calls to my heart most as well, the social action and educational component. I would also be given opportunities to finally teach yoga classes, and… I would be given more time to write. For years I have been a strong advocate for following the desires of the heart. I believe we can give most when we do this. It is the battery center of our existence. When we deny ourselves the calling of our heart, we can become bitter, closed off, cranky and, overall, less energetic in our endeavors. When we live by our heart we fulfill ourselves, we are filled with light, peace, and joy and it shines radiantly upon others. We can give more and not feel depleted. My writing project is on the top of the list of my heart’s desires.
Although I have only released my first novella
the character has been with me since 2004. A saying I came up with about her character and story several years ago was “Follow Your Heart, Save the World”. Ken may be done with music in the fashion that he had been working the last 20 years but he is still open to lending his time and talents to charity. This past April we were flown back to the States to support an organization that we both believe in. We were very honored and privileged to perform for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (a.k.a. MAPS) 30th Anniversary Gala where we helped raise money to legalize MDMA for therapeutic research.
Our story will be continued for Savista.
And my work:
Our permacultural (future) village: