Touch and go but we made it!
02/28/2014 - 03/01/2014 71 °F
"'I THINK I GOT THE BLACK LUNG POP!!' Balvant has his window down trying to suffocate me in the backseat with dirt and dust. No wonder Indians look 10 years older than they actually are! Riding bikes and open taxis with no glasses, bandannas, not to mention a helmet! I guess brown skin takes it better than fair skin. Can't imagine a Sweed surviving this for very long."
That was part of an entry from my journal during the car ride from Delhi to Rishikesh. Rishikesh is about 240 km/150 mi North and should be about a 5 1/2 hour drive. [Note the subtle foreshadowing] No exaggeration, we stopped about 15 times to ask for directions or confirmation that we were on the right track. I didn't want to stress them by asking "ARE WE LOST?" (it would have been a rhetorical question anyway) so I just sat in the back seat CHILLIN'. Not stressed even a little. Just taking it all in and trying to get some good pics of the madness.
Around hour 7 of our 5 1/2 hour trip, just as the sun was beginning to set and I was starting to worry at the fact we were still pulling over for directions, we ran dead into the craziest traffic jam. Cause of said traffic jam: A PARADE! I know you're thinking, 'but how are you driving through a parade?' Because in India there is no such thing as obtaining a street permit for a parade. In a street as big as the street you live on -NOT including the sidewalks- there was a legit Bud Billiken status parade with cars, like ours, that had nothing to do with the parade going in either direction and, locals crossing the street and going about their business as usual. It went on for about 3 km and there I was again GAGGED in the backseat looking out he window in awe. Now I understand the Indian tourism catchphrase INCREDIBLE INDIA!
Fast forward about 16 hours and I am sitting in the sun at Parmarth Niketan Ashram http://www.parmarth.com enjoying the warmth of the rays and doing so happily because my room was freezing last night! I was wondering why they gave me so many blankets! There were 4 in total, 2 thin, 1 medium and 1 heavy, wool piece of goodness. When I laid down with the drafty windows at the head of my bed, it was clear that I would be using ALL the blankets.
As I sunbathed on the benches lining the sort of outdoor foyer of the Parmarth, a sweet, older, British couple (of Indian descent) stopped to ask me about the Ashram. The Ashram is located along the Ganges River and there are no doors so anyone passing bye is encouraged to come in. From our conversation, I found it interesting that Indians not raised here have the same opinions about India as Westerners. They too were disconcerted with the trash, noise, air pollution, random animals and their feces, contaminated water, etc. The husband was actually just getting over 4 days of travel sickness himself.
I am literally "in the lap of the Himalayas" as they say. Himalayas pronounced Him-aaall-e-yas. I look up from where I am sitting and it is all green mountains against white fluffy clouds. The air is crisp, and a million times cleaner than Delhi. The Mother Ganges flows just before the gates of the Ashram and she is lovingly known as Maha (Mother) Ganga to all who live here.
It is the day before the start of the Yoga Festival and the Ashram is quickly filling with Yogis. Truth be told I am so happy to see.....White people! It's been a lot of brown the last 4 days. Also nice to hear English - American English! Especially after 7 hours in the backseat with an Indian whose favorite and almost only English word was "NO!" He got so much joy saying it to me.
"VImal you want to listen to some of my music?" "NO!"
"Vimal are you hungry?" "NO!"
"Vimal, Namaste." "Namaste? NO!"
I think he secretly had a crush on me. I gave him my watch as a gift for the past 2 days after he walked me across the Ganges bridge to the Ashram (thanks Louie! It was the perfect gift!) . Although he didn't really walk me. He more or less just walked as fast as he could in front of me like he was trying to lose me as I dodged motorbikes, cattle and people with a huge backpack on my shoulders struggling to keep up. At one point, my frustration level high, I yelled at him "VIMAL! Wait!' His response: "NO!...Walk fast." I knew his English was better than he was pretending.
Back to the watch - I noticed him eyeing it since we met so it was only mildly surprising to see a smile come across his face as I fastened it to his wrist. But then the words "thank you" fell from his lips. Shocking! Then he abruptly said bye, turned and left. Only to comeback a minute later holding what would have been worth a bag of gold to me in that moment - my cell phone!
He liked to take pictures with it while we were sightseeing. I should have taught him how to use the zoom button and maybe I would have gotten some better pictures out of that deal. When we went to cross the Ganges bridge- we had to cross by foot because cars are not allowed over after sunset- I carried my backpack and purse and he offered to carry of course....my phone. Ladies & Gents, I don't know if chivalry ever made it to India.
Anyway, I was sooooooo happy he remembered because at this point in my day I was beyond flustered: still thinking of the cow I almost ran into while trying to make it alive across the bridge and now I was trying to get my shit together for the Yoga Registration desk +rain just started to pour+ tired+ hungry = a lost cell phone. I instinctively gave him a huge hug and he instinctively squirmed like a little boy trying to avoid his Mom's kisses when she drops him off at school. This made me hug him even harder which made him turn and leave even more abruptly than the first time!
Guess I can't win em all ;-)
FYI: My cell phone/camera is out of commission right now. The screen completely shattered after dropping it on the beautiful stone walkways of the Ashram! Woe is me ;-( Therefore all the pics I wanted to upload of the Ashram with this entry will come at a later date.