Arrival into Delhi international airport. Hot, humid air. I soon realise its monsoon season, I hire a taxi. There are plastic God’s on the dashboard. A man will drive me 8-9 hours North towards a place called Rishikesh, where I will do a Yoga retreat for the next week. I Find a great rate. 40 Us dollars for all that way. Hello!
The driver and I set off into the craziness that Delhi highways have to offer. I have my Ipod, but for some reason, I much prefer to listen to “Potti’s” Bollywood music, It enters me into what I will call my “Arrival into India trance”
So I bounce and bop around to Bollywood sounds in the backseat of a small ghetto car for the next 9 hours, while getting smashed like chickpeas being made into humus at all Potti’s erratic breaking. I am a little worried there are no seatbelts here.
It’s understandable that “Indian oil” petrol or diesel is really expensive here, but 10 people in a 2 person car. hey, It’s so normal to see now. Maybe I am just getting used to it.
Traffic moving fast, very close, and always slamming on the brakes just in time, it’s almost like watching the drivers dance. Everyone passes each other, while blowing their horn’s, the line in the middle of the road doesn’t mean a thing, you swerve cars, motorbikes, horse and carts, but more than anything watch out for the cow’s that are everywhere. For they are Holy, and God forbid you hit one of them.
Huge Shiva statues peer out from around every corner, you start to feel like they are looking into your soul. I feel calm like buddha as we get closer to my destination.
I realise that in the South of India written all over the cars, trucks, buses, is SOUND HORN. While in the North, BLOW HORN, is what seems to be plastered everywhere. It doesn’t matter because they all keep their hands on the horn 24/7.
I pull up right next to a crash that has just moments ago happened between a roof-less truck overfull with Indian workers, maybe about 35 men whom look to be greaser then a bike chain, who were all sleeping soundly on top of each other, now they are very much wide awake. A very small, stern and angry-looking Policeman is getting out of his car that the truck drove into. The frightened truck drive realises who he has just rear ended. I watch this all go down. Such emotion in both their eyes, I watch to see what will happen. The Policeman does not even yell a word, he climbs up and opens the truck door and just starts slapping the truck driver, 10-20 times really hard. Then as fast as it happened it is all over and he jumps back down and goes and gets back in his car and continues on his day. I guess the traffic needs to keep moving? I am shocked, but also laughing hysterically, I guess that’s just the way traffic problems are taken care of here?
The only road signs I can see for miles and miles on this journey are ones advertising that “ELEPHANTS, yes you heard me correctly, elephants have the right of way. So I wonder what happens when they crash into a police car? The only other road signs in english are ones I guess for the traveling gypsy like myself, pointing to the Toy-Let.
Now as I start to get but a few hours from Rishikesh, I begin to see what everyone has been telling me about. Thousands and thousands of Indian men, walking the roads to Rishikesh and all dressed in orange and carrying offerings on top of their heads that to me look like christmas trees I decorated when I was 4 years old. I had heard about all this commotion just days before going to Rishikesh. The Indian passengers on my flights would tell me, “Your crazy to go to Rishikesh at that time of year, don’t you know whats going on right now”
No, was my response.
Well let me enlighten you friend, every year about 1 million people devoted to the lords and Gods make their journey WALKING from all over India to Rishikesh. Many of these people have never seen a westerner.
*Rishikesh is very well know to many Yogi’s as the place yoga originates from. But at this time of year you will not find one westerner here. It’s just too crazy for some people. Monsoon and over one million people dressed in orange, not everyone’s cup of chai I suppose.
Rishikesh is one of the most holy and sacred places in India as it is where the famous river Ganges ends. The Ganges is the most sacred river to Hindus and is also a lifeline to millions of Indians who live along its course and depend on it for their daily needs. It is worshiped as the goddess Ganga in Hinduism. Even the cows here bathe in the Ganges.
So people make their journey here once a year to go and bathe and wash in the Ganges, and right when I decide to go and do yoga this was all going on! So I am naturally stoked to think about what I am going to see, for me, I think this is perfect timing!
They just tell me one thing.
Just a caution, be careful of the monkeys.
I arrive into Rishikesh in the middle of the night, and soon realise that the roads are all blocked off, so the car can go no further, also it’s about 2am, but no one is sleeping. Or rather, these 1 million people have nowhere to sleep here. I see people sleeping in the weirdest places over the next week. Some I have to say, I take my hat off to. I never would be able to sleep balanced on a motorbike or up in a tree, in the mud and rain, in puddles of water, on roofs of cars, on each other, on beams, on stairs, you can get the picture.
So It’s 2am, and I have no idea where my ashram is? I soon find a new friend who for a few rupees will take me on the back of his motorbike to find my yoga ashram.
What a way to arrive. I have to say, It was one of the coolest moments in my life.
Once again, I feel like I am making my own Bollywood film.
We swerve and dodge Indian men everywhere, and then we are speeding towards a foot bridge that towers over the Ganges, I soon realise he is going to drive across it. There are about 500 Indian men on it at the time. Again, let me remind you, they have never seen a western women in the flesh before. It gets crazy right about now. We move across it slowly like an old rickshaw driver with a family of 6 on board.
I soon become the subject of about 500 camera phones. This is all going on in the pouring rain, I have the biggest smile on and cannot stop laughing, it’s just so surreal! One of those’s moments where you feel like your life could be a film.
I find sleep super fast and when I wake the next morning to the sound of heavy rain on the tin roof in my pink and green room, I start to see what is actually going on all around me.
Outside my window I see naked children carrying huge machetes the same size as them, while their mothers carry huge bags of hay and grass on their heads, I guess they are off to feed their water buffalo some breakfast. I am staying at the base of a forest, just over the hill’s lies Nepal. The heavy rains stops just in time for my first yoga class.
There are only 3 other people doing the course. Perfection. Small classes and one on one time with the Yogi Guru. Just the way I like it.
My days go like this.
6am-8am. I do two hours of Asana.
8.30am. Breakfast is served, It’s amazing organic yoga food, all vegetarian, and I can eat until my heart is content! Yummy!
10.30am.-11.30am. I have a yoga lecture.
12pm. I have one on one yoga class.
1pm. Lunch is served. Again Yummy! (I enjoy the fact that in the North I can still eat South Indian curries everywhere I go, and that the cook here is from the south. )
6.30pm-8.30pm. Asana, Pranayama and meditation.
I am allowed to have Ayurvedic massages everyday, which I take full advantage of. My body is craving for them, and my goodness were they good.
I spend all my extra time exploring this place called Rishikesh and drinking chai with the people who have their little stalls here. The first 3 days, I do not see any women. Day 4 and the women start to arrive, as the festival is ending here. I see two all dressed in their colourful beautiful saree’s. What are they doing here? They are probably wondering the same thing about me.
I hang out and watch the people bathing in the Ganges, they all hold onto a piece of string to keep hold of each other and to stop them floating off to Bangladesh. Now just so you know, The Ganges ranks among the top five most polluted rivers of the world. The things I see going on here, well I will not even go into it. It’s a place that one should see and experience for themselves.
An introduction – A healthy cow, also referred to as Holy. Prefers the taste of trash to grass, hay or such vegetation that a cow would normally eat. It can be found near and around huge piles of stinky trash.
*After observing the trash cow in its favorite areas of Rishikesh, I see that they like to eat chip packets, maybe they enjoy the salty taste?
I walk in the rain.
I sit by the temples.
I read, a lot.
I talk to the oldest looking people I think I have seen.
I hang out with old yogi’s who are smoking something that seems to make them very wise and philosophical.
I watch the life of Rishikesh go on around me, and I love it.
A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.
Thanks for stopping by.