35 days into the 15 day visa application process, I received an evening email from the processing company that my documents would arrive the next day. I immediately booked a flight to depart for Delhi in 36 hours. The next day was oddly normal with some gym time, a yoga class, lunch with a great friend, mowing of the yard, and eventually some packing for the month long journey to India. The Camino taught me about packing light and I used that experience to take no more than I could carry in my rucksack.
My new friend, Amy, was kind enough to take me to the airport. She gave me a priceless gift of a pendant that she had received on a previous journey. Her instructions were to keep it until I felt compelled to pass it on. The light green twine holds a piece of green glass that hangs in the middle of my chest. While waiting for the plane to depart Boise, I sat next to a couple from India. They currently live in southern India but had spent 40 years living in Rishikesh, my ultimate destination.
The flights were flawless with 19 hours of actual air time and layovers in Minneapolis and Paris. The last plane had a nose cam that could be accessed from our seats. The plane kissed the ground and my screen was filled with runway lights colored red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet to represent the seven chakras. I was definitely in India.
I had 12 more hours to chill before flying to Rishikesh. I waded into the sea of taxis and Kumar took me to a random hotel named the Relaxinn. Sleeping was erratic and pointless after about five hours. I did a quickie tour of Delhi and returned to the airport headed for Dehradun. The final hour long drive to the ashram was along a road filled with cows, monkeys, people, scooters, busses, trash, curves, and insane driving tactics. Beep-beep-meep-meep-beep-meep still rings in my head.
I am in Ganga Block at the Parmarth Niketan (An Abode Dedicated to the Welfare of All) ashram and my room (one of a thousand) is very basic. Two twin beds, 5 lights, a fan, and at least 20 electrical switches. The walls are a pale yellow with the exception of an oddly shaped area of about two square feet exposing the original mauve wall. Good thing I packed light as the “closet” is four shelves in rectangular metal cabinet that wobbles on the slate floor. One hanger drapes from the window lock. The toilet is literally in the shower and the ass wipe must be removed from the holder or it would become drenched during shower time.
Every night, an aarti ceremony is performed on the banks of Mother Ganga. This is a Hindu religious ritual and honors the deities with flame and song. The first night, the Austrian ambassador was here with 15 members of their symphony. The second night was also a special occasion. They had musicians from Israel, Turkey, Arabia, and Ireland. There are two small fire pits and people throw herbs, seeds, and marigolds into the flames. Across the wide Ganga River, there is a much larger flame where bodies are burning and the ashes return to the water.
They say that music is the only thing that brings the world together. The finale had 1,000 people from every race color and creed on their feet singing Om, Shalom, Salaam, Amen. Afterwards, a small group went to Darshan where people ask Swamiji (Hindu Monk) a question or two. One of the Israeli musicians said that when he is singing, his heart is filled with love. When he is home, his heart is filled with despair for war. The answer is to keep singing because it opens the heart where we become one. As one, we never kill. We need separation to justify bloodshed.
I am scheduled to return on Dec 2 and already think my stay needs to be extended……