This is the first chapter of my next book. It is about four months in Rishikesh India spread over three different trips. There is a heavy yoga vibe to go along with the 200-hour teacher training that I completed on the last trip. The yoga vibe is all about taking yoga off the mat and into your life. Many people associate yoga with having a flexible body. The more valuable benefit is to learn to live a more flexible life.
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HOW DID I END UP HERE?
After 36 hours of travel, including a 9-hour layover in Delhi, I finally reached my final airport in Dehradun, India. My friend Laurie had arranged for a car to meet me. I scrunched my 6’ 5” frame into the backseat of a tiny Tata Motors Indica car. The driver handed me some chocolate wafers, a bottle of water, and a magazine with stories about my destination, the Parmarth Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh, India.
Everything was fine as we slowly drove to the security gate at the airport. The exit arm rose to mid-windshield level, and…. the driver slammed the throttle to full force! My left hand found the grab handle and my right tightly grasped the cracked vinyl seat. We were quickly on the right bumper of a truck with “BLOW HORN” painted in big red letters across an enormous green and blue rear. Random chunks of wood filled the payload section while garlands of marigolds swayed alongside metal chains that held the tailgate in place.
Our horn complied with a loud “beep-beep” as we edged into the right lane to pass. Halfway into the maneuver, I saw a lonely scooter with three riders in our sights and was sure we were going to shatter the bike. The scooter driver calmly responded with his own “meep-meep” as he edged to his left. My driver threaded the needle between the oncoming cycle and the cargo truck.
For a moment, clarity returned to my head until I saw something furry running across the road. Two more scampered across the road. This time I noticed a tail. The next one lunged across on all fours, and I caught a glimpse of a bright red ass as it disappeared into the foliage. In addition to all the honking traffic, this place was crawling with rhesus macaque monkeys.
After about five more minutes of Hollywood stunt-driving techniques, including three wide on a two-lane road, and passing on blind corners, I decided it was time to let go. To preserve my sanity, I divorced fear and assumed that the driver valued his life as much as I valued mine. Since I could not mind-drive the car from the backseat, my options were limited to exiting the vehicle or just letting go and enjoying the ride. Thirty minutes of enjoyment later, the car descended a one-lane road to the pinkish stucco walls that surround the ashram.
My assigned room in the Ganga Block was one of a thousand rooms in the complex. Its 200 square feet included two twin beds, five lights, a fan, and a chronically dripping sink. The walls were pale yellow except for an oddly shaped area of about two square feet exposing the original mauve wall. Good thing I packed light, as the “closet” was four shelves in a rectangular metal cabinet that wobbled on the slate floor. One hanger draped from the window lock. The bathroom was a small room with a toilet, sink, and a showerhead sticking out of the wall. It was so small that toilet paper had to be removed from the holder to prevent drenching during the cleansing process.
I wondered, not for the first or the last time, what I was doing here at an
“Abode Dedicated to the Welfare of All, lying on the holy banks of Mother Ganga in the lap of the lush Himalayas?” I thought this was just one of my fun solo adventures from my home in Boise, Idaho. I figured that I could probably do some yoga as well.
On arrival, it appeared my expectations were far too narrow for the reality of India. This was a lesson I relearned annually on three trips to this country.