Caminando por las huellas de John Lennon

Julio 2007

…me encantó Rishikesh y estaba encantada con mi Baba!

A ratos todo me parecía absolutamente surrealista, aún estaba pensando mucho en el trabajo.

Mientras que estaba sentada en las orillas del ganges, bañando mis pies en su agua sagrada, rodeada por alegres mariposas amarillas, me acordé de que en este preciso instante estaría sentada en mi oficina gris de Barcelona y que tocaría redactar el informe semanal. Con una sonrisa satisfecha borré esa imagen de mi mente observando como las suaves olas acariciaban los dedos de mis pies. Suspiré profundamente sintiendo una profunda gratitud por finalmente haber sido capaz de dejar ese trabajo que me tenía atrapada durante tantos años y que en realidad nunca me gustó.

Beatlesashram

Un día, Baba y yo estábamos sentados en el Last Chance Café a solas cuando de repente me preguntó:

“Ek puppy milega?”

Esto lo hacía mucho; hablarme en hindi y claro que yo no entendí ni papa. Pero ya había aprendido que “ek” significa uno y “milega”  posible. Estaba confundida…

¿Qué quería qué?

“Puppy” quiere decir cachorro en inglés; no tenía sentido, así que le pregunté:

“Puppy? Que quieres decir? Un perrito?!?”

Se rió y dijo:

“No perrito! Besoooo!”

…Bueno, supongo que esto fue cuando nos convertimos en pareja…


Era la época del monzón y no había muchos turistas. Descubrí lugares hermosos, pero la mayoría del tiempo simplemente no hacíamos nada y disfrutábamos de nuestro tiempo en la guesthouse, dónde ya formábamos parte de la familia del Last Chance Café.

Mi sitio favorito era y todavía es el Ashram de los Beatles. Se llama así porque el famoso grupo musical vino aquí en 1968 para abrirse a la meditación trascendental siguiendo las instrucciones del Gurú Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Cabañas de meditación

Parece que el recinto fue un pequeño pueblo autónomo en sus días de gloria. Tenía su propio banco y oficina de correos. Ahora solo quedan ruinas invadidas por la naturaleza, pero es pura magia pasear por este sitio en medio de la selva, dónde lianas e inmensas buganvillas se han apoderado de los viejos edificios. Es fácil imaginarse que aspecto debería haber tenido entonces, en los viejos tiempos hippies. ¡Parece de locos que John Lennon y Paul Mc Cartney estuvieron paseando por estos mismos senderos!

Los residentes de Rishikesh también lo llaman Chaurasi (84) Kutir (cabaña), ya que hay 84 cabañas individuales de meditación con un interesante diseño redondo dentro del ashram. También hay grandes edificios con  numerosas habitaciones dónde se alojaban los devotos y una gran sala de meditación cuyos muros lucen muy buenas obras de arte creados por gente de todo el mundo que pasa por allí, así que ahora se conoce como  “The Beatles Cathedral Art Gallery”.

Beatles Ashram Art GalleryLamentablemente todos los edificios han sido saqueados después del abandono del ashram. La gente se llevó todo que se podía vender o usar para la construcción: Barras de hierro, azulejos y hasta los asientos de váter. Pero en algunas habitaciones aún encontré pequeños tesoros en forma de viejas revistas y panfletos sobre retiros de yoga publicados en los años 70.

El espacio subterráneo de meditación es un lugar un poco escalofriante: Consiste en un estrecho y larguísimo túnel oscuro que da por ambos lados a un gran número de pequeñas cuevitas redondas de meditación. Murciélagos, ratas y serpientes lo han hecho su hogar y es realmente espantoso atravesar el túnel con nada más que una linterna. No me extraña que los sadhus cuenten tantas historias sobre fantasmas y espíritus que aparentemente residen dentro del Beatles Ashram.

Beatles Ashram RooftopLas azoteas de los grandes edificios son maravillosas, ya que ofrecen unas vistas espectaculares sobre el Ganges, especialmente durante las puestas del sol. Los mosaicos que cubren el suelo me recuerdan mucho a las obras de Antoni Gaudí. A través de una escalera uno puede penetrar dentro de los gigantescos depósitos de agua en forma de huevo, que son especialmente populares entre músicos y yoguis, porque la acústica y el ambiente dentro de esos huevos son fantásticos para tocar música o meditar.

Una vez queríamos pasar una noche romántica en uno de los huevos. ¡Era un desastre! Demasiado polvo e insectos, mezclados con los sonidos salvajes de la jungla, no me dejaron pegar ni ojo en toda la noche. Los residentes dicen que leopardos, tigres, elefantes y otras criaturas salvajes deambulan por allí y Baba dice que una vez vio una cobra de cinco cabezas!

¡Por suerte yo nunca tuve un encuentro de este tipo!

La única cosa que ví allí eran inofensivos pavos reales y gigantes pilas de excrementos, que me confirmaron la existencia de elefantes en el aérea.

Ahora el Beatles Ashram pertenece al gobierno. Antes había un vigilante del departamento forestal, que vivía en el viejo edificio de recepción y cuyo deber era no dejar pasar a nadie por razones de seguridad. Pero por un poco de baksheesh (soborno) te dejaba pasar. Por un poquito más de baksheesh incluso daba permiso para celebrar fiestas y jam sessions y por si no querías entrar en el juego de sobornos, otra alternativa era colarse por la parte de atrás.

No sé muy bien porqué y cómo, pero ahora el vigilante fue reemplazado por un sadhu que se llama Langra Baba (Baba Cojo). No tengo ni idea de que ocurrió y admito que desde hace mucho tiempo ya no intento averiguar razones lógicas en este país. Por un lado porque no suelo entender la mayoría de explicaciones que se me dan de todas formas, porque no tienen sentido y por el otro, porque a veces las cosas en la India simplemente SON y punto.


“EL TIEMPO QUE DISFRUTAS PERDIENDO NO ES TIEMPO PERDIDO!”

 – JOHN LENNON

beatles-at-rishikesh

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Rishikesh, la ciudad sagrada en las faldas de los Himalayas, siempre ha sido un lugar de fuertes vibraciones que atrae a buscadores espirituales como los sadhus, los ascetas hindúes que siguen el camino de la penitencia y la austeridad para obtener la iluminación. Poco tardó en llamar a su regazo a incontables buscadores orientales, para así convertirse en la capital mundial del yoga. Escribe Uma Nath.

Enlightment

En cuanto pisé Rishikesh por primera vez, la magia de este lugar tan especial con la energía fluyente del Ganges, me cautivó de inmediato. Me fascinó la presencia de la espiritualidad en cada rincón y por supuesto quería practicar algo de yoga. No tardé mucho en darme cuenta de que no iba a ser nada fácil encontrar una clase y un profesor de yoga que encajasen conmigo. Hay cientos de ofertas de clases y talleres de yoga y meditación, así como incontables escuelas y ashrams que ofrecen sus programas a buscadores espirituales. Los muros de las calles y los restaurantes están repletos de carteles anunciando clases y retiros de todo tipo. Uno en especial me llamó la atención. Decía:

¡Ilumínate en solo tres días!

¡Impresionante! Tampoco tenía muy claro qué tipo de yoga quería probar. Entre Hatha, Kriya, Ashtanga, Iyengar y Trika yoga, estaba hecha un lío. Me decidí por el Hatha, y mi primera clase la probé en un ashram cerca del hostal donde me estaba alojando, donación sugerida 200 rupias.

He de decir que el joven profesor era un hathayogui excelente, sus posturas eran impecables y realmente admirables, pero igual no era tan buen profesor. Durante una clase me giré para ver de dónde procedían los extraños gemidos que llevaba ya escuchando desde hacía un buen rato detrás de mí. Eran unos chicos coreanos, que probablemente estaban tomando la primera clase de yoga de su vida. Intentaban imitar al profesor lo mejor que podían, pero sus caras reflejaban un sufrimiento algo frustrante. No llegué a entender por qué el profesor no les enseñaba posturas alternativas y por qué no se acercó para cuidar de ellos.

Algo que dijo mi maestra durante una clase de Kundalini Yoga en Barcelona y que nunca más olvidaré me vino a la mente: “Yoga, practicado sin amor, no es yoga”.

Así es, al fin y al cabo la palabra yoga significa unión. Personalmente considero que el yoga es mucho más que practicar posturas complicadas: es una forma de hacer el amor con el alma.

También tuve el placer un poco espantoso de conocer al campeón mundial de yoga. Hasta entonces no sabía ni de la existencia de este tipo de campeonatos. Él también era por supuesto un súperyogui, que disfrutaba mucho de dar una pequeña demostración de sus habilidades yoguicas en forma de ásanas complicadas o bajando el ritmo de su corazón al mínimo delante de quien mostraba cierto interés en yoga. Muy interesante, pero yo pensaba que el yoga es una práctica muy íntima y personal que ayuda a abrir no solamente el cuerpo, sino también el corazón y el espíritu.

¿Acaso estaba equivocada?

Gracias a Dios encontré finalmente el yoga que me gustaba de verdad! El profesor sij, un hombre sabio y muy humilde, enseñaba el Hatha desde el fondo de su corazón, cuidando de cada uno de los muchos estudiantes presentes en sus clases. De hecho, había dejado su carrera profesional de ingeniero para dedicarse a su pasión, el Hatha Yoga.

Por supuesto hay un buen número de buenos profesores de yoga en Rishikesh, y cada uno de nosotros acabará antes o después encontrando aquel con el que más vibre. Yo por mí, encantada con mi descubrimiento, me quedé con este.

También puede que, a veces, no dominar del todo el idioma inglés (y uno tarda un poquito en acostumbrarse al acento indio) represente una barrera para profundizar la práctica.

Si estás barajando la idea de formarte como profesor de yoga en India, igual te interesa esta propuesta que desde Milindias organizamos junto con Ricardo Ferrer, Instituto del Yoga Europeo.

Si quieres más información: www.milindias.com

Om Namah Shivaya!

Milindias banner

A veces el camino del yoga acaba en India

Durante los más de diez años que vivía en España llevaba una vida normalita, así más o menos como todo el mundo y tenía un trabajo rutinario de oficina al que acudía cada día de la semana como una buena hormiguita, esperando impacientemente la llegada de los fines de semana. Igual hoy en día también se considera normal pasar ataques de ansiedad por padecer el síndrome de agotamiento laboral; al menos en mi entorno no era la única que sufría de ellos con regularidad.

Llegó el momento en que sentí que ya no podía, ni quería llevar mi vida de esta manera y emprendí la búsqueda hacia algún tipo de equilibrio para relajar mi mente y cuerpo sobrecargados. Probé el gimnasio y la natación. No me gustó demasiado y ambos me dejaron igual de vacía. Decidí que si algo me ha de ayudar con mi dilema, también me ha de gustar de verdad; sino poco sentido tiene. Finalmente me encontró el Kundalini yoga. Se trata de una herramienta muy potente que incluye mucha meditación dentro de su práctica.

¡Al principio pensé que yo no era normal!

No podía evitar de mirar a los demás estudiantes de reojo durante las meditaciones. Parecía que todos estaban sumergidos completamente en su interior, sus caras reflejando calma y paz profunda – lo cual me irritaba bastante, porque no era para nada lo que estaba ocurriendo dentro de mí! Mi mente no se callaba, era una autopista de imágenes  y pensamientos. El tremendo caos interno que se me reveló me asustó bastante y me preguntaba si está autopista siempre había estado allí o si bien era algún misterioso fenómeno yoguico. Antes de empezar a practicar al menos, nunca la había percibido. Un día después de clase me acerqué a la profesora para comentarle mi preocupación. Sonrió y me dijo que lo que me ocurría era de lo más normal y que no me tendría que preocupar.

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¡Qué alivio saber, que yo no era ningún bicho raro!

El intenso tráfico  de pensamientos siempre había existido, y de hecho estaba aprendiendo a observarlo. Parecía que mi subconsciente estaba pasando por una limpieza de viejos patrones para crear espacio para algo nuevo. El recién descubrimiento de mi mundo interior me fascinó tanto que después de sólo unos cuantos meses me apunté al programa de formación de profesores.

Un día un póster que estaba colgado dentro del centro de yoga me llamó la atención: Se trataba de un viaje alternativo a la India con enfoque espiritual.

¡INDIA, LA CUNA DEL YOGA!

Curiosamente hasta este día, nunca había tenido ningún interés especial por la India, pero algo extraño pasó: Sentía la necesidad de seguir a esta mística llamada. Algo dentro de mi me decía que tenía que ir. – Así que fui.

El programa era Delhi – Rishikesh – Amritsar, un viaje que iba a durar poco más de catorce días. En cuanto mis pies pisaron tierra India por primera vez tenía la sensación de flotar constantemente por el aire: Estaba sumergida en una ola de sensaciones desconocidas, fascinada por el misterio de lo más cotidiano. Los sonidos, el olor a incienso y la vida multicolor de este lugar me llevaron a otro un desconocido estado emocional y mental.

En Rishikesh nos íbamos a sumar al festival internacional de yoga. Atendí algunas clases, pero al fin y al cabo era mi primera vez en la India y había tantas cosas que ver y descubrir por las calles que era incapaz de quedarme todo el día dentro del ashram, sabiendo que la intensa vida multicolor que marca este país estaba ocurriendo a sólo un paso detrás de los muros del recinto. Pensé que en España podría practicar todo el yoga que quisiera, pero quien me podía decir cuando, o si de hecho iba a volver algún día a India?

Así que me aventuré por las calles de Rishikesh. Tomaba chais en el borde de la carretera para charlar con los vendedores, fui a explorar ocultos rincones del pueblo y me bañe en el Ganges. Así vivía mis pequeñas aventuras día a día. De hecho Rishikesh es un lugar fantástico para hacer nada más que sentarse en un chai shop durante horas y observar como la vida de la India pasa por delante, bailando a su propio ritmo. Las historias más increíbles ocurren justo en frente de uno sin tener que dar ni un solo paso. Las cosas simplemente vienen hacía ti. Estos establecimientos también ofrecen una excelente oportunidad para encontrarse con otros viajeros y charlar un rato. La mayoría de los mochileros con quienes me encontré llevaba viajando ya desde hacía meses o incluso años… ¡y yo iba a estar en este maravilloso país nada más que unas pocas semanas!

¿Y porque nunca se me había ocurrido a mí poner cuatro cosas en mi mochila para descubrir el mundo?

Pienso que viajar es la mejor inversión del mundo: Las memorias de un viaje te acompañarán hasta el último de tus días en este planeta, mientras que todo lo que se puede comprar con dinero perderá de valor antes o después.

Una mañana muy temprano, poco antes de levantarse el sol, salí del ashram para dar un paseo por el caminito de los sadhus que pasa por la orilla del Ganges. Me invadió una sensación de harmonía profunda al respirar la magia de una madrugada india: Muchas personas ya estaba susurrando sus rezos a la madre Ganga haciéndole ofrendas en forma de inciensos y flores o incluso tomando un baño de purificación en las aguas cristalinas, mientras los sonidos sanadores de las pujas matutinas de los incontables ashrams llenaban el aire con vibraciones de paz.

tK

De repente un personaje vestido de color naranja apareció de la nada. Era un joven sadhu con que ya había cruzado miradas varias veces durante mis excursiones por el pueblo. Me saludó con un respetuoso: “Hari Om” cuando pasó por mi lado. Devolví el saludo y me giré detrás de él para ver que el hizo exactamente lo mismo. Acabamos tomando un chai juntos y con este encuentro se dio comienzo a un nuevo capítulo de mi vida.

Spiritual Rebellion

September 2007

Something strange happened to me in India; I realized that I actually felt more spiritual back home than in the land of spirituality. I took some yoga classes in an ashram in Rishikesh, where the teacher was an excellent yogi, but in my opinion a pretty poor teacher. There he was, performing complicated asanas in front of the students, who tried to do their best to imitate him. I saw some korean guys behind me, who were obviously taking their first yoga class ever. They were almost killing themselves with an expression of deep suffering in their faces. I wondered why the teacher just ignored them and did not explain the easy version of the posture instead. puja flowers

I remember a phrase my yoga teacher back home said once:

Yoga practiced without love is not yoga!

Of course, there are plenty of really good yoga teachers, but there are so many classes and workshops, that it takes time to find the one that suits you best. I found a really good teacher and went to his classes from time to time. He is this kind of person who teaches with the heart; his yoga classes are pure magic! But still there was something in this spiritual wonderland that irritated me pretty much. CIMG4411Frequently I went for breakfast at an ayurvedic café near my guesthouse. After their daily yoga and meditation classes many westerners with expressions of inner peace on their faces used to walk in. Their conversations were not to be overheard. Most of the time they were talking about which and how many spiritual masters they had met, which one was the best, how advanced their yoga practice was and discussing the dos and don’ts for leading a fulfilled spiritual life. Sometimes they also criticized people they had met who were not on any spiritual path while their halos turned brighter and brighter. Of course it is perfectly fine to exchange knowledge and experiences about something that you are passionate about, but most of the conversations I overheard were nothing but a verbal competition with the spiritual egos speaking. Once, the Indian waiter came in and one of the ladies treated him like a piece of crap because he had put white sugar into her herbal tea instead of honey. Then there were the numerous Sadhus pretending to be interested in me as a person, but eventually always ended up asking for some money. When they looked at me I had the impression to have the dollar sign tattooed on my forehead. I didn’t feel like a person anymore when talking to them, but like an ATM. There were the brahmans covered with heavy gold jewellery taking people to holy sites to perform an auspicious puja for their wellbeing in exchange for donation. Once, one of them approached me. I asked him how much the puja would cost. He told me that this was up to me and that I was free to give whatever I wished. I handed him 50 rupees after the ceremony. He got very upset and told me that the donation had to be at least 500 rupees. I replied that next time he should better tell the price for his god business so he would not have to get angry. His face turned dark red and off he drove on his expensive motorbike. More and more I had the need to absent myself from these strange energies and asked myself what’s the deal with spiritual practice, yoga and meditation, if actually you don’t make any effort to apply it in everyday life situations? I lost all interest for spirituality for some time and rather prefered to stick to “normal” people, spend time in nature and listen to my inner voice. It was like my own inner spiritual rebellion. I don’t want to follow any path blindly. There are so many good teachings, but I mostly don’t agree completely with any of them and I think it is okay like that. I internalize what feels good to me and ignore the rest. I don’t have to defend my ideals and believes or argue about them with anybody; I know what I know and that’s enough for me. I like to listen though to other people, even if their point of view differs a lot from mine and I learned not to take things personal. Live and let live… Everybody is free to follow their own path in their own way; in the end, all of them lead to the same direction. The best thing I can do for myself and my surroundings is to get to know myself as well as possible and always try to be a better person than I already am.

The Baba Ashram Experience

July 2007

Guruji picked us up with a rickshaw at Bikaner train station. I liked him from the beginning. His eyes reflected a deep kindness. He was tall and slim  and much younger than I had expected.

Bikaner Ashram

The Ashram was situated in the outskirts of the city. It did not look at all like any of the tourist ashrams that I knew from India. The place consisted of a large patio surrounded by a few small buildings and several shrines, all bounded by a high wall. There were two bedrooms, one kitchen, one washing room and one meditation room with a dhuni in the basement.

I was introduced to the resident sadhu and two of his disciples. They were two young Babas about fourteen and eighteen years old. The rickshaw driver turned out to be also a student of the Ashram, who would be at our disposal offering his seva whenever we needed a ride. Not all disciples become sadhus; many worship their gurus and live a normal life. A lot of locals came daily to the ashram to serve the sadhus, ask them for advice, listen to their stories or just enjoy their presence. They brought offerings along with them in form of food, incense or money.

Obviously nobody in the Ashram was used to have a woman living among them and less a westerner. It was a new and nice experience for both parts. Guruji treated me like a daughter and was visibly concerned about my wellbeing. My Hindi was as poor as his English, but sometimes there is no need for words and I had the feeling that I knew him since a long time. What I most liked about him, was his humbleness. I had come to meet several sadhus and had my personal difficulties dealing with the arrogance of many of them. It seems to be difficult to keep the spiritual ego under control once you are surrounded by disciples who treat you like god.

My Baba was very busy with Guruji, a long time had passed since they last met; most of the time I was left to myself. I sat with big eyes in the heat observing the ashram life passing in front of me and trying to understand what was going on. It was the end of July and incredibly hot; for sure not the best season to travel to the desert.

It was so hot that everybody slept outside, where a light breeze blew from time to time. I slept very well on a blanket under a neem tree. It is said that sleeping under a neem tree is therapeutic, it produces more oxygen than other trees and is known to cure more than 100 diseases. Baba says that if you sleep under such a tree during six months you will be free of any health problems. The only side effect was that the tree was also a home to a large group of birds; every morning I had to clean off the bird poo from my clothes.

Ram Nath BabajiThe daily ashram routine started at 3.30 a.m. with bhajans blasting out from the crackling speakers. First of all everybody used the bathrooms to purify the physical body. Next the entire place was cleaned neatly with water to have the ashram spick and span for the morning puja. After the prayers we sat together and had chai, followed by another resting period before the heat would turn almost unbearable. During the day locals would pay their visits. All day long people walked in and out and many joined in for the evening puja.

Guruji insisted that my Baba would be in charge of the cooking, he said that he missed his culinary skills too much. Sometimes I helped peeling potatoes or cleaned the dishes with ash or sand; that’s the way desert people do it, as water is precious and rare. I guess I should have helped more, but there are so many rules in every ambit of Hindu society that I was afraid to offend someone by my lack of knowledge. My thinking was of course a bit silly; for sure they would understand the cultural differences and be happy to explain everything.

During the day I sat mostly in the shadow of the building in front of the big gate alone with my thoughts. It was a kind of unintended but much revealing meditation. Sometimes I silently repeated mantras to keep my mind from spinning too much. The kids of the neighborhood discovered me soon and climbed up the wall to wave at me and sit there for some time to see what I was doing.

Each time the gate opened it was like a theatre curtain rising. All kind of people stepped through it to receive some healing, to enjoy a couple of chillums or to pray at the shrines. Once, even a camel appeared in the gate. Another time a group of Rajasthani ladies in colourful sarees walked in. They prostrated in front of me and touched my feet as a gesture of highest respect. Apparently they thought that I was a holy Mataji, because I was living with the sadhus. I felt pretty embarrassed; who was I to get my feet touched by anybody? I did not feel worthy giving them the blessings they expected to receive by touching their heads. Maybe I should just have done so, as I learned that all human beings actually possess the power of blessing.

Sometimes the sadhus took me for sightseeing. I felt like Snow White, but surrounded and protected by sadhus instead of dwarfs. We visited Karnimata temple, also known as the rat temple. The little rodents are considered holy there. This day I was deeply thankful for the heat, as it kept the thousands of fat rats sleeping peacefully in the corners of the temple. From time to time some of them moved lazily to have a sip of milk which was offered to them in huge clay bowls. I actually like rats and mice, but to see so many of them in one spot and imagining how they all hop over my feet from all sides felt pretty eery.Happiest rats in the world

For me this Baba world I got to know was completely new. It was so much different from my experiences with the Baba society in Rishikesh, were they barely received any attention from the locals. I got disappointed in more than one occasion, thinking that I was having a nice talk with a sadhu, but each time the conversation ended with a petition for money.

My experience in Bikaner touched my soul. It was beautiful to be witness and part of an ancient system which consists of giving and receiving in so many different ways.

Baba’s Story

Baba

Rishikesh became our base camp from where we decided where to go next.

Baba sometimes talked about his Guruji and I became more and more curious.  He suggested that we could next travel to Bikaner, Rajasthan to pay Guruji a visit in the ashram.

Baba is not much of a talkative person, at least if you don’t ask the right questions. But if you do so, you will get to hear amazing things. I had a lot of questions and little by little I got to know his life story, which could easily fill a book:

Baba grew up in a small village in Bihar as the youngest of three children. When he was only eleven years old he broke out of society. Apparently he has been a rebel in his own way since childhood. Sometimes he went to school, but rather preferred to fish in the river or play in the mango gardens. Nobody of his family of course was happy about that, but there was no way to awaken his interest in school education.

One day it came to a chain reaction: The teacher caught him skipping classes and slapped him. Baba reacted and kicked the teacher as hard as he could in his shinbone. The teacher hit him again and brought him home to his older brother, who hit him as well because of his misbehaviour. He got hit once more by his father when he came home from work.

This day Baba ran off and jumped on the first train he found standing in Patna railway station. Destiny took him to Delhi.

He dwelt around the railway station for some time, until a Sardarji came along and offered him a roof and food in exchange for working in the household. Baba stayed with him for six months, but soon he wanted something more than only cover his basic needs and took a job as a dishwasher in a local dhaba where he could sleep, eat and got paid some rupees. It is not uncommon to see young kids working in restaurants and chai shops in India; probably many of them lived a similar story or were victims of alcohol problems in their families. After sometime the dhaba owner found out that Baba was a talented cook and he gave him that job.

Like most teenagers Baba felt attracted to all the Bollywood glamour shown on television. One day he took the money he had saved and moved to Mumbai. He did not become a  Bollywood actor, but found a well paid, but hard job at the railway station: Loading and unloading heavy bundles of textiles for their transport. After having done this job for about two years something that would change his life came into his mind: He wanted to go on the pilgrimage to the holy Shiva place of Ammarnath in Kashmir. He changed his jeans and t-shirt for a simple saffron-coloured lunghi and kurta.

Babaji

At the last stop in Jammu he went off the train. From there on he would go the rest of the distance by walk, joining many other sadhus who were heading to the same destination.

After walking on and on for a long time, a scene on the roadside attracted his attention: A crying woman holding her sick child in her arms had approached a sadhu. She explained that she already had visited many doctors, but non of them found an effective treatment. The sadhu examined the child, gave some ayurvedic medicine to the mother and his blessings to the boy.

Baba decided to follow this sadhu. There was something about him he felt attracted to in a special way. He asked him if he would accept him as a disciple, but the sadhu politely refused.

Baba followed him anyways and offered him his seva. He even followed him back to an ashram of the Nath Sampardaya in Punjab. After five months the sadhu finally decided that the time had come to accept Baba as his chela. Sadhus don’t use to accept a new disciple easily, as this also involves assuming a lot of responsibility. It is like adopting a child; by becoming someone’s Guru they also turn into the student’s father. They want to make sure as well that the applicant is serious about his decision.

In the end real sadhu life is hard life.

Guruji took Baba to his ashram in Bikaner where he lived and learned for eight years. On Guruji’s suggestion, Baba then went to live alone in his own little ashram in a desert nearby for some years.

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Eventually he decided to wander through Northern India by himself. He liked Rishikesh very much and felt curious about all the foreign travelers he met there. He was keen on knowing more about the world outside of India and simply enjoyed their company. And one day we came across each other on the shores of the Ganges.

One reason why I liked Baba from the beginning is, that he never asked anybody for anything.

He was just one of these persons I met in my life in whose eyes happiness and satisfaction were reflected.

Trouble in my Bubble

July 2007

My wonderland bubble was about to burst!

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The town was getting crowded; pilgrim season had started. Each year people arrive from all over the country to pray on the shores of the Ganges, visit their Gurus in the Ashrams and to offer holy water to Lord Shiva in the Neelkanth Temple. The bridges leading to Ramjhula and Laxmanjhula were so crowded, that crossing them could easily take more than half an hour.

For a foreigner this season can become kind of annoying. There are many villagers among the pilgrims, who probably never saw a Westerner in all their life, not even on T.V.

To leave the guesthouse for a cup of chai, turns into a challenge. Once you are out on the street, Indian women point at you giggling and groups of young fellows look at you in most uncomfortable ways whispering behind your back. It is not a good idea to get yourself into posing for a souvenir snap. If you do so, you will be expected to stand there for hours, because the entire group also wants at least one shot with a smiling Westerner. In the meantime a long queue with more pilgrims is waiting for their turn. Indians can be really persistent and it is almost impossible to break out of the situation without getting rude.

If you did not give up and eventually made it to the chai shop, you will probably be sitting in the middle of a lot of young male pilgrims, who will be staring at you constantly without even blinking. To us this might feel pretty uncomfortable, but staring is actually not considered impolite in India. As a foreigner you turn automatically into the center of attraction. It is irrelevant what you wear or what you do and it doesn’t make any difference if you are just sitting there doing nothing or if you are performing a hula dance; people will just stare. Feel free to do the same, there is no need to feel shy if you want to find out more about an unusual situation that attracts your attention.

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Another fact is that if you have spent a longer time in Ramjhula, you automatically become part of the local society and its gossip. Sometimes it is better not to understand Hindi, I guess.

I was pretty surprised, when several strange Sadhus approached me in a funny way to give me some unasked spiritual advises about how to reach illumination and telling me stories about their superpowers. Each time the encounter ended with this guideline, referring to my Baba:

“This Baba no good, you take care! You better no meet!”

Actually they wanted to convince me that hanging out with them instead would be much wiser and they were more than likely trying to woo away a Western sponsor.

Things are really not easy when you (are a woman and) befriend a Baba in Rishikesh. The police was constantly annoying us. Some said that their duty is to protect the female travelers from getting into trouble, but my impression was rather that they tried to make life impossible for us to get some baksheesh out of the situation. The police would stop us on the street and sternly insist that I was not allowed to go along with this Baba. We were not even doing anything wrong or unmoral such as holding hands or kissing in public.

The police even appeared out of nowhere to make trouble when we were just sitting at a chai stall with friends or playing an innocent game of LUDO together with a couple of Sadhus in the shadow of a tree. I started to wonder if they were spying on me. I tried to convince them that I am a grown up and may walk with whoever and wherever I wished. This did not impress them much and they even threatened to beat Baba up or to put him into jail. I wondered with which reason they would imprison Baba. But if they really wanted to do so, they would probably invent any silly motive. I already had learned that the Indian police doesn’t waste much time with talking, they don’t hesitate to pull out their clubs and proceed to the so-called “Bamboo-massage”.

Eventually we ended up walking on the road separately to meet up somewhere later on. What happened to our freedom?

All the signs were pointing to the same direction:

The time had come to move on!