Alien encounters at the Embassy

August 2015

This summer I spent two and a half months in Europe together with my three year old daughter. We came back to Delhi in at the end of August, where my husband was waiting for us. It was still very hot and humid and of course as usual dusty, loud and crowded. Normally I try to get out of the city as soon as possible under these circumstances, but as it takes a minimum of 10 hours to the capital from where we live, I seized the opportunity to renew my passport which expires at the end of this year, so I could save an extra journey.

After a dusty Rickshaw ride through the heat I found myself sitting on a bench outside of the small office counter number 4 of the German embassy, where I was waiting for my turn together with a bunch of other people, mostly Indians. After some time the guy next to me stretched out his hand and introduced himself as Dr. M. He was a Westerner in his late 40’s, slim with short hair, a big nose and was wearing khaki shorts and a tank top, that might have been white some time ago. He did not look much like a doctor of any kind to me, but who knows, maybe he was a backpacking physician or something like this.

Without me asking anything, he started to explain that he had been living in India for 3 years and that he was actually a healer. It is common to meet many kinds of foreign therapists traveling or living in India and I decided to put some interest into his story; waiting there was boring anyways. I asked him, what kind of healing he was practicing. What followed, was a looong monolog:

“I do all kind of healing. I opened a clinic here in Delhi with two partners. I have already healed many famous people, like the former president of Australia. They come to me. Actually I have changed my body seven times. This body, which you see here… I just decided to take it. The guy who had it was sick and died. And then my eyes changed: Look!”

He stared at me. I looked him in the eyes; they were brown.

“Ahhhhh!” I said and thought, why not. In the end, this is India, where people change bodies all the time.

“In 2017 the world will face a big changing. I will come to clean and destroy it all and then I will create everything from the start. You will see!”

“Just like Shiva!” I said and nodded.

“Yes, kind of. If you are going to be there, you have to follow the light point and ask for Dr. M. – They know me very well. You know, actually the thing is that we are all programmed. They programmed us, a long time ago, when we were still connected to mother and father alien. Give me your hand!”

Illustration courtesy of <a href="http://talamaletina.blogspot.com.es/" target="_blank">talamaletina</a>

Illustration courtesy of talamaletina

He took my hand and performed some tickling movements, combined with some turns and strokes on the back of it. He looked very concentrated and nodded knowingly from time to time.

“Your hormones are not balanced. I just fixed it. Oh, I forgot to check your blood sugar”

And he started again to reprogram me through the back of my hand. I noticed that the Indians who shared the bench with us were observing us discretely from the corner of their eyes; for me it was the first time that I ever witnessed natives in India observing a situation tactfully. I was actually more used to be stared at without any embarrassment by Indians, often with their faces just an inch away from my own.

The situation was indeed odd and I joked

“I hope you didn’t put any alien inside of me!”

He smiled and replied “You already ARE an alien, my dear!”

Then he was called in by the lady behind the counter. Only after a few seconds he stepped out again and said

“Oh, I just asked her to bring me a cup of coffee” 

I guess this was supposed to be a joke, unless he really was a V.I.P. 

It was my turn. The AC had broken down and I was sweating intensely inside of the small room. To make matters worse, I had thought that I could pay the fee in Euros, but it was to be paid in rupees, which I did not have on me. Now, I had to go back to the Hotel and again return to the embassy. As I went off, I hurriedly said goodbye to Dr. M. and wished him good luck.

When I came back after about two hours I was surprised to see through the glass door that Dr. M. was still there, talking vividly to the lady behind the counter. Maybe he was negotiating another cup of coffee. He smiled when he spotted me and stuck his head out of the door to ask if I would like to have a cup of chai with him after the business. I replied that I had to go back to the hotel straight away as my child was waiting there. “Oh you have a child?!” He seemed surprised.

I was called into the office next, as my application was already done and I only had to pay the fee. When I walked out, I saw Dr. M. sitting on the bench next to another Western woman, holding her hand.


By the way: It is said that we Germans are a serious Nation. The German Ambassador in Delhi, Mr. Steiner, proved the contrary by creating this amazing Bollywood video, acting himself as the main character: It’s really fun and you can check it out on Youtube: German Embassy goes Bollywood

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I LOVE MY INDIA

La célebre frase “I LOVE MY INDIA” aparece en la mayoría de las tiendas de recuerdos por el todo el país. Es un eslogan muy popular que adorna camisetas, pegatinas, pósteres e incluso tazas.

¡Me encanta, simplemente porque es una gran verdad!.

La India representa un pequeño universo en sí. Se puede decir que existen tantas Indias como hay dioses hindúes, que según la mitología son 33 millones!

El país se compone de 28 estados y cada estado consta de varias regiones. Hay 22 idiomas oficiales y  además un gran número de dialectos. La diversidad cultural y tradicional es inmensa, ya que cada lugar tiene sus propias costumbres a nivel estatal, regional y municipal. Me recuerda un poco al juego ruso de las muñecas Babushkas: Después de descubrir una muñequita dentro de la “madre”, se revela una más y luego otra más y de hecho nunca se sabe, cuando el juego se acabará.

Las experiencias de cada uno, lo que ve y vive por la India no solamente dependen de los lugares que visita, sino también influye como viaja, con quien y con qué tipo personajes se encuentra por el camino.

Cuando cuento de ¨mi¨ India, me refiero a mis experiencias personales. “Mi” India está coloreada por la gente sencilla del pueblo, mochileros, viajeros freaky, jóvenes y viejos hippies, buscadores espirituales, sadhus más o menos fiables, hostales sin estrellas y viajes en trenes y autobuses locales.

Total:

Es la India de las cosas súper-simples, pero complicadas.

I-Love-My-India-2014-WallpaperHe de decir que casi no tengo, ni busco contacto con la sociedad moderna de la India, ni me gustan demasiado sus grandes ciudades. Supongo que la razón porqué no me atrae, es que se trata de cosas a las que menos echo de menos cuando me acuerdo de mi “casa” en occidente.

Cuando estoy por Europa la gente a veces me pregunta

“¿Como es la India?”

y no tengo respuesta, ya que la India está llena de contrastes en todos los niveles. Creo que la India es lo que tú haces de ella, o bien lo que ella hace contigo – que al fin y al cabo viene a ser lo mismo.

Una vez fui a pasar una tarde en un centro comercial cerca de Delhi. La puerta de entrada estaba controlada por varios vigilantes para asegurar que solamente gente “aceptable” entrase en el edificio. Supongo que me dejó entrar por ser Europea, porque la verdad es que yo no parecía realmente aceptable vestida del típico estilo hippie mochilero. Solamente me di cuenta de ello cuando me fijé en el público que acudía a este lugar: Chicas Indias guapísimas y modernas en tejanos y camisetas ajustaditas y chavales peinados a la última con gafas de sol y camisas de marca imitando a los héroes de Bollywood.

De alguna manera en ¨mi¨ India la forma de vestir carece de importancia. Después  de algunos meses de viajar en plan simple pero complicado, uno ya no se da ni cuenta si alguna prenda tiene uno o varios agujeros o si la ropa originalmente blanca ha ido adaptando una escala de tonos indefinibles. Como uno casi siempre acaba juntándose con gente de su misma tribu, no se da ni cuenta de estos detalles, hasta cruzarse con alguien de aspecto ¨decente¨.

Hacía un calor tremendo en la calle y enseguida disfruté del olvidado soplido frío del aire acondicionado dentro del centro comercial. Me dí cuenta de que ya no estaba más acostumbrada a la típica iluminación artificial estéril y los reflejos de los suelos y cristales pulidos me irritaban la vista. Me pasee por los escaparates sintiéndome abducida hacía otra realidad lejana pero familiar. Había artículos de todas las grandes marcas conocidas en occidente e incluso una amplia zona de recreo con restaurantes y cines. Hasta me compré un carísimo helado italiano! Estaba disfrutando de mi pequeño dulce lujo mientras observaba la turbulenta movida en la calle de abajo a través de una pared de vidrio.

De repente mi helado ya no sabía tan bueno; allí abajo estaba la polución gris y sofocante, los conductores de rickshaws bañados en sudor esperando a clientes, niños sucios pidiendo limosna en los semáforos, chuchos callejeros husmeando por la basura, indigentes durmiendo en medio del denso tráfico y vacas masticando bolsas de plástico con gran placer en plena carretera.

¡Si!

¡El mundo real seguía allí!

¡Y “mi” India estaba allí fuera!

Lo que quiero decir es que no pretendo generalizar nada en este blog, aunque a veces puede que lo parezca. No existe nada en el mundo que sea mejor o peor; las cosas simplemente son diferentes y así son las experiencias.

¡QUE TU INDIA TE ACOMPAÑE!

I Love my India

Bhandara – The Sadhu “Palty”

July 2008

The questions about when we would finally throw a party to celebrate our wedding with the community didn’t stop. We still could not walk two steps without a Baba coming up to us asking

“Palty? Palty? When palty???”

As my Baba belonged to the “Rishikesh Sadhu society” we had to organize something. I worried about how we would feed all the Babas. Let’s face it, we were in Rishikesh; how many Babas were around this area?

Five hundred? One thousand?

bhandaraEverybody knew us and now even more, after we had been on TV and in the newspapers. If the word spread that there would be a bhandara, probably each and every one of them would show up.

We had no idea about where and how to organize the celebration and our budget was pretty low. We talked to the Last Chance Café team, the little crew of the guesthouse we lived in, who became a family to us. They suggested celebrating the event in the guesthouse. They would also take care about organizing and cooking the food. The garden would probably be too small, but there would be enough space on the rooftop.

We decided to print flyers to invite a limited number of sadhus. Maybe this was not a nice thing to do, but we were afraid to run out of food, which would probably be even more shameful. We printed one hundred tickets. There would be puri, chana masala and rice.

What is really nice in India, is that even people you barely know will offer their help whenever needed; and even more if it is about something that involves the holy men of India, as it is said to be ¨good karma¨ to serve them selflessly.

BhandharaA number the locals appeared early in the morning to help in the kitchen and to prepare the place. We stood on the rooftop, waiting for the first guests to arrive. In the early morning many sadhus had asked us impatiently when the party would be starting. Some complained that they didn´t get any ticket and we told them not to worry and to come anyways. For a long time, nobody showed up. My Baba decided to go to the Beatles Ashram area, where some of the sadhus lived under trees or in plastic tents to tell them that food was ready to be served.

Shortly after, I saw Baba from a distance emerging from the jungle followed by a couple of dogs and a large wave of orange and white clad figures. A long line of sadhus climbed up the shaky iron stairs to the rooftop. From afar it looked like a gigantic saffron-colored caterpillar crawling up the steps. Soon the space was fully occupied and some Babas sat down in the garden to eat or waited there for their turn, as there was no more space left upside.

The kitchen, where the cooking-team was unceasingly frying puris was steaming and the local volunteers eagerly served food and water to the sadhus. The sadhus came, ate and left in turns. It was and endless coming and going, occasionally producing a jam on the narrow stairs.

Babas

Suddenly there was a scream. I rushed to the garden to find out what had happened. A young local with a ponytail dressed in modern western clothes was lying on the floor, blood pouring down his face. I knew him; he was one of the cool, Bollywood-influenced Indian Kids of the area. The poor fellow had become victim of the absence of Indian safety measures. The rooftop was not bounded by any walls. He had touched one of the power cables that were lying openly along the border of the rooftop with humid hands and got flung through the air by the electric shock, landing in the garden three meters below.

He opened his eyes and stood up, looking embarrassed at the group of people forming a circle around him. Fortunately he was fine, the wound on his head was only superficial and looked worse than it actually was. He was a bit in a state of shock, but it seemed that his ego got hurt more than anything else, as his performance had not looked Bollywood-action-hero-like at all.

In the end we counted more than 250 sadhus. We had not run out of food and everybody was happy and satisfied. Finally we had fulfilled our palty-duty and could walk peacefully through town again.

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.

Puja room

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.