BABA CAKE

September 2012

Time had come to think about how to make a living in our Himalayan Village. Just renting out a room for 200 rupees (3 $) a day and organizing a few jam sessions during the tourist seasons, which all together last only six months, was definitively not enough to survive. The big question was:

WHAT TO DO ?

There was an infinite spectrum of possibilities and ideas, but almost none could realistically be materialized. Suddenly I had an idea:

I always loved to bake, so why not make cakes and sell them to the tourists?

Famous applecrumble

We had  the tool, a tiny electric oven that we once bought in Delhi, that would have to do it to begin. Going from guesthouse to guesthouse loaded with cakes while carrying a little baby at the same time was not the best idea, as this would mean A LOT of walking, as the guesthouses are spread all over the village to each side of the ridge. So I asked a local who was running a bigger guesthouse with a little grocery shop attached to it, if he could sell the cakes for us. He agreed and soon our fist cakes were displayed at Ram Singh’s Guesthouse. We sold some, but it was not really a roaring success. Sometimes when people walked by the shop,  no one was there to attend them, because the owner had gone to town and his wife was working somewhere on the fields and people probably didn’t want to wait for an hour or so only to get a piece of cake.

There was this young local fellow, who came to visit us almost daily, because he was neither studying, nor working and did not know what else to do with his time. His father had a well paid government job in Delhi and the family was pretty wealthy, so there was not really a great need for him to do any of this. One day I mentioned that it would be good to have a small place of our own where we could sell the cakes and maybe even some good chai and coffee and the guy said

 “Oh, we have a shop which sits empty, nobody uses it since years and there it even has a counter”

Baba Cake counter

The same day we went to check on the place and for us it was just perfect! Well, it was not really a shop by Western standards, it was more like a garage. But there was a small terrace, some shelves and a second small room which could be used as a kitchen. There was no running water either, but the water supply was nearby and we could do the dishes in a tub and bring all the necessary water in buckets; all good enough for a start. We talked to his big brother who was in charge of business matters and agreed a good price for the rent.

As always, our budget was very limited and therefore we tried to keep things as cheap and simple as possible. We bought some plywood which was turned into low tables, mattresses to sit on the floor, tableware and a couple of buckets with paint. Baba Cake Café was ready just on time for the fall season. My job was to bake the cakes and muffins and Baba was in charge of tea and coffee. As our baby was not even one year old and slept a lot and needed very much of her mommy’s attention I would prepare the cakes at home early in the morning and we would then carry them up thee hill to the shop.

Baba Cake wall painting

The travelers loved our place! I was very much happy and excited, but at the same time pretty much surprised as the place was really small and humble. Probably this was exactly the reason why people liked it. It soon turned into a meeting point and favorite hangout for many travelers, where people enjoyed a good cup of masala chai and a tasty piece of cake. Our Apple-Crumble became really famous and sometimes I could not bake enough of it to make everybody happy. Our tiny electric oven did magic, although the daily and frequent power cuts made me go wild regularly.

There are always many amazing and creative souls among the traveler community and so in exchange for cake and chai, we even got a really cool design painted on our entrance wall. There was always somebody with an instrument playing music in the shop, the atmosphere was wonderful and somehow most of the guests ended up becoming our very good friends. A big Baba Cake Family came into life, where people are open, kind, colorful, creative and of course all a bit crazy; each of us in our own particular way 😉

Sadhu Baba Cake

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Mente vs. corazón

Marzo 2007

Nos quedamos en Rishikesh durante solamente una semana, pero un solo día estaba cargado con tanta intensidad e historias, que me parecía llevar ya un siglo flotando por la densa magia de mi primera aventura en la India.

Puede que algunos que ya han estado viajando por esas tierras pensarán ahora:

“¡Que chica más inocente, juntándose con uno de estos Babas de Rishikesh!”

y tengo que decir que tienen mucha razón!

Pienso que tuve mucha suerte de haberme encontrado con este sadhu en particular. Diría casi que es muy poco probable cruzarse con un sadhu “de verdad” en Rishikesh. Eso sí, las calles están repletas de hombres vestidos con túnicas naranjas, pero de hecho solo hay unos pocos que están seriamente comprometidos con un camino espiritual.

Muchas son las  historias sobre malas experiencias de viajeros, sobre todo mujeres mochileros, que han tenido amistades con algún Baba de la calle. Un sadhu de verdad no suele quedarse mucho tiempo en sitios turísticos y muchos incluso intentan evitar el contacto con turistas, especialmente con mujeres. La mayoría de ellos, que se lo toman en serio, solo hablarán unas cuantas palabras de inglés. Esto es un punto: Mi Baba apenas sabía decir algo en otro idioma que no era hindi. De hecho muchas veces yo incluso dudaba si entendía algo en absoluto de lo que yo le contaba. Lo nuestro era más bien una especie de conversaciones de alma a alma con un poquito de ayuda de lenguaje por señas.

BabaGanga

Más tiempo que pasé  con él, más me pillaba a mi misma desarrollando emociones cada vez más intensas, lo cual me asustó bastante.

¡Madre mía! ¿Acaso estaría enamorándome?

A esta pregunta mi corazón estaba pegando saltitos, pero mi mente intentaba convencerme de lo contrario diciéndome cosas como:

‘¡Venga ya! En cuanto te vayas encontrará a la siguiente chica viajera con que pasar el tiempo. ¡Deja de soñar!’

O bien:

‘¿Qué leches estas pensando? ¡Es la India y tú vives en España! En caso de que realmente hubiera una historia de amor ¿cómo iba a seguir?’

Y:

‘Chica, acabes de pasar una gran crisis amorosa ¿No iras a cagarla otra vez?’

Decidí de disfrutar del poco tiempo que iba a estar por este lugar maravilloso tratando de ignorar lo mejor posible a esta pesada lucha interna de emociones. Más rápido de lo pensado llegó el inevitable momento de la despedida.

Cuando me junté al grupo para dejar Rishikesh atrás, Baba me preguntó por mi número de teléfono. Sin vacilar lo apunté en su agenda, que por cierto estaba repleto de números y direcciones de otros viajeros de todo el mundo. De formas no me iba a llamar. Era un Baba, que dormía bajo las estrellas, sin posesiones, ni dinero. Llamadas a Europa son relativamente caras, así que al tener algo de dinero lo seguro era que lo iba a gastar en cosas esenciales para él, como comida, mantas o en fumar. Había decidido firmemente de ignorar mi agitado corazón para darle por una vez en mi vida una oportunidad a la razón de mi mente.

De vuelta en casa, todo me parecía raro:

¡ABSOLUTAMENTE TODO!

De pronto me irritaba como la gente hablaba y se relacionaba entre sí. Me asustó la velocidad con que la vida se movía, todo me parecía abstracto, sin sentido y me costaba mucho volver a conectar con mi mundo occidental.  La vuelta a la otra dimensión era como un choque cultural, pero al revés.

Pronto tocó volver al trabajo: Allí estaba yo, igual que antes, sentada en la misma silla de oficina haciendo las mismas tareas que no me gustaban. Siempre había sido una buena trabajadora obediente, pero después de este viaje decidí que no iba a hacer más horas extras, horas de mi vida que ni se pagaban, ni se podían recuperar en forma de días libres. Al fin y al cabo, la empresa no era mía, entonces ¿Porque trabajar tan duro?  La vida laboral había perdido importancia en mi vida y ya era tiempo de cuidarme más a mi misma respetando mis necesidades y limites para no dejar de sobrecogerme por el estrés. Si el simple hecho de decir NO’ me hacía sentir tan bien, seguro que estaba haciendo lo correcto.

Había pasado una semana desde la vuelta de India cuando de repente sonó mi móvil. Casi me desmallé cuando escuche la voz de mi baba.

‘Hari Om’

‘¿Hola?’ Casi se me cayó el teléfono y no sabía que decir.

‘¿Si, tu bien?’

‘Bien. Echo de menos a la India’

‘Yo también echarte de menos. ¿Qué haces?’

‘Trabajar. ¿Y tú?’

‘Yo aquí en Kashi Chai shop. Bebiendo chai y fumar’

‘ahhh…que bien…’

‘¿Cuando vuelves a India? Todo el tiempo pienso en  ti’

‘No sé. Puede que este año. Tengo que hablar con mi jefa.’

‘Ok, tú hablar, y luego vienes, ¿vale? ¿Tu bien?’

‘Si, si, yo bien.’

‘Ok. Bye bye.’

 

No me lo podía creer: ¡Llamó!

Así que igual me mente se había equivocado. La luz que conectaba las dos dimensiones empezó a viajar por el túnel del tiempo y mi cabeza no paraba de dar vueltas.

Durante mis habituales clases de yoga observaba mi cacao mental como siempre. ¡Tenía que volver! Necesitaba averiguar a dónde me llevaba esta luz. ¿Pero cómo y cuándo?

Quería volver, aunque igual no habría más que una simple pero bonita amistad con mi sadhu. Además, las historias de los mochileros que escuchaba durante mi ruta de chais diaria en Rishikesh me habían dado un montón de envidia.

¿Porque yo nunca había hecho algo así?

 La India es un país tan inmenso en todos los sentidos que me había quedado con las ganas de conocerla más y mejor. Si estos mochileros consiguieron encontrar una manera de viajar por algunos meses o incluso un año, yo también!

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Así que un día cualquiera entre en la oficina de mi jefa y le pregunté por seis meses de excedencia. Llevaba ya casi diez años en la empresa y nunca había pedido nada. Mi jefa no se lo esperaba y me dijo que tendría que estudiar el tema. Unos días después volví a su despacho y me dijo que igual sería posible dentro de un par de meses. Después de dos meses me dijo que igual me podría decir algo en seis meses, pero antes nada. Ese mismo día dimití.

Nunca olvidaré lo bien que me sentí ese día al salir de este edificio gris. Estaba invadida por la absoluta certeza que había hecho lo correcto. ¡Es la mejor sensación del mundo!

No se iba a acabar el mundo por finalmente haberme librado del trabajo que no me gustaba o de la relación personal que ya no me llevaba a ninguna parte. No iba a pasar nada, la vida siempre sigue de alguna manera u otra. Admito que había momentos cuando tenía una sensación de vértigo, como si alguien me hubiese arrancado la alfombra de debajo de los pies; una potente mezcla de miedo al desconocido y espíritu aventurero.

…un par de semanas más tarde cogí mi mochila rumbo a la India.

An adventure called life

September 2008

The three of us really wanted to stay at a peaceful place for a longer period after the intense time in Baba’s native Bihari village and Baba´s Food poisoning drama in Bodghaya. We  definitively needed a large amount of relaxation!

What a better place for that than the beautiful countryside of Almora in the Himalayas, which we had only recently discovered?

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We checked into an even nicer guesthouse with a large garden and found out that most of the accommodations in Kasar Devi include a kitchen. When you have traveled for a long time, you eventually get tired of eating out at restaurants, which are all offering mostly the same kind of menu. Having a kitchen made us more than happy, and it was also a way to save some money.

Someone had offered me a thick Indian cookbook for my birthday. First I thought that this person didn’t like me very much, because I had to carry the heavy volume with me through the whole country. But Pagli and I, both of us love to cook and we eventually went through the illustrated pages with the same excitement as a couple of teenager boys would do while reading their first playboy-magazine.

I love good food and admit that eating is something that makes me very happy!

Besides of spending much time in the kitchen, we wandered a lot through the beautiful lush green nature of the monsoon scenery, admiring the diversity of colourful flowers and collecting chanterelle in the forest. When it rained, the temperature cooled notably down and then Baba, Pagli and I would sit on the bed wrapped in blankets, drinking hot chocolate prepared of fresh milk coming directly from the buffalo, while telling each other stories or singing bhajans to the sound of Pagli’s Banjo.

The time had come to think about how life would go on from now on. Here I was, sitting in the middle of a small piece of paradise with my sadhu…

…BUT THEN WHAT?

Baba was not keen on living in Europe and not by a long shot I would dare to take him there to do any silly job and press him into the speedy western society. He was a free spirit and taking him to the other world would more than sure make him fade like a cut flower. Neither did I want to go back to the ignorance of an office job.

Kasar view

Life is too short to live only for making money that one will probably spend anyways in things that don’t really bring along any happiness and eventually will decay.

I could not come up with any alternative lifestyle, that appealed to me and that I actually would be able to put into practice in the west.

I loved Baba just as I loved India, even if at times the country made me really crazy. So, why not try to build up a life somewhere here? Of course, it is a place very far away from “home” and it was a big decision.

But my life-philosophy is:

If you don’t try, you will never know!

What was the worst that could really happen? Europe would not run away and I could go back there if I needed to do so anytime.

Now, the question was where in India?!?

I remember how Baba’s family in Bihar suggested us to build a house there in the village, as they owned a lot of land.

HA! NO WAY!

I would not survive there for even a month without going completely nuts!

On the other hand there was my beloved Rishikesh. But buying something there was too costly and everyone in town knew my Baba as he was part of Rishikesh’s sadhu society. A picture of dozens of sadhus coming to sit day and night at our place to enjoy chai, chillum and chapatis came to my mind. Nothing bad about that, but on a long-term that was not really an option!

Flowers in KasarWe decided to give Kasar Devi a try, we really loved that place. People are respectful, there is the tourist season when to meet nice people from all over the world, but also the off-season to enjoy the peace of the simple village life. The climate is pleasant, too, as it never got unbearably hot, though  the short winters can be pretty chilly.

Only a couple of weeks later Baba found a small piece of land that we could afford. This went so fast, that I interpreted it as a sign that things were flowing towards the direction they were supposed to.

Time had come to start a new adventure: The beginning of a new life in a new place

The revenge of the chicken

August 2008

Baba did not get too many chances to spend some quality time with his sister Kamla during our short stay in his native Bihari village. There were always too many people around and he was most of the time involved in some “men activities”. I knew he would have loved to meet her more in private. We came up to the idea to invite his sister to meet us in Bodhgaya. Her husband’s village where she lived was not very far from there. We told her that we would come up for her room in the same buddhist monastery where we were staying.

Om Mane Padme Hum

Om Mane Padme Hum

Actually I was a little nervous, because I barely spoke a handful of words of Hindi and I was very insecure about the social expectation as an “Indian” wife. There are plenty of social “rules” about how to act and what to say (or better not) in all kind of worldly situations and I really did’t think that I would do very good at it. I just wanted them to like me and make a good impression. I was so thankful to have Pagli, our American friend around to give me some moral support!

WOULD I BE ABLE TO DO AS WELL AS AN INDIAN HOST?

…BECAUSE THEY ARE REALLY DAMN GOOD AT IT !

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Something strange must have been in the air, because I don’t know why Baba suddenly decided that he wanted to eat that chicken curry! At the end of the meal we even started arguing, which is something we do extremely rarely:

“You really have to order this chicken?”

“Me long time no eating chicken! I want chicken!”

“It’s expensive!”

“no problem!”

Few minutes later…

“Why you don’t eat the chicken?”

“This chicken strange taste!”

“Well, you wanted it! And I told you! Common, now you eat!”

“NO! Me not eating this possible! Chalo!”

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The three of us left that strange restaurant in a grumbly mood. His sister would arrive tomorrow morning with her husband, her mother in law and her youngest son; this didn’t help much to improve my state of mind.

In the evening Baba started to spend several long periods inside of the bath-room and ended up spending most of the night there, too. In the morning there was nothing more left for him to get rid off and he was crouching in anguish next to the toilet. His head was really hot and he was bathed in cold sweat. It was the first time that I witnessed an Indian’s skin turning into a greenish complexion.

We girls put him to bed and tried to make him drink water, but that effort only ended up in further stomach cramps. Baba stopped talking. He did not react to us at all anymore. Suddenly he started to repeat in a weak voice:

“Doctor, Hospital…!”

This really made us panic! Baba never went to see a doctor in all his life, neither did he believe very much in them. This situation was truly not looking good at all!

Monsoon in Bodhgaya

Monsoon in Bodhgaya

Kamla arrived with her family and it was all a big mess! Baba couldn’t talk, Pagli and I didn’t speak any Hindi and non of them spoke any English. She immediately started to take care of her brother, sitting on the edge of the bed holding his hand. We told her that we would go out to find a doctor. It took us some time to find the doctor the resident buddhist monk had recommended us. The doc and his assistant followed us immediately to the monastery. He performed a quick check on Baba and shortly after I saw how the assistant started sticking all kind of needles into my poor husband’s body. I tried to find out what they were giving him and why, but without success. The doctor talked vividly to Kamla and her husband, but the only thing that I understood was that they had to put a drip and eventually the word

FOOD POISONING!

I felt helpless and numb, but at least Baba’s fever went down fast and he had fallen into a peaceful sleep. I wanted to be a good wife and a good host. We didn’t have any kitchen to offer snacks or chai and the street sellers were not out on the street due to the heavy rainfall of the monsoon. We managed to get some chai from the monastery and explained Kamla that we would go out to bring some food and asked her to stay with Baba. The only thing we could find was some momos and samosas. When we came back the doctor explained us somehow that Baba was okay now, but that his assistant would stay that night with him to change the glucose drips.

The rooms were reorganizes in Indian style: Kamla’s husband would sleep in Baba’s room on the other bed. I would sleep with Pagli and Kamla with her mother in law and her son. This was all very strange.

Was I supposed to oppose?

I just agreed and decided to check from time to time on Baba during the night. On my first inspection the assistant was snoring loudly in an armchair. On my second visit he was for some reason sleeping next to Baba; in the same bed and almost hugging him. Was that normal?

I guess that sometimes it is better not to think too much and to let things simply happen the way they are supposed to in the Indian way without asking oneself too many questions.

The next morning the assistant looked rested and Baba looked much better, too. He could speak normally again and around noon he even started to feel hungry. The following day we all went out to do some sight-seeing and to eat out in a restaurant. Kamla ordered Chinese Noodles. I think she never had tried such a dish before.

It was touching to see her trying to manage to handle the long noodles with a fork and I remembered how some women in the village whispered with each other and laughed at me when they saw me eating, saying:

“Look! She doesn’t know how to eat properly only with the hand”

…and I could not avoid a smile…  

Baba &  Mathilda

Baba & Mathilda

Floating cups and water snakes

August 2008

As soon we sat in the bus heading from Baba’s tiny Bihari Village near Patna to Bodhgaya, a sensation of freedom came over me. Free from masses of staring eyes, expectations from the Indian family side and I would have not to worry about if my behaviour as a western wife could accidentally offend anyone.

In Bodhgaya we checked into a buddhist monastery. It was a big compound, but it was off-season and the three of us were the only guests in the entire building.

Of course! To whom else but us crazy monkeys it would occur to travel through Bihar during the peak of the raining season?

It felt just like haven to have such simple things like an own room with a door, a toilet and a shower again. Baba, Pagli and I were in a very happy mood. We celebrated our freedom with a small dance party in the room and playing card games.

Monastery "Garden"

Monastery “Garden”

The next day it started raining; a warm constant monsoon drizzle – which didn’t stop. To leave the monastery we had to cross the garden to reach the main gate. In the evening the garden had started to turn into a pool and the water accumulated came up to our ankles.

On the second day the water had reached knee level and some kids were bathing and playing in the growing pool. It was still okay to cross it after taking out the sandals and rolling up the pants.

After the third day of rain, the water came up to our waists and as I looked down from the balcony to the waterscape I discovered several water snakes and a couple of rats swimming happily through the green element.

No way that I would cross that pool any longer!

To get out of the monastery to have some food we took the safer way: Balancing on the narrow edge of a long wall along the pool. And naturally at the first crossing mission I fell straight into the pool accompanying my clumsiness with an hysteric shriek. All the diseases one might contract during the monsoons described in the Lonely Planet rushed through my mind. The thought of touching the ground with my bare feet made me panic and I paddled at high speed back towards and up the wall.

On the fourth day it stopped raining and Pagli and I decided to visit an Indian family with who she had made friendship during a previous trip to Bodhgaya. The pool was still full of all kind of creatures, but at least I was able to figure out a suitable balance technique to walk on the wall. Outside of the monastery, all streets were filled with stale water or there were still streams of brown soup rushing down the sides of the roads.

Eventually we reached the family’s house; well, actually it was not a real house, but a bamboo structure covered with plastics and tin sheets. The residents were busy piling up all kind of objects in front of it. A fatty mataji in a thin cotton saree spotted us and started to beam as soon as she recognized Pagli.

“Come in, come in! Welcome, welcome!”

she said joyfully and hastily pulled a few leeches off her leg. Blood ran down her skin. We took out our sandals (well, I did, as Pagli most of the time prefered not to wear any) and stepped through the small entrance, where we found ourselves up to the ankles in a nasty broth of monsoon water.

Chai time

Chai time

She led us to a charpoy in a corner of the room, as if there was absolutely nothing strange at all happening. There we sat down to enjoy an interesting view on floating cups, plates, flip-flops and even a paddling mouse. Mataji lived in that hut together with her husband and one of her sons, who’s beautiful wife was pretty advanced in pregnancy.

She went out for a moment and shortly after came back with two cups of chai. I wondered with which water this chai had been prepared, but I drank it.

INDIA TURNS YOU BRAVE!

I like to remember that story, for instance when I drown in self-pity or catch myself complaining about my situation too intensely. It reminds me that no matter how big my problems seem to me, I can be sure that there are people who have many more reasons to complain and worry about.

But they just keep on going;

…and they do so with a smile…

Inside the hut

Inside the hut

Bye-Bye Bihar!

August 2008

It was so hot, that we ended up sleeping all together on the roof top under the open sky. In the middle of the night the monsoon surprised us and the whole lot of us grabbed our blankets and drowsily went down to the rooms for shelter while large bats were flying across the open patio. Pagli and I slept together with our little caretakers on a large bed.

The Patio

The Patio

I woke up expecting to have a more peaceful day, as it seemed that all the village inhabitants had already come to stare at us “weird” Westerners for a while the day before; hopefully to their entire satisfaction.

Well, maybe the greater part of them did; the thing is that the voice about two white ladies had spread to the surrounding villages and by the time we were having breakfast we were watched again by an even bigger crowd than we had staring at us the previous day!

I think this was the moment when I internalized an important lesson:

 

In India it is better not to have any expectations all. Good and not so good surprises lurk behind every corner just waiting to jump on you! Every single thing usually turns out quite different from how it should have – sometimes much better than expected; or well, much worse….

…and what fascinates me pretty much about human nature, is how we manage to get used to all kind of circumstances and routines relatively quickly. It did not bother me that much anymore to have all those strangers at a short distance observing every detail about how I stuffed my Indian breakfast into my mouth, as if I were doing something absolutely amazing, like for example swallowing a box of nails.

After breakfast we decided to visit the village temple, just to get a bit out of the house in which we were trapped; of course, we were followed by a large crowd. I think the temple never had before that many visitors at once since its construction, not even on Shivratri!

Pagli and me were trying to go along with the joking and laughing kids that jumped excitedly around us, when suddenly a boy with a wicked gaze came up to me and kicked me hard in the leg. I have no idea why he did it; maybe he thought he’d better make sure in case we were a sort of ghost or he just didn’t like me.

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The boy who kicked me

We thought it was a good idea to make a gift to the girls that took so good care of us, they were constantly with us, fanning us with palm leaves and making sure we were as happy as possible. When we went back in the house we went through our bags. We gathered some fancy jewellery and make-up items that we distributed among the girls; which turned out to be a big mistake! Soon all the kids were fighting with each other, grabbing the things out of each others hands and complaining loudly that they also wanted this item and not the one they got. Baba’s niece ran back to her house crying complaining that the other girls received so much nicer things than she did from the westerners, she came back with her mother and a big drama started to develop.

The 103 year old dying grandfather we had come to visit was still in the same state. He got to see my husband, his youngest grandson one more time, which was one of his wishes to be fulfilled before he died.

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Village Kids

Actually we had planned to stay longer in the village, but things were getting really intense and on the fourth day of our visit, with a sugar rush for having had farewell-chais in most of the family houses of the village, we took our backpacks and walked out of the Bihari village to reach the bus stand by walk at one kilometer distance.

I looked behind me and the German story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, who led the rats out of a village by playing his flute, came to my mind; a never-ending line of villagers was walking right behind us to say goodbye; they stayed with us waiting until the bus left and merrily waved at us as we drove off.

These four days which I will never forget felt like four years to me! So many incredible things happened in such a very short time, many situations were pretty tough, others just amazingly beautiful!

I learned so much about people, life, love and most of all about myself.

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Gangotri‘s best chai

May 2008

Sita Ram found us having breakfast and ordered a potato parantha and a chai while he was giving his usual morning grouching-speech; on our behalf, of course. Again he decided to come with us on our walk.

We climbed over rocks and stones and suddenly stood in front of a small cave entrance. A local who passed by with his donkeys, who were carrying rocks explained that a Russian Sadhu was living there. Unfortunately the door was locked; I would really have liked to meet the Russian spiritual man.

Gangotri

Russian Baba Cave

We followed a small path when all of a sudden it started raining. A voice called us over, coming from an old Sadhu who was sitting at his fire pit under a ledge. I wondered why we had not noticed him earlier. The old man offered us chai. He even had real cow-milk, it was the best chai I had in all of Gangotri! His English was pretty good and he told me that for the last thirty years he had been living most time of the year in Gangotri, but due to the isolation and the rough climate conditions he was forced to spend some months further down in the valley. It was very pleasant to enjoy a good, hot cup of tea while chatting with the Sadhu. I marvelled at the beauty of nature; the rains had turned the rocks into glimmering silver.

A Russian couple, who was in search of the Russian Sadhu came through the rain out of nowhere an joined us. We talked little; everybody seemed to be absorbed by the amazing landscape.

When the rain eventually stopped, we thanked the old Sadhu and started our descent where we met another interesting figure; a Nath Sadhu jumped on the path from behind a bush.

I almost got a heart attack!

His long, thick dreadlocks were knotted together high upon his head. He wore nothing but a tiger patterned loincloth and many heavy malas. His entire body was smeared with ash, he held a brazen trishul in one hand and a Baba-bag hung over his shoulder. We ended up crouching in a circle on the side of the trail; the Tiger-Loincloth-Baba passed a chillum and the three holy men had a vivid conversation in Hindi. He spotted my digicam and his eyes became big as saucers. He started rummaging in his Baba-bag and pulled out a cellphone and a digital camera.

“I have a Sony Camera, 4 megapixel, very good quality! My cellphone inside also have one camera.”

This was the last thing I had expected from this particular Sadhu and I had to fight pretty hard to stifle a laugh.

Like that we spent several days in Gangotri; with Sita Ram Baba at our side. There was no way to get rid of him; the only moments I spent alone with my husbands were at night inside of our room.

What a great honeymoon in company of Rumpelstiltskin!

Baba and Sita RamTime had come to leave, but before that we wanted to visit the temple, which receives countless pilgrims every year. At the market Baba and I bought a plate with offerings for the goddess that contained kajal, bangles, a comb, a small mirror, coconut and a variety of sweets. Happily we approached the main temple and I wondered what had happened to the large queue that normally lines up in front of the entrance. Cheerfully I walked in with the plate of offerings in my hands. The pandit spotted me and snarled at me

“Now no godtime! You chalo! Fast!”

and shooed me away. Bewildered I looked alternately at my plate and back to the pandit. What was that? This was the first temple I visited in India where god apparently observed a timetable.

We waited for some time and eventually went to a smaller, secondary temple nearby. Confused I followed a line of women into the building. In Hindu temples, everything happens really fast; at least during the pilgrim season. Most of the time you don’t have time to take a proper look at the resident deity and before you even start understanding what is actually going on inside of the temple you suddenly find yourself outside of it again. I guess this is why I like the gurdwaras so much, there is always a place where to sit down to let the incredible vibrations rain down on you.

Anyways, it was my turn, the pandit blessed my offerings and after only a couple of seconds I stood again outside of the temple. In all this rush I forgot to hand over my 20 rupee donation, the bill was still sitting on my plate. I sighed and went to undergo the whole procedure again. Back in the temple I put the money next to the deity’s figure and the pundit eventually blessed me, too, marking my forehead with a vermilion tilak.

“Aha”

I thought…

“No money, no honey!”