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

Advertisements

Discoveries with MILINDIAS

March 2011

Finally I came back to the Indian Himalayas with a bit of money in my pockets in February. Up here this is the coldest month of the year, when it sometimes even snows and we spend most of the time sitting around a fire, on which we also cook.

At night, we light the wood stove in our room, if we don’t want to sleep covered with ten blankets. That year the winter was short for me; soon it would be March. Spring was almost around the corner and it was easier for me to deal with the coldness, which can be pretty uncomfortable in a house which does not exactly match western standards. But this year after not having seen Baba for many months the chilliness was putting me rather in a romantic than in a bad mood.

Fire Cooking

Furthermore I was full of new energies and felt very enthusiastic because while I was working in Spain a friend of mine, who also lived in India for several years, contacted me asking to join him organizing alternative travels to India. Funny, this was the same way how I set foot on Indian soil for the first time.

INDIA –  a single country containing a thousand worlds!

Now I had the opportunity to accompany people who were going to perceive the magic of India for the very first time, in more or less the same way I did.

A wonderful project came into life: 

MILINDIAS

My friend and I truly wished to share our Indian experiences with others and give them the chance to perceive the amazing plurality of India as we do, by offering insights one would probably miss by booking a simple package tour. For both of us, India is an important chapter in our lives; it teaches us how to need less and how to love more, to accept and act instead of react.

We wanted to show India how she is; which also means to experience exactly what you are supposed to. A journey to India means diving through magic moments, but at the same time it is almost impossible to escape from her unconcealed shadows; both aspects let you reflect and grow.

Soon I would be on Indian roads again, as the small group of adventurous travelers would arrive in March.

We picked them up from Delhi, where we went to meditate in the magnificent Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. It was a great group of open-minded people of different ages, who were ready to go with the flow of the Indian rhythm.

From Delhi we took a train to Rishikesh to learn more from different kind of practices at the International Yoga Festival. We visited amazing spots like the abandoned Beatles Ashram invaded by the jungle and the ancient cave where the Sage Vashsishta was meditating for ages.

Beatles Ashram

Interesting talks about Buddhism and the teachings of His Holiness the 17th Karmapa came up and the group was keen on learning more; and so it happened that we all together decided spontaneously to cancel the scheduled visit to Amritsar, and take a train into the opposite direction to Varanasi and Bodhgaya instead, where we would have a personal audience with His Holiness.

This is what I call flexibility and a wonderful spirit of traveling!

Varanasi is definitively a must to visit in India. It represents much of what India is in one single spot: Beauty, ugliness, devotion, magic and death. We reached the city at night. The next morning before dawn we walked through the darkness to the ghats and took a boat ride on the Ganges to contemplate the sunrise and the awakening of the city from the river. Slowly the smooth light of the first sunrays started to paint the skies. As if under a spell, everyone was visibly enjoying the placidity; we even spotted the pink dolphins, whose existence I previously considered a mere rumour. Perfect moments!

The facial expressions though changed drastically after the sun started to reveal the scenery more clearly: Dead bodies of cows and dogs were floating here and there and we saw from close the smoke and movements on the burning ghats, were cremation takes place 24/7.

Just like life itself: From one moment to another perception of things and situations can change unexpectedly

All of us enjoyed the entire experience of this journey to the fullest. It was enriching in many ways and I learnt that sharing and giving is something which makes me feel really happy; but this was not my only personal discovery during that trip: I also found out that I was pregnant!

By the way.. in case  you wish to learn more about MILINDIAS, maybe you would like to have a look at our page:

https://www.facebook.com/milindias

 

 

Link

ARTÍCULO PUBLICADO EN

http://www.yogaenred.com

__________________________________________________________

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.

Sketch145224146

¡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.

Escaping the Bam-Bholes

View Kasar

July 2008

It was raining season in Rishikesh; which means: PILGRIM SEASON! This is when thousands of pilgrims, many of them from Hariana, invade Ramjhula. Waves of young men clad in orange march 24 hours a day through town shouting: “Bham Bole, Bham Bole” to announce their presence to Lord Shiva. They carry holy water from the Ganges up to the Neelkanth Temple to offer it to the Shiva Lingam. One rule is that the water shall never touch the floor, so all the dhabas and chaishops on the roadside build improvised holders where the pilgrims can hang up their holy offering during their breaks. What I found very funny is that they come back from the temple wearing their underpants on their heads! ‘Strange rite’, I thought and then found out that they do so to dry their pants after having bathed in the temple compound. I wonder what the Indians would think I they saw a horde of Westerners marching through town with their underwear on their head…

Anyways, things get tough for a foreigner during this time of the year, as the pilgrims usually give them a hard time. The foreign tourists actually get evacuated by the authorities from the hotels and guesthouses next to the pilgrim trail and are sent to accommodations in more peaceful areas. So it happened to us and we decided to simply escape from all the turmoil. Baba and I had made friends with a girl from America and we decided to travel together. None of us felt like traveling too far, so we checked on the rarely used travel guide to find nearby attractive places. I hate to read instructions of any kind and also dislike reading guide books! We went through the section of Uttarakhand and stumbled upon Almora, which was only a one-night-trip away. I liked the melody of the word “Almora”. There was not much text to read about it, but as we skimmed it and read

“There is a nearby town called ‘Hippie-Land’ by the locals; ask for accommodation at the chai shops on the road”

it was decided: CHALO ALMORA!

As soon as we left the town of Almora after having survived another crazy local bus ride through the mountains and arrived in the village, I fell in love! It was simply beautiful! Peace, pure nature, village life, cool, fresh air and colorful flowers everywhere! I felt a bit like Alice in Wonderland. Actually there is not much to do for tourists, life there is still pretty much authentic. No shops with tourist stuff to buy, no courses or classes, no distractions; it is the perfect spot to chill after having traveled through “Indian hard-core tourist places”. The scene really forces people to calm down, to be with themselves and nature.

We found a simple guesthouse where we spent a lot of time in the roof-top restaurant while the monsoon was pouring down and simply enjoyed the amazing view through the big windows, which offered a great view over the ever-changing clouds, rainbows, valleys and hills while we were munching on chocolate pancakes and sipping chai. It was off-season there, too and we only met one more backpacker. One day early in the morning I stepped out of the room and could not believe my eyes! The rain had stopped, it was a bright clear day and there they were, as if somebody had hung up a painting just in front of my eyes:

THE SNOW-COVERED HIMALAYAS !

Himalaya range

I had no idea that they were that close! Shame on me! Maybe sometimes reading a guide book is not a bad idea, but if you don´t read it you might get blessed with unexpected surprises like this one.

Some peaceful weeks later, Baba suddenly received a phone call from Bihar. His 103-years old grandfather was dying and his last wish was to see his grandson he had been missing for too many years. Since Baba ran away from home at the tender age of eleven he had returned to his birthplace only once after 17 years of absence. After the initiation to Sadhu-life you are reborn as a new being and should break all the attachments to your previous life, which also includes the physical family; at least until you have reached a certain stage.

But once it happened, when Baba and I were visiting Benares, that he suddenly became very introverted. When I asked him what was wrong, he said that soon it would be Rakshabhandan, the festival when the bond between brothers and sisters is worshipped and that he would like to see his sister again. Varanasi is not very far from his birthplace and I told him that I would buy him a train ticket if he wished to go there. He called his Guruji to ask permission and when Baba received his blessings, he took a train to Patna. All of his family thought that he had died and was more than pleased that he returned as a Sadhu, which is believed to bring seven generations of good luck to the family.

So now the grandfather wished to see his beloved grandson again. For some time the three of us were just sitting there wondering what to do. The Himalayas are pretty far from the plains of Bihar; to be more precise about 1000 km, which can be translated into 2 days and 1½ nights of traveling in pubic transports.

Uma in Wonderland

My friend looked at me and asked:

“You feel like going on an adventure?”

“Why not?” I replied

“Okay, then… CHALO BIHAR!”

Himalayan Highway to Hell

May 2008

During the six years I live in India I went on a lot of bus rides and of course  none of them was actually pleasant.

The Himalayan roads are situated on rank 5 on the list of the world’s most dangerous roads and the worst bus ride experience I ever had by far was driving down the Himalayas from Gangotri:

The weather was miserable, it was freezing cold and rainy. Shortly after the departure it started raining cats and dogs. Soon it rained so much, that I could barely figure out what was happening behind the dirty bus windows.

The bus driver did not seem to worry at all and rushed along the incredibly steep slopes. At each bend the brakes squeaked in anguish; and inside of me, my nerves did just the same! I felt as if I was sitting in a rollercoaster instead of in a public transport. The only thing I could see when looking outside was the sky; not even one inch of the narrow road was visible.

To cap it all, a thunderstorm came up gradually; soon the bus was not only shaken from side to side due to the extremely bad road conditions, but the strong wind contributed an extra thrill to the situation. I wiped the mist from the window and distinguished broken trees and electricity poles on the side of the road. Colorful plastic bags, branches and metal objects were whirling high up through the air. I held on tight to my seat and for some reason the movie “The Wizard of Oz”, with the scene where Dorothy’s house gets lifted up to the sky by a tornado, came into my mind. I would not have been surprised at all, if suddenly a cow or the wicked witch of the east would appear from out of nowhere swirling by my bus window.

Sketch54164656

While Sita Ram Baba was complaining loudly about the driver’s craziness, I silently supplicated and prayed to all the 330.000.000 Hindu Gods. I felt terrified like never before and truly believed that I was spending my last moments on earth. I always thought that my life was good and happy and that if I had to die, it would not be such a big deal; everybody has to do so sooner or later.

In the end, death is the only thing that will come to all of us for sure!

But in that precise instant I suddenly realized that I had been wrong; I was not prepared to die at all! I still wanted to have kids and see them grow! I felt the urge to hug my family and friends who were far away back home and after all I still needed to meet my parents before I died, to tell them that their crazy daughter had married an Indian Sadhu without their knowledge!

..and by the way…

Where the heck were Toto, Tin Man, Lion and the Scarecrow?!?

Sita Ram Baba was still complaining and now started to threaten the driver with peeing into his stainless-steel-indian-tupperware-container if the bus would not stop immediately!

Suddenly the two jeeps that were driving just in front of us braked hard and so did the bus with a long and extremely loud and awful creak. The passengers had to hold on hard to avoid being catapulted towards the front; a huge tree had crashed onto the road, right in front of us. That was close! First nobody moved; then several Indian heroes jumped off the vehicles into the pouring rain and started to pull on the immense tree, which of course did not move an inch. As if it would help Sita Ram shouted:

“This not working, you Stupids! You need one elephant!”

 and grimly climbed off the bus to follow nature’s call.

A long queue of vehicles started to line up behind us. After about three hours of waiting in the standing bus and observing, like in a movie, how more and more Indian heroes dressed in different styles tried to pull and push on the tree, the rain ceased. Eventually someone tied a rope to a jeep and they succeeded to drag the tree to a side. From that moment on I had the feeling that the bus driver was driving a bit more carefully.

Writing and reading this post made me remember how precious life is and that I really should try harder to be aware of that fact more often in everyday’s life.

It will end one day and I for sure still have a long bucket list and much cleaning up to do before I will feel ready to leave this body; although I wonder if I will ever feel prepared for that last journey…

Thank you, crazy life, for being just the way you are!

wizard-of-oz

Honeymoon With Rumpelstilskin Part 1

May 2008

After so much excitement and nerve-stretching situations, Baba and I were looking forward to our honeymoon. Just the two of us! Anonymous and without having to satisfy anybody’s expectations!

CIMG5831

We decided to visit the Hindu pilgrimage town of Gangotri, where the holy river Ganges has its source and therefore is said to be the abode of the goddess Ganga. When we mentioned our plan while sipping on our cup of chai at Kashi’s Chai Shop, our good old Baba friend Sita Ram suddenly started to wallow in self-pity:

“Me always want to go Gangotri, but never possible… Now me now very old, possible die and never see Gangotri…”

Sita Ram BabaI guess that he was in his late sixties. He was this particular Sadhu who reminded me so much of Rumpelstiltskin; he was small, thin, wrinkly and brown. Usually he kept his grey hair matted into a couple of thick dreadlocks under a turban. He always showed a toothless grin and with his sly glance you could never be sure if he was joking or talking in serious. He uses to complain a lot about whatever and enjoys saying his piece; a habit some people could not deal with too well. But I kind of liked him and in the end, Baba and I decided to take him along with us to Gangotri. The deal was that once we would arrive there, he would go his own Baba-way and we would enjoy our longed-for honeymoon.

Many Sadhus travel to the Pilgrim places once the passes are open to the public from May to September and the heat gets too intense in the plains. Some few go there to retreat and meditate, the rest of them basically to collect their annual “salary” from the pilgrims.

At some point, after a long time of bumping up and down in the local bus with a complaining Sita Ram Baba in our back, people started to pull out shawls, woolen caps and gloves.

“How exagerated!”

I thought. Well, only twenty minutes after I understood. We must have passed a certain hight level, because suddenly it became freezing cold. I was not prepared at all for that, actually I wore my flip-flops and a thin sweater and felt incredibly cold.

The first thing I did after arriving in Gangotri was to buy a woolen shawl and socks. The place was already very busy and it was not easy to find a room. There were only a few guesthouses and they were more expensive than what I use to pay while traveling. Sita Ram stayed in a Sadhu spot under a balcony where other Babas were sitting around a fire pit. I felt a bit sorry for him due to the cold, but in the end he was a Baba and probably knew how to get along.

It was really tough to leave the warm bed in the morning. As I opened my eyes I could see my breath. The water was so cold that I wasn’t sure anymore if my teeth were still there after I had brushed them. We decided to have a warm breakfast and a cup of chai.

Cave Gangotri

Sita Ram was already waiting for us in front of the guesthouse and invited himself to come along with us. Like usually, he was complaining. The three of us sat down at a window place in a restaurant at the narrow main road that lead to the temple. I agreed with Sita Ram, the chai in deed tasted horrible, it was made with powder milk and a lot of water. All groceries have to be brought up to this hight of 3100 metres which made it expensive and the choice was limited and of poor quality. In the off-season, nobody lives in the village.

I looked out and saw the holy men sitting in a long line begging for money and witnessed how some of them were getting really angry when a pilgrim gave them only a few rupees or nothing. Here, it seemed there was not much of a difference between being a Sadhu or a simple beggar; this made me really sad. My Baba must have read my thoughts and said

“Yes, many Babas sitting here all season. They begging much money for living the rest of the year; like job. Good Baba not doing like this. Good Baba sitting possible, somebody giving than he can take. He taking what god giving from heart, not asking, asking…”

We decided to take a walk through the area. Sita Ram followed us like a puppy, it was like being on a honeymoon with the senile grandfather. Anyways, the nature was amazingly beautiful. The holy glacial water rushed through ivory colored rocks that formed beautiful shapes. The dense forest with its rocks, mushrooms, small caves and high trees seemed to be enchanted and with the muttering Rumpelstiltskin in our backs I felt like strolling through a fairy-tale landscape. We came to a big rock with a cave entrance. A Sadhu was sitting silently inside the cave at his dhuni, the holy fire-place. He invited us for a cup of chai and the Sadhus had a respectful conversation. I enjoyed the atmosphere of the place and was happy to meet at least one Sadhu who seemed to take his chosen path seriously.

Gangotri cave

In the meantime our quiet guesthouse had been invaded by a large Indian family of about twenty members of all ages. The terrace was crowded with playing and crying children, women in  sarees were running from one room into another banging the doors and grandmothers and grandfathers were yelling at each other. Our room was in the middle of all that chaos, which was pretty irritating. I guess that the family was on one of the typical pilgim-marathons, where they book a bus to visit several holy places. They don’t stay more than one night; they wake up, pray, eat and chalo!.

At 4 a.m. we awoke by the sound of rattling dishes, yelling and singing sounds coming from the bathrooms in the neighboring rooms. The pilgrim family also had brought along a complete kitchen equipment! It takes quite a bit of time until about twenty people finish with their shower, breakfast and wash all the dishes. No way to fall asleep again! After half an hour I gave up and sat in the first rays of sunlight on the terrace watching the family clan rushing to the temple.