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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Primera parada: “Last Chance”

Junio 2007

“Señoras y Señores en breve aterrizaremos en el aeropuerto de Nueva Delhi. Son las cuatro de la mañana y la temperatura local es de 42 Cº”

¿Cómo?

¡Ahora sí que estaba despierta!

¿Podría ser verdad, 42 Cº a estas horas de la madrugada?

¡Claro que era verdad!

¿Qué esperaba? Estábamos en junio, el último mes antes de que empiece el monzón, cuando el calor sofocante está llegando a su culminación en el Norte de la India.

Una vez fuera del aeropuerto, la intensidad del calor casi me tumbó. Subí al Rickshaw que se me había asignado en el contador del aeropuerto para dirigirme a uno de los hoteles baratos recurridos por mochileros que me había recomendado un amigo. También me había dicho que era uno de los hoteles de bajo coste más decente del barrio de Pahar Ganj y que era un buen sitio para alojarse en Delhi.

Como la mayoría de los hoteles de la zona, la habitación no tenía ventanas y dentro hacía al menos el doble de calor que fuera. Tomé una ducha rápida rezando que el trozo de madera que se estaba desprendiendo del techo no me iba a caer en la cabeza. Pensé que una ducha iba a refrescarme, pero el agua que salía del grifo tenía la temperatura de un buen caldo casero. Me tumbé encima de la cama debajo del ventilador ruidoso y tambaleante, intentando no moverme. Esto tampoco sirvió de mucho y en cuestión de segundos estaba igual de empapada que antes.

Tenía pensado quedarme una noche en Delhi y tirar hacía Rishikesh el día siguiente y aprendí que en la India hay que ser flexible. Había intentado salir de mi habitación para explorar el bazar, pero abandoné la idea después de solo cinco minutos. Era una tortura estar allí fuera, era como alguien me estaba poniendo un secador industrial de aire caliente en plena cara y con cada paso tenía la sensación de encoger. Volví al Hotel a por mis cosas y subí al siguiente autobús de turistas rumbo Rishikesh.

¡Qué ganas de salir de Delhi y que ganas más aun de llegar a mi destino!

El trayecto duró unas ocho horas y no pegue ojo en toda la noche. Por un lado porque no sabía que la intensidad de los golpes producido por las carreteras en mal estado se triplicaba en la parte trasera del bus (que por cierto estaba compartiendo con una familia India y el hijo más pequeño durmió tranquilamente con medio cuerpecito encima mío) y por el otro porque estaba muy nerviosa. Baba me había llamado el día antes y le dije cuando el bus iba a llegar.

¿Vendría a buscarme?

¿En que guesthouse me iba a alojar?

¿Como los dos íbamos a reaccionar al vernos cara a cara?

Todo olía a aventura y al amanecer crucé el puente de Ramjuhla con mi pesada mochila. También en Rishikesh ya hacía calor a estas horas tempranas, pero comparado con Delhi era un verdadero placer.

Para mí, cruzar este puente antes de que salga el sol siempre es un momento mágico. No hay ruido de tráfico y la paz me invade mientras observo como unas pocas personas ya comienzan sus rituales matutinas en las orillas del Ganges, que fluye majestuosamente por debajo de mis pies.

Me dirigí hacía el Last Chance Café, el lugar dónde quedábamos casi siempre cuando había venido a Rishikish para participar en el Festival de Yoga. Sabía que también alquilaban habitaciones. Pase por la callejuela del bazar. Todas las tiendas aún estaban cerradas y hasta las vacas y los perros callejeros aun estaban durmiendo. En el Last Chance tampoco nadie estaba despierto, me daba cosa de despertar a alguien y de Baba ni rastro. Así que por fin me quité la mochila que apretaba mis hombros y me senté en el jardín. Después de un rato apareció Vijay, que es el encargado, seguido por el cocinero y al verme ambos sonrieron de oreja a oreja y su primera pregunta fue:

“Y dónde está Baba Ji?”

“Esto ya me gustaría saber a mi” contesté.

 Me instalé en una de las habitaciones, para llamarlo de alguna manera. Creo que ahora toca describir este lugar único llamado Last Chance Café: Hasta este momento no había visto la guesthouse por dentro, ya que siempre nos habíamos sentado en el jardín o en la cabaña de bambú, que es el café-restaurante.

Más o menos estas eran mis primeras observaciones:

En la entrada se encuentra un pequeño escritorio que sirve de recepción y un armario metálico oxidado. A la derecha se hay un dormitorio con ocho camas que parece salir de una película triste sobre un orfanato. A la derecha hay una sala con cuatro puertas que llevan a las habitaciones, que de hecho se parecen podrían pasar perfectamente por establos para ganado: Las paredes están hechas de madera contrachapada que no llegan ni al techo; este espacio está cubierto por una alambrera, es decir que se puede escuchar hasta un pedito de tu vecino que está durmiendo dos habitaciones más allá. Ah, y no nos olvidemos de la habitación “Deluxe” a la que llamamos “la suite de luna de miel”, simplemente porque es la única habitación del edificio que tiene paredes de verdad, pero que en estos momentos desafortunadamente ya estaba ocupada.

Los baños y lavabos están fuera y dan al visitante la oportunidad de conocer a la fauna local de cerca, ya que allí habitan salamanquesas, ranas e insectos de todos los colores y tamaños, siempre dependiendo de la época del año. Las instalaciones no están alicatadas y funcionan con el antiguo sistema indio, también conocido como “Cubo y jarra”, es decir, no hay ducha. Lo que se hace es llenar el cubo de agua y echarse el agua por encima mediante una jarra. Lavar pelos largos requiere algo de práctica. Si realmente hace falta, se puede pedir un cubo de agua caliente en la cocina. Los váteres, también son estilo Indio, es decir que no hay asientos y que tienes que acuclillarte y practicar la postura de yoga del cuervo. De hecho yo prefiero este tipo de WC ya que me parece mucho más higiénico, visto las circunstancias.

CIMG3309

Ya había pasado un punto de fatiga en el cual fue imposible dormirme. Así que dejé todo en mi establo de vacas para dar un paseo por las orillas del Ganges, que por cierto había cambiado mucho desde mi última visita en marzo. Sus aguas ya no estaban tranquilas como lo recordaba y su color turquesa, se habían convertido en un tono café con leche, probablemente causado por lluvia y nieve fundida de los Himalayas. Me senté en un banco de piedra y observé como un gran número de ofrendas entregadas a la Madre Ganga en forma de flores de todos los colores flotaban alegremente por las suaves olas, cuando de repente sonó mi móvil.

 “Hola?”

“Ahora tu donde?”

“Sentada en un banco cerca del puente.”

“Ok. Yo vengo.”

Cinco minutos más tardes apareció mi Baba acompañado por otro sadhu. El reencuentro fue bastante formal: Nos dimos la mano, pero mi corazón palpitaba con fuerza. El, como siempre, me parecía guapísimo!

Sonrió y dijo:

“Chelo Last Chance!” – “Vamos al Last Chance!”

A Problem-Free-Philosophy

October 2009

It took us about nine months to finish the house. Well, it was actually not really complete, but we moved in, as soon as one of the rooms had four walls and a door. Money was getting less and that way we could at least save the money we would otherwise spend for the rent in the guesthouse we stayed at.

The kitchen was not ready either, so we put the gas stove in a corner of the provisional bedroom, where we slept on mattresses on the floor. Most of the time life was taking place outside anyways and the camping adventure like living style even had a touch of romanticism. We had no running water and there was still a wall missing in the bathroom, too. We improvised and hung a mat where that wall was supposed to be, so that we could at least use the toilet with some privacy.

suryacottage

Everybody who has built a house probably knows that it is never really finished for good. There is always a bit of work somewhere, things to repair and to improve.

…WELL, IMAGINE IN INDIA !

We discovered what really went wrong during the construction only once we started living in the house;

that much for ‘No Problem!‘

which is the phrase I got most of the time as a reply to my questions while the house was being built. Actually it is one of the sentences you get to hear most of time if you have a doubt or are worried about something and expect to get advice from an Indian!

INDIA IS THE LAND OF NO PROBLEM !

I wondered for example why the wastewater from the kitchen and the bathroom was flowing through an open gutter and not through a pipe, why the wooden window frames did not close hermetically and why the floor was anything else but a plain surface.

One evening I was lying on my mattress on the floor staring at the ceiling and discovered with dismay a huge bump in one of the corners. It looked pretty ugly, as if someone had dropped a huge wrecking ball on top of the roof or as if the house got hit by a meteoroid right on that spot! I called Baba immediately and angrily pointed at the nasty bulge:

“Look up there! What is this?”

He shrugged:

“Oh, yes… There tin sheet a tora (little) broken when making roof; but, NO PROBLEM!

I sighed loudly doubting that any “mystery” would ever see any problem where I did and thought about what could be done to fix the ugly corner. Maybe I should try something artistic and paint a 3-D planet on that bump, which might look nice.

Nothing like that ever happened; today it is still the way it was back then. I actually completely forgot about the silly bump. No problem!

Maybe it all depends on the point of view. Perhaps if someone here tells you ‘No problem’ he refers to himself. No problem for me, then why should it be a problem for you? Or maybe: Maybe it is a problem for you, but not for me, which means ‘No problem’.

Once I even found these two words being used as an advertising slogan on a signboard at my favourite guesthouse in Rishikesh:

‘Last Chance Café – The No Problem Company’

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This sounded pretty much suspicious to me when I first saw it, but I have to say that it was actually all true! In the end I got married with a helping hand of the No Problem Company and things that seemed impossible eventually became reality.

I start to think that the No Problem Philosophy is a magic key to open certain doors; possibly not the ones you wanted to open, but maybe precisely those which you had to cross!

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.

Walking in John Lennon’s footsteps

meditation huts

Time you enjoyed wasting, was not wasted.
(John Lennon) 

July 2007

…I loved Rishikesh and I loved my Baba.

Sometimes everything felt absolutely unreal. I was still thinking about work a lot. While I was sitting on the Ganga shore, bathing my feet in the cool stream while yellow butterflies swirled around me, I thought that in this moment I would be sitting in my grey office working on the weekly report. With a satisfied smile I wiped this image away, observed the small waves surrounding my toes, sighed and felt deeply grateful that I finally had managed to quit this job that I had been doing for so many years and never liked.

One day, Baba and me we were sitting alone in the Last Chance Bamboo hut, when he suddenly asked me:

“Ek puppy milega?”

He did this a lot, talking to me in hindi and I of course did not understand a dreg. But I already had learned a few words so far. “Ek” means one; “milega” means possible. This was somewhat confusing. What did he want???

“Puppy? What do you mean? A small dog?”

He laughed and said:

“No small dog! Kiiiiiss!”

I guess, this was, when we became a couple.

It was raining season and not too many tourists were around. I discovered beautiful places, but most of the time we just did nothing and enjoyed our time in the guesthouse, where we soon became members of the Last Chance family.

My favourite place was and still is the Beatles Ashram. It is called that way because the Beatles came here in 1968 to attend advanced Transcendental Meditation lessons at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Ashram. The Ashram seems to have been a little town by itself in its glorious times. It now lies in ruins and has been taken over by nature. It is pure magic to stroll through this place in the middle of the deep forest, where lianas and colourful Bougainvillea have invaded the old buildings. It is easy to imagine, what it must have looked like back in the old hippie times. It feels crazy to picture, that John Lennon walked on the same little trails.

The place is also called Chaurasi (84) Kutir (hut) by the locals, as there are 84 single meditation huts inside of the Ashram. There are also big buildings which offered accommodation and a meditation hall where the walls show pretty good art done by people who come through the Ashram nowadays.

File0324All of the buildings though have been plundered after the Ashram had been abandoned. Everything that could be sold or used for construction, like iron bars, tiles, toilet seats, etc. has been carried away. But in some rooms I still could find old treasures, like old magazines and brochures of yoga retreats dated back from 1969. The underground meditation hall is rather spooky. It consists of a long narrow hallway with little round meditation caves to both sides. Bats, rats and snakes dwell there; it is really a thrill to cross it with nothing but a torch on you. The rooftops of the big buildings are amazing, as they offer a spectacular view, especially during sunset. The mosaic designs of the floors might remind you of Antoni Gaudi’s Art in Barcelona. The former egg-shaped Water tanks are accessible by a ladder and very popular among musicians and yogis, as the inside’s acoustic and atmosphere are fantastic.

Once we tried to spend a romantic night in one of the eggs. It was all but romantic; too much dust and insects along with wild sounds coming from the jungle. Locals say that leopards, elephants and other ferocious creatures roam there. Baba says that he once saw a five-headed cobra. Luckily I never had any encounter of that kind. The only thing I ever saw there were harmless peacocks and huge dung heaps, proofing the existence of elephants.

CIMG2633Somehow now the Beatles Ashram belongs to the government. Before there was a governmental watchman there, who lived in the old reception building and was supposed to not let anybody in due to security reasons. But for a bit of baksheesh everybody was more than welcome; an alternative option is to sneak in from the backside. For a bit more baksheesh, you might even be allowed to organize jam sessions and parties there.

For some reason now, the watchman has been replaced by a Sadhu called Langra Baba, or Limping Baba. Don’t ask me how this comes. It’s been a long time since I stopped searching for logical connections in this country, mainly because I don’t understand most of the explanations I get anyways and also because things sometimes just “are”.

Seriously, don’t miss the chance to visit the Beatles Ashram while you are in Rishikesh. Take your time; it is worth to spend the day there.

And don’t forget to stop by Last Chance Café on your way! (You’ll wish you’d come in)

First stop: Last Chance

June 2007

“Ladies and gentlemen we are landing at Delhi Airport. It is 4 a.m. and the local temperature is 42 Cº”

This really woke me up! Could this be true, 42 Cº at these early hours? Of course it was true! What had I expected? It was June the month just before the monsoon starts, when the sizzling heat is at its peak in most parts of India.

I checked into a budget Hotel recommended by a friend, who also told me that it was one of the better budget Hotels in Pahar Ganj; a good and economic place to stay.

Like most of the Hotels in this area, the room had no window and the stuffy air pushed me down when I stepped through the door. I took a quick shower praying that the dangling piece of ceiling would not fall off and knock me down. I would have preferred an ice-cold shower to ease the burning heat, but only bubbling hot water came out of the tap. I lay down on the bed under the wobbly fan and tried not to move; that did not help much, I started to sweat anyway straight away.

I had planned to stay one night in Delhi and leave for Rishikesh on the next day. But in India plans rarely work out. I had tried to go out of my room to explore the bazaar, but I gave up after only five minutes. It was a torture to be out there, it felt as if someone was constantly holding a dust spitting hot-air-blower right into my face. Back in the Hotel I booked a tourist bus ticket for the same night. I couldn’t wait to get out of Delhi and of course to arrive in Rishikesh!

It was about an eight hour bus ride. I couldn’t sleep all night. On one hand due to the bumpy movements of the bus that are even more intense on the back seats (which I also shared with an Indian family, who’s child ended up sleeping with half of its body on my lap)and on the other, of course, because I was incredibly nervous. Baba had called me the day before and knew when the bus would arrive. Would he come to receive me? Into which guesthouse should I check in? How would both of us react once we stood in front of each other?

It was just before sunrise when I slowly crossed the Ramjhula Bridge by walk, carrying my heavy backpack. It was still very hot, but yet felt more pleasant than the heat mixed with air pollution in Delhi.

For me it is always a magic moment to cross this bridge during the early hours of the day. There is no traffic noise; the sensation of peace is in the air while a few people already perform their morning rituals on the bench of the holy Ganges that flows majestically under your feet.

I headed towards Last Chance Café, the place where we met most of the time during the Yoga festival. I knew that they had rooms to rent, too. I walked along the market street to reach the end of Ramjhula. All the little shops were still closed, there was no sign of life, even the cows and street dogs were still sleeping. Nobody in the Last Chance Café was awake yet either. I dropped my backpack and took a seat in the garden. After a while the young cook showed up, followed by Vijay, the guesthouse manager, both of them with sleepy morning faces. They were grinning and obviously happy to see me. We greeted each other cheerfully and the first thing they wanted to know was:

“Where is Babaji?”

“No idea. Actually this is a good question!” I answered.

I checked into one of the rooms, to give it a name. I think at this point I have to describe this unique place called “Last Chance Café”. I never had seen it from the inside. Normally we had gathered there only outside in the garden or in the little bamboo restaurant hut.

These were more or less my first observations: At the entrance are a small reception desk and a metal cupboard. On the right side of it there is a dormitory with lockers and eight beds. To the left is a hall with four rooms, which actually reminded me more of cow sheds. The walls are made of wooden panels that do not even reach up to the top of the ceiling. The space between is covered with a mosquito grid, which means that you can hear every single of your room neighbour’s movements. There is also one deluxe room, which we ended up calling the honeymoon-suite, because it is the only single room with proper walls (That time it was unfortunately busy).

The bathrooms and toilets are outside and give visitors the opportunity to gain an insight of the local fauna; Geckos, frogs and colourful exotic insects frequently dwell there, depending on the season of the year. The bathrooms with the good old Indian bucket plus jug system are not tiled and there is no hot water. The toilets are also Indian style, which means that there is no western toilet seat and you have to adapt the squatting position, which I actually prefer as it is more hygienic; and by the way a good yoga exercise.

But there is a beautiful garden with a bamboo hut, which invites to have a tasty breakfast or a cup of chai. The rooftop is excellent for yoga practice and offers an amazing view over the Ganges. It is the last building on the way to the famous Beatles Ashram, there is almost no traffic and you can find good places for a bath in the Ganges nearby. The staff is really cool, they make great food and the rent is cheap. And if you think that you are a weirdo, it is a good place to find out that you are actually not that bad off. At Last Chance I met the creme de la creme of freaky people, what I really loved and enjoyed. In my family I think that I am considered a bit the strange one. While staying at the Last Chance Café I wished more than once my mom could see me there to find out, that I am actually pretty normal.

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I didn’t even try to sleep. I already had passed the point of fatigue, where falling asleep becomes impossible. I put my stuff in my cow shed and took a walk along the river.

The Ganges had changed pretty much since I came here in March. It was much wider and the water wasn’t of the same beautiful turquoise colour as I remembered, but had turned into a dingy brown, probably due to rains and snowmelt in the Himalayas. I sat on a stone bench on the shore and watched the colourful flowers that had been offered to Mother Ganga floating merrily down the stream. My cellphone rang.

“Hello?”

“You now where?”

“Sitting on a bench near the bridge.”

“Ok. Me coming.”

Five minutes later he showed up in company of a Baba friend. The second encounter was pretty formal; we shook hands.

Wow, he looks gorgeous! 

I thought, while he grinned broadly at me and asked:

“You already breakfast?”

“Not yet”

“Okay, then chalo Last Chance!”