To Everything There is a Season

December 2015

It has been some time that I have not been writing on my blog. Actually I would say that I am sort of a seasonal blogger, as during the tourist season it is almost impossible for me to find the right moment or to get inspired.

It is only Baba and I who run the shop, plus our four year old daughter who is keeping us company there during the whole day. Usually she has a good time there at Baba Cake: She goes visiting the neighbors, helps me to bake when in the mood, plays outside with the dogs and goats and many of our customers are delighted to play or paint with her for some time while they are enjoying a chai at our place.

But, obviously, it is not always like that; there are days (…in fact many days…) when she demands my attention, and A LOT OF IT! Of course, this usually happens when our café is extremely crowded and we can barely handle all the orders we get.

My husband stays in the shop until late, while I go home in the evenings to prepare dinner for my daughter and to bring her to bed. When she finally sleeps soundly, I don’t have the energy anymore to start writing or to even think.

Everyone who has been working in the services sector knows what I mean; there is not only physical tiredness from standing most of the time during the day and serving tables, but also mental fatigue from talking and listening to a lot of different people for hours, which I usually enjoy, but yes, it can be tough! From time to time I give blogging a try, but then I find myself staring at the screen and my mind goes blank.

creamcake

Our main season here usually falls also on the same time when I help to organize alternative travels to India for spiritual seekers with a beautiful project called milindias. I really enjoy being part of it with all my soul, but it can also be a real challenge: Between cake-baking, preparing sandwiches, serving thalis, taking customer orders and my daughter tied on my apron strings, I make business calls and answer messages as best I can, already thinking about the work that awaits me at night on the computer, hoping that there won’t be any power cuts.

Sometimes I get so desperate that all I want is to run to the top of one of the Himalayan hills to scream out a very nasty swearword from the top of my lungs!

Then, when the off season starts the change from doing everything to doing nothing is drastic! In the beginning I feel lost in time, as all of a sudden there is not much to do, but to get our home back into a decent state, as during the season there is as good as no time for the household.

If my mother would see that!

In the beginning of the transition I feel like trapped in a gap and frequently find myself just sitting there observing the landscape, wondering what to do with myself and with what where to start. Most of the time, I then opt for not doing anything! It takes me about two weeks, sometimes more, to get back to my old self and to be able to enjoy the sudden silence and tranquility which again covers my village life.

India is a place full of extremes in all aspects and as I live here, I seem to have automatically joined the play: There are periods when life runs smooth, things simply flow naturally and everything is perfectly balanced. Suddenly it’s over!

When a problem occurs, no matter how small, it for sure never comes alone! Problems and complications here apparently feel more comfortable in company of many of their kind! They burst in like a hurricane and all of a sudden action is required! It’s like a shock; as if somebody tried to shake you up while you are in the middle of a beautiful dream.

himalayaview

Getting things started here is extremely difficult and requires a triple effort, as the mountain energy of the Himalayas is very heavy, dense and grounding. It is a bit like trying really hard to move a huge rock; it takes a lot of strength to push it the first few inches, but once it starts to roll, it cannot be stopped!

The other day I discovered an article about a thing called the “Van Allen Radiation Belt”. It is said that Kasar Devi is under a great influence of that energetic phenomenon as the ridge is situated in a gap of it and therefore has gained the reputation of a so called Power Center. It is probably a wonderful energy if you plan to retreat into a cave to meditate all day long, but possibly not ideal if you try to live a mundane life.

This could actually be an explanation! Great, now I can blame it all on the Van Allen Belt!

Eventually I came to the conclusion that these so-called “extremes” of my life in India are nothing but what life in deed is. Would we learn anything at all if life consisted only of a constant, single line instead of many waves? I am trying to learn how to enjoy the downs and how to cherish the ups:

To Everything there is a Season” (The Byrds, 1965)

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A Himalayan Home Birth

October 2011

My due date was approaching. I tried to keep calm and to put aside all the expectations about my baby’s birth. I meditated as often as possible (which I admit was actually not too often, as I am one of these persons that finds a hundred excuses before eventually sitting down). Inside of myself was the only place I truly could find and feel peace.

One day suddenly something very revealing happened to me:

I JUST KNEW!

I knew that since always an ancient knowledge was dwelling inside of me: The knowledge of all the women who gave birth before me; ancestral women connected with nature, and above all connected to their own spirit. Women all over the world have experienced birth since the existence of mankind. I suddenly had the absolute certainty that I had given birth in thousands of previous incarnations, that my body and soul knew exactly what they had to do and that there was absolutely no need to worry about anything.

To some, this might sound a bit New Age, but well, this is what happened. After that I felt free and completely fearless, as if a huge burden had been taken off my shoulders. It was simply amazing!

embarazo

Sure, something might go wrong during birth. But only might, not will!

Unfortunately nowadays pregnancy and delivery are being treated like some kind of disease. It is not! Much of what we hear and the precautions we ought to take disconnect us from ourselves if we don’t take care. So, we mostly approach pregnancy and birth rather with fear than with joy and confidence.

Just think about all the movies where women are lying on a bed, sweating and screaming from the tops of their lungs during labour, while someone shouts at them “Push, puuuuush!”.

It does not have to be like that. If the checkups turn out fine, the mother is healthy and the baby is in the right position, there is not much to worry about. It is the most amazing thing a woman can go through, however the experience might be. Nobody can ever take it away from you, as only you really know what it feels like, because every pregnancy and delivery is unique.

My doctor had calculated the expected date of delivery for 4th November; I thought that it would be rather cool if the baby would come on 01.11.2011. But the baby did not agree with me. On the morning of 29th October I had sometimes pulling sensations in my abdomen. On my multiple internet researches I had read that some days before labour the body starts to prepare itself and it described this kind of sensation. That was probably it.

How are you supposed to know how something feels like if you never felt it before?

The sensation came and went from time to time all day long, but I didn’t pay too much attention to it. However, I realized that in a few days the baby would be born. In the evening, the intervals were every time shorter and I thought that maybe tomorrow or the day after I would be a Mum.

That day the alcoholic midwife’s husband had come to visit and we were sitting in front of the TV watching one of those stupid Bollywood movies, that doesn’t make much sense.

Well, by the evening, those light contractions were getting every time shorter and I started to suspect that the baby was on its way.

The day I met the midwife she had talked a lot about the importance of an enema, which seemed to be an indispensable item she needed to assist me and that I had to buy together with all the injections and painkillers she had written down for me. I never had an enema administrated before and the thought of it made me shiver. I even had nightmares! Maybe this is why I suddenly had constantly the feeling that I had to go urgently to the toilet. So I was going in and out of the toilet without any success, while the men were sitting in front of the TV screen absorbed in the movie.

“Excuse me!” I said during one of my toilet walks

“Maybe it would be time to go and get your wife?”

So the midwife’s husband jumped on his motorbike to fetch his wife. I asked Baba to bring a bucket into the room, just in case. I really wanted to stop going to the bathroom: I didn’t want to have to tell my child some day something like

“Well, my child, you were born into an Indian squat Toilet…”

As soon as the guy left, the sensations became more intense. I call them sensations, because it was not really painful. I imagined them to become stronger and less bearable, but they didn’t. I had other type of cramps due to a bad stomach in other occasions that were much worse than what I was feeling at that moment.

Then, suddenly my body took over and did it all alone without my interference. I did not do anything by my own will, my body knew better, and so I followed its instructions and let everything happen. Mentally I was in some kind of lucid trance, which is difficult to describe.

I went to our bedroom. Baba kind of seemed not to know very well what to do and how to help me, as I told him to just let me be. Thus he went on watching TV observing me from the corner of his eyes. Suddenly I shouted at him

“Turn the stupid TV off and come here!”

I didn’t want to welcome the child with some hysterically screaming women and fighting Bollywood heroes in the background.

My body had adopted a half squatting position and I just had time to tell Baba that I thought that I could feel the head and a moment later he held the baby in his hands! Only about ten minutes had passed since my body had taken over control.

What better start into life could there possibly be than being caught by the hands of your own loving father?

Baba and baby

We sat on a blanket on the floor leaning against the cupboard holding our little daughter in our arms. There we sat, in silence, amazed, incredibly happy and were unable to take our eyes away from this perfect little creature that had just emerged from my body. She was not too small like the doctor had predicted and all was in its place. Everything was in perfect harmony!

One thing I could not exactly find out on google was where to cut the umbilical cord, but I had read that it was actually good to not do so straight away and that some people even kept the placenta in a pot carrying it around with the baby until the cord fell off by itself. Thus, I was not worried about that.

Some minutes later the midwife dashed into the house, sober and SHOCKED! An endless stream of words bubbled out of her mouth:

“Oh my god! What are you doing, why are you sitting, you have to lie down, what happened, you people, blablabla…”

Man, what was her problem? I looked at her blankly and shrugged, thinking that it was my good luck that she hadn’t come in time. She would most probably have driven me crazy! All was the way it should be, at least for us! She explained Baba how to put the threads around the cord and where to cut it and then she checked on me. That was it, her job was done.

After that I took a hip bath in hot water with brandy. I even had a small sip of the brandy as recommended by the nurse and I have to say that it really felt good. I didn’t feel tired or anything, but was more in a party mood instead. There I sat in my blue plastic tub filled with brandy-water, with a glass in my hand observing how she cleaned and dressed the little girl. After the men had each a glass of brandy and she drank the rest of the bottle.

Bringing a child into this world was the most enriching and overwhelming experience I have ever had. If I was able to do this, I was able to do whatever I wished in this world. It made me feel sort of almighty and immensely proud of myself.

Comment

I think I have not mentioned that some years ago I had to undergo a cervix operation. They had to cut out a pretty big piece. It was the beginning of a cancer caused by the HPV virus. I defeated the virus and the following routine checkups turned out fine, but I have been told that I might not be able to have children and that getting pregnant or carrying out a child would be very problematic. I just wanted to share this information to let women, who might be affected by the same problem know, that they don’t necessarily have to despair.

LOVE TO ALL!

 

 

 

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.

Spiritual Rebellion

September 2007

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

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

Yoga practiced without love is not yoga!

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

The Baba Ashram Experience

July 2007

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

Bikaner Ashram

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The only thing you really need

Meditating monkeys

I remember how nervous I was before I went off on my big Indian backpacker adventure all alone. I hate to pack bags and I am really not god at it. I had no idea what to take with me and wanted to keep my luggage as small as possible, so I asked all the experienced backpackers I knew for advice. The wisest answer I ever got was:

“The only thing you actually need is PATIENCE, everything else you can buy there”

–What a big truth-

Still, after having lived here for years, I look up to the sky at least once a day and sigh “God, please give me patience!”

If you are an impatient or restless person, this is the right country for you to turn into the master of patience!

It is very simple: Or you go with the flow or you go completely nuts! Soon you learn that getting angry and fighting against the natural rhythm of things will not help at all. The only thing that such reactions will lead to is physical and mental exhaustion.

For me the best way to cope with all the craziness is what I ended up calling “Maya-meditation”. Every situation holds a perfect opportunity to meditate, even if you never practiced any meditation before.

What do we do when we meditate? We observe.

Meditations are all about observation; we observe our thoughts, our breath, our emotions, our reactions and try not to judge what we see.

Watch-see-let go

Baba and Ganga Ji

In my Maya-meditation I do the same, but with open eyes and in any pose and place. It helped me to deal with all the intense and uncommon impressions you take in during the day, and there are a lot; some are obviously visible and some simply sneak into your subconsciousness without noticing it.

Example Situations that required some of my extra patience:

  • I sit in a small restaurant and just ordered an Indian breakfast. I understand that things go a little more slowly here; so I relax and go through the books on the shelf. After about 40 minutes the cook comes out of the kitchen; without my breakfast. Instead he jumps on his bike and off he goes. I ask the guy behind the counter where the cook went. “Ohhh, he just going to buy curd for making your breakfast”
  • My purse broke and I want to buy a new one. On the bazaar I see one I like. I ask the shop-wallah to show it to me. It is ripped. “Don’t you have another one?”  Yes, Madam. One moment”He disappears in the depths of his little shop. After a long time he comes back with a big smile. “Madam, this very nice for you!”  I look at it and say: “It’s a belt”. “Yes, Madame, this your size. Very nice!”. “I don’t need a belt, I want to buy a purse”. “Yes Madame, this belt very nice, you try”. I turn around and leave.
  • Finally I made it to the cyber cafe and almost finish a long e-mail I wanted to send since weeks. Power cut. Email lost. I wait some time for the electricity to come back, but eventually leave. I arrive in the guesthouse. Light is back.
  • Waiting! Waiting in general for something to happen or for something to stop. I think I spend at least 60% of my time waiting in someway for something or someone.
  • Traveling in public transport. Well, this subject definitely deserves its own chapter…

Sometimes things here are so easy and just go the way they should. But occasionally things get stuck and become pretty complicated. Every time I found myself in a challenging situation and thought

“Oh, things can only get better, just keep on breathing”,

life laughed down at me and things actually happened to get even more than worse, although the present situation had seemed to be unbeatable. Well, this kind of experiences can make your patience really grow!

...waiting...Most of the situations that demand a lot of patience though are also the funniest ones. Once the tension has passed you will laugh so much about what happened. If you want an easy trip without any complications, don’t go backpacking, better take a “boring” package tour!

I think everybody who has been backpacking through India changes in someway. Some love it, some hate it; but one thing is for sure: it will not leave you indifferently and your limit of patience will have at least doubled.

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)