Honeymoon With Rumpelstilskin Part 2

Gangotri‘s best chai

May 2008

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

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

Gangotri

Russian Baba Cave

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

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

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

I almost got a heart attack!

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

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

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

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

What a great honeymoon in company of Rumpelstiltskin!

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

“Now no godtime! You chalo! Fast!”

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

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

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

“Aha”

I thought…

“No money, no honey!”

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The Indian X-Ray Experience

April 2008

The next step was to get our marriage officially registered, which turned out to be pretty much of a mission. The only identification Baba had was a Sadhu I.D. Card from the main Ashram of the Nath Sampardaya in Haridwar. We would not get very far with that document.

Our funny lawyer promised to figure out what to do and decided that the first thing to be done was to get a medical age certificate for Baba, which would be done by taking X-rays of his skull.

Of course, the whole story again seemed more than weird to me. But as there are actually only few things that do not seem strange to a westerner in India, I limited myself to shrug my shoulders and let things happen. If all of it was bullocks, I would at least have another colorful story to add to my India diary.

So, all three of us walked into a governmental hospital in Haridwar. The lawyer left us sitting on a hard wooden bench and disappeared. From time to time we saw him from a distance hopping after some doctors.

…waiting, waiting and more waiting…

Eventually the lawyer came back and brought us to the X-Ray department, where we sat on another bench to wait again. At least we were lucky enough to get a seat, as the hallway was full with people standing.

India turns you into a specialist in waiting, especially when you already have gained some train experience and in occasions have been waiting for your delayed train for about five hours. At least waiting in this country is a bit like watching T.V.; there is always something entertaining and interesting happening around you, which makes time pass by a bit quicker.

Buy popcorn and watch the show, it’s for free!

Finally the lawyer gave a sign to call us into the X-Ray room. I wondered if this really was the right place. The door stood wide open and people came in and out like at the entrance of a supermarket. The examination table with the X-Ray machine stood in the middle of the big room.

I did not get X-rayed too many times in my life, but I remember clearly that I had to wear a lead apron and that it had happened in a small, well isolated chamber, which the nurse would leave locking the door behind her before starting the machine.

Sketch222102335

In this hospital, people were X-rayed merrily one after another, like in a push button factory. The patients who were waiting for their turn sat on benches inside of that same room or stood curiously around the examination table to get a closer look on how others were getting X-rayed.

It was the first time that Baba was as a “patient” in a hospital. He was clearly feeling creepy and observed the whole scene with big eyes. The doctor instructed him to lay down on the table and not to move. The radiography took only a second and the doctor left the room. Baba apparently had not understood that the procedure was already over and was still lying there like a dead animal.

The lawyer, who was of course supervising the examination, turned towards me and said:

“Now you Madame”

“Me? Why? I’ve got a passport, I already know how old I am”

“Anyways, you also have to take the examination”

“My Passport is from Germany, it is a REAL one! It has a chip and everything”

 “Madam, please! You have to do it!”

In the end I gave in and underwent the procedure to the amusement of the whole ward. A Western woman getting an X-ray was the highlight of today’s hospital show!

We had to wait AGAIN, this time for the results. After another couple of hours the Doctor came with the documents over and said solemnly:

“Sir, you are 30 years old. Madame, your age is 28”

“Oh, how nice! On my Passport it says that I am 30”

“No, Madame! Your age is 28!!!”  

Baba’s Story

Baba

Rishikesh became our base camp from where we decided where to go next.

Baba sometimes talked about his Guruji and I became more and more curious.  He suggested that we could next travel to Bikaner, Rajasthan to pay Guruji a visit in the ashram.

Baba is not much of a talkative person, at least if you don’t ask the right questions. But if you do so, you will get to hear amazing things. I had a lot of questions and little by little I got to know his life story, which could easily fill a book:

Baba grew up in a small village in Bihar as the youngest of three children. When he was only eleven years old he broke out of society. Apparently he has been a rebel in his own way since childhood. Sometimes he went to school, but rather preferred to fish in the river or play in the mango gardens. Nobody of his family of course was happy about that, but there was no way to awaken his interest in school education.

One day it came to a chain reaction: The teacher caught him skipping classes and slapped him. Baba reacted and kicked the teacher as hard as he could in his shinbone. The teacher hit him again and brought him home to his older brother, who hit him as well because of his misbehaviour. He got hit once more by his father when he came home from work.

This day Baba ran off and jumped on the first train he found standing in Patna railway station. Destiny took him to Delhi.

He dwelt around the railway station for some time, until a Sardarji came along and offered him a roof and food in exchange for working in the household. Baba stayed with him for six months, but soon he wanted something more than only cover his basic needs and took a job as a dishwasher in a local dhaba where he could sleep, eat and got paid some rupees. It is not uncommon to see young kids working in restaurants and chai shops in India; probably many of them lived a similar story or were victims of alcohol problems in their families. After sometime the dhaba owner found out that Baba was a talented cook and he gave him that job.

Like most teenagers Baba felt attracted to all the Bollywood glamour shown on television. One day he took the money he had saved and moved to Mumbai. He did not become a  Bollywood actor, but found a well paid, but hard job at the railway station: Loading and unloading heavy bundles of textiles for their transport. After having done this job for about two years something that would change his life came into his mind: He wanted to go on the pilgrimage to the holy Shiva place of Ammarnath in Kashmir. He changed his jeans and t-shirt for a simple saffron-coloured lunghi and kurta.

Babaji

At the last stop in Jammu he went off the train. From there on he would go the rest of the distance by walk, joining many other sadhus who were heading to the same destination.

After walking on and on for a long time, a scene on the roadside attracted his attention: A crying woman holding her sick child in her arms had approached a sadhu. She explained that she already had visited many doctors, but non of them found an effective treatment. The sadhu examined the child, gave some ayurvedic medicine to the mother and his blessings to the boy.

Baba decided to follow this sadhu. There was something about him he felt attracted to in a special way. He asked him if he would accept him as a disciple, but the sadhu politely refused.

Baba followed him anyways and offered him his seva. He even followed him back to an ashram of the Nath Sampardaya in Punjab. After five months the sadhu finally decided that the time had come to accept Baba as his chela. Sadhus don’t use to accept a new disciple easily, as this also involves assuming a lot of responsibility. It is like adopting a child; by becoming someone’s Guru they also turn into the student’s father. They want to make sure as well that the applicant is serious about his decision.

In the end real sadhu life is hard life.

Guruji took Baba to his ashram in Bikaner where he lived and learned for eight years. On Guruji’s suggestion, Baba then went to live alone in his own little ashram in a desert nearby for some years.

Puja room

Eventually he decided to wander through Northern India by himself. He liked Rishikesh very much and felt curious about all the foreign travelers he met there. He was keen on knowing more about the world outside of India and simply enjoyed their company. And one day we came across each other on the shores of the Ganges.

One reason why I liked Baba from the beginning is, that he never asked anybody for anything.

He was just one of these persons I met in my life in whose eyes happiness and satisfaction were reflected.