A nameless child & more cow pee

October 2011

While in the West parents already know which name their child will have while it is still nestled in mommy’s womb, in India babies are born nameless and it is considered very inauspicious to even think about how it will be called. It was a bit strange for me to cuddle this little no-name person I loved so much and to call her just “baby” or “little one”.

The name giving ceremony, called Namkaran (Nam = name, karan = to make), usually takes place eleven days after the baby’s birth. It also marks the day of the end of mother and child being impure, after the ceremony, of course. A pandit (priest) is called to perform a sacred ritual; he purifies mother and child and then suggests auspicious names according to the date and time of birth. Hindus believe in the power of sounds and to each person’s birth chart there are corresponding syllables. This auspicious sound shall accompany the name bearer throughout his journey of life and attract good luck.

The proud Baba-Papa was really busy for some days: he had to build a terrace so the guests could sit comfortably in our garden, to find fire wood for the cooking and organize the village catering company; which consists of a bunch of villagers who turned up in the morning of the Namkaran with their enormous pots and cooking spoons which look rather like weapons of war than kitchen tools.

According to the Indian sense of punctuality, the pandit arrived three hours late. Nobody seemed to really bother. Same as in other social ceremonies Indians did not really care that much about the happening itself. The first Indian marriages I attended for instance really surprised me: In our culture the wedding party attends the marriage ceremony keeping quiet and at least pretend to pay attention, forming part of the event in some way. Here, people come around from time to time, to take a peek at the ceremony, walk around, talk on their mobile phones or merrily chat with each other in loud voices. Maybe that is so, because Hindu ceremonies can last pretty long.

Outside it was a bit chilly and the ceremony took place on in our living room. The first thing the pandit did was to draw a square with some kind of white powder on the floor and instructed me to sit in the middle of it together with the baby. I was not allowed to step out of the mark until the puja would be over, otherwise I would contaminate the surroundings.

Then he drew a yantra with sandalwood powder and curcuma and placed a lump of cow dung besmeared with ghee in its center. There were also severel other items, like a coconut, oil lamps and a lot of incense, but to my amusement the piece of cow dung enjoyed most of the attention throughout the ceremony. I had to pull myself together not to grin as I pictured a cow pie being worshiped during a baptism in a Christian church. After I found out that a pile of cow dung might represent the obstacle removing elephant god Ganesh, in case there is no appropriate image of him available.

Another thing that made me smile was that the pandit had told Baba to cover his had and in his hurry, Baba took the first thing he found, which was a green hat in Tyrolean style.

INDIA INDEED IS DIFFERENT!

The ceremony lasted about two hours and I observed with devotion and concentration the pandit’s movements backed with beautiful sacred chants. Everything was really mystic and nice; the only thing that irritated me was that from time to time we were sprinkled with a liquid, which I correctly guessed was of course: COW PEE.

Then the pandid handed me a glass and grinned “Drink! Medicine!”

My worst guess turned out to be true, as I could tell by its smell:

IT WAS COW PISS DILUTED WITH MILK!

But I am really proud to say that I managed to do it!

I DRANK IT!

And not only once, I had to drink two times five sips of this special cocktail! My mind came up with some useful information to get over it: Most of the ayurvedic medicines contain cow urine and even in the West many beauty creams have a component called urea, which is actually nothing else than uric acid.After my purification I had to sit in our room where the guests would visit me and the Baby to congratulate. They offered presents or pressed some money into her little fists. To bless her everybody applied a red tikka on her forehead and after only half an hour my little girl looked like postmarked all over her tiny face.

It had been a long, tiring, but happy day for all three of us which eventually ended without having chosen any name for her. The pandit had suggested five names. Four of them absolutely not pronounceable for the European part of the family and the fifth one very old fashioned. But the pandithad told us to take our time and not to worry. Any name starting with the sounds NI, NA or YU (by the way which names start with” YU”?!?) would be fine.

After another couple of days we found it and so she was named her “NITYA” – which means “ETERNAL

Advertisements

Our First Season – Lama Kaha, Why Like This !?!

March 2010

The first tourist season here went pretty well for us; our guest room was rented out most of the time. We really had a lot of fun and sheltered all kind of people from all over the world, but most of them were Israeli Nationals. I have to say that I never ever met an Israeli before I came to India; maybe the reason for this is that they are all here.

There is this strange phenomenon: After they finish their obligatory military service, 2 years if you are a female and 3 years if you are a male, they all decide to travel, preferably to India or South America.

By now, my understanding of the Israeli Culture has improved a bit, although there are still a million of things I do not catch.

Observing and living with them I realized so far that there are two kind of Israeli backpackers:

The ones who have a huge urge to travel in groups, whatever it takes, and constantly seek the company of their fellow-countryman and the ones that try to keep a distance as much as they can from the first kind. The first group often gives me the impression that they are scared for some reason; maybe they fear to get lost or maybe the chaotic ways of the country makes them feel unsecure . Most of the time they do not show too much interest in the Indian way of life and keep themselves busy with shopping and meeting in the most fashionable tourist restaurants. The female members of the first group frequently shock the conservative Indians they cross on their way with their fashion style, revealing too much skin for the taste and nerve of the Indian eye. Once I asked an Israeli friend:

“Why like this?”

And he told me that many of the young Israelis don’t actually want to travel, but they do so anyways because everybody does. Some would say that this is then a waste of time, but I guess that Mother India will bless them with new insights and offer them plenty of lessons of life, like she does with everybody who comes to visit her.

Then there are also the very religious Israelis and the not so religious ones, who celebrate the Shabbat anyways. Once we had a very religious guest staying at our house, very orthodox, but at the same time very open. I liked him a lot and really enjoyed to have him around. We had long talks about the Jewish and the Hindu religions and I had the opportunity to ask many questions about his believe, rituals and practice. Anyhow many times the answer I received to my endless why-questions was:

“Because the bible says so”

This was a bit strange and disappointing for me. If I would decide to strictly follow any kind of religion, I would want to know all the whys and reasons for each and every rite and rule I were to practice. Hindu religion is really interesting in that sense, every single act and ritual has a deep meaning, mostly energetic (and so does the Jewish religion, too, I guess), but of course as in most religions, people grow up with it and act according to it never really asking themselves why, which is really a pity, because most of the “magic” remains concealed. I pretty much gave up asking the locals here for deeper explanations, as most of the time the answer is unsatisfactory and I have to google it anyways; which is pretty boring. I prefer to learn while talking to people instead of sitting in front of a screen.

Here a funny anecdote comes to my mind:

tefillinOnce Baba and I were visiting a friend at a nearby guesthouse. A Jewish boy was standing on the balcony absorbed in his prayers, wearing all the items needed for it, which involved also the Tefillin (small leather boxes containing verses from the Torah of which one is worn strapped around the arm with a leather string). Baba saw the leather string tightly wrapped around his arm; and as Baba is always worried about the well-being of everyone near him, he rushed towards the boy asking him anxiously

“Man, you okay? Your arm have some problem, you need help? What happened?”

The boy still praying and confused looked a bit annoyed at Baba from the corner of his eyes, while I, embarrassed, did my best to drag Baba away from him trying to explain that everything was all right and that the boy was simply performing a Jewish “puja” (ritual).

WE ALL HAVE OUR DIFFERENT WAYS, BUT STILL:

WE ARE ONE !

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.

Mysteries of an Himalayan construction site

January 2009

When I first saw the piece of land we had bought, I wondered what kind of house could possibly fit on it; the plot looked pretty small. I thought that it might be big enough to put a larger tent on it, that’s it! It’s not that I didn’t like the idea of living in a tent or maybe a nice tipi, but after all the stories about leopards in the area we got to hear from locals and more after having seen one in full daylight I actually preferred to have four solid walls around my bed.

Construction site

After we had all the property papers in our hands, the first thing that Baba and I did was to celebrate a small puja ceremony on the plot amidst the high grown grass and flowers, together with the tourists who stayed at the same guesthouse. We chanted some mantras, lit incense and shared some food.

It took Baba a couple of weeks to gather the working people, who first proceeded to flatten the earth of the plot. To my great relief the land afterwards looked double the size and

YES! A REAL HOUSE COULD ACTUALLY FIT ON IT !

I never thought that I would ever have to bother about things like building a house! Until now I have always been renting the places I’ve lived in. First of all because buying a property of any kind was out of my range and second because it makes it easier to change residency whenever needed or wanted.

The only thing we knew for now was that we wanted to build three rooms: One for us, a living room and one guest room. Another thing I was sure about was that I wanted to have the bathroom inside of the house and not outside like most guesthouses of the area. Having an outdoor bathroom is a good thing, but due to my earlier experience with a leopard sneaking around the guesthouse all night long, restraining me to use the urgently needed bathroom, I had made up my mind. Otherwise we had no idea how people usually build a house in the Indian Himalayas. Baba tinkered a cute, roofless mock-up out of cardboard, showed it to the workers and on that base the building process started in the Indian way.Mock-up

He woke up every morning at six o’clock to go to the construction site to keep an eye on the situation all day long. People here are paid by day, which means that more slowly they work the more money they will get. Leaving them there alone meant that they would take things really easy and sit somewhere most of the time smoking beedis.

First, my German mind had an accurate idea, about how things should be done and eventually look like. In my opinion, I explained myself very clearly and everybody seemed to understand. My main job though was to cook and bring the meal to the construction site, where Baba and I would sit and have a picnic together.

Day after day when I arrived there with my tiffin, I had to discover that my plans for the house actually were not understood at all or simply completely ignored.

First I tried to fight it, but after only a couple of months to not become completely crazy, my German mind surrendered to the facts of the Himalayan construction “system”. After three more months I was just happy with the thought that soon I would have a new roof over my head and had no more expectations about the result at all.

It is very popular to hire mysteries from Bihar for building projects. A mystery is the Hindi word for the head workman. I didn’t know that for a long time and as in India people are often called by their profession, I thought that it was pretty funny that so many people had such a cool name like mystery!

The reasons why the workers from Bihar are very popular is that they have the reputation to be very good at their job and that they don’t drink excessively as their colleagues from the mountain area do. They also get paid more than the local workers, which usually brings jealousy issues along.

Winter had come and it got pretty cold, so whenever something had to be finished the same day, the local workers demanded to get paid in addition with “Gulab” with the excuse that it helped to keep them warm. Gulab translated means “rose” and is the brand of a local alcohol that smells like battery acid. Some say that if you drink that stuff regularly you end up getting blind, which I can pretty much imagine after having tried it once out of curiosity.

Well, maybe this is the reason why some of our walls have a certain angle which slightly reminds of modern art.

Of course, we also had our Bihari mystery and soon one of the workers said that he wanted to receive the same salary as him. Baba explained that he would do so, if he could somehow prove that he was able to do the same work in the same time with the same quality result.

One day, when I came to the building site, I wondered why the two arches on our porch differed visibly from each other.

The explanation was simple:

There had been a competition between the Bihari and the mountain mystery, which the latter lost!

But there was one thing that the Biharis and the local workers had in common:

After paying day, they did not show up for a couple of days without saying a word and then reappeared as if nothing had happened.

By the way:

If you like, feel free to watch the little movie about the construction process on the following link:

India: Sometimes tough …and sometimes touching, beautiful and overwhelming

August 2008

In the afternoon we moved into another house, followed of course by the usual crowd of faithful observers. There was no more room left in Baba’s brother’s place. Seven children, Baba’s brother and his wife, a pregnant cousin, the dying grandfather and an aunt who had come to take care of him were already occupying all available space.

Patio life

Patio life

Our new “home” was at a Brahmin’s family house, Baba referred to them as uncle and auntie. In India you don’t have to be physically related with someone to have a big family, it’s more kind of a how you feel towards the other person matter. Because of that you can actually have countless brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts.

I loved that house from the beginning. It had a spacious open patio around which the living area was built. In the middle of the patio was a deep well, which looked like the ones you see in horror movies, a water pump and a lovely puja place. The house was completely plastered with the typical mix of clay and cow dung, which made it look pretty comfy. Besides the uncle and auntie, the grandparents and four bigger kids were living there. The three girls were extremely beautiful. I have to say that I was generally amazed by the beauty of the village women.

The toilet

The toilet

Puja and Shilpa who were twelve and thirteen years old became our personal caretakers. They would follow us wherever we went with their palm tree fans to alleviate us from the sizzling heat. First Pagli and I felt pretty embarrassed about that, but they did their job with so much love and dedication that in the end we really ended up appreciating it. It was also truly comforting that they had a “toilet” which was actually a mere hole in the ground inside of the cowshed with some bricks on each side; BUT it was a private space with a door you could close behind you, a fact that I highly appreciated after my crazed action earlier that day.

At some point the people who did not directly belong to the household left for lunch, Baba went somewhere on a mission with the men of the house and finally we were asked if we would like to have a shower. Pagli and me wrapped a pareo around our bodies and stepped out into the patio. In India it is a common thing to take a shower with something covering your body; while men shower openly everywhere under public water pumps in underpants riddled with holes, the matter is a bit more complicated if you are a woman. The girls were pumping water for us into a bucket from where we then scooped water over our soapy bodies with a jug. The mud floor became pretty slippery and after I had finished with the bathing ritual and wanted to leave the patio, I slipped and almost fell. I managed to hold on to the wall and ended up with a huge piece of it in my hands. The grandmother appeared and I apologized:

“Sorry, Mataji! I think I broke your house!

She started laughing and made me understand with a gesture that there was no need to worry. If you are used to take a shower in private and don’t have much practice with the Indian way, then it’s pretty much of an art to get rid of all the soap from under the cloth. I guess my technique was especially poor; a couple of hours later I was covered with a nasty, itchy rush.

We westerners soon discovered our private Kingdom of glory:

THE SIZZLING HOT ROOF TOP

We escaped there from time to time to have a smoke and a bit of rest from the crowd. There we would sit for a short while motionless like lizards in the frying heat, but the few moments of peace were worth the suffering. Every time we went there Puja and Shilpa followed us until the steps watching us from there with horror and shouting

“DON’T GO UP THERE, YOU WILL GET BLACK !”

Getting black is one of the biggest fears of Indian women. The TV ads are full of skin bleaching products and if you go through the dating services in the newspapers (which by the way is a fabulous time pass), you will find a lot of emphasis put on the fair complexion of the bride. The world is a strange place; in the west people fry on the beaches to get sun-darkened and here they want to be as white as possible…

In the evenings though everybody would gather on the big roof top,  well actually only the women and the kids would join us there. They really seemed to enjoy that the westerners were women, too. This made them have something special that was not meant to be shared with any men. We sat there for hours, trying to understand jokes and to have conversations, singing songs, holding small babies in our arms and having kids sitting on our laps. It felt like having been adopted by a tribe of amazons and even if it was a bit trying at times, it was an amazing experience!

Our beautiful caretakers

Our beautiful caretakers

Suddenly a cracking sound filled the air. Then a squeaky voice of someone talking through a speaker could be heard.  We realized that there was a great number of speakers hanging on posts all over the village. The voice started singing and the someone played the tabla. Shortly after, a harmonium and more singers joined in.

Eventually Baba showed up and we finally got the chance to find out what was going on:

The villagers were doing this every single evening since his grandfather fell sick. Actually they were doing Kirtan to pray for his soul

…TOUCHING, BEAUTIFUL AND SIMPLY OVERWHELMING !

Related articles

An (un)traditional Indian Wedding

April 2008

At 5 a.m. I started up from my sleep and sat straight as a post in my bed.

“Today I’ll get married!”

sitaramtent

It was impossible to think of sleeping for a couple of hours more. Someone had suggested a purifying morning bath in the waters of the holy Ganges before the ceremony. So I went to the riverbank where I found my future husband snoring soundly in Sita Ram Baba’s plastic tent.

“Chelo! Ganga shower!” a murmur came from under the blanket

“Too cold!”

“Chicken!”

The water was in deed bitterly cold and my will was weak. I made do with sprinkling some water on my head asking for her blessings.

“Sorry, Ganga-ji, but I cannot do it”

I turned around and saw Baba sitting in the sand grinning broadly.

At 8.30 my bride-manager was supposed to show up with the saree. One hour later still no sign. The jeeps that would bring the Wedding party to the temple in Haridwar were booked for one o’clock. At ten, finally the saree arrived together with a good friend from Spain who I met perchance in Rishikesh. She would help with the preparations and give me some moral support. We went to the chai shop to get ready. A girl was polishing my nails, while the Indian ladies wrapped me into the pink wedding saree. The Mataji borrowed me her wedding -jewellery made of real gold that she had been wearing on her own big day. It included a bridal nose ring that would be attached to the earring by a chain. At that time I did not have my nose pierced, so we decided to simply clip it on somehow before the ceremony. When I eventually looked like an acceptable Indian bride, my electic-blue flip-flops stroke my eye. Nobody had thought about the shoes! Oh, no problem, in the temple everybody takes off the shoes anyways! My Baba appeared in the chai stall. He looked wonderful in his white kurta and lunghi!

WeddingcarThe jeeps parked in front of the chai stall; they were old army jeeps. The wedding party slowly gathered together: A handful of Sadhus and backpackers from Japan, Brazil, France, Canada, USA, Belgium and Israel. Kashi from the chai shop would be the bride’s father. The colourful potpourri of people squeezed into the jeeps and off we drove to Haridwar. The Babas were playing the dambru and everybody was singing and shouting cheerfully.

The temple compound was amazingly beautiful, situated right on the shore of the Ganges. The wedding party sat down on the stone benches under the trees in the huge garden, some went bathing in the river. Someone brought snacks and soft drinks; the sadhus smoked chillum on one side and the backpackers rolled joints on the other side. I thought “Ah, this is what an Indian champagne reception looks like” …and that it was actually okay that there was no biological family present; my parents did actually not know that I was getting married.

The atmosphere was pretty fun and jolly, somehow I felt more as if I was at someone’s big birthday party then being the bride on my own wedding. The local newspaper and TV channel journalists showed up. Our friend Vijay had told us that there would be one of each. Apparently they had told all of their colleagues; seven newspaper journalists and eleven TV channels had come to document the event. Good that we wanted only a humble ceremony without much fuss!

They immediately gave instructions for the shooting of photos and film:

-Now, only the Sadhus!

-Now, only the tourists!

-Now, you all dance!

What do you mean with dance? There is no music!

-No problem, you dance!

One of the backpacker started singing “Dancing Queen” from Abba and everybody else joined in.

Hey, you! Bride! You don’t dance, stand still!

My god! I wondered what the outcome of that shooting would be!

My bride manager called me to put the nose ring on. She seemed a bit confused about how to do that. A discussion among the Indians started and I feared that they would pierce my nose right on the spot (in this crazy country, you never know…) finally she managed to clip it somehow on my nose. A Baba showed up with rubber flip-flops; pink colour. Great, now I had rubber flip-flops in the matching colour to my wedding dress!

It was time to enter the temple for the ceremony. The pandit lead us to the temple which was covered with wire protection against the monkeys. The cage of marriage was beautifully decorated with flowers and ribbons. We sat down in front of the altar and the pandit started the ceremony, guiding us through it:

Sprinkle holy water here, throw flowers there, make a symbol with red colour here, stick rice on the coconut and so on; all of it at top speed.

In the meanwhile the journalists had entered the temple and shouted instructions at us during the ritual: Look here, more over there; Smile…

Incredible! One can not even get married in peace in this country!

Journalists

The ceremony came to an end when Baba applied the sindoor on my head and forehead. We stood up to walk seven times around the holy fire and completed the ritual by exchanging flower garlands. Someone had chased the journalists out of the temple and they were now lurking outside.

Just breath and go!

Immediately they fired all kind of questions to Baba. Good! Maybe they would not pay any attention to the bride. As soon as I finished that thought all cameras turned towards me.

“Madame, you like Indian culture?”

No, I don’t. I got married that way just for fun I thought. And “PLOPP” in the same moment my clipped-on nose ring fell off. On the questions about our future plans I had to draw a blank one, as we had none. The journalist did not like that at all.

wedding

I wondered about the outcome of the shots and on which channels they would be broadcasted. I imagined my parents witnessing surprisingly their daughter’s peculiar wedding on satellite television. I wanted to wait to see them face to face to explain the entire story; in the end it is a very long one…

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.