BABA CAKE

September 2012

Time had come to think about how to make a living in our Himalayan Village. Just renting out a room for 200 rupees (3 $) a day and organizing a few jam sessions during the tourist seasons, which all together last only six months, was definitively not enough to survive. The big question was:

WHAT TO DO ?

There was an infinite spectrum of possibilities and ideas, but almost none could realistically be materialized. Suddenly I had an idea:

I always loved to bake, so why not make cakes and sell them to the tourists?

Famous applecrumble

We had  the tool, a tiny electric oven that we once bought in Delhi, that would have to do it to begin. Going from guesthouse to guesthouse loaded with cakes while carrying a little baby at the same time was not the best idea, as this would mean A LOT of walking, as the guesthouses are spread all over the village to each side of the ridge. So I asked a local who was running a bigger guesthouse with a little grocery shop attached to it, if he could sell the cakes for us. He agreed and soon our fist cakes were displayed at Ram Singh’s Guesthouse. We sold some, but it was not really a roaring success. Sometimes when people walked by the shop,  no one was there to attend them, because the owner had gone to town and his wife was working somewhere on the fields and people probably didn’t want to wait for an hour or so only to get a piece of cake.

There was this young local fellow, who came to visit us almost daily, because he was neither studying, nor working and did not know what else to do with his time. His father had a well paid government job in Delhi and the family was pretty wealthy, so there was not really a great need for him to do any of this. One day I mentioned that it would be good to have a small place of our own where we could sell the cakes and maybe even some good chai and coffee and the guy said

 “Oh, we have a shop which sits empty, nobody uses it since years and there it even has a counter”

Baba Cake counter

The same day we went to check on the place and for us it was just perfect! Well, it was not really a shop by Western standards, it was more like a garage. But there was a small terrace, some shelves and a second small room which could be used as a kitchen. There was no running water either, but the water supply was nearby and we could do the dishes in a tub and bring all the necessary water in buckets; all good enough for a start. We talked to his big brother who was in charge of business matters and agreed a good price for the rent.

As always, our budget was very limited and therefore we tried to keep things as cheap and simple as possible. We bought some plywood which was turned into low tables, mattresses to sit on the floor, tableware and a couple of buckets with paint. Baba Cake Café was ready just on time for the fall season. My job was to bake the cakes and muffins and Baba was in charge of tea and coffee. As our baby was not even one year old and slept a lot and needed very much of her mommy’s attention I would prepare the cakes at home early in the morning and we would then carry them up thee hill to the shop.

Baba Cake wall painting

The travelers loved our place! I was very much happy and excited, but at the same time pretty much surprised as the place was really small and humble. Probably this was exactly the reason why people liked it. It soon turned into a meeting point and favorite hangout for many travelers, where people enjoyed a good cup of masala chai and a tasty piece of cake. Our Apple-Crumble became really famous and sometimes I could not bake enough of it to make everybody happy. Our tiny electric oven did magic, although the daily and frequent power cuts made me go wild regularly.

There are always many amazing and creative souls among the traveler community and so in exchange for cake and chai, we even got a really cool design painted on our entrance wall. There was always somebody with an instrument playing music in the shop, the atmosphere was wonderful and somehow most of the guests ended up becoming our very good friends. A big Baba Cake Family came into life, where people are open, kind, colorful, creative and of course all a bit crazy; each of us in our own particular way 😉

Sadhu Baba Cake

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Villagers and Backpackers

March 2010

The humble, little home we built consists of three rooms: Our private room, a guest room we rent out to backpackers and a common living-room, which we rarely use as we spend most of the time outdoors.

Loft BedTo have as much space as possible I decided to build a loft bed, to gain some extra space beneath it. Our mysteries (carpenters) were pretty surprised and looked at me doubtfully while I somehow tried to explain them the idea. I had to show them some photos on the internet and eventually and despite their obvious doubts about the “weird” project we managed to get the beds done. The voice spread and soon the entire village came by to have a look at the construction.

 

The village people accepted us well, but of course we were a bit of a strange couple to them; a Sadhu MARRIED to a western woman and we did not have kids, but plenty of dogs hanging out at our place. But there is something that I really love about this village: The locals live their lives and the travelers live theirs’. No staring, no hassling, but a general mutual acceptance. Of course there is some of an understandable amazement among the inhabitants when a western tourist girl walks through the tiny Himalayan village in a Mini-skirt. That kind of situations still make me feel embarrassed in some way and I cannot understand what is so difficult about dressing in a decent way to show some respect towards the local culture.

Since I live here I met a lot of people from all over the world; they come and go.

…and then at some point most of them return!

This makes it much easier to say goodbye, as somehow I know or I feel that we well meet again someday, somehow. The village is very popular among long-stayers, many stay for months and come back here year after year. The travelers who decide to rent out our guest room are usually really nice. It’s not to everybody’s taste to share a space with strangers; some people rather prefer to have their own private space. The people who come to us are usually very social and used to live in some kind of community. Baba is absolutely a people-person; he loves to meet new people, to share his stories and to make others happy with very simple things, like the delicious Indian dishes he cooks. More often than not our visitors end up being really good friends, sometimes they even become part of the family.

Of course like everywhere else in the world there are also exceptions, but I firmly believe that all encounters in life, no matter how insignificant they may seem, are meant to happen and that we don’t cross people due to mere coincidence.

There is a lot to learn from others in so many ways. Each person gives us a chance to learn a bit more about ourselves, and maybe sometimes they are also meant to learn something from us.

Yoga changed my life… or how I met my sadhu

tK

March 2007

I had been living in Spain for many years, living a normal peoples’ live, and doing normal things, having a normal office job. I guess nowadays it is also considered normal to end up suffering from the burn-out-syndrom.

So did I, and ended up trying to find a way to relax my body and soul. This is how Yoga found me, Kundalini Yoga, to be more precise. Kundalini Yoga is a powerful tool, which includes a lot of meditations in its practice. In the beginning I thought there was something wrong with me. From time to time I took a glimpse on the other yoga students during the meditations. They all seemed so immersed in their practices, their faces reflecting a deep expression of inner calm. This was absolutely NOT what was happening inside of me. My mind was spinning around like crazy revealing me a huge mess in my mind. A non-stop internal dialogue with my self was constantly taking place. I asked the teacher about this. She just laughed and said that what was happening to me was in fact completely normal. This process is like cleaning the mind from old stuff to make space for new stuff. I got kind of addicted to this inner world of mine that just revealed itself to me and after only a few months I started the teachership programme of Kundalini Yoga.

One day a poster in the yoga center caught my attention: An alternative, spiritual trip to India, the cradle of yoga. Until that day, I never felt especially interested in India, but something told me that I had to go; and so I did. This was in 2007.

As soon as my feet touched Indian soil I had the sensation of floating through the air all the time. All the unknown sensations, ununderstandable things, smells and the liveliness of the place were putting me into another state of mind.

The programme was Delhi – Rishikesh – Amritsar, a two and a half weeks trip. In Rishikesh we would attend the international Yoga festival. I say “we would”, because I did not. Come-on, first time in India, so many things to see and explore, how could I restrict myself to being stuck in an Ashram, while the real world outside was calling me? I could practice yoga anytime back home, but who knew if I would ever come back to India.

So me and a couple of friends from the travel group, were hanging out in chai shops, strolling through town, enjoying baths in the Ganges and living our little day-to-day adventures. Actually, Rishikesh is a good place to just sit in a chai shop for hours and watch the world go by. The most unbelievable things just happen right in front of you and you don’t even have to make one step. Things just come to you.

In the chai shops, of course, one also gets a chance to talk to other travellers. Thing that kind of depressed me, as most of them were travelling through India for months or even years… and me only for a couple of weeks. This made me ask myself the question: Why did I never backpack before? Traveling is the best investment in life, the memories will accompany you until the last of your days on this planet, while material things sooner or later will fade away.

One morning I met him. A strange thing that happens to most travellers in India is that you automatically wake up and go to sleep very early. As I was the first one of the group to be awake, I decided to take an early walk on the banks of the Ganges. I walked on the little sadhu trail, breathing in the magic of the morning, when people offer their prayers to Mother Ganga and the healing sounds of the early worships in the Ashrams fill the air. Suddenly an orange clad figure appeared in the mist. It was a young sadhu I had already crossed several times during my excursions. He politely saluted me “Hari OM!” while he passed by. I returned the greeting and turned around again. So did he. I could not resist asking him if I could take a picture. I had felt shy to take pictures of the Sadhus, who are so fascinating and photogenic to a tourist. But this one seemed friendly. We ended up having a nice cup of chai together and he became our personal guide of adventures off the tourist trail during the rest of our stay in Rishikesh.

And here starts a new chapter of the story of my life.