Friday, January 12, 2007

More from Rishikesh

Sometimes it seems like we're living in our own private movie with India as the backdrop. Smokey skies, bright colors, bottled water, sweet aromas and beggars of all sorts. We're beggars, too. Begging to take photos of all the things we can't otherwise make sense of...a world SO different and yet not fully unfamiliar. In our own movie we're the stars...two fifty-something women with their own rich lives and concerns,now with all the space in the world to tell each other their stories. No editing. What else can one do in world that just barely makes sense?

And what of the Rishikesh world? Well the town is populated in part by gurus and sadhus who are trying their best to pull in some rupees. They sell enlightenment through yoga/meditation from their funky hillside ashrams. How would one ever know which one to follow? This morning we wandered in the ashram of Swami Premvarni. He's 75 and found his way to America during 1979-1980. I tried my best to follow what he had to say...but honestly it flew right by me. Thick accent and a gobble of words. He did seem peaceful with his knit can, plastic sandals and orange-colored robe. We took pictures with him...who knows it could be an auspicious moment.

And the other gurus? Well many of them just beg. Sitting on the side of the road with a tin cup and deep eyes. Others sell chapati, sweets, sandalwood and all sorts of bangles. And then there are all the bonafide merchants selling richly embroidered hangings and all sorts of Indian clothes. Yes, they're lots cheaper than at home...but is it my mission to compete with Cost Plus???? (I don't think so)

Perhaps our signature swami moment was yesterday while walking across one of the bridges that traverses the ganges a bearded swami-type approached us and thrust small wet marigolds in our hands. Then we were instructed to repeat a prayer after him and then toss the flowers and some sugar crystals into the river. Afterwards he wrapped our wrists in yarn bracelets and painted a red blotch between our eyes. And then afterwards? He asked us for a 150 rupee ($3) donation... and of course we took photos to remember this moment, too!

Where is the authenticity in India? Is it all just for sale?

While the Indians are doing all they can to make some rupees, Western seekers wander down the narrow allies of Rishikesh. Some have a decidedly vacantly look in their eyes. Here to fill themselves up. Perhaps someday I'll understand.

Just chatted with a middle-aged woman from Baltimore who comes here every year to sit with a realized being. Gotta check this out. Who knows maybe I'll realize something, too!

We finished the day with an Auervedic massage. A combo of pulling, pounding, accupressure, then lots of oil and then a wonderfully funky steam bath. My masseur was a cute 25 year old who told me about all of his foreign girl friends. His most recent was from Japan. He's so in love with her. What to do? Hope that me returns to India soon? Does he have any interest in marrying an Indian woman? (hardly) And an arranged marriage (not in this lifetime!)

Oh, this is so fun!