After a nice visit home I was getting restless and wanted to get on with the next adventure of this journey I’m on. When I first decided to travel I knew India was going to be on the list. The spirituality and healing I could sense whenever I thought of this country made a profound calling to me. The funny part was whenever I would tell people I wanted to go to India the usual response was something along the lines, “Why on Earth do you want to go there?” While that is a very valid question I would usually laugh it off and just remind them it’s my journey and India doesn’t have to be for everyone.
I got into yoga 5 or 6 years ago so coming to India I signed up for a month long yoga teacher training course. I figured there’s no better place to do yoga and learn more about it than the country where it originated. After 12 hours in SFO, a night in New Jersey with my cousin, another 14 hour plane ride to Delhi, and then 10 hours on a bus I made it to my destination in Rishikesh, India. I was exhausted yet the entire bus ride I couldn’t sleep. I was in complete awe at what was going on outside. So many people, cars, animals, trash, and just plain chaos non-stop. I’ve been in 3rd world countries before but this was still complete culture shock for me.
Rishikesh is in the Northern part of India and it is known for its yoga and divinity. Many visitors come here for pilgrimage and meditation. It’s the start of the famous Ganges River. While it’s peaceful and serene in its own way, don’t be fooled. It’s still crazy and has a lot of sensory overload for the Western foreigner such as myself.
Upon arriving our school did a welcoming fire ceremony for the 11 students in the program. The fire ceremony is a tradition to welcome us and to protect us for the next month. Looking back I think they left out the part about protecting us from sickness and food poisoning… something that would come to curse us on a very frequent basis.
Home sweet home for the next month…
This is in our small section of the village. These taxi drivers are crazy and always speeding and honking their way through these tiny (which I thought were) one lane roads.
Really friendly guy just playing his flute trying to make some change and survive. There are a lot of beggars in Rishikesh and living standards are nowhere near up what the West would call civilized, but these people do it day in and day out, and from what I could see they seem pretty happy and grateful. A nice reminder that life is about more than material things.
I’m not sure what the trick to this is here but this guy will tell you your lucky stone. He selects one at a time and puts it in your hand. He then throws a water solution over your hands. When the water turns pink that’s your lucky stone. I guess I didn’t have as much luck that day or he was out of my stone because my hands never turned pink, but everyone else in my group found out theirs.
Farming rows outside my window.
This is what we started referring to as beggar hill. They hang out here all day long until returning at night to their ashrams for some rice, dal, and sleep.
Like I said they are all very friendly and want to talk to you in the broken English they know. Sometimes they even want you to sit and smoke some of the local herbs (for the record, I did not).
This guy was just creepy. I thought he must be some Indian religious figure. Everyone was around taking his photo so I assumed it must be someone important. As it turns out he’s a marketing gimmick for the restaurant that he’s sitting in front of. Think Indian version of Ronald MacDonald, and I’m sure the health factor is just as good as ol’ McD’s.
I bought a bindi making kit from this guy for I think about $1USD. He did one for me on my forehead similar to what is on his hand and I thought it looked really cool. Unfortunately, I learned there’s a trick to it to make it look that clean that I have yet to master. He also proceeded to forget me coming by because he asks me every day if I want to buy from him.
This is quite a frequent view. Cows are surprisingly smart here. They know how to turn on the spout to get water. Now if only we could train them to turn it off when they are done and pick up their poop after they lay a nice fresh one in front of you. And yes, trash like this in the streets is the norm. It’s extra refreshing when it’s hot and a warm breeze submerges up under your nostrils.
This came by surprise one afternoon while we were on a walk after lunch. There was a big procession going on in the streets with dancing and music. I asked a local what is was for and in the broken English I could understand they were carrying water from the Ganges up the hill to a temple to do a ceremony for the upcoming monsoon season. I loved snapping these photos. Everyone wanted their picture taken and just seemed so happy and welcoming.
I learned the red signifies sensuality and purity. The orange is for the color of the sun and represents ones inner fire to excel and do good in the world.
A beautiful sunset from my rooftop.
The days at school are long. We start at 6 am and are not finished until 6:30 p.m. We get one day off a week, Sundays. This was the first Sunday we had off. On our day off we somehow decided that waking up even earlier was a good idea. However, it paid off because we got to see sunrise at the top of Kunjapuri Devi Temple.
We ended with a little morning meditation.
Lastly, Sunday is also laundry day. The hotel I’m staying at is extremely slow and lazy so my classmates and I took it upon ourselves to do our own washing and room cleaning. So that’s my laundry in my very own bucket. Little things like this makes you realize how privileged we are at home.
Overall, this was the best introduction I could have imagined for India. It’s nothing like what I’ve been exposed to growing up or what I’ve learned from travelling, and that’s exactly what I was looking for. My initial thoughts after coming to India are that I never want to stop learning about the world and seeing how people just like me can be happy in whatever situation they find themselves. Life can be beautiful and and rewarding if you let it in and accept it for all it has to offer, good and bad. Every situation will offer you learning and growth.