Thursday, 7 April 2011

Rishikesh......Thats it, thats all.

Craneblog part 2.  Waistin' away in Rishikesh...

So since I did my tour in Rajasthan and whatnot I decided to stop being a tourist for a while and plant myself in one spot and get inside this disproportionately large head of mine.  It was pretty much the main reason for me coming to India in the first place.  There was a battle going on and it needed to be resolved with the whole turning thirty, family(most likely), basically the life of a grown man looming.  Well that's enough of that, here's what I've been up to the last month in Rishikesh.  I thought there wouldn't be enough to warrant a blog but I think I got some alright stuff and enough filler to justify me sitting in this internet cafe for the next hour or so and the impending hand cramps so here goes.

"Beatles Ashram"

So Rishikesh is a place dubbed the "Yoga capital of the world" so it is known for its ashrams, laid back style and natural beauty.  In terms of stuff to see the first thing people start going on about is this damn "Beatles ashram".  I put it in quotes because it's just referred to that because this is the place where the Beatles went when they had their little sojourn in India.  This used to be the property of Maharshi Maharesh (spelling?).  The ashram has now gone into ruin because it was taken over by the government of India and left to decay.  I've had 3 explanations as to why the gov't took it over, one from an American tourist, one from a Sadhu(renunciant holy man) and one from wikipedia.  The american said the Mr. Maharesh had some crazy ideas that the Indian government wasn't down with so he had to get outta dodge and all his assets were seized.  The baba said that Maharesh died and he had too much property and didn't set up any sort of system so that they could be managed after he died so they Gov stepped in.  Wikipedia said that Maharesh got into some trouble for taxes and other financial matters so he had to get the hell outta India and big G stepped in and took over.  I don't know who to believe but you all should know how much I love a good conspiracy theory so I'm gonna go with the American.

It kinda sucks that this place went to ruin because when I think of an ashram this place at its height is exactly what I think of.  It's like 14 acres and has all sorts of cool building intermingled with beautiful nature and has a way better feel than these other ashrams which feel more like spiritual hostels. 

On the other hand it's kinda awesome that this place went to ruin because ever since I was a kid I have loved abandoned buildings and this place has all sorts of them.  It was great walking around checking them out and had the requisite amount of spookiness as well.

 Alright, so if you guys are looking to learn something from this "blog" of mine here's one little tidbit for you:  Contrary to what I thought coming into this whole thing, Indians do not like beards.  In fact they have a general distrust of people with beards.  Also, they don't like people wearing all black so when I showed up in Rishikesh with my monster beard wearing all black I had more that a few uncomfortable gazes thrown my way so I ditched the beard and been wearing my fancy little white ensemble that I purchased in Udaipur and all is well.  Another bit of info you my like to know is if you think crows and raccoons are mischievous well just wait till you get amongst a bunch of monkeys.  There's 2 types here.  You got the big black and white/grey ones which are pretty goddamn cool.  There quite the handsome stoic bastards.  Then you got these brown, red-faced guys.  These guys are quite prone to general madness involving roaming in loud gangs, rooting through garbage cans, harassing and intimidating people, hilarious/intense feuds with crows and stray dogs.

Neelkanth hike

I wanted to go to this temple I could see from my ashram so I started walking in its general direction.  Well, after a while (an embarrassingly long while) i realized I was not going the right direction.  Where I ended up was on a pretty cool path heading up a mountain and me being me I just figured I'd get my sweaty self to the top of this damn mountain.  Basically this thing ended up being a 11 km hike out and 11km back, up and over a mountain the size of grouse mountain.  I took it as a good omen that when I started out I had one of the many stray Indian dogs join me for my little adventure.  It took just under 3 hours to get to the top of the mountain and when I felt satisfied enough to turn around I ran into some locals.  It was  a bunch of ladies and a baba and the baba urged me to come with them wherever the hell they were goin so I went.  Basically this is what I saw at the top.

    So there ended up being a pretty cool town in the bottom of the valley and the big thing here was this Shiva temple which is really old and a huge draw for pilgrimage .  When I heard about this it made sense of all the loud ass Shaivites outside my window in the early part of the month when there was an auspicious moon and they were heading to this temple.

   On my way back at the top of the mountain the dog quit on me so we stopped for a bit.  I gave her cookies and water and read while she slept for 45 minutes.  After we got going again I ran into two dudes who I saw earlier so I started walking with them.  One of the guys was a cop on vacation from another province.  On our way down we ran into a Sadhu who was throwing big branches down the path that he was going to use for firewood.  The cop used his means to get the baba to show us his house which was probably the coolest place i've seen.  The house was underneath a huge boulder that had a big void underneath it, then they closed it all in with a concrete wall and put some concrete walls up inside to make a couple rooms.  The place totally reminded me of Yoda's place from star wars.  The cop's buddy was kinda nervous about the whole thing because in his bad english he kinda made it seem the cop was using his position as leverage to get us inside the place.  I noticed the baba seemed cool with it so I went in, but didnt take pictures.  Inside the main room was an open space, a big fire pit(dhunni) and a shrine.  Through a tiny hole in the wall we went even further inside, past another shrine to Hanuman where we were anointed and went to the deepest part of the place.  In here was  hole in the ground where they would go into and do they're prayers/meditations.  We weren't allowed to go in there and to be honest there was no way I was going in there.  It had a trap door and was kinda spooky.

  So after that we made our way back and I felt great.  My body was terribly over heated so I finally went into the cold Ganges river to cool off, which was amazing.  Then I squirted in the eye by a kid with a squirtgun, watched a bull dig a hole in the ground and throw dirt on himself and went to get pizza where some dude gave me a free book.  All in all it probably was my best day in Rishikesh.

Other randomness includes:  Some baba milked me out of 750 rupees( 20 dollars).  He said he needed some plastic for his roof, which he did(250 rupees).  Then, he asked me if i wanted to spend 500 to pay for ingredients for prassad(offering).  It was 'sposed to be some kind of sweet milk thing and I was personally gonna hand it out during this big party where 500 baba's were gonna show up.  Now I had become distrustful of these Sadhus because they are mainly a bunch of dudes who have made the choice to be homeless.  It's supposed to be for spiritual reasons but one gets the feeling that that's not the case with the majority of them.  When this guy told me 500 baba's i reluctantly agreed because I thought I might meet 1 genuine sadhu.  Long story short, 15 babas showed up and the guy I gave the money to basically threw a party for himself.  He hired a band, then proceeded to take the mic from 1 of the 2 singers and sang terribly for hours on end.  I gotta give it to the guy though, he was having a blast so I didn't feel to sour about the 750 rupees. 

  Cows are awesome, I find them hilarious and charming.  They're crap is everywhere.  They also eat cardboard and yoga posters.  Every time I see one doing it I say "Hey buddy, you shouldn't be eating that",  but, what do I know, I don't have 5 stomachs.  I finally fed one of these guys.  It was on holi, which is the festival of colours. People have this coloured powder and they throw it on each other.
(I dont know what the deal with the wet mark near my groin is, I assure you it's not piss)
So, back to me feeding the cow on Holi.  I had some banana peels and pea pods to feed to the first coloured cow I could find but none were coloured so I just fed the first cow I was eating a Yoga poster.


   So when i was holed up in Delhi, instead of going out and getting harassed/grossed out I started watching cricket on tv.  I've always wanted to know the deal with cricket was and they had it all over the tv because they were hyping the upcoming world cup.  Well I gotta admit I've become a fan, its a great game and the people are balls out crazy about it here.  I was gonna go for India but then I found out that Canada indeed had a team in the world cup.  Now thats actually pretty cool considering there was only 10 or 12 teams but then again we were constantly referred to as "minnows".  Our team consisted mainly of migrants from India the south Indies and others.  We only had one team in our division that we had a chance against and that was Kenya and low and behold we beat 'em.  India ended up winning the whole thing. I watched the semifinal match against Pakistan with 250 people or so.  They set up a t.v. at one of the ghats(stairs leading to the river) and it was a blast, people were dancing and lighting off fireworks and playing drums it was quite an experience.  I also started playing cricket with some young kids at the ghat outside my ashram.  We played before the bigger kids came for they're daily match.  One day the bigger kids asked if I wanted to play so of course I jumped in there and showed them that us Canadians can play cricket after all.  One of the younger kids who got me to play asked me what my favorite subject in school was, I said gym and math.  Next thing I know I'm doing math 2 nights in a row and tutoring this kid in grade 9 math.  He needed help with polynomials and I hated those things, but in my old age it wasn't as hard as I remember.

   Anybody seen a falcon catch a snake in a river?  No?  It's cool a hell.

  4 day fast/sensory deprivation chamber/sweat lodge

Ok  the last thing worth mentioning is my 4, well 3and 3/4 day fast.  Basically things after almost a month get really stagnant and in a way thats what I was waiting for because a wanted to fight through it.  What I ended up doing was locking myself in my room and not allowing myself any entertainment, just me, my mind and body (lame?, no.)  I've never fasted in my life so I bought some gatorade type powder and had that with water and thats it.  It was pretty tough.  Day 2 was the toughest,  food porn was running rampant in my mind that night.  So basically it was a full on fast, a bit like a sensory deprivation and kinda like a sweatlodge seeing as I was in a stuffy sweaty room the whole time struttin' around in just my underwear.  I don't know what I got out of the thing exactly but I think it worked just by the fact I feel fully ready to come home now with a renewed passion for things.  Being ready to come back is all well and good but I still gonna make some more use of being all the way over here so now I'm gonna go back to being a tourist and I'm getting outta rishikesh.  Next stop Jammu/Kashmir, which should be good because these places are all higher up in the mountains and therefore cooler.  Alright, thats it.  Thanks for reading friends and family love you all.  Hope all is well in your worlds.