This week has been somewhat a week of drama with two people leaving the ashram, a debate over the food we are being served and the exit of one of our teachers. One of the best pieces of drama to come out of this week though was the day, when we were told that we would not only have a free Philosophy/Anatomy class but that they had set up the screen for us to watch a Bollywood/Hollywood movie called Outsourced. It was a nice mid-week break for us and it was due to It being Brother & Sisters day in India that our teacher had other family commitments. Pretty sweet! There we were, all cuddled up on the floor on our bolsters hovering around the screen for the entire two hours. The plot was basically a very accurate account of a guy arriving in India from America for the first time due to work commitments and pretty much had us in hysterics all throughout the movie. It was uncanny how everything that happened to the main character in the movie is typical for first time travellers in India, particularly me and It is a must watch for anyone interested in knowing what its really like to travel here. We had previously discussed going to the Bollywood theater in Rishikesh as a group some evening so for us this was perfect. Needless to say we want the real Bollywood theater experience at some point before we leave. The ultimate drama actually happened on Saturday evening, when instead of our usual meditation at 5:30pm we sat and watched our own private Indian concert complete with drums, keyboards, singers and eventually what felt like a rave. But no, it was just lots of students crazy dancing like It was the first time we had experienced music and beat, purely going for it, like it would be taken away at any minute. But it wasn't! The band continued to play until the compact room began to fill with an airy sweat and one by one, breathless, we wandered out soaked to the brim to find some cool breeze on the rooftop. Needless to say it was an amazing experience but thanks to my insane migraine which I had for two days straight, I couldn't fully enjoy the occasion. It was on the rooftop that some of gathered to watch a few of our friends perform with Poi, fireless of course. We stayed up there until the sun set which in India still never seizes to amaze me.
As I mentioned earlier we had the chance to attend the graduation ceremony of the 300hr students earlier that morning at 11am which was a very emotional experience, even if it wasn't us who were leaving, it still felt like it. There we sat, cameras in hand as the group of girls all in beautiful custom made sari’s and the only guy and Irish at that, in very culturally attire, accepted their certificates and posed for photos. After a speech from Roshan, It was clear that when our time came, in three weeks, we would all be in floods of tears, most likely gripping onto the doors not wanting to leave. It was the end of an era for these guys and for some of them who had been here for 9+ weeks, it was hard to imagine how they were feeling. But with every departure comes a new arrival, and so a new group of retreaters arrived for 2 weeks to Rishikesh Yog Peeth, all whom are very sweet!
It was this week that I experienced my first massage in India, crazy after 6 weeks here eh? But how and ever, I took the plunge and booked myself in with Susie and Frannie at Risikesh Yog Peeth's other centre nearby. It was an experience to say the least, and as a massage therapist myself, It was interesting to see the differences here to the western way, in relation to protecting your modesty and such. Nevertheless we all enjoyed the relaxing experience, nakedness and all. As I have mentioned before, many times, Sunday is always our treat day, the day we pigged out and satisfied our cravings of the week, but this time, we decided to be active and productive by taking a trip to the waterfalls nearby. We had asked reception at our Ashram about renting motorbikes or other ways to get there, but decided to walk across the bridge to Laksman Jhula to take a collectivo Rickshaw to the waterfalls. It wasn’t until our way back from the waterfall that we thanked our lucky stars for not renting bikes, but stay tuned for that!
With 8 of us in the Rickshaw, all ready to go swimming on this particularly hot day, we took off to Neer waterfall, where our driver chanced his arm by stopping half way and having us think he couldn’t go any further. After a bit of a heated discussion with him, he eventually took off down to the entrance of the falls, where we bought our 30 rupee tickets into the national park. Here we met a man with his two kids, who joined us as we hiked up the mountain. It was at this moment that Frannie and I realised that we hadn’t been very practical when it came to our footwear. Flipflops… Not the best hiking wear that’s for sure, but nevertheless we kept going and managed to reach the first and second waterfalls where we swam with some other tourists and some locals. The water was so cold that you could almost forget that It was such a scorcher in Rishikesh that day. After a lot of snap shots and messing around in the water, the group separated and some decided to go up to the higher fall, while Frannie and me decided to get a head start on going back, considering our flip flops lengthened what should only be a short walk. We had planned to go to The Honey Hut in Laksman Jhula for lunch that day so we decided to meet the guys there once they were done.
Off we went down the mountain, along the gravel roads when a motorbike passed us, slow enough though for the two boys on board, to turn to look at us to wave and say hello. Within seconds, the bike skidded and the two boys flew off, with the driver scratching his arms and breaking one of his shoes. In true Indian style, they promptly picked the bike up saying ‘No problem, no problem’ and proceeded to check the bike for damage. Within a few minutes the boys were back on their bike and off down the road before we knew it, when suddenly with them out of sight around the corner, we hear a loud grinding against the gravel and an eventual crash of the bike hitting the ground. We rushed around the corner to see if the boys, who seemed to be very accident prone today were ok, for the second time in the space of 5 minutes. With even more embarrassed faces, the two boys, lifted their bike up again and attempted to get on for a third time until we advised them to walk. We awkwardly walked alongside them the whole way down the mountain, with Frannie having to use her medical skills to bandage up the drivers cuts at one point. As we walked and walked, the boys would regularly attempt to get back on the bike, but would then decide against it and carry on walking beside us. Eventually after trying to hold in the laughter the whole way down, the boys got to the main road and hopped back on their bike. As we kept walking, we came across them further up road side with a bottle of coke they had bought, which they handed out to us and said ‘You helped us, you helped us’. It was so cute! We told this story a few times when we got back but It was obviously a ‘had to be there’ moment.
Afterwards, as we walked and walked down and around the spiral roads of the mountain, on the hard shoulder, we finally came to Laksman Jhula, where as soon as Frannie said ‘I bet the guys have gotten a taxi back’, they pulled up beside us. We heard ‘Jump in’ and saw the door opening while we spotted our friends all sat in the trailer of the truck. We jumped in and headed to the Honey Hut, where we planned an amazing lunch. This place had the best veggie burgers apparently and not only that but most of their food had honey instead of sugar making even the deserts healthy. A win for everyone we thought! After receiving our orders, all at different times, It was clear to us that these minuscule burgers, McDonalds style chips nor the ‘passion fruit smoothie’ I got, were anything special. It was the first meal I’ve ever eaten that actually made me hungry. Very unsatisfied, we left the restaurant and headed back over the bridge towards our ashram, where we could look forward to a nice meal that evening. It was always in our plans to go see Dilip, in Kanaan restaurant to order some delicious Nutella crepes and when Honey Hut failed us, we did just that.
Kanaan is a chilled out restaurant where we all go to hangout, eat some ‘naughty’ food, chat with friends, or do some study (not so much me) Amongst our favourite things to order are Chai Masala (traditional Indian tea with masala spices and lots of sugar) which is so yummy and cheap, Lemonana (which is a mint, lime and crushed ice drink which revitalises you with its zingy taste), Nutella crepes of course (speaks for itself), jumbo chocolate ball with ice cream (crushed cookie in a ball covered in coconut), and when we are feeling too guilty to treat ourselves we will opt for butter toast with honey which satisfies the craving. It seems that all we talk about is food here and when, during a normal conversation, we catch ourselves mentioning food, we can’t help but laugh and say ‘Here we go again’. We are the little piggy’s of Rishikesh but I love it!
It also seems that when it comes to writing my blog, there are so many small details that have become so normal that I forget to mention them but yet in a normal routine It would be something out of the ordinary for me. For example doing Neti pot in the mornings. We do this only when it is not raining outside and it sets us up for our pre yoga Pranayama (breathing exercises) by cleansing out our nose. It’s funny that as I write this I am congested with a cold and couldn’t do the neti this morning, nor do the Pranayama properly. It is said that when your right nostril is clear it means you will be able to perform asana (physical postures) that day, which kind of guides me during the day. I feel that since I have started doing yoga again I have changed physically and mentally, but maybe not emotionally! It is said that when doing hip openers, you release a lot of tension and trapped emotions which you may have held for a while and I sometimes feel that these come about at random times for me. It seems like there is a lot to take on here when it comes to studying philosophy and the meaning of life and I’m struggling to find myself. I feel like here is the best place to be to find myself but its still a very overwhelming experience, sometimes quite hard to escape. Nevertheless I know there will be days like this in life and in these circumstances its bound to hit me harder than it would anywhere else.
As I sit here and write this from the quite area of the terrace dining hall, while everyone is in their rooms just after finishing class, I feel a sense of peace for once. Its nice to have somewhere to retreat to and I think that once I master meditation It will be nice to have that constant ‘bliss’ we all search for.