Sam and I have been reunited in the fabulous, chaotic city of Varanasi, but first let me tell you a little about Rishikesh!
Actually the Lonely Planet just about sums up one side of matters: “Rishikesh is very New Age: you can learn to play the sitar or tabla on your hotel roof; try laughing yoga; practise humming or gong meditation; experience crystal healing and all styles of massage; have a go at chanting mantras; and listen to spiritually uplifting CDs as you sip Ayurvedic tea with your vegetarian meal.”
But will you permit me to set cynicism aside for two blog posts in a row? Almost unbelievable for me, I know, but the thing is this: Is Rishikesh full of people getting their palms read? Yes. Are there more people sporting dreadlocks there than all other people’s hairstyles combined? Yes. Is it nevertheless an incredible place — magical even? Yes, yes, and yes.
Because when the Ganges flows through here, she’s bright turquoise, clear, and cool. She races through town, and cleaves the mountainous landscape in two. She reveals the spectacular secret colours of seemingly ordinary stones.
Oh, and there’s Maharishi Mahesh’s abandoned ashram available for a visit if you don’t mind bribing the guard to let you in. By now you should have no trouble understanding my love for this place.
But Rishikesh is also a place where the cows are so friendly that they come to visit you for lunch, where you’re enjoying your second bowl of Thukpa (Nepalese vegetable soup) of the day, because it’s so damn good.
And in the evenings, after the sun sets and all of the riverside chantings are over and the last of the candle-bowl offerings has been floated down the Ganga, the town looks like this:
And it just so happens that all the people you meet there are wonderful and welcoming and warm. They come from Germany and England and France and Ireland and Sweden and California and New Zealand. They’re with you whether you’re in the hospital or in yoga class or just sipping tea in your favourite restaurant at night. And they teach lessons you had once learned but forgotten about friendship and gratitude and support.
Missing you all and hoping you’re well.
From India with love,