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November 28, 2017

I awoke early in Haridwar, eager to start the day, but there was no breakfast yet, so I decided to take a quick walk outside.  One step out of the gates blocking the hotel from the street and it was clear I was not ready for a walk alone in India.  The streets were crowded with sadhus and bikers.  There were tents lining the road. some with small fires, some selling chips and cokes, and not a cute coffee shop in sight.  Not that I expected one, but still.  I popped back inside, got coffee and breakfast and we were on our way to Rishikesh!

Along the way, we picked up Krishna.  Not that Krishna, a 20 year old business student, who would be my guide for the day.  Ajay (I finally learned his name) dropped us by the Ganges and lit a cigarette as Krishna and I headed for the bridge – a 450 foot suspension over the Ganges and built in the 1920s.  Motorbikes, dogs, and pedestrians going in both directions shared the single lane and every step made the bridge sway, but the views of the mountains – my beloved Himalaya – and the river below us made it worth it.

On the other side of the bridge and river lay temples and ashrams.  This is the birthplace of yoga.  There is an annual yoga summit that brings tens of thousands of people every year.  The few westerners I’d see all day were at the ashram and were easily identifiable as Kripalu types who were taking their practice all the way.

There was a tree that had formed an Om and the face of Genesha (my favorite god) in its trunk and there were signs at every statue saying “give only your spirit.”  It was a very zen place.

As we left, Krishna said do you like pashmina?  No sooner had I said yes then I was sitting in a shop with row after row of delicate scarves being unfurled in front of me.  A rich pink beauty in my bag we got into a boat to take us to the other side of the river.  An older indian woman shoved her phone in my face.  A small child waved from the screen via FaceTime as the woman and her companion laughed.

The trip across the river was no more than 5 minutes, during which I dangled my fingers in the holy river.

Back in Haridwar, one of the seven holiest places for Hindus, we wandered through a crowded parking lot, over a bridge and to Har Ki Pauri, the holy city along the river.  There hundreds of worshipers were ritually bathing and performing prayers for the dead.  Krishna asked if I would perform one for my mother (whom I’d earlier outed as dead when the pashmina salesman tried to up-sell by telling me a blue one would be perfect for my mother).

A practicioner sitting at the ready smudged my forehead with red dye, filled my hands with flowers and asked me to repeat sever Hindi words.  I got Visnu and Om right but that’s about it.  He dipped my forehead in rice and then sent me to the water.  Ankle deep  I tossed the flowers into the river and watched them float away.  Another practitioner tied my wrist with red and saffron threads.  Im not sure the significance, but i like having it.

We dropped Krishna off on a highway overpass to make his way back to Rishikesh and Ajay and I headed back towards Delhi.

More later.  Must sleep

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One Comment
  1. inacity permalink

    Oh my gosh, I am so glad you’re not dead! Or being held captive somewhere! You don’t write for 24 hours, I worry. And if I’d gotten one of those emails saying you were lost/trapped/out of cash in the middle of Delhi, I would have wired you a couple bucks, so, I’m glad you’re not! And OMG the Ganges! And the bridge! And flowers! And Ganesha! So exciting!

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