Just re-read my last post and laughed at the part where I said I hoped to remember why I wanted to come to India so badly. Happy to say I remember. Or, rather, I discovered.
I had a rough day and a half in Rishikesh. I was overwhelmed, tired and not having very much fun. Then a monkey stalked me on a bridge and stole my bag of clothes (new really cute clothes) and ran up a cable with them. It was a long day and an even longer story but a few highlights were that the roads were closed due to a wild elephant killing a motorcyclist, hoards of tourists (Indian) crowding the narrow streets from the nearby town of Haridwar (a festival where two million pilgrims came to celebrate and over 100 were killed in a stampede just the day before) and us walking several km through said crowds on a hot, smokey, dusty day – through traffic backed up for miles only to discover we had walked the wrong way. Through it all I told myself this was all part of the experience, I walked past wild pigs, cows eating plastic bags, impossibly skinny puppies that little kids were torturing, and stare after stare from the locals – we were the only Westerners. That all led up to being terribly lost and rushed to get to our Vedic astrology appointments with the lovely and wise beyond-his-years Annand. Which led to us hurrying (as fast as one could go on a bridge 5′ wide that’s choked with tourists, beggars, motorcycles and cows.) Which led to my “monkey stealing my bag” incident. I know it may not sound like much, but to me it was the last straw. I burst into tears once across the bridge and sobbed publicly without stopping. (more public staring) I was a total wreck. I made Rebecca take a picture of me. I look like a fragile old woman. I’d post it but I can’t figure out how to do it on my iPad. I wanted to document my lowest point in India. At that point I wasn’t sure if there would be more to come. As of today, it remains my lowest point.
There has been so much written about India and many references to the dung and the lotus blossom. India is all of the continuum. It is the darkest despair and the holiest heart. It brings me closer to my self – the shadow and the light. Annand said the evening we finally made it to his place: “India has a way of not letting you fall into a routine.” I think he is exactly right. In other words, don’t have expectations. being in the “flow” is always optimal but India has a way of forcing one to be in the flow whether you like it or not. The more a person needs to have it be a certain way, the more in trouble they will be.
That day on the bridge I was swimming upstream the whole time and I capsized. It took me about a day to start floating back up for air. First I had to cry a lot. Not even sure what it was all about but I sure felt vulnerable and exposed. After a day or so I started to feel grateful to the monkey for cracking me open. After that, the trip got a lot more enjoyable.
I want to write about the very best part of India – the people – and specifically the women – but I am at a fancy hotel in Udaipur, sitting poolside, and my tea just arrived so that will have to be tomorrow’s post. (I wrote a long piece about the lovely women and lost the whole thing – boo.)
Until then let me just say that I love this country and I knew I would. Not sure how I knew but I just did. And Rajastan is amazing…I hope I get back to Udaipur sometime very soon. Hear that Andy?