I have been in Rishikesh for 3 weeks now. When I arrived I hadn’t booked any accommodation which is the first time ever that I have left it to the universe to sort it out. I would normally find this very stressful however I just knew that I would find somewhere to stay, even though it was the last day of a huge yoga festival. I ended up in a very clean room with a hot shower across the road (unbeknownst to me) from where the course I was going to attend is situated. There are cheaper places however this place suits me even if it did cost the huge amount of $18 a night. Pretty amazing stuff this universe thing! There are dozens of Ashrams and yoga schools in Rishikesh and a number of yoga teacher schools, so if your life evolves around yoga, this is the place to be. After having to slow down due to possibly broken toe and a cold, I did find it challenging however it was a great time to reflect and give myself some space to get used to where I was. It’s amazing how little one really needs in life. I managed to score a kettle (it was a swap situation with another traveller) so have been drinking heaps of tulsi tea (different varieties) and have not had coffee for some time now. Otherwise I just have what I bought with me. My room has a big outside shared area overlooking the Ganges where I hang out a lot reading.
I’ve worked out my favourite close by eating places most of which were the basic local Indian eating places and generally I spend around 200 rupees ($4) on my daily meals unless I splurge and have a big salad at Ramano’s Garden Cafe for 150 rupees ($3), which is absolutely necessary as Indian food is not very green, although I do love it. However I’m very happy to spend this exorbitant amount as it goes to the kids in the orphanage there where they live and are educated. I went to the touristy places to begin with, however, other than the prices being twice as much (sometimes more) I much preferred the food in the Indian cafes. In Rishikesh meat and alcohol are illegal which works well for me at the moment. I was told that it wasn’t that long ago that eggs were illegal too, however, you can get them now but it is not a common item on any of the menus. So I have become an alcohol and coffee free lacto vegetarian at this stage of my journey. I can’t see it lasting in some other countries that I will be visiting however it suits me fine at the moment and I’m sure I’m benefiting from it as well.
India is an interesting place. I had a conversation with an Indian university teacher who was visiting Rishikesh for Holi. As a sideline, Holi was outrageous! It is the Hindu festival of colours and they colour everyone in their wake! These people know how to party! Anyway, back to the story, this guy told me a bit about Indian culture. It appears that the culture is caught between the old traditions and the new world. He told me that marriages are still arranged generally and that for a love marriage to be approved by the parents, the boy needs to show that he is capable of making good money. The caste system still operates in many places in India which impacts on love marriages. He is in love with a woman who is in a higher caste than him, however, they can get married (and he could be educated) as the region he comes from no longer accepts the caste system. If they were in another region which adhered to the caste system he would not be educated and if he married his lover, he (and she) could be killed for defying the system. India is going through a state of cultural change which must create some amazingly wide generational gaps. It has been interesting talking to different people and having a small glimpse of their lives. One of the funniest things I saw in Varanasi was a Naga Baba (holy man), naked and painted white on his mobile phone! The old and the new!
While in Rishikesh, I have been attending a Tantric course which has as been interesting as the name suggests. It has been a mixture of theory, Hatha Yoga and meditations. I am completing week 2 of the 4 week course after doing the 3 day intensive course. I have felt some benefits from the course and feel that I am becoming more aware of my chakras and energies. I am very aware of my age amongst a class of young people who appear to be much more in touch with their spirituality and sexuality than I have ever been. I generally feel like an observer rather than a participant. Once the first weekly course started my daily routine was pretty set. Hatha Yoga class 2 hours at 8am. Breakfast, wondering around, going for a swim in the Ganges or just hanging reading. Something to eat mid afternoon and the 3 hour class at 4pm. Sometimes something to eat after but not always. Days off every now and then to wonder a bit further afield. It’s amazing how life falls into a pattern no matter where you are if you are there long enough. I feel like this is my home now. One needs to be occupied by a yoga course or suchlike as there isn’t a lot to do in Rishikesh otherwise and the place is overrun by western tourists however I totally get why travellers settle here for much longer. Racing from one country/region to another is a totally different experience. Staying in one place for a while is settling and we adapt easily to the different lifestyle. I think travelling alone when you are young is absolutely necessary and very different to travelling when you are older. It is easier to connect with others when you’re young and it is something one looks for. It also broadens your life in an amazing way. When you’re older you enjoy discovering your own strength and company once you manage the feeling of loneliness. Whereas I felt isolated to begin with on this journey, I now recognise the benefits and beauty of having space and time to absorb and reflect on life and to reevaluate what is important.