An Indian Odyssey
Rishikesh: May 22 – August 1
Ahh, Rishikesh…home of the Western seeker and occasional genuine guru. Yoga Capital of the World. Spiritual Supermarket of the Universe!
I love this high quality ad offering ‘galactic chronicles’ and ‘once in a lifetime experience’…
and this one asking if you are feeling ‘lovely’…but I’m sure it meant to say ‘lonely’…funny either way…
and this one offering what looks like a course in ‘Tour Guiding’…although no doubt s’posed to be ‘Study Your Guide’.
But enough on yoga and spirituality for the moment, let’s hang with the cheeky monkeys…
Check out this little gremlin – there’s plenty of them about…and they’re very good thieves as well. One girl had her glasses taken clean off her face. She instinctively grabbed them back and the monkey then slapped her across the face. Another girl had a monkey lean over her shoulder and take a single bite form her apple before leaving her be again.
They are extremely feisty buggers. My guesthouse owner used to fire his sling-shot at them regularly. I had several stand-offs with them at the guesthouse where they would gang up on me and try to take over the terrace. Mimicking their aggressive style (teeth bared, hissing and growing tall) just seemed to make them contemptuous of me and they would make sudden lunges even closer towards me. So eventually I added some lion-taming tactics with chair in one hand combined with the above and that helped me regain the terrace! But generally I felt a little self-conscious after this circus act and would retreat into my room hoping none of my neighbours witnessed my antics. 🙂
One of my neighbours, desperate for sun, took to sun-bathing bikini-clad on the unfinished top-storey amid reo-iron spikes where she hoped to escape the disapproving eyes of the locals. But I don’t think the solitary construction worker on the adjacent rooftop disapproved. He was unable to peel his eyes off her and get back to work for more than a minute at a time. 3 glances, dig. 3 glances, dig. 3 glances, dig. etc etc. Oh, the poor man, it must’ve been heavenly torture.
On another hot afternoon, policemen escorted two young western women off the river beach for smoking and being in bikinis.
Correct bathing etiquette for women – fully clothed on one of the public ghats in town. It was a beautiful site to watch how groups of women worked together to prevent prying male eyes while they changed from their wet clothes. A group of women would surround the bather and encircle her with a long sari to act as a screen and create a mini changing room.
And now to a common scene, above. Indians would often, without asking, turn their camera on westerners to record the novelty of seeing us fair-skinned, light-haired aliens. Many-a-time they would also ask to pose with us and sometimes, strangely, when they didn’t have a camera they would still ask/demand to pose with us for a photo on our camera but were not interested in receiving a copy of the photo – they seemed to just want the novelty of the experience.
This shop owner was a ripper – every time sometime walked passed he would call out ‘Everything is Possible’ of ‘Fantastico’. He was a bit ‘out there’ or perhaps a bit enlightened – one day I saw him sitting in his shop with multiple dried red streaks running down his face. He had earlier been walking in the rain and his tilaka (which symbolises the third eye) had run all down his face – he felt no need to wipe it off and left it for many hours. He looked like a very relaxed head-injury victim ! 🙂
One of the many riverside yoga schools.
There are several varieties of yoga schools and spiritual courses around Rishikesh. On one occasion I had a reiki session. Part way through the practitioner abruptly stopped and ran outside to attack monkeys that were attacking her precious cat amid a frenzy of screams, hissing and spitting. Shortly after we resumed the cat jumped suddenly onto my stomach and began preparing a place for its siesta. Tres relaxing!
Hanuman, the ape-llike deity, tearing open his chest to reveal Rama and Sita residing in his heart. Hanuman was an ardent devotee of Rama (an incarnation of Vishnu, ‘Preserver of the Universe’). A beautifully tacky sculpture, about 4 metres in height.
Shiva sitting atop a tiger skin at the Ram Jhula ghat – if you’d like to know why you can visit here…
Laxman Jhula (Rishikesh) at night.