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This piece could be given so many titles

“My First Dip in Mother Ganga”

“The Real India Experience”

“The Ganga is not just water, It is also FIRE!”

Sometimes the lessons we learn are hidden within the seemingly difficult experiences.

Yajna

Yajna

This story begins with my decision to finally take the full body bath in the sacred Holy Mother Ganga.  I waited until I found a secluded place of the main strip and also waited until the inspiration hit me.  I chose to take the dip on Friday, Divine Mother day.  I went down to the river bank along a back road where all the babas and sadhus spend their days.  At this time all was quite early in the morning.  I went at 5 am before sunrise over the mountains, and chanted all the mantra I know on top of a huge rock as the mighty river flowed beneath me.
Bathing in the Holy Mother River Gangaji!

Bathing in the Holy Mother River Gangaji!

When I first set my feet in the water it was freezing beyond imagination, yet as soon as I dipped my whole body under, I felt no cold, only peace and bliss.  This would be the only peace and bliss I experience throughout the day.

The fire began to burn the moment I arrived back at the so called Ashram I was staying right on the river bank at Laksman Jhula (Bridge, Swing).  The ashram manager was no older than me, Indian fellow huge beard soft voice, slow in movement, very high vibration, very spiritual dude.  I had found a simple and very clean hotel off the main road, up a large hill, down this non-descript alley way, and was checking out.  He gave me my total and my question was WHAT?  He was charging me double per day than I had expected!  Normally I would haggle with him angrily as you have to do, but that was more difficult because he was on such a high plain.  So he came down a little bit but not much.  I was frustrated and learned a lesson, and its harder being on my own, if Gunjen was with me, that certainly would not have happened.  So now I needed more cash to make it through the week.  Full of spit and fire I walked up the steep hill to my new spot, nice family owned place, clean, no AC cheep as all get out.

View from my room in the ashram in Rishikesh

View from my room in the ashram in Rishikesh

Using the forces of the Earth I was also on a quest to find a center piece Murti (image of God) for mine and Gunjen’s puja room.  We wanted a marble statue with, most importantly, a nice looking face with eyes and a smile that set you at peace.  I had been searching for one for days, and trying to get the best price and buy it from a shoppy shop where I actually liked the people inside and felt a good vibe from them.  On my way to the shop I found an ATM and was denied cash withdraw… more money issues.  That was common on my last trip, some ATMs just wouldn’t let you take money for whatever lame reason.  So I was again frustrated yet never the less, moved on.  I stopped at a few more places before going to the one that I like most just to be sure I was making the right choice of Murti.  I had a long conversation with the owner about his family and why he does what he does, and decide to make the purchase.  Again the card was denied.  This time feeling concerned I went to an internet stall to look at my bank account.  Frustration brewed when I could log on to every other site in the world at this internet stall except the freagin’ bank.  So I pick up my wiry bones to the next stall all the way across the bridge of Ram Jhula (swinging bridge dedicated to Lord Rama).  Sure enough some funny business was listed on my account.  Some purchase at Rajun Cajun in Houston, I thought, WTF! (that means Why The Face?)

The most frustrating part of this bit was that it was around 11 am and earlier than the butt-crack of dawn in US so there was no getting in touch of anyone, family, nor the bank.  So I was stuck, alone, frustrated and worried.  I started to write in my book back at the Hotel.  I was so upset that money holds so much weight in this world.  Many friendships and marriages end because of it, and now my peace of mind was being stripped.

Perspective

Perspective

I had a meal at this hippie joint called Little Buddha, it’s an utterly amazing place right on the river set high looking down on the River scenes.  My plan was to keep breathing and wait until a decent hour to make more phone calls.

Waiting for Aarti

Waiting for Aarti

My favorite part of being here in Rishikesh is every evening they have a Mangala Aarti (waving of the flames) and a yajna (fire ceremony) on the river bank at Parmath Niketan Ashram.  The sun sets as hundreds of people from all over the world (mainly Indians and the young Pandits (priests) of the Ashram, sing bhajans to the river.  I called my father because mom wasn’t answering, it was still very early morning in US.  She has signature and access authorization on my bank account.  He said he had been trying to reach her too.  I tried to keep my heart soft, and told him I would make another call after the Aarthi.

Giving Offerings into the Yajna Kund (fire ceremony pit) directly on the Ganges River Bank

Giving Offerings into the Yajna Kund (fire ceremony pit) directly on the Ganges River Bank

The first few times I attended the Aarti I was taking video and pictures, this time I just vibed it out and sang my bloody heart out.  Jai Jai Gange, rang in my heart.  Observing the level of devotion in the hearts of the people in the surroundings of the eveing fire ceremony was so inspiring.  You can truly sense from these people that they are connected in the channel of God, and are sitting and bathing in it.  There are no words to describe the feeling exchanged when chanting, singing, and praising the Holy Mother River.  It is not the same as thinking of the river in your mind and praising it.  Actually being there and feeling the River’s vibrations are totally different.  It has an intense effect on your body.  The sun setting, the moon, the energy of the stars, and planets, the trees and birds and nature around, the devotion pouring out of the hearts of the people here, the love, the excitement, the hope and praise.  It leaves me feeling like I am merely a particle floating around and an energy web, and that web is connected to all things.

My relationship with water, trees, nature is deeply inhanced through these practices of sitting at the fire, connecting with the water.  If you listen without thinking, and open your heart to the energy of the Mother Earth, She will speak to you, She is aware of your presense and wants to give to you.  All we are doing is taking, and feeding, little do we give to the Mother Earth in return.  The least we could do is give a little heart felt praise.  It feels warming to the heart.

Sunset  duriing praise and Aarti for the Gangaji

Sunset duriing praise and Aarti for the Gangaji

The ceremony was over and I called my mother.  She had all the news… finally.  Word was that someone had indeed stolen my identity info and was trying to make purchases, the bank knew that I was in India from a note I had placed on my account before leaving.  So when the Rajun Freakin’ Cajun purchase was made, they shut r’ down.  Good thing!  They said they saw many attempts, and two other attempts made in Houston, one at a Kroger that was an attempt to totally drain the account, how uncomfortable.  My mother explained to them that it was impossible for me to sift through the service number at the bank and that she could handle everything from her end.  The plan was to open the account for just long enough to make my withdrawal and then close it again.  My nerves were on high, because that meant I needed to withdraw all the money I needed for the rest of my trip….  which was tens of thousands of rupees (Indian money).  I stopped at the ATM, it was open, the time here was now around 7pm and already completely dark out.  I stepped in the ATM stall while the guard watched closely. (This next bit lacks in spirituality so if you are here just for that I’m sorry in advance.  However, it is real to life and anger and frustrations are all part of that.  I’m just being honest with myself and who I am, so that I can improve, I don’t say by any means, that my behavior is acceptable.)  I made my phone call to mom, she then called the bank.  I had to wait and call her back to know that the account was open.  The guard gestured for me to step aside and let the next person go.  I told him, “sure please wait,” He didn’t like that.  Called mom, got the go ahead.  I kept mom on the phone; she could tell I was nervous.  The Indian ATM’s say weird verbiage like “current” instead of “checking” so I tried and failed several times trying to find the right buttons to push, dropping the f-bomb left and right, all the while a line was building and the security guard was getting more frustrated with me, and tapping and poking me.  I told him bluntly and angrily, “you are going to give me the time I need to do this, now BACK UP!”  He didn’t say a word after that.  Even now as I right it I’m dying laughing inside, and in actuality it all went by so fast I’m not sure if I actually said it aloud or in my head and with my body language, (my mom swears I didn’t) however it makes for a better story, so I’ll leave it in.

I tried to withdraw a large amount of rupees, it kept telling me to ask for a smaller amount I did this about 15 times no kidding.  All the while my mom was saying stuff like “it’s ok, just breathe” and I could hear her do it like she was telling herself, and stuff like “please Jesus” damn right I’ll take anybody at this point, Laksmi, Jesus, who ever just get me my damn security!  Finally after what seemed like a million attempts I withdrew a little less than half of what I needed to finish out my trip.  Oh, but the story is not even far from over, Lo!

courage

courage

My phone call with my mom ended awkwardly because she couldn’t hear me, the phone was losing reception, little did I know it was because a MASSIVE rain storm was about to cover Rishikesh.  I hopped on the bike I had rented because the auto-rickshaw guys overcharge and I hate bargaining with them every freakin’ time.  I found a back road to my hotel near where I had dipped in the Ganga.  It is pitch black dark back there and you have to be really careful, yet this time, the rain started trickling in.  Before I made it a few feet, it came a “frog strangler” as the redneck side of my fam would say.  The rain was gushing straight down, I had my backpack with both my cameras and was getting soaked. I chose to just charge it the mile or so back the hotel and hope my back pack held up.  Weaving around cows and cow patties and driving over pot holes, pumping with all the will I have to bike up steep hills so I wouldn’t have to get off the bike and walk with rain gushing down, and racing around through God knows what else.  I made it back to the main road, yet my vision was so impaired from the rain I couldn’t find the small alleyway to my hotel.  I ducked under a small chat hut (fried food) to look in my bag, the camera was not wet, yet my back and body was drenched like I had been swimming.  An Indian man said, “Kya” (what?) I told him Gangotri (the name of my hotel)  He said, “Upside” and pointed, whatever the hell that means.  I took a deep breath and said f’ it.  Who knows how long this storm will last I’m not waiting here. I hopped on the bike and pushed the peddle, the chain had come off and I scratched the hell out of my ankle trying to get going, so pushing my bike in the downpour I carried on.  Lo!  I found it!  Except this time it was not an alley way. It was a river!  Not just a river but black water of straight garbage runoff and rain storm raging overhead making it impossible to even see.  Ankle deep in the trash river I was pushing my bike up the steep hill, so exhausted I was literally gasping on the out breath saying “huuuuh, huuuuuuuuh,” Finally I made it to the cover of the first floor of the hotel.  Parked the bike and walked my soggy sack up the 4 flights of stairs painting and heaving.

Fog set in the morning before the storm, it felt like living amoung the clouds

Fog set in the morning before the storm, it felt like living amoung the clouds

The story continues, as if this is not enough!  I am not in a hurry at this point, and slowly open the door to my room, with my first step in my room I slip and bust my ass.  Lord why has thou forsakenith meith.  I looked up at the sky and said what the hell, one more crack eh?  I stripped my clothes off as I tried to slow my breath, I could feel the atrophy in my muscles and fatigue all over my body.

I’m leaving so many little things out, like I actually went to 5 different ATMs all over the city, and talked to so many different people and came across so many obstacles, just imagine having to live everyday with that struggle…even to complete the simplest tasks you have fight your way through.  Imagine having to fetch water from a community faucet in a village, bring the water back, boil a huge pot over fire to get the water hot enough for cooking and laundry—then spend all day actually cooking or doing laundry and that’s just the beginning… there is still work to be done to make money for food.  Whew, it’s just exhausting taking all that in when you bear witness to it firsthand.  The point of the story is clear; life is just very hard here.  You have to keep calm and keep your wits about you.

working

working

Another couple of lessons and points are:  Part of being purified is getting burned, that day I was burned to a crisp physically and mentally.  I went into the Holy River wanting the water to cleanse my spirit and instead of water, Mother shot with fire, and oh yea a massive rain storm that didn’t let up until 4 am!

Devotion

Devotion

The rain pounded my balcony and window and reminded me who I am.  I didn’t sleep that much that evening—just continued loving the rain and respecting the great awesomeness of the Mother Earth.

Another lesson and a vision that popped in my mind was that God was telling me to be more cautious with my money that I will need it for something more at the end of my trip, so I’m not going back to the shoppy shop to buy the Murti, it was not meant to be.  Also going through all this trouble and knowing that the Indian people live it every day, made me feel that my problems are really nothing. Yet, I relate only to my own experience, so today was quite heavy.

Higher up in the mountains of Rishikesh along the Gangaji.

Higher up in the mountains of Rishikesh along the Gangaji.

I felt lonely and decided to give the bike back and take the time to walk slowly all over this beautiful place and do things that are, well, free!  Like observe, write, breathe, and meditate.  I am now on a quest to develop a deeper sense of patients, being able to listen, to be humble, to live a simple life, to not take absolutely anything for granted.

Other related stories click the links below:

Wonders of Rishikesh and the search for the Emerald Nose Stud

India Journals Delhi, Rishikesh, Deradhun