Tale 2: Raju-Baba in Rishikesh – By Nick Goslett

By Nick Goslett
The Beatles Ashram
The Beatles Ashram

In the first missive I omitted to say that (a) in the evening and early morning it’s cold .. brrrr.I had left my fleece in Kovalam and immediately had to buy another, and (b) though Rishikesh is clean the trek up to the holy temple was the more usual garbage dump!


I had read this article on the Sadhus of Rishikesh so by sunrise I was down by the banks of the Ganga expecting immersions (there are iron poles every five yards with ropes to hang onto since the river moves so fast).Not a sadhu in sight.On my way I had seen some going the other way so decided to follow the next lot and upon turning up a side street I saw many of them, some running and there in the street next to my hotel were upwards of 150 seated each side of the street outside an ashram from which would emerge people to give them food and drink and perhaps money.I took a few surreptitious photos then engaged three in conversation and with a donation of 50p each took a group one (but unlike most Indians they do not want selfies!).After an hour they decamp to the other end of town for a free breakfast.Then off for breakfast and by chance I caught the eye of Raju-Baba who spoke enough English to have a proper conversation.We agreed to meet again and after my breathing/meditation we purchased chai (incredibly sweet delicious little cups of Indian tea).He told me that I should not give them money since they drink it away with whisky but what they would really like is blankets.The chai-seller told us where to go in the main town and off we went in a tuk-tuk and scoured the market for ones at a good price.I bargained fairly well (I think) and 12 plain orange ones were purchased.Six I gave out the first night at about 9pm when they were curled up outside for sleep and they all seemed pleased; another five last night and one for Ragu-Baba today.I meet with him many times now and gradually his story unfolds.He had polio when born and his left side does not work well hence he is disabled and did not get any schooling so not work and no wife! He has lost his papers which makes life difficult.Sadhus used to travel free of charge but Modi has changed that.Begging is much more difficult under Modi and their income has dropped by 90%.He has been in Rishikash for 11 years, is going back to Delhi is tow days time to see his family who don’t approve of him.He is 32 … I thought he was nearer 50!


In the afternoon, I went to look round the Maharishi Mahesh’s ashram (now called The Beatles Ashram).In the late 60s and 70s it must have been spectacular –– but now it is run down and falling to rack and ruin but nevertheless a peaceful place and one can imagine the beauty.Lord knows how but there were elephant dropping on the path even though it is all enclosed.In the “cafeteria” (there’s a euphemism) 10 different teas were advertised but lie the Model T you could have any one you wanted as long as it was Green!


The next morning I awoke somewhat depressed.Perhaps leaving the EU and the worry of a coronavirus suspect in the Rishikesk hospital had something to do with it but I was not too sure why I was here and worrying about what to do with the rest of my time since I didn’t want the pain of yoga and I had ‘done’ the town.My lovely meditation guy told me that that was the last class since he was going off to lead a retreat which added to my worries.BUT … India confounds.Upon returning to the hotel I was told that I could take a raft trip and by 1pm, in a state of some trepidation, I was in a boat with a Chinese-US guy, an Indian girl who couldn’t swim and two Chilean cousins, one of whom was about 6′ 6″ and no Indian wet suit came close to fitting.Two class 3, one 2.5 and two hours of exhilaration, at one point swimming holding onto the raft in one of the more gentle rapids.We ended up at the third part of Rishikesh, another yoga/meditation centre but larger than mine with many more streets and shops.On the walk back, by now feeling very chipper, I spotted a notice for a classical concert in an hour’s time so high-tailed it to the hotel to make arrangements for my future plans and was walking back to where I thought it would be when I luckily asked someone if he could look at the notice and tell me where to go. The map was the wrong way round and I was heading in the wrong direction so I retraced my steps and was crossing the bridge when he tapped me on the shoulder and told me to hop on his motorcycle and took me to the place which I would otherwise never have found. To top off the day, wonderful chanting, sitar playing, bamboo flute playing, and flamboyant tabla playing by the man who runs the Music School though I think he could not keep time very well when at full speed!


Today I spent more time with Raju-Baba, strolled down by the Ganga to the other place – Lakshman Jhula – meditating now and then, climbed the 13-story temple, had lunch for 60p with a sweet Indian family, the father in the army and the young son practically bursting wanting to talk to me in English but trying to pluck up the courage.He did in the end.I finally got around to doing a drop-in yoga class and it not being too painful and the 90 minutes passing in a flash, I will repeat it twice a day now until I leave in three days time for Patiala and Amritsar, both of which were on my abandoned itinerary 18 months ago.







I am being chased out by the owner so this is unchecked but comes with lots of love to you all.


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