Tuesday night at 3 am I awoke with a cough and cold. Upon Googling coronavirus I of course had all the symptoms. There had been one woman hospitalised in Rishikesh (and I read that there is a definite case in Brighton for when I get back) and another in Kerala where Sylvia, Lindsay and Sally had gone … but surprise, surprise it was merely a summer cold and all is well.My trip to Amritsar via Patiala came to an abrupt halt (after they had initially checked the train for Patiala and booked the hotel) for that train no longer existed! (Parenthetically, the one I am due to be on tomorrow to Amritsar also no longer exists but they think I can pick it up at the next station after a three hour taxi ride.)
As it happens I was not dismayed. Yoga the night before had tempted me back (after suffering an injury caused by a yoga teacher some years ago) so I abandoned all thought of Patiala. My days have become much less exciting: I stroll along the shopping street towards my early morning yoga, picking up a samosa on the way (the street food is fresh and tasty, mostly samosas and potatoes patties with lost of sauces, some spicy, with not a fly to be seen since it is too cold and too clean). I usually encounter Raju-Baba and we head to the first chai of the day. The yoga teacher, Pankash, is the best I have ever had and every class is completely different and tests muscles that have been forgotten about over the years. In the early morning it is cold and usually the wind is blowing but by the time yoga has finished the wind has dropped and the sun is out making for a pleasant warm 2 km stroll to Lakhsman Jhula for a ginger, lemon and honey drink (or two) in a cafe by the water’s edge, reading a book in the sun (with my hat on!). I can thoroughly recommend Dalrymple’s Anarchy, the tale of the East India Company and the many warring Indian cities from 1700 to 1800. So many deaths and brutality; so much intrigue on all sides; so much money extracted from India into the coffers of the British. From there it’s lunch at the street cafe, a massage (the first two were excellent, yesterdays’ rubbish) then a stroll back to the yoga with attempts at breathing and meditation by the Ganga. Yesterday after yoga (and today) I went to Satsang during which a lady originally from Los Angeles – now Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati Ji – who is now a major guru, talks and answers questions for an hour about such things as “How to we cope with the ego?”, “What is Truth?”. Much of it difficult for me as an agnostic and not believing in a soul but nuggets to chew on nevertheless. She has a wonderful smile and is very much at peace with the world.
Yesterday I lost my hotel key, thought it must be at the cafe by the Ganga so went back after the Satsang and although not there the manager said that in India all is returned. Sure enough, I chanced upon the yoga instructor when I got back and there is was in the yoga room.
In the street with the shops there are two sorts of music: a record shop plays the same tune over and over; when I asked the owner if he ever changed it he replied “not for 18 years – it is very popular”; the other is a group of four Sadhus playing drums and bells and singing “Rama Krishna” tunelessly for about seven hours. However, I sit with them and they smile at me beatifically!Rishikesh has always been a very spiritual place for the Hindus and the many old and enormous ashrams were for prayer, meditation and bathing in the Ganga; yoga was almost non-existent. In the last 20 years all that has changed and the sadhus are gradually moving away, disenchanted with the modern world of yoga tourism. I was told yesterday very firmly by Dr David Pritchard, who has set up orphanages all over Africa and India, that yoga should be a precursor to meditation not an end it itself. I happen to think that things can change but I was not prepared to argue the case. He is now living in Rishikesh and trying to become a sadhu and get rid of the Self … but interestingly he only talked about himself!
Today I took a long walk along the Ganga to a waterfall that I wanted to visit but upon starting up the path a policeman dashed up and told me that elephants were around and it could be dangerous and the path being narrow with no means of escape .. I took his advice!
I am looking forward to the train trip tomorrow (after my last yoga, of course) and the Golden Temple on Sunday (and Monday)..
Much love to you all