Jungle gym

Trip Start Sep 07, 2011
Trip End Jan 07, 2012

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Flag of India  , Uttarakhand,
Friday, September 30, 2011

A river, two streets, two bridges: this is the Rishikesh known to the many tourists who come to these parts where the Ganges leaves the mountains to flow down the plains. These travelers crowd the many ashrams and ayurvedic treatment centers on either side of the holy stream, looping clockwise from Ram Jhula to Laxman Jhula and back again, sharing the two narrow bridges with numerous monkeys and as many motorcycles.
"Reess-hee-kess" proper (local pronounciation) is a few kilometer westward, a town en route to/from Haridwar, which is another holy Ganges town more patronized by Hindus than visitors such as the Beatles.
A peaceful week of pujas, morning yoga and waterfalls: our own mode of detox. We stared at monkeys, marvelling at their anthropic expressions, catching them red-handed in a master-minded ambush. A large male macaque provoked a banana vendor into chasing him with a stick, thus clearing the way for two or three accomplices to loot the fruit-laden cart at lighting speed. Much general laughter ensued...
We attended evening prayers on the Right Bank of the Ganges, initiated by three free-spirited little girls we'd met on the beach. Aged between 5 and 7, from Germany and Israel, they'd been in Rishikesh for six months and, judging by the smiles set on their faces, were having the time of their lives. Let loose onto a strip of sand they called their own, the Ganges was their playground. After much splashing about, they distributed popcorn indiscriminately to the dozen or so adults present, a motley crew of tourists, priests, pilgrims and homeless. When the priests began the aarti (worship by fire), the girls took active part in the intimate ceremony. Their childish freedom was a pleasure to watch.
Other Israeli "locals" engaged in ceremonies of their own as Rosh Hashanah dinners of all kinds and for all tastes popped up around town (there must have been some 500 Israelis in Rishikesh round this time). Local prices for apples and honey soared.
In our enclave on the Upper Bank, we congregated with the other "locals", befriending a cuddly couple from Haifa, Rona and Guy -- a graphic designer and fellow architect. Morning and evening chais were regularly had at a nearby garden café, where we were greeted with equal regularity by the young Nepali waiter's cynical yet welcoming "heeeeelllo... how are youuuuuuuuuuu.... I'm gooooooodd"...
Aware as we were that a few days in Rishikesh would not be remotely sufficient for any serious mediation or yoga training, we took matters lightly when our instructor at guided meditation told us to feel the frequency in our left toe (Elad started imagining colourful sine waves, Elvire fell asleep). Our travel-sore bodies were far more appreciative of early morning yoga (aka stretching). The young yoga teacher rode in on a shiny new Yamaha motorcycle, in blue jeans, leather jacket and slicked hair. The helmet came off; yoga clothes came on. The "new India": this yogi spoke as fast as an auction broker as he guided us through age old asanas...
In Rishikesh, temples unfurl into bridges and waterfalls flow into the Ganges. As for us, our playtime over, we veered right and followed another Ganges tributary, the Yamuna, downstream towards Delhi, India's big bad capital.
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Tamara on

Rishikesh was the one place where I, the 'white-folk' was left alone by local touts, while Sudarshan, the genuine Indian, was pestered to death to have a memorial service done in one of the small kiosks for the sake of his ancestors. Sudarshan was sure that they had full records of him and his family in the local archives (his family made several pilgrimages there, including the time his father died, and he, a young child, had to dip in the icy water). All he had to tell them was his place of birth in India, and they would find the family records. To get rid of them, he insisted--and you can imagine his voice, hand wave and impatience-- that he was "born in Montreal", which only provoked laghter and further attempts. Not getting anywhere they suggested that at least he should subsidize a service "in honour of Mata-jee", meaning me.

Tamara (mata-jee)

Eyal Nitzan on

Didn't mentioned it till now, but great photos - you managed to capture the different flavors of this amazing country, keep on the good work of updating us left behind to work :-(

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