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Rishikesh
2005-10-14

Hey all,
Feel like maybe I am sending too many of these, but oh well, don't worry a dry spell will be coming up soon. So I finally made it out of Delhi and somehow ended up here in Rishikesh, a holy city on the Ganga (Ganges) river. I have been staying in an ashram, doing yoga, meditation and rest trying to build myself up for Nepal. I have mixed feelings about this place... Its flooded with Indian tourists and foreigners daily and often feels like a spiritual Disneyland. The ashram I am staying in sometimes seems more like a cheap guesthouse than a spiritual sanctuary.

But nevertheless, there is some pretty exciting stuff happening here and it has been a great few days. There is a gathering of a couple hundred people on the bank of the river every day at sunset -- beautiful singing and music. The weather is cooler than Delhi, everything is much less expensive and there is a great river to swim in! I have also met some very interesting people (read below).

Sri Ved Niketan The ashram I am staying in. The patron yoga master of the ashram is said to be 124 years old! He is often just chillin in the shade.


Hills around Rishikesh


Suras Giri Baba Suras Giri Baba is a 22 year old nomadic holy man (baba). He says he has been wandering alone since he left his home at 14. He is really charming and interesting to talk to. As you might expect, I was a bit skeptical, but unlike the other hustlers I have met, he seemed really legit. I talked to him a while and he explained matter of faculty how he owns nothing and lives off of donations of others (but never asked for anything).

The next day, I ran into Suras Giri again and he invited my to visit his camp on the bank of the Ganges, just south of town. I was totally curious and took him up on it. He lives with 4 or 5 other babas, in 2 extremely basic, but clean little huts. I had a Pomelo with me and the resident "cook" (they all had their assigned jobs) offered to prepare it for me. With a big smile on his face, he carefully made this salad you see in this picture. It was simple, just the "meat" of the the pomelo, with sliced chili peppers and a little salt, carefully tossed. It was really tasty!


Baba Pomelo That evening they invited me to dinner. I accepted, and we had a spectacular meal, cooked over a wood fire, under the moonlight while the river flowed by. I couldn't believe how they were able to cook creamed curry, stewed vegetables and a mountain of paratha (all from scratch) with no kitchen at all!

I had been feeling a little weird about the fact that I had paid for all of the ingredients, but then hit hit me, I was so excited to drop $5 on flour, chilies, tomatoes, onions, etc. -- to support these guys, (holy or not) in what they were doing. I admired them and it really felt just like friends camping and eating together. I feel very lucky to have met them and been invited to eat there.


Well, tomorrow I expect to move on. Will get as close as I can to Nepal, maybe all the way to Kathmandu depending on how gung-ho I feel.


Take care,


-Jonathan


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