Cows aren't dumb! This giant Brahma bull waited for the oncoming traffic to slow, letting the scooter and car in, and he walked alongside them, entering the traffic flow!
Yesterday was an interesting day, full of Firsts!
First, "The 3 Gs" (our agreed upon appellation, because we are: Gracielle from Spain, Graciella from Brazil, and Gina from All Over, managed to catch a tuk-tuk (small, cheap, multi-person taxi) into Rishikesh, without getting too ripped off or bounced too hard. Why is it that in every country it seems taxi drivers are notorious for either trying to overcharge for the ride, or at the other extreme, are amazingly kind, honest, and helpful? Perhaps they work too hard and make little money? Any way, the ride in was noisy, crowded, and interesting. These little tuk-tuks hold 10 people uncomfortably; that is, the 8 people crammed in back on two opposite-facing benches made for 3 thin people are uncomfortable. The driver and the one passenger that fits up front have their own seats. I sat across from a friendly, bright blue-eyed, Sannyasin from Denmark, who spends several months each year in Rishikesh. A Sannyasin is one who has renounced "worldly life" to dedicate themselves to their spiritual practices. A HIndu or Yoga sannyasin is analagous to a Buddhist monk or Catholic nun. We chatted a little about our spiritual histories, as she gave an old beggar a few rupees. Before we parted ways, she directed us to the market. The clarity in her eyes struck me, and her face has stayed with me, the image of her smile visiting me several times these past few days. I could feel the power she emanated; a calm, loving demeanor, at peace with herself and the world. This sannyasin's self-possession imprinted on me a desire to achieve the same, reminding me of my longing to live at an ashram without attachments in the outside world. I know that at this time, I would only be capable of living at an ashram for a short time -- maybe one year; I have too much wanderlust still flooding these veins.
Click "Read More" after the photos below for more!
In the market area of Triveni Ghat, it was slightly crowded and noisy, depending on the street. The main thoroughfare was the norm: semi-controlled chaos with scooters and pedestrians weaving between cars and tuk-tuks and cows. Looking like a cross between a spinning wind vane and a bobble head in a permanent state of being startled, I crossed smaller roads and alleys. To safely cross, eyes are needed in all four directions, and since I haven't grown extra eyes, I am constantly spinning my head like Linda Blair in The Exorcist, or like the above, even in small alley crossings 4 meters in width, the scooters fly by doing 20mph!
We saw and tasted many types of food and drink, most amazingly delicious. These I will describe in another expose'. People were nice and polite (except for a little pushing now and then), and most spoke pretty good English, which was helpful. I did not purchase a SIM so I can't use my translator app. As in all markets across the world, there were a variety of vendors, from food to clothes to clocks to cell phones. The prices are shocking; seeing a tag for 1600 rupees sounds expensive to those of us used to U.S. dollars or Euros, but in fact, 1600 rupees is $22.50, which is the price I paid for a winter outfit of long sweater and pants, beautifully embroidered! I believe this style of women's dress is called a salwar kameez. Worn in a culturally accurate manner, I would also have a long scarf that drapes across my chest and around my head, covering my hair. Now I have to return for the scarf, and another salwar kameez the colour of golden saffron that caught my eye like the sun.
We wandered down a side street lined with homes where children flew kites on the rooftops. These smallish, square kites are made of discarded paper or plastic wrapping, and so contrast in polychrome against the blue sky, and even more so against the rusted tin of rooftops, the laundry hanging to dry, limp over beaten-down brick walls. As we passed, of course the denizens of these two-story dwellings stared, peeking their dark heads out of doorways and windows, and the children giggled. One thing so unsettling about India is the amount of pollution and trash thrown everywhere. Empty lots have become dumps, street drainage is filled with discarded refuse and putrid oily liquids. As we admired one of a two well-maintained, bourgeoisie residence, a woman opened brass gates and swept dirt and trash out of her driveway, directly into the street and drainage. Both the trash and some obvious poverty is hard to gaze upon, without purposefully hardening the heart, otherwise it would be too hard to survive without trying to save every animal and human here. The number of stray dogs is unbelievable. I have yet* to figure out why cows wander the streets--unbranded and unmarked, which is difficult to fathom, as a former Texan. I do know that cows are sacred in India, but I wonder if anyone owns them, or if they own themselves (and their milk). The thought of that fills me with gratitude and warmth. Imagine a world where humans don't believe they have a right to murder animals indiscriminately, and that animal habitats were protected, and that their lives deemed important. That's a world in which I'd like to reside!
Today there are about 1.5 billion cows in the world. In many different countries humans and cows have formed close relationships. In England, dairy farmer Mark Evans spends all of his waking time with his cows, milking, feeding, and otherwise nurturing them. The African Masai tribe believes that all cattle were given to them from the great god N’gai at the beginning of time - a belief which today remains at the heart of their culture. India is home to a quarter of the world’s cow population. One major reason for this is that India’s majority Hindu community reveres cows and considers them to be “second mothers.” - www.cowism.com/secret-of-indiarsquos-street-roaming-cows.html
After wandering the streets for more than 4 hours, we finally stopped for lunch at an amazing restaurant that served flavors from all parts of India. But as I mentioned, I will describe the sights and tastes of this experience later. We had to head back to the ashram in a hurry after lunch, so that we would make the 4:30pm yoga class, despite being overstuffed with food and quite tired from all the walking. My "take" from the day cost about $40usd, and included 3 huge bags of high-grade Assam tea (for more authentic Chai when I am home); flip flops (100 rupees = $1.40); Ayurvedic amla-fruit shampoo, conditioner, and hair oil; the salwar kameez suit I mentioned earlier; and two huge bags of spices (cassia and what I think are basil seeds).
Having survived multiple street-crossings, I skipped dinner after an extremely fun and interesting, but exhausting day and went to bed around 8:00! It was definitely a day filled with Firsts: first ride in a tuk-tuk, first of many new flavors tasted and new foods tried, first purchase of an Indian outfit, and first time to meet a Bollywood Star! Oh yes, almost forgot that one! The man who ran the tea shop claimed to be a Bollywood star in many films, and even showed me some YouTube videos of the movies. We are now FB friends.
Yes, these many Firsts shall lead to many Seconds!
*Until I read this: ayurveda-sedona.com/knowledge-center/spirituality/holy-cow/