I am currently sitting on some soft floor cushions, nestled in the corner of a local Ayurvedic cafe here in Vill Jounk Swargashram in India. I have been living in this small village for the last two and a half weeks. This remote area is located at the start of the Himalayan mountain range outside of Rishikesh. I am here participating in a 6 week long, 200-hour yoga certification program.
Right now every one of my senses is being stimulated. Despite the fact that there is a fan overhead, I feel the heat and humidity of India’s summer climate. The electricity could shut off at any moment and I am well aware of this fact, as it often does. Lights will flicker, fans will turn off and all water will be gone, all in an instant. But, for now I am wholeheartedly enjoying the cool wisp of air that this fan is offering.
I hear men working outside the cafe with power tools on some medal machinery. I also hear cows walking by, mooing. I look outside the open window and door and I see mango trees, hear birds and I look for monkeys playing around in the trees.
And, I’ve learned that both the former and the latter, are not always nice, especially when babies are involved. Advice? I’d say don’t make eye contact with a mother cow or monkey if babies are around, because it won’t be a pretty site.
As I begin to wipe away the beads of sweat that are beginning to form on my forehead, I also have to swat away about five flies. But, that’s nothing. Flies are everywhere here. And, they’re constantly swarming, landing and crawling all over everything. Even from the restaurant, I cannot help but notice the distinct smell of cow manure that lines the streets, of course the smell of manure is mixed with the smell of chai and curry from where I am sitting. Despite all of this, as I sit here I feel the comfort that my humble little cushion offers me in this humble area in our world.
As I walk through the streets here I am no longer shocked by the fact men will be peeing on the side of the road. I no longer attempt to pick up every piece of trash here, as I have seen the endless heaps of trash that seem to fill every gutter and clutter most open spaces. Coca-Cola bottles and cans, the wrappers of processed sweets, old corn cobs rinds and tissues litter every street corner here.
When I walk through the city area of Vill Jounk, I may see a man squatting and burning freshly mulled corn, over a small open flame. I may also see children running about barefoot and asking foreigners for rupees as their mothers attempt to sell bracelets and trinkets. I may also get stopped by a family asking for me to hold their baby as they snap a photo of me and the child.
The city is filled with Ayurvedic health food shops and with individuals selling fruits, veggies, fried dough and popcorn. If I walk down a long, unshaded path I can easily find my way to Lakshman Jhula, a busy little city with a large suspension bridge, tons of shops, people, smoke, smells and of course cows.
Near the bridge there are various Internet cafes that overlook the Ganges River. It’s beautiful to sip on a smoothie and watch the river rush and the people swimming and jumping around in the water attempting to cool down in this hot weather.
What I love about India is that it is real. It is rustic, it is dirty, it is not a cookie cutter kind of country. A majority of the people here live simply yet find joy despite their own physical poverty. The children run about picking mangoes, playing tag and sharing sweets with one another. I imagine myself in their place though it is rather different than my privileged western upbringing.
India is a country where people are raw, authentic and connected to their own humanity. It is more than just trash-filled streets, Delhi belly and seemingly strange sights and smells. It is a beautiful country filled with the second largest population in the world, settling at around 1.2 billion people. It is a country that may at first be off putting for some yet is complex and absolutely incredible. While I am here I will keep my heart and mind open to these new experiences that I am confronted with on a daily basis. I hope that being here, where I am learning about the ancient roots of the yogi culture, and experiencing a taste of what life is like in India, will help guide me towards greater openness, a more compassionate mindfulness and help me love people on a deeper level.
More to come on my experiences in India! I will soon share a post that will chronicle a day in the life of a yoga student (a.k.a. me) in India. Until then, stay true, live justly and always travel on. Peace and love.