Thursday, November 27, 2003

Happy Thanksgiving to those celebrating! India is pretty quiet about that one. It was a different story yesterday for Eid, the feast for the end of Ramadan. There were many extra treats on hand to add to the birthday celebration yesterday. That's right, I had a fabulous birthday with friends and family here in Lucknow. I have made my way south from Rishikesh by way of 36 hours in Dehli, and I think I am going to stay here for a while. Tentatively planning to go to Goa at the begining of next year with Dhanni, I may put off my visit with the monks until then. It seems as though I have put myself about as far away as possible from them at this time. C'est la vie.

So, many things cooking in the travel fire at the moment, but it all has been built on a fantastic foundation of sweets. I had a record five different deserts yesterday to help celebrate my biffday yesterday, the last of which literally took the cake, an Applespice cake with almonds on top. Thank you Raju.

Rishikesh was a wonderful mix of friendships, rest, the Ganga, exploration, reading, eating, stomach bugs, and all the other stuff that fills the details along the journey. I will probably be returning there in January to attend Dhanni's sister's wedding. Then maybe some more time in Dehli. I have the possibility of studying Kashmiri cooking with a chef, Trilochan, for a month. Wow, I am honestly begining to admit I've caught the India bug. Many times people along the way have asked, "How many times have you been to India?" Naturally, my answer is one, and they often count off about their revelations and numerous journeys. Well, if I come back count me amongst their ranks. It looks like it could happen. My visa is good through April, and we'll just have to see about it.

Tomorrow we're off to Azamgarh, that is where Organic India's main herb farm is located. It is the end of the harvest, and there will be a celebration perhaps numbering 5,000. There will be many people to meet and greet as well as, ha ha, more sweets. More detais to come.

Time is counting down until I am with Dana again! This is a very fine thing by my estimation. Beaches, bungalows, and mai-tais oh my!

Saturday, November 15, 2003

What a bizarre turning of events has happened today. Dhanni kept asking me for the past several days to watch the cricket match happening today. And, I explained I would catch it on the train on my way to Varanasi. Well, the opportunity to change directions again presented itself today, and I made a change. At least, I thought I had made a change. A later questioning friend, Dhanni, asked how long the other people, who I had agreed to meet up with in Manali, would be staying there. In a phone call sometime later they said they would be leaving the earliest day we could arrive. Hum, what to do. Some days back I wondered whether I was ready to leave Rishikesh. And, perhaps this is the way it should have ended. Dhanni and I are now discussing travelling around this area between some different villages. Life is pretty natural and comfortable becuase of the hills and their bounty. We look forward to a great few days adventuring, and there was also some mention of a local Djembe maker. I would love to learn to play with some rythym. Drums are excellent.

I hope this entry finds people well and cared for.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Internet connectivity has been spotty at best. I am up in the foothills, and apparently everybody has the same idea at different parts of the day, clogging up all the available bandwidth. Nobody here has satellite connections, and it seems like there is enough demand that a cafe with five computers could make a killing. Capitalistic endeavors aside I have been having an amazing past week here in Rishikesh. I tried to put up a post several days ago, alas, I was unsuccessful.

I met a local guy named Dhanni, and he and I have been trapsing around the area seeing the best of what's around. One day I rented a bicycle as he already had one, and we made our way several kilometers up the road then treked into the hills a couple kilometers with much climbing to see a waterfall. Wow, it was pristine, and the water was fine. I was ready to dive in the moment I saw it, the combination of high altitude, bright sun, and drenching sweat prepared me for the crystal water; although, wisely, he suggested it would be better for the health to cool off first in the shade. Yea, so he was right, but I got that amazing dip in the water! Never too cold, not at least to get in and out... Still, if I could have gills, I would take them. Since that's not going to happen, I'll take my opportunities to enjoy a nice swim.

Then, two days back we rented a jeep and headed up into the hills with the intended destination of Kanjapuri. It is a temple atop the tallest foothill in the area here. From there we watched an amazing sunset, and I also got my first glimpse of the Himalayas. On our way up we stopped in a village to do some walking and sightseeing. As we were on a particular hill I noticed some schoolkids playing what appeared to be soccer, and I asked Dhanni if we could go take a look. We headed down to the school. We were warmly received by the principal and some teachers. As was customary they offered us tea, and it just so happens they had Jelabees there. Jelabees are by far and away my favorite Indian sweet. It is a pastry like dough that is fried in oil then the result is rolled in a sugary syrupy creation. The result is bliss. That's the best for the sugar lover in me.

I thought my time here would be spent doing some yoga, but that is not the way that it has gone. Dhanni introduced me to some members of his village yesterday and we enjoyed some really amazing dishes since he invited me to dinner. His village is highly functional and the people are all quite warm towards each other. Especially when everyone is watching cricket. The Assie's were beating up on the Indians last night. I didn't go back to see the conclusion after dinner because I needed rest, but google News just confirmed my suspicions, India was beaten (not that I have loyaties). Cricket has been fascinating to learn about, and I actually enjoy watching the sport.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

I arrived Haridwar this morning. The train from Dehli left problemlessly, and the train station posed no threat as I entered with ticket in hand. As retribution I got to waive off everysingle person that asked if I needed assistance. Oh well, some lost friends, perhaps. Had the opportunity to delve into Alexander McCall Smith's second installment of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, 'Tears of the Giraffe'.

Arriving in Haridwar I had not made arrangements for accomodations, but I knew the city was busting with hotels, and relative to other places it could be cessed out on foot. How's that for everyone that knows how anal I am about planning? I'm beginning to come into my own here in India. Travelling is taking on a very relaxed feel for me, and I am comfortable to make my way around and see what is available. Tourist Bureau can be quite helpful for the this that and the other that guidebooks don't always offer. A nice complement for successful travel.

After settling into the cozy 'City Heart' hotel, with a great rooftop terrace Haridwar became my oyster. I took a ride on the chair lift that quickly climbed the hill to the temple on the hill, Mandevi something or another. It was Hindu kitsch. Either that or I am at a complete loss for the meaning. It is so odd to want to offer a religious service immediately followed by a requested donation. The effect seems lost to me.

The particular reason I chose to stay here in Haridwar before moving along to my intended destination was to witness the aarti. This is everynight at sunset that the Ganga (Ganges if you like) is revered for its holiness. It was a beautiful ceremony. The blarring speakers could have been a bit clearer. I learned the hymn for puja while in Lucknow. The tune cares a nice melody, but tonight it was a bit staticy. The farm version and the Ganga version differ each with their own charm.

So, I am headed into the foothills, and from tomorrow forward I will attempt to clear my head with a bit of yoga, trekking, perhaps rafting, and other activities like reading. Without constantly being told to read and decided how I want to occupy my time I have taken a fancy to reading. I am thoroughly enjoying reading a variety of topics. Although, David, I have to tell you, I am having a hell of a time getting through Development as Freedom. Amatrya Sen has me at a loss for the way he articulates himself sometimes. People have said the same for what I said, so on my more focused days I try to delve a bit further there.

The air here can't be cut with a knife like Dehli, and I undoubtedly will not be going out like I have for the past several nights. There's a time and a place for everything, and this time happens to be quite mindful.