Friday, February 22, 2008

#7 - Feb 22, 2008- The Israeli Riddle and the Urge to Write

I’m sitting here for the first time since I arrived with the urge, or need, to narrate. I will do my best to give words to the day, in which nothing exciting happened and yet I am excited all the same.
Woke up this morning to a hazy sky, but the truth is, this weather might not be great for photographing, but it is perfect for walking, and this what I find myself doing now…walking….

Had my regular breakfast, took a nice hot shower, had my room cleaned and then headed out with a couple of “errands” in mind and then just the thought of meandering around. I found a little hole-in-the-wall chemist shop no bigger than my bathroom,

and I have placed an order with him for all the meds I usually buy up in Dharamsala. I thought I would have to go search in the market for a “real” chemist shop, but this guy was so excited to get my order…and says he can get everything for me by Sunday. I probably will be spending more in one day than he makes in a week, or perhaps more – but for me and my family it is a big savings and certainly easy enough to do while in India.

Then I continued walking down towards Laxman Jhula and passed by the Divine Resort where Vivek has his new center. Went in to check it out. The hotel is quite impressive and the rooms really nice, and if anyone would ever want a “real” hotel, rather than Swiss Cottage, in a good location, I would recommend it. The center Vivek is so proud of is nothing to speak of, but certainly not any worse than all the other places here.

And then down to Lakman Jhula, a stop off in a book shop to browse, cross over the bridge and thought to try out a new restaurant I had seen yesterday advertising ahurveda kitcheri which is the best thing for my recuperation. I went upstairs in the Jaipur Inn to discover a lovely and pleasant roof top restaurant, beautifully clean, lovely toilet, overlooking the bridge and the Ganga. And to my surprise, I was served absolutely delicious Chai (I overdosed on caffeine today, having a cup of real south Indian filter coffee later on in the day!) and a lovely serving of kitcheri and curd. Quite delicious and just the thing. And that is where I was sitting when the urge to write over took me. But I did not sit down to write then and there, and decided to just get my mindfulness going and write later when I came back to my room, which is what I am doing now.

While sitting quietly on the roof, enjoying the atmosphere, all of a sudden noise, and I mean NOISE…not the standard street noise, was heard coming from the bridge area. I went to look, along with the Indians up on the roof…it was a political demonstration…apparently this is election season in Utrerakand…first a guy was shooing everyone off the bridge and not allowing any new people to enter the bridge from either side. And then, the motorcycles began, each with 2 or 3 riders carrying flags, beeping their horns, and singing some campaign slogan apparently. And this went on, and on, and on…all the time people patiently waiting to cross the bridge from either side…tourists trying to get ON the bridge and being pushed back….and it went on, and on, and on….once over the bridge, starting to move up the main street, until there was nothing but a stream of motorcycles from one side of the bridge to the other and moving up towards Ram Jhula…and from across the bridge there seemed no end to the procession in site. It took a good 20 minutes for all these cycles to cross over and regular traffic to resume on the bridge, but the noise from below continued for another long while.

I had finished eating by this time, and decided to just sit and relax for awhile, when an American couple came up and we began talking. Seems they are staying at the Swiss as well after just arriving in Rishikesh. We had a really interesting conversation for about 45 minutes when we decided to part company until later in the evening back at Swiss Cottage.

I came to an interesting insight around that time. Seems last year, I never really discovered rishikesh. Frist I did my panchakarma, then I recuperated, then began meeting people and spending lots of time with others, and then I began working etc., etc., so that I had very very little time alone. Now, being completely alone, feeling good, and with perfect weather, I am exploring and checking out new places and finding a whole new side to the adventure of Rishikesh. It is almost like being here for the first time, only better, because I am comfortable with the place. Following the restaurant, I again walked up to Ram Jhula along the Ganga, when all of a sudden someone comes up to me and says “Jane, is that really you?” It was the guy Bernard I met last year who I went hiking with a couple of times and then seemed to disappear into thin air. He wrote once but that was it. His girlfriend back in Germany had dumped him meaning when he left India he had no home to go back to. I was quite surprised to see him and even more surprised that he remembered me, and my name. Seems he has now been in Rishikesh for 7 weeks, but since he left India last year, he has been moving around. He spent the summer hiking in the Italian Alps, and then spent months in Nepal, mostly around Pokara, and as mentioned, arrived back here to stay at a fancy ashram about 2 months ago. Says he will come visit me at Swiss, but I doubt I’ll see him again. Continued my walk and decided to try out a health food restaurant I noticed yesterday tucked in behind the taxi stand in Ram Jhula…and had a lovely snack of really really good home made apple pie made with whole wheat flour crust and, as mentioned, a cup of coffee. Had an interesting discussion with the owner (I will definitely be going back there to eat, they have a fantastic menu with brown organic rice, veggies, steamed etc., whole wheat pasta lots of stuff. And it is a little closer than Welcome Center and also has a nice sitting area up on the roof.)

And this brings us to the question of the relative absence of Israelis in India. Since I arrived here, even at the airport, then in the taxi, then here at Swiss and other places I’ve visited, the big topic of conversation is what has happened to the Israeli tourist trade here. It seems to have dwindled to a trickle, in relative terms. The theory (and I say theory as I have no way of knowing if it is true or not, although every Indian I speak to tells the exact same story…so somewhere along the line there must either be truth in it or very good propaganda by the INDIAN government to explain the loss of income from the lack of Isrealies). So, the theory is, that the ISRAELI government has asked the INDIAN government to not give so many visas to Israelis, and then to only give 3 month visas, because they need the Israelis in the country to fight and also don’t want the young Israelis here using drugs and coming up all screwed up! I don’t know if this is true, but every person I speak to is complaining of a BIG loss of business without the Israelis…clothing shops, restaurants, internet places…everywhere. There definitely is a conspicuous void of Israelis in the restaurants, shops, guesthouses and roaming the streets. It could be they are simply else where, but the stories from the Indians seem to say they are simply not here at all. The other tourists I’ve spoken too even mentioned that they were told they would be inundated with Israelis wherever they went in India, and so far they have seen very few…so there does seem to be some truth to the whole thing.

I finally came back to my room, walking up this time instead of taking a rickshaw, and feeling energies I haven’t felt in a long time. Oh, almost forgot…can’t get away from it. I bought some stuff. I don’t need anything, but I saw a couple of really different kinds of blouses and a new style pants I wanted to try, and couldn’t resist. Hope I will get use out of them when I get home.

So I am now back in my room. Actually out on the roof, using my laptop, which is actually on my LAP at the moment…waiting for a phone call from my Mother as usual on Friday…feeling energized, invigorated, and so very content. And now the thought of being here for only another month is quite difficult, but I will make the most of each day and know it will be good to get home as well. I will have work waiting for me…I will try to arrange workshops while here so that I can get right back to work..and I know that this short special time here will seem like a dream in a very short time.