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As a child, I was in the habit of asking God questions and expecting answers. It never occurred to me that God wouldn't explain to me about my father. It never occurred to me that I wouldn't make it to Colorado. And it never occurred to me that I wouldn't go to India. But I didn't think like that.
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I just assumed that if God wanted me to go to India, God would come up with the money, somehow. I didn't put a logical limit, in terms of either time or effort, on how it was supposed to come. I just figured it would be there when I needed it and I went ahead with my plans.
It started to dawn on me that there was nothing that wasn't possible, and I started to live my life like that. Perhaps that is why I was so naive when I first went to India. It never occurred to me that anything bad would happen, so that construct of reality didn't exist for me.
Luckily, God covered my ass. Devout Hindus from all over India travel to a designated city on the Ganges River. Then, at a particularly auspicious moment, determined by a team of astrologers and pundits, everyone tries to bathe in the river at the same time. This wouldn't be so bad, but generally there are well over two million people in attendance at these festivals. The year was a Kumbha Mela year and Hardwar, on the Ganges River, was the city where it was to be held, in mid-April. I had offered to cover the event for East West Journal, so after spending a month or so in and around Bombay, I needed to think about beginning the journey north along with a few million other folks heading for the Ganges River in order to write about and take some photographs of this unique festival.
In early April, I packed up and jumped on a train to New Delhi. From there I could take a bus and arrive in the general vicinity of Hardwar a few weeks before the masses arrived for Kumbha Mela. I kept a journal while traveling in India. Here is an entry from the train trip I took from Bombay to New Delhi: "A few hours north of Bombay, it begins to get very green, green fields, green trees and orchards.
Every shade of green from lime green to deep forest green.source site
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It is the first green I have seen outside of Bombay's vegetable markets. It is breathtaking. It is one in the afternoon and people sit in the shade and watch the train go by.
The sun is degrees overhead. It is hot. A pig urinates. Men and women squat and watch and wait Oxen stand in knee-deep swamp grass A bicycle lies on its side in the dust A woman beats clothes on a rock in a small river. Saris are spread out on the grass, drying in the sun. Patches of bushes covered with assorted scraps of cloth and lengths of rags, all colors, all drying.
We seem to make quite a large number of unscheduled stops, in the middle of nowhere, miles from the stations, only shacks, farms, tiny villages. A man and young boy appear in the distance. They carry a shiny brass urn and cross the fields towards the front of the train. They walk to the side of the train and some exchange goes on.
The boy carries off two empty bottles. The simplicity is beyond the imagination, beyond conception. It can only be experienced.
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The simple rhythms of the passing landscape were like a meditation mantra. When I arrived in New Delhi, it was hot as hell. My backpack was too heavy, which made it feel even hotter. Suddenly I was hot, sweaty, overburdened, and stressed. I felt too complicated. After a few days of shopping for Tibetan prayer beads and offloading some stuff at a friend's house, I headed up toward Hardwar. I was down to the bare essentials.
I had a pair of rope-and-canvas shoes with recycled rubber tire soles that I had found in Delhi for 6 rupees 72 cents back then. I also had my Nikon camera and a good supply of film and felt tip pens. I wore a plain kadi sari, but now no one noticed because there were so many freaky-looking people converging on Hardwar anyway, a good many of whom were wandering around naked and covered with gray ash, that I just blended in with the circus.
By the time I arrived, there were already about five hundred thousand people in town. I spent several days photographing hundreds of arriving sadhus monks and other holy men and women, of all shapes and sizes and into all kinds of trips and all come to purify themselves physically and spiritually in Mother Ganges. It was still hot as hell, and it wasn't long before I had had enough of Kumbha Mela. I was due back in Bombay in a couple of weeks to walk for a month on silent retreat with a number of Jain nuns before the rainy season started in June.
But first I had to see the mountains. How I ended up in Manali I don't really know, but it was a welcome change after the heat and madness of Hardwar. I do remember someone telling me about a Tibetan refugee camp, and about a number of Tibetan lamas who had walked there, across the border from Tibet. So I honed in on this tiny village in the north of Himachal Pradesh, in the Himalayan foothills and on the border with Tibet. There was an energy crisis in Chandigar when I arrived, and there was no electricity in the city. The bus schedule was shot to hell because of the lack of electricity, so I ended up camping overnight in the bus station.
I struck up a conversation with Chai Baba, an Indian who was also on his way to Manali, and with a German hippie whose name I don't remember. I slept peacefully, planted between my two adopted bodyguards, Chai Baba and the German. The next morning I left very very early on the first bus out of town for Kulu Valley, just south of Kashmir.
The English had planted lots of apple and fruit trees in Kulu Valley when they were a presence in India, and Manali was one of the places in the high valley where the upper-class British living in India spent their summers to escape the heat of New Delhi. How they ever got there back in the early part of the century, or even twenty years ago, is a total mystery to me! Here is the entry from my journal for April "The longest, hottest, most nearly unbearable thirteen hours that I can remember Winding moun-tain roads all the way -- bumpy, under construction.
The women seemed to work physically as hard as the men and all with babies strapped to their backs and the family fortune in coral and turquoise beads hanging from their necks and woven into their jet black hair. Everyone would pile off the bus and head for the fields to pee. Children, chickens, goats, and bags would be unloaded and then reloaded when we were ready to go. Belongings were hanging out of every window and off the luggage racks on top and everything would get shuffled around at every stop to make room for some new passengers.
Young boys selling clay cups of chai would gather around the bus. You could take the cup of tea on the bus with you, and then, when you finished your chai, you could just throw the cup out the window and it would shatter and return to dust, which I thought was perhaps the coolest thing about my whole trip to India. About eight hours into the trip, I got off the bus for a few minutes, and I left my bag, with my Nikon camera stuffed in the bottom, on the bus under the seat.
A few hours later, when my first view of the Himalayan Mountains came into sight, I scrambled to get out my camera. I pulled out everything in the bag, and at the bottom of the bag was an enormous stone, about the same size and weight as my camera. I stared at the stone.
I emptied the bag. No camera? No camera! A stone! A stone? This didn't compute. How did this stone get into my bag? I just sat there with nothing registering for a few minutes. I kept looking at the stone, trying to figure out how my Nikon camera had turned to stone. Finally the whole picture began to dawn on me. Of course, part of me just wanted to go nuts, but my reluctance to embarrass myself took precedence over my desire to freak out and tear up the entire bus! I just sat there. My fucking Nikon camera had been stolen right from under my nose, and what was worse, probably by someone who didn't have a clue how much the goddamned thing was worth.
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This whole event, I slowly realized, was premeditated to the point that someone actually had taken my camera out of my bag and replaced it with a stone of about the same size so that I would not know my camera was missing until I actually looked in the bag. It must have been someone who already had seen my camera when I had it out somewhere.
I couldn't believe it! I felt a flood of panic. The mountains! My first trip to the Himalayas. How would I record the event? The strangest thing happened. It is our honor to continue providing exceptional goods, resources and services to cultivate your conscious lifestyle and practices. Bodhi Tree. Books Mercantile Journal Sale. Description Additional information Reviews 0 Description Combining the mindfulness of astanga yoga with the high-energy intensity of the work-out routine, this unique exercise book walks readers through a series of body- and soul-enhancing routines.