This post-grant adventure has been a lot of fun. So far I have gone across half of north India by train which was worth it yet, slightly stressful because I have so much luggage and the tickets weren’t guaranteed. When I booked the trains, they were full but we were put on the waiting list. Indian trains are notorious for saving seats up until the last minute so buying a waiting list ticket is a pretty safe bet since there is a 95% chance that you will get on the train. Still I didn’t realize this when I had bought the tickets and when I found out, I was incredibly nervous up until the chart was prepared (about 2 hours before the ride). I don’t know what I would have done if we had moved out of our apartment and gone all the way to Howrah station only to discover that we didn’t get a spot on the train.
The first stop was Varanasi which was basically India turned up. There were cows (and cow poop) everywhere, there were lots of people bathing in the Ganges (which also meant lots of naked people), it was hot and crowded. Still, I enjoyed myself and the boat rides on the Ganges made up for everything. After Varanasi it was onto another 18 hour train and up north to Rishikesh.
I’ve pretty much been waiting the whole grant period to go to Rishikesh and did not disappoint. Its small, like a village, and easy to navigate on foot. There are a lot of tourists and foreigners but it still feels low key, unlike Varanasi which felt like total chaos. There are plenty of cows walking around but there is more space on the roads for them and their poop. They co-exist very well with the humans here.
The Parmarth Niketan Ashram is one of the bigger, well known ashrams in Rishikesh. We attended a couple of the 6:30 am yoga classes which were very interesting. The class is taught by a swami and his assistants. The swami is a very thin old man with a lot of character. He spoke in Hindi and his assistants translated. The class mostly consisted of the warm-ups that you might do in a P.E. class with some different breathing and cleansing techniques sprinkled in. I felt a little weird the first day when they asked us to go into lion stance which requires you to spread out your feet and roar like a lion but in the second class, it didn’t take too much to channel my inner lion and roar with the best of them.
We were also lucky enough to hop on a tour to the Maharishi Mahesh yogi ashram, also known as The Beatles ashram, provided by our hotel for some German guests. The fab four apparently wrote The White Album there. The ashram is now abandoned but it was still really cool to frolic in throughout the space and in and out of meditation caves.
Tomorrow, I’ll be going up to Uttarkashi to start my yoga teacher training course at the Sivananda Kutir.