I’m on my way to Ghana at the moment. This last month has had an entirely different tone than the last nine.
I spent four weeks in the Himalayas at the Sivananda Kutir in Netala (near Uttarkashi). I did a 200 hour yoga teacher training course that was absolutely life enhancing.
I’ve heard many people refer to India as the Motherland. I feel as if I’m going from one Motherland to another, Ghana here I come!
The pictures below show a little bit of what I’ve been up to this past month.
Space invader in Varanasi!
The Beatles Ashram
#9 where they slept
Amazing street art
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.
Survived the 14 hour train ride with nine months of my life in tow.
It’s insane how fast time passes as you grow up. A year ago, I learned that I was selected for a U.S. Student Fulbright award. Now, I’m at the last few days of my grant. Monday will be my last day at school and Tuesday marks the official last day of the grant.
Fortunately, the fun’s not over yet. I will be traveling northwest by train. The first stop is Varanasi, a holy city located on the banks of the Ganges. Then to Rishikesh, also known as the yoga capital of the world. There was absolutely no way that I was going to miss Rishikesh. In April, its more yoga. I’m doing a 200 hour yoga teacher training course at the Sivananda Kutir in the Himalayas. After that I’ll hop on a plane to Ghana where I will be for a couple of weeks before returning to California.
Im excited for all of the travel and yoga that is in store but I’m also anxious about going back to the United States and abandoning the ‘Kolkata routine’ that I have developed over the last nine months. Each month was so different but just as exciting as the last. There were so many highs and lows from day to day, even hour to hour, but I would still classify this 9 month arc–in a heartbeat– as a continuous high.
Et viola, ei je, yay lo: My slideshow of some of the most memorable things.
My bedroom looks lived in but not exactly cozy. There is hardly anything on the walls and my bed looks ‘basic’ with just one pillow and a small blanket that I keep folded up in the corner. I remember thinking that I would need a small stand of some sort for books and things, but I never bought it.
All of my other rooms, in San Jose, Boston and Paris were heavily decorated and felt cozy and lived in. For some reason this room is different. How come I have put such little effort into making it home?
Perhaps this mindset towards my room reflects my feelings towards my residency in India. I feel familiar but not assimilated.
No matter how accustomed I feel to the streets of South Kolkata, it doesn’t prevent people from staring at me like I am walking on the footpaths for the first time. Everywhere I go people stare. I don’t always care why people are staring but its hard for an observant person to miss when a child is yanking on his or her mother’s sleeve, or a girlfriend is tapping her boyfriend’s shoulder to point at me.
To the small fraction of the 14 million people that live in Kolkata and see me once, I am still a novelty. It doesn’t matter that I have lived here since June. When I leave home or school, I am quickly reminded that I am an outsider.
Is this the reason while my walls are bare? Why I still only have one pillow when I have preferred a minimum of two on my bed my entire life? In many ways, I’ve dived into life and Indian culture but I’ve also held back in some ways too. I see this so clearly in the sparse decoration of my bedroom.
Its funny how the mind works sometimes.