Beside a River, Beneath a Tree

The wind picks up at night, toying playfully with wooden shutters that have long since lost their ability to close completely. Now that Oliver has left us for Pushkar, the rooms on either side of me are empty, with their own shuttered windows that remain unlatched...banging in the night...adding a haunting percussion to the symphony of crickets and dogs and distant horns. From somewhere close by, or perhaps a fair distance off that sounds near as it echos across the Ganges, voices in prayerful, melodic repetition add several more layers to the song that is Rishikesh. One never walks in a straight line here. Dodging people and cows and motorbikes and cow shit we meander through narrow streets, pressing our palms together in a gesture of greeting with a smile and 'Namaste' or 'Hari Om'...walking past the sadhus and beggars who extend their hands as we approach...waving off the many and varied vendors who beckon and insist...offering moments of affection to stray dogs and wandering cows. In an unhurried manner we make our way...always on foot.

The pace here is relaxed and slow...shanti (peaceful)...days unfold easily...

...bowls of fruit muesli curd, consumed gratefully from a balcony overlooking the ghats and the milky, wintergreen waters of the holy Ganga...bunches of bananas reduced to none as I walk, placing these rather than rupees into all those outstretched palms...journal pages filled with reaching words as cups are filled with the tastiest, lovingly made chai...gestures and laughter and skinny English mixed with fragmented Hindi and smiles...fingers sculpting patterns in gentle circles and toes pressing joyfully into the softest, most heavenly sand...rinsing and releasing in the chilly waters of rivers and buckets...dancing on marble at sunset with bare feet and warm hearts to the sound of many voices in song, blessing the Ganga...pots of hot lemon ginger honey tea shared between friends over fruit pancakes and thali and kichari and naan...

Hours pass in perfect contentment as I sit cross-legged beneath a tree across from Baba Shyam Keysor Das, observing his simple ways of being and his uncomplicated, uncluttered processes. He sings bajans sweetly as he prepares chai or chapati or rice...as he crushes cloves in a metal cup with a well-worn stick...as he forms his chapati into perfect circles...as he carefully turns tomatoes, roasting them in the ashes of his small, well-maintained fire...as he peers into a green, plastic, pocket mirror, painting his forehead with pale yellow and bright red. I am learning much from these hours with Baba. He asks for and requires so little yet gives so very much...forever offering what little he has to all those who visit his space.

All this and more....Rishikesh has charmed me into falling in love...like a siren, lulling me with her shanti voice. So...here I stay for the moment...learning how to just be...with grace & humility...beside this river...beneath this tree...