After two days of travel, I have finally arrived in India! Though attempting to have no expectations, already I sense these next 6 months will be life-changing. How can they not? Each and every experience we have helps make us a new person which is one of the reasons I appreciate travel so much. Our growth and evolution can happen exponentially with the exposure to so many new experiences, people, learnings and cultures.
In fact, just my two days of travel were an experience in culture. Somehow, I found an extremely inexpensive ticket through Cheaptickets.com on China Southern Airlines. Just $720 with tax included for a round-trip ticket from San Francisco to Delhi. I’d heard that price is often the cost of just a one-way ticket. Yay for me!
I assumed it was so inexpensive because I had to make one stop in China and then have a 9-hour layover before my final 6-hour flight to Delhi. I am used to that type of travel by now so it was worth it to me to save the money. Who knew the layover would end up being my first huge blessing?
I was told when I checked in at SFO that anyone with a layover over 8 hours will be receiving a complimentary transfer and hotel stay! Were they serious?!?!! In the States, you don’t even get free checked luggage let alone a meal anymore! I’d believe it when it happened.
And it did! After receiving all of the vegetarian meals and window seats I requested on the flight, as well as getting to enjoy all the movies I wanted, I was directed with a map and choppy English directions through the maze of the China airport to where I’d meet my van transfer for a ride to the hotel. By the time I got there, it was about 1am and my transfer back to the airport for my morning flight was at 5am. But it sure beat needing to sleep on a hard chair at the airport. The hotel was extremely clean, modern and very comfortable. It was such a welcome and pleasant surprise! We were even given a to-go breakfast bag with 2 hard boiled eggs, bread, an apple and 2 pieces of hot-dog looking meat I wouldn’t have touched even if I wasn’t a vegetarian.
The best part of my China hotel stay aside from being able to feel like I actually saw a teeny bit of China (the ride to the hotel was about 15 minutes) was getting to experience my first Indian hospitality. I’d heard how hospitable Indian people can be. Thanks to a lovely couple from Jaipur (Rajhistan) I met on the way to the hotel, I not only figured out how I was going to get from Delhi to Rishikesh the next day — they booked my ticket for me!
I hadn’t had time to make any arrangements before I left the States and was hoping it wouldn’t be too difficult when I got there. If I could meet a friend in Rishikesh by 5am the day after I arrived, he would take me with him on a journey to the Himalayas. I was completely committed to making that happen! Apparently, I could take a cheap flight or go by bus or train. Finding out how to make that happen in a timely way in crazy huge Delhi was the potential predicament. I’d have less than 24 hours once I arrived.
No need to use the Lonely Planet I’d downloaded in my iPhone or even connect to Wifi! This sweet couple asked about my travel plans while waiting for our hotel transfer. They explained the ins and outs of my journey and told me they’d look into the options for me, all good. Sure enough, they did! Even at 1am when we arrived at the hotel, they took the time with me to go online in the lobby and helped me figure out that a 45-minute pre-paid taxi from the airport to a 7-hour bus that afternoon to Rishikesh would be the best route. Trains were possible but I might not be able to get a ticket.
And then, they booked it for me! The wifi connection in the lobby was super slow so they offered to keep trying in their room. They even offered to pay for the ticket since it was only about $5 US. I insisted on giving them the money and went up to my room without their phone or email (just their room number) and the trust that all would be okay. Sure enough five minutes later, I got a call in my room from them asking me to check my email since I should have received confirmation of the purchased ticket. Too kind!
Ironically, I was never even asked to show my ticket (which I had on my phone) when I was on the bus. Seven hours later, after a pretty crazy taxi ride and 2-hour wait in the huge Delhi bus station… I was in Rishikesh, the “birthplace of yoga”. The couple have already emailed and invited me to visit them in Jaipur when I make my way to Rajhistan. Thank you Spirit, for such a graceful entry into India!
Just the difference in the colors, clothing, skin complexion and accents witnessed in the India bus station vs. the uniform looking people and clothing (granted we were at an airport) but even the many single-file lines of people walking I saw in China, seem exemplary of the richness, variety and divine mayhem of India. Very quickly, I’d see how very much this was true.
I am currently writing perched up on the marble window sill of our room in the ashram Parmarth Niketan, overlooking the blessed Ganga River (Ganges is the British name). I successfully made the journey by bus yesterday to meet my dear friend and long time Ayurveda teacher from the States, Tashi Dorje (who requested I use his Tibetan name) at the bus station in Rishikesh. My bus arrived an hour and a half later than the website suggested so I didn’t show up until midnight. Par for the course in India as I’d heard… so I was still pretty much “on time”.
As I climbed down the bus steps and was immediately surrounded by four Indian men asking if I needed a tuk-tuk, I noticed Tashi sitting atop another bus across the parking lot in the light of the street lamp. He smiled down at me, like his seat was natural as can be. And all was good. Such a gift I knew it was being received by a dear brother like this upon arriving in India. This wasn’t just any friend either. This was a man who had originally come to India years ago to visit for six months and stayed for ten years. This man’s 19-year old son was born in India. He sat at the feet of Papaji (a very learned devotee of Ramana Maharshi) for seven years in India. He helped form Organic India and studied Ayurveda from grandmothers in India. He was as immersed in the culture as many Indians… and was about to become my guide and teacher again for the next five days as we journeyed to the Himalayas. I couldn’t be more grateful!
Tashi and I grabbed a nearby tuk-tuk and rode about five minutes to a place where we would need to continue by foot to the ashram. We came to an absolutely beautiful long suspension bridge, called “Ram Jhula” that we needed to cross over the sacred Ganga to get where we were staying. According to Tashi, Rama is the Being in all Beings, the Beingness that is Foreverness. And Jhula is the bridge across. Therefore,
“Ram Jhula” is the Bridge to Being Forever! He sent me this very first photo of me in India that he took that night as we were beginning to walk across and wrote:
Welcome to the Bridge to Being Forever
P.S. He also wrote that ‘Asana’ means that which you are seated upon and seated as. Therefore, I am in Ramjhulasana, the BridgeToBeingForever Pose. HA HA! More asana photos most definitely to come. 😉