I’ve had a sneaking suspicion this would happen all along. I didn’t know how or why – just that it would happen.
India is hard. Everyone has culture shock at one point or another when visiting – whether you’ve been here before or not.
For some – it’s all just too much. My roommate has decided to cut her trip short by 5 days and return to Canada. I have left our AirBnB up a steep hill and moved to a beautiful retreat hotel just a 3 minute walk to my ashram.
After leaving India the last time I visited, 5 years ago, all that was etched in my brain was the sweetness of the light, the morning Himalayan winds and the warmth of my yoga family at the ashram. It was only after I arrived again that the sites, sounds and smells all flooded back. The streets are busy with traffic, beeping horns, wandering cows, packs of dogs, aggressive monkeys, cow poop, garbage and all the smells that go along with that. None of it is anything like what we are used to in Canada.
And while Rishikesh is more affluent than many areas of India such as Agra, there are still beggars. A woman followed me through the market place the other day holding a baby that was so frail I’m not sure it would survive the end of the week. We’re told not to give beggars money. Someone else often exploits the beggars themselves or they use babies to do it. There are programs here to help those in need, but much like in Canada some choose not to take the help offered as they’re begging to fill other needs – such a drug or alcohol addiction, or for someone else with such problems.
Often it is too much for me as well. But I came here for many reasons and I intend to see my commitment through to the end. Tomorrow I visit the Sansaar Gyaan Pathshala school in the rural countryside about a 90-minute drive from where I’m staying. This is the school that Helping Hands for India supports and I’m honored to act on the board of directors for. One of my fellow board team members and I will spend time with the students and teachers to determine how we can further support the education and social needs of the students and their families. It’s been nice to be able to discuss the school in person with a fellow colleague and our teacher Vishva.
On the top of our priority list are sustainability projects, marketing public awareness about the school and support to ensure the students can actually get to school. Some challenges they might face would be family pressure to help out at home – especially for the girls and navigating treacherous rivers during the rainy season.
I’m also here to spend time with my teacher and enjoy the superior classes he leads and traditional knowledge he shares. It’s wonderful to be back in the Yoga Hall before dawn for meditation and Yoga.
Even though I am now a solo traveler I don’t feel alone at all. I’ve befriended some other people at the ashram who are also solo travelers and I’ve been invited to join them for several activities, such as a shopping trip today to the local market in town. One of the things I love most about being a part of the Akhanda Yoga family is that I know I have friends and connections all over the world. It’s a very special thing to be a part of such a vast global family. And my teacher Vishva checks on us all regularly. There’s nothing we might need that he won’t try to help us out with. This is true of all the yoga family members. There’s support of any and all kinds at every turn. So – I’m not alone at all.
I also plan to get some much-needed rest during my last few days. The last3 ½ weeks of travel as well as the time leading up to my starting this adventure have not exactly been restful. I have just 3 short days to rest at home before returning to my regular life and full time job. So having some time to take it easy, lounge and read my books and sleep in a comfy bed is most welcome. The trip home will be long. There’s no easy way to get to and from Rishikesh. The drive back to Delhi typically takes between 6 and 8 hours, and is then followed by a 14 hour flight to Toronto, a 2 hour layover and finally the 1 hour flight to Ottawa. The best decision I made was to upgrade my ticket to Premium Economy. The bigger seat and extra legroom is a game-changer for long flights like this.
Life often doesn’t give us what we want but often what we need. I think that expression was born here in India.