The arrival into india was surprisingly hassle free. In stark contrast to the departure from O'Hare. As Sundar & I approached the airport I had taken notice of the array of cars across 4 lanes in front of us. They were all the color of dark gray or slate, if you will. At which time I immediately looked in the rear-view mirror & noticed all of those behind were yellow in color. It was striking, as there were at least 4 of each color in front & behind. The thought entered my head, "Rahu" at the sight of those dark gray vehicles & "Guru" when I saw the rear. In fact, I did realize at the time that this was an omen. An omen that I interpreted as; I was about to encounter some Rahuvian style resistance that would end up okay in the end because I was being backed up by Guru. This turned out to be exactly the case. I was delayed at the check-in counter for about an hour because the person there was under the impression that I had to pay an extra hundred dollars, (which I had just paid prior to my trip to the airport). Finally, she admitted (not really) her mistake, pretending it was a glitch in the system. Actually, she had not listened to the words I had spoken. Then putting my check-in luggage thru, the inspectors demanded they unlock & look into it all – for nothing. He just opened my incredibly well-packed piece to pull a few things out (just enough to make it near impossible to repack) & not allow my assistance; just trying to re-jam it all in & finally couldn't figure out how to put the cover back on. The result was that I had to shout instructions from the sidelines & when I finally
cleared the security with my carryon, I walked straight to the gate & onboard with not a moment to spare.
So the flight itself was issueless & upon arrival into Delhi International I joined the really long "Foreign Passport holders" line. After maybe 5 minutes my eyes slowly focused on a sign off to the right that said "Diplomats & PIO". It took a moment or so for my brain to register that that meant me & I immediately extricated myself form my line making a beeline to my personal line of love & affection. Being the only "Diplomat/PIO" in the bunch I sailed on thru without further adieu. I'd arranged for the Master Paying Guest House to send a car to pick me up & it all went swimmingly. The monsoon was still putting up its last efforts & Delhi was washed clean. Coupled with the autos being forced to convert to CNG, the air was clean & breathable beyond my wildest expectations. I encountered no problems with my allergic reaction to pollution, what-so-ever.
Heading into Rishikesh this time we ended up on the bus from Haridwar for Rs.15 each, as the usual auto drivers were being particularly obnoxious with the rates they were quoting. So Jennifer & I landed up at the Hotel Yoga Niketan for Rs.600 that night. High season was still in effect. By the next day we decided to check out our soon to be abode at the Dayananda Ashram, & when we did, they told us to come right away. We thought it was a whole lot better thaqn Rs.600/night & headed over with cargo, even though the Jyotisa course would not begin for another few days.
As it turned out, the swami in residence, "Brahmavidyananda", was set to give a lecture every morning throughout our course on Vedanta. Luckily, there was someone taping all the lectures & the series will be available to me soon for all to hear. It pretty much sums up in 9 hours what it took Maharishi 30 years to spit out.
Now during the course, I received an email from Arthur & Suzy making some vague allusion to not going north, but changing the plan to head back to Nabadwip following the rendezvous for the snake ceremony that Sajal had arranged to take place immediately following the Navaratri fire sacrifice. This threatened to put a serious crimp in the ability to head up to the valley of flowers & Simla, as it begins to get cold soon up there. This was the first opportunity in all our trips to India to see these places due to our usual arrival being past the time of do-able weather.
And so they came to be known as "the loons", in due time, because following the initial email saying a change of plan was eminent, they dropped the line of communication, as they are want to do; (see 5 years previous "Art & Suzy wed in Nabadwip"). I agonized for the next 2 days over what to do, having sent off a volley of emails to them & receiving no response. I determined finally that I should stick to the original plan & go at least to Simla. With no further input to go on I felt that unless the ceremony could not be re-scheduled it could take place in the original November timing. Then lo & behold, they emailed from Banaras. They were on their way & we would be heading for someplace before Nabadwip, but not for as long; as we had to do the ceremony in this new time frame already determined to follow a 3-day fire sacrifice over the last days of Navaratri. Okay.
After much talk of our favorite Japanese restaurant on the ghat, it turns out his cuisine is not as shiny bright as I remembered it to be. On the positive side, however, we located another really good restaurant that was probably there all along, but unnoticed by us until this trip. It is located between the Hotel Yoga Niketan & Dayananda Ashram side. Seems it originally had ghat-front property, but there has been a huge causeway (walkway) constructed to run along the ghat for quite a distance; possibly half a kilometer or so, causing the restaurant called "something…Sanctuary" to be obscured from sight unless you're up on that causeway & happen to look down when passing by. We've got pics of it as we were taken with the décor, right off. We will use it as a model for our terrace dining in Nabadwip. The woman there can really cook & gives an excellent thali. The husband is a throwback to the hippy era of grandeur ala Beatles. He's been there for 30 years & only recently went back to Holland for his father's funeral.
And so, enter the loons. They arrived at the ashram a bit after noon when I had but one session left of the Naksatra course. The timing couldn't have been better. We determined to go to either the Valley of Flowers or Simla, as time would not allow for both. Meanwhile, Joseph (who had miraculously made it to the course) couldn't decide on whether to join us or go his own route. In the end, I encouraged him to carry on his way, as we had re-decided that it was just too damn much trouble to head up to Simla (having to go down to Delhi before going back up to Simla & then back down thru Delhi on the way to Calcutta. Also, I was beginning to feel a bit wane. We (Art & I) had to go to the Rishikesh train station to purchase one way fares from Haridwar to Delhi & then for the Rajdhani from Delhi to Calcutta for Suzy & I (our Indrail passes had not yet begun) & be had to reserve the berth for Arthur, as well. That was the beginning of the end of health for me – the autos were fully exhausting. Up until this point, I had been feeling surprisingly fit. In fact, I had been personally responsible for most of my course-mates visiting the ayurvedic vaidya in Rishikesh (near the taxi stand, across the street from the Madras Café) at the Shivananda Herbal store. My experience of his expertise I quietly bandied about. I had been stopping by his shop for years, every time we went up to Rishikesh, to buy various herbal remedies like ChyawanPrash & the like; but in all that time, I had not realized that the owner therein was a vaidya & all you needed to do was ask his son if he was in & voila, he would read your pulse. It was that simple. He can barely speak a word of English, but his son will clear up any misunderstandings. I began to feel very easy in my body after one day of taking what appeared & tasted like powdered charcoal with a hint of mildew, (not that I've had either of those two ingredients separately or together before). By the end of the 2nd & 3rd days I noticed such a remarkable easiness, the likes of which I had not seen in nearly 4 decades. I felt as though I was a child again. This was extraordinary. It turns out that this little old man running this herbal store for the past 47 years in the same location in Rishikesh is an expert in the creation of gold, mercury & diamond basas (rasayanas). Who would've thought?!