Sunday, November 20, 2011

Reminiscing: Rishikesh

A week ago today I left a place that had become a home to me, of course I'm mostly referring to Rishikesh Yog Peeth and all the wonderful people there, but I'm also referring to Rishikesh in general.  Now that I sit halfway around the world, I realize how much of an impact the place itself had on my experience in India.  It often works that way.  For me, places seem to take on personalities that leave me missing them as if they were people. 

As for the 'personality' of Rishikesh, it seemed to be a bit on the schizophrenic side at first glance, but I think that was my general first impression of India.  I got past that.  After I initially crossed the bridge over the Ganges river and looked past the roaming cows, I was taken by the beauty of the river set against the foothills of the Himalayas.  During the following weeks, I grew to appreciate more than just the nature that surrounded the city.  I felt safe and welcome there.  I even got a few small insights into the power of the years and years of meditation that have occurred along the Ganges.

Slowly, Rishikesh took on the personality of a mystic.  I could see past the trash, as in literally there was a huge mound of trash close to where I was staying.  I no longer feared being attacked by the many professional food snatchers, also known as monkeys.  I accepted the incessant honking horns and tuned more into the early morning chanting and the occasional om from a conch shell.  I begin to experience what was beyond the physical aspects of the city.  It only helped that I was there to experience a variety of festivals and see the large amount of Indian tourists that were drawn to this particular Holy city to celebrate.  

It took six weeks for Rishikesh to show itself to me in this way.  If I had only spent a few days there, my opinion may have remained with the schizophrenic title.  It takes time to really know a place, just like it takes time and patience to know a person.  When we are willing to take this time, we can grow to appreciate it, whatever it may be, and we can see beyond any imperfections that may be on the surface.  Challenging yourself to go beyond what you initially see is one of the many things I enjoy about traveling.

In fact, I was reminded of this challenge a few days after leaving Rishikesh when I was in Agra being hassled by everyone, including some guy who wanted to do my laundry.  Really, some laundry shop owner was yelling at me as I walked down the street..."10 rupee small item, 15 rupee large item, pick up in the afternoon."  I left Agra the next day, so it's hard for me to say much at all about that place, but Rishikesh remains with me.  All the places I've taken the time for do.   

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