been a while since i posted, haven't had much internet access over the last few days and was also procrastinating in admitting that my camera got lost/stolen on the busride from the nepali border to kathmandu the other day so the photos i had of the india trip won't be seen. also the shift keys on this keyboard don't really work so this one is all lowercase...
the loss of a camera, a mere impermanent thing, aside, the three weeks i spent in india with the tulane group and daniel truly changed my opinion of that country and made me so happy that i still have 9 years left on my 10 year tourist visa, so i can go back hassle free anytime. himachal pradesh and uttaranchal pradesh (two northern indian mountain states below kashmir) are unbelievably gorgeous, the people are very friendly (reminded me of nepalis, not indians, but here i am making racist generalizations), and i can see myself returning to himachal for study and retreat in the future. hopefully some work as well, perhaps with the emory program in dharamsala after my fulbright studies and maybe a masters. who knows, but suffice it to say HP is a cakewalk compared to uttar pradesh/bihar, although as is said, "bihar is in the eyes of the beholder," and these eyes cried at the sight of the bodh gaya mahavihara and stupa.
from mccleod ganj daniel and i rode a 14 hour night bus to dehradun, where we jumped off at the road intersection north to rajpur, to the tibetan colony (refugee camp) where my (kathmandu) homestay mother's family lives. it was very easy to meet them (as everything was on the trip), and they fed us graciously, also letting us sleep in an adjoining staff quarters for free. we gave them a present of a few hundred rupees when we left, how much better of a feeling when you meet people who are expecting you, you have nice conversation, free meals and beds; only to give a gift to a friend when you leave. definately a meritorious way to travel.
south of dehradun is another tibetan colony where the mindroling monastery in india is located, daniel and i were able to get a blessing from the mindroling throneholder, who has been asleep for over a year, and his wife actually picked up his limp hand and patted us on the heads with it. that was unique, to say the least.
after one night with the fam we hopped an evening bus to haridwar, a holy hindu city on the mother ganga (ganges) river, the source of blessings in the land of india, which starts around kailash and carries departed souls to heaven and cleanses sins. daniel and i danced with some crazed sindhi devotees (a unique tolerant blend of sikhism and hinduism), banging drums and "doing disco" down the main road to the ghats on the river. they were happy to grab some dirty looking westerners to dance with, and were impressed with our boogying skills, perfected in new orleans clubs in the middle of the night, although unremembered the body knows, the body knows, the body knows.
as it was august 28 daniel and i sent some little candles on leaves with flower petals down the river in rememberance of the katrina victims, had some spicy indian food and went to bed. early on the 29th we wandered back to the river, i was wearing my white kurta/lungi combination making me look like a good hindu, and were met by an eager brahmin ready to perform an offering ritual for us for a sum. i took a full dip in the river, followed by daniel, we offered coconuts and flower petals to the brisk flow, thinking of the destruction in our homeland one year before, praying that it may not happen again, that although tragedy is part of life that people may be divorced from suffering.
it is hard to say how much we can change of the external world through prayer but the internal world of the mind and body (soul if you will) is always affected through our thoughts and environment; prayer is merely a cleaning of the temple of the body/mind complex.
from haridwar we embarked on a 10 hour sitting session through the indian plains to the border, where we experienced the hassle of what i had remembered of india in bambassa, the little town on the western nepali border, if i ever go back there it will not be to stay the night, i would rather lick a goat's asshole than give money to one of their hoteliers. no hitches in crossing the border the next morning, actually quite scenic as we rode bicycle rickshaws from the indian immigration office through the woods, over the mahakali river bridge to the nepali immigration office. we then caught a little tempo (3 weeled public transport) 5km to the mahendranagar public bus park, and easily procured sameday tickets, 18 hours to kathmandu!
during the night tired and trusting idiot american travelers lost sight of the digital camera, and never saw it again. i had a feeling something bad was going to happen, i'm happy that it was only the loss of a thing, and nothing more. afterall, we are still alive and didn't even get sick (which really suprised me). so much for shitting in our pants on the bus, one of my alltime favorite activities in india.