From the Taj Mahal in Agra, we bused our way to Delhi. It’s the capital of India. Eighteen million people. I expected to experience a big city that could be any big city in the world. I was wrong. Delhi, the old Indian city, and New Delhi, the city that the British created, weave together to create an intricate complexity that has a surprising high resonance. I felt an excitement in Delhi; there seemed to be a buoyant pride and an imposing confidence in the potential of India and in the Indian future. And besides, we met a faerie in Delhi. More on that at another time.
We visited a huge mosque — the largest in India — but it was the Gandhi Memorial that spoke to my soul. After India’s independence, Ghandi, almost 80 years old, was staying at the residence of a powerful Indian family, the Birla Family. From his bedroom, Ghandhi walked the pathway to the garden to participate in evening prayers. Along the way he was assassinated. We didn’t walk the path, but we walked beside until the steps stopped. I stood there for a very long time. Silent. Still. Blurry eyed and reverent. It was a quiet highlight of this journey.
We traveled by train from Delphi to Haridwar and then by car to Richikesh. People in India drive exactly like they drive in Colombia. Wild and crazy. Insane. I rode in the front seat of the car we were in and I had a grand time. I love driving in Colombia and I love riding in a car in India.
Rishikesh is a city along the Ganges River best noted for the Ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the home of TM, where the Beatles spent time in 1968 — 50 years ago. We visited the ashram. It was abandoned in 1971 when the Maharishi left for the Netherlands. It was eery and wonderful.
I could feel the laughter: George and Paul and maybe John. Mia Farrow along with her sister were there. Donovan was there. I could feel the color and the light. The light and the enthusiasm were vibrant. Innocence and eagerness blossomed then. Yet now the loss and the emptiness were almost overwhelming. Abandonment. Forgotten. After there time in the ashram, the Beatles broke up, and each one of them went their own way.. They came to India and the ashram to find themselves. Maybe they did. We didn’t like it, but maybe they did find themselves. Could be.
Once a world famous ashram, now it is Rajiji, a tiger reserve. The buildings are decaying with black algae slowing covering the walls. Broken glass and rotting wood window frames. Weeds growing through the broken concrete. The kitchen, the post office, the printing room, the meditation rooms, the Beatles bungalow, the Maharishi’s bungalow, and the roof top where they all gathered. The memories are all there and the vestiges of that time are also still there. Decaying. Rotting. Yet still clinging to life. It was eery. Depressing and exhilarating.
Rishikesh was our last stop in India. We arrived on September 15. We are leaving on September 30. Only 15 days? No. A lifetime. We are currently in Kathmandu and we are going trekking for the next three days. In the Himalayas, in the quiet villages, and there I will sit with my experiences of India.
It wasn’t what I expected and I suspect it was more.