Material here is taken from emails I sent out   

Feb 2 – India Here I Come, 1st Stop   

first departure one hour late. I write this from the seoul airport.   

arrived in seoul in time to catch connecting flight to new delhi. it also is late,  perhaps because lax flight late and so many to new delhi on it.    i had feared would have to wait for next flight to india and was thinking many hours of sitting in inchibon airport in seoul.   

a nice airport.  there’s even a caribou coffee shack right next to gate i’m leaving out of.   

remember everyone , if you take a laptop,    it must come out of the bag it is in.   have gone thru screening twice and each time i took it out of backpack but not individual bag it was also in.    i had to wait longer and go thru screening a second time!!!!!!!!!!!!   

but all luggage has gone thru.    each check in was 50 lbs as had stuff i’m giving to ashram for their school as well as comfortable amount of clothes for 5 1/2 months.   that was a hard one for me; not used to packing for such a l lllll oooooooooo nnnnnnnnnnnnn gggggggggg trip,   

boarding now,    got to go 

Feb 6 – it is 10:12 am Sunday in India.   I am at an internet place, finallyFor all those that were worried , I am so sorry. I arrived at the airport in New Delhi about 1:50 am (only one hour late from original scheduled time).   Both flights went smoothly.  I went on Asiana Airlines and I highly recommend them.   Their service is excellent, not only in providing meals , beverages, but customer service.    I think it has been the best airline service I have ever had. At the New Delhi airport I tried connecting to the internet but was unsuccessful.   

Tried to get my cell phone working at cell phone booth set up in airport but they told me that since it was locked they weren’t able to use their sim card in my phone.   

had a little problem with taxi but no biggie, it took me to ashram. It came two hours later than I expected. I was worried waiting for it. I wondered if I would have to find another. I went outside the terminal and walked around with all my stuff. Lots of people wanting a fare kept asking me if they could provide a ride for me and I had to keep saying no.   

wed arrived at ashram 5:30 am.     it was shivering cold in my room    i was so happy to find wool blankets in the closets for me to use.   thought i was going to shiver while i slept.   when i awoke it was about noon and it didn’t appear that the electricity was working. room was quite dark so wasn’t too sure what to do.   was getting over jet lag day, fasted, unpacked and organized all my stuff.   

thurs was first day out and about at the ashram and meet tara didi and had tour of the complex. after my second conversation with Tara Didi, the director at the ashram, almost thought i was going to madhuban in march which gave me a fright but got that worked out.     at present my plans are to be at ashram feb to apr, then in madhuban may and june and maybe july then fly on home   

i have been assigned to work at the poor children’s school.   there are three schools on the ashram grounds.   the free progress school is an open one.   it is private and the architecture and classrooms are all so neat. fri worked in kitchen about two hours. I shelled peas the whole time and got fingernails dirty — forgot file to clean my nails  (lol).   Saturday I and another guest here at the ashram, Anand (no last name), traveled by auto rickshaw, went to world book fair, connaught plaza and some underground bazaar in that area and the new delhi railway station. The underground bazaar was very hot, sweltering. I do not know how the people working there for such long hours each day can stand it.   

as to hari,my email new delhi friend,    no i haven’t met him as yet.    there has been no phone for me to use.   the cell phones that i took with me are locked.   may try a cell phone store near ashram when find out where it is and see if they can unlock.    if can’t will see how much to buy cell phone to use here in india but if it costs more than $15 i won’t.   my philosophy while here is “if i don’t have it , i don’t need it.”    guess what i don’t have   ??????   my nail file!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!           guess i left it in basket at home,   thought i’d packed it but bet ya it’s in there.    fri worked in kitchen shelling peas and finger nails got all dirty and have no tool to clean them!              great , hu?   

everybody here appears to be real nice but when you pass someone you don’t know, it is not the custom to look at each other and even smile so that is hard for me to not acknowledge those i pass.   i do have my own room.    in fact it is a double room as that is what they assigned me and i only have to pay for a single room.    1000 Rs for double and 750 for single.    don’t know exact USD equivalent but 750 Rs is about 16 – 17 USD so it’s not $10 a day.     could get dormitory as less than $10 a day but don’t know if i’m prepared to do that as yet.      also hoping lady in charge will transfer me over to long term stay room as she said guests only stay a week’s time  and i believe that is less than $10 a day.   

as to photos     have yet to take a one.   i have not seen anyone using their camera taking pictures and i do not want to stand out.    i’m observing what others are doing before i do something.   but you know me,   one of my middle names is photographer so i’ll be taking them, just don’t know when yet.   

there was a phone at the airport but i had no idea how to use it.    there was a person sitting next to it that collected money when one used it but i have no idea what numbers to enter to call anyone!                        Eeeekkkkkkssssssssssss there’s also a phone at the ashram that you put coins into.  it’s in one of the corridors but i have no idea who to ask about using it nor am i comfortable about asking just anyone.  the staff here do seem to have a bit of don’t want to be bothered with too many questions attitude.   

as to my room    –   it has its own bathroom!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!    alleluah!   and the toilet is a sit down one.   shower is water in a bucket with pitcher to pour water on self.   it was a breeze.   had that in mexico.  yesterday i went to a world book fair event and had to use bathroom. toilet on ground!    oooohhhh , i hate that but brought along my handy dandy stand as you urinate device and had no problem at all.   when i was in bathroom, i was only white person present and everyone was looking at me to see if if had some reaction to using the toilet, i bet!    all eyes on me with every move i made.   

  

Feb 8 – first time on internet at ashram!     whoopee.   they have wireless but can’t use it in my room.   only in offices of the ashram.   need to buy adapter for computer as have no electrical connection to their five prong wall outlet.    borrowing someone’s right now.   will try to go to market today and buy one.

    

 

had communicated with staff at school.    please pray for me.   project am to work on is digital storytelling about the mother’s symbol. i had thought istarted assisting at poor children’s school yesterday.     things are not going as 

   

.  delhi was in new i was quite surprised.     only knew of monsoons in summer and didn’t even consider that it would rain while iit rained last night.  

  

hoping my daily mon to fri schedule will be as follows    8:30 am to 2:30/3:30 pm.    school.     4:30 p.m.   tiffin which is tea and desert.   5pm Tu Thur and Sat Yoga classes. 7 pm   mon  

 

5 – 7 work in kitchen .    sat   explore days.  sun meditation at 10:30 am,   then after open   explore some more?????????frito sat   meditation   Thurs   6:30 meditation classes .   mon, wed,  

    

this saturday

   

  

 

did say 1/2 hour .  seems weird a 1/2 hour but it is so.i13 1/2 hours ahead of you in california   .   yes,  i’m).   please think of me on your friday as it will be my saturday.   delhi(state to west of new  harayan,  gurgaonclasses in  vipassanawill be having my  iam thinking of taking buses by myself to where  

    

 

to work on digital storytelling project. delhigot to go now as meeting up with another volunteer of the school who lives in 

   

said am here in office  using my laptop.   am not sure if they are ok with me doing personal stuff on laptop with their wireless or only school.  i but as skype have no phone here.   do have i

  

  

 

my laptop.   only cost 10 rupees which is about 25 cents.plug ingot myself an adapter so can  iFeb 10 – today  

    

right now it is 8 pm

   

  

 

outside the office and getting their wireless.   no electrical outlet just using my battery right now.i’mand  

    

 

. stickies just want the i.  some women actually tatoo but stickies got the red dot on the forehead.    these are little i left mine at home.   and i also got myself a nail file as i.   she has been most kind and helpful to me.   we went to two markets together today.  himalayas with her parents and they also have land in the delhi are working on digital storytelling project.   she is a nice person and she seems to enjoy my company.  she lives in new i.   she is 28 yrs old.   her and shivani a friend here and her name is i’ve 

   

want to get is a dupatta  (if curious your assignment is to google it.   🙂      )  i got them.  the next thing i need in this weather. so happy i bought myself two shawls.    they are made of wool and keep me quite warm and are all that ithe other day it was cold so

  

have yet to take a single picture.   today is the 1st day of my second week.   i don’t see anyone taking pictures.   i feel funny doing so but this sat i will go on bus trip and i will do so.   tonite i went to the roof top of building my room is at and the sky was all cloudy.   it has been cool and wet here .   rained on mon but none since.    

 no pictures yet.   i haven’t seen anyone take pics so dont’ want to stick out like sore thumb but have been reassured by two natives ok to take so this weekend will go on bus trip on sat and will take camera with me .   for sure i will take pics.   weather here has been gray and sky white.   did exploring of all ashram today and went up to the rooftop.   they have solar panels !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!    that’s probably how they have hot water.    

Feb 15 –  

friday was school holiday so went outside ashram and just walked here and there.  At 5:15 pm supposed to be celebration for ashram’s birthday (2/12/56)   but rain canceled.   evening cold and dreary.

    

 

sen.   went to school musical performance.  went to meditation and then served at dinner. chobisat went to yoga and laughter workshop with 

   

sunday went to ISBT  (main new delhi inter state bus terminal) to try to find out how to take bus from ashram / ? to place in gurgaon, haryana where meditation course is.   not only did i go there but went to three other places also to try to figure out how to do it.    as many people as i asked i got a different answer.   at BT there is no printed schedules.  staff are in cages collecting fares.   there is no info counter.   i was totally at a loss as to how to find out any info.  the only thing i knew to do was ask whomever i thought might help.   i was told seiks were good to ask for info from.   i spent many hours trying to find an answer to where i get bus and what bus to take.   with so many different answers i decided i will resort back to taking a taxi.  taxi about $30 while bus might be about $5.      buses very crowded and i’ll be having luggage for 10 day course.  traveled on several buses sunday and natives just stare and stare without any reservation.   went to get a juice at one bus area and all these men just come up to where I was standing and stand and stare.   where i traveled via bus saw no one with my skin color.
  

  

  

 

know you can call the ashram and ask for me.ibrought my cell phone with me but not able to get it unlocked to get india service as yet so unable to call you.    

    

 

am supposed to go.     🙂 i am going where i will feel sure i know that i morning or afternoon —   have to be there between 2 – 5 pm.  will arrange a taxi to take me as that is the only way wednesday leaving i’mdon’t know what time 

   

each. It was evening by time we got to market and it was cold. Shawl I had didn’t keep me warm enough and I was also feeling bad because of cold that I had. We took a bus to get there. We were told that bus we got on would take us to the market. Well, in fact, stop was not near the market; we still had to walk about one half a mile to get to the market itself.  Rs50 sen.   looked for a dupatta (could be called a scarf back home).   got 3 as they were only chobi market on sunday with sarojiniwent to

  

 


weather here has been lousy; it has given me a cold.  down bad yesterday. taking it easy today.  think i’ll go out via auto rickshaw to lodi garden then maybe to a market.   a lady i met here who is from london (named chobi, Bengali descent) gave me Reiki last night.   it was great! She left today so only one reiki treatment)
   

 

    

 

   

 

  

 

  

 

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Dear Hari Ji, (occurred during month of January 2010)   

 

sitting along side the road to the Dalai Lama's Temple and residence in Mcleodganj, aka Upper Dharamashala

All is well here.  I hope all is well there.   

I haven’t heard a word out of you for quite some time.  What is going on in your world these days?   

Peace,   

Nora 

Dear Nora ji,It seems that in spite of my best efforts: Neither I am able to understand the meaning of your english  and perceptions;   

Nor I am able to make you understand my simple Indian english:   

What a pity:   

May God Bless   

Hari   

(I had nor even to this day have any clue as to what Hari was referring to. The only thing I could understand was that he had quit emailing me because what I was writing made him think he wasn’t getting through to me. Our emailing decreased after I had inquired with him about being a contact name I could give my sister and daughter and when I had problems booking accommodations in Shirdi for a trip we were going to take together)   

this is my reply to what he wrote above   

 

,ji HariMy dear  

    

Namaste and, I think I’ll say Good morning to you as I think you will read this Saturday morning while you sit and drink your coffee with coddled milk, 

   

I thank you for writing me to let me know what is going on in your head between us.  It is good to be able to have an understanding of what you are thinking.  

  

so you have chosen to cease communication with me because you do not understand my english and perceptions?  and you have some thought that i do not understand your english?   

it never occured to me that i didn’t understand your english.   

the only difficulty that i experienced was your decline in emailing me and your not replying to my emails.   it was a change from my initial experience with your emailing habits.  with your decline in emailing and your non response it caused me not to email you as i had because i didn’t want to take time to communicate if it wasn’t wanted.   

we are two people from two different cultures and you might say worlds.  language communication can be a barrier and a deterrent from two people getting to know each other.  OR   they both can decide to choose to get through the barrier(s) and not allow it to be a deterrent.   

as i said   . . .         i believe  it is a choice a person has the opportunity to take.    if the people feel a problem exists because of the language differences   it is the choice of the people to communicate the existence of that problem to the other language speaking person.    it is only through dialogue  that these barriers and deterrents can be resolved, removed and no longer remain a problem.   

you say   ,   it is a pity  .    as if to say you have resigned yourself to accept the language differences as a problem.   there is a saying many are saying these days in this difficult time humans all over the globe are experiencing   “crisis brings opportunity.”    this language difference can be seen as a crisis, albeit  a very small one in the total scope of the world’s difficulties at these times.   the crisis can be looked upon as something that exists, will continue to exist, cannot be anything other than a crisis, to walk away from or it can be looked upon as an opportunity to learn more about the world and allow oneself to grow because of it.   

now is the time to not live by what one has been taught in the past or what one understands to be true at this moment but by what one wants their present moment to consist of, by following their inner guide  (your inner guide said to you “what a pity”)  and not the teachings of ones culture, birth, or traditions.   Humans live in a global world today, each human no longer needs to hold unto what their culture and belief systems have taught them as they were growing up.  Each adult now has the opportunity to examine all that exists in the world and in the universe and choose for themselves what they believe to be a true way of living for them.   

an idea    —        if i write something and you have no clue as to what i meant by that , let it go.  don’t allow it to cause you to act / think negatively.   or if you think you understand what i wrote and it causes you to think adversely,     let it go  or write back and tell me that when i said   _____,   you understood it to mean   _____________   

(there I went again with a swelling of outpouring on this living life as we so choose.    Sorry)   


Your dear friend,
   

Nora    

hari’s email reply to the above   

Thank you for sharing your wisdom.   

You are a very good write   

Although we did meet up in India about a month after I arrived we never did seem to get past our differences. The communication just didn’t keep flowing back and forth as it had when we first began our communication via email. He lived less than a mile away from the ashram on the same street as the ashram and he rarely made attempts at getting together. I was sorry a friendship was not made.

To One Who Comes to India

. . . to India,

come with a mind in search of self-realization.

The Indian is existing,

whereas Roma, Greece, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Spain, Portugal, etc. etc.

with all their vaunted splendors and civilizations have collapsed altogether.

The Indian is existing

because he is full of that vital spirituality which was inculcated in him by his immortal Saints thousands of years ago.

They have inherent spirituality

all imbued with the same essential deep faith.

Love, Love of God, Love encompassing all humanity

It is this love that is in India,

freely poured upon the intense realization of the every day presence of the Supreme God in the heart in a way more convincing than eyes and ears and sense of touch can realize.

This love is a possession which is treasured by the Indian people high and low

men and women

as a solace in life

beyond all value

the above are excerpts I gleaned from a chapter entitled An Appeal to the Tourist of the West from a book called Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi, A Glimpse of Indian Spirituality by Rao Bahadur M. W. Pradhan, J.P. , New Radharaman Priniting Press, Wadala, Mumbai, India, 11th edition, 2000

this book was sent to me by Hari Kharuna, my New Delhi email friend before I came to India. I took the time to read a little each day before I left for India. It was a great help to me.

NOTE TO THE READER:   If you have read my previous writings, you will note that the following is actually an excerpt from my last writing of my time in India ending May 12.  I felt it important to copy this section and have it as a separate post because of its importance to my being. 

I am a child of the dawn.  The dawn is what humankind is in now at this time in history.  A new age for humankind is coming.  Capitalism has generated a lot of greed, corruption and ecological destruction.  Technology has generated a lot of abilities humans never had before, in particular the ability to be able to communicate with people all over the world within seconds.  The ability to communicate with people all over the world so easily is the most magnificent gift we have been given because it will allow us to know so much more about others beliefs, customs, traditions, governments, family life, religious life, culture, food habits, all that a human is in connection with of peoples all over the world.   The need to fight so much for nationalism and our tendency to fear others because we do not know about them will one day be eliminated.  With this knowledge people will be able to go forward with their own decision as to how they want to live their own lives.  They won’t be doing something because it is what they have been taught from their parents, relatives, community or government or expected of them but because their spirit has chosen what is best for it.  Human copulation has generated over population of the earth, so much so that earth is not able to support all of the life that relies on it for its existence.  Each day more humans are beginning to see the problems their choices have created on their earth today and are realizing their spiritual connectedness is a source to alleviate or solve these problems.  This spiritual connectedness is also causing humans to be aware that the biggest force we can act with is that of love, loving one another, loving one self.  With love, there can be no greed, craving for more possessions nor desire to use weapons upon another.  With no longer wanting to live as a mass consumer, technology and spirituality combined, humankind is moving into their next stage of evolution, spiritual maturity and lifestyle.  Because of my heart-felt concern for all that is going on with humans and our earth today and my desire to write what I feel about it I identify with being one of the children of the dawn. 

I am one of the new spirits that has been sent here on earth for the express purpose of heralding in God’s time on earth.  When humankind has been able to understand and live their life accordingly that it is only through love for all creatures –  humans as well as animals, plants , any living thing and the planet(s) we might live on; when spirituality and technology are walking hand in hand . . .   then God’s time on earth will finally be here. (Note:  As to there being a God, of that I am not sure.  I acknowledge “the SELF within” each one of us to be God and that we are all connected to one source.  That source and our acknowledgment to our connectedness to it is the God I refer to)   Since I was born my spirit has searched for the purpose of my existence.  I have always wanted to know why, why to everything.  There has been no peace, no rest, no calmness for me because wherever I was looking was in the wrong place to find my answers. My spirit knew the tasks I needed to do were not being done nor would they ever be done until I finally found the path I needed to be on.   I am now being led by God and the universe to be in the areas where my purpose will be given unto me.  Before I even got to this point I was given the advice “Open to all, attached to nothing.”  Oh, how much that is helping me to be better able to do whatever is before me.  I no longer have my agenda or my own perceptions directing me.  I no longer feel it crucial that “I” nor my ego is present in the task before me.  As I go about my tasks I need to remember the task is my responsibility but what the effects are on others is not for me to concern myself with.  My tasks are for those that are placed before me by the universe; I am not to seek them out to come to me. 

As I am now allowing my mind and body to unite with my soul . . . .  

As I am now allowing my conscious mind and subconscious mind to join together to become a perfect mind . . . .

As I am now allowing myself to eradicate the suffering within myself that I have allowed to occur . . .  As I am now walking on the path to peace and happiness and not causing the suffering of others . . . . . .  I see myself as an ethical person, my writing as a tool to be editor of my life; my writing allowing me to have responsibility of my own life

and I believe that my writing, one of millions,  will be a witness to the conditions that rob others of their voice.  For each person who reads my writing what it speaks of may be different from that of another  reader.

an Intrepid guest from Australia and the farm dog

. . . about 12 kilometers (about 7.5 miles) from the town of Chamba in the Panj-la Valley in a village called Chadiara

April 28, Wednesday – Another group of Intrepid travelers arrived today. Their guide is a young man from Darjeeling. This area is composed primarily of Nepalese people. He looks more oriental than Indian. (for the reader that knows I’ve made a mistake in using the word “oriental” please forgive me for at this moment I have no knowledge what it is that I call a person who looks “Asian.” Here again I get myself into trouble because the world leaders have also labeled India as Asian. Oriental and Asian to me mean people from China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Myanmar, and such like that. The idea of labeling someone from India as Asian seems inappropriate to me from what I learned growing up) In fact another guest mistook him for not even being Indian. It wasn’t until he spoke Hindi that it was discovered that he was born in India. He told me that before his becoming a guide he had been employed as a government employee working on a computer for most of his working day. He has a bachelor’s degree and had come to Delhi to get his masters when he was offered this government job. After working five years in that job he realized that office jobs and further college education was not for him. Being a guide, out in nature, and not being part of the business world is what he truly wanted and this job as a guide was his first one away from the corporate world.

The guide told me that the people in his area are very desirous of obtaining their own state hood for they feel that they aren’t being recognized nor their needs being met. Darjeeling is next to Nepal and below Sikkim. This area and the area to its east that are part of India have a lot of upset in their history what with all the other countries that have wanted to have power and / or control in these areas. There’s a state that is named Nagaland in that very north-east section of India so off from the major area of India I, at first, didn’t even realize it was part of India. When I first heard of Nagaland I thought someone was teasing me. My first thought upon hearing this word was places such as Disneyland and Legoland and Toyland. I was quite surprised to learn of a place called Nagaland. My initial reaction to the name Nagaland is a good example of not being very geographically educated and a bit narrow-minded.

One of the Intrepid travelers is from Chicago, Illinois. A Canadian I had met at the Hut a few days earlier had told me that the only Americans that travel that she has knowledge of are those from California or New York, no where else. Well, to any of you who think that the only Americans that travel are Californians or New Yorkers, this Chicagoan proves you are mistaken. At dinner that night the table was graced (I know that depends on your perspective) with an American from the east coast, the west coast and the Midwest. How cool, hu? Three people from America eating dinner together in a farmer’s house high up on the mountainside in the Himalayas of India.

April 29 – Meditated one hour, feet up ½ hour. I just hung out, outside of my room most of the day, socializing with any of the Intrepid travelers that I picked up a conversation with. I learned a lot about the life of the traveler from Chicago. We talked a great deal of time. He was originally from St. Vincent in the Caribbean. He came to America to go to college and just out of college he was contacted and offered a job at the hospital he is working at now sixteen years later. He told me of his family life, his coming out, his family’s reactions, his financial planning, his current mate and his plans for retirement. I enjoyed his sharing and we exchanged Facebook information. I’d love to be able to go to Chicago again, the place where my mother was born, and be able to meet up with him also. Chicago has made it self into a very beautiful city and has much to offer to all who partake of it.

April 30 – The only thing I did of any significance, meaning that it was something meaningful for me, is that I asked Phalguni for a walking stick that I could use when I go walking on these asinine (ooopppps, forgive me) mountainsides. I read today.

May 1 – Meditate one hour; feet up ½ hour. I found the walking stick on the floor outside my door when I woke up. Did I use it that day? Nope! I read today.

May 2 – I woke up at 6:00 am. I did a bunch of little tasks. I tried to meditate but I couldn’t concentrate. About 9:00 a.m. I went downstairs. I went into the kitchen and stayed until 11:00 a.m. I found out they had no one to make meals for that morning except for myself. When the family eat, they do so in the kitchen, they sit around the fire area and mom dishes out some food for them. They either sit on the floor on top of a corn husk mat made by a local person or a little stool and eat their meal. I sat near the fire with my back up against a wall. I ate three freshly made chapatis with 3 slices of buffalo cheese. That cheese is real good. It’s a white cheese and has a tart taste to it. It’s wrapped like American cheese but it’s made here. They don’t make it themselves; they buy it in the market.

So, without knowing that the family had no work to do that morning for guests I went into the kitchen just to take a peek, was asked to sit down and joined the family in their kitchen for a good deal of time and truly shared food with them. Usually when it is a meal time, the guests are served in the dining room. Family and staff do not eat with guests nor at same time. They eat when the guests have finished eating.

The food Sneh was making that morning was chapatis and paranthas. Both are made from the same dough. It is just wheat flour and water. Once the dough is made a piece is broken off, rolled into a ball, coated with wheat flour, then rolled with a baleen (a rolling stick, but only about 5” long). The ball is rolled into a round shape, just like a tortilla. If it is to be a chapati, once it is rolled to the desired thickness, it is placed on a hot griddle to cook. It is flipped over to cook the other side. For a parantha, when the dough has been rolled out enough it is folded into quarters, then rolled out again. While the parantha is being cooked a bit of oil is spooned onto both sides.

While I was eating, along with Nitin and Phalguni I asked questions about life in India. One of the things I asked about is what they spread on their floors. Nitin, the oldest son, told me it was cow dung, just what I had thought. He said it is put down to keep the dust down. He told me that the first 48 hours dung is antibacterial, he also said that walking on it is healthy for you. I have seen them take this cow dung and spread it on their front steps and all over the kitchen area. Nitin said that because a cow has four stomachs and all they eat is grass what comes out as dung is very pure and useful. There is also a lot of flies in the house as well as around the house. Is it because of this dung? I know that I’m fed up with these flies. You sit on the veranda and flies are numerous, flying all over your glass, dishes, face, hands, everywhere Even when I’m in the computer room, flies are all over me. I hate flies and them being all over me. In the bathroom they fly on your butt as they were in the bowl before you even sat down. As I write this, I’m grimacing. I see a picture of this cow. I see all those cow poop piles I’ve come across. I think of all that methane gas scientists say cows are expelling in to the environment and polluting the environment with. All of my mind is thinking bacteria when it comes to poop, poop of any kind. I made a comment about the idea of cow dung just doesn’t seem to be a concept I could go along with. Phalguni just gave me this look as if to say it’s what we do here and it has it’s reasons and quit being a stupid foreigner about our reasons for using cow dung.

In regards to cows I asked Nitin if he knew why cows in Delhi and Gurgoan were allowed to roam free but ones I’ve seen in villages are tied up. He told me that along with modernization male cows use to humans has decreased, machines are replacing the work cows used to do. The owners of these roaming cows have abandoned them. No one has any responsibility for them. I asked about the cows eating garbage, I thought they were only grass-eating creatures. He told me that they’re hungry and they have resorted to eating all sorts of things, crap! Nitin said that there is an effort to gather up all these abandoned cows and place them in a safe environment, away from the streets.

May 3 – Up at 6:00 a.m. Meditate one hour, feet up ½ hour. While I was having breakfast I had an opportunity to speak with Vinayak, the youngest son who is 16. I found out that he was not in school today because today is the first day of his 50 day vacation from school. He said that his school gives them their longest vacation during summer but he would like it if they would have their longest vacation during the winter because it is harder to have to go to school then. He told me that everyone that goes to school has to pay. He did mention though that the government recently started a program for families with only a single girl, that female child could go to school for free. I asked him what he thought of that and he told me that he didn’t think it was fair to those of families with only one son.

The house here is in a frenzy of cleaning. Everyone is involved in cleaning everything. Rugs being taken out and beat. Shelves being emptied and everything washed. My God I feel like I’m in a cyclone of furious activity to have this place without a speck of debris anywhere. I asked Phalguni if they cleaned like this often and she told me they do it every month. Wow! Puts me to shame. I think I might clean like this maybe once a year if not even less.

Since I have come here I keep feeling sick to my stomach after every meal. I also am a little tired of having the same food every day. Also, I was looking at what my expenses would be if I went on to Dharamasala from here to take the Vipassana course and the Introduction to Buddhism course and the yoga courses. The Vipassana course has a waiting list. The fact that my stomach keeps on feeling sick after every meal and in looking at the expenses after I left Orchard Hut and the knowledge that I might not get into one of the courses and what would I do if that were the case, I felt in such a funk that I called the airlines to find out how much it would cost me to change my flight. I was told it wouldn’t cost me anything. So thinking that I’ve been in India for three months and I’ve accomplished what I came here to do, also lost quite a bit of weight while here, that my tummy keeps on feeling bad after I eat something, that rather than spend any more of my money in India versus spending it at home for my urban food forest, publishing efforts and maybe even self publishing, and that it’s too hot for me to travel any more in India, I decided to change my flight and come home even earlier. I set it for May 19. That means I leave Orchard Hut May 16, May 17 at the latest. That gives me May 17 and May 18 to do what I still want to do in Delhi, see the dentist, Dr. Kamala, for sure as my teeth still need to be finished. I will look into taking a train back to Delhi; hopefully I will finally be able to take a train in India.

May 4 – Up at 4:00 a.m. Meditated two hours, feet up ½ hour. I found out the reason for their frenzy of cleaning yesterday. A film crew is here to do a piece on the enterprise here and Chamba. I did some sun bathing today outside my room. I don’t have a bathing suit with me so I just put on my sleeveless blouse and my shorts and enjoy the sun wearing that. After lunch I went out to the pool and just sat alongside it. I even sat along side the pool and dangled my feet in the water for quite a while. I have yet to go swimming in that pool. I haven’t gotten around to it and it is cold water, fresh spring water. I talked with Vinayak and Bhuvan while I sat there. Vinayak told me that there was another pool in this area. It was shaped like an egg and it had a bottom like one also. He said it wasn’t a good shape for people to swim in so they decided to make the current one. It has two levels of depth which makes it easier for those that don’t know how to swim to just wade in the water. Prakash told me that having a pool and in that location has something to do with Vastukala (the Indian Fung Shei). When I get back home I want to read up on this Vastukala and maybe use some of the ideas when I re do my bedroom.

I asked Naveen, the son-in-law, to inquire about getting me a train ticket to Delhi. Naveen runs the travel agency in Chamba for the family. They have access to jeeps they utilize when they have tourists who request service for such. I do wonder how the Dhami family is doing financially. The house is quite large. They recently added four bathrooms to the back of the house. I’m the first one to use the one attached to my room. No wonder why my bathroom was so pristine when I saw it for the first time. It had never been used and it made me think they were meticulous cleaners here. Sneh told me that they would be adding a modern kitchen in the fall. I still don’t understand where it is that she said that kitchen would be. She said it would be above the existing one but that is where the sleeping rooms are, as far as I can tell. Off to the side of the main house they added a building that consists of two very spacious guest rooms, a few smaller ones and another toilet area. This place, in fact, does have a lot of toilets. I think there are at least twelve on the grounds. Each toilet area also has a shower area. Speaking of bathrooms I have yet to see one with a bathtub. I keep looking at people’s toes to see how they’re pedicured because when I take a bath is when I take care of my cuticles and smoothing out the rough skin. I wonder how others take care of their pedicuring. I keep thinking along the lines of soaking your feet in a bathtub to do so, so without a bathtub , my mind tells me how can they take care of their pedicures (although I am perfectly aware of the possibility that there are other ways of taking care of your cuticles, I just don’t know them).

May 5 – Other than a torrential rainfall today not much to write about. About 3:00 p.m. the winds started picking up something horrendous. I was in my room when they started. I went out on to my verandah to try to get a better feel of what was going on. Prakash came into the room next to mine to close the windows there and saw me and told me to get into my room. Along with the winds came an awful downpour of rain. That awful weather lasted for several hours. It was the worst I’ve experienced since I’ve been here in India. Of course, no electricity again. The winds were so strong that Prakash and his staff were going about the property looking for ways to keep things buckled down. Many pieces of housing blew off. Some of the pieces hit places that caused breakage.

Naveen and Nitin both told me that they there were no seats available on a train out of Pathenkot to Delhi. Naveen said that three days before the departure date he can look for a booking on the seats reserved for emergencies. He said it will cost Rs 250 more for one of these tickets. I was told that it would take five hours to get to Pathenkot, then another twelve hours on the train to get to New Delhi. If I were to take a bus out of Chamba to New Delhi the total amount of time is sixteen hours. For me getting on the bus in Chamba and having it go directly to New Delhi is so much easier than getting a bus to Pathenkot, then meeting up with someone there to take me to the train station, then getting on a train there and going to Delhi. Naveen and Nitin say that the comfort of the bus versus the train is worlds apart but I’ve already been on that bus to Chamba from Manali for eighteen hours so I’m versed on the discomfort of a bus for that long of a journey. When I told Naveen to forget about getting me a ticket on the train he threw up his hands and said he wasn’t responsible for my comfort if I wanted to take the bus to Delhi; he would never do such a thing. Oh well, I know the bus is not comfortable and you have heard me say so and strongly that it is not but I can be five hours on a bus to take me to the train and then travel twelve more hours on a train or I can be sixteen hours on a bus continually traveling to Delhi and not have to unload my luggage and load it up again and unload it again. Pathenkot is five hours west of Chamba then I would go south. Bus from Chamba to Delhi is pretty much just going south, I think. Now that I think of what I was told, maybe this bus also goes to Pathenkot then starts going south to Delhi. Who cares? At this stage in the game I just want to get on some type of transportation, stay on it, and arrive in Delhi in time for me to get on a plane to take me home.

May 6 – Woke up to find no electricity again. At 6:00 a.m. went down to ask for a pot of hot water along with my jar of Nescafe Instant Coffee. Ended up having two pots of instant coffee. When I went out to the verandah to sit down and read I saw a lady on the front lawn looking about. Only 6:00 a.m. and someone is already up and about. She must have arrived last night during the storm. In the room next to my mine I heard new voices of those who also probably arrived during the storm last night.

The night before Sneh had made roti (wheat bread) for lunch; the first time since I’ve been here. I asked Vinayak if I could have two of them to take with me so I could eat them later that evening if I got hungry. I didn’t eat them last night so I had them this morning with my coffee. I also went into the refrigerator and grabbed two pieces of buffalo cheese to eat with the bread. Yum, yum!

While sitting at the table on the verandah eating my delicious meal of home-made bread and buffalo cheese and sipping my coffee the lady I saw on the front lawn came up and introduced herself to me. She sat down and we started talking. Her name is Sonali. She is working as an administrator with an organization that offers classes to children who live in the slums near Mumbai. Her career life has been very varied. Her education is quite extensive also. Her first job was in the sciences and just by chance she got into education and says that she feels like she has found her niche for her profession. She lives in a city called Pena near Mumbai. She says she and her husband don’t like living there, it is so crowded and that they are hoping to adopt a village and move there. Sonali is into yoga and she was also born into the Jain religion. I found it very interesting to talk to her and I got her name, email address and the organization she works for with the slum schools. As I spoke to her I was thinking that she would be a fantastic contact person for Cara if she wants to come to India.

I also found out that she indeed did come in that torrential downfall of last night. They had traveled by car to get to Orchard Hut Road and while traveling the wind and rain was coming down horribly. She said she was quite frightened. The people in the room next to me are her in laws and they too had come up last night. What can a traveler do in this setting? You are in a car on a one lane road and the only thing around you is this little tea stall, nothing is set up where you can take shelter from weather such as this. Get back in the car, turn around and find accommodations back in Chamba? I do wonder why Orchard Hut doesn’t make a connection with the people who live next to the tea stall for situations such as this. People in India are known for their hospitality to strangers. It would seem like a natural step to have in place for times when the weather is not conducive to walking up the mountain.

I spent a good part of the day reading and finishing a book. It was about India and a woman who married into a Rajastan family who practiced punjab. It was very interesting. I at first found it impossible to believe that a woman who was not raised having to practice punjab would marry into a family that would require her to do so. The story took you into her head and shared with you the ideas that developed that allowed her to tolerate and eventually respect the family’s practices even to conceding to having her daughter engaged at a young age to another punjab practicing family.

At 4:00 p.m. I didn’t have anything on my agenda to do so I thought I would take advantage of the television. Again, no electricity! The sun is out; it will not be down for another 2 – 3 hours. Okay, Nora, get your walking stick and walk down that mountain and up again. It should take you no more than 2 – 3 hours. I did it! My first time since I’ve set foot at the Hut. Pretty bad, I know. I got here April 20 and today is May 6. The sixteenth day being here and I finally walk off the house area of this property! Very , very sad, I know.

Walking down I had thoughts about getting lost as there were many paths to be seen in front of one; one has to know which path it is they need to take to get all the way down. Vinayak told me to take the wider paths so that’s what I did. It made sense to me because those are the ones that have been traveled most by people coming and going to the hut. My walking stick in hand I began the descent. The walking stick was a great help to me because as I went down I put the stick in the ground in front of me and it made me feel like I wasn’t being pushed down by gravity, no pounding on my knees with the weight coming down only on them; the stick took some of that weight off. Almost at the end I came to this area that truly didn’t look like it was a people crossing. It had a lot of overgrowth and was dark and kind of like a tunnel. Fortunately for me there was a man working near by and he saw my hesitation and gestured for me to go ahead. I said road and he continued the gesture. Whether he understood what I had to say or not I have no idea. I think my hesitation alone was all that was needed to communicate to him what information I was needing at that moment and he gave me the gesture I needed to continue walking forward. I did it! I saw the tea stall. I walked up to the road and crossed it! I made it down the mountainside! Yee pee! Nora!

During my walk I saw other houses. Most of the houses are small in comparison to the one Dhamis live in. They are all rectangular in shape. A lot of the houses are two-story. For some of these two-story homes, the first story is where the animals live and the second is where the family lives. In fact I’ve learned that Phalguni and her family are to move into another house on Dhami’s property that is made in this way. The animals below will be removed though as they have another barn they can move the animals to. Other two-story houses around here look like only people live in them. There is a house I can see from Dhami’s house down by the road that looks much larger than his and the fields in front appear to be larger, more maintained and more productive. The colors of the houses are bright. A lot of turquoise, dark red, peach, orange to name a few. I saw people out and about tending to their chores, laundry hanging out on whatever would suit the purpose so that they could dry, cows, goats, human tenders of these animals, threshing occurring, people slicing their wheat down, wheat being collected, bundled and hauled off to the next step of its processing. The clothes that were worn were Indian on the women whereas the men were wearing both western and Indian. The Indian wear for men is a round flat top hat, a kurta and pajamas trousers. If my memory serves me correctly I also think a scarf around their neck and shoulders. I am told the women wear this round flat top hat also but I haven’t seen any. There was a moment when I was walking toward a house that I heard the laughter of children that was coming from around the house and not within but when I got near the house not a soul was in sight as if they had run into the house not wanting to come in contact with a foreigner. I saw some men at a field and they were removing big rocks, some even boulders from the land. Let me mention that any land that I see on this mountain has rocks from small pebbles to big boulders. This whole area is just full of them and I know that makes it difficult to farm this land. In order to farm one first has to remove all these stones. The land cannot be farmed with all of them present. That alone is a big deterrent for a lot of farmers to want to farm a piece of land but here that’s all they have to choose from so what they must do, they do. I’ve seen many a wall in this area made out of stone and I know they are also used to build the walls of houses. There were many areas where water was flowing freely along the path I walked. In some of these water sources a conduit was attached to it to allow access to the water for whatever purpose, probably primary was to get a drink of water. If the water coursing by disrupted the path, rocks were put over the area to allow for ease of access.

On the way back up the hill, again, thank you God for the walking stick! With the walking stick I felt I could accomplish climbing Mount Everest. I took that stick, stuck it into the ground in front of me and used my arms and my legs to take the next steps. I walked very very slowly. I would take two steps, stop, breathe, take two steps again. I kept up this process the whole way of walking back up the mountainside. I know there were locals peering through their windows watching this spectacle but I do not care how pitiful I looked. I only know that I was able to walk down to the tea stall and walk back up to the Hut. The sight I created was of no significance to me.

There was a moment when I was only about 1/16 away from the hut when I came to this structure, the path before me was full of loose small rocks and it didn’t look like there was a path to continue after this patch of loose rocks. I thought I might have taken a wrong turn and was off the correct path. I had brought my cell phone with me and rather than trying to figure it out on my own I called Prakash. It was getting dark and I didn’t want to take the chance of being out there in the dark still trying to find my way back or having to walk up that mountainside in the dark not being able to see clearly what my foothold was. He had someone come down to meet me. If I had only continued that same direction before calling him I would have come to the next bend and then shortly thereafter I would have come to the laundry area then the hammocks. So close, and I caved in and called to ask for help.

I made it. I got to the Hut eager for that beer I had called Prakash earlier to put in the freezer for me so I’d have a nice icy cold one! And guess what? Did I get a nice icy cold one? Nope, electricity still out so it only was put in the cold water pool. It wasn’t as cold as I would have liked but beers beer and I deserved it after that walk. While I was sitting and drinking my beer, Neha, the TV producer came over and started talking to me. She is only 30 years old and a producer (also found out later that she is a celebrity). Prakash had already told me that they might want to interview me for the feature. I needed to be on my toes with my replies to her.

May 7 – Another rainy day today. I had woken up at 6:00 a.m. I did my meditation, feet up and some yoga stretches. About 9:00 a.m. weather gray and icky again. I went back to sleep. I spent the day out on the verandah of the third floor near the sleeping quarters of the family. I don’t know if I was able to do that but no one told me I needed to go elsewhere so I sat there, read the newspaper and some magazines and even ate my lunch.

It was a cold day and I saw Sneh putting on her thin cotton shawl so I decided it was a good time to give her the yak wool shawl I had bought for myself that I had decided to give her as her birthday present. I had worn it when I first came to the Hut as it was cold. She had complimented me on it. When I found out her birthday was May 20, I was thinking of what I had that I could give her. The shawl had to be it. Giving her the shawl versus me keeping it made so much more sense to me as the weather here calls for a shawl such as this one whereas in California, it would be a waste of a nice warm shawl. I don’t like to wear sweaters and coats and wraps anyhow so she will be a more deserving owner of that shawl. I have two more shawls I bought along with that one so I’ll not be without a shawl from India.

I had also asked Sneh about her making a meat dinner as she had told me that her family eats meat. This morning I had called my sister and I was asked about what I had been eating while I was in India. I replied that I hadn’t eaten meat but a time or two and it made my mouth water thinking of the possibility of a meat meal made by Sneh and I was wondering if it would be possible for her to cook some meat as I knew she was a good cook. I said that I would love to have some lamb. After giving her the shawl I think she felt she had to come through with some meat for me. Her first reply was that we would have chicken and I said that I’ve already had chicken in India; I’d love to have some lamb. She said she would ask Mr. Prakash. He came by shortly after that and she showed him the shawl. He told me thank you also. I mentioned to him my inquiry about having lamb and he also said we were going to have chicken tomorrow as if that was a great treat. I told him also that I wanted to have lamb but in a sweet not spoiled manner of speaking. He told me he would call to have some for tonight. A couple of days later I found out from Nitin that it was not lamb but goat; they don’t have lamb in the area. I also asked Nitin the cost of lamb / goat / chicken. He told me they were about the same price. I was happy to hear that because after asking for lamb I felt guilty, thinking that it was more expensive than chicken.

The dinner of lamb was good. It was the first time I had meat at the hut. I do not know how the lamb was cooked but it was served to me in a bowl with some sauce. There was fat on the lamb. Along with the lamb she served a spread made of garlic and garlic greens to put on the meat. It was real good. I just ate the lamb and rice, none of the other food that was served for dinner. I even asked for seconds of the lamb. It tasted good but not delicious or mouth-watering. She also served it with the bones and there were many of them and big ones which I was not happy with. When I got seconds, more than half of it was bones. I was not impressed

Have I told you about the farm-house pets? They have a dog named Bravo and a cat named Shady. Those names sound like ones out of a western movie, what do you think? Bravo is a big dog but well muscled and a friendly guy. He is also very tolerant of little Rupashana’s antics with him; she manhandles him so roughly and he just remains motionless and takes it. The cat is sleek and lean, very aristocratic looking. The first days that I was here it was cold and she loved to get on people’s laps and snuggle and just go to sleep. When it got warmer her like for humans seems to have diminished. I have found out that she is pregnant and will be delivering this month. If I lived nearby I think I would make it a point to get one of those kittens; a beautiful cat. What I find very interesting is that neither animal has fleas. How is that? In the city our animals get fleas but here in the rural area fleas don’t go on animals? I wonder what keeps the fleas from being on these animals out here.

May 8 – At breakfast I had asked Sneh about the dishes she served and the spices she used. I had started a list and she looked at it. She told me that she learned how to cook by watching and I need to watch her to learn how to cook. She told me I could come help her for dinner.

I walked down to the tea stall again today and back up the mountainside. I saw many other people walking on the path today and smiled and said hello to them. There were women near the river washing their clothes and I said “namaste” to them. They all smiled back at me and seemed happy to acknowledge me. Their response made me feel good.

Today I made an attempt to find a way to walk along the river. I got off the main path and walked toward it. The land just before the river has a lot of water in it so walking in it one has to be careful so you don’t find your leg knee-deep in water nor your shoes sucked into the mud. When I got to the river the area up river and down river had lots of rocks so if I wanted to walk along the river it looked like a lot of rock walking or climbing which I am not in to. I had hoped that I might come across someone who was fishing and get them to let me buy a fish from them so we could have it for dinner but I’ve not seen a fisherman yet. Sneh tells me you can get fish from the river but my luck has not brought me across any fishermen.

When I walked back up the mountain, the washer women were in front of me. At one point they stopped and just looked at me. I asked them if they spoke English and I got a “No” gesture. I told them that they didn’t have to wait up for me as I walked very slow, they could keep on going ahead. Here they are with loads of clothes they had just washed walking up that mountain as if they were walking down my level street in Monterey Park.

A group of about twenty people arrived today. Most of them are in their 20s. It is a college trip. The college is a private one in Salt Lake City, Utah. The teachers as well as the students all look to be white.

About 7:00 p.m. I went in to the kitchen to offer my services to help with the dinner. Sneh just had me sit down and didn’t have me do anything. I just sat and watched. She told me she learned how to cook by watching. I would rather have been doing something in the preparations as I felt guilty just sitting there while everyone was running around doing stuff for the dinner for the great number of guests at the dinner meal. The chicken spoken about yesterday was made for this group and not on my behalf. Ah ha! No wonder Sneh and Prakash both told me we will have chicken tomorrow when I asked for lamb yesterday. Since this group was arriving right before dinner all of the family was required to meet them. I had forgotten that when Sneh asked me if I wanted to eat with the newly arriving guests or in the kitchen. I had said kitchen thinking I would be eating with Sneh and/or other family members. I ended up eating alone which I was sad to do but at least I didn’t have to wait to eat until after 9:00 p.m.

May 9 – I had a strong desire to cut my hair today. I had an idea of just taking sections of my hair as if to roll it in curlers and clipping the dead ends off. I started to do it and then thought that maybe Phalguni was not busy and she might want to do it for me. I went to find her and asked her. She said yes but before she started she said that her daughter had woken up from a nap so she couldn’t. Oh well, I went back to the bathroom and continued my own cutting. I think I got rid of all my brown hair. I only have gray hair now. It looks like I did a pretty good job of getting rid of all the dead ends. My hair seems to have more bounce and curliness to it.

May 10 – I got up at 4:00 a.m. For the first part of my day please look to my paper titled “No Big Deal.”

Before lunch I showered, fixed my hair and sprayed it, put on some makeup and went out. Neha complimented me on how I looked. I thought that was very good considering she is into appearances so that made me feel like I had done a good job not only in how I fixed myself up but that I did a good job on my own hair cutting yesterday.

After lunch I stayed outside waiting for the dancers to begin their performance. I also took some Flip videos of them while they practiced. I understand that they were paid for their performance, not only monetarily but a lunch and two bottles of whiskey. After the guests had their lunch the performers had theirs. I wonder why we all didn’t eat at the same time. When the performers did eat though they sat on the floor in the dining room whereas we guests sat on chairs at the table; maybe that was the reason. (Note of May 12 : Prakash tells me that it is their custom not to eat with people of higher standards or did he say wealth? than themselves) Maybe the performers would feel uncomfortable eating with foreigners, I don’t know. I was told they would begin at 3:30 p.m. but as has been the custom here in India they began later, about 4:45 p.m., I think. Everyone sat out on the front lawn and the dancers and musicians performed in front of us. They were in local costume. The women were wearing all their jewelry. They wear very large nose rings, about 4” circumference, they attach a piece of the ring with a string to their ear, I think to hold up the weight. For their head-piece they put a plastic bottle under their head scarf to provide that pointed look. While one of the dancers danced, it fell off. We had been told before hand not to have any plastic bottles with us as the film crew was filming the performance and the show was an ecological friendly piece. The plastic fell on the ground and was at their feet while they danced. More than likely if that got into the piece, it will be cut out.

The men were wearing conical-shaped hats with a piece of cloth attached to the tip. Their top piece was a wool coat that was very gathered with a belt made of a very long piece of rope like material. I was told that the material for their coat was waterproof and that when it rains they can open up this coat and make it into a tent shaped structure that they can get into to keep themselves out of the rain. These village people are mountain people and they are used to being out in the elements in all kinds of weather. The men would be the ones out in the bad weather tending to their livestock while the women would be at home caring for it and the family.

The group performed about five dances but each one was very long. I was surprised at how long each dance lasted; I’d say about fifteen minutes. However long, the group looked tired after each one. Each dance had a story to it. Prakash told us what the dances were about. The instruments consisted of a very long horn, a flute, two kinds of drums and two female singers. For the last dance Prakash got up and began dancing. His wife, Sneh, joined him. It was the first time I had seen Sneh get into having a good time, always I just see her taking care of cooking and household chores. She smiled a lot today enjoying the visitors, the performers, the music and the dancing. It was music to my heart to see her having such a good time. Most of the audience joined the performers. I didn’t. My inhibitions kept me seated. But, I also took more pictures of everyone dancing. While the performance was going on I had myself a beer. Afterward I asked Nitin if I could sample some of that Indian rum he had told me about earlier. I ended up having two glasses of it from him. It’s called Old Monk’s Rum. It was smooth and pleasant tasting. Harry, a friend of mine from California, asked me to bring him back some Indian alcohol so I will try to bring that one back for him. I sat on the verandah outside the dining room with other guests and whiled away the time until it was time for dinner.

After dinner I went to sit with the NDTV crew. I asked Neha if I could have one of her cigarettes, my first since leaving home. My last one was January 30. For the night I had two. The crew was also enjoying rum. Well, that little party got a bit bigger and more rum was passed around. I did drink quite a bit tonight. I said goodnight about 11:00 p.m. still aware of my actions and able to walk up the stairs to my room so I thought I didn’t have too much.

May 11 – I got out of bed close to 7:00 am and went down to breakfast at that time as the big group was getting theirs at that time so decided to have mine at the same time. I did not feel good today. I drank too much alcohol last night. My stomach felt real bad. After breakfast I went back to bed. Well, I will not get into any more of how I felt because of my over indulgence of alcohol.

I decided to go to Chamba today as I heard the film crew was going in. I asked if I could go along with them in their vehicle and was told yes. Neha, the producer, told me they would be going in around 11:30 a.m. or so. I went down ready to go at that time. They were not ready so I was on the internet for a bit. They were still doing filming of this and that. Well, finally about 3:00 p.m. they were ready to leave the Hut.

During the time that I was waiting for them to begin their descent down the mountain I had a lot of time to just sit around and do nothing. I had an opportunity to talk with Phalguni. I was sitting on the verandah in front of the dining room waiting now for lunch to be made by Sneh for the crew. Phalguni and Nitin both ended up sitting with me for a bit. At one time both of them were there and I was asking Phalguni questions but Nitin kept answering for her. After a couple of questions I told Nitin to let Phalguni answer for herself. He said something to the effect that she wasn’t answering and I said it was because he was answering for her and he didn’t give her an opportunity to answer for herself. A few moments after I said that to him he got up and left. It was as if he didn’t have the desire to sit around and listen to his sister and I speak but if he could be a major participant in the conversation he would want to sit around for it.

Phalguni told me that she had an arranged marriage. Phalguni is about 36 years old. She has been married for four years. She said friends of her mothers who live in New Delhi knew her husband’s family. They arranged for her and her husband to meet. I asked her if she went out a few times with her husband before they got married so she could get to know him better. She told me she didn’t like the idea of doing that. I asked her a few questions about how the marriage works when you don’t even know the man, his likes, his dreams, his goals, his visions and in comparison to hers. She didn’t provide much information. She did acknowledge that her ideas may have to be set aside in deference to his. She told me though that her husband and her do talk about things before decisions are reached. I was happy to hear that. I found out she has a Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism. She wants to have two children. Her daughter, Pashi, is four and she is still breast feeding her. When she is five, Phalguni wants to have her second child. From what I can tell, all three sleep in the same bed but I truly have no idea where her husband sleeps as I never see him come out of the bedroom I do Phalguni and Pashi. Phalguni told me that the last time she went trekking was the year before she was married. Before her marriage she was a trekking guide herself. She said her husband also treks. I asked her if she would go trekking with her family. She said that now one of them has to watch her daughter so they both can’t go trekking together. I said she could leave Pashi with her parents but it was then that she said that yes, but her daughter still sleeps with her.

I know of another man interested in an arranged marriage who is in his 30s now who was born in Canada. He has lived in New Delhi for a few years now. I have seen a lot of arranged marriage ads in the newspapers. I think, but I do not know for certain, that people like the idea of an arranged marriage because it indicates that both parties are serious about wanting to get married whereas in the dating scene either party doesn’t know for sure what the results will be from their getting to know each other. Another thing in an arranged marriage is a lot of factors are looked at and based upon that information and perhaps the appearances of the parties a decision in reached. After that criteria is met both parties agree that that person will be their partner. The decision is reached and there is no turning back. Whether your relationship is a good one or not you’ve made the decision and you’ll do your best to make the marriage be okay. Arranged marriages are to ensure that man and woman become married, have a family and perpetuate the family line, no love needs to be involved in that. My western mind screams but what about your own aspirations, what you think is good in a marriage, what you personally want for your marriage, your home, your everyday life, your children? But those, alas, are all individual questions. In an arranged marriage the only individual, I believe, is the man. What the man wants is what happens, I think. Prakash told me that those that were involved in the arranging continue to be involved with the couple and help both of them when troubles might arise. It is the family, the community and not the self that is the deciding factors in an arranged marriage.

As I finally began to go to Chamba, Nitin and I walked ahead. Neha said that they would be filming as they walked so they would be going slower than I would. When she meant slower, she wasn’t kidding. I think it took them a few hours to finally get down the mountain. We went down a different way from the one I was familiar with. This one was shorter and much steeper. On the way down we met up with staff from the hut who were carrying supplies on their backs. There were about three guys, each carrying a pack that looked really big and heavy! One guy was even carrying in egg cartons about 3 dozen eggs. Man! How do they do that? One of the men had a pained expression to his face and looked like he was really having a hard time carrying that stuff up. His expression made me feel so sorry for him. Nitin said his face always looks that way. If they weren’t doing it for the Hut they would be doing it for their own family. We also had to walk across a very narrow bridge made out of rocks and pieces of wood. It was a very flimsy bridge and if Nitin was not walking in front of me and holding my hand I would not have dared to walk across it. I did walk across it and made no fumbles. I did it! If I would have had to go across that bridge on my own, I think I would have been on my hands and knees crawling to try to get across. More than likely I would not have gone up on that bridge but would have gone into the water and crossed over while enjoying the water.

After crossing the bridge Nitin learned that his cousin was on a motorcycle driving into Chamba and was on the road above us. He arranged for me to get a ride into town on a motorcycle!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Shit, Shit and triple shit! After crossing the ramshackle flimsy bridge, walking a few more feet and the road was there. I get on the backseat of the motorcycle fine. I do not see anything I can hold on to. I ask the driver if there is anything I can hold on to and he tells me no! No! I am to go down this windy road on a motorcycle with no helmet, with a walking stick in one hand and I have nothing to hold on to! What the hell is this? He says I can hold on to him. I do! I tell him thank you for giving me some comfort. With my left hand around his waist, my finger tips feeling his belly button (hee hee), my right hand is holding onto my walking stick and also on to the rim of the back seat we take off. Oh boy! Oh boy! What did I just jump into being arranged for me? Here I am with my backpack, no helmet, his cousin has no helmet either and we start riding down this one lane windy road, areas that are broken up, potholed, wet, slippery. Oh my God! This was not a short ride; it’s about 8 miles! There were a couple of times when we had to go by a very wide vehicle like a bus or one of those big hauling road maintenance trucks. Oh my God! I had thoughts of getting into an accident. Who wouldn’t? I’ve got only a few more days to be in India and now I get into an accident, a terrible one at that as we would probably slide off the mountainside from the one lane road we were on. Damn! All I can do is pray that he is a good rider with a heavy woman as his passenger. Every time I came to something that looking at it made me scared I just looked at this guys neck and only thought of what it looked like. I didn’t glance towards anything that would make me scared. My body at times was full of fear but I didn’t want it to be or it might cause my body to make a movement that would make it worse for the driver and would cause an accident. There were times when this road was going downhill steeply.

Just before we got into Chamba he stopped at someone’s house and came out with a helmet for himself to wear. I wonder what was in his brain that he decided to get a helmet for himself and why not one for me. We went into Chamba a way no bus would have taken me. With his motorcycle we went down the very narrow lanes, so narrow that if two motorcycles are passing they are almost touching. He did a great job of handling the bike with me on it. There were even times when we were going almost straight uphill and I was hanging on for dear life; others going down a steep hill and I was trying to lean back so I wouldn’t fall into him. My God! What a drive but he showed me a few streets in Chamba that I hadn’t seen before and were nice to be on. Too bad I don’t have the chance to check them out a bit more.

In Chamba I went to the ATM to get money to pay the Hut, I bought a baleen to roll chapati and paranthas, a few incense burner things, some incense and some Chamba shoes for Cara and myself. One of the incense burner trays I will give to the Dhami family to use for the ritual they do to greet their guests. I came back to the Hut in a jeep they had arranged for the college group. I then walked up the mountain for the third time. I do not know why but walking up this time was harder for me. My legs and knees were hurting. I walked with difficulty back up at the hut. When I got up it was difficult for me to move about. After eating dinner, about 9:00 p.m. I went to bed.

May 12 – Today I just concentrated on getting my journaling up to date. This document was started today and actually finished so that is what I wanted to accomplish today so I have done what I set out to today even though I slept like crazy! I also have felt very sleepy today. So not only did I sleep until 7:00 a.m. but after breakfast I came up to my room and slept for another hour. About 1:30 p.m. I put my sleeveless blouse and shorts on to sun bathe by the pool and go swimming but the sun decided to take a nose dive when I got out there. So that was a waste. I talked to Nitin some more and ended up having lunch in the kitchen with his mom and cousin sitting on a mat on the kitchen floor. After that I went up to my room to write some more. The weather was gray since about 3:00 p.m. About 6:30 p.m. I went to bed again! Wow! I sure felt like sleeping today. I do sometimes wonder if I like to sleep so much because I am depressed or what is the cause? There are times when I can just sleep, sleep, sleep. Other times when I’ve slept and I can sleep no more. I worry about my desire and habit of sleeping so much. Is it good for my health in the long run or is it because things are not well with my spirit that I do so. I didn’t go for dinner tonight as I was sleeping.

This will be my last writing here in India for today is Thursday. Today, tomorrow and Saturday I will just hang out outside all day long and do whatever is placed before me. On Sunday I leave this haven on earth and take a taxi to Chamba. In Chamba I get on a deluxe (???????) bus to take me to New Delhi. On Monday morning I arrive at the Interstate Bus Terminal in the north of New Delhi. From there I will take an auto rickshaw to my New Delhi home, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. I am quite apprehensive about the weather in Delhi. Here in my little haven the weather has been most agreeable except for all the rain and gray days. The last weather report I got about Delhi is that it is a scorching heat; about 104 degrees. Monday I’ll rest a bit, unpack all of my luggage, go out to do some shopping and repack all of my luggage. On Tuesday I have to go to the dentist for the last time. I might go to the Gandhi Museum, the Khan Market and maybe the government emporium state shops. At 10:00 p.m. that night I will take a taxi to the airport. On Wednesday my plane departs at 1:10 a.m.

In ending my travels of India I would like to share with you some thoughts that I learned about myself from my readings of books Prakash has here in his lending library. The reason I say I have learned these things about myself is because when I read these concepts they so resonated with my spirit.

I am a child of the dawn. The dawn is what humankind is in now at this time in history. A new age for humankind is coming. Capitalism has generated a lot of greed, corruption and ecological destruction. Technology has generated a lot of abilities humans never had before, in particular the ability to be able to communicate with people all over the world within seconds. The ability to communicate with people all over the world so easily is the most magnificent gift we have been given because it will allow us to know so much more about others beliefs, customs, traditions, governments, family life, religious life, culture, food habits, all that a human is in connection with of people all over the world. The need to fight so much for nationalism and our tendency to fear others because we do not know about them will one day be eliminated. With this knowledge people will be able to go forward with their own decision as to how they want to live their own lives. They won’t be doing something because it is what they have been taught from their parents, relatives, community or government or expected of them but because their spirit has chosen what is best for it. Human copulation has generated over population of the earth, so much so that earth is not able to support all of the life that relies on it for its existence. Each day more humans are beginning to see the problems their choices have created on their earth today and are realizing their spiritual connectedness is a source to alleviate or solve these problems. This spiritual connectedness is also causing humans to be aware that the biggest force we can act with is that of love, loving one another, loving one self. With love, there can be no greed, craving for more possessions nor desire to use weapons upon another. With no longer wanting to live as a mass consumer, technology and spirituality combined, humankind is moving into their next stage of evolution, spiritual maturity and lifestyle. Because of my heart-felt concern for all that is going on with humans and our earth today and my desire to write what I feel about it I identify with being one of the children of the dawn.

I am one of the new spirits that has been sent here on earth for the express purpose of heralding in God’s time on earth. When humankind has been able to understand and live their life accordingly that it is only through love for all creatures – humans as well as animals, plants , any living thing and the planet(s) we might live on; when spirituality and technology are walking hand in hand . . . then God’s time on earth will finally be here. (Note: As to there being a God, of that I am not sure. I acknowledge “the SELF within” each one of us to be God and that we are all connected to one source. That source and our acknowledgment to our connectedness to it is the God I refer to) Since I was born my spirit has searched for the purpose of my existence. I have always wanted to know why, why to everything. There has been no peace, no rest, no calmness for me because wherever I was looking was in the wrong place to find my answers. My spirit knew the tasks I needed to do were not being done nor would they ever be done until I finally found the path I needed to be on. I am now being led by God and the universe to be in the areas where my purpose will be given unto me. Before I even got to this point I was given the advice “Open to all, attached to nothing.” Oh, how much that is helping me to be better able to do whatever is before me. I no longer have my agenda or my own perceptions directing me. I no longer feel it crucial that “I” nor my ego is present in the task before me. As I go about my tasks I need to remember the task is my responsibility but what the effects are on others is not for me to concern myself with. My tasks are for those that are placed before me by the universe; I am not to seek them out to come to me.

As I am now allowing my mind and body to unite with my soul . . . .

As I am now allowing my conscious mind and subconscious mind to join together to become a perfect mind . . . .

As I am now allowing myself to eradicate the suffering within myself that I have allowed to occur . . . As I am now walking on the path to peace and happiness and not causing the suffering of others . . . . . . I see myself as an ethical person, my writing as a tool to be editor of my life; my writing allowing me to have responsibility of my own life

and I believe that my writing, one of millions, will be a witness to the conditions that rob others of their voice. For each person who reads my writing what it speaks of may be different from that of another reader.

Good bye from India,

Nora Jean Vincent

May 13, 2010 / 08: 27 a.m.

My No Big Deal Situations

May 10, 2010

. . . about 12 kilometers (about 7.5 miles) from the town of Chamba in the Panj-la Valley in a village called Chadiara

. . . . . . my being a loner does not help matters much

floating about throughout the day doing my own thing , out of their way , keeping myself with things to do , staying in my room , sleeping 9 – 12 hours a day , meditating , praying, sitting on my verandah watching the scenes in front of me as if they were a movie I was watching or just looking deep within my own thoughts , reading books, magazines , newspapers

matters –

getting to know the family well . . . how farm is operated . . . how organic is perceived here . . . knowing about their background . . . knowing about their blessings – hardships – trials . . . learning how to cook . . . schooling of any of them . . .

family

father , Prakash – mother , Sneh – eldest son , Nitin – eldest daughter , Phalguni – son-in-law , Naveen – youngest child son, Vinayak – only grandchild daughter Rupashi

I woke up this morning at 4:00 a.m. Today begins my countdown to the day that I leave here which is Sunday, May 16. From last night I go to bed at 9:00 / 10:00 p.m. and wake up by 3:00 / 4:00 a.m. I got my jeans and long sleeve warm pullover on. For some reason I felt I had to go through my clothes and shoes to see what stuff I can leave behind. When I gathered all my shoes I could not find my closed Columbia shoes I had bought just before I left home. I could not, for the life of me, remember where I had last seen them. All I could think of was that I had left them in some room I had left behind, never to see them again. Oh well, I thought to myself, I guess that can be an expense as to how much this trip cost me. Them, along with my UV filter and lens cap for my camera that along the way here in India I have lost possession of. Having resigned myself to no longer having those shoes I had an idea of looking in the shoe closet here at the Hut to see if somehow they had gotten in there.

After doing this and that I finally sat down to meditate at 5:20 a.m. I told myself that I would go down to look for my shoes after I had finished meditating. My mind still races everywhere while I meditate but I keep bringing my mind back to love, peace, calm, impermanent – everything is impermanent. If a teacher were able to get into my meditating head, I’m sure I would get an “F” For me, right now, the mere fact, no, take that back, the mere act that I’m doing it is sufficient for me. It helps me to be ever mindful of where I want myself to be in how I deal with the world and all that is around me. These last couple of days I’m just concentrating on keeping my body still – once my hands are placed, once my feet are placed, once my eyes are closed, once my head is gazing forward — all of that , keep it in that position, do not move any of those parts. Focus my brain towards the area between my eyes, look at my nose, think only of breathing normally – in through the nose, out through the nose. Think only . . . think only . . . in . . . out . . . in . . . out . . . just think of breathing. Ah, how I wish I could. My mind! Will it ever stop having all these thoughts coming into it? There are moments in each session when there is actually a time period when no thought is conscious to me, I see a white slate before me and I feel so calm. I pray that someday I will be able to have a whole hour, if not more, filled with such quietness! Perhaps then I will be able to meet with my spirit within and converse with it purely.

After meditating, as I promised myself, I went down to the shoe closet to see if my dear sweet comfortable and not cheap Columbia shoes, the ones I planned on wearing home on the airplane were there. Eureka! They were there! I don’t even remember having worn them while here at the Hut but I guess I must have. It was probably a cold morning and I had worn them to go out past the house, I had taken them off down there where everybody leaves their shoes before walking within the house and somehow forgotten all about them. Not usual for me but Thank You, God, for them not being gone out of my sight forever. By the way, can my dear reader sense a great deal of “attachment” I have to these shoes? I’m not supposed to be doing that if I want to live a life on the path of enlightenment. It’s one of the causes of suffering and boy was I suffering this morning when I had thought I no longer had those shoes to ever wear again.

I began the rest of my morning with the intent of getting up to date with my journaling. As you can see from the first page I was rambling about what little I did know about the family and this house I’d been living in for almost a month. I was into remorse about my habits and there not getting me into any familiarity with these subjects. After about an hour I decided to go down to the kitchen in the hopes that Sneh and others would be there getting breakfast ready for the twenty plus people now staying at the Hut. I was rewarded with not only Sneh being there but she was making potato stuffed paranthas. They are so good. I asked her if I could have one. I didn’t want to take one before it was actually breakfast time but in fact they’re cool about people asking for what they want regardless of whether its the right time or not. Sneh cooks her potatoes, mashes them, adds chives and onions to the mix. She takes a ball of this and puts it into a round of paranta dough, wraps the dough around this ball, then rolls it out. She puts this round pattie on a hot grill, browns one side, spoons some oil on the top side, turns it over and spoons some more oil on the other side, browns it a bit more and flips it one more time. Done! Truly a comfort food for the masses, if I do say so myself. I sat by the fireside and her while she cooked one after the other. Not only did I have one but I had two! Along with two cups of chai (aka milk tea).

I was happy to sit with her while she worked in the kitchen. It was what I had hoped for when I went down there because I wanted to have more time with her to be able to spend time with her in the hopes that I would learn more from her. I think she doesn’t understand my English completely so sometimes when I ask her a question I don’t get an answer to that question but to the question she thinks I have asked her. When she cooks, she doesn’t tell me what or why to what she is doing, nor does she tell me what ingredients she is adding to the dish. She said she learned how to cook by watching. Watching . . . I have heard that many fine artisans have taught their apprentices this way. No words are spoken. It is up to the apprentice to find out how the technique is done, what tool is used, what material is chosen, what finish is applied, etc. etc. etc. I have never had to be in a situation like that so with the understanding that I have of that scenario at this time it seems like an impossible task. I am not in that situation nor do I have to be so to be able to accomplish that is a mystery to me. I’m having a hard enough time trying to figure out what spice she added since I can’t see the container it came out of nor can I determine what spice it is just by its color or texture. That fact alone tells you how poor of a cook I am.

“So, Elder Sister, what can you teach me about life?’ I asked Sneh. The first week I was here she felt sorry for my stomach upsets and told me that she had no younger sister and she felt like I was her younger sister. With that in mind I decided I would approach her so that I could learn more from her. Her first response was that women are all different, some go out to do work, some stay home to do work, some do no work, everywhere all women have had different life experiences, different family experiences, different home experiences, no where are there any woman alike. She would not be able to teach me anything. After a moment, however, she said “In the family, a woman is to compromise, it is a woman’s job to see to it that there is no disturbing in the family, a woman’s job is to accept.” I told her that my ayurvedic doctor had said something along those lines and had added that for a woman to do that it is actually part of her spiritual growth. Sneh agreed with that.

One day, I’m sure as Cara says she wants to be married and have a family, I will be a grandmother so I asked Sneh, how she is as a grandmother. Does she remain quiet and allow her daughter to work with her granddaughter, to correct her when she needs it. Sneh told me that everyone watches over her grandchild and tells her when she needs to be corrected. I think that is a good thing; it takes a village to raise a child. I will add though that I saw her grandchild want to play with the peas. Sneh’s first response was to not let her take them, then she gave in and allowed her grandchild to have the peas. Her grandchild played with the peas, spilled them on the floor and what Sneh did with those peas after the child played with them, I don’t know but I sense they went into the dish Sneh was planning to use them in before the child played with them. Now, from my perception, that is not correcting the child but giving her free rein; after all who wants to eat peas when you know they have been played with by a child’s hands and have fallen on to the ground?

I sat there watching her cook, sitting by the fire, making parata after parata after parata. She had a big bowl of dough before her, about 12” in circumference and 6” deep and it was full to the brim of dough. To cook all that dough, to feed the twenty plus people anxiously awaiting their breakfast that was to be served in less than an hour, she had only one grill pan (the same kind I use to make Swedish pancakes but a little over half the size) on that wood burning stove. I thought she could make those things so much faster if she had two grills but then I thought, that’s my perception, when in fact what she was doing was perhaps more meditative for her than a chore. That too is my perception but she looked so calm sitting there, legs crossed next to her stove, one like that, that has been used for hundreds of years.

As I sat, breaking small pieces of paranta from my whole and eating a little piece at a time, keeping quite most of the time, seeing the hustle and bustle of those around her getting all the little things ready for the meal to be served in such a short while, I tried to think of things I could say to her or questions I could ask her so that I could learn more from her. I was not successful. When I spoke to her I could see that she stopped or paused her preparations and I thought that was not a good thing, that I was disturbing her so that made me be silent also. I came away with not much more information from her about her, her family, her home, her house. Well, that is something I am going to have to learn how to do. I need to ask God to show me how. When I got up to leave, I bowed before her and said “Thank you, Elder Sister” and left the kitchen.

When I left the kitchen I asked for a pot of tea so that I could take it up to my room and have while I continued my writing, now having fed myself with human interaction I had my energy to burn for continued writing. I got up to my room and as I went to my laptop, no light. Ugh! While I was in the kitchen the lights had gone out. I had forgotten that when I asked for my pot of tea! No electricity , no work on my laptop! This happens a lot here at the Hut! I think there should be a price reduction on the days when there is no electricity, especially for those that are staying here for the purpose of being able to write such as myself! Yes, I do know that I can use my laptop on its battery but the fact is, my battery doesn’t have a very long life. When it is fully charged, indicating 100%, its life is actually only about 2 ½ hours! Bum deal I got because its written specification said it had about eight; probably without anything running on it.

Not able to write, a cup of hot tea in my hand, I decided just to go outside to the front lawn to mingle with anyone that crossed my path. Neha, the television producer happens to be the one. We had a nice chat and she showed me some of her pictures on her laptop of some of the places her work has taken her. (She has an Acer laptop by the way.) While I was chatting with her she asked me if she and her crew could interview me for the program. I shyly demurred from the opportunity. The name of the show she is filming the Hut and this area of Himachal Pradesh for is called “No Big Deal.” I had told her earlier that my journey here is the antithesis of that title.

As to why my journey is the antithesis of the title “No Big Deal” permit me to explain. Many of the tasks I did to be on this journey were very big deals to me; many were done by me for the very first time.

      1. Making the decision to go on this trip knowing for the length of time that I felt I needed to be on it that it would mean no longer having my job
      2. Deciding to go on a trip with no one to go along with me, something I have never done in my entire life, except for little short trips driving in my own car
      3. Going to a country far , far away that I have never been before and once again all on my own, and not knowing anyone in this unknown, strange, far away country
      4. Finding a connection here in New Delhi, establishing and maintaining that connection to assist me as I got familiar with India and some of its ways
      5. Contacting an ashram, an ashram, a holy place, and asking them about accommodations for the first leg of my journey after I had landed in a country never before visited, all by myself, with customs and a language I had no knowledge about
      6. Going out on to the streets of Delhi all by myself, asking for an auto rickshaw to take me to places I have never been before
      7. Getting on a public bus, asking if they go to such and such a place, getting off and getting to where I want to go
      8. Finding a medical facility to get exams and tests done
      9. Finding a dentist and getting an extensive amount of work done
      10. Asking how to go by bus for over a half hours’ journey and then finding my next transportation to get to my final destination
      11. Going to the major Inter State Bus Terminal (ISBT) in New Delhi to see if I could find what bus to take me to a course I signed up for south of Gurgoan, Haryana; dealing with the only Hindi signs, the calling out of the bus staff of where their bus is going and not understanding a word of it, the hordes of people, the stares, the filth, the looks of urine having been emptied in any nook and cranny, and the stench. Getting nowhere and yet going to still a few more places still trying to find a bus that will take me to my destination.
      12. Realizing that all I need to accomplish is being happy and at peace and that whatever the universe places in front of me to do, doing it while being happy and at peace is my purpose for existing.
      13. Realizing that “I” has been a major attachment of mine and that by eliminating my attachment to “I” and my ego my path to happiness and peace will become so much easier.
      14. Being told by Sri Aurobindo Ashram that I could not extend my stay there and that I would have to be out of my room with in 48 hours not having a clue of where to go next or where I might stay in the city
      15. Making the decision to leave Delhi and travel on my own so that I could see more of India, alone, with only a back pack on my back and a student pack as my daily bag.
      16. Getting rid of more than two thirds of the stuff I brought with me so that I would only have those two bags to continue with me as I traveled elsewhere on my own
      17. Arriving at a guest house in Vashista just outside of Manali only to find my room is up two very steep sets of stairs and is still occupied by people still asleep in the bed.
      18. Deciding not to take this Vashista guest house room and being yelled at by the owner that I have to take the room or he’ll loose money, that I’m arrogant, have no heart and continuing to be yelled at as I walk down the main street of the town with my luggage on my back and my chest.
      19. Deciding to go to Chamba, a non tourist place, 18 hours by bus from Manali, not having any knowledge from anyone or anything about Chamba other than what I read in India Lonely Planet
      20. Calling the proprietor of Orchard Hut and deciding I would stay at his home after learning that I had to walk up a mountainside, “only a half hour walk, a little walk” the daughter of the establishment told me to my face. “Open to all, attached to nothing.” When I learned I would have to walk up to the Hut, my initial thought was to say forget it, I’m not going but that would not be living up to “Open to all, attached to nothing.” Regardless of what I wanted to do, I had to push it down and say yes, I would walk up that hill to get to this farmer’s guest house out in a peaceful rural valley.
      21. The final Big Deal – deciding to let Orchard Hut be my last place to visit while in India so that I could be responsible for nothing, so that I could enjoy nature. I decided to stay at a place for a very long period of time just to be able to have an opportunity to not be on the go, see something new, experiencing another piece of India, getting in another mode to transportation to take me to my next leg of my journey. Here I could sit and watch, meditate, write as much as I wanted, give myself time to not have my mind full of all that I could be doing, needed to be doing. Back at home I do not take the time to be in nature enough so here in India, I would take in nature, let its energy feed me. I know my spirit needs nature’s energy to feed me; it is one of the energies I’m deficient in.
      22. The Finale of all Big Deals is deciding that for me to stay at the Hut I would challenge myself to walk these mountainsides. I told myself that I would have to gain another perspective of them so that I no longer thought it “asinine” to desire to trek.

Dear Reader, I have failed the last one. I am almost ready to leave the Hut and I still think it asinine to want to live on these mountainsides. “No Big Deal” the locals would say to these mountainsides! Bah, Humbug! Is what I have to say to all the locals and to trekkers everywhere! I am here to attest to all “That it is a Big Deal!” It seems too difficult to me to live this way. To do anything away from the house one has to walk down a mountain and to get back to the comfort of one’s own home you have to walk up that mountain. It’s steep, there are some pretty big stretches those legs have to take! All the items in your home have to be carried on someone’s back, washing machines, refrigerators, toilets, sinks, to name a miniscule amount. Nope, nope, nope.

May 6, after being here almost three weeks, I finally walked away from the house and on to a path. (well, not the truly first time as a week earlier I had gone past the pool to take that path as I had been told that walking up that path I would find some lovely views and a nice flat area along my walk. I was easily dissuaded by the very narrow path I saw before me. I will call that path a sheep path, it is so narrow and right along side a steep overhang to my so very immediate left. No, not for me! Definitely asinine! (so sorry, all you trekkers!) The path I took? The only one I knew. The one that I had come up on. I knew I needed to walk down it to go back to Delhi so might as well try walking on it. Its path was better worn and made out. I knew it was the only safe path for me that I could be sure of as I had already had experience on it.

I know that to use the word asinine is a very strong word and I actually find myself hesitant to verbalize or write the word but it is truly what I feel deep within myself when I think of wanting to walk these steep paths. I hesitate to use that word because I know I have judged someone’s way of life in a negative way, a put down. I do not mean for it to come across that way as I am completely aware that another’s way of life is what they are comfortable with and enjoy doing. I am totally unfamiliar with having to walk and exist day to day with steep walk ways such as this. I know if I had been born into this mode of getting around I would find nothing at all asinine about it. I asked Vinayak, the youngest son of this house, what he thought about having to walk up and down these 60 degree paths and he said it is all he has known so he doesn’t even consider it to be a bother. In fact he told me that when he is in a hurry he can get to the road in five minutes! (Dear Reader, let me tell you, it takes me an hour just to get down to the road. How the locals must get a good laugh out of the sight of me!)

This morning when I was sitting in the kitchen and talking with Sneh as she cooked, I asked her if she has ever thought of building a house closer to the road where she doesn’t have to walk up this hill, thinking that one day it will be harder for her to get down and up this mountainside, maybe even impossible, for her to walk down and up it anymore. She told me no, that it was too noisy by the road, that was all she had to say. While she said no more, I thought back on the fact that she has had a heart surgery and a few other serious surgeries, that she has never walked to the trekkers hut above her home in all the years she has lived here, that she has told me that she finds it difficult to walk up the hill, that she might leave her house at the most once a week, usually maybe only twice a month . . . and yet she has no thoughts of a house elsewhere but on the side of this mountain where everywhere one turns is a sixty degree angle. All around the house the land is either up or down, no flat area anywhere. The house itself rests flatly on the land because of all the removal of land that must have been done before the house was even laid down.

"Shady"

. . . about 12 kilometers (about 7.5 miles) from the town of Chamba in the Panj-la Valley in a village called Chadiara.

Today is Tuesday, April 27. The time is 7:36 p.m. I have not had a very good day. When I woke up this morning I was all geared up to get up to date on my writing. Before I went to breakfast, however, I noted some problems with the electricity going on and off. I prayed it was only momentarily. When I came back from breakfast praying that I would finish all the writing I wanted to complete before lunch, the power went off indefinitely. At 11:30 a.m. my laptop battery was exhausted.

When I could no longer write my mind went inertia. I felt I could do nothing else. I had to get my writing done. It was like the time when I had to do my senior paper. I wasn’t getting it done so in order to get it done I told myself that I would do nothing else until it did get done. I sat a long time on that couch and just watched TV, my senior paper materials sitting on the table beckoning me but I was a couch potato doing nothing at all until I completed that senior paper and now, I got in to the same mentality because of this writing that I felt compelled to get done.

About 1:30 p.m. the family kept knocking on my door and constantly calling out my name; they would not stop. All three ladies knocked on my door and kept calling my name. I do admit I like how they pronounce my name with their accent. I finally answered and they told me it was lunch time. I had no desire to do a thing until my writing was done. Even Mr. Dharmi was at my door when I finally answered the door. I wonder if they thought I had died as I had been complaining about an upset stomach for a few days. Maybe they thought the food had finally done me in. I asked about the electricity. I was told it would be off until 5:00 p.m.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My insides felt like screaming. I attempted to do other things but I really couldn’t get into anything. At 5:00 p.m. I turned on the lights. No lights. Oh well, I’ve got to stop not doing nothing and do something. I went to the bathroom, brushed my teeth and shaved. The lights came on! I went to my laptop as soon as I finished and began finishing my writing. Thank God! I am now up to date with my writing!

I made a vow with myself that I would not shower until I had completed getting up to date with my writing. When I made that vow I didn’t think I didn’t think it would take me this long to get my writing done. Today I was feeling pretty grimy and I did smell. I had no desire to be in the company with others without a shower. I sit here typing this having just showered and feeling nice and clean. It is 7:47 p.m. and I will have dinner tonight at 8:30 p.m. as I had foregone lunch due to my not being able to write distress.

This afternoon began my eighth day staying at Orchard Hut. I have yet to leave the house. Just like when I first came to the ashram, I didn’t leave it for about two weeks. I am planning to get up tomorrow and go for a walk about 6:00 a.m. and be gone for up to three hours. I’m taking off on the path near the pool. I am psyching myself up to think of my uphill walk as ordinary as walking the streets in Monterey Park.

This area is really beautiful. The only problem I have is the electricity not being reliable and the mountainsides I need to learn how to maneuver. Mr. Dharmi told me he doesn’t accept credit cards so I need to walk down at least one mountainside, get on a bus and go to Chamba to an ATM so I can pay him cash for my stay here. I guess that’s reason enough to not fear walking this mountainside.

April 28, Wednesday, early morning

I got out of bed at 6:10 a.m. Didn’t go for that walk that I had hoped I would finally take this morning. I’m still feeling in the mood for sloughing.

The dinner I had last night was lovely. I think Sneh, Mr. Dhami’s wife, makes her best dishes for the evening meals. She even had dessert – strawberry custard. I sat with two gentlemen who had just returned from a ten-day trek. They were elated with their experiences. Their trek included themselves and three porters. Eggs in their shells in a glass jar were one of the items transported for their trek! Imagine that! When I go camping with my car at my site all I bring is what I don’t have to cook; stuff like canned food, food bars, hardy fruits and vegetables, nuts, healthy crackers and stuff like that. I was told that all the usual food you’d find at the dining table is what you’d find on a trek. The porters are responsible for carrying all of it, even your bags! Mr. Dharmi told me it costs Rs 1500 a day to trek, perhaps before my time here is up I might take a few days trekking trip. At the moment my mind is saying No, I don’t think so but who knows?

To sum up what I’ve been doing since I got here on Tuesday, April 20th, relaxing. Meditating, yoga, been on the internet, read a 378 page book, caught up on all my writing, talked on the phone with my daughter and my sister, spoke with people from other parts of the world, learned how to say the names of the family who live here and have been dealing with an upset stomach. The other half of the time I’ve been staring at my surroundings, enjoying the beauty of so much open land and sleeping.

Another thing I have done is gone into the kitchen of this house. It is one I have never seen before. I open the door and walk up a few steps. The floor is earthen, I think. On my left is a small refrigerator, about 3′ tall. It has a small freezer section. I was told it was hauled up the mountainside by one man carrying it on his back with two supporting its bottom behind him. In front of me is a counter. At the left end of the table is what looks to be an electric heating element where Mrs. Dhami, the cook, can boil water and other such things as that. To the right of me is a table; another area for preparation I think. To the right of the table is an area built up off the floor, about 2′ high. On top of this area is the corner where two walls meet a concave shape has been made into this area. In this concave area wood is burning. On top of this wood is a grate. Here rests the pot where the food is cooked. Walking past the counter towards the outside to the right I see a faucet. I’ve seen staff washing dishes in this area down on the floor with their knees bent, their butts almost touching the ground. When the lights go out this room is very dark. I’ve seen Sneh in there preparing items with just candles or just the fire of her cooking pit. I’ve also seen Sneh, and other members of the family either sitting on the floor or crouched down eating their tea or meal in here.

Since I’ve been up here my stomach has really acted adversely to fried foods. Every day I have eaten something cooked with oil / butter and each day my stomach has not felt good. On Sunday, it really felt bad. It felt so bad that all I wanted to do was just lie in bed. That morning I had a parantha that was cooked in butter. The butter tasted rancid, so I thought, but I wasn’t sure if it was the butter or just my taste buds not too keen on what I was tasting. At lunch time I was eating with Mr. Dharmi and I mentioned I couldn’t eat much because my stomach wasn’t feeling well. I told him that it appears my stomach is not liking foods with oil or butter in them. This is the first time in all my time in India that I am having such a bad reaction to oil / butter. As things stand today I am no longer eating any food with oil / butter. For breakfast I’ll be getting cereal or porridge. I’ve also asked for no potatoes, eggs or yogurt.

As I have been writing this a guest from England has been outside my window. He first came out and did some exercises and now he is sitting in the yoga position and meditating. He has been meditating for over a half hour now. I have yet to get myself into a routine where everyday I meditate and do the yoga that I know. I am awful about setting up a schedule, a routine, and being able to do it. Why is that? Well, I do hope that before I leave Orchard Hut that will be something that I have mastered. I truly want to have it set in stone that each day I will wake up and the first thing I do is spend time with God and the universe, meditate, do yoga and then go about my day’s activities and then, before I go to bed at night meditate an hour more and then say good night to the universe before I close my eyes to sleep, dreams and the healing of my body that sleep brings.



 

a ride on on unusual four legged very long haired animal

 

April 16, Friday, Manali – My Volvo air-conditioned bus for which I have no need of (traveling at night at this time of the year doesn’t seem to necessitate an a/c bus and cost me twice as one of their regular buses that look pretty beat up and don’t have a/c but of which would have suited me just fine) arrived at the bus station in Manali, Himachal Pradesh at 8:30 a.m. Before I got off the bus I asked the driver if he would know how much it cost to take an auto to Sonam Guest House in Vashista. Vashista is a little village just outside of Manali that also provided accommodations with even less expensive rates. Lonely Planet India (LP) book described it appealingly. He told me it would cost Rs 50 and hailed to one of the drivers so without any effort on my part I had a driver and a good price to take me to my accommodation. I got my luggage out of the compartment and was told by the person handing it to me “ten rupees.” For what I asked and he says “luggage handling.” Here again I didn’t have my wits about me. Those men were just trying to make some money. They weren’t with the bus line. They more than likely were locals who took out the luggage and hoped some dope like me would take their line and give them the money they weren’t entitled to. It’s a bummer that the bus line doesn’t keep these men from access to doing that so that they can’t take advantage of dopes like me. It seems like it would be good customer service to protect us from that situation. 

My driver led the way to his auto without offering to help me with my luggage. His auto was a bit away from where I got my luggage but I managed. Up, up, up; into the hills we went. Manali, Vashista was just like Dharamashala . . . narrow windy roads with loads of traffic and hills up and hills down, no flat land. Not what I wanted. The driver stopped in the center of Vashista and acted towards me as if I was to get out. I looked around for the name of the guest house I wanted and couldn’t see it. I had called in advance to see if they had a room available. I gestured to the driver hoping I was conveying to him I had no idea where to go to get to my accommodation. He had gotten out of his auto and stood acting as if he wanted me to get out. I pointed to the name of the guest house in my book and looked imploring at him and my surroundings wanting to know where it was. He finally got back in and drove back to where the place was. I will wonder if he actually knew where it was all along and just didn’t want to bother dropping me off in front of the place or he didn’t want to be courteous enough to let me off near it or what, I’ll never know. I saw written on it Sonam Guest House. What I saw, however, really let me down. To get to the front door I had to walk up some steep, narrow, high steps. And me with my luggage! Oh God! I left my big backpack in the auto on purpose and didn’t give the driver any money in the hopes that he would bring it up and I’d give him the money when he did. He did, thank God! I knocked on a door, no answer. I opened it thinking it might be the registration area. I had no idea what it was that I saw in there but it didn’t look like I might find out in there about my room. The door next store opened and a lady came out. I told her who I was and she said people were still sleeping in the room I had been given. Oh, oh. I had thoughts of crashing once I got to my room, unloading my bags and just resting awhile. I also wanted to use the toilet. I told her I needed to use the toilet. While I was about to go where she was leading me a man came out of the room I had no idea what I had seen in there and said my name. By this time I also knew that my room was up another flight of stairs. I was freaking because I had that luggage and not at all comfortable carrying it just walking on flat ground, let alone steep, narrow, high flights of stairs. The steps, the fact that there were people still in my room, the fact that both of these people looked like I had just woken them up and it was already 9:00 a.m., alarmed me and I knew I didn’t want to stay at this guest house. I told the man that because of my heart and these steps I couldn’t stay here and thank you but no, I didn’t want the room after all. He told me he had already told the other people they had to move out, that he would lose money if I didn’t stay. I tried to reply back that the people were still in the room, that with my heart, I couldn’t be going up these stairs to that room. He got angry with me, said I didn’t have a heart and called me arrogant. For a moment I wondered if I was obligated to stay in that I had called and asked for a room this day but since I didn’t pay, he didn’t have my credit card, there was no deposit, all he had was my first name and these accommodations totally threw me out of my comfort zone I wasn’t going to stay. Despite his protestations I got my backpack on my back and the other on my chest and precariously walked down that flight of stairs I had come up on without a pack on my back. I think I must have made a spectacle for the street passerby. In fact, one of them looking at me and him yelling at me spoke up to him. What was actually said I don’t know, but in my misery I hoped what was said, was “is that woman okay, does she need help?” but him yelling back “no, she’s a foreign devil, she’s not to be helped.” As I walked down the street away from him I could still hear him yelling accusations at me. 

Here you are Nora. In a place you know not a thing. You’ve got this stupid heavy luggage on you. There are these hills to go up and down and you can’t even walk on a flat surface with this luggage, what the hell do you do next? Well, I found a place to sit with my backpack still on my back and got out my LP book to call another accommodation to see if they had a room. I see a place in Old Manali and pray to the universe that it has a room open so that I don’t have to be making lots of calls to find a place. I dial, press send, NO NETWORK SERVICE. Shit, shit, shit! I thought these cell phones in India worked everywhere. Why doesn’t it when I need it to? There’s a wine and beer shop across from where I’m sitting so I go over to it and explain that my cell isn’t working, can I use theirs to call a local number and the older man there meanly said this is a wine and beer shop, not a place to borrow a phone. You can go to the hotel up the street and ask to use theirs he tells me. Not wanting to walk up the hill and not knowing if the hotel would even let me use their phone, I decide against that and wait for an auto to take me to my hoped for next accommodation. Rs 100 the driver says; he knows I’m stuck and that he’ll get it. That much money is worth it. From Vashista to Old Manali, up and down, up and down. I would have collapsed not even one-sixteenth of the way walking there. I get to Veer Guest House down a little road from the main road. When I first saw this little side road I wondered mmm, uh, what’s down here that would meet my needs? The guest house is actually quite charming. They must be doing very well as they were doing lots of new construction and renovations. It is a lovely place. Yes, they have a room available and it’s only Rs 300 a night (about $7.00 USD). Thank you, God! I take it! 

After unloading and settling in I go out for something to eat. I haven’t eaten since noon the day before. It is now 10:00 a.m. I find a restaurant called the Lazy Dog and they even have wifi which I had been made aware of by the guest hotel before I went there so I had my laptop with me. How wonderful to have a meal, be in a nice environment, near a river, hear its rushing waters and be able to use the internet for as long as I wanted. I was there for two hours just using the internet and had two cups of coffee. Heaven, heaven! Thank you universe. On the internet I note that the temperature in New Delhi is 104 degrees farenheit, while here in Manali I think it might be around 70 degrees.  

I came to Manali because the Himachal Tourism guy told me people come here to get out of the heat and the city of Delhi. Again, my mind went racing where it wanted to go and what Manali ended up to be was not at all what I thought it was going to be. I walked around. There was a nice big river running at the end of Old Manali at the bridge you walked over to go into New Manali and just lots of shops. Shops, shops, shops. There were lots of places I could arrange some kind of tour or trek or adventure in the surrounding areas but I wanted a place where I could just relax and not have to go anywhere. This area, Old Manali, New Manali, Vashista did not meet those needs. 

My room at the guest house was nice. It had a large window near my bed that looked out into the distance. There was a toilet within my room. Had it not been for the construction and the noise and the fact that Manali was full of tourist shops, loads of people, no flat land one could walk on for a good scenic nature walk, hills and hills at 45 degree inclines everywhere and cars squeezing by on that one lane road all day long I would have stayed there for about a week. 

April 17, Saturday, Manali, Himachal Pradesh – I had a very lazy morning going about my routines knowing that I have every second in front of me free. I’m out of Delhi, the heat, the noise, the ashram time schedule to get my next meal. There is nothing in front of me except time without any commitments. Ah, it feels so good! I do some meditation, some yoga asana and a little this and that. I finally leave my room about 11:00 a.m. I stopped by the hotel desk and inquire if there might be a room not close to construction noises and I’m told there’s construction going on everywhere but there is a room that the construction noise is not so much. Off now in search of a place to get something to eat. I decide to eat at Shiva Garden Cafe. As I sit on the rooftop and enjoy the view before me I decide to do some research as to where to next? Having only my LP book as my only reliable (my discourse on its reliability has been mentioned in my journals covering the first part of April) resource I begin looking through it. I know I want to stay in the north part of India as it is too hot to go elsewhere. I also decide that I’d like just to stay in the state that I’m in now. 

Oh, the meal I chose at Shiva was a delectable brown rice and vegetable dish. In it also were raisins. I truly enjoyed the taste of it. I liked how they mixed all of the ingredients together, I assume after each had been cooked separately, and put it into a bowl to form a round mound and served it to me in this shape. It was aesthetically pleasing as well. I liked it so much I know that when I get home I will make some semblance of it for myself and others. 

A good piece of information to know about Manali is that in New Manali the hotels cost more, have more modern amenities and the Indians stay in them while in Old Manali it is just the opposite. While I went about in Old Manali all the visitors had the same skin color as me. If there was Indian skin color they were workers or residents. 

In my research I found Chamba, in the western part of the state, in the upper 1/3 part of the state, off the tourist track, population of 20,000, quiet valley. Off the tourist track is what got me and the fact that it only has a population of 20,000. Off to the bus station after lunch to see if there’s a bus to Chamba. I walked from Old Manali into New Manali. I think the distance was about a mile or two at the most. 

On the way I saw a store that sold silver so I went in and asked if anyone was available that repaired silver jewelry. The owner asked what I had and I showed him my broken anklet, my bracelet with the mangled clasp and my elephant bracelet that had broken at the joining of several elephants. He assisted me in fixing my anklet and replacing my mangled clasp. He actually gave me a new clasp. He asked for no money for his services as he hoped I might perhaps feel obligated to buy something in his store. I did express interest in the wall hangings of Buddhas and chakras. He spent some time showing me many. After I had decided on three that I liked, it was then that I asked him the costs. I think the least expensive one was $40. Do I n e e d a wall hanging that cost $40? Absolutely not! I told him I had stopped on my way to my walk down to New Manali and wasn’t purchasing anything during my walk and would be back again. He still didn’t ask me anything for fixing my jewelry and invited me for chai upon my return. He’d give me the shirt off his back until he knew he wasn’t getting a purchase off of me I bet. I gave him Rs 100 (about $2.25 USD) as a gesture for his time. I still have no idea what the average wage earner makes in India nor he, a store owner. He didn’t seem offended when I gave it to him. He just shrugged and said thank you so I don’t think I offended him by the small amount. If I did, I didn’t see any indication of it. 

To see what there might be to do while I stayed in Manali I checked out the Himachal Tourism Office. Wasn’t anything there that piqued my interest. There’s a lot of trekking going on and jeeps carrying a load of tourists going off to this physical adventure and that but I don’t have those skills within me. I went on over to the bus station. Not bad. I still wonder why the main bus station in New Delhi is so deplorable and any other station that I’ve gone to outside Delhi seems to be orderly, have a ticket booth where someone is available who speaks English. Even the one in Chamba which doesn’t even cater to tourists has an “Inquiry Booth.” I went up to the ticket booth and asked if they had buses to Chamba. They did. I can get a bus leaving at 7:10 p.m., costs Rs 455 and it takes 18 hours. Eighteen hours! That’s the longest bus trip I’ve been on so far. I didn’t want to buy the ticket just then as I did want to explore more of Manali in case I did see something that interested me in staying longer. 

I went about the main part of New Manali. Stores and stores and stores and stores; every place a space was available a person had set up something he was trying to sell to make money off of all the people visiting this place. Yuck, yuck, yuck! Two new things I had not seen before were these guys walking around with a rack of about eight bottles. In these bottles I will have to assume were massage oils. These guys walked around and asked people if they wanted their feet / hands / head massaged. I had no interest in that. I remember when I had the ayurvedic massage and they did it to my head. They put oil on your head also. Of course, it gets into your hair. So when I left to go back to the ashram I had a head full and hair full of oil. It was not a pretty sight as far as I was concerned. The other new thing were people trying to sell saffron. 

A nice thing Manali has done with its main market is close off the entire street to vehicles. It is so much more pleasant when while walking you don’t also have to watch out for vehicles. I went off on a few side streets as well. All I saw was a hustling bustling town crowded with people and with store after store (oh, I already mentioned that, didn’t I?) I did buy myself a folding knife to use if I bought some food I needed to cut, for example an apple. That will be something I will keep with me at all times because I’ve been advised by Dentist Kamala that I should never bite into something anymore, especially now that I have my two front teeth with laminates. 

At the end of the day I went back to the bus station and bought my ticket to Chamba. Again I allowed myself to think of what the trip will be like based upon my expectations. Since we travel during the night I assumed it is set up for sleeping, which means to me reclining seats. I called Hari Kharuna, my friend in New Delhi, to let him know I would not be in the city the days he had told me he’d be available to get together with me. 

April 18 – The next day I’m out of my room at 8:00 am to walk up to Manu Temple, the name Manali got its name from I was told by the hotel staff. It’s only a half kilometer up the road from my hotel. It is a grey cold morning. Once again, I am so happy that I have brought my yak wool shawl with me. This walk shows me more of the before tourists Manali and its local residents. I see more farm animals as well. I see two women standing to the side of the road dressed in native wear with cone-shaped straw baskets on their backs. There are straps attached to these baskets that they sling over their shoulders as we do with our backpacks. The baskets are about 2 ½ ‘ long. I’ve seen the women carry various things in these baskets. I look at them, gesture to my camera and back at them inquiring if I can take a picture of them and they nod no. I asked. Good for me! I do have a tendency of slyly slipping in a shot pretending I’m taking a shot of something else then quickly pointing the camera at the person I actually want to take a picture of. I like he clothes worn by the native women here very much. It looks like they are made out of wool. In fact if I could have bought an outfit of theirs I would have liked it very much. It appears to me that it is a long skirt and a long poncho type top with perhaps a shirt under. They also wear something on top of their head. They look very warm and comfortable wearing them. 

The temple is not small nor big. Its ornamentation and idols are not elaborate. Its energy feels comfortable. I see some instruments locked within a steel shelving unit. I think they are probably used during festivals. Off to its side there are some benches and it looks like some of the local men have sat down to enjoy the company of each other this morning. I would have seen more of the real people of Manali, their homes and animals if I had walked further after the temple but it had started to sprinkle and I saw some with umbrellas so I had no idea of what the weather might bring so I thought it best to go back instead of continuing on. All I had was my not weatherproof shawl so I wasn’t prepared for any rain. 

By the time I had walked back to the street where my hotel was it had started to have a good consistent rainfall. I stopped at an English bakery and had a nutella croissant and a cup of coffee. Here again, no wits about me. When an establishment has coffee on their menu, if it doesn’t say filtered coffee, it is instant. Bleah! Rs 30 for an instant cup of coffee. Ick! Oh well, the seating area was out of the rain so I sat there taking my time eating my white flour sugar laden croissant and drinking instant coffee while its raining in India. A waste of time you might say for a moment in India. I at least did my part as a people watcher as they walked past me. Took a few shots of them also. I got one of a woman looking up as she was working seeing me taking a picture of her and it looks like an angry face to me! Oooppps! When I get back home I’ll examine that one more closely to see if I’m right. 

A whole day in front of me and it’s raining. What do I do with myself for the day in this kind of weather? Around noon I go up to another restaurant that also has wifi with my trusty laptop. I have myself some of the local trout and go on the internet. This place is called Drifters Inn. It is a cool place. They’ve got games, you can just hang in there for as long as you want, they’ve even got sitting areas set up that if you’ve a mind to, you can lie down. I saw several people laying on their backs reading a book. The inn has a room where you can eat, drink, smoke and use their wifi and another room next to it where its only for computers and no smoking. After I ate I went into that room. I was at Drifters until 6:00 p.m. I really liked that place. I got into several conversations with the others using the place. I met a lady from Germany and England. I got both of them as friends on Facebook. They gave me lots of ideas about traveling light. One of them is a professional trekker and is looking for ways to draw people in as customers to do treks in the area. The other lady has traveled all over the world teaching English as a second language. 

6:00 p.m. – I’ve got to leave the inn and get my stuff and get an auto to take me to the bus station. As I’m walking I sense that my chances of getting an auto to show up near my hotel and with these weather conditions is not great. When I get my luggage from the hotel I ask the staff to call a taxi for me as I know waiting around for an auto would not be wise. It is now 6:15 p.m. The staff tells me a taxi will come soon and I’ll get to the station in time. I tell the staff person my bus leaves at 7:00 p.m. 

The staff person tells me the taxi is Rs 200 and I need to give him the money now as he holds out his hand for the money. Here again, I don’t have my wits about me. The auto only costs Rs 50 and taxis are usually twice that amount not four times. I hesitantly pull out my money and do ask him why it costs that much. He replies quickly it’s the standard rate. Not until I’m in the taxi and see him exchanging contact with the taxi driver do I realize that this hotel staff has stiffed me of Rs 100 for his own pocket. When he asked me for the money, since it is not good to pay for services until they have been delivered, I should have said I will give it to you when the taxi arrives. 

It is now 6:45 p.m. and the taxi has yet to arrive. The staff person has walked off (I truly get the idea that I’ve been stiffed when he walks away and I don’t see him for quite some time) and I’m freaking, wondering what will I do if I miss my bus and I will also lose the money I paid for the ticket as I didn’t cancel it in advance. The staff person came back and I go up to him telling him of my worry about where is the taxi and my bus leaves at 7:00 p.m. He reassures me and makes another call. I think he must have called two drivers as two show up at the same time. I get into the taxi and let the driver know my bus leaves at 7:00 p.m. It is now like 6:48 p.m. As we head our way down to New Manali there is a big bus blocking a good portion of the road creating a traffic jam! I think I’ve missed my bus for sure! I keep praying and attempt to remain calm. Miraculously we make it to the bus station before my bus leaves! Even minutes to sit in the bus before it takes off! I ask the driver to help me with my big bag and he does and I don’t give him a tip as I’m thinking you got Rs 200 out of me and you don’t need anymore! 

On the road to Chamba 

My expectations and assumptions did me in again. The bus is very weathered and the seats do not recline for sleeping. I thought my big backpack would fit in the rack above my head but it is too big. Fortunately for me there is a man already on the bus who knows where to put it inside the bus so I’ve got that covered. 

As to sleeping, HA! How can one sleep when there’s no way one can situate oneself where there isn’t something unmovable or hard to have your body up against. A lot of the ride I felt I was in one of those fat reducing machines where you stand on this platform. There is a strap that is attached to a device that comes up from this platform. One steps on to the platform inside the strap perimeter and brings the strap around their hips. The machine is turned on and your whole body jiggles all over. The advertisement says it burns your fat cells away. Driving on that road made me feel that I was on one of those machines. 

The route was definitely the long way of getting there. From Manali we went to Dharamashala then went to Panthakot in Punjab and then came back on the same road then took a road north to Chamba. My bus route into Panthakot and then back up to Chamba I think involved about three more hours on my trip. I had found out that even though buses are going to the same place their routes may be different and therefore longer. 

The driver loved to stop a lot. He stopped at this one place where they served meals. I wanted to use the toilet and asked the people working there where the toilet was and I was told there wasn’t one. I don’t know if you remember this but the men all over India just walk over to to the side of the road and urinate. You can see their urine emptying as you drive or walk past. This driver stops here for almost a half hour doing who knows what while the passengers’ only choice is to sit and wait unit the driver is ready to take off again. A passenger told me that the least expensive the bus ticket is and the longer the trip is the more often these drivers like to stop according to their own fancy. Imagine that! You probably are sensing that I was not too happy with having to stop and not being able to use the toilet. Well, I’m thinking to myself, if these men can go over to the side of the road and empty their bladders then so can I. But as you know, we women have to take down our pants and squat showing our anatomy while the men show none of theirs. Oh well, if someone sees my backside, so what! It is only a body and if I commit a horrible act of indecency what can they do to me and if they remember the white lady who bared her backside on the main highway to urinate, so what? Emptying my bladder was more important than any of that. So after waiting about 20 minutes I got up the courage, walked up the road and prayed that no one would be coming that way while I bared my back and emptied my bladder. Almost done and headlights coming behind me. Oh well, let’s hope they don’t slow down or stop to get a better look. It didn’t appear to me that they did. Thank God for your courtesy to allow this woman to attend to what she needed to without wanting to observe it more carefully. 

When we got to Dharamashala Bus Stop the bathrooms were locked up as it was about 5:00 am and I guess not enough traffic warrants them staying open to staff it so they can collect the Rs 3 to use it. So again, I look for a place out of the way of eyes and pull my pants down and urinate on cement out in public! Don’t forget that saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” That’s what I was doing, even in this. So as to my standards of the indecency of urinating in public and now I’m doing it, what can I say? Do I fill my bladder to bursting and pray I’ll get to a toilet so I can empty it decently or do I accept the fact that there is no toilet now when I need to empty my bladder and there might not be one for another long while so I empty it where I can? I guess I’ve either lowered my standards, become a lowly caste person or am a disgrace to my person hood. I guess that will be a dilemma for me for a while. 

There was a stop along the way that I went in to the Ladies room and the staff person asked me for, I thought, Rs 30! I said to him a few times “30 Rupees.” He kept nodding yes. I was shocked! 30 rupees to use the toilet! I asked him “Do you want 1000 rupees? Sarcastically of which he had no clue of where I was coming from “ He replied, I thought, 30 rupees. So I pulled out 30 rupees and threw it on the table in front of him. He gave me back 20 rupees and 7 rupees in change. Ooopppssss on my part and perhaps on his also because he kept saying yes when I asked 30. As I got out of the room my bus was backing out and ready to take off. That kind passenger who helped me with my luggage was out of the bus waiting for me so that I wouldn’t be left behind. Thank God! 

Throughout most of the drive there was just mountains, fields, open space, agriculture, just wide open uncluttered non populated areas. I felt like I had found where I needed to be. As we drove to the bus station in Chamba, however, once again came those narrow streets of one lane roads and two vehicles each going in different directions trying to get by, lots of stores, lots of crowding, lots of people, trash almost everywhere, animals walking amongst the people. Oh boy, again? 

My dear reader, I know I’ve shared with you many problems / frustrations / expectations not met as I’ve traveled. Now, you might be thinking is that all she does is complain about everything? Is she never satisfied? While I experienced these things I wasn’t complaining or unsatisfied I was only going through what I was feeling based upon preconceived perceptions or expectations. I was sharing with you the next hurdle I needed to get over to continue on my journey. Time and time again I keep on having a bit of things not going my way moments but they haven’t burdened me nor made me think negatively of my time here in India. I think my unpleasant moments are only to be expected as I’m in a place so unlike any place I’ve ever been before and I’m used to things in perhaps my western way. I’m going to places that my only source of knowledge of them is a book. Whereas before I’ve traveled to places I’ve spoken to others about and have a more accurate knowledge of it. Also I tend to imagine how something is like when I read about it and where my thoughts lead me is not the actual situation as I’m discovering. With every moment of dealing with something not being the way I had thought it would be, I’ve taken a big breath, prayed and asked for patience, understanding and a way to take the next step. It has helped me grow, have a broader concept of how things are not as we might expect and be grateful for all that I have and have experienced that have brought me great happiness and enjoyment.  

April 19, Monday, Chamba, Himachal Pradesh 

My feet are on Chamba soil, one backpack on my back and another on my chest, looking for an auto to take me to Hotel Aroma Palace. Doesn’t the name itself conjure up images of a place that when you walk in, you look around, you walk to your room and you let out a big “Ah, this is wonderful” ? Dear reader, I’m sorry to say, once again, that this was not to be. My standards, western standards, somebody’s standards, but the ones stuck in my head found this place to be awful! I’ve gone into so much description of things I’ve found to have let me down that this time I will not speak a word of any of it. 

I didn’t see an auto at the bus station. I went inside and saw their Inquiry Desk so I went over to it and asked if there were any autos. It seemed to me that I was ignored and on purpose in hopes that I would just walk away so that they wouldn’t have to assist me. I got out my blessed cell and called the hotel and asked about transportation to the hotel. They told me it was just five minutes walk from the station. Not wanting to take a chance with me carrying my luggage I insisted on their help with getting to the hotel. Because of their assistance and not wanting to give up on Chamba so easily I decided to stay the night in town. I laid my bags on my room floor, changed my clothes and went out to get something to eat. On my way to a place I read about in LP called “Cafe Ravi View” I stopped at a street food vendor and asked him what an item was. It looked like a bun with some stuff inside of it. He said it was a hot dog. Hot dog, I said? Hot dog, nah! It had vegetables inside it. I decided to try it. He was going to put it in oil and cook it and I stopped him and ate it as it was. I ate about half of it when I passed by an old man sitting on the sidewalk begging. I gave the old man the other half. I did some walking around. When I got back to my hotel I decided I would go off to a house in a village called Orchard Hut. You may read of my arranging this in my narrative I began for my journaling of April 1 to April 15, Delhi, posted just before this one. 

April 20 – Showered. Called Cara and spoke to her about 15 minutes. Went out about 8:00 am to find something to eat and have a look around. Also to mail these two letters Judy gave me to mail off the day she left. It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve had them and haven’t come across a post office yet. Saw one in Manali but it had already closed by the time I got to it. 

As I walked down the street from my hotel to the main road I could see in front of me this nice large grass area, shaped in a large oval, maybe about the size of a football field. They call this area Chowgan. It was gated in. There were steps from the sidewalk leading down to under this area; looked like if one wanted to you could get across this grass area by going under it. I had meant to check that out on one of my explorations and then forgot. 

My first stop was to the bus station to see where the buses from Chamba went so I’d know what my choices were when it was time to leave Chamba. Most of them were to villages no tourist would be interested in but there were a few I wrote down as they could be likely places I might go to next. It was funny trying to figure it out because the places were listed under the section they were in. My state map didn’t provide that information so I had to go over to the Inquiry Desk again and ask for their assistance. Again, it looked like they were putting off replying to my inquiry in hopes that I would go away and find another means of obtaining my answers but this time I stood patiently waiting until the man had no more excuses and was able to help me. When he was helping me I could sense that he was wondering what in the hell was I even asking about where the buses in Chamba went to; they were places the local people needed to go, back to their homes, not any place for a foreigner to want to go to, except for a few. As usual whenever a foreigner is talking to a local, a whole bunch of people gather around and start adding their input or just stand, stare and listen. 

When I went walking I was going to go past the bus station and walk the way my bus had come from but there were so many vehicles going up and down that road I didn’t venture that way thinking it would be more of a stressor than a pleasure dealing with all those vehicles getting through a one lane road. As I write this I’m thinking that if I had went beyond that there would have been open land for me to see and I should have taken it to where the open land was and kept walking to enjoy the open rural area (can I say countryside for this?). 

About 9:20 am I was in front of the post office and it wasn’t opened yet. I asked one of the street food vendors when it opened and he said 9:30 a.m. Ah, good , soon enough. I inquired with him as to what type of food I might find at these food vendors and he gestured to his cart and asked if I cared for fast food. My thoughts automatically went to fast food back home and how unhealthy they are for you that I said no without a second though. I went walking down to each of the vendors. Looked like all of them had “chomin” full or half plate. I asked one what it was and he said noodles and meat / vegetables. The post office opened then so I went in to mail Judy’s letters. When the person looked at the addressing of one of them he inquired if I knew it to be an address. I had no idea. I told the person it was the address written by the person who it was to be mailed to so all we could do was hope that it would work and get to them. 

Hungry, back to the street food vendor to get my chomin. Chomin is actually India’s name for Chinese Chowmein, at least I think so as I didn’t get an inside affirmation on this conclusion. I think it’s the same thing. I liked it. They gave me some chili sauce on the side but the dish was spicy enough for me I didn’t need to add anything more. While I was eating I talked some more with the young Indian man who spoke English. I think he might have been the only one who spoke English and there were about 20 men there, I think. I found out he had graduated with a BA in Arts but this is the job he had to take as a street food vendor as there were no other jobs for him. A young boy was working with him who looked like he should be in school and I asked about him. The young boy didn’t speak English. This man told me that the boy had quit school at the 8th level, left his home and village and came to Chamba and was living on his own. He didn’t want to go to school and wanted to become an Englishman. I replied that he couldn’t become an Englishman if he didn’t get an education. He replied that he would and he could. I didn’t ask why he wanted to become an Englishman and it would have been good for me to hear. 

While I was eating my chomin and talking to this man a beggar boy came up to me and just kept pestering me. I kept ignoring him. Some passerbys were trying to shoo the boy away from me but he kept hanging on. The man I was speaking to told me the boy was trying to beg from me. I told him I knew and I was ignoring him because I knew. I asked this man what was thought about beggars in India. He said they are thought of negatively; they are just too lazy to work to get money, it is easier for them to beg than to work. Since I didn’t know how people became beggars in India, I thought perhaps through unfortunate circumstances, they might be considered poor and destitute and in need of assistance. Not to give them money might be considered cruel by other Indians more fortunate. It was good to know from this man that beggars were thought of as people who chose to be and were not energetic enough to find themselves an income some other way. 

As to the next leg of my journey in getting to Orchard Hut you can read about it at the beginning of my narrative posted just before this one covering April 1 to April 15. 

Arpil 20 – 12 kilometers (about 7.5 miles) from the town of Chamba in the Panj-la Valley in a village called Chadiara. . . . about 2:30 p.m. 

I have walked up the hill to the farmer’s house and guest house known as Orchard Hut. I am greeted at the first step by the owner, Prakash Dharmi, himself, his palms pressed together, fingertips level with his nose, he says Namaste and bows. He invites me to sit on his veranda, one of his staff bring me some water, we chat a while, his wife comes out with a tray. Mr. Dharmi begins to tell me about this tray and its contents with the words “In our traditions we treat guests as gods.” On it are a candle, a small dish with red oil in it and another with anise and sugar in it and a Himachal head cap. He tells me of what they mean. He lights the candle – to give good energy and cast away bad, he puts the cap on me, giving it to me, to remind me of the old ways and his wife puts the oil on my forehead above my nose. The bowl with the anise and sugar is offered me to take a pinch of to remind me of sweet delicacies traditionally offered to guests. He kindly takes a picture, using my camera, of me with his wife standing alongside me. After I’m served lunch. 

This day the sky is a bit grey and the weather is cool up in the mountains and I’m thinking wouldn’t it be lovely if it would be like this the whole time I’m up here. Just nice cool weather and maybe the sun coming out a bit each day at least. I pretty much just vegetate the rest of my waking hours on the verandas. My room has one also. I asked for some black tea and his wife joined me with some for herself. I thought it was nice of her to join me. We talked a bit. When I quit talking she got up. I don’t really know how much I can inquire with the wife of the owner of this establishment or what I can inquire about so I didn’t want to seem too inquisitive. A couple of hours of some heavy amount of rainfall came today. I was sitting out on my veranda outside my room and even hail was coming down. During it the lights went on and off, on and off but mostly just stayed off. Hmmm, I wonder, how will that work if I want to use my laptop to write with these type of outages? Not good if that will be the case. 

April 21 – I woke up feeling really good about this place, even thinking I just might want to stay here for the next two months. I love nature, I love agriculture, I get to stay in someone’s home. I can challenge myself and begin walking these mountains learning how to look at them in a way that I don’t see them as asinine to climb up or down on but as regular as I do walking down Riggin Street. When I saw Mr. Dharmi this morning I mentioned the idea of my staying here that long and he gestured that it was possible. 

About 7:30 a.m. I called my sister in the states. It was about 7:00 p.m. her time. This was the second time I had tried to call her. I was fortunate that she was in this time. We talked for quite awhile and had a good conversation. I enjoyed talking to her. She helps me keep my intellect up and keeps me on my toes. When I told her I had to get off she seemed sad that I had to end it sooner that what she wanted. She sounds like she is really enjoying what I’ve been writing about my adventures here in India. I hope to find a source on the internet that will assist me to combine my pictures and my writings into a format so I can have it printed out in to a book; easy to keep around and reference, maybe give one to Cara and Donna. 

Today was another cool and gray day. In fact it started to rain about 11:00 a.m. I have nothing to do. I went back to my room, my bed and laid down. About 1:00 p.m. I woke up. Shortly thereafter I heard a knock on my door and was greeted with “it’s lunch time.” When I went down two new guests had arrived. I ate with them and found out they were with a tourist group called Intrepid. Anne was from New Zealand and Natasha was from England. I made it a point to stay out with the ladies and just socialize with them rather than go back to my room. No lights anywhere, no heat anywhere. Again, I thank God for my yak wool shawl. At Orchard Hut I have gotten complements on it from the three ladies. Made me feel good to know that I had chosen a shawl others would complement me on. About 6:30 p.m. I went up to my room and to sleep at 7:00 p.m. 

April 22 – Another cold, gray day and rainy. The whole group from Intrepid arrived about 6:00 p.m. last night. The first two ladies had taken a vehicle as they weren’t up to walking to Orchard Hut from where they were last. There’s about 15 new people in Orchard Hut. The whole day I just made it a point to be out of my room and socialize with any of them that happened to be around. I stayed with them until about 7:30 p.m. and then went up to my room. 

The family of this house really showed their tourist effort with this group. They offered henna painting, palm reading, massages, cooking demonstrations and laundry services. I got into the laundry situation as I saw everyone had their laundry out on the veranda. Silly me, didn’t have my wits about me again. It didn’t occur to me that Orchard Hut was not only too happy to do their laundry but at a cost of Rs 20 a piece! I had assumed doing their guests’ laundry was included in the cost of the room. Mama Mia! I had six pieces so it cost me Rs120, about $2.25 USD for six pieces of clothing! Way too expensive for me! In the laundromats at home a load costs about $0.75 I think. 

April 23 – Most of the Intrepid people went off on a trek this morning but a few ladies stayed behind. I just hung with them. We read, talked, did yoga, did nothing. Their group photo was scheduled that afternoon on the lawn of Orchard Hut. As they situated themselves for their group photo someone calls out my name to come take the picture. What, set up a time to take a group photo and there’s not even someone assigned to take the photo? Oh well, I guess that’s why I was there and not part of the group. About twelve cameras were given to me and I had to take a group photo with each one of them. I had tea at 5:30 p.m and a beer with them. At 8:30 p.m. when dinner was being served I left the dining hall and went to my room to retire for the night. 

April 24 – Because the Intrepid group needs to leave at 8:00 a.m., breakfast was served at 7:30 a.m. I didn’t know if it was for me also but I joined them anyhow. Porridge was on the menu! Finally! So far each morning, food that I think would be good for lunch or dinner is also served for breakfast! I do not like it. Each day some food was cooked in oil or fried in it. Every day my stomach has been upset because of it. I have no idea why my stomach has taken an aversion to food prepared with oil, even butter. 

I see all of their backpacks and I do not feel bad at all about mine. It is about the same size as most of theirs. I can also see that most of theirs are packed pretty tight also which means they have a lot in those packs. The Intrepid tour they’re on takes care of everything for them including the handling of their luggage. The only thing they need to carry themselves is their day packs. They got it easy that way. As they’re collecting themselves, getting ready to take off I take random shots of them here and about. Once they get on the lawn Mr. Dharmi wants another group photo. I’m already down on the lawn with my camera and get the first group shot for the day then all of the other cameras start coming at me once again to take another group photo. No problem, what’s a body just standing there supposed to do anyhow? I announce to the group that I do Couch Surfing and if anyone comes to LA and wants to crash at my place for a few days they’re welcome to. I don’t get any takers but at least I verbalized it; I was hesitating to even mention it but I think it’s better to put it out there than to keep it to myself. 

When the group left, many of them came up to my to say good-bye, got some hugs, handshakes and a kiss. In my conversations with them I learned some good things. I’ve learned about two areas of employment that would be in my interests and that would be teaching English as a second language and archiving. I also learned that Australia is taking in lots of refugees and it’s not only America who’s doing that sort of thing. I met several woman who were traveling on their own. I talked with them about how they saw USA, Obama and other things going on in the world today. What better way to really learn about what’s going on in the world than from those outside your own? 



at the entrance to the guest quarters

As I begin this entry, it is Saturday, April 24, 2010. I am sitting in my room at a farmer’s guest house up in the western mountains in the state of Himachal Pradesh. In the west I believe we would call this a Bed and Breakfast. It is located about 12 kilometers (about 7.5 miles) from the town of Chamba in the Panj-la Valley in a village called Chadiara. The Lonely Planet India (“LP”) book states “there are some delightful walks in the area.” Ha! The Lonely Planet does not mention that the walks are up sixty degree mountain sides and back down them. A grave omission in my opinion as I am not that kind of walker in the least! To say I was misled is a gross understatement. But here I am. I am trying to live a life “open to all and attached to nothing.” If I had decided not to walk up to the house I would have been attached to what I am comfortable with doing.

With great gratitude to having a cell phone here in India I made contact with the owner, Prakash Dharmi, of this house, aka Orchard Hut, while I was in Chamba contemplating what I was going to do next to find an accommodation more suitable to my liking than the awful Hotel Aroma Palace I had decided to stay at my first night in Chamba. What drew me to Orchard Hut was “this friendly village guest house is a peaceful place to commune with nature.” and the misleading walks description that I read in my LP book of India. I have been in crowded towns and Delhi since my arrival and I longed to be out in rural areas. Coming to Chamba by bus had teased me with so much open land, fields of agriculture, little homes here and there and just mountains and mountains and unoccupied land. Arriving at the bus station in Chamba and going to the hotel that sounded so nice in LP had let me down horribly. Damn those expectations we keep allowing ourselves to get caught up in! Of course LP had a lot to do with it. It’s description of Hotel Aroma “this modern place has a range of tidy rooms” lead me to choose the hotel and feel confident I would have a pleasant room. Ah, my expectations! How they heightened my bliss as to what I would have in my hotel room once I arrived in Chamba. A nice spacious hotel room with a TV and a view! When I saw the single room they showed me my stomach felt like it might’ve taken a lurch. The single room was indeed for one person. It was probably as wide as two people shoulder to shoulder and it’s length was a few feet longer than the single bed provided. The view wasn’t actually awful. It included the roofs of the buildings just below, the chowgan (an actually nice park area) and the mountains off in the distance. The carpet itself caused me to wonder what might be crawling within it. The toilet seat had a paper band around the lid that said “sanitized for your protection.” I have no idea what their standards are but there looked like dry pee on the seat as well as the bowl. I do know from my experience with using LP, I will never take what they have to say about anything as something I can count on for either their standards are different from mine or they just say pleasantries so that there’s selections a traveler can at least choose from.

Having already settled in at Hotel Aroma and deciding that I would stay a day just in case there might be more to the town of Chamba than I first perceived I decided to not leave until the next day. I told Mr. Dharmi that I would be arriving at the bus station in Chamba the following day and would be most eager to stay at his guest house for a few days. I was hesitant to let him know that I had chosen another hotel in Chamba before his. He told me that someone would be at the bus station to meet me to assist me to his home.

The next day with a backpack on my back and one on my chest I left the Hotel Aroma for I’m sure the last time and walked down the little steep hill to the main road of Chamba, past the pile of cow manure on the road, the pile of trash and the legal court doing it’s business with the people sitting at tables outside the court building, vendors selling food, produce, whatever they can to make some money and walked the very short distance to the bus station. I positioned myself near the station entrance and found a nice place to rest the bottom of my heavy backpack upon my back without having to take it off and wait for staff from Orchard Hut to assist me with the next leg of my journey. I was greeted by Mr. Dharmi’s daughter, Phalguni, son-in-law, Naveen, and granddaughter, Rupashi. Mr. Dharmi had told me I had to walk a half hour. In our conversations, however, I had failed to grasp or understand where this walk was to occur or the difficulty of it. His daughter informed me . . it was up a mountainside, but it wasn’t too difficult, she said. (She, who was born here and has been walking it probably every day of her life can and would say that and probably actually walks it in 20 minutes or less, but I, who am never around hills or mountains to walk except for the few at home that I rarely do walk, was almost speechless and felt like I might need to cancel my stay at Orchard Hut. I am also of the mind that to choose to walk up a mountain is an asinine thing to do thinking why would any human want to put oneself through such endurance. Sadly, this is my mentality at the moment about this type of activity.). She also told me that there would be staff to meet me where my transportation dropped me off and they would carry my bags up the mountainside for me. Okay, I know that when I walk up this mountainside I will be huffing and puffing and going as slow as a turtle if not a slough, but I know that I can make it up. After all, I was told by two people it was only a half hour’s walk. (My Golu Temple experience also forewarned me to be aware that their concept of a half hour walk would, for me, probably be an hour). Attached to nothing, get out of my comfort zone, here I go! The next choice after deciding I would do this walk was to take a bus or a taxi to the road stop I was to get off and begin my walk to Orchard Hut . . . bus – Rs15 vs. taxi Rs 300. I didn’t see a reason a taxi would be better for me so I took the bus.

More than half way to my road stop and I hear a big “whoooosssshhhh.” I think that sounds like a flat tire. The bus I’m in has gotten a flat! Oh no, I think. Now how long will I be stranded here until another bus comes along to gather us all up and continue us on our way. It wasn’t like that at all. The Indian people are resourceful. All manner of things can go unexpectedly and they just go with the flow, find a solution or an alternative and on they continue. The driver, his assistant and some of the passengers saw what the problem was, one passenger even went up to find a rock slab to use under the tire, a spare tire from on top of the bus was brought down (might I add that its threads were pretty well-worn down but it was used anyhow) and within perhaps 20 minutes we were on our way again.

While the bus was laid up the men got off the bus but the ladies remained inside the bus, except myself. I walked around, took pictures and even stood under the shade of a tree where most of the men were standing. I have no idea if I violated any of the customs but no one said or gave me any looks to indicate such so I just did what I felt was comfortable for me.

Once on the road, the bus driver started driving that bus with great speed, more than likely to catch up with lost time. At my stop, the driver and his assistant, both having been told at the station where I was to be dropped off, completely forgot about me and had it not been for the hotel staff waiting for me at my stop, I would have probably been on that bus until it got to its last destination.

One hotel staff person, got onto the bus and grabbed my bags off. After getting off the bus one of the staff gave me a note. It read “Ms. Nora, Welcome to Orchard Hut. Please follow the bearer of this chit (chit means note which I confirmed with Mr. Dharmi. I believe it is an English word from old England times). He will carry your bags. Prakash Dharmi, 20-04-10” That note made me feel welcome and gave me great encouragement.

When I was waiting for the bus to be back on the road again, I had called Mr. Dharmi to let him know of my delay and the reason. He informed me that he had spoken to his daughter about my reservations about walking to his house and that he had two of his staff to carry my bags for me and I was to go as slow as I needed. His staff would coordinate their walk with mine and lead me to the house. The two staff waiting for me each put one of my bags on their back and off we went. My first step on this walk was down a steep walkway! Not at all inviting and it created an anxiety in me. Oh well, as with all things here in India, I’m at the next venture and I have nowhere to go but forward with the decision I have made for to go back would be giving up on what I can do if I let myself out of my comfort zones.

As I said at the beginning I am sitting in my room at Orchard Hut. It was not a difficult climb for any fit individual but for me it seemed like too much just to get to my next accommodation. I stopped several times. I was out of breath. I took the hand of the staff leading me twice to hoist myself up the steep step my foot would next be stepping upon. The staff even stopped when I gave them no indication to do so. They were very patient, gentle and attentive.

The walk was truly a beautiful one and one I would have enjoyed completely had it not been for my inadequate level of fitness to do it. Nothing but nature every where I looked. River and streams running here and there. Trees, plants, birds and maybe a house here and there but a bit dot on the landscape, very forested. I even saw women at the river washing their clothes. I must admit that this area is very beautiful but because of my trepidation of my ability to walk these mountain sides I am anxious about being here.

Today as I begin writing once again to continue my story of my stay here in India I will have been at Orchard Hut almost a full four days (96 hours) and I have not yet even ventured away from the house for all around me there is nothing but either up sixty degrees or down sixty degrees. If I stay, My Dear Reader, I will make it a point to begin walking these mountainsides and learn more of what this body of mine can do.

I begin with where I left off at my last entry . . . April 1. In my country that is April Fools and all matter of tricks can be played upon a person but I was never into it back home and nothing occurred with me this day along these lines.

Since I last was within these pages it has been two days. After finishing what I wrote on Saturday, my urge to write left me. One of the guests here had left me a book. I think it is a traveler’s custom of passing on a book once you’re finished with it. The guest’s name is Fiona and she is from Australia. She had bought it secondhand. In our conversation we had talked about the book, its dabble into the history of her country. She discovered that I had no reading materials with me and decided that she would pass this book on to me. I, myself, have never gotten into reading a book while I’ve been on a traveling vacation. I’ve been of the mind that while I’m traveling there is so much to see and do in these new places that I’m traveling in that I have no time to read anything save an occasional newspaper article or magazine. With Fiona I had now met up with four people who found it a good pastime to read while on vacation. Along with that information I also thought about the fact that I was out in the middle of nowhere as far as my heavily populated city standards perceived the area with not much to do and for how long I had no idea so felt having a book to read might be a good use of my time. At home I am busy with all my projects that I do not have time to pick up a book to read for just enjoyment. All the books that I have at home are sources of information for my projects and there are no fictional books at all in my home.

This book or my leaded fingers to write what has been going on with me for almost a month and the fact that yesterday my stomach felt sick most of the day has kept me away from this writing for two days. The book is 375 pages long and yes, I did finish it and I started it on Saturday.

What the book is about is not pertinent to this writing but there is something that I read within it that I thought could very well apply to me.

“Kierkegaard wrote of the ethical person as editor of his life: to tell one’s life is to assume responsibility for that life… In stories, the teller not only recovers her voice; she becomes a witness to the conditions that rob others of their voices.”

The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness and Ethics, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1998

My Dear Reader, I had written a note to you on my 50swoman blog telling you that I write because I must. I share because I must. Writing has always been a part of my life. I have journaled since I was a child. As I am now allowing my mind and body to unite with my soul . . . . as I am now allowing my conscious mind and subconscious mind to join together to become a perfect mind . . . . as I am now allowing myself to eradicate the suffering within myself that I have allowed to occur . . . as I am now walking on the path to peace and happiness and not causing the suffering of others . . . . . . I see myself as an ethical person, my writing as a tool to be editor of my life; that my writing is allowing me to have responsibility of my own life and I believe that my writing, one of millions, will be a witness to the conditions that rob others of their voice.

To complete this writing I took a vow not to take a shower nor attempt to venture off the house property until it is done. My last shower, if you must know was Thursday morning. No, I do not feel dirty nor do I have an unpleasant body odor. The western habit of bathing everyday is a misuse of water to me but if I were going out each day I’m sure I would be taking one each day. This morning before breakfast, in anticipation that I will go off this property tomorrow morning, I walked to the path near the pool leading up further into the mountain. (pool? There’s a pool on the farmer’s land on the side of a mountain, you ask. Yes, indeed! A good size one at that. It’s about 4′ deep and about 10′ x 10′ with constantly running spring water into it. It was just cleaned on Friday and it looked so inviting this morning. I was tempted of dipping into it this afternoon but alas I must delay that pleasure also until this writing is up to date.) I also looked elsewhere for other paths that I might take. My goal is to be up to date with my writing by the end of the day, go for a three-hour adventure tomorrow beginning at 6:00 am when the light has already dawned, come back for a breakfast and take a shower after breakfast. It is now 10:45 am and I have twenty-six days of covering in this one day so here I go.

April 1, Thursday, New Delhi

Dentist appointment at 10:00 am. The dentist worked on me until about 12:30 p.m. and asked me to come back at 2:30 p.m. as she would be able to do more work on me at that time. I decided to walk about the area (Hauz Khas), go to the internet and see the optometrist. When I got back I was told she wouldn’t be able to do any more work on me today as she was working on a patient that involved more work than she had thought. I walked out of the office miffed for having hung around the area and dealing with the heat and then to be told I wasn’t to be seen for more work. Having all this dental work being done, day after day, and wanting to get as much done each day that I’m in the area and now not to get more done. Not to my liking. Oh well, I walked up to Aurobindo Marg, the day was hot, didn’t see an empty auto rickshaw (auto) walking up to the main street, stood under a tree for a while watching cars and buses go by but no empty auto to take me back to the ashram. Buses going by . . . another bus goes by, bus, public transportation. Get on a bus, Nora, you idiot! All I got to do is open my mouth and get an affirmative answer to “Aurobindo Ashram, Mother’s School Bus Stop, IIT Bus Stop?” and I can be on a bus and have a ride back to my room. A bus driver said yes when I said Mothers School so on I went and it was only Rs 5 compared to the Rs 40 the auto drivers had been charging me; eight bus rides compared to one auto drive. When the bus driver’s assistant collecting the fares heard that the driver had said yes to my Mothers School inquiry he laughed and didn’t even collect my fare. The bus didn’t even go that far south and the driver told me yes! What’s up with that one I don’t know. Anyhow, there was another passenger on board who heard the situation and he was kind enough to tell me where I needed to get off to catch another bus that would take me to Mother’s School bus stop. One mistake and not too time consuming for my first on my own bus ride in India. Not bad. So, from now on, just go to the bus stop and keep asking until I feel confident that the bus I decide to get on will take me to where I need to go. Another first and victory for this foreign traveler in India! Yee Pee!

Drats! The mosquitoes have decided to become room mates with me! Damn! Their first day with me had me waking up with lots of bites all over my legs and arms and itching! I am surprised they aren’t other places because it has been so hot that when I go to bed I sleep only in my underpants and don’t even have a sheet over me. Thank God for hydro cortisone cream. India is known for having mosquitoes. There is a lot of areas where pools of stagnant water are. I think all over India chances of mosquitoes are present. I have heard that they have people out and spraying a lot. I’ll be spraying repellent on my body tonight before I go to bed. Thank God that I brought it or I’d be one big mosquito bite.

April 2, Friday, Delhi

Another day to the dentist. On the way back to the ashram I bought myself some street food, got to the bus station, ate it there, then got on the bus back to the ashram. Mosquitoes again tonight. How is it that all of a sudden they decide to be in the ashram area? How are they getting into my room? Oh well, another experience of India, if I want to think of it in a positive light. I know mosquitoes biting you can’t really be thought of in a positive light but I had been forewarned about them in LP so I came prepared and am now experiencing what I knew to be an occurrence in India.

April 3, Saturday, Delhi

I did a little room cleaning. The broom that I’ve seen used here in India is the shape of a witches’ broom. It’s about 3′ long. It’s used for sweeping the floors and streets. I don’t have one of those and the dirt on the floor isn’t bothering me so I didn’t get into cleaning any of that away. I did some dusting of places that looked to me they never dust. In my bathroom there is a shower, no bathtub. When one showers there is no curtain / door to keep water from going on to the floor outside of the shower area. The floor is marble and so is the rest of my room’s floor. There are drains in the floor in the shower area, under the sink and near the toilet. To clean the floor of this water they have this tool that looks like a squeegee. When I got my first room at the ashram, this tool was in my bathroom. I asked for one in my second room. This third time I decided to do without. The floor not only had water on it but all the dirt that came in from the bathroom window which I wasn’t able to close as the apparatus to close it had broken. It looked pretty bad. With my “make use of what you have” mentality I decided the floor needed cleaning even without that squeegee. I poured water all over the floor and just got out a cleaning cloth I had gotten here in India and cleaned up the floor that way; wiping all of the water in to the drains. That cloth was really really dirty though. I had to soak it a good while even before I washed it. The floor looked nice again and I felt really good about that. I am so glad that I brought shoes to wear just for bathroom use. I have another just to wear inside my room. I change shoes when I go into the bathroom and change them when I go out of the bathroom. Sounds like a bit too much perhaps but those bathroom shoes are also worn when I shower. I never place my bare feet on the floor of the bathroom or my room. I have no idea what their standards of cleaning are so I think its safer to wear shoes. I can’t remember if I mentioned to you that when a guest leaves their room, they take the blankets and sleeping bags and just air them on the rails outside to air out; no washing. When I think of all those creatures living on our bodies and going on to those items and then being used by others, I do not have pleasant images. Creepy or what? I don’t really know but in the west we’re made to think that we’ve got to get rid of those little creatures. Here they just air out the items and I bet those creatures keep on living in those beddings. But, here again, I don’t really know. Ah, we westerners and our ideas of bacteria free healthy (?) living, hu?

I went to see the ayurvedic doctor today at the ashram health center. I told her of my main concerns and she told me that she wouldn’t be able to answer me today as I had several concerns and in different areas of my body. She said that if I were to schedule a complete session with her she would go over my body and mind types and then determine what course of treatment was best for me. She said the session would consist of four meetings in which she asked me questions from a questionnaire and the fifth session, all sessions about 45 minutes each, would be her course of treatment for me based on what my body and mind type is and my answers. I had read of ayurvedic medicine and knew it was a holistic approach to wellness and that it was an ancient system of India. The cost would be Rs 2400 (about $53 USD) It wasn’t that much money to learn and experience another way to treating the body so I decided to do it.

April 4, Sunday, Delhi

Today was another first; a ghastly one at that as far as western ladies and maybe even gentlemen may be concerned. I was walking about the ashram grounds and had to use the bathroom quite suddenly so I used the public one while out walking. OMG, no toilet paper. It was quite necessary to use the left hand so I did and then I used the water nozzle to the side of the toilet to rinse my left hand. I go to the sink to wash my hands and even in the ashram they have no soap! Gasp! One uses their left hand after using the toilet and one can’t even wash the germs off that hand before going out of the bathroom! Yuck! Yuck! Yuck!

Speaking of hands and on a much more positive use of them, the Indian people are new (as to how new, that I do not know) to using utensils to eat their food. It is usual for them to use their right hand and gather the food with their fingers to bring up to their mouths. Most meals consist of rice and dal (a liquid base with all kinds of solids in it). The rice and dal is mixed together, well enough, to a consistency they can form a lump of both rice and dal in which they gather up with their hand and put in to their mouths. A lady I first met at the ashram in February who lives in London but is of Bengali descent ate her food that way. She tells me it is more meaningful to eat one’s food this way, having something to do with the sacred (if I remember correctly). I have yet to pick up this habit and think I probably never will unless I was without utensils because I have a hard time just keeping my fingers from feeling dirty eating with my utensils!

At breakfast I saw a new guest. She was wearing a bag that I would like to have. The one I had gotten before I left for India was a major disappointment to me and I, in fact, donated it to the ashram when I got rid of a lot of my stuff. Anyhow, I got up and introduced myself and told her that I really liked her bag. Her name is Judy Ling and she is from Vancouver, Canada. She also traveled alone in India, and it was her first time traveling alone also. She responded with “and I see we are wearing the same shoes.” (my Chacos which I dearly love. Great open sandal for walking anywhere, great traction on the soles!) We picked up a conversation and proceeded to spend most of the day together. She came to my room and shared some backpacking ideas with me. I went to her room and she showed me some of the items she had bought on her journey. Of particular importance was the clothes that she had bought at Fabindia and Anoki (means unique in Hindi). I have been looking to buy some Indian women’s wear but had been hesitant to do so because of the chance that the colors might run. I had that occur with an outfit that I bought in Oaxaca, Mexico and that was very disappointing as it changed the colors of the outfit and the color went on to my other clothes. I didn’t want to have that happen again. She told me that with these clothes they wouldn’t do that and were made to last. I now knew where I was going to go to buy myself some Indian wear.

Judy is into yoga and even brought her yoga mat with her (which she gave me when she left India and I now have – April 26 – ), She showed me a few good yoga asanas (postures) that would help me on a daily basis.

We decided to go out together for the day. We went to the Iskcon Temple (Hari Krishna). Getting there gave us an experience of the language problem between English speakers and auto drivers. We asked the driver if he knew where Iskcon Temple was. We said it was near Lotus Temple. We showed him our trusty handy-dandy New Delhi map (the best one there is I was told by a tourist man). We pointed to Iskcon Temple and said we wanted to go here. We pointed to Lotus Temple and said it was near Iskcon. We want to go to Iskcon Temple. He shook his head aggressively in the affirmative when we told him we wanted to go to Iskcon Temple. He took us to Lotus Temple which is actually a bit farther east. We had to tell him again, we wanted Iskcon Temple and even pointed to the west to let him know it was over there. This habit of saying yes even though they do not understand what is being said is common everywhere I’ve heard. It is frustrating and perplexing to me why they think saying yes is better than admitting that they have no understanding of what you are saying. I know it is necessary for me to stop feeling this way as it is their way and just take it as part of the Indian way of life and probably even figuring that into the time it might take you to get to a place or even getting something done by them.

Iskcon Temple is a very big complex. Not only do they have a temple, but a restaurant, a light show, a robot show and some other displays which we didn’t see all of. In the temple music was playing continuously and over and over again I heard “hari krishna, hari krishna, hari krishna . . . . “ between other words but mainly “hari krishna” There was a man up near the altar who was whirling around. He just kept whirling. I’ve seen the Sufis doing that; I think it’s their way to get in contact with the divine. I told Judy jokingly that if you keep going around like that , the dizziness, the mixing up of your head, would make anyone think that they were near the divine, they’d be so woozy. I know, disrespectful, but it makes me wonder, how can going around and around like that cause anything but your mind to not feel right and anything abnormal could come out of that way of feeling, even a sense that you’ve connected with the divine. Okay, okay, I seriously don’t know but . . . ? The meal cost Rs 300! It was a buffet and you could eat all you want. For both Judy and I the amount was quite a lot as we’re in the less than Rs 50 per meal eaters ourselves but we had said we’d eat there so we went for it. It was great food, even included ice cream and rice pudding which Judy is so in love with. She had two, or was it three?, servings of pudding; it was indeed her heaven. I, of course, ate the ice cream and hers also. The idea of having rice as a dessert doesn’t appeal to me. For me, having rice in my meal at lunch and dinner as it is here in India is enough rice for me. They also make a rice porridge for breakfast. The thought makes my stomach churn.

Speaking of stomach I have found that eating food cooked in oil (including butter), be it fried or laid on oil to cook is not any good for my stomach. It feels icky after eating the oily food. This is also happening to me if it is sweet or with milk. I think it is because of the heat but maybe it is the type that they use here. I don’t know.

After the temple we went to Lajpat Market (aka Central Market). I had heard from several people that it was a very good market. Judy loves to shop. I do not. Someone had told me that I might find a store that sold the stainless steel mug with a handle that I was looking for here. Success! I did find a well made one and it cost me more than I thought I would have to pay for it. I wish I had found it sooner. When I first came to India and had my tea or hot milk at the ashram, the only cups they had for it were ones without handles and I found it difficult to put as much tea in them as I wanted without a handle for the heat of the beverage made the cup too hot to hold. By this time I no longer desired to drink the tea nor the hot milk as I had grown weary of both their tastes (well truth be told the milk I had not grown weary of but because I knew the sugar added to it was not good for me so I had decided not to drink it anymore). I still felt I needed the cup with the handle for my travels as I could attach it to my clamp on my backpack. I could use it for a beverage or a soup or whatever should I have a need. In another store I found the one that I had actually wanted and at a cost that I had anticipated but I had already bought the one and didn’t need another. I did succumb to buying myself one of those cute containers that I see so many in India carrying their milk in. It is a steel round container with a lid and a handle coming off its side. I am a sucker for containers! I love containers. I bought some in Mexico and now I’ve got one from India.

The market sprawls over quite a large area. It has both items for everyday life as well as tourist items and souvenirs. It bothers me though when the vendors who walk about carrying their wares walk alongside you and keep hounding you to buy what they have, no matter how unnecessary an item it is and even try to persuade you with “only one, madam.” Some have even followed me for minutes trying to get me to buy. Ugh! We went down an isle that had items for people getting married. There were many vendors there doing henna painting, a traditional art form done on both the bride and groom. The henna is different colors, you choose, it’s like a paste. They put it into a cone-shaped container with an open tip at one end. It is beautiful art work. I love it but I don’t see doing it because I know it wears off within weeks so I can’t see spending my money on something that’ll be gone in so short a time. Judy went for it on her hand. When she left India, she would be going to a wedding in Japan so felt it would be a way to dress herself up for the occasion. Her work was done on her hand. It began on the tip of her middle finger and then on to the top of her hand up to her wrist. I loved it. I would love to have a tattoo like that even. As the henna dried though it flaked off her hand and I felt really sorry that the beautiful ink was going. But this ink actually penetrates your skin, like a dye, and stays in your skin so you can still see the artwork.

We were thirsty and Judy knew about a beverage that she said really quenched your thirst. It was plain soda water with the juice of one lemon in it. We looked around. At first all we were seeing was this soda made with sugar. We both had no appetite for sugar, just plain soda water is all we wanted. Can none be found in this vast market? We found a place that had plain soda water and it also had fresh squeezed juices. They had lemon. That was the first time I had drunk that combination. I now know a good drink to have when I’ve the yen for a soda, no more Pepsi or Coke, but plain soda water with lemon in it. That does it for me.

Judy and I both took some pictures in the market. She told me that it’s best to be careful who you take pictures of because some women do not like having their pictures taken and they can be pretty mean if they catch you taking their picture. Judy said she has even known some to come after you if you try. There was this one woman who was selling little boxes. Her clothes and jewelry really made her stand out. I think she was a poor woman but she did look so beautiful. Judy had asked her directly if she could take a picture of her and the lady had told her no, adamantly. Without the lady looking or knowing I took a picture of her from the side; two actually. The second one the lady looked towards me and she had a very ugly look on her face. I quickly turned away and kept on walking and thanked God I didn’t hear any footsteps running after me.

After we had seen what we wanted at Lajpat Market and the night was still early we both had the urge to check out a Fabindia store so we asked around and to our excitement there was one nearby so off we went into another auto to another market, this one Greater Kalish. This market area is not for the common person. It seemed to be for the higher income earner. It was clean, well maintained, trees and lawn area, doormen at every shop. We not only got to go into Fabindia but another of her favorites, Anoki. Judy tells me Fabindia has Indian wear while Anoki has more western style clothing as well as Indian wear. In Fabindia I tried on the kurtas (blouses) and the salweers (trousers). I found six kurtas that I liked. The salweers have a lot of gathering to them just below the torso area in the front and the back. I found they made me look even bigger so I didn’t get any of them. When Judy showed me hers the prices were about $10 USD each so I only looked at the prices when I first saw my first two or three items. Without even looking at the prices I bought the items. It wasn’t until I heard the total that I thought “How could I have decided to get these without even looking at the prices? I am so good at seeing what the price is before I buy something. What happened to me doing that with these purchases?” According to purchases normally made in the states by most consumers the prices were still considerably lower but according to the prices I usually pay for items, they were way above. I think I was so happy to find Indian wear that fit my body and I knew to be of sound quality that I didn’t consider what the price would be. I had blind faith in Judy that the prices were not high, but that is according to her standards and not mine. When I told my dentist here in India about Fabindia she even said that their prices were high. I found that statement surprising as I had thought that with her income as a dentist the prices would be within her range.

In Anoki I could see that it was a standard well above my own and really didn’t look at anything. Judy found something and bought it. While we were in line I noticed that the bag they gave for your purchase was a pretty cloth one. I asked the sales woman if I could buy one, just to have as a souvenir and I’m always using cloth bags for one reason or another. I was given one without cost and without having to purchase anything.

April 5, Monday, Delhi

I left my Sri Aurobindo Ashram room at 8:45 am and didn’t return to it until 8:30 p.m. It was a very hot day. It was the first time I had been out and about during the day for most of the day. When I got back, I had thought I’d be going to a movie with Judy as that is what we discussed but when I knocked on her door, there was no answer. Actually I was glad there was no answer as I didn’t really feel like I could keep going. I was so exhausted after being out in that heat all day I really did not want to go anywhere but to lie down on my bed and crash.

My day was not spent having fun but attending to business. I went to the ayurvedic doctor, the dentist, and the optometrist. I went to the dentist twice. In between visits I walked up Aurobindo Marg to an area called Yusef Sarai. I was told there was an area there that had silversmiths shops. I had brought from home some broken silver jewelry that I hoped to find someone to fix. It was the middle of the afternoon. I was told it was about five minutes walk going north. Because of all the vehicles traveling, as well as the metro construction going on and the heat it was not a pleasant excursion. I got to the area Yusef Sarai and discovered it didn’t just cover a couple of blocks but maybe blocks long and that deep. Where was I to begin to look for this row of silversmiths? I had no idea. I decided to check out Nirula’s, a fast food Indian place, and get something to eat as I hadn’t had lunch yet. For my beverage I asked if they had diet Pepsi / Coke and was told it wasn’t diet. I said I didn’t want anything with sugar in it; I’ll have the ice tea, thinking it wasn’t already made with sugar in it. When I got the ice tea, I took a sip and knew it was sweetened. I went up to the counter and asked if there was sugar in the ice tea. I was told the mixture came with sugar already in it. Here again, a language problem. I asked for my money back and got it. While I was there I asked a lady if she knew where these silversmiths were. She nor anyone else I asked could give me a specific area. I decided to walk up a bit further after lunch just to see if I might find it. After a few minutes I said to myself that it was impossible and went back to the dentist, sweating like crazy, face red from the heat, body drained from the heat sapping my energy out of me. How do they tolerate this? They’re walking around as if they’re just out for a casual stroll without any discomfort at all and I’m thinking I’m going to die out here!

As to the dentist, today I finally got my three new crowns and my two new laminate front teeth and the rest of my major work done. My last appointment will be to scale my teeth and be sure everything is as it should be is this coming Friday.

At 7:45 p.m. I walk into the optometrist to get my sunglasses. He tells me his workshop is closed and that there’s no one to adjust my glasses for me. So, I have to come back another day and pick them up.

April 6, Tuesday, Delhi

This morning I had to use the toilet many times due to diarrhea. I’ve been dealing with this for about two weeks now but so far it has not been so often and I’ve been able to control it so that it hasn’t affected my activities. This morning’s frequency has caused alarm in me and I decided to forego breakfast, just have the tea I have in my room. A nice cup of tea, even though it’s sun tea and room temperature will be good for my upset intestines. I have not taken anything for the diarrhea. When I was talking to Judy she mentioned that using tap water to brush my teeth with was not safe and that I might have some parasite that might need antibiotics to actually kick this out of my system. Since I came to India, I’ve just used the tap water to brush my teeth and rinse my mouth. That container I got on Sunday with the handle was put into service as one to fill up with drinking water and use in the bathroom for just this purpose.

I used my cell phone this morning to make my first call to the USA.

Before going to my ayurvedic session I went to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram health center to inquire about my intestinal problem. He gave me two prescriptions for it. After the session I went back to the ashram for lunch and met up with Judy. At 2:30 p.m. we got on a bus going south to an area called Saket. Due to a misunderstanding on her part we got off quite a distance before Citywalk, a really nice air-conditioned mall, and then walked from where we got off to Citywalk ourselves although the bus that dropped us off would have also dropped us off at Citywalk. Oh well, walking is good for you even though the temperature it not cool enough for my walking comfort. Right next to Citywalk is another mall. Having two malls side by side was strange to me. We made the mistake of going into the other mall first. Judy was determined to see a movie in India and we almost saw a movie in the other mall. I was able to persuade her to look for the other cinema area that I had visited when I was in Citywalk and there was an Information Booth nearby who told us we were not in Citywalk. We both wanted to see a Bollywood movie while we were in India but none of them were with English subtitles and we both had no desire to sit through a movie and listen to a language we couldn’t understand so we saw a Hollywood movie called “Now” with Nicholas Cage. Mind you, it was a good movie but it was disappointing not to see a Bollywood movie in India.

Judy and I had a nice time just hanging in the mall. We got out of the movie after 9:00p.m. When you go inside a cinema in India, you are not allowed to bring in bags or camera and some other stuff. Well, we both had backpacks so we had to check them in. It is because of the terrorist attacks that you can’t bring in these bags and certain types of things. Fair enough, but when you exit the cinema, the exit is way far away from where you checked in your bags and on another floor! Crazy! You get out of the cinema in a very unfamiliar place, far away from the entrance to the cinema, have to walk almost all over the mall to get back to the location that you checked your bags in! Crazy! Judy and I laughed and said but it’s good for you to walk, keeps you fit!

We decided that we would take public transportation to get back to the ashram. We waited at the bus stop where I was pretty sure the bus that took us would stop to go back the way it came. We waited for a while. Too long for Judy’s comfort so she made inquiries and then determined that we needed to walk a block more to go to another stop where our bus would actually pick us up. Again, we waited too long for Judy and she inquired again. She decided we needed to walk down further. We passed a couple on the way and asked them about the bus we wanted. There was a street vendor who knew the bus we wanted that was there when we asked the couple and he told us that the bus we wanted had stopped for the night. It was good to know that the knowledge I had that the bus I wanted indeed would have stopped at the stop I thought it would. The couple asked us why we didn’t take an auto; were we without enough money? We said we just wanted to take public transportation. I think there is some class issues about the type of transportation one takes. She gave us a look as if we didn’t quite have our minds right and hailed an auto for us and arranged a price for us to pay the driver. Kind of funny as it wasn’t the money at all but just our desire to not use a vehicle for just our use.

While we were walking from the beautiful mall to a bus stop that would take us back to the ashram we encountered stray dogs and quite a number of cows. We are walking on a major road. There is a raised divider in the middle of the road. Cows are off to the left of the sidewalks as well as standing in the middle of the road on the divider. Cows love garbage bins, those tall rectangular ones with the lid on top. I’ve seen them rummage thru them and chewing with whatever they find in there. Wait a minute!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I though cows ate grass! But they’re eating what from the garbage bins? These cows that are walking about alone without a human tending to them, here and there about the city, how does this come about? In the villages I see all of the cows tied up to very short ropes but in the cities they are roaming about without any restrictions. Hari tells me that these animals belong to someone. If they do, why aren’t they kept at home or at least in view of their owners? What do these cows being unfettered tell me about how they are perceived or taken care of by the people of India? I don’t have a clue as I write this.

April 7, Wednesday, Delhi

Since I had no problem calling the United States yesterday I decided to call Cara today for the first time. (Well, I actually did call her yesterday but she wasn’t answering her phone so could only leave a message) We talked for maybe about an hour. (Rs 9 a minute to call USA / Canada; got to get the plan where I Rs 27 a month to call there for Rs 2 a minute) I love talking to her. It feels so good to be able to hear her voice and to hear what she is up to. I am so happy I have a cell phone I can use to call anywhere in the world and I will never travel again without having a cell phone on my list of essential items to have with me.

Today is Judy’s last day in Delhi so I decided that whatever she wanted to do together with me we would do. She wanted to go to the Lotus Temple, The Bahai House of Worship. It is a very beautiful house of worship. We first went into their visitor’s center. It is immense and very high-tech for India’s standards I think. One of the items that really piqued my interest was the pictures of Bahai Houses of Worship all over the world. The picture of the United State’s only had the words “United States” while all the others in other countries of the world also included the city and state or at least the state. Why doesn’t the US House of Worship picture include the state? I find that very odd. The reason is probably some little thing but it is a source of irritation in my mind. While at the temple I had the opportunity of asking a young man if he knew the reason. He gave me his reason without a second thought but I have no idea if he just shot it off the top of his head or he actually was told that reason by someone and he was using his own words to explain it. His explanation had something to do with United States is united and it is one country and all its people are united. I didn’t understand how that explanation answered my question as to why no state was mentioned.

The grounds are beautiful and off to the west I could see Iskcon Temple. Off to the south I saw what looked like another temple but I don’t know what it was. The area outside the grounds is not so nice looking, full of makeshift vendors stalls and lots of trash. On the walk leading to the temple entrance we had to take our shoes off. They have an unusual set up where you place your shoes. There’s a large center walkway leading directly into the center of the temple entrance. As you get closer to the temple an area has been set up for you to take off your shoes and have them held for you. Off to the center of this walkway on each side are these rooms that are actually 2/3/ below the level of the walkway. One has to walk down some steps to be at level with the staff checking in your shoes in these rooms. You have to actually get on your knees to be at eye level with the staff taking your shoes through tiny slits in these rooms. A very unusual and awkward set up. A sort of fake grass carpet is laid down on the walkway to keep your bare feet from burning. That was a nice thing to do. When I was at Iskcon Temple you felt the heat of their walkways. At the doors to the temple a guide gave us a brief discussion about the history and their faith. I was going to take a picture of the person speaking with my back to the temple and I was not permitted to do so. I wonder if taking pictures of public buildings also has something to do with potential terrorist attacks. When I went to the temple for Naw Rooz I was able to take pictures of the temple and of its inside.

Judy and I both sat down and meditated for about a half hour. When we exited we spoke with some of the volunteers. Here we met the young man I spoke of earlier. I recorded his answer as well as a song he was eager to sing for me. The recording has a lot of static on it so I’m afraid that as it is now, I will not be able to share it on the internet as I had hoped unless someone tells me how to get rid of that static.

After existing the temple, a man came up to us and started walking with us. Both Judy and I are leery of such encounters. We walked over to the stalls looking for some fresh squeezed juice to drink if we were lucky enough to. We were lucky. This one man just lingered with us. When we finished we went out looking for an auto to take us back to the ashram. We were trying to get a price we wanted. All around us were drivers waiting to get a passenger. This man was trying to get us as his passengers also. We said all we wanted to pay was X amount. He said fine so we got in. Once we were in, he said that all we had to do was stop at two places where they were selling stuff. Judy and I are both not into that kind of auto ride and we both got up off our seats at the same time and said no thank you and exited the auto. I think it’s kind of funny that we both had the same exact reaction to that situation. We finally found a driver that would take us back to the ashram without any stops on the way! Whew! That situation can be such an ordeal!

I had scheduled an ayurvedic massage for Judy and I that afternoon so at 3:30 p.m. off we went in another auto to my ayurvedic doctor for our 4:00 p.m. appointment. Here again, without reason, we were kept waiting until 4:15 until they began to have us prepare for our massage. I saw that there was only one table prepared. I had said when I made the appointment that we both needed to get the massage done at the same time as she had to catch her flight that evening. I had even asked the doctor can your two staff people do massages because my friend and myself had to be massaged at the same time not one after the other and the doctor had told me yes. Aye, aye, aye. Before either one of us was to lay down I said that we both had to be massaged at the same time or we weren’t able to have it done. They set up the table in the doctor’s office and both of us were done at the same time.

This was another first for me . . . an ayurvedic massage. When they say whole body massage they really mean W H O L E body. The only area of my body that did not get massaged was the area at the end of my torso between my legs. My, my, my, how they massage parts of your body, you’d never dream they’d use a technique like that. I will not get into it but if anyone cares to know I will share it with them personally. They use an oil on your body when they massage it and they keep the room warm, no fans or air conditioner on. The oil had a smell that I didn’t find pleasant, it was red in color. When they are all done, they take a towel and wipe you down over all the areas that have been massaged. The oil stains your clothes but does wash out eventually.

When we were done with the massage we went to the Achichini Market across the street from the ashram to get ourselves a facial. This one beauty parlor has a special going on from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. so we hoped to get that. We arrived at 5:55 p.m. We were able to get the special price for the facial but there was only one lady available so Judy got the facial. I went to the store, bought myself two diet Pepsi’s and two Cadbury chocolate bars, went to my room and ate and drank it all. Judy knocked on my door about 7:50 p.m. and said she got out of her facial a bit after 7:00 p.m. and was really worried she wasn’t going to make her 8:00 p.m. taxi ride to the airport but she did. We said good-bye. I think she is another friend I have made while here in India.

Another thing that happened to me today was that I went to the ashram registration office to pay for my room for the week and was told there was no extensions; a group of teachers was coming Friday and Saturday night and I needed to leave the ashram. I was almost speechless! I do not think it is a good practice to inform guests at the last minute that their room is not going to be available in two days. Here I am in a strange country, I have no plans to go anywhere, I have no ideas of where I can go next and in such a short time. . . need to arrange transportation, hotel, whatever and pack all within a 48 hour period. No words from any of the staff as to possible suggestions or alternatives, just there’s a group coming in and we need your room, you have to move out! One of the staff did say, however, to see her in the morning to talk about it. Wow! What a way to treat another human being.

April 8, Thursday, Delhi

Not knowing what was before me when I went to the registration office I made it a point to keep calm, have my breakfast, go to the meditation hall and meditate for an hour no matter what. When I left the hall I walked by a guest who I’d been observing for a few days and had a desire to make acquaintance with. I stopped and introduced myself. Her name is Jamie and she is from Arizona. Talk about a synchronicity moment. She provided me with the information I needed if I needed to move out by tomorrow. Awesome! Even told me of a yoga ashram in Rishikesh that had air-conditioned guest rooms. Yee Pee.

After seeing Jamie I went to the registration office to find out my fate. I was told I could I go to a student’s vacant room. Thank God! I packed up my stuff, used the opportunity to get rid of what I had already decided to donate to Sri Aurobindo Ashram and looked closely at all I still had to get rid of more. I still have that humongous suitcase but inside it I also have the carry on bag and then all the stuff I want to take back home. The clothes I’m still using I have in a collapsible bag I bought in Pajar Ganj when I was with Hari. Taking all my stuff over to my new room makes me feel so bad that I still have so much stuff. It’s disgusting for one person to have so much stuff with her while on vacation. After moving everything on over I went to my 6:00 p.m. ayurvedic appointment and then came back to the ashram and crashed. Having to have to go thru that sudden move really stresses and drains me.

April 9, Friday, Delhi

Today was my fourth session at the ayurvedic. I gave her my medical reports from Paras Hospital to look over. I walked around the area, went to the Deer Park, looked for an internet place but found it to be cramped, stuffy and very warm so didn’t use it. I walked around on streets I didn’t know where they lead to but got back to the street I needed to get back to the doctor to retrieve my papers. I picked up my new sunglasses. Went to the chemist, the internet and the tailor to get the bell legs of my two pairs of jeans straightened (cost Rs 40, $1.00 USD).

April 10, Saturday, Delhi and Gurgoan, Haryana

Today is the day I decided I would gather up my courage and take the public bus to Gurgoan to go to Paras Hospital and see the last doctors I needed and wanted to see. Going on a public bus more than a half hour away by private transportation, not knowing where to go once I got dropped off, had my heart racing. I got to the bus stop about 9:00 a.m. I had with me the name of the bus and the word Gurgoan written in Hindi. I hadn’t been there more than ten minutes when I looked up and saw a bus coming at me with the Hindi letters that looked familiar to me. I looked at my piece of paper with Gurgoan written in Hindi and yes! It was the same letters! As the bus is going by me. The universe is with me. It has stopped because there is a red light! I run after it! I bang on the front door. The doors open. I ask are you the Safdarjung to Gurgoan bus? Just confirming as I saw those words in English on the bus’ backside. (on the backside, is that to tell English-speaking people, “yeah, this is the bus you wanted but since the front side was in Hindi, you didn’t get on, now you can’t get on.” ) The bus costs Rs 25 and a taxi costs Rs 400 to 500; quite a humongous difference.

I asked my way all the way to the stop I needed to get off to get the next transportation to take me to the hospital itself. The universe was with me so much that even at my stop at Iffco Chowk (pronounced chalk) a woman who also had to get off at the same stop helped me get a bicycle rickshaw to the hospital and argued with the driver to get me an Indian fare. My heart goes out to these bicycle rickshaw drivers. How they manage to pedal and with all that weight in their carriage is beyond me. This driver had to go a long way before he got to Paras Hospital. I do not know how far it was but I think it was over half a mile. I was only to pay him Rs 40 but I gave him 60. Even though he had already been chastised by the Indian woman who helped me and I had given him 20 more than he thought he would get, he still tried to get 20 more from me. I told him no. I know there is a system here and if I give more than what is generally given I will be disrupting things; how to a bad effect I don’t understand but I’ve been told that a few times. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” I don’t go along with this underpaying of such hard labor but it is their way.

My visit at Paras went well.. I got everything done that I needed to and didn’t need to go back to them again. I had challenged myself to take a bus on my own to get to a place that was over a half hour’s journey by private transportation. When I got on the bus, the only thing I knew was that it was the one to take me to a stop that was within the vicinity of Paras Hospital; how near or far I had no information about. What I needed to do once I got off the bus I had no information about. But I was able to inquire and find the correct answer and God sent angels to greet me with each step I took on the path to Paras Hospital.

Going back to the ashram was just as easy as coming. The universe had others where I was to show me the way. It was so sweet in fact. Outside the hospital I was looking for a bicycle rickshaw to take me back to the bus stop and an employee of the hospital was also looking for one. We got on one together to where I needed to get an auto to take me to the bus stop. In Gurgoan autos carry as many as can squeeze into it. She told me that I wouldn’t have to pay more than Rs 5 for the auto. Before an auto going to my stop came by a bus came by that was going there also. Not knowing what was better I took the bus. I mad a big loop before it got to my bus stop. Boy, was that bus crowded!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I think it was the most crowded bus I have ever been on. Me with my backpack only makes things worse. It’s hard enough to squeeze your own body out of the bus and then to have to squeeze my bag through also! Wow! What an ordeal! Another ordeal! The doctor said I was brave to take the bus; he wouldn’t even be that brave. What is it about buses that people give negative comments about? I’m sure it’s a class issue.

A thing about India that I hadn’t mentioned before, I don’t think, that I noticed frequently while at the hospital was the frequency of power outages. They come and they go. At home, everyone would stop what they’re doing, say Oh, Oh and wander about until the power came back on. Here in India people continue to go about what they were doing, keeping their conversations going, whatever, without a second’s change in course.

April 13, Tuesday, Delhi

Went to India Tourism Office on Janpath to get actual facts and details about transportation to Ladakh so I can take Vipassana course I signed up for to begin April 29. I was told that the Himachal Tourist Office provided the transportation to get there or I could take an airplane. I had already found out that a flight would cost about $220 and I didn’t want to spend that much money nor did I want to travel anywhere in India on a plane; either bus or train, that was my choice of transportation while in India. So from that office I went down to the Himachal Tourism Office and there I found out that there is no road transportation to Ladakh until June, maybe late May by jeep. There went Vipassana in Ladakh for me. I left that office thinking that my plans to get out of Delhi by Thursday were not going to come into fruition.

I decided to walk over to the government emporium shops near Connaught Place. I was surprised that most of them had already closed as it wasn’t even 7:00 p.m. yet. I found the Ladakh one open of which I was extremely happy about for I knew I wouldn’t be going there this trip. I hit the silver counter and there I was lost. I bought quite a lot of jewelry. The store even stayed open past closing time because I came in before they closed. Everyone working at the time of closing had to stay until I left. I do not understand the reason for that but it is their rule. I told the staff waiting on me that I would go as it was closing time. He said no, I was a customer and the store would stay open until I was done. Perhaps they saw the dollar signs on my forehead for them to stay after closing.

After closing the store I bought myself some momos from a street vendor. I walked back to Janpath Road and hoped to find a bus stop to get a bus home as I had taken a bus to the area but I couldn’t determine where a bus stop was so I got an auto.

April 14, Wednesday, Delhi

I went to the registration office to pay my weeks room rent and was I surprised. I had thought that a student room, its location, its condition, would have warranted an adjustment in my cost. Nope, not at all. In fact they were so positive of themselves, that despite the fact that I was made to get out of my room with only 24 hours notice, relocate not to the guest rooms but to the students area with no services of any kind, not even drinking water nearby, its proximity to the noisy street and buildings of the ashram where work was being done, the same amount of money was expected from me. It was even said that at least they gave me a room to go to and I didn’t have to get another place somewhere in Delhi that would be even more expensive. Their attitude makes me think they have become very arrogant of the provisions they offer to travelers.

I am dying to be out of Delhi. The city is getting to be so hot. I’m sweating in my room. My week of my room paid up is tomorrow. I’ve got to be out of here going somewhere where it’s cooler. Looking over the brochures I got from Himachal Tourism I decide to leave for Manali on Thursday. That meant I had to book my ticket online from a public internet; either that or go back to the office and personally buy the ticket and of which I didn’t have the time to do. From Manali I had plans in my head what I was to do until I had to return to Delhi to fly home. Two months of being on my own. Who knows where. Who knows how I would get to the next place. Who knows how I would fare carrying my backpack on my back and another on my chest. Eeeeee Gods, I hope I make it! Another I’ve never done this before experience.

April 15, Thursday, Delhi

My last day in Delhi except for when I have to come back to see the dentist once more, maybe get a tattoo, pick up my stored luggage and take my flight to go home.

I was up at 4:00 a.m. Put in my last load of clothes to wash in Delhi and started doing all that I needed in order to move out. I spent my last day in the meditation hall and didn’t leave it until an hour had passed. Ah, I needed that. All day long I was busy. I did eat breakfast and lunch in the dining hall and didn’t rush. The clothes I was wearing were ones that I would leave behind, donate to the ashram. They would be dirty but so would be my sheets which is the pile I added them to. Let’s hope they don’t’ mind getting dirty clothes but if they do, they’re too high brow for me anyhow.

About 11:00 a.m. I called the Himachal Tourism Office to be sure a ticket was there for me when I arrived. Guess what? Nope. Their system of buying tickets on line didn’t work for me even though I got a confirmation number on line after I had booked the seat and given my credit card number. The man on the phone said there was one seat left and he would hold it for me but I had to get there by 6:00 p.m. so that I could purchase the ticket! Now I’ve got to call USA again to see if the charge I placed for the ticket on the internet last night went through. If it did, that has to be disputed! Another thing I might have to attend to.

For the next leg of my journey I had to get rid of whatever I had that would not fit into my backpackers backpack and my student backpack. If I couldn’t carry it in either of those or if it was too heavy for me to carry, I had to get rid of the item(s). I decided I would only have four pairs of pants and four shirts, four pair underpants, four bras, two pair socks, my four pairs of shoes, my laptop, my essential toiletries, one shawl, one dupatta, one pair of pajamas, two shorts, one sleeveless shirt, two hand towels, two towels, one sheet for bed linen, yoga mat, camera, cell phone, flip video camera, digital recorder, flashlight, batteries, chargers, LP India book, food bag, wallet and I think that’s about it. Everything else that I had brought along that I had more of at home I left at the ashram. Both of the packed bags are heavy and awkward for me to carry but I know as time goes along I’ll learn how to handle them and I’ll be stronger where I need to in order to carry them better.

I left the ashram at 5:10 p.m. Outside I looked for an auto and saw only one that was stopped without a passenger. The driver wanted Rs 90 which I knew was more than usual but what do you do when you’ve got bags all over your body and you got to get somewhere so you can get on a bus that leaves at 6:30 p.m.? OMG that driver must have known I was in a hurry because he was the slowest driver I have ever had but I kept my mouth shut and just prayed to God that I would get there in time. I did, I was inside the tourism office at 6:00 p.m. like I had been told.

Goodbye Delhi. I have no intention of seeing you again until June 20 as my plane doesn’t leave for home until 1:10 a.m. on June 23, 2010.

a most peaceful ride

 

. . . If I try to possess and hold on to something that is changing beyond my control, then I am bound to create misery for myself. If I develop attachment to a sensory experience, pleasant or unpleasant, I have created a cause for suffering. 

For my entire life, I think, I have never had happiness. Perhaps I have had a moment now and again but to say that I was or am a happy person, I will have to say no. Depression has always been with me. It has been my companion. I have said it is my middle name.  

Around the year 1995, I came to the realization that I needed to submit to God to lead my life. Up until that time I had lived a life according to how I wanted it to be. It was very secular and hedonistic. I began going to church on a regular basis. I became very dedicated to learning as much about God and His role in my life as possible. I did quite a lot of Bible study, went to retreats and did a lot of lengthy praying.  

Since that year my commitment to God has only intensified. But to this day I am not happy. I feel depressed, dissatisfied, tormented and agitated. I spend hours alone doing the things that I like to yet I am aware that what I’m involved in is not being of service to others. Many of those hours are spent in meditation, prayer, writing and coming to new knowledge through the insights I’ve gained during them. But still I feel as if I’m as lost as I’ve always been.  

I believe that each creature is alive here on this earth to serve some purpose. This belief has caused me to be tormented because I do not know the reason for my existence. I have all of these ideas running in my head as to what I can do to serve my purpose, yet I have yet to put any of them into reality as I’ve been too preoccupied doing things that I think I need to do; that keep me busy yet keep me from doing any service to others. When an opportunity arises that I might provide my self to others I always seem to have an excuse to not do so.  

I came to India in the hopes that my journey, experiences, spiritual encounters and whatever might enlighten me as to what my purpose on this earth is. I know I do not want to work full-time for some corporation doing their labor while they make big profits. I really don’t want to work full-time for anyone other than God, myself by providing some need for others or serving others for their welfare. 

I believe that I have found the next path to take to achieve happiness in this life. That path is Vipassana meditation. As one practices Vipassana, wisdom arises, the mind becomes balanced, detached, pure and full of good will towards all. Knowing in my mind that reality has no permanence, everything is impermanent. Knowing everything is impermanent will aid me in eliminating my illusions, cravings and aversions and this creature, I, can live peacefully and happily. 

In Vipassana it brings up the term “anicca.” It means impermanent, ephemeral and changing. Vipassana teaches that as the understanding of anicca develops within oneself, another aspect of wisdom arises: anatta: no “I”, no “mine.” This makes perfect sense to me. I had already come to understand that I am but a small grain of sand in the Universe. How could “I” be more significant than the next creation?” I believe “I” has been created by our mind and was never meant to have such a significant role as humans have created it to be.  

The Four Noble Truths Buddha shared with the world are used in Vipassana. The First Noble Truth is to know that suffering exists everywhere. To know the cause of suffering and observe it is the Second. Knowing the cause allows one to eradicate it thereby eradicating the suffering also is the Third. The Fourth Noble Truth is to take steps to eradicate suffering.  

The cause of suffering is attachment to the five aggregates. The physical aggregate is the body. The mental aggregates are consciousness, perception, sensation and reaction. The human body is not the body but “I” or “mine.” Great attachment to one’s body easily happens. As to the mental aggregates, they are impermanent, constantly changing even from one second to the next.  

There are four kinds of attachments. One is craving, obtaining one’s desires. The more that sensory experience satisfies one, the more they want it. Second is the clinging we do to “I” or “mine” even though we truly don’t even know what this “I” or “mine” actually is. One’s views and beliefs is the third attachment. Clinging to one’s rites, rituals and religious practices is the fourth attachment.  

In the knowledge I have gained before I took the Vipassana course I had come to understand these four attachments, albeit I had not come to recognize them as attachments, were not conducive to living a harmonious life. Reading the Vipassana 10 Day Discourses, “I” and “belief” really caught my attention. Look back at the beginning of this and see how often the word “I” is used. Thinking of “I” so much is a selfish thing to do and I adamantly have no desire to be selfish but there is no way out of being so when I am so attached to “I.” My use of the word “I” is used way too many times for someone who wants to be on the path to “Be Happy” as Buddha often says. 

A belief of mine is that each creature is here on this earth to serve some purpose. Attachment to one’s beliefs is the third attachment. Has it brought me suffering, misery, torment, anguish and unhappiness? As I read about these aggregates and attachments knowledge came over me that it is this belief that has chained me to unhappiness. All of my life has been led with “I” being the most important concern of my life. I have never cared for anyone as much as I care for myself. How this came about, I don’t even know. In all that I have become it is because I strove to do so. I have always refused to be defeated. Whenever I felt defeated or negative about something I always made it a point to find another way of perceiving or changing the situation so that I wouldn’t feel that way anymore. Even though I feel I have nothing to show for what has occurred in my life, except for a beautiful wonderful natured daughter of which I do not take any credit for other than carrying her within my womb and seeing to it that she had what she needed as she became her own person, I have always had the drive of wanting to accomplish, of being something in the world that people in my time will know that I contributed to them and that will cause the future to know that I existed. I have such lofty ideas for someone who has never shown a desire for career success or even educational attainment or strove for any recognition.  

Buddha said that the source of suffering is ignorance. Because of one’s ignorance one suffers. When one knows the cause of their suffering, ignorance is gone. My conviction that “I” must (various verbs will fit in here) in order to be of value / survive / protect myself /not be taken advantage of / maintain what I believe is right / live appropriately / etc. has been the most significant part about me for all of my life, even as a child. I came into my family with such fierce self determinism they wondered why they had ever gotten me and was I really a child of their loins.  

(Note: With the word “ignorance” one can take my name “Nora” out of it. With the remaining letters “i, g, n, c, e” and my name they make up the word “noragenic.” I need to find out what the suffix -genic means.  

indicates produces or is produced. causing, giving rise to. This is a medical suffix. -genic was not found in non medical list of three suffix lists I went to. 

So, by taking the word “ignorance” and transforming it into “Noragenic” you get a word that means produces Nora. Hee hee hee. Egotistical, self centered, egomaniac if ever there was one!) 

Before I read this Vipassana information I have mentioned to you I had spoken to another guest here at the ashram. Her name is Shashi. She is of Indian descent but was born in Africa and has lived in Canada and America. She has been into transcendental meditation over ten years now. We were talking about serving one’s purpose in life. She told me that “if I’m happy doing whatever it is that I’m doing – working, cleaning, helping others, anything – then I’ve served my purpose in life.” At the time she said that my belief was so wrapped up in actually having some designated responsibility that one was certain was serving others would be the purpose of their lives would be the only means of serving one’s purpose in life. For example, with me, I like to write so I’ve been leaning toward the idea that maybe my purpose in this life is to write and have others read what I wrote and that it would benefit them. I also have a passion for wanting to garden and create an urban food forest in my backyard that I would share with my neighbors and less advantageous people in the surrounding areas. Another passion of mine is to make my home into a community center where there would be study groups for simple and sustainable living, a free school in place of the poor educational system in our schools today and a place where people can just come together and socialize. These are the ideas that have been running in my head, a mile a minute, about maybe this is what I should be doing as the reason why I was created. My mind is full of things I could be doing to serve others. Yet I have done no service. Because of my lack of self confidence all of my ideas are just sitting on a shelf, waiting to be picked up and implemented by me. Yet, I continue to find other things to fill my time with and do not a lick of service.  

Since my conversation with Shashi, these readings and my meditations, I have come to see “be happy” is truly serving a purpose for others. Buddha and his teachings’ purpose has been to serve others so that they might be happy. Buddha taught them what they needed to know and do to “Be Happy.” Those who live their lives and are “happy” serve as examples to others. To accomplish attaining happiness is having served your purpose in life. When you are happy, you have gained wisdom, morality, concentration and concern for all that exists. You no longer suffer and no longer cause others to suffer. To live a life of peace and allow others to live theirs in peace, what better purpose to live a life for? 

With Shashi’s words and now recognizing my attachment to “I” and my beliefs practicing Vipassana will indeed be a wonderful tool for me. It will help me remove my ignorance, become aware of all the aggregates and attachments that I live my life with and of the reactions I have to sensory experiences. Knowing “I” and my beliefs are impermanent and that all of my reality is impermanent will aid me in allowing me to observe them with equanimity and without reacting to them. I can live my life with the knowledge of “anicca.” With time, much practice and discipline, my reactions may even be eliminated completely. In time I will become “egoless” and “be happy” in whatever I do. I will be enlightened!  

My reactions can be stopped from becoming cravings, aversions, laziness, agitations, or doubts.  

For me “I” and my beliefs would be my cravings. Anything opposing those would cause aversion, agitation or doubt within me. None of these reactions are non suffering; they all bring misery.  

After reading what I’ve shared with you about Vipassana I went to the Meditation Hall and meditated. During my meditation the thought came to me that I have acknowledged that I am but a small grain of sand within the Universe, a small element that makes up the whole of the Universe. If I truly want to be a pure element of the whole, then I need to be unified with it. With “I” in the way, the whole is contaminated and it can’t work 100% as the Universe wants it to. I wonder, is this “I” in the Universe the conduct of others that causes the suffering of others?  

In order for me to be able to live in harmony with the Universe – to be at peace, to be happy – the major item I need to work on is my mind and get “I” out of it. For as St. Francis of Assisi said in his famous , much quoted prayer “It is in dying to self, that I am born to eternal life.” Dying to self doesn’t mean denying my existence or purpose, it just means that I get my ego that’s creating all that selfishness and self importance out of it. The more “I” is removed, wherever I am, I know that is where the Universe wants me and what is before me is what the Universe wants me to do. Doing what the Universe wants of me will be serving my purpose for being created! Voila! Fini! 

With this thought I got a vision – that of me being on the ground waiting for the next empty seat on the Ferris Wheel of the Universe to open up its bar and let me get in and ride it for as long as I wanted. Before I got on, however, I had to take “I” out of this temporary body my spirit is in and set it aside on the ground away from me for I could not ride on the Ferris Wheel of the Universe if “I” was with my body. You see, on the Ferris Wheel of the Universe there are no “I’s” anywhere, only “Us,” all connected to the same source of all creations that ever were and ever will be, working towards the same goal, the preservation of life for all and for all eternity.  

People are always telling me that I think too much. I know! “I” and thinking have always been my worst enemies but I’ve held on to them tenaciously for all of my life and for what? Why do I? Because I have always wanted to know why and what’s in it for me or what’s in in that could harm me, maybe. I do know that the more I meditate the less I do think for much of what is thought about is all those impermanent items in our reality. I know now that I need to meditate as much as I possibly can, have faith that if I let the Universe take me where it wants me to go and do what is placed before me to do I will serve the purpose I was created for. I know that the Universe will guide me only if I have faith that it wants to and will.  

Another way of thinking about taking this ride on the Ferris Wheel of the Universe is “Let Go, Let God.” Let go of believing that I ______________________________________ and instead start being more open to listening to what God wants to tell me and Let God show me the way to the path He wants me to take to serve Him.  

Hope to see you all on the Ferris Wheel of the Universe Ride! It’s the most peaceful ride you will ever experience.