There were a few days as we were leaving France and settling in India that really weren’t spectacular. I just felt blah. On the phone with my sister, a 3-second lag putting up a brick wall between the familiar intimacy I missed about our chats back home (whispered over the sleeping form of her infant son in his milk-coma), I complained that I worried that the trip wasn’t what it was supposed to be.
A few days later I picked a fight with Marc in the mid-day humidity of our little red-brick Indian sweatbox, I mean bedroom.
“You’re so negative, you don’t like anything here, you’re supposed to be having the time of your life!”
We just had to keep putting our faith in the system, putting one foot in front of the other and reminding ourselves to open our eyes and embrace the experience.
I’m not saying we had no good moments. As I write this we are on day 75 of good moments. Probably there are 50+ hours that we will talk about for the rest of our lives. And as Adrianne said on that first phone call “You are allowed to have bad days. You are even allowed to have a bad week or a bad month. You aren’t on vacation, you are living abroad”. But things hadn’t seemed to have gelled just yet in India. Until today.
It’s Friday, so we started the day with a Hatha Flow yoga class on top of the yoga hall. I snapped this photo of the water tower with the morning sun shining golden on it’s face and some pretty little birds coming in for a bird-convention. As I laid in Savasana I watched some green parrots fly in and join them, chattering away. (I often cheat and open my eyes during Savasana… I hope my yoga teacher isn’t reading!!)
As a crew, we enjoyed a breakfast of idli (little steamed rice cakes) dipped in sambar, with fruit and chai served up by the always-smiling Kapil.
We worked away on the cookbook and Ashram food blog until about 2pm, when Shree showed up and asked Kate and I if we would like to each have a head and shoulder massage to help Bhuri practice in the spa. OK fine, we will help her practice in the spa!!
Shree unfortunately has to rush me out of the spa near the end of my treatment because the jeep has arrived to take us out to the “goat retirement yard” #mylife
The Asan’s Trust has a really large plot of land a little ways away from the Ashram where they bring cows that need to be rehabilitated and also male goats that are no longer useful and therefore would get.. ehem… ended… in town. I floated over to the jeep on the wings of my spa relaxation and hopped in the back with Kate and Marc, Jogesh up front driving. In the span of the 60m to the front gate we were joined by 6 more neighbourhood children, all running pace with the jeep and flinging their skinny boy bodies up into the back with us.
Off we go across the desert, causing 50 years of damage to our spines with each bump in the road. First stop: a water reservoir within sight of the Ashram. Marc bro’d out hard skipping stones with our Jeep stowaways.
Next we wind back through town and into the super-hilly dune area that houses the cow yard. At this time of night, and with the size of the property, we didn’t actually see any cows or goats. But we saw tonnes of different birds, some pretty freaky looking deer and a “blue cow” (spoiler alert: it’s brown).
Everybody out of the jeep! These little kids are full of energy, like all kids, but are also absolute monkeys climbing up the near-vertical sand dune and launching themselves into the thorny weeds at the top. Then sitting like little kings of the castle and heckling the weak Westerners as we try to follow suit.
Once everybody’s up (no small feat) we show off our best gymnastic moves to each other: handstands from Hillary, Marc flipping the youngest boys upside down with ease.
We disperse across the top of the dunes then all gather again at sunset through some unspoken trigger. Most of us are breathing hard, still coming down off the boisterous high of the last few minutes play. One by one our crew plops into the sand, arms around each other’s shoulders in the casual affectionate way men and boys have here in India, and we watch the sun go down over the horizon.
Most satisfactory indeed. Kate and I are especially moved – these moments resonate with the two of us: the colours of the sunset, the camaraderie with strangers, the spectacular vista we are lucky enough to experience through the kindness of our hosts.
We wave goodbye to the sun once it’s over the horizon, and walk/jump/roll down to the car.
Wouldn’t it be super-fun to roll the jeep and see how far we get without the engine? Why yes it would be!
Answer: about a km, seriously! Except now the jeep won’t start. And the sun has set, and we are miles from anyone and anything. A spark of panic sets in. “No problem” says Jogesh, trying repeatedly to turn over the engine. “Big problem!” says one of the boys. Tension!
Finally the engine roars into life and everyone laughs that awkward “I wasn’t worried but really I was” laugh and off we go. On the road back to the Ashram the boys sing us song they think we should know (mostly we can’t tell if they are in Hindi or English, but I could swear I heard the words “big hips, big lips”) and we don’t, then we sing them songs we think they should know, but they don’t (Macarena, Old McDonald’s Farm, YMCA – with the actions). We roll into the Ashram as best friends, late for dinner.