Saturday, 12 January 2013

The God of Small-Rishikesh-Sized Things.

Congratulations if you got the reference in this post title - the publishers, 'Penguin India', are celebrating their 25th birthday this year, and so reprinted 25 of the 'best' Indian books. I read 'The God of Small Things' by Arundhati Roy which won the Booker Prize in '97, in Rishikesh and it gave me such a great taste of India. Although it's set in the south, it cemented me to where I was then and there. The assaults on the senses he describes were the same assaults I was experiencing, and that's my absolute favourite thing about reading travel books about the place you're in. You may never understand the author's feelings and descriptions as much as you do when reading 'Eat, Pray, Love' whilst in India or, 'Notes from a Big Country' when in North America.

Anyway, I am digressing from the point of this post which is catching you up on India so far.

This weekend we took a weekend off from playing with the World's Cutest Children to visit Rishikesh, a town a few hours drive from our local town Mussoorie, made famous in the 1960s by the Beatles christening it 'Yoga Capital of the World'. Knowing little of the geography of the North of India (Flo, do correct me if I'm wrong here!), we were both gobsmacked when, when driving up and over the local Elephant forest (in which resides the 'Killer Elephant' - don't ask), we spotted a slither of water expanding before us. The Ganges.


Our accomodation, costing us a mere 400 rupees each for two nights (around £4), was complete with running hot water - a luxury I can assure you, and a hammock each was basic and unbeatable. The Hilltop Swiss Cottage was perfect, and packed to the brim with western hippies and travellers alike. It offers a beautiful array of gardens (complete with fairy lights and some of the best Chai you'll find!) and full body massages, 75 minutes long, for just £5 each. And don't worry, there was no, ahem, funny business. I'm pretty sure the experience was legit...even the powercut halfway through...

In the evening (every evening) the Ganges Aarti is celebrated in Rishikesh, which is a ceremony organised and run by the local Ashram residents as opposed to a more 'theatrical' Pundit as other ceremonies are. While it is ever-so-slightly overrun with tourists and tour groups, it is still a particularly spiritual experience. Both Flo and I let our garland float down stream, without capsizing I hasten to add, and it was a wonderful experience to see the sun set just beyond our reach.

Among this, we played many a travel scrabble game, drank street Chai, read, and even partook in a very non-legit seeming Yoga class for £1.50. Needless to say, the week-long ache that followed was definitely not worth the small amount we paid. On the Monday we returned to Sainji which, oddly, felt much like coming home. We were welcomed back today to sunshine and cool mountain air, and I wouldn't have rather been anywhere else.

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