I had lots and lots if dreams on my second night in India. Perhaps because of the jet lag, but I’m not complaining since sleep has never felt this good! I wonder if the tiredness of jet lag is comparable to getting lack of sleep normally and if so, I may try every so often just for the few seconds of joy when my head hits the pillow. The only caveat is that my contacts are dry.
Nevertheless, I woke up refreshed and ready to go. After a light breakfast of bhel (puffed rice) and tea I headed with Ramnik to the oldest temple in Mumbai. People from all over travel by foot, without their shoes, to pay their respects. The gateway to the temple is filled with beautiful flowers and also more beggars than I’d seen yet. We had to walk through security to enter the temple. I was by far the only person with blonde(ish) hair. This is a destination visited by locals not tourists. I have the fortune of traveling around with locals, hence this incredible opportunity. As we were walking towards the metal detectors I saw a said that said no cameras allowed and there was the option to keep them locked up for 100 rupees. Naturally, I was following Ramnik so we didn’t sop, yet when I got patted down, the woman security guard felt my camera and took it from my pocket. There was no part of me that was going to leave my camera with a woman in a sari but Ramnik insisted it was okay as this was a place if God and no wrong doing would take place. So on we went, my heart dropping down to my stomach and my stomach dropping down to my knees. I replayed the quote of “worry is like an alarm bell, it doesn’t put out any fires” in my mind and decided not to let the fear of my stolen camera pale this incredible opportunity. I was pushed and prodded, barefoot and completely out of my element but in awe of the devotion. Men in skirts and golden crowns stood in front of a bright orange statue of Ganesh as people packed as tightly as sardines pushed their offerings of coconuts, money, flowers, and small treats to the front for the men to collect. Ramnik showed the man some rupees and we moved to the front. The temple caretakers placed a huge orange bhindi on my far head and I quickly turned to exit. The man at front called to me “miss, miss” as I had not taken my thank you gift. I was touched by the pureness and genuine religiousness here as in the midst of managing thousands of people, he still made sure my offering was complete. When we exited we were handed a piece of coconut meat (I did not eat) and were on our way. Ramnik went to retrieve my camera and I went to retrieve my shoes, fully aware that tears would sprout from my eyes if my camera went AWOL. Miraculously, when the woman security guard, dressed in a sari, saw Ramnik, she walked over with my camera wrapped in a cloth, untouched. I started to laugh in awe and amazement on the beautiful human spirit and how faith makes this country a safe and beautiful one.
Onward we went to Mani Bhavan, the home where Ghandi stayed when he visited Mumbai. It was very meaningful since today was the anniversary of his assassination. I thought children about have a day off in commemoration but they do not. We took off our shoes when we entered the home and I couldn’t help but thing how filthy my feet would be by the end of this day. As we entered there was a group of elderly people sitting on the ground listening to a lecture, which I learned was about Ghandiji. After a few moments they started singing in Hindi and it was very beautiful. Music lifts me up, especially when it is sand with faith. I believe this is one of the reasons why I love Kundalini Yoga since we chant and sing so many mantras. I shot a short video of the performance and we headed through the rest of the home. Lots of pictures and inspirational quotes were all over the home as well as Ghandiji’s bedroom in perfect condition. As we exited the home, I felt the sun wash over me and how incredible it was to be here.
We hopped into the car, which like magic, always appears within two minutes of needing it (I’m still fascinated by it) and headed to The Cottage Industries, as special places with Indian Artisan’s work (scarves, statues, paintings, jewelry, etc.). After filling out a form to enter and walking down a hallway that reminded me of an aquarium, we walked up two flights of steps and saw a spectacular site of anything and everything Indian one could want. The women who worked there spoke perfect English and were well accustomed to visitors, however we were the only ones there. I browsed the “aisles” despite anticipating the markets in Rishikesh and landed on two beautiful 100% silk scarves. Recipients will be revealed when I return. We continued on to other shopping areas nearby and perused but didn’t purchase. Like a magic carpet ride, the car appeared and whisked us off to lunch.
Swati Snacks seems to be the hippest place in Mumbai, “ladies who lunch” were waiting, as were school children, and teens. There was even a trip advisor poster in the window, my first glimpse of the Western World in Mumbai to date. I ordered coconut punch, a bottle of water, and let my hosts take care of the rest. Baked masala kitchardi, pani poori, panki, roti, and a brown basamati rice with vegetable dish (clearly whose name I forgot) graced our table. We ate and enjoyed and I watched the school children behind us filled with laughter and life. It was amazing how the waiters would shush them and they would quiet down and the mother’s wouldn’t bat a perfectly mascaraed eyelash when the waiters moved them gently out of the way to get by. Patience is a word that seems to resonate throughout the city.
Onward and upward, we crossed the busy street to meet our silent and steady driver who took us towards the Crawford Markets, the largest fruit and vegetable market in Mumbai. I dosed off and re-opened by eyes to beautiful buildings, school buses and a true “car tour” of the remainder of the city. As we passed the hectic market, my gracious hosts asked if I wanted to go in. Since I could see the inside of the market from the car, and wouldn’t be able to purchase anything anyway, I said staying in the car was quite alright and we continued. What I saw next was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. We took the back roads and saw how the produce was delivered. Skinny skinny men carrying huge wooden cases on their heads, children in between the streets playing games, any type of merchandise imaginable being sold in the street, tiny wooden stoves kept alive by women, more vespas than in Venice and others simply strolling around. How pedestrians manage to stay alive is still a mystery to me, but I’ll leave it at that.
We returned home, I rested a bit and headed to the home of my host’s son (and friend’s brother), who runs a vegan kitchen. There was a fair going on outside of his street, yet driver went through, honking along the way. We arrived in one piece and were graciously greeted by the kinder than kind family. The food was lovely, light and tasty and when I asked for bottled water, they sent someone to the market to purchase, despite my insistence that it was not necessary.
This was an excellent conclusion to my extraordinary second day in Mumbai. While I was asked if I wanted to venture out into the city to experience the nightlife, I declined as my day was full and I was more satisfied than imaginable (and my eye lids were giving in to gravity).
Knowing that the Ashram was my next stop on my journey, I fell asleep quickly and deeply. I’ve missed my group practice even though my own meditation set remains strong, and my thinking about arrival in Rishikesh brings butterflies to my stomach in the most incredible way. Yet I remain detached to the outcome with no expectations except living fully and presently.