I've seemed to have unwittingly attracted a tour guide/eager companion - a nice young guy who leads treks in the mountains and speaks English very well. Two days ago he showed me some waterfalls near town and yesterday he took me to see the Beatles ashram (of monkey-substance fame). It is a stunning piece of land with these beehive looking meditation rooms made of small stones. The ashram has been slowly retreating back into the earth for the last 17 years, and is covered in vines, wild chickens and monkeys. And of course handfuls of tripping hippies that appear to have been sitting there since the 1970s. I have a particluar affinity for historial spaces, especially spaces where great art was created. The story goes that the Beatles wrote much of the White Album while staying there with their families.
On the way back along the path next to the Ganges river, my friend asked me if I wanted to meet a guru with 7 foot long dred locks. I mean really, who wouldn't? He took me to a teeny tiny hut down on the beach and inside was a fire, an alter to several gods, three painted, dusty men in loin cloth, the guru, and his famous dred locks wrapped about his torso and legs. They are so heavy that he has to fashion them into clothig to keep his neck aligned. They were either so stoned or so enlightened that I don't think they were consciously aware of our presense. After about two hours in there, i verified it was a lot of both.
So we sat next to them and mused about Indian gods v. christian god (only one? How boring. How many wives did he have?) and about the population of america (only 250 million people? How quaint.) About an hour in, the cushion I had been leaning against moved and I realized that it was a man under a blanket. Even more startling was his clean-shaven face and tidy hair and western looking sweater, when compared to the other guys, who were essentially covered in dried mud and decades of dredlock growth. Realizing that he spoke some English, I asked him how long he had lived in rishikesh? He said he lives in Agra, but was just visiting rishikesh to pray with the long-dreded guru. He comes once a year. He's a political scientist who works for a non-profit, and needed respite from the city. And dred-guru is his spiritual teacher.
An American might rent a room on the pacific ocean and down several bottles of Pinot Noir to get away from the madness of city life. An Indian might snuggle up on the corner of his guru's Ganges shack and get stoned for a week. Tomato, tomaaaaaato. We're not that different after all.