Christian, a very talented up and coming videographer made this short documentary about life at the Ashram in July. It not only features interviews with both of us (!!!) but also a lot of information and beautiful images from our Indian home. Check it out below!
We’ve been at the Ashram for nearly 2 months now and it’s been a fantastic time so far. The first month, I’ll admit was hard. But only because I’ve been spoilt and always had Roh around to share half of the parenting, not to mention domestic duties. So while he was busily studying for his Teacher Training Certificate, it was all mummy. And I take my hat off to all those single mums, and those stay at home mums out there. It’s hard work.
Gypsy also went through a difficult patch at the beginning. She’s so used to always being on the move, always meeting new people, and being afraid those new people were going to hurt her that she’d really become quite clingy and attached, and visibly scared of strangers. But being here in the same room, with the same staff, same volunteers, same students, same other toddlers to play with day in and day out, slowly but surely, she is back to her old “I love everyone” personality that we love about her. After Roh graduated as a Yoga teacher (lets add that to, rock climbing instructor, dive instructor, Quad bike tour guide, First-aid instructor and English teacher), we have taken it in turn to take Asana classes. Which has meant that for 2 hours everyday, I’ve been child-free. What an amazing feeling! Especially after she was soooo clingy for so long. BUT, yesterday was a huge step for us all. Roh and I BOTH took a class together, and left her with the kitchen ladies, and the 2 other toddlers for 2 hours!! And she had a great time! She screamed when we tried to take her home. She’s got her friends now and quite an active little social life too! It’s so beautiful to see this in her. She’s also started saying a couple of Marathi words! Toddlers really do learn sooo much from each other.
Life at the Ashram is a simple life. As volunteers we are quite busy looking after the students, but we also have more freedom for self-practice. Roh and his new-found fitness (he’s lost more than 10kg in the 8 weeks we’ve been here) does 108 Surya Namaskara (sun salutations) every 2-3 days, as well as lots of Pranayama and Asana on top of a 2 hour Asana class everyday. He’s feeling and looking great. I am also editing one of the Ashram textbooks so I do a 2 hour class and an hour of editing everyday. I also run the shop, and Roh runs the library.
Like I said, it’s a simple life, but a fulfilling life. We are both happy, balanced, and loving having the time to spend playing with Gypsy and not just keeping her occupied on bus/train trips. We go for at least 1 big walk around the Ashram everyday, finding butterflies, ants, leaves, frogs, grasshoppers and occasionally snakes. Oh and puddles of course. Gypsy LOVES puddles! Especially muddy ones!
The monsoon is coming to an end. The rains were more than 3 weeks late coming and the farmers were all getting seriously concerned. But then the heavens opened and wow, did they open! It was the strongest rain and wind. Much stronger than any Typhoon we ever experienced in Taiwan. Except it was all day, everyday. Leaving the house, even just to do to the dining hall was a logistical challenge. 3 umbrellas were sacrificed. And many a bored day was spent stuck in our room unable to go outside and trying to entertain a toddler. We got creative. And Gypsy learnt the word “Elmo.” But as the sun sneaks back into our lives, so does the colour green. Everything is green. Sooo green. The mountains around us are covered with waterfalls. More than we could even count and its just beautiful.
So that is our life here. A simple life. A happy life. We plan to be here for another 6 weeks so if you don’t here much from us, we haven’t fall off the edge of the world, we are just recharging our backpacks and our prana before we head to Nepal in October.
Personal space is a big issue in India. For the most part it just doesn’t exist. You get asked several times a day for a “snap” or photograph which is fun at first, but really annoying after a while. But it’s the people who don’t even ask who really get on your nerves.
The Golden Temple... It truly is a beautiful place. Many say it is the most peaceful place on earth. I’m not too sure if we would go that far. It’s hard to find peace amongst the thousands of other people there. And especially when they all want their picture taken with either us or with Gypsy.
The parks, still inside the temple complex, but not directly on the lake were much quieter and nicer.
It is a very impressive place though. Yes, on one hand it’s coated in gold! A ridiculous waste of money. But on the other hand, the temple offers free accommodation and food to EVERYONE! On a normal day they feed 15000+ people!
Regardless of your own religious beliefs, nationality or gender, you are welcome at the temple. Which makes a nice change to the general greed mindset found in many other religions.
Outside the relative calm of the Temple, Amritsar is a crazy, busy, noisy, dirty city. It’s vibrant, with lots of markets, and people playing sports outdoors on every available patch of grass. Inside the summer palace was particularly popular with sports lovers.
We also visited the Panorama which was completely mind-blowing. It wasn’t the most amazing museum I’ve ever visited, but it was completely unexpected and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
Aside from the exhibitions, it’s just crazy how for a mere entrance fee of 15 rupees (30c) they are able to maintain the exhibition, pay rent, pay wages and pay electricity! Sure, the government no doubt subsidizes it but it’s still crazy to think.
All in all, we didn’t mind Amritsar. Most people come for 1 day and 1 night, see the temple and go again. I’m glad we gave it more of a chance and saw some of the other sites. That being said, we won’t be rushing back….
The guidebooks don’t really rate Chandigarh too highly, but we, being the weird people we are, LOVED it! It’s such a wonderful place to take a child!
It’s a new city, designed and built on a grid system. We stayed in sector 22, which turned out to be toy shop land. Each sector is full of parks and footpaths and it's just so easy to get around! And clean!
We were warned to avoid sitting class trains in India so many times. So naturally, we were a little apprehensive when the first train we booked ONLY had 2S - second class non-AC seating available. We figured that we didn't have much choice and bought the tickets.
We expected Pratap Nagar to be small. But I don’t think we expected it to be quite as small as it was. It was a really quaint and cute town, with literally 1 street, with just the essentials. 1 barber, 1 chai shop, 1 stationery shop, 1 corner store, 2 restaurants and a couple of tailors.
We wandered around the town and into the surrounding villages, mingling with locals, playing cricket with the kids, drinking too many chais… It’s such a peaceful place. The village children are so creative in their fun. They play cricket with sticks and tennis balls, and scale poles to get the ball off the roof if they have to!
The town almost has it’s own economy even! Prices are just crazy. A glass of chai = 5 rupees, a samosa = 6 rupees (a little cheaper than normal), a 40 minute haircut and shave = 50 rupees (that’s 80c!!) etc. It’s not a rich place that’s for sure, but there is a lot of community love there. Everybody knows each other and looks out for each other.
We spent a beautiful, peaceful week, doing nothing much apart from drinking chai, doing yoga, playing with the children, hiking and staring at the mountains.
Roh did a few hikes around the area, until he started seeing fresh tiger poo… The guide at the guesthouse had warned him it was a 50/50 chance to see one, but he hadn’t quite believed him until he saw the poo!! Beautiful walks, with no one else on the trails, lots of flowers and butterflies and peaceful seclusion! But take a stick…
Everyone knows travel in India is slow. You expect things to be delayed. So when we decided to head to the Himalayas to stay at a commune 4-5 hours from Rishikesh, we expected 5-6 hours. We didn't expect 7.5 hours!!!
And the crazy thing is, we didn't even encounter any delays!! It simply takes 7.5 hours to drive 80 km..
It took 3 hours to get to the city of New Tehri. From there we could even see our destination - a tiny village called Pratap Nagar, high up (3300m) on the mountains, on the other side of the dam.
Awesome! We are nearly there we thought! We just have to drive over the dam we thought....
No... We had to drive AROUND the dam..
Did I mention how BIG the dam is??
All of the roads are switch-back hairpin turns going up and around and down and around and up again. It took forever...
The scenery was mind-blowingly beautiful though! And so humbling to see farm land carved out of every surface no matter how steep the gradient. Women and children would just appear out of nowhere to jump on the bus, or disembark somewhere with no visible buildings around. It was just amazing.
And when we finally arrived, 7.5 bum-numbing hours later, we were met with an amazing view. something we were not expecting at all, and suddenly, it was all worth it!
Wow... Maybe we will stay awhile...
Yesterday we had the amazing privilege of meeting the Dalai Lama. Although we were planning to visit his residence her in Dharamsala, we certainly were not expecting to be able to participate in one of his audiences.
After registering the day beforehand, we lined up at 7am for an hour or so to enter, and then waited some more. At about 9am we were organized into country groups and told we would be photographed with H.H. The Dalai Lama. Awesome!
And then he came in, and was not only photographed with everyone but chatted and joked and shook hands etc. Such a humble, friendly soul.
When it was our turn I was overwhelmed that he came straight to Gypsy! He shook all of our hands and then held Gypsy's hand for the photo.
After the photo Gypsy put her hands together in namaste (without being asked to) and he saw and reached out and blessed her!
And to top it off, he told Roh he looked like a Sadhu and gave him a thumbs up.
It was so powerful meeting him. We were just so overwhelmed I actually cried.
After the photos he gave a talk on happiness and the importance of living simply.
Regardless of your beliefs, he is such a knowledgable and calm, peaceful person. His energy is amazing and just makes you smile.
And here we are, featured in the article from yesterday's audience!
We came to Rishikesh to do yoga. And although there is lots of yoga to do, we left, feeling pretty disappointed and bored.
It felt to us as though Rishikesh is all about making money from yoga. "Spirituality for sale" I like to call it... Almost everywhere puts their energy into a TTC (Teacher training course) but the drop-in classes are largely ignored. We did classes at 5 different places, and found that there were only beginner classes on offer. Almost every day the advanced or intermediate classes were cancelled, or simply weren't offered at all. Maybe it was because we were there at the start of the off season, but it seemed everywhere we enquired about advanced or intermediate classes tried to push us towards a TTC (which I already have).
It was also a strange place. We are firm believers in “When in Rome, do and wear as the Romans”. In Rishikesh it is common to see people wearing malas and bindis and looking all “yogic and spiritual” and then wearing tight fitting, short, revealing clothes. Everyday we saw nipples, penises, bum cracks… All in a country that covers up. It was just so contradictory. Sure, at a music festival it would have looked great! But in India.... It was just strange.
So, after more than enough mediocre yoga classes, and too many western meals, we decided to leave Rishikesh and continue our yoga practice on our own. Gypsy has started getting into yoga lately too which is simply, too adorable for words.
Time to head to the Himalayas for some reprieve from the heat!
We are Roh and Rob and we are backpacking around India with our toddler Gypsy. Follow our adventures!