April 12, 2004

Rishikesh

The hiatus was largely unprecedented and known to very few. If you were not aware of it, please do accept my heart-felt (sic) apologies. It was not my intention to submit in totality to the wilderness, but that was precisely what I did. Given that there was no electricity or cellphone coverage or access to the net where we were staying, there was not a lot to that could be done on that count, other than to scoop up handfuls of water from the Ganges and wash my face every second minute, in a futile attempt to keep my body cool as we furiously rowed over the baby rapids.

Sanity is not something that you get when you put together two very people-unfriendly dogs, a car owner/driver who is scared of heights and a collective index of less than zero when it comes to sense of direction between the three human passengers. All things considered (mind you, there was a lot of it including some scintillating driving, superb shouting matches and interesting disagreements between the two canines who threatened to tear each other up and everything else in between them), it was a nice a break and we were very happy to have made it back in one piece.

It all started on Thursday when vague plans that were made a few months back started falling into place. Early Friday morning saw us struggling to find the right order to fit all of us in and the dogs into the car, with the least possible amount of bodily harm. A few close calls, an unwelcome detour through some farms and liberal doses of dog drool later, we eventually made it to Rishikesh and started the ascent on the 33 kilometre climb towards our camp. This was when we discover that my dear friend, trusted driver and car owner had a fear for heights. Appropriately timed significant piece of information, eh?

The camp itself was a wonderful affair. It was pretty basic with all the bare necessities and most importantly it had running water and proper loos. The only issue was the mini downhill trek one had to undertake to reach it from the road. The piece d' resistance, banks of river Ganga, was a two minute walk from the camp which overlooks it. The water was almost crystal clear with of white sandy beaches running alongside it in patches. It was almost the end of the season, so rafting was no great shakes. Since I am petrified of drowning I could not really enjoy the body surfing part too. I absolutely HATE water getting into my ears.

With night came the crickets and slow gurgling sounds of the river going about its business. With the moon drenching the valley in her light, we sat on the sandy shores and watched the dogs go berserk in what must have been their interpretation of canine heaven on earth. Time is inconsequential here and events are triggered by elements of nature. Morning is when the sun rises and night comes right after it sets. What the clock has to say is nobody's business and since there is no electricity, there are no televisions, laptops or high-speed internet connections.

Bliss, though, was to sit on a rock in the river and listen to her, eyes closed, flow by. Then to open them and watch a mild breeze flow in from between the two hills in the distance and swoop down on the water's surface creating a thousand or more goosebumpish ripples on it. They dissipate as the water flowed further down, regaining its glassy composure before being devoured time and again by the breeze. For once I had no grand theories to expound, no great metaphors to torture the world with. I was just glad it was there and I was there to see it.

The drive back was pretty uneventful other than the episode where my dear friend threatened to throw her dogs out of the car (which she almost did preceded by a few ear-piercing screams, which had the local population wondering what was going on and sent me on a desperate search for plausible explanations) and the slow suffocation of Delhi was well within sight by the time it was dusk. Right now, it is past nine in the night and I hear people clapping outside my room in the office. It must be someone's birthday. It is Monday too and the screen name on my friend's messenger says: "Back to reality".