For over a year I have been planning this trip. I didn’t actually know when it would be or how much it would cost, I just knew I was going and that I would be going with Yogi Amrit Desai.
A little over a year ago I was sitting in darshan (an inspirational and philosophical talk given by a guru) at the Amrit Yoga Institute and a woman was sharing with Yogi Desai that she had come to the ashram not knowing exactly why but that she knew she wanted to get more of what the people here seemed to have – peace, joy. And she wanted to get closer to Gurudev (Yogi Desai), then a few months later she found herself on a plane to India with him. And I thought, naturally, “I wanna go to India with Gurudev.”
Paris. It had always been Paris. Have to go to Paris. I belong in Paris. Now it was India. A far cry from Paris, although I still have not been to the City of Lights. It’s still on the list.
When I heard there was a group heading over to India in January it was an easy decision for me to make. My intention was strong. I got it together, passport, visa and travel insurance and found myself at JFK with an Etihad boarding pass in my hand. In just 18 short hours I would be landing in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India.
A few precautions:
1. Don’t drink the water. If you’re offered water at a hotel or restaurant, ask for bottled. Don’t take an ice in your drinks. Brush your teeth with bottled water. Make sure the seal is not broken on the water bottle, sometimes they just refill them – it’s their way. It’s okay to buy water on the street, just make sure it’s sealed. Don’t open your mouth in the shower – water.
2. I don’t remember any of the others. Something about fresh fruit and vegetables, tetanus, Malaria and respiratory ailments, nothing quite so important as water.
Some of us question the water on the plane. The airline is based in Abu Dhabi, do you think their water is okay? Did you notice if it was being poured from sealed water bottles? It’s probably okay,right?
Arriving in the middle of the night it takes three tremendously long lines to retrieve our luggage, find our bus and head to our hotel. It’s 6 AM when we arrive. Our rooms should be ready between 11 and 1. We take over the dining room.
We eat, we get our rooms – one by one, we nap, we shower (with our mouths closed), brush our teeth (with bottled water) and emerge a bit fresher for dinner.
After a delicious dinner of amazing Indian food we begin to explore our surroundings. We will only be in this hotel until tomorrow morning so we should go out and see India. In the dark. Someone mentions a little temple a block away. About half of us decide to check it out.
The temple itself is closed, but the grounds, stairs leading to the temple, and a few altar type areas are open behind closed, but not locked gates. We go in. The architecture is beautiful with carvings and statues, tiles in vibrant colors, marble everywhere. We are all struck by the swastika even though we know it began its life as a Hindu, Buddhist and Jain symbol before being co-opted and reversed by the nefarious Nazi leader of the early 20th century. The Indian people hold fast to their version and interpretation of the Swastika which can mean variously “to be good” or “to be with the higher self.” It’s everywhere on everything.
As we consider the meaning of the other symbology surrounding the temple a slight Indian gentleman enters the gates. We wonder collectively if a. we’re going to get in trouble or b. is he one of the beggars that was sitting outside the temple?
He walks in, nods our direction and heads to a small shelter area we took to be some sort of altar. There is a counter under a small roof, the counter is separated into to sides. One side holds a large urn, the other a silver bowl, presumably for donations of some sort. On the left-hand side hangs a silver ladle. Holy water?
He takes the ladle, scoops up the water from the urn AND DRINKS IT! More than once. He returns the ladle, wipes his mouth and turns to smile and pose for us.
Welcome to India, the water is fine.