Day 15 continued – And Rishikesh said, “You are done shopping.”
As Karin, Dayalan and I head out to shop we try, really, really try, to ignore the approaching grayish-black cloud over the mountain. It won’t be ignored. We shrug it off – ’cause that’ll make it go away – and head down to the river to grab a boat across.
Before we even reach the street at the end of the driveway it begins to rain. We march forward. Parting with 15 rupees each, about 35 cents, we purchase our round trip tickets and make a run for the waiting boat.
We secure seats along its center, where there’s a better chance of staying dry. As we are being ferried across the great Ganges the tin roof above our heads amplifies the driving rain. By the time we reach the other side it is pouring. Pouring. We run up the steps to the shopping street that is mostly covered by wide awnings. But it’s not exactly as we remember it. The shops we recall are way down, and we just don’t have it in us to dodge raindrops, cows and motorbikes to get there.
Instead, we spend our Gandhi decorated dollars at the shops closest to us: A clothing stall, a few mala stores and an all purpose drug/clothing/food store crammed into a 10′ x 20′ space. The ran persists. We decide it’s not going to let up so we begin to head back toward the boat. There was a large textile shop we passed on our way in so we return there to shop a little and take advantage of their overhang a lot. Across from us a few cows have done the same. They lumber up to a building cozy up to the side and lower their heads. Often they can be found with their noses in corners, like they’re being punished. A few tiptoe toward store openings, pretending they’re supposed to be inside, and stand there until the shop owner, bops them on the rear. Just as slowly they turn around and reposition themselves under the awning. They had to try.
It’s not letting up. We make a break for it. We don’t care that the little metal boat in the middle of the water is a lightening rod. It’s the Ganges, somehow we feel protected. The boat is there, loading up, and ready to launch. It is so packed that we cannot get under the roof. For a moment we become Indian and forget personal space, squishing together into the masses to find shelter. It sort of works. The trip is mercifully short and we’re deposited on the other shore.
As we climb the steps on our side of the river the rain begins to let up. Of course. It is clear, Rishikesh does not want me to shop. Soggy and slow we slog toward the rickshaw gaggle under the bridge for a ride up the hill. It has come to this.
By the time we set foot in our hotel lobby the rain stopped and the sun returned. Once back in the hotel room I vow not to leave again today. Karin and I determine the best course of action right now is a nap.
There is another satsang this evening with a new swami, followed by a kirtan. I am not going. We are leaving Rishikesh tomorrow so I decide to unpack and repack, as if fitting 20 more pounds in my suitcase is that easy. I do a decent job. I take a shower. I journal a little. Less than an hour has passed. I. Am. Bored.
When Karin returns she shares the evening with me and we head up to grab some dinner. Members of our new family are gathered there. I love this group. We all had just one thing in common when we came together and that was a desire to experience the spiritual side of India, which is to say, India. Over the past two weeks we have seen the best and worst of each other, but the worst hasn’t been that bad. Little by little our true personalities emerge, mostly in the best possible ways. The funny ones, the nurturers, the seekers, the observers, the writers, the leaders. There is room for us all. When someone doesn’t attend part of the trip; a class, a satsang, a bigger event, it is concern with which it is met, not gossip or exasperation. We’re all adults, we’re allowed our decisions and choices. But we enjoy each other’s company and one is missing the group feels incomplete, so we all make it a priority to attend as much of the scheduled sessions as possible.
We still have a couple of days left with each other, so we are not grieving yet, but when we do part, it will be bittersweet. We’ll know that when we come together again it will likely be one-on-one or just a few of us at a time, and maybe some we’ll never see again. This camaraderie will be gone, this moment is not meant to last, so we savor it.