Travelling is freedom - Basti´s global journeys

Ganges – The Mother of India

Hey guys

I have to write to you earlier than I expected, because we experienced soo much in the last days and I really want to write it down before I start forgetting the details.

It was hard to leave Dharamkot. It was just such a magical place. And we connected so well to all the locals, especially Guddu and Rita. We had one last amazing dinner at Guddu’s and wrote into his book.

The fight for a free Tibet

We went to the Tibetan museum. It shows all the history of Tibet, especially after 1959 and there is a one hour film describing the events in 2008, when many revolts all over Tibet occurred. Basically it’s so upsetting: the Chinese are not only occupying their territory, they are trying to systematically destroy their culture, their identity, their religion. They are destroying holy places of worship, arrest monks. They translocate Chinese people to the region in order to change the entire demographics of the region.

Let Tibet finally be free! The Panchen Lama, the second highest person in Buddhism, elected by the Dalai Lama, was arrested with his entire family at the age of 6, the youngest political prisoner in the world. He is 22 now and his location and living conditions are not known or made public. Because Buddhism does not have an imaginative god, but 2 real people, this is like arresting a god for them. It’s just absolutely crazy.

Buddhist monks and nuns are trying to demonstrate peacefully all the time and they just shoot on them and kill them. Many try to flee, over the Himalayas and die, or succeed after  agonizing months and find refuge in India, especially in Dharamsala, the place we were at. It’s amazing and impressive to think that all these people we spoke to must have passed this ordeal to be able to be free.

The museum made an incredible impression on me and it’s just upsetting to see how a country, with people so pacifist, nice, helpful and open-minded, is being occupied by a brutal and ruthless nation like China, destroying everything these people have created in thousands of years. And if you see a person like the Dalai Lama, their head of religion, who proclaims compassion, no hatred, democracy, open mindness and so on, and you compare it to the Chinese, ah it just annoys me so much!

The mighty Ganges

After an amazing bus ride we arrived in Rishikesh. This small town lies in a valley in northern India and is dominated by the Ganges. In Hindu Ganga, Chilling on the banks of the Ganges literally means “the Mother of India”. This river is very holy, and it’s the highest honour in India to be cremated and the ashes spread into its fast flowing waters. The holiest people are not even cremated and just put on a piece of wood onto the river.

We arrived here and I asked an Italian guy who has been living here for 4 years if he knew a good place and he advised us to go to a certain guest house: incredible! We pay 3 euros a night together, have a huge room with toilet and shower and fan. The Ganga is 10 m from our room and you hear it at night. Then you step out of the room and they have a terrace right at the Ganga, where you can order cheap chai, food, everything… it’s just such a magical place. There is always fog on the river and I can understand why people think this river is holy. And it’s just massive.

Taking holy baths in the Ganges The guy who runs the little restaurant in our guest house has a special connection to the river. He came here with his family on pilgrimage when he was 2; his mother fell in the Ganga and drowned. His father then decided to move here to honour his wife and ever since they have lived 10m away from where their mother died.

We took a long walk along the river. All the Hindus go bathing in there and for them every drop is holy! To keep a promise I made to my mum I put my injured foot in the Ganga for 30 minutes myself. I am trying all the alternative healing methods available to me here in south Asia and my subconscious feeling tells me that my foot is feeling better!

A lesson on meditation, Kharma and Hiduism

Rishikesh is just amazing. Small, magical, cheap. Chai on the street 5 rupees (8cent), Thali 30 rupees (45cent), just cheap and good. And here it’s very easy Awesome snack stall to get in touch with locals because we go eating in places where only Indians go to and they often know a bit of English. But in the end we just chilled on the terrace for hours and hours.

And I met someone who stayed there too, Baba Lala. A Baba is a highly respected spitirutual person in India. They are completely devoted to their religion and do not possess money or goods. He was very interesting and told me he lives according to 5 principles his grandfather told him: no alcohol, no drugs (chemical ones), veg food, no gambling, and no prostitution. I met him only late at night and when I told him I would like to try Ashtanga yoga (physical yoga) the next day (Rishikesh is the world capital of yoga, yoga everywhere. the Beatles met their guru yogi here and wrote their album “White Album” here as well). He said that if I wanted to I could wake up at sunrise and he will give me a lecture on yoga.

And so I did. I woke up very early, and started speaking to him. He is very skinny, has a long beard and dresses completely in white; he stopped wearing shoes 6 months ago and first told me his story. Baba Lala was born into a very wealthy family, businessman. But the only think he loved was dancing. Against the will of his father he became a Bollywood dancer at the age of 20. Then his girlfriend and one month after that his best friend committed suicide. He was devastated and his father told him: go to an ashram (spiritual temple, literally “come and work”). So he did and left with 300 rupees (6€) and now he is 40 and has been travelling for 20 years. He never stays in a region longer than 6 months and has travelled all over India. He is just so amazing because he is obviously a very spiritual person but still open minded towards others, I discussed lots with him and asked him everything I always wanted to know about meditation, yoga, spirituality, India, Hinduism, and he answered kindly and patiently.

He explained, for instance, the issue of rebirth. You follow a cycle. Every 840000 births you are a human. Only as a human you can reach nirvana (which stops rebirth and is the highest state you can reach). Depending on your karma (energy) you are born as an elephant in a temple, or flower in a temple (good karma) or as a fly or rat or dog in a city if you had bad karma.

Similar to so many people I have met in India, Baba Lala just such a positive person, compassionate, helpful, and friendly. He says talking and conversation is not necessary; everything you need are the eyes to express feelings and a smile to transmit positive energy. He explained the concept of yoga, and I decided it would be an insult to try an Ashtanga lesson here. Yoga literally means body, soul and mind. From the age of 3 to the age of 20 you are supposed to do Jana yoga, which is just self-study, you ask yourself who you are, what happens around you and so on. From 20 to 40 you do Karma yoga, which means improving your karma. Every day you should help other people for a few hours by working for them, teaching them and so on, and only after this you should do Raja yoga, which is the physical yoga we know and only then are you able to work with your body Baba Lala, one of the most incredible persons I have ever met

It was just so interesting, he told me about Hinduism, and basically said that the highest goal is nirvana. According to Shiva you have to fulfil certain things to reach it, the most important: always be positive and try to be happy. I mean you can really feel that people follow this religion. And Hinduism is just such an individualistic religion, they have several gods but in contrast to our religions they do not have one god who they ask for help in bad times. they have just 5 principles, which are very general, don’t kill, don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t abuse people for sex and respect the law of nature, which is the most important part. He told me the role of drugs as well. Charas and bhang are part of the culture, Shiva used it first and it helps you improve the potential of your mind, he uses it a lot, quote: “I know the art of smoking, 100 chillums (small charas pipes) a day, no problem”. But for him it has to be in accordance with the laws of nature. When he sees a charas plant he goes there between 7 and 8 in the morning and starts rubbing the leaves in his hand for one hour, until he can scrap the hash from his hand.

Or about his food habits. Only veg, no eggs, and milk. Only in in the following situation he would break this rule: he waits until the little cows have had enough milk, then he takes it for himself. If he has milk and produces butter and so on and eats it, afterwards he always gives some butter back to the cow because it makes her happy. He does not own a passport, a driving license, or any money. He has a motorbike which The German/Indian gang somebody gave him and wherever he goes, people know him and donate food, shelter and charas to him. He even goes to Nepal and the people at the border just let him pass. He told me that if police officers see him on the street, they bend down, kiss his feet and give him charas, true story. Just an amazing person, and especially because he is so open-minded and I asked him everything I always wanted to know about Hinduism and India.

Cruising with the Indians

Well but that was only the first part of today. Around noon I told Yassin about a little waterfall 3km up north. So we started walking and after 20 minutes three motorbikes, each with 2 Indians on them, stopped and asked us if we needed a ride. As we found out the waterfall was an illusion . Illegal in one country, holy in another... and didn’t exist. The guys seemed cool, upper middle class Indians,  and asked us if we wanted a ride. So we said, yeah sure, but where to? They were on their way to one of the holiest Shiva temples in India. It is 3000 years old and was 35km away. So we hopped on motorbikes (3 people per bike) and drove up a steep, exposed jungle road for hours. It was amaaaaaazing! The views, then monkeys everywhere, the wind, the Ganga down in the valley. And these guys stopped every 20 min to have a snack and we tried loads of stuff

When we arrived very high up at the temple we had to stand in a queue for 1 hour before getting in (the only whites of course). People were fanatic in there, you could feel their devotion. At one point you have to pass a guru, you have to bend forward and he just slaps you on the back, very strongly, even children and women. But it’s a holy and divine gesture apparently. We did all the rituals and it was truly amazing.

Cruising with our friends The Indians we met are from the north of Delhi, between 22 and 27, really cool and we got on so well. They told us everything about Shiva, the temple, their religion, their way of living. We had food with them as well and even if we insisted they did not want to have a single rupee from us for anything. So we had an amazing day trip with 6 Indians and experienced such an intense day, and like always, nothing was planned. Just by being open-minded and flexible we meet all these people and interact so much with the locals. Then they taught us some more Hindi. They were all cousins and we are meeting them for a drink now in the village. They even offered us to accompany them on their next journey, up north, but we have other plans. But just this motorbike ride in the steep Ganga valleys up to the top of the mountain, incredible. Thank god I thought a waterfall existed.

Change of plans

We booked a ticket towards Nepal, well today they told us impossible, trains are full. Tomorrow we will just go to the bus station and take a random bus, the first one that comes along and is directed to Nepal. So I don’t know where I will be tomorrow night. Here it’s just amazing and we will chill some more on the terrace after our dinner with the Indians.

Well that´s it, intense 2 days and I learnt so much about India, it´s language, people and culture in the last day, and it’s just such an amazing country.

Namaste

Basti

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