You'll feign interest to know that I'm heading into a 17-day silent retreat, starting March 28. The teachers are Jaya and Gemma, two lovely humans who also teach at Bodhgaya and Sarnath, and their teaching partner Ajay. The retreat is held in the foothills of the Himalayas, in a very remote Christian ashram called Sattal Ashram, where there's a lake for swimming and lots of hiking trails in the woods.
You can look forward to more open-hearted drivel around April 20th or so, when I return to Internetland. Nothing is very clear about my travels beyond that, other than getting my glaucoma-challenged eyes tested somewhere, perhaps New Delhi, and maybe volunteering at an orphanage doing some computer training for the kids.
Okay, maybe just a little open-hearted drivel now: there's a 20 year-old kid here in Rishikesh named Peentu. He's got pretty severe palsy, so he walks very awkwardly, and has trouble speaking. No one knows whether he's mentally challenged as well. He's usually filthy, but he's very good natured, and the tourists and even the locals seem to treat him well enough. We got into the habit of walking every morning across the long pedestrian bridge that crosses the Ganga, holding hands, to the little outdoor chai stall where I'd buy us both a chai. The first time, I watched him closely as he took the hot glass, shaking badly and really concentrating as he brought it to his lips, trying not to spill it. It seemed at the time like the most pathetic, and beautiful, and touching thing I'd ever seen. So vulnerable, and so helpless, and yet he's out in the world, taking care of himself as best he can. I was reeling, somehow, from that the rest of the day, and it brought tears to my eyes every time I thought about it.
The next day, on what became our daily chai pilgrimage, the man handed him the full glass directly, instead of putting it on the table. Peentu struggled to hold it steady, unsuccessfully, and spilled the scalding tea onto his hands, which made him shake more, and even more spilled. I took the glass from him, and he let out a little whimper like a puppy might. So it was my turn to try to hold it together, unsuccessfully. There was something about it that was so touching that I can't explain it - not even to myself. What is it??
I still have lots of photos over the last couple of months that I like and haven't shared. Well look! Here's some now...
10 photos follow:
A holy man in Rishikesh who gave me a sermon in Hindi, which I didn't understand a word of. I liked it, though!
Garlands for sale next to the Ganga.
Bathers on a busy morning at the Ganga.
The Ganga from the hotel I stayed at.
School uniforms, if you can believe it.
A bather just out of the water.
The hands of Tingal, one of the lepers I've known since 2001. He used to be a heroin addict, and looked spaced out enough that he still may be. He's also a talented artist.
A saddhu, or holy man.