This was written on April 2, 2011–
Yesterday I took a bumpy and dusty rickshaw ride south of Rishikesh to an ashram. Aurovalley is 3km from a small town called Raiwala, which is half way between Haridwar and Rishikesh. With just three weeks left in India I wanted to go somewhere quiet and reflect on my journey and being away from the crowd in Rishikesh felt like the right thing to do.
I had to first take care of some administrative things while I was still near some semblance of civilization. But due to this being India, I didn’t get to do everything I needed to do. For example, why would a bank be closed for two whole days without any explanation? I timed my visit to the bank on Thursday to make sure I’d be able to change some money. I arrived at 2:30PM (the sign outside noted the bank hours being 10AM to 4PM during the week) to find the shutters down and the front door locked. I asked the store vendor who worked next door to the bank why the bank was closed. He just shook his head. The only two ATMs in town were both out of order.
Yesterday morning I timed my visit to the bank once again to arrive at 10AM when the bank was to open. While I hoped that they’d be open on time, I wasn’t surprised to find the shutters down again and to see the front door chained up with a padlock. Sigh. I went down the hill to an internet café I and asked the internet guy if he knew why the bank was closed. He said something about how it was the end of the month/beginning of the month and the banks close because of that. I guess that makes sense? My first attempt was on March 31 and yesterday was April 1. Just my luck. If there were signs explaining this at the bank, I missed it completely.
There were a few other things I needed to take care of before I went to an ashram. For one, it’s almost April 15- tax time for Americans. Under reasons why I’m filing for an extension: special circumstances, out of the country… Plane tickets, itineraries, packing lists, friends I want to keep in touch, just 30 minutes before I have to check out. Whew. Practical matters need tending before I can settle myself down.
Speaking of more practical matters, I had to find a rickshaw and negotiate a fare. Only if they’d all use their meters… Where as in Bangalore or in Chennai the rickshaw drivers simply refused to use one, up here the meters don’t even exist. Locals pay xx, foreigners pay yy. I negotiated a good price but in the end, after the poor guy drove up one unpaved road after another for 40 minutes I gave him more than what we agreed on. The other day a guy who was all smiles and small talk charged me 15 rupees for a 90 second phone call I made (the meter said 90 seconds, he claimed I spoke for 3 minutes = 5 rupees/min). A few days later a different guy quoted me 2 rupees per minute for a call and told me to just go ahead and use his phone. One day I’m cheated out of some rupees the next day I’m willingly giving up some rupees. What am I to do? It’s India.
India has been good for my super-organized, have everything planned out, have to be productive, get as much done as possible today, self. There are so many things that are just simply out of one’s control that there is no use fighting or struggling against it. I’m learning to take things as they come and really “going with the flow.” I know that for some people all of this comes easily and naturally, but I’ve had to make a conscious effort. I don’t know how long I’ll be staying at this ashram. I’m not sure if my old New York self would have felt comfortable with the uncertainty but this three-months-in-India self is. I can’t believe I’m actually saying this but I’ll figure it out later.