Inside the maze: Sight, sound, smell

September 16th 2014
Published: September 16th 2014
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Istanbul, Turkey; Mussoorie Express (Delhi to Haridwar) .. my mind, and Haridwar, India

15thSept 2014

Treat every moment as your last. It is not preparation for something else......To live is enough”

Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind Beginner's Mind

Wednesday evening Sept 10, at about 5 pm in Taksim, Istanbul. I was sitting chatting to my host Peter (German guy who with his wife Sibille, lives and works in Istanbul) about my flight to Delhi the next day. He asked when I would arrive and I knew it to be around 6 pm, thinking my flight left at 1 pm the next day. Wait a minute.... that does not really make sense. How can that be? I remember about an hour later to just go and check my ticket again. ….... Holy shit! The flight leaves at 1am, not 1 pm on Thursday.

It's OK. I have loads of time to get to the airport. Just I was planning to have a restful night in my hosts' comfortable bed, take it easy in the morning, do some relaxed yoga, and then take myself to check-in and fly. I still arrive
Ghats at 7 amGhats at 7 amGhats at 7 am

Pilgrims and locals go to the river early in the morning for a ritual bath
in plenty of time only to find that the 1am flight to Sharja is delayed by 90 minutes. I find a corner in the waiting bay and lie down for one of my short naps. Why not? At 2.20 am I wake to a silent and empty dimly lit room. I have slept right through the boarding call. I grab my stuff and rush to the gate which has now been locked. Staff are just packing up. They let me through without question and I catch up to the last passenger as he is just about to step onto the plane. OK, the gods are playing with me (or let's say my own actions are playing with me).... Am I looking for some excitement in my life? Do I really need to create it like this? I think that's enough for one day.

4.30 am Saturday morning, meditating on a train. Not the easiest manoeuvre to do on the 'Upper Side' birth, but if you turn your back to the aisle, and rest up against one of the down support steel straps, there is just enough head room and leg room to effect the required pose. It's my first
Not the naga babas but some others on the ghatNot the naga babas but some others on the ghatNot the naga babas but some others on the ghat

Many saddhus congregate in Haridwar... either passing through on their ritual paths or staying put for some time (or coming back again and again). Many sleep out or in makeshift huts or in temple grounds or Ashrams.
day back in India, and through the marvels of internet booking I was able some time ago to secure my birth and ticket on the Mussoorie Express to Haridwar.

Let me explain something about the liberties Indian Railways take with the use of the English language. There are 'express' trains and there are 'super express' trains. Needless to say, this 'express' train takes 8 hours to cover the just over 200 km distance from Delhi to Haridwar. But when one is sleeping it makes little difference (so this is not a complaint, just an observation).

As I sit meditating I am bathed in a sensory reminder that I am back in India again. There are smells (nothing unpleasant) and sounds. The most characteristic is the chai wallah moving through the carriage chanting “chai, chai coffee, chai”. I swear that there must be a special course these guys take to perfect the low drone of this chant. It is reassuring in its familiarity. I am here again, home again.

Having arrived in Haridwar and taken a room in a familiar hotel, I take a stroll along the ghats and through the markets with a smile on my face.
Ghat at 7 pm ...arti timeGhat at 7 pm ...arti timeGhat at 7 pm ...arti time

Arti is a Hindu ritual performed all over India at sunset. This ghat is where the drop of elixer fell.
Haridwar is an ancient holy Hindu city where the Ganges river first enters the Indo-Gangetic Plain. Along with Ujjain, Nashik and Allahabad, it is one of four places in India where amrit (the elixer of immortality) was accidentally spilt by Garuda. These sites now rotate (every 3 years) to celebrate of the Kumbha Mella. I was here in 2009 during the last turn for Haridwar (the next being 2021). Millions of Hindu pilgrims, devotees, and tourists congregate at this event which goes on for over a month, performing ritual bathing. The Allahabad one (where the Ganges and Yumana rivers converge) is the really big event with more than 30 million attending (the last being 2012).

By midday I am ready. Ready to be reunited with Gladys, a red Royal Enfield motorbike that I have owned now for 4 years and travelled 50,000 km on, up and down and across India. I leave her in India when 'abroad', this time with my friend Ranjeet (the local Enfield Dealer) in covered storage. She (Gladys) is in good shape, just needing a battery charge boost and some clean fuel. Soon we are on the road getting reacquainted.

Last night (it now
Haridwar on any other nightHaridwar on any other nightHaridwar on any other night

Throngs and throngs of pilgrims just keep coming to Haridwar every day all year long .... maybe a little less in winter due to the cold.
being Monday) I was reading a chapter in a book called 'Buddhism, Its not what you think' by Steve Hagen. It was about the 'no gaining idea' of Zen (as described by Suzuki in 'Zen Mind Beginners Mind'. The thought about how you can have no gaining idea e.g. 'I will meditate and become enlightened.... I will meditate and be a better person' etc; and that although you allow the thought, you then just watch and disarm it through acceptance BUT then your gaining idea becomes the idea of not having a gaining idea.... of achieving the state of no gaining idea. Which of course is a 'gain'. It cracked me up.... I started laughing uncontrollably in my room here by myself..... No, I don't think I am going crazy. I just came to this amazing realisation of how our fickle minds operate. It was like being slapped by a guru (well I don't have one to slap me). I just kept laughing about this monkey mind and the poignancy of this play of mind where mind just keeps on trying and trying with gaining ideas even about not having gaining ideas. To quote a friend of mine “I do
Some of Lesley's stashSome of Lesley's stashSome of Lesley's stash

By the time I was done, this pile had at least tripled I think
love the idea that it’s pointless to have any idea, especially the idea that you have no idea. That twittering voice is relentless”. But I do digress.

Each day on my stroll on the ghats, I stop and sit with some naga babas I had seen some years ago in Varanasi. Shiv Rag Giri Maharaj bases himself in Haridwar, and his chella is Manog Giri Baba. In the background is the flow of the constant and impermanent river Ganga... a metaphor for life...ever changing and an illusion.... flowing into the massive sea.

Yogi-shaman saddhus, the naga babas, are often naked and covered in ashes, with long dread locks twisted with Marigolds piled on their heads like crowns. About 1,000 years ago, a number of lineages of naked yogis, or naga babas from among Shankaracharya’s order of Sannyasis, formalised ancient bonds into an association called the Akhara. The nagas I encountered were not often naked and seemed distracted from any spiritualistic path by a focus on possessions, money, fame (Manog is very proud of having many pictures of himself on various internet sites) and of course smoking charis as often in a day as possible.

My friend Leslie from Byron Bay in NSW Australia runs a small bead shop selling all manner of trinkets, bracelets, necklaces and other items. I suggest that I could be a kind of free lance buyer for her when I see anything interesting in India. She agrees and I am given a purposeful task, starting in Haridwar, malla capital of the Hindu world. I start buying pendants and mallas and strings of fake crystal and other beads and sending them in a parcel to Australia. It's fun. To side up to a seller crouched on the ghat with her wares displayed on a blanket and choose a bulk number of items is a buzz for me and an unexpected windfall for the seller. I bargain a little as that too is fun... but everyone is happy at the end. This morning I will post a 2 kilo package to Leslie.

There is nothing much to do and all to be.


16th September 2014

Thanks to Retaj Royale for saving our trip !
What I have experinced about Istanbul ! Everything was excellent and at the end of our trip, I want to mention an additional story that made me appreciate even more the excellent service about our hotel Retaj Royale Istanbul : we forgot our passport at the safe of the hotel and remembered that only on our way to airport in a shared shuttle bus. the driver called the hotel and I asked them if they could bring us our passport and the other papers from the safe. To my big surprise they send us everything to the airport with another driver. THANK YOU RETAJ ROYALE HOTEL you saved our trip !
17th September 2014

well what do you know ...
Hey Paul, I've known about your blog for so long and often thought ... ah ... i'll see if I can read Paul's blog today ... but as things are with work, family and other occupations I hadn't got around to it until today. Now's the time I ashamedly thought (I really do like hearing travel stories - and by the way Paul - I've told the story you told us, all those years ago when you came back to Enmore from India - many times). I'll remind you of the story a little further down. But what the heck ... I'm reading and being impressed by your knowledge of India and indian culture ... then to read that you are buying beads for Lesley - that's cool. I'll flick through your blog to get a sense of your travels which I know have been many. Blogs are a great way to share and how amazing that we can dip into other people's lives, even though they are so far away, so readily. When you came back from India the first time the way you chose to describe your trip was by describing an occasion - one day when you went on a picnic with some friends. You told about buying some food or ingredients at the markets, going to meet your friends that included an elasticity of time, setting off for the place, arriving late in the afternoon and beginning to cook, watching the sunset, and eating the delightful meal. You were very descriptive and it sounded magic. for now, Joan x
17th September 2014

Hi Joan... nice to hear from you. Do take a look at pt 1 and pt 11 of the recent Georgia series of blogs to see how I now have a new title to my name!!! Ciao... Om Shanti x
17th September 2014

links please
Hey Paul, I've had a bit of a look but can't find the Georgia series let along parts 1 and 11 - any chance of posting the links either by email or here on the site? An amazing record of your travels and, I imagine, enjoyable to do as well.
17th September 2014

Georgia Pt 1 I don't understand why you cannot scroll down and see all my blogs (like 130 + or them)??
17th September 2014

Georgia Pt 11
17th September 2014

Good blog
Hello: Your blogs are always very enjoyable and I have been following them for quite some time always seem to have some interesting stories to tell.!
18th September 2014

Hi Samuel.... so where are you and what are you up to? Do you travel much? Do tell. Thanks for the encouraging words. Always good to know that at least one person is reading this stuff.... although I do just enjoy putting it together for my own sanity.
19th September 2014

Hi Paul. I am smiling at the idea of you laughing in your room by yourself. x
21st September 2014

Well that's great Pennyjd ..... I am now smiling at the thought of you smiling at my laughing. And so it goes..... ciao
20th September 2014

I love the effort you put into finding the perfect quote. I particularly loved this one. It is fate that your host questioned you about your flight. We can't help but chuckle....glad you woke up. You really need to stop creating all this chaos. Enjoy your meditation.
15th October 2014
Ghats at 7 am

16th October 2014
Ghats at 7 am

Kush Shame not to see the channel flow at Haridwar... it is so nice there. But Ganga is Ganga and at Rishikesh ghats also very nice. I am now in Hiimachal Pradesh for about a month at least (until the cold forces me south). I stay on a mountainside in Saraj Valley.... gorgeous and good for the soul.... see latest blog .... Om Shanti

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