Day to day life in the ashram was like living in the best commune ever. It was a very spiritual environment, well that's what ashrams are, it's not a vacation, sort of... and spirituality is more central to life in India than anywhere else. At least at that time it was. Celibate, vegetarian, no discrimination between the sexes (I do not lie!) and a kindness to each other that was a norm I miss today. And modesty, how I miss that in the United States. We seem to have very little awareness, nor the significance, of modesty anymore. Just go outside. And if you ever go to India, bring it with you, it's the least you can do for them.
We were only about a quarter of a mile from the banks of the Ganges. A stroll in the morning or the early evening would lead you to a little embankment where you could squat to bathe or wash clothes. Outside bathing was the only way to get clean, whenever you remembered to do that. It is always done fully clothed, two things for the price of one. However, that didn't stop young Indian men from riding their bikes on the other side of the river and yelling "vagina, penis!" It was laughable and you just shooed them away, they were harmless. Although that is not the case in cities. In cities you must always watch out for the wandering hand and not so innocent appraisal. It is the same now as it was then.
The trains are fun during the day, but freezing cold at night. At night you sleep sitting up, if you are lucky, if not you lay on the floor and take your life in your hands. First you may get stepped on by someone scurrying to the bathroom, a hole in the floor, thankfully with a door. It is the strangest feeling of vertigo watching your pee fly over train tracks at about 50 mph. And if you don't get stepped on, then you will probably encounter face to face the largest cockroaches in the world. I remember looking down on the floor one night, not able to sleep ( tiny, very dim light bulbs in the ceiling, icy night wind and a hard slatted wooden bench) and with bulging eyes, grabbed my seatmates arm because I saw a mouse. No, no, no...a cockroach the size of a sizeable mouse, a mama mouse, a pregnant mama mouse. It was like a scurrying attack creature and I didn't want to know where it was going. All of a sudden I was very, very grateful for the chivalry of some sweet guy asleep on the floor, some guys can sleep anywhere, and hoping he would never know what had just climbed him, like a little mountain, on it's way to someone else.
Dehradun, Patna and Agra were three of our destinations, Agra of course, being the most memorable. There were only about 30 people at the Taj that day, including myself and 4 friends. I remember thinking, when inside that middle part of the building, how small it felt. I threw my arms out and twirled around and around on the marble floor with the wind blowing in through windows that had never known glass and feeling the cool morning breeze. A turbaned guard tsk,tsk, tsked me. Not becoming behavior for such a sacred place. But sacred behavior for a young free girl.
Not long after these mind blowing/cleansing/revelation filled journeys, it was time to start winding this thing up. We had just enough money to get our asses to Delhi and a cheap hostel.
At that time, hostels were bare cement rooms, more like a prison cell, with cots, two to a cot and a bucket out back that was always overflowing.
What happens next in Delhi; when your stolen ticket isn't any good anymore and carrying drugs out of the country just seems like a nice thing to do for your friend.
The drug thing in the title wasn't just a tease to get you in here...but I think it might have worked a little... I just didn't realize how much incredible shit happened between there and then. It is still shocking to me what happened in Delhi. But then maybe not, given that this is India we are talking about here.
The ending is worth waiting for......