well, the title of this post is sortof a joke, but not too much. it's a tiny little town, built around a holy lake, with one main drag. Lots of atmosphere- incense burning, people stirring huge steaming pots of sweet milk to make supersweet desserts, stringing flowers on rope to make puja, peanut vendors, village ladies in mismatched saris, dogs, cows, cow patties. Dreadlocks, nag champa and bhang lassis abound. You wondered where hippies got their supply of baggy clothes? This is the motherland. Everybody is doing business of some kind. Even the little kids, who follow you around and ask, "where from?" "where going?" "I know, I know, I take you there." "5 rupees" "10 rupees" "I am your best friend, 10 rupees!" Actually, it's not just the little kids, it's everyone. "Chai!" "Coffee!" "Hello!? Excuse me miss!" It's like the flies that also abound, landing on you everywhere, even on your eyes if you ever were to stand still for long. My refuge from this is the only (well maybe not the only)- reason I am still here- I am learning to make silver jewelry with this kid who comes from a family of silver jewelry makers... There are a lot of people who teach this here- my teacher is the best! ;-) He's very patient, and he says, "It's most important if you happy. You happy? Ok." So I've extending my stay here and spending all day in the silver shop. I love learning, and having a purpose, it's such a welcome break from sightseeing and well- more sightseeing... Which is not bad at all, there is so much to see. But it's nice to be able to go somewhere everyday and work with your hands. And escape the incessant questioning when you go out on the street.
The lake is beautiful, there are steps that go down to the water, and people go there to pray and make offerings. They ring bells and chant, they throw water around. Ghandi's ashes were spread onto this lake. It's a site of spiritual pilgrimage. I wake up at 4 in the morning to music and bells.
There is no nightlife in this town, everything is dead after about nine. I've met some really nice fellow travelers who I've gotten to know a bit, in that we've hung out over a couple of days, instead of the usual brief moment while having a chai or fresh fruit (I had the best fruit salad with muesli, curd (curd is yogurt...!) and honey mix ever here!). There is a nice mix of ethnicities and all with a very pleasant traveler attitude. We meet for dinner at night and chat... The best is Tiger, the little black puppy that one of the kids brought from Rishikesh. Somebody remarked on how different it is here, where cows are sacred but dogs are treated like trash. But everybody loves Tiger.
I've pushed my plans to go to Rishikesh on Friday instead of tomorrow (Thursday), just so I can stay one more day and keep working with silver. It's intensive work, you spend hours on just one piece, sitting on the floor, choosing the stone, designing the piece, cutting the silver, preparing wire, heating with fire to anneal the silver, soldering to connect pieces, sawing out the shape, filing down the edges, dropping it in the acid. The final step is the polish, and after that, it is beautiful. It is so satisfying to make such beautiful stuff- and also to go through the whole process of shaping the metal. It's like being an advanced form of a caveman, shaping art through the fire. What amazing things we humans have done. In India, I feel much closer to the dirt and earth our ancestors must have been covered in when they were making fire and skinning mammoth leather.
So, now I will find some food and return again to the silver shop until evening! I love working like this. It's so one-track and focused, and I love being able to just stay here and do it. I could stay here for weeks, and many people do. But I did want to see Rishikesh, which I will do for a couple days this weekend, then I will get to Delhi by Monday, where I will meet up with a friend of a friend, and on Christmas Eve I plan to fly to Hyderabad to meet up with Pri and her family. It would be so easy to get lost here. I have gotten used to this travel in India thing.