What silence hours?

alternate title is “loud loud loud”, but only my lovely ex-husband would understand.

The yoga teacher training has started, prompt and early at 6 am on Monday and every day since. We go until 6 or 7 pm, and I am sore. But this isn’t the story I will tell you.

As part of the training we have silent hours from 6 am until after breakfast, which comes around 10-10:30 (and consists of a green smoothy and either beans and rice or a bowl of fruit). When I was in Bellingham, I imagined this time of silence might be a little odd. I imagined … well … silence, I guess. But really, what silent hours mean is that we don’t talk, except to ask questions when needed, while the rest of Rishikesh it seems works overtime to be as loud as it can possibly be. It’s almost like the Universe is trying to make up for our (and other yoga teacher training’s) major deficit in chatter. Rishikesh is a holy place for many Hindu, so pilgrims by the 100s sometime hit town. That is what happened on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, over the lunch break, I had to get across the bridge to buy some salt to make a mixture to pour into my nostrils as part of a cleaning practice (other story). That was, I believe the loudest experience of my life. The stream of moped and motorbikes was endless, horns full on at all time, monkeys screeching, cows mooing, vendors calling, drums playing, musics blasting, people shouting. About halfway across the bridge I began to feel dizzy, but I was stuck in the crowd, transported by the masses, a dead log in a strong current. I was deposited on the other side of the bridge in a state of shock, turned around, repeated the maneuver in reverse and went back to my hotel to hide. I guess I’ll get purified by salt some other time.

In addition to the pilgrims, there is the largest yoga festival coming into town and for the past two days, we had the privilege of witnessing not one but two Indian weddings. Both were last night, but the loud, cacophonous brass band has been practicing in the courtyard below our sacred silence Challa (place of practice) for two days. … take a deep breath in and go into the stillness of silence, the teacher say. What stillness!? I guess if I can be in stillness here, I can do it anywhere. We watched from our balconies a filthy back lot covered in cow and donkey shit and plastic bags develop and transform into a magical wedding palace in just two days. It was impressive. Some green turf was rolled on the ground, white linens were hung gracefully from wood structures, anything dirty was covered with rich brightly colored fabrics, flowers galore were brought in, and lots of gold colored dished. Further back, away from view, monstrous cooking pots were brought in and several fires started. Men and women worked all day cooking that meal, but my, was it sumptuous.

The music really went on all day, but we only got out of class at 7pm. A gaggle of Yoginis (female yogis) from class invited me out, but I chose to go with my new friend Angus. Angus is trouble. He’s originally from England but lives in New Zealand. To further the stereotype of gay men, Augus has a fantastic sense of style, a wonderful sense of humor and is rather handsome. His sexual orientation makes it all the better of a shenanigans companion, as I can be as flirty and crazy and anything I want to be without worries of consequences. Damn consequences. We found each other on day one, the two oldest in the group, which allows us to also be the most immature. Why ARE young people so serious?

So, there wasn’t much of a discussion that we were going to crash one of the wedding parties, preferably the one with the fancy setting we had watched come to life from our balconies (we live two rooms away). I first wanted to go to a sufi music show and Augus humored me, but half hour past the starting time, the band had still not showed up, so we decided to go eat dinner instead. That took an hour, as it often does (and we met all sorts of quirky people, as is always the case), so by the time we went back, the mood for spiritually enlightening music had passed and that for the Indy-dancy-pop party that was blasting so loud I’m sure it could be heard all the way to the Himalayas had fully kicked in. Since we paid for the sufi show, we made a guest appearance, but escaped after one song. We took a narrow side street (cow, mopeds, scary filth) to the back of the wedding venue, squeezed ourselves along the side, along with other wedding crashers and emerged in a eruption of sounds and sight. The groom had just arrived on gold and white decorated horses, preceded by the loudest marching band I have ever heard. In front, around and behind the groom was a block-wide dance party reminiscent of the carnival in Rio except in its gender self-selection. Only men and foreign women, it seems, dance. Women were decorated in their best saris, and sat or stood  respectfully to the side. Angus and I were approached by one of the entrance greeters. He first asked Angus something I couldn’t hear, then asked me where I was from. For fun, I said I was from England. Angus then leaned over and said “You are my wife”. I answered “I’m from England”. That made sense.

It took about half hour for the groom to make his way into the door because so many dancers were in the way. When he finally did, it was like a switch was turned off. The band stopped and simply walked away. I guess their task was simply to take the groom to the door and no further. The dancing crowd dissipated; we followed the wedding party inside.

There was a massive amount of people. It seemed everybody in town, including all the foreigners, had also crashed the party. We ran across one of our teachers, Fabiano, who looked like he just had some great fun. He said he had been dancing with the groom party since 8 pm. It was almost 11 by then. He said the food was amazing, and completely free. Since we had already eaten, we headed straight to the desert bar. There might have been a lot of delicious food, but getting to it was akin to trying to get a train ticket in the madness of the New Delhi train station. Press and squeeze forward with an extended hand until you magically receive something in it. It worked for both of us. We followed it with some hot chocolate and watch a pack of wild Indians shakin’ it up on the dance floor.

While Angus was off getting more sweets, I met Anoub. He explained that there would be no official paper to certify that this marriage took place. The way an Indian marriage is sanctified is by the witnesses, so it makes sense that the more people shows up, the more real the marriage is. These people were getting hitched for 7 lifetimes, which is the usual length for a marriage. Damn, we westerners rarely make it one! The bride was late, and we were getting sleepy, and the approaching 5:45 am wake up call was looming heavy and pressing into my fun until it made it uncomfortable. So, we headed back and missed the actual ceremony, which from what Anoub said is simply the bride and groom walking around a fire 7 times. Maybe we didn’t miss much after all.

I am forever in awe at my new-found ability to sleep through anything anytime, boom bands playing and banners flip flapping. I slept through two alarms this morning and was late for class.

“Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying
You’ll find the bright places
with the boom bands playing
and the banners flip-flapping
once again you’ll fly high
ready for anything under the sky
ready because you are THAT kind of guy”

(oh the places you’ll go – Dr. Seuss)

Good night! Test tomorrow. I gotta go – XOX.

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3 thoughts on “What silence hours?

    • I did. Thank you. There seem to be some confusion here, amongst the Indians, as to whether it is Shiva’s bday or his anniversary. All the same, I went by the giant statue on the Ganges and watched the festivities by the light of a bright orange sunset.

      Like

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