Giving a Cow a Bath, and Other Happenings in India

A man drives a rickshaw for a living. Does he like it? Does he have community? Does he support a family? Does he work long hours to barely afford food? Is there a thrill to it, whipping around turns? Did he dream as a child of racing cars and find his way to the next best available thing?

I am almost always only questions, though I make statements like I know something.

Today's breakfast, one of the many flavor bomb variations of curries, ciapatis, veggies and rice we get to feast on twice a day.

This morning, eating breakfast. Nine dark wood and marble tables, six seats each. Cold feet, bird sounds, heavy fog, metal spoons to metal trays, getting-last-bite sounds. No sun yet, white gray through the spaces between the vines tied in bundles to make pane-less windows. Paper ball lights hanging from the thatched roof that slants to let the rain pour off when it comes. When rain comes, mud flips up onto the backs of my calves. Usually the sun breaks through by late morning, though, making hot to the touch every part of my skin.

DO ONE THING FULLY. This is my new first mission. No more missions allowed. Maybe soon I won’t need to be on a mission. I will just be eating. I will walk, I will read, then I will. Then.

The rice paddy fields in the left-turn direction outside of the ashram.

Three days ago I strange-strained a rib muscle doing a belly-down one-armed back bend during class. I felt the little muscle roll over a rib, felt it get tense and stay that way in protest. I’ve had to go easy since, but haven’t gone easy enough—today it’s worse, pain even in laughter. Yesterday I cried about it, a purging of a two week well of emotion that was bound to come out somehow, so today I feel more optimistic. Sub-mission: learn this lesson of what there is for me in the Not Full Force, in the sitting back and having to watch instead.

What really did my rib in was last night’s swim in the river (arguably worth it). Our teacher cut our evening practice short so we could walk as a class down the right-turn dirt path out of the ashram’s gate toward the river. Big trees along a mucky creek flowing slow. We padded over leaf debris and dodged heaps of cow dung as the trees parted and showed us wide golden rice paddy fields lit by late sun.

At an intersection of dirt roads we right-turned and looked left as a hard of kids, some on bikes and some waving badminton rackets, barrelled toward us in giant smiles. “Chocolate?!” they hollered. Incidentally, the exact thing I’ve been longing for.

The little village spot down the road, from where the kids come a runnin.

Our right turn road dead ended at the river’s edge. One of our teachers challenged everyone to a rock skipping competition—no one beat his six skips. The dusk was so calm and still held warmth from a day of sun. I took off my snakers and socks and waded into the water, dressed in the appropriate Indian swimwear of full clothing.

Two other student-friends came with while the rest watched. Enamored with the view and the freshness of moving through water, it wasn’t till the nagging rib pain worsened that I considered the herculean task of resisting the weight of an entire river, and that it might be too much for my chest. Hardest was actually convincing myself to swim back, climb out.