I write this blog post sitting on the veranda of a hotel in Rishikesh. I can hear birds chirping, motorcycle horns beeping, and dogs barking. Not far away I can see the broad sweep of the River Ganga, the turquoise water sparkling in the sun. Two brightly coloured rubber rafts bob on the surface, and I can faintly hear the shouts of the boaters as they are swept down the fast flowing river.
I am in India for a brief visit, celebrating the recent marriage of my daughter Sonia to her husband Matthew. Their Canadian wedding was last June, but now our Indian family and friends have a chance to celebrate with them. Matthew has been fascinated by his first visit to India – as an archaeologist, he has plenty to discover in this country! He’s adapted remarkably to the culture, and has made a great impression on our Indian family.
On a visit to Sivananda Ashram earlier today, I met Susan, one of my first friends in India. She and her father Bill were both a tremendous support to me in those confusing first months of life in India, when I often felt lost and bewildered. I also met Vijaya Mataji, who was my Hindi teacher. She lives in the same humble room where I would go for lessons every morning, more than 30 years ago. Delighted to see me, she immediately set about preparing tea on her little kerosene stove. Just like old times!
The most interesting meeting was with Swami Vimalananda, who is now the senior swami in the ashram. He remembered me, and said with a gentle smile, “Yes, you are the person who gave us such good suggestions about the water system!” Readers of Cloud Messenger will remember the dramatic episode about the water issue, which led to our abrupt departure from Sivananda Ashram. How interesting that Swami Vimalananda remembers this, but in such a positive way…
I also had a lovely visit with my dear friend Ginny Srivastava, who’s also described in Cloud Messenger as an important figure in my life. She was born and brought up in Canada but married an Indian and has been living in India for the past 45 years. She’s done marvelous work in the State of Rajasthan, helping tribal women organize and use their collective strength to fight for their rights. Last year Ginny won an award given by the President of India for her years of work with tribal women. In our meeting this year I was encouraging Ginny to write a book about her work in India – this would truly be an inspiring read for people to learn about her powerful method of women’s empowerment. I was thrilled to hear that Ginny really enjoyed Cloud Messenger, and we had some long discussions about the process of publishing and promoting a book.