A combination of Plane, Train, Bus, Maruti Taxi, and 200+ stone steps allowed me to reach my current location at the APV School in Anjanisain, Uttarakhand. This journey was not without incident! I arrived just in time for the grand finale of one of the craziest monsoon seasons in Garhwali history. According to one local newspaper, a 44 year old rainfall record was broken; another source claims a 140 year record was surpassed. Either way, there was A LOT of rain. At one point during my train ride from Delhi to Haridwar, I looked out the window and saw the tracks completely submerged in water. Shortly after this horrifying observation, an announcement was made that all passengers would be disembarking and continuing their journey via bus. Conforming to past India experiences, 4 buses were provided when 8 were needed. If it had not been for the divine intervention of a Sari-clad “Auntie”, who took me under her guardianship and thrust me into the convulsing masses, I would have never been able to board the bus.
4 hours later, and 12 hours since my Delhi departure, I was met at the Dehradun train station by Mohan, a teacher at the APV School. His first words upon arrival, shouted over the hum of rickshaw motors and kazoo-sounding bus horns, were: “Incredible India!” Incredible India indeed. A short taxi ride took me to a guesthouse and a damp, but rejuvenating, night of sleep.
The next 3 days were spent at the SBMA (Shri Bhuvaneshwari Mahila Ashram) office restlessly waiting for the roads to Anjanisain to reopen. Neglecting weather reports and cautionary advice, we departed early on the 4th morning. I expected to be making the final leg of the journey into the Garhwali Himalayas in some sort of off-road jeep. This was not the case. Instead, I piled my luggage into the backseat of an early 1990’s Maruti—basically a toy car. In fact, it reminded me a lot of my high school vehicle—a 1981 Toyota Corolla—the car that failed to make it up my date’s steep driveway during my sophomore year homecoming dance, leading to one of my more embarrassing teenage moments. Mohan, sensing my utter lack of confidence, assured me that our driver was an expert and we would successfully reach our destination. And, sure enough, we made it. But, it was another 12hr travel day and there were PLENTY of close calls, including several road-stream crossings, boulder dodging, and running out of gas. This final incident led to me learning a new Hindi word: Jogarh. Basically, India’s version of MacGyver. Somehow a concoction was produced and purchased that allowed us to make the final 30km of the journey.
So, that’s my travel story, which I call “Mission Maruti” (Maruti being a synonym for “impossible”). See video below for some clips from my handy-dandy AIF FlipCam.
In my next post I’ll offer some insight into my project and daily doings. As for now, I’m focusing on the adjustment to mountain village life (which involves waking up at 3:45am for morning meditation) and becoming part of the APV community (which involves washing dishes—and being told “you’re too slow!”, planting daikon and mustard seeds—and being told “don’t step on the rai leaves!”, and learning to eat with my right hand—and being told “use your left hand to pick up the rice spoon!”. I’m learning—slowly but surely.
p.s. currently reading: “Where Gods Dwell: Central Himalayan Folktales and Legends” by Kusum Budhwar and rereading: “The Prophet” by Khalil Gibran and “The Essential Rumi” translated by Coleman Barks.
p.p.s. I’ll be posting some more videos on my personal blog: www.johninindia.wordpress.com