Sunday. DAY OFF for all of us! The doctor is OUT today and we are on the road. Without too much imagination its easy to envision us all truly being ON the road. We've been debating just exactly how to explain this experience of being in the bus, driven by a local driver, no English, on a two-lane road, where the name of the game is CHICKEN. I took a poll: hair-raising, E-Ticket ride, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, life threatening - these descriptors all come to various minds. Putting that aside, we visited a couple of Hindu temples, where we enjoyed the entire Ramayana - depicted in carved soapstone in monuments, centuries old. Juxtaposed to the gray towers, were dozens of Indians in their colorful saris, leaving a snapshot of India in our hearts (in the face of our short sightseeing experience). I will let your friends tell you more about this directly.
We enjoyed a wonderful lunch at a 3-star hotel along the way. And the ride back...OMG...the driver was heading for the barn, for 2.5 hours! It was unbelievable. There is a game on the road called who-can-get there-fastest, except that there is no finish line, no winners, just occasional losers. From the drivers' perspectives, the road is simply a race course and passing slow-pokes at any cost is a skill, a talent maybe, and surely an exercise in calculating risk. We knew we were gonna die. But several close calls later we made it to the 4 lane road and things calmed down some.
(how to ride on the bus)
Next stop...the ashram. We decided to drop in. Did I mention that we've been treated like dignitaries? We thought, lets just go up there, walk around, check out the sunset and see what's cooking. The minute the Sri Sri Sri's office got wind of our arrival, we were no longer tourists (we were actually the ONLY tourists there). His people caught up with us in the temple, where we were given a special blessing as honorary guests, then escorted to the inner sanctums. Tea served as we waited, as is customary. Then, sure enough, we are led to the Sri's receiving room and his 'first lieutenant' (we call him Sri Jr) gave us an hour of his time, taught us about their religion/philosophy, the school, the life of the sansee, his own life and personal journey. It was such an honor and a gift. As we were leaving, the sansee asked us to wait and enjoy the ceremony about to happen. We never heard the exact purpose of the ceremony, but there was fire, smoke, horns and drums, blessings, lots of novitiates (adorable little boys draped in orange saris), moving about, up and down the massive stairs and into the temple. Finally, someone made us get back onto the bus and go home. We looked at each, other stunned. Irena summed it up: you can't sign up for this kind of tour.
Happy Hour tonight was animated like no other!