It is very hard to find Indian food in Rishikesh, but there is a lot of falafel and sabich. Last night, after spending the day walking up and down Ram Jhula and looking for Svarg Ashram (the "best vibes in town" according to lonely planet) we realized we had been in svarg ashram the whole day (really very good vibes) and were hungry. We lost Eyal and Uri somewhere along the way, so it was just Dani and I that caught the rickshaw back up to Lakshman Jhula. At the Third Eye, which came highly recommended by my Israeli friends, they had a Hebrew menu, but no tali. So we left, passing all of the Israeli cuisines along the way in what seemed to be a futile search for Indian food.
Not so futile, it turns out. We ended up at Om Shanti musical cafe ("you have tali?" we asked. "Yes yes, no problem, madam," they said, though that could mean any number of things here.) But yes, no problem, Om Shanti musical cafe had a very good tali, and it turns out, an even better vibe than Svarg Ashram (take that, lonely planet).
When we walked in, we were the only customers. The owner made Dani chow mein, which he finished before my tali arrived. And when it did, it was unbelievable. Three different hot dishes, rice, chai, 3 chapatis, all for 35 rupees, which is about 3.5 shekels or 70 cents. I couldn't finish it, it was too big, so I told the owner and his friends to eat with me. At first they were reluctant, but then they did, and for the first time, we made Indian friends and caught the Indian vibe. They were all about my age, and such nice guys. We sat with them for hours, playing music and talking and drinking chai. When we first got there they had been playing a guitar with strings that buzzed painfully, so Dani fixed it for them as best he could, and then twirled out jazz chords throughout the night.
One of the guys, Prakas, told us, "I have friend from Israel who play didjeridoo, his name Iftach." Now, I know a few people named Yiftach who play didj, but it turns out that this friend was a Yiftach who has a band, "is called the giraffes," Prakas told us. "They are very famous," I told Prakas, who knows quite a few Hebrew words and makes didjeridoos himself. He invited us to come to his shop to make instruments, which is what Dani is doing right now. Dani made a funky protoype in Israel, a guitar/drum combination that sounds something like a string instrument being played underwater, and now he is trying to improve it, so he and Prakas drove off on his motorbike to a carpenter about 12 km away.
This is really the first time that I've had to be myself, and to walk around since I left Israel. I'd forgotten that I was even traveling alone. It's been great traveling with Dani, and with the other guys, but I don't want to get caught up in this group as my be-all-end-all traveling partners, and it's starting to feel like a good time to reduce our group size, because with four people things can get a little stressful. Until today we stayed at the Nigah guest house, run by a 28-year-old feeble looking stoner named Satpal whose entire vocabularly consists of "chillum, joint and boom boom. ("Satlan," we call him, to which he answers with a great big laugh, "yes, satlan, sababa.") It's been hard to convince him that not all Israelis come to India to rip their heads open with chillums, but toward the end of our stay there, he started to catch on.
We moved on this morning to Mama G's guest house, near the Bandhari Swiss Cottage. This cluster of about 5 guest houses is the most popular in the area, because it is built in the forest, and it's possible to rent a double room for 150 rupees a night (15 shekels or 4 dollars.)
There was only one room open in the whole neighborhood, which I jumped on quickly. Mama G was very nice, and said to me, "I save this room for you daughter, come back in few hour." So I paid, even though it meant we only had one new room between the four of us. At first we told ourselves (in that Hindi accent that has permeated our speech subconsciously (mostly because Indian won't understand me if I speak in my normal accent) and will certainly embarass me if it stays with me when I leave India) "no problem, we'll take it and we find another one, then fine, and if not, not." Then Dani said (after we'd already paid) "why move and share a room when we have such big separate rooms in town?" Good point Dani. So I went to Mama and said, "Mama, we are too many people, we change our mind." This did not make Mama happy. She came back with 100 rupees and said, "you get rest when room is full." Dani came back just then and said, "let's take this room and tell Eyal and Uri to do their own thing." So I told Mama, "Okay, we stay." The smile returned, and because I never signed anything or gave my passport, I needed some sort of confirmation from her. "You give me hug?" I asked. Mama forgve me, and I got my hug.