This morning I woke up in a small room built of wood slabs and yellow tarp. It was very comfortable. When I opened the door to this small room, I saw a gigantic mountain, steep and ridged and covered in radiant green trees. It was very nice. Then I had porridge and said goodbye to Shimmy and Sara, my good friends from Israel who I just spent the last two weeks with. Then my friend Anav and I started walking down the mountain, into a magical forest straight out of a fairy tale. Khir Ganga is amazing. It's a tiny tourist site at the source of a hot spring set on top of a green hill facing this unreal view, the kind I really wish I could take and replant across the street from my apartment in Florentine. But I can't.
I arrived in Kasol two weeks ago, planning to meet Shimmy and Sara in one of the villages nearby for shabbat. Friday came, they had't passed through yet, so I decided to wait for them, knowing I would see them even though we had planned something else, and then 4 p.m. came, and then I had a fleeting thought to go to the village anyway, and then the bus passed and the cloud of exhaust lifted and there they were, eating momos on the street.
We decided to go to Kalga village anyway, even though it was late. But this is the Parvati valley, and things are very slooow in the Parvati valley. So we went to wait for the bus, and then 5 p.m. came, and we knew it was still another 45 minute walk from the bus drop-off to Kalga, and that sunset was at 6:45, and the bus hadn't come yet... so we stayed in Kasol, and had a really nice shabbat at the beit chabad and in the forest.
The only downfall, maybe, was the down fall of one of my sandals and one of Shimmy's sandals into a merciless current in the river. We both laid them on the huge rock we were sitting on, and suddenly, when my eyes were closed and I was laying on my back, I heard Sara say "uh, Aliyana, your shoes just fell in." Well it turned out to be one of mine and one of Shimmy's, neither ever to be seen again, so we threw the remainder of each pair in after its partner and walked back to town barefoot.
And then, there was the beit chabad. A good organization in many ways, brings shabbat and kosher food to people who want it, Jewish spirituality to those who want it and those who don't want it and those who don't know they want it. But the Beit Chabad in India is kind of difficult for me to deal with, and not just because I blame them for whatever animal, vegetable or mineral settled in my stomach in Dharamsala. I usually get uncomfortable with Chabad India around the time they say "birshut adoneinu moreinu urabeinu, melech hamashiach leolam va'ed," though sometimes other things tip me off. This particular Chabad experience, the one I spent with Shimmy and Sara in Kasol started off nicely. The vodka, which I don't usually drink, was flowing freely, and after a few hours, I drank some, but the head Chabad guy, a seemingly good dude, he drank a lot. He drank so much that by the end of the night, when all the candles except three were burnt down and everyone except maybe eight people had gone home, he began to have an exchange with the baba, over a canvas partition.
Now the baba, he also seems like a good dude. When the Chabad guys had the whole room riled up in a resounding rendition of "hakadosh baruch hu, anachnu ohavim otach," the baba was rowdiest of the bunch. Now, standing on the other side of the canvas partition, the baba began the conversation by responding to the Chabad guy, who had said something about the "holy temple."
"Holy Temple, holy temple," chimed in the baba from the other side of the parition.
At which point the Chabad guy turned to the baba and explained to him that he was "nothing but a poster" in the eyes of God. The baba responded calmly, telling the Chabad guy "you are wrong." The Chabad guy went on for a bit, the baba kept saying "you are wrong" and I sat there at the end of the table watching a woman named Shanti, who moved to India from the states 30 years ago, eat leftovers from the meal.
I met the baba again later in Kasol, and then in Pulga, a small village nearby set on the side of a hill inside a jungle. The baba's name is Mango. The owner of the guest house where we stayed in Pulga, Baba Ji - actually a former baba who now wears a baseball cap and keeps his chillum in the pocket of his khakis - later informed us of the politics between Baba Mango and himself. Mango apparently won't talk to Baba Ji because Baba Ji is no longer a baba. Baba politics. Who knew.
There is much more to tell but I'm off now... I'll write more from Manali...