He Said/She Said: Rishikesh Weird

He Said/She Said: Rishikesh Weird

It’s unanimous!  Rishikesh is the weirdest place on earth.  It’s the place to go to learn about your former lives, connect with gods, time-travelers and hippies.  After visiting we were left wondering: who’s weird, us or them?

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HE SAID…

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“It’s not you, it’s me” is a famous breakup line that captures my feeling upon leaving Rishikesh.  Though many people break up saying this, we all know it means “it’s you“.  I always thought of myself as open to new ideas and interested in different world views, but come on, I can neither sit there and talk about someone’s time traveling experience as though it’s normal, nor revere a river that it’s pilgrims dump their garbage in.

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One of the nightly jam sessions featuring strange instruments and stranger people…

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The place would make a lot more sense if everyone was in a drug induced stupor, but some of them are not.  The visitors can be divided into three groups: Hindu pilgrims, yoga retreaters, and strung out hippies.  Not surprisingly there is a lot of overlap between these groups.  The strung out hippies buy their drugs from even more strung out wandering Hindus who come to drink from the Ganga, one of the world’s most polluted rivers.  The yoga retreaters, often on vacation, hang out in the cafes discussing philosophy with the hippies, seemingly not realizing that it’s not cigarettes they’re smoking or reality they are spouting.  All seem to agree that this is the holiest place on earth, often as they let their litter fall wherever it may.

When in a bubble such as Rishikesh I wondered, am I the weird one?  Should I be signing up for silent meditation, enrolling in yoga teacher training, or picking up a tambourine and jamming with the hippies?  After being offered classes on vomiting, learning that our neighbor found inner-freedom by pooping in public, and paying $5 to stare into a candle for 15 minutes, I’ve decided that no, I’m not the crazy one…but isn’t that just what a crazy person would say?

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SHE SAID…

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As I sat down on a cushion next to Zoran from Croatia at The Freedom Cafe he asked me where I was from.  When I answered the U.S. he replied, “I was there recently.”  Upon further inquiry I learned that “recently” meant the 12th century, because he had visited the U.S. in his time travels.  Normally this conversation would be cause for concern, possibly prompting a call to a mental health facility, but in Rishikesh it was par for the course.  And if you think that’s weird let me introduce you to the other patrons of Freedom Cafe; where freedom has a much broader definition and quite frankly, anything goes.

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Rishikesh is the place to learn Yoga, meditation and other “New Age” practices you probably don’t know exist…

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If time travel isn’t your thing than you could talk to the Romanian man that believes carrying a solid brass trident brings him special powers.  Or the Brazilian that is convinced that drinking water from the most polluted river in the world, the Ganges, is healthy despite the fact that 80% of illnesses in India are caused by contaminated water.  While each of these “characters” added to the atmosphere, it was hard to keep a grasp on reality.  Was I out of my mind to come here seeking yoga training at the birthplace of yoga, is spirituality actually found through drugs as so many of the people seemed to believe?

Ultimately, we both decided we better get out of Rishikesh before we were sucked into the madness and started to spout about our doshas, chakras and previous lives.  While it was fascinating to attend yoga classes from teachers that had a very different take on the ancient practice than myself and enjoy the chanting of puja (prayer) ceremonies on the banks of the Ganges, after a week we were ready to bid farewell to Rishikesh and leave the weirdos behind.

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YOUR TURN: What’s the weirdest place you’ve ever visited?  Did it make you wonder if it was you that was weird?  Share your story in the comments below…


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thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.

About the Author
thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.
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