*****Note – this post, and some of the subsequent ones were prepared over multiple sessions, so the tense between them will be scattered, as I draft in present tense, but when I neglect to edit/finalize in the moment, this becomes past tense, and bluntly as this is my blog; and while I started to fix this one, I’ve just decided creative license is in order, and in the interest of getting the information down, I’m not going to fix this — if this will drive you nuts, feel free to skip this and likely the next 3 posts 🙂 …
India Part 2
Started the day out with a great breakfast with P – the buffet at the hotel (Hyatt Pune) was quite nice; they have many Indian dishes for breakfast, and each day was filled with exploring new possibilities of combinations. Wednesday of the trip was spent exploring a puffed pastry served with an aloo gobi style topping that had wonderful green and yellow curry flavors. The chai tea has gotten better every day so far and has improved in flavor of spices. Today they also had grilled vegges with a pesto sauce which sounds odd for breakfast but was actually very satisfying and tasty.
The plan for the day was a driver scheduled for 4 hours, and a trip to the Osho Meditation Sanctuary Resort. The driver arrived to deliver me, and it was no trouble to get over to the place, although the driver was trying to show me many of the sights along the way, and in hindsight he mentioned he has not been inside there before, because of the stringent joining requirements (Warning #1).
I went into the welcome center, and was struck immediately with a powerful overwhelming wave of energy. There was a koi pond and fountain inside the covered outdoor welcome center.(Warning #2) I sat down to breath for a moment and connected to myself before rising a few moments later and proceeding to the counter.
The kind woman at the desk, helped me significantly and explained the break down of charges to visit the facility for the day. There is a ‘registration’ as a membership fee – one time thing. Then there was a daily visitation rate fee, as well as a fee for robes (required specific attire, Maroon for day time, white for evening) and a locker fee, in addition to the cost of a lock for the locker. I asked her to boil the whole fee thing down to one total, I took that total converted it to USD – and it was just under 60$ total. While this was a little pricey for a visit and meditation sitting for a couple hours, I figured it was worth the splurge for this as the place clearly was a conduit for excessive amounts of energy, and I could already feel them in the lobby.
Proceeded to check out, and apparently the total was not the total, there were “other” fees associated it (Warning #3) – it was slightly more, not a huge deal – I also had to pay in Local currency (Indian Rupees, but I still had enough from my conversion on Sunday before sight seeing)
Having paid my bill, it was on to the next step which is … HIV test? Yes, you read that right you must take an HIV test before you enter the actual facility (Warning #4) – I don’t so much have a problem with taking an HIV test, or the taking of one, but it was hrmmm well I’d just had one last month and it rather felt like when people hit you up for the 4th or 5th company donation in the same week – you say “I gave at the office” — Not an option here, plus’s were it was fast, and all be it a small sterile needle pin prick, efficient. Can’t help but wonder what else they are testing for with that small sample of my blood however, since 🙂 its blood, which is energy – which is … you know where I’m going with this – but me being me – I stubbornly persevered, clearly recognizing this as the at least second warning, at the time, but having completely in the moment overlooked the other ones as warnings.
Now it was registration time where they get all your vital statistics, you sign up for membership and they take your picture for your registration. The name of the kind lady assisting me with this was Pigeon (Warning #5 – oddly this one was quite a near and dear warning to me) — I’d seen a pigeon on the window ledge outside the hotel room window and suddenly hearing this ladies name it made me long for the safety of the hotel room. I persevered.
Next I was walked outside and across the street to the store. This is where they try and fit you with the robe that you need, the lady got confused a few times about what i was needing but when we finally agreed upon a style of robe – they had … many many options of maroon robe… I took it into the fitting room only to find it did not fit – she had to go find another robe, which was named the “The Margaret” (Warning #6 – again odd on here, little bells going off about this one)
Took the robe, it fit okay up to pay, and got the lock and they marked off on my “voucher” of money the prices for the items I’d bought. I headed to the locker rental room where they “marked” off my pricing for my locker rental – and pointed me down a path and to take 2 lefts, there were no lockers to be found. I basically walked around the entire area in big circles for about 20 minutes, before finally finding another person – that was not too busy – had passed 4 too busy to help me find the lockers. Also saw a cat that was sitting on a ledge — I walked up towards it and it started meowing as I got closer, it looked directly at me and did a yawl sound (Warning #7 – and clearly number 3 if I passed the others)
Lady walked me to the “locker” room – which was no where near where the directions had taken me, I negotiated to the locker that was to be “my” locker, and it smelled like cat marking – I took this in stride, and popped out the lock loaded my gear into the locker and tried to lock the lock. It wouldn’t lock.
I sat down on the bench and fiddled with the lock, no luck no lucking. I tried turning the entire thing – no luck no locking. I surveyed my options, I could leave my belongings in an unlocked locker – including my passport — or I could take this as a final sign — having in my head added up the other signs and come to the conclusion that this was not apparently the right place for me to be visiting on this day.
I changed back into my street clothes. I headed first back to the locker place and turned in the sticker for the locker number they had given me and advised them I would not need it. Walked back to the store, and handed them the lock and explained that it was broken – the lock was a Krishna lock – which for me heh – this was also another warning, but I had opened the package so quickly I hadn’t noticed until I tried to put the lock back. I walked back across the street, and into the welcome center – because apparently they had kept my copy of the registration paperwork – which had been requested by the locker ladies, they had needed to call to obtain it and I figured since I’d paid for a day visit pass I wasn’t going to be using, it was probably a good idea to get this information.
I was greeted by an entirely different set of acolytes at the registration desk, they had to reprint my membership details, and sufficed to say it was a learning experience. Apparently now I have a life time membership to this place, if I chose to every go back.
I had the local cell phone that P’s colleagues had provided me to ensure I would not get stranded, and I was grateful for this, but at the time, and in hindsight. I also had the phone number of the driver for my touring. I called him, and he arrived within a few moments to pick me up. He asked if everything was okay, and when I expressed politely as I collected myself that apparently it had not been the right place for me to be, he nodded knowingly and he suggested a few places for our next stops.
The driver took me to a wonderful place, it happened to be one on my list of places I’d hoped to visit, and its sort of an odd coincidence that it happened to be the place to which he took me. Pataleshwar is a cave temple cut into a basalt rock dedicated to Shiva – who happens to be one of the gods I have a strong affinity towards.
The temple itself is in a very unadorned area of town, looking very much like a casual park, there were people holding a gathering of some sort in the shade of one of the trees just adjacent to the lower cave area. It looked like a lively gathering, with many women dressed in quite bright colorful attire. As I headed across the courtyard I was struck by an overwhelming since of majesty. My heart was happy to be in that place, and my feet hastened forward to explore. It was quiet, so quiet, there was the chattering of birds, and the sounds of a small smattering of people worshiping in the open stone gazebo portion where there was the first altar for worship.
While there was no sign to indicate that the removal of shoes was necessary before proceeding, there was a trail of shoes to the side, and there were barefooted individuals filling into the cave. I felt no concern at removing my sandals and leaving them to the side, as I proceeded inside, drawn by a sense of well being, purpose and belonging.
The cave temple was dark, strangely comfortable in temperature, neither hot nor cold, neither damp nor overly moist. It was just comfortable. The air smelled of perfumed incense, but not overly strong, and not unpleasant, the lingering recent burned smell. I approached the effigy at the altar at the front, and I felt the need to kneel and pray. I took this as a good sign, and knelt down on the stone, and prayed. I was in the temple for some time, and there were others – not many, that came and went as I maintained my personal silent vigil. There was a sense in my heart of my prayers being heard/received, and acknowledged, and I felt as if I were free to go or explore but that my time in prayer was at an end for that day. I rose, and backed away respectfully. Returning to my sandals, and observing quietly as I walked back out to the road. The place felt amazing, its hard to put into words, but it had the feeling of Christmas, smores while camping, clean laundry – it just felt right, and it felt like I belonged on a fundamental level that there are no words to detail.
Reaching back to the car, and with longing I tried to convey words to the driver to indicate that this was what I had been seeking in my travels to India. This place, with its 10,000 years of history, of prayer, of worship, to a source I find able to meet my needs, able to hear my call and to answer. This was the place I was seeking. He was delighted at my reverence, and proceeded to take me to a few other temples, much more modern, much more elaborate, with many more people due to the Navratri Festival being underway.
After the other temples failed to provide me with the sense of serenity, and that serenity from the first carrying over, the driver persevered to ensure I’d had the best sight seeing experience around, and took me to a local museum that was fascinating, it had quite a collection of antiquity spreading many generations, and many broad interests. Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum had a fascinating assortment of items, from instruments, statues cooking utensils, to amazingly old hand carved wood archways and furniture, hand woven sari and garments all meticulously preserved. It was not difficult to lose myself in that place, exploring the many treasures, and by the time I reached the end of the 3 story, 2 sided building, it had been over 2 hours.
Connecting back up with the driver, he took me to a place called MGM drive, which is apparently a famous road for shopping in Pune. He took me to a shop that we hoped might have a figurine of Lord Shiva. This was sadly not the case, while they did have many amazing and beautiful statues, the one which was the correct pose was a huge stone piece, that I could not even fathom how I would get it home, and or how would persuade P it was a necessary purchase. There were also many amazing rugs, including some kashmir ones hand woven – they are woven with a thread count so that when they are turned different directions, they reflect the light differently and the colors in the rug appear to change. This was a marvel to me, and we examined about 30 different rugs and several I had really been interested in buying – however the cost was high enough I wanted P to approve of the expense, and he was tied up with meetings at the office. I passed, and made a small jewelry purchase from the ship after all the exchange of ideas.
My time in the museum had overextended the time allotted for the tour in the number of hours I’d booked and reserved for the driver, but he was extremely accommodating, and was more than willing to ensure that I had completed the things I had hoped, and seen as much as I needed and wanted to see. It was extremely refreshing to not only not feel rushed, but to feel well provided for, to have him so happy with his job in driving that he was willing to stay longer to ensure that everything was perfect. Upon arrival back to the hotel, I was suddenly struck by how truly exhausted I was, how satisfied I was with my day out exploring, and how truly blessed I felt to have been enabled to achieve my desires for this trip by this driver. Fully expecting to have incurred additional charges for the extra hour of additional time due to my distractions at the museum, I was welcome and pleasantly surprised when the driver simple shrugged it off and told me how nice it was to drive for me that day.
After this entire experience, I can truly say I fully understand the meaning of Namaste, in the core of my being.
There were so many good experiences in India, its very hard to individually chronology each of them during our time in Pune adequately, as I was busy experiencing them in the moment at the time. There are a few others I’d be remiss to fail to mention, so below find some of the specifics I want to document for my own sake:
* Spa Day
* Dinner at the Bhatnagar Household
* Potluck at Cybage
* Doctor visit
On Tuesday, I did one of the typical things I do on vacations, I booked a full day of services at the closest day spa, in this case the hotel spa. Typically, a spa within the hotel is significantly more expensive, and the services are far from optimal, in my previous experiences, which while not extensive are varied and multiple. This was not to be the case in India. It is evident throughout the culture and the presence of the people, that health, and self care is a large portion of this concept, is not a minor thing in this culture. The spa services were not only, by western standards extremely reasonable in price, they were also quite catered towards ensuring I had a relaxing and thorough experience in rejuvenation.
The spa had a large area, with an open swimming pool in the back, laid out to feel like while still within the hotel, and within the structure of the city, was a tropical oasis of comfort. There were the canopy style cabana beds lounging around on one side facing towards the water, which was flowing like a river with a water fixture in the pool to keep the sound of water cascading throughout the area. This was immediately off the main reception, which also had several little resting alcoves to await or rest between services.
I booked multiple services, and they flowed by design one from the next with the same therapist, which provided continuity of service I’ve previously not experienced most other places. It also allowed for a level of relaxation far exceeding previous spa experiences. The therapist herself went above and beyond to ensure that my comfort and needs were provided. The body scrub, hair wrap, full facial and aromatherapy massage that had been extended – all in all 300 minute of bliss, totaled just under $200 USD. Significantly less than I have ever paid for far less personalized treatment.
The personal steam room was also the shower attached to the changing/locker area, and the therapy room – which was designed to be able to accommodate a larger party of up to 4 guests at once. The room was clean, but very elegantly decorated, so as to seem comfortable, and safe while not being overly elaborate or distracting from the purpose of relaxation.
My only observation of pause, was that the massage tables – more the type that are used for facials or waxing, were not quite as comfortable for the length of time of my services. While this is not something I noticed during the services, the services running concurrent, caused me to experience a tad bit of discomfort upon rising, as my body had been in a too stiff a position in a few places for the length of the treatment.
Upon leaving the treatment area, and returning to the entrance, the hostess at the spa entrance and check in area looked at me odd when I requested to leave a tip, it was apparently not something expected for spa treatments, or atleast unusual enough that she did not anticipate my request, and was visible surprised by it.
This was not the only or even a rare surprising encounter with the staff at this hotel, they were all curious, kind and very will to assist with any need or request. On one of the days, when Phil’s back was in a bad place, and I had gone down to the breakfast buffet alone, they waitress at the check in for the breakfast offered to send up a plate for my husband if he was in pain. Later, when I returned to the room, and ended up ordering room service, they brought it from the buffet at no additional charge. The service and hospitality we experienced in all of India was hands down the best and most hospitable anywhere in the world. I felt like an honored guest, not just a paying guest. The entire experience allowed me to stay in the moment, and to experience and enjoy my time in this amazing and beautiful country.
Dinner at the Bhatnagar Household
On Monday evening, a friend and colleague of my husbands – Mr. Bhatnagar had invited us to join him for dinner at his home. A few years back, when he visited the United States, we had hosted him to dinner in our home. It was a great treat, and P & I were both very much looking forward to the experience.
He arrived at the hotel to pick us up after the work day was complete. We braved through the worst of the rush hour traffic in Pune to get to his home, all the while chatting and entertaining, as he filled us in on this being his normal commute, and how it was actually a little worse than usual due to the holiday, but that his commute is typically 45 minutes from office to home.
Exploring off the beaten path in any country is always far more educational then the tourist areas, and this was no exception in India. Its extremely easy to get caught up in the “what they want you to see” vs “what the reality is of life” in most countries. This was not really the case in our time in India. While Mr. Bhatnagar is not an extremely affluent man, he has a steady well paying job, that he has had for sometime, and while he has a small family, a wife of a little over 7 years, and a daughter that is 4, with a new baby on the way, his neighborhood did not look strikingly unfamiliar to the United states suburban areas. He lives in a condominium style housing, where he owns the unit where his family lives, there are multi house units, similar in type to a apartment or condo type structure, many units stacked together in one larger building. They are secured, and there is a neighborhood community counsel that sets the rules for the area. There is a center common area for children to play in, and there were people out and about with animals playing when we arrived.
His home was quite nice, very comfortable, and while it was smaller than the amount of space we are spoiled to experience in the United States, it was in no way cramped. They had very modern amenities, furniture, furnishings and generally a very clean and well loved feeling of welcome home pervaded through the entire experience.
Mrs B had prepared an extensive and elaborate meal for us to enjoy, and we enjoyed some tea and conversation upon first arrival. Their daughter is a delight, and clearly a crowning jewel in the household. It was a wonderful chance to get to see and converse in a much less formal environment and share Mutual experiences on life, family, home, culture and marriage.
The meal was wonderful, and the loving care with which it was prepared, shared and offered made it even more an experience to enjoy. Mrs B has a small garden on her porch, and some of the spices and the vegetables for the meal came from these. We all ate to being stuffed, and content, and finished off the meal with pleasant conversation and general life discussions.
On the way to return us to the hotel, at the close of the evening, we all went together to the local ice cream parlor, a special treat for all of us, and the ice cream was quite good. The traffic was a little heavy on the way back to the main portion of the city where the hotel was, but there were lights and decorations up everywhere for the festival, we talked about many of the traditions, and it was very interesting to see them being learned by the daughter.
Overall, I have to say this experience was one of connection, and started off the entirety of the trip in such a positive place, it would have been nearly impossible for things to not continue to spiral upwards from this time.
Potluck at Cybage
P had pulled a muscle in his back on Tuesday, and was in some pain so they opted to allow him to sleep a little later on Wed morning, and the two of us went into the office together, me as a visitor and he to work for the day. The teams had planned a potluck in our honor, which was quite an elaborate experience, and a wonderful opportunity to experience more local and traditional style Indian dishes.
During the initial arrival, our host took me on a tour of the team, and I got to meet all of the team members that support P and his company. It was so nice to meet so many happy smiling intelligent people all happy to be at their jobs, and clearly happy to be supporting my husband and his company. It was somewhat a surreal experience, in no other place in the world could I have done that entire introduction, and met so many people and left the encounter retreating back to the office assigned to P during his stay, super charged with energy, rather than the usual drained of my energy. Each and every member of that team took the time and effort to personally greet me and to make specific and personal connection and interaction with me. It was, well it felt like being a rock star I’d imagine, and I am but the wife.
The office itself is in a very interesting place, the company owns enough room to expand, and its a cluster of buildings, very well kept and very pristine looking. The entire building is organized, modern, green and nice as well as easy to navigate. It was interesting to view the city from the top of the buildings, the view is breathtaking, and the pot luck took place at the open covered area patio lunch area there. They had partitioned off a section of the lunch area for the purposes, and it was quite interesting to watch the engagement of the team, and also the other cybage teams and members.
All of the food was outstanding, it was not a question of which dishes I liked or didn’t like, it was a question of how much food I could reasonable eat without needing to be rolled off the table.
Truthfully, there was no food I experienced in my entire time in India that was not delicious and wonderful – there were just many many dishes I enjoyed more than a few others. This Potluck was one of the highlights, both the care and the organization that went into this, particularly considering the fact that two of the ladies that organized this meal for our enjoyment were actually fasting during the meal – for the high holy day of the holiday. The fact that they would organize and oversee such an elaborate spread of abundance, in a time when they would not be able to enjoy or partake was quite humbling.
Its hard to express in words, how positive this entire experience was for both P & I – we both enjoyed the food, the camaraderie and the pleasure that serving us was providing for the people that brought it. Each of the chefs in turn came over to see how we had enjoyed their dish, they prepared the plates for us, and we were able to sample so many of the dishes. This was also a very nice time to enjoy some dishes that are not traditional restaurant fair but are quintessentially Indian. One of these was a new treasure in my eyes: shrikhand
The efficiency with which they cleared the celebration and everyone returned to work was also quite interesting, it was never about the time, the time passed so fast, it was hard to relate, but it was just a very memorable and pleasurable experience enjoying a pot luck with a team of new found friends.
As previously mentioned, P had hurt his back from a combination of tucking his legs and the bed at the hotel being a little too firm for his comfort and body. After the potluck, our host saw fit to take us over to the on site doctor to allow P to be seen and to determine root causes, and eliminate any possible concerns, as well as provide him with some relief from the pain.
There are many things P is good at accommodating in the pain department, back pain – referred from his legs, specifically his iliopsoas is not one of them. This is the type of pain that takes him out. It was very kind of our host to recognize this and ensure that P was well cared for and that the pain was addressed.
The experience waiting for an on site doctor, was actually remarkable faster and easier than anticipated. P & I both met with the doctor, who was a no-nonsense type of individual, he listened to P explain the problem, and then he also listened to me relate to him further details about that and about a hive allergy reaction P was also experiencing on the tops of his feet.
The doctor examined P and then sat down to make notes. He documented his findings, and his interpretation in a very legible hand writing on a note pad – this was extremely strange for a doctor in my experiences in the western world. This guy’s penmanship put me to shame. He then proceeded to write out 4 prescriptions and then he went over his findings, and his recommendations and the medicines, what they would do and how they were to be taken. He read this all from the paper as he handed it to us to carry with us.
Our host took us to a chemist, where they prepared the medicines, and the packages we got were no-nonsense, and from the discussions with our host, they were not overly expensive. Having spoken with several other friends, India is apparently a very reasonable place to get safe routine medicines at a very accessible price, and without a tremendous amount of hassle.
Upon returning to the hotel, we were able to look up all of the ingredients online for each of the medicines, it was very nice to see them all very clearly labeled with % of each item, and to be able to clearly understand what each medicine contained. While the details about possible implications and uses were also on the packaging, using Google provided more of a sense of common understanding for us, that left me feeling quite safe with the products he would be taking and the uses and requirements for them.
Overall, the entire experience was quite pleasant, it just seemed like if you were going to have health issues, India would be the place to have this occur.
The next post will go more into the travel from Pune to Mumbai and the experiences with my teams there, over all the stay in Pune was amazing. The city is very progressive, not a surprise for a college town, and it was very easy to get comfortable in this city. It is quite modern, but its also very easy to see it, similar to Austin has had tremendous population boom in the past 5-10 years, with new structures going up and expanding the borders on all sides. It would be an interesting place to re-visit in another 5 or so years, to see how much it has and will change, I’ve no doubts that it will continue to be evolving, just as the people and culture will continue to suck forth the best of the western culture and integrate it, while retaining the highest values of the culture it so holds in reverence as a way of life.