When a simple trip for an evening cup of Chai turns into a two-hour adventure, you know you’re in India.
Last Sunday after our evening meeting, I went for some Chai tea with long-term volunteers Hannis and Vishu. The three of us piled on giant Hannis’ tiny moped (Hannis is German and probably 6’4). The bike chugged along into town. We weighed the scooter down substantially and could feel every speed bump we rolled over and every hole we climbed out of. It seemed like forever until we reached the Chai shop and parked. Two Chais and some good conversation later, we got back on the bike and headed home.
“Ah, what’s happening?” Vishu said. The bike veered right, then left. “The back tire’s losing air pressure.”
We all got off and scoped it out. Sure enough, we found ourselves staring at a punctured tire.
It was 10:30pm. No auto shops or little petrol/air shacks were open. After a brief discussion, we decided to try our luck riding home. Vishu swerved around potholes and rode the thin strip of pavement in a decrepit road.
“Do you want me to drive, Vishu? For Chrissakes, don’t scratch your head! Keep your hands on the moped. If you have an itch, get Brittany to scratch it for you.”
After too many uncomfortable dips toward the pavement, we decided to walk. Hannis lit a cigarette. The sky was a mess of stars.
“I think India forces you to surrender. There’s just nothing you can do. And it happens all the time,” Hannis said.
“Like when the train switches where it’s going mid-trip and you end up someplace completely different?” Vishu said.
“And you get diarrhea and are delirious, paying for water with a 500 rupees… not even knowing what kind of change I’m getting back. That was awful,” Hannis said.
Vishu pushed the scooter off the road and toward the path leading to Sadhana.
“I saw a snake yesterday,” he said. “A big one. On the path between the bathroom and the pond.”
“I saw a huge one under the main hut,” Hannis said.
“Probably a cobra,” Vishu said.
“I don’t think they get so big.”
“Yeah, they do, when they’re in the wild. I saw it on discovery channel,” Vishu said.
Early in the morning, we’re picking Rosella leaves for a lunch salad. On the branches Kanga cut down, we find two large praying mantis, who I promptly relocate out in the tall grass.
“Have you ever looked a Praying Mantis in the eyes?” Tristan asks.
“No, I’ve never stared into one’s eyes. They freak me out,” Nya says.
“Yeah, they do look a bit like aliens. Still, I think I’d like to have one for a pet,” Tristan says.
“Not me. What if it got out of its cage? I would have nightmares about waking up with it on my face.”
“It would only be on your face if there was a fly there. Then maybe you’d be happy it was there, eating the dirty fly.”
“I think I’d rather the fly,” Nya says.
Daniel’s wife divorced him after over 40 years of marriage. God brought him to Sadhana. Likely in his late 50’s, Daniel’s originally from Florida, which explains a lot. He has something like 7 kids, which, he says, happens “when the Lord just keeps bringing you children.”
“When I was a young man I heard that you could pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and then God would pray for you. It was a way to be saved that didn’t cost money. So I started to pray. Only problem was, once I spent so many years prayin’ for the peace, I wanted to see who I was prayin’ for. So I went to Jerusalem, and I fell in love with the people and I just couldn’t leave. That was 40 years ago.”
His leathery skin is speckled with red from years of too much sun. There’s an open sore on the back of his neck that oozes. After morning circle, when we hippies are giving our fellow forest mates hugs, he blesses us all.
“The thing I love about God is, no matter what happens, he forgives and forgets. My wife who divorced me after 44 years of marriage, she couldn’t forgive me. She divorced me because she couldn’t see the path to forgiveness and she still won’t talk to me. But when I ask God for forgiveness, he asks me, ‘For what, my child?’ He suffers for my sins, and when all I want is to kill my wife and have her burn in hell, he suffers that pain for me too, and he suffers for her sins. So I can let go and be free. That’s why I’m so focused, because I’m free.”
Stephanie, long-term volunteer/staffer, resident permaculture specialist, says, “I was really hopin’ it would rain today. The plants are needin’ it pretty badly now.”
“Everyday’s a gift from God no matter what it brings,” Daniel says.
Stephanie shoots him a piercingly feisty look only the Irish are capable of.
There are things I look forward to in the week. Monday morning we all sit in meditation for the first hour of work, from 6:30 to 7:15am. It’s free time and a nice, quiet way to start the week. Monday nights Jeff, a long-term volunteer who sang his way through the middle east with a small band and bicycle, cooks us dinner. It’s always fabulous and he encourages team effort in the kitchen (as opposed to volunteers being used just to chop vegetables). Last Monday, he made a dessert with tahini, date syrup and peanuts. Our communal sweet tooth was satiated.
Tuesday night was my community shift in the kitchen, and we all poured our ideas and efforts into a raw dinner. It included a cauliflower tabouli with pomegranate and pesto made with edible leaves from our garden. Today, hump day, it’s always hummus and vegan bread night. Every Thursday we all dine out, indulging in pizza or spicy local fare. Friday volunteers and guests pile into the main hut and watch an eco-related film. Then it’s the weekend.
Lastly, I surrendered my organic soap to some critter last week. It was slowly nibbling at it but I never imagined it would take the whole thing. Low and behold, I woke up and the entire bar was gone. Somewhere there’s a chipmunk burping soap bubbles all for a little coconut oil.