Steel Notes Magazine October "Halloween" Issue 2016 - Page 121

www.steelnotesmagazine.com Steel Notes Magazine JOURNEY TO INDIA Chapter three: Rishikesh, Pushkar and Beyond Rex Maurice Oppenheimer made it. It’s beautiful, and I still have it more than 30 years later. Before I left Dharamsala, I bid farewell to Peter. He had no money and was skipping out on his 25-cent-a-night rent at the Tibetan Association Hotel to travel as a Saddhu. He needed some cash, and wasn’t going to take any belongings with him, so to help him out I bought a blanket he had for 30 rupees, then about three dollars. It was a handmade wool blanket he’d bought off the shoulders of the Tibetan woman who had My next stop was Rishikesh, which happened to be the village where the Beatles stayed with the Maharishi. That had nothing to do with why I went to Rishikesh. I was at the station intending to go to Varanasi, when I met Robert. He wasn’t that friendly. He was very independent and somewhat standoffish. I think because he considered himself such an old Asia hand, having been on the road for about eight or nine years. He’d played some bit roles in Bollywood movies and also spent a lot of time in Thailand, where he had a girlfriend he was crazy about but he had to leave because of visa problems. Robert was heading to Hardiwar and Rishikesh. It turned out to be much easier to get to Rishikesh than Varaniasi, and I decided to go there first. I don’t remember how we ended up at Swami Prakesh Bharti’s ashram. Maybe there weren’t any hotels available, or they were too expensive, or maybe Robert knew about the place. There weren’t any available rooms at Swami Prakesh Bharti’s, but he said we could sleep on the roof for two rupees, about twenty-five cents, and that’s what we did. After about a week I did get a room, and I think that was four rupees. I guess it was an ashram, but there wasn’t any kind of organized spirituality. There was a large walled-in area, full of trees and grass. The small rooms were along one side and there was a patio area, with a place for a fire, where everyone would smoke chillums and drink tea. There were no meals. The bathroom was not much more than a hut in the middle of the forested area, and there was a sign saying “no toilet paper,” which was necessary since it was really nothing more than a hole in the ground. Steel Notes Magazine www.steelnotesmagazine.com 121