I do not think I exaggerate: the entire state of Rajasthan was camping outside my door. To walk anywhere, you stepped over sleeping bodies, cooking pots, dirty bags that had been carried on heads for days, saris draped over bushes to dry, stray dogs and the obligatory cow patties.
I do not think I exaggerate: the entire state of Rajasthan was unsure of whether or not I was real. Old ladies poked my face with one finger and looking quizzically at my response. Old men touched my turban. Young men stood 4 inches from my face and stared, not responding to anything I said. Young girls either giggled or cried at the sight of me. Whole groups of women walked up to me and touched my clothes, stroked my skin, pinched my cheeks, pulled my turban and tried to take my jewelry off.
I do not think I exaggerate: the entire state of Rajasthan was either lighting a fire to cook food, or burning trash, or burning dung and otherwise creating such a cloud of smoke that the cough in my chest has me worried about pneumonia.
I really, really don’t think I am exaggerating. If anything, there is nothing I can say to convey to you the craziness of Kumbha Mela and the last royal bathing day in Rishikesh. The roads to Haridwar closed and they diverted all the pilgrims to Rishikesh. If you went out onto Swarg Ashram, the road in front of the ashram, then you would absolutely smashed between the most beautifully colored saris, tattooed arms and plastic bangles and their wearers. On all sides you were boxed in, smooshed, and crushed nearly to death. People pushed and pushed to move forward. If you weren’t going fast enough for the person behind you (never mind the fact that there was absolutely no where to go as a wall of bodies was stopped in front of you) the person behind you pushed, poked, and even grabbed your butt to get you to move forward.
For an entire week, Rishikesh was a sea of crazy. It felt crazy, looked crazy, and was crazy. Plus, it was almost 110 degrees. The heat was so hot you couldn’t do anything in the afternoon but take a cold shower, lie naked under your fan and try not to move.
It was amazing to think that these people had left everything…whole villages emptied, jobs were left, everything stopped in order for people to walk, pack buses, ride on trucks, cram into trains and try anything and everything to make it to the Ganga in time to dip in her holy waters on just the right day so that their karma would be released. All came: the sick, the weak, the old, the frail, and the babies. Such is the determination of the faithful.
I wonder what would happen if we showed up for ourselves with as much faith and determination as pilgrims show up for Kumbh. What if we believed in our potential to heal and bless as much as they believe in Mata Ganga’s? What if we stopped at nothing to find our true path? Measure your faith in yourself. Would you walk for a week across hot sands and brave stampedes just to arrive at the home of your own soul and say, “I believe in you. Bless me!”
Oh my soul, grant that I look to you with as much faith as the pilgrims to Kumbha Mela. May I honor you, my sweet spirit, on your path and may my actions support your growth and evolution. Oh beautiful divine of my heart, help me to walk across a thousand lifetimes to arrive at the feet of the true beloved, full of faith, full of determination, at whatever the cost.