Lost Luggage and a Bribe -or- India Series I

First, there was Rajan.

After a 14 hour flight and the airline having lost my luggage, I was walking out of the New Delhi airport empty handed and having no clue where to meet with my yoga teacher training group. As I shuffled nervously toward the exiting doors, that’s where I first saw Rajan, leaning casually on the railing, holding a light smile and a sign that only read one word.  “Y O G A.”

I slowly made my way over to him, unsure if he was who I should be speaking with, his smile grew a mile wide as he saw me and exclaimed “yoga! ….Vishva-ji?” 

“Yes!”  I sighed, relieved by recognizable name of Vishva-jiketu, owner and teacher of the Anand Prakash Ashram, where I had enrolled in a month long 200 hour yoga teacher training course in Rishikesh, India.

My yoga instructor from my hometown had been in the past a teacher of the program, and close to Vishja-vi. I believed in her the way you would believe your favorite teacher in highschool’s opinion of which college to attend. I had no question this program was the right choice me. My sister having met Vishva-ji on her own yoga retreat years earlier. I was heading in never meeting the man, but knowing I would adore him and his teachings. I was right, by the way.


Rajan was immediately the nicest person I had ever just met. During my time at the ashram, I saw Rajan do just about every job known to man. From front desk reception, food preparation, ashram maintenance, even the IT guy on occasion, he was, to me, always the friendly face that could and would answer any question. You would never feel led astray by Rajan, his care was genuine and was always there to guide you with a smile that never wavered. A few moments later, there were three of us from the program, in small gaggle behind Rajan, as we scurried out of the airport together. He guided us to a van and with another big smile and wave goodbye, he stayed behind to wait for others, as the three of us drove off with the cab driver to our hotel for the night in New Delhi.

In the van, there were Sophie and Melissa.

Sophie was a woman from Quebec, a slight french accent on her lips and a soft melodic voice. She was on the plane with me and had suffered through the same fate of her luggage. We had both jumped, light without our bags, into the taxi slightly joking about wearing the same outfit for weeks on end.

Hopping in beside her, was Melissa. Melissa had long wavy brown hair and smiled with her eyes. She carried a hiker’s Backpack almost the size of herself as her only piece of luggage and it was clear she was a traveler. The kind that you’d like to hear stories from while sipping big mugs of tea.

Blue lights pierced the night behind us as we felt our van gradually stop on the side of the road. All of us were quiet. 

“Nothing to worry..just bribe.” the van driver said casually as he absentmindedly waved his hand in the air. 

Welcome, to India I thought, mildly entertained now that we were driving safely the rest of the way toward to our beds for only the night, tomorrow- Rishikesh.

Krishna and Flowers -or- On the people of India

I had given a flower to a little girl with no shoes. She’d had been dancing all evening near me, staring up at me like I was magic. My group from yoga teacher training had been invited to join in on the celebration at a Krishna Temple. Nestled near the Himalayan Mountains in India, we were all staying at the Anand Prakash Ashram up the road, living and breathing yoga and it’s philosophy for 5 weeks straight. I think we all welcomed the opportunity to leave the space, just for a little, eager to get a little more than just a taste of the country where we were living. We had all walked delicately into the Temple that evening, memorized by the red, purple and green lights spreading over the white walls of the building, piercing the darkness of the usually softly lit Rishikesh. As we entered, color came into my sight from every angle. Massive paintings of Krishna hung on the walls near ornate chandeliers dangling from high ceilings. A gated off altar was set up at the front of the room depicting colorful versions of Krishna with light blue and hot pink backgrounds, flowers and golden framed photos.

I don’t remember where I had gotten the small white flower, honestly. Someone had passed one to me so I could pin it in my hair for the event, I think. I do remember being led out into the crowded dancing by an elderly Indian woman with a gentle face. The kind that smiles with her eyes, crows feet feathering outward in all directions. I remember the little girls that ran to join in, giggling as they danced, staring at all of our western faces with expressions of curiosity and excitement. So with men on one side, women on the other, we had danced, chanted, smiled and celebrated with the local families for what seemed like hours. Laughing and jumping until the tempo gradually eased and many of the locals began to take seats on the floor, still chanting and smiling as they lazily swayed to the beat.

I was sitting near one of the giggling girls who had been staring up at me as we danced. I knew my group and myself had probably been some, if not all, of the western people she had ever seen in her life in the Himalayas. I had never been somewhere where I couldn’t blend in, and sticking out like a sore thumb had made me extremely aware of the eyes that were locked on me at all times. She was staring at me as I sat, spying at me from the corner of her eye, pretending to play with the hem of her dress. I took the flower out from behind my ear and placed it in her view, smiling and gently waving her on to take it.

She was surprised by the small gift. But, after a few moments, a wide smile began to spread slowly on her face as she delicately pinched the flower between her fingertips. She inched closer to me and we sat there together chanting the next few rounds of Hare Krishna, she, lightly spinning her flower in between her fingertips, that smile still captured on her face.

Sarah, an Australian friend of mine I’d met in the program, came dancing over to us.

“I like your flower.” she had whispered over to the little girl as she sat down beside us, momentarily tired from the dancing.

The little girl peeked over at Sarah, her eyes lingering over her face and long blonde hair. Reaching for a small, sparkling pink clip that lay collecting her bangs, a soft smile grew on her face. Hair spilled out over her eyes as she removed the pink clip and placed the flower’s stem in between it’s clasps. I watched as she stood up and looked Sarah directly in the eyes as she clipped the flower into her light hair. She pulled her hands away slowly, admiring her work and flashed the same toothy wide smile she had when I had given the flower to her.

We heard a voice calling something in Hindi from across the room and the little girls ears perked at the sound. She took one last look at us, grinning from ear to ear, and the little girl who had danced all evening by my side, skipped out of the building toward her family.

An act no more than ten seconds made me fall in love with that night, that temple, that country. We all went back to the ashram later that evening, not wanting the celebration to end. Sarah, still wearing the pink clip in her hair, promising to keep it and the memory of the night with her.

I think we all knew that night would stay with us for a long time, reminding us of the kind faces and smiles of people, who didn’t need wine or liquor to dance and laugh with each other. To the men and women of Rishikesh who welcomed strange foreigners into their Temple and led us out on to the dance floor, sharing their space and Friday night. And to that little girl with no shoes, that reminded me to stop clinging on to what we are given, and share the beauty.

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