I moved on to Kodaikanal after Madurai. Perched atop the Palani range, about 120km from Madurai, Kodaikanal is what is called a “hill station” surrounded by temperate forests of pines and deciduous trees. Kodai’s wooded – and not so wooded anymore – slopes contain waterfalls and rocky outcroppings. According to the Lonely Planet travel guide, it’s the only hill station in India that was established by American missionaries. I had read about the greenery, the different climate, the different geography, and I was looking forward to a change of scenery from the dry, dusty Tamil Nadu I had become accustomed to.
The bus ride was once again an adventure. I got on and the few seats left were in the back, along the long row. I have long legs and did not want to spend hours with my knees up around my chin sitting behind one of the back seats, so I parked myself right in the middle of the long seat, my legs out in the aisle. We picked up more people and two older men came toward me — I could tell that they expected me to move over to the window. Not way, not a chance with my long legs. They shrugged and proceeded to squeeze past me. One sat next to the window, the other was trying to squeeze in next to me, on my left, next to his friend. He had a hard time doing so because the person on my right would not budge an inch. I got up a little, and as the man was squeezing in between me and his friend, I pushed him in next to me, like shoving someone through a door. “Thank you, madam!”, he said with a big smile.
Within 10 minutes we started talking, the first question always “what country, madam?” and then “what job, madam?”. “America.” “Yoga teacher.” The man next to me translated that for his friend next to the window. Big smiles all around. “We also do yoga, every day,” and my old friend told me that just that morning he had done headstand AND shoulderstand. These men appeared to be in their 60s. They also made sure to tell me that they were Brahmins, the highest caste. I always found it interesting that people (always men I realized) would tell me that.
My old friend told me that his friend has a brother living in the ashram of Swami Nirgunananda in Chandigarh, which is close to Delhi. Before I know it an address book is pulled out and I have the Swami’s cell phone number! Outstanding! Life is all about the connections we make and that seems so especially in India. You can bet that I have that scrap of paper with the Swami’s phone number tucked away in a safe place. Google and ye shall find so I found that not much information came up, which to me means he’s the real deal. That tells me he’s not a show biz guru. Another time, another trip, I have the rest of my life.
We settled in for the three hour bus ride to Kodai. I pulled out a book I had bought at the Ramakrishna Math in Chennai, Meditation According To Yoga Vedanta. My old friend saw the book and asked to look at it then he showed it to his friend. I never got to read another page because for the next two hours because I was grilled like a school girl before her school masters.
laundry day in Kodaikanal