26/3/08 Rishikesh

last I am in Rishikesh!

I heard so much about the place, and longed for it, that it’s like coming home, strangely enough.

I travelled from Delhi, hardly sleeping in the long night train. It’s not light yet, and there is only one sign in English that passed rather quickly, so it’s a bit like gambling… I arrived to Hariwar, just a bus ride from Rishikesh. I got off the Train. It’s the first place that’s got Electronic boards with Red writings, & the trains time table!!! So modern!

Immediately I got help with my bags after a short negotiation.

My bags were dropped off and again I am in the centre of hustlers. I will take the bus! – I said and they quickly evaporated. The blanket of the sleeping town changed into a thin veil, and the voices of the awaking town got louder. I got into the bus with the early workers, it’s 06.00 AM. A woman with Krishna picture, candles and scense sticks is bagging for money. After a 40 minuets ride I got to Rishikesh. The main road is still asleep. In the corner there is a gathering of men round someone selling hot tea. They smoke cigarettes & chat. I didn’t know were to go. I did not prepare my homework properly…. I read the Lonely Planet again and again but it made me more lonely & more disorientated. I sat on a stone, looked and stared at the world, than smoked a Beedy (a local hand made cigarette), just like the Indians.

It seams that I put all my attention on how to get there and not where to go to. I waited for a miracle, that didn’t came so I made my move… 

On arriving at last to the Swiss Cottage Guest House I met 2 men of my age group. (It’s only common to meet women travellers, not men!) After a short chat in English the Hebrew accent gave them away. One of them was very unhappy in India, he complaint about every thing. I thought to myself – it’s very important to blend, to except the rules & customs of the place & the local people. If a Tourist wants to go with his own habits he should have to hire a car & a driver and to stay at a 4-5 stars hotels… other wise he have to accept the local customs, rhythm etc.

“We have to be nice to you – you are our guest!” – That’s a mantra I heard from locals saying it to me with a smile, and I think they really mean it.

Whenever there is a talk about our political situation in Israel, if we are seen as provocative (in most cases), aggressive etc. I always suggest: Come to visit Israel, blend with us for a while, than you will understand us!

Blending does not mean one looses his identity, but seeing the other.

I am trying to read the local papers, to see a bit of television, to read local literature, all to understand the place I am visiting, trying to blend a bit.

It means trying to listen, to see the other, hearing his special voice & sound.