Just before leaving Vashisht the first time Sarah and I had made friends with a man with the most beautiful little hotel tucked up on a hill in the high mountains. We instinctively went straight to this amazing place as soon as the sun was full and rising, and the staff was awakening. They showed us to the most wonderful room with hand made fixtures, simple but striking decor, and a lovely balcony with a view to get you right in the heart! We ordered our favorite breakfast of Aloo Pranthas, potato stuffed flat bread, with curd, yogurt, and a side of indian spicy mango pickles. We sipped chai and filled our bellies and set up a beautiful altar of the unique, special treats we had collected during our travels across India.
Thank god Sonu had a friend who arrived in Vashisht at the same time as us. He embraced this worthy distraction which left us free to run off and hang out with our local friends. In Vashisht we were home. We had our crew of friends, our local hang out joint, each our own puppy dog that we loved and pretended was our own, and all the comforts of a town that is yours when you walk the streets. People knew us here. We called this town our mecca for good reason.
When the day settled in we took a walk up the hill into town to meet up with our friends Raj and Vinod, and the lovely puppy china lily. We fell back into the comfortable space of our genuine friendship with this crew of awesome people.
We spent nights hangin out at the Freedom Cafe, chatting with an eclectic mix of chill locals, and people from all over the world. We sat around drinking lemon mint soda's and eating strange indian pizza. We smoked hand rolled spliff's and talked for hours listening to buddha bar cd's. We laughed and sunk down into the vibrant colored floor pillows. We sprawled out across the floor carpets and toyed with the puppy. We giggled and talked so much, it was the best of times! Sarah and I would look over at each other and just smile, subtly agreeing that we were sharing yet another fabulous, amazing, near perfect moment!
One of the nights we ran into a woman named Dolat. We giggled when she told us her name because we knew a crazy man from this very same town with the same name. Just looking into Dolat's wild eyes, scanning her tough tom boy exterior, and hearing the hard intense way she spoke, we knew she was part of the crazy Dolat club! We kicked back beers, three girls gabbing and tellling stories with vibrant, excited voices. We left our original roof bar for the Freedom Cafe, searching for a more intimate environment. Same old story at the Freedom Cafe, lounging on vibrant pillows and carpets, good people, good laughs, partying until late, staring up into the himalayan heaven canvasing the sky. Late into the evening when the Dolat's had both drank their share of Whisky they had a stupid argument with cursing and loud voices. Sarah and I sat sunken into the floor giggling at the crazy Dolat's.
In the mornings we did yoga on our porch. We shopped, once again in our favorite places. This is the town where we had bought a whole new wardrobe the first time. This visit we mostly spent our time shopping for gifts for family, and ancient, spiritual jewelery for our selves.
One day we took a hike through the village with Raj and Vinod. They took us out to this local waterfall to hang out for the afternoon. Oh, the beauty of Vashisht. Sprawled across rocks they smiled as we sang American songs. We listened intently as Raj told of his flee from the army. Raj was the owner of the Freedom Cafe. We marveled at a man younger than us, still as fun and laid back, and free as us, yet with almost all the fixins of a real adult life. He had a history in the army, he had fled and hid, and then opened his own business which was now thriving! It seemed to me that life in India forced people to really live, to make the deep, important choices that Americans avoid with our sterilized version of life and our knumbness to so much of reality. I really admired Raj and his courage. He had stayed true to himself, taking risks and chances, believing in who he was, what he believed in, and working hard to make the life he really wanted. Those are all admirable traits in my eyes.
One day we took a hike up to the Tibetan Temple way up on the hill. Climbing the steep, blossoming mountian side we shuffled our way through huge marijuana plants. At one point we caught a picture of the most precious two year old little girl eating an apple right in front of one of those huge plants. He brothers came over and insisted that we take their picture, and then the mothers picture while she was squatting and hand washing clothes. They were all so beautiful and shining!
Once up to the temple we were escorted to the roof to sit and meditate in a sacred space. This beautiful, young buddha monk sat with us. His round, child face, his maroon and yellow robes, his peaceful face were so sweet. He seemed very curious about us, these bright women coming to his temple to meditate and have a sacred moment. We couldn't communicate with one another and yet the curiosity hung in the air between all of us, thick like soup. What a divine little refuge, a peaceful temple up on a hill, looking out into god's breath!
Vashisht, our mecca! We left with a bang. It was a whirlwind of a moment. The owner of the hotel had returned. We learned that his father had died and he had been with his family dealing with all the formalities and emotions that death imposes in his community and heart. He was so sad, such a deep, good man. He spoke honest of his recent experiences. Before we knew what was going on we were walking in his garden picking apples, and some how I slipped off in one direction, and then he tried to kiss Sarah. Time sped up after that. She was comforting him, but trying not to feed into his need of her, of the bossom of a woman to heal him.
I learned something slowly during this time in India. I looked back on all my years as a young woman growing into a woman and saw a pattern. The pattern started from my life and extended into memories of conversation after conversation with women of all ages about their experiences. There is a healing, nurturing effect that a woman has on a man. There is a need for a safe place in the arms and bossom of a woman. Men are so together, so hard, so afraid to just set the bird of emotions free to fly from their hearts into the world. Something about a kind, beautiful woman can make it ok for them. I am sure there are things men do that inspire women to break free from our own constrictions in life, but at this moment that was not the lesson. This man wanted in Sarah's arms, what Sonu wanted in mine, Love, Safety, Comfort, Warmth, Kindness, Sensuality. He was so blinded in the moment of need that he hardly noticed that she was not on the same page as him. And, she was so touched by his story and the sadness that swirled around him that she didn't completely reject him, even though she didn't actually invite him into her arms either. She was kind but made her boundries clear, and then we whirled out of town. Just like that, we were on our way up to Dharmsala, the home of the Dalia Llama and the Tibeten refugee village in the himalayas.