We 2Gs set off today toward Rishikesh, but never made it far from Tapovan. I learned more secret alleyways and shortcuts, finally arriving at the much quieter, much more narrow, Laxman Jhula Bridge, less than 1.5km from the ashram through slim passages that still served as thoroughfare for too-fast scooters, immovable cattle, and both wandering dogs and people. This is a much more enjoyable route toward Rishikesh, as it is on the northeast side of the Ganges, with less people in parts, meaning slightly less traffic noise and dust. On the route down to the bridge, we discovered some cute cafes with overlooks of the river's bend and a Sai Satya Baba ashram. Some sort of parade celebration passes by, all saffrons and crimson that matched the vivid clanging of bells and drums. I thought it might be wedding, but the centerpiece of honor standing upright in his jeep said it was not, when I asked. At the entrance to the Bridge, Hanuman the Monkey God -- embodied in a petite man -- called us over with a monkey screech and a command, and although I knew he would demand money after the rites, he offered his blessing while tying a thread bracelet round and round our wrists. I cannot say no to a Monkey God, whether Sun Wukong of the Chinese lore or Hanuman of Hindu origin, me being a Monkey sign myself--especially when the Monkey God himself calls to me! This red-faced character held my gaze with his chants, unblinking and convincing. I was happy to fork over his fee of rupees.
Crossing the suspension bridge, of which the steel parts were painted the tri-colors of the Indian national flag, we immediately found a chai vendor. "Must have chai" has become my version of the zombie mantra, "Brainssssss".
Our original plan was to find a coffee/tea spot and spend a few hours writing and chatting. After a few hours looking in shops, buying colorful items we wanted but perhaps did not need but were to inexpensive to pass up, we found a lovely outdoor cafe along a noisy creek that offered the type of respite that only sunshine mixed with shade and the soothing sounds of flowing water can offer after walking along busy streets overflowing with human noise. Well, it also offered truffles. The 2Gs are both writers and we mused about our years of writing, the habitual enjoyment that we both wished to turn into a professional endeavor, and the varying themes of our work. It was a lovely afternoon spent sharing confidences and laughter and life stories to accompany chapatis and dahl and kofta.
Oh, and yes, and the truffles.