When I thirst, may I not suffer
When I hunger, may I not suffer
When I itch (when she’s a bitch), may I not suffer
When I suffer, may I remember the breath
May my suffering be brief
When my suffering continues, may I remember the breath
When the mind wanders, may I not suffer
When there is pain, may I not suffer
When ill, may I not suffer
When I suffer, take care to observe and forgive the expressions or repressions
When relief comes, may I not suffer
When the pleasure is so brief, may I not suffer
When I long for more, may I not suffer
When the door closes, may I not suffer
When I suffer, remember the breath
Breath is the link between worlds
What does this mean? There is a world in reach, we all agree
Turn my attention to something within,
………..there is a world there
Turn my attention to the surface of the skin,
………..there are sensations
For these sensations, may I not suffer
And when I suffer, may it be brief
Consider that we all have an “I” within, and allow the words to wash over and through.
Italics – thoughts / internal dialogue / poetry
Square brackets – [action]
Quotes – “words spoken” or “referencing”
// – an aside
How do we suffer? Much I have learned from sitting in Vipassana retreats and from the words of S.N. Goenka. He shared that suffering comes in two forms, both related to the sensations on the body:
There is pleasant sensation. Oh great! How wonderful 🙂 easy breathing, expressions of “haaaahhhhhhh.”
Oh no, it’s gone! Oh please come back!
Pleasant sensation returns. “Haaaaahhhhhhh..hmm….yaaa….” Please last longer.
So these two things: wanting the pleasant sensation to come, or wanting it to last longer. These two things relate to craving.
There is an unpleasant sensation. Ah f*ck
Please go away, Leave me in peace.
Time to express this and spread it everywhere! [Bang bang!] [Making loud noises.] Hey did you just touch me!? “Get out of my way!”
So when these unpleasant sensations come we may react and become hostile in thoughts, speech, and/or actions.
We may want the unpleasant sensation to stop and never come again, and so there is aversion.
Keep it Simple There is craving and aversion, and these relate to suffering. We suffer by our reactions, our relationship to these sensations and to the world outside of our self.
The two shores of bliss
“Ignorance is bliss” → a common expression; that’s one shore.
Example: there is an ant biting the heel of my foot, but my heel is so thick I have no idea. There’s no need to suffer for it, and so if bliss exists then it continues. A person is said to be ignorant because the person just doesn’t know.
Enlightenment is bliss → I suppose that is the other shore. I’m not sure that I’ve ever touched it, so I don’t actually know.
In between we can imagine a river. Awareness allows us to step from the shore of ignorance and begin swimming in the river.
How to stay alive in the river? A friend once shared “Whatever happens, just keep breathing”. I apply these words when it is unclear how to be in the moment, or if I begin to feel too much inside or there is too much extreme outside.
To me, this word is what links the two:
When I thirst; and
May I not suffer
In Vipassana we are taught one way how the breath can be our ally. We begin observing the breath. Close the mouth, and breath in through the nose, breath out through the nose. Does the breath pass through the left nostril? The right nostril? Both simultaneously?
“If it is the left nostril, then it is the left nostril. If it is the right nostril then it is the right nostril. If it is both then it is both. Just observe.” – Loosely quoted from Goenka’s words.
I thirst. So I thirst, this body is experiencing a craving for water, or something to quench the thirst. Maybe I am reacting to this. So I am reacting. If that is what is happening, then that is what is happening. If I am suffering because of this reaction, maybe I am judging myself for being reactive to a feeling of thirst, then I am suffering. So come out of the suffering. It’s like entering a room. Turn around, come back one step. Come back to the reaction, remember that I am experiencing thirst, that I’ve reacted, that I am now suffering, perhaps due to a judgement.
Jump back to the sensation. To this feeling of thirst. Observe it. In the present moment of observing, the reaction and whatever else happened becomes a part of the past. Like the left nostril, or right nostril, or both, this is what happened. It happened, it is passed, maybe it is still happening, whatever, come back to the sensation.
How is it for me?
People sometimes ask me if my mind still wanders in meditation. They see me sitting for one hour without changing my position, depending when they watch it may seem that I never move a muscle, and sometimes for one hour this is true actually. They may begin to wonder How come I can’t do that, orHow can he do that?. Is it what he eats? Does he do yoga? Blah blah blah. ← → haha, actually that’s just me being reactive to the curious mind of others’… 😛
Whatever happens, I come back to the sensation. The mind wanders. That’s what it does. I’ve been practicing acceptance of this, and Goenka’s words have helped greatly here. Seeing that the mind wanders, and accepting that this is what the mind does, and smilingly returning to the sensation of the breath or sensation on the body.
The meditation can become more difficult when I begin thinking things like: The pain has been here a long time, I want it to go away. It gets easier when I begin thinking things like: The pain has been here a long time, I’m going to concentrate on it and see what else is happening around it and maybe even find the center point. The curious mind makes things easier.
Being equanimous is having neither craving nor aversion.
Become aware, then be equanimous with what I have become aware of.
The solution is always to become equanimous. Even when I become aware that I have a craving for something else, or an aversion to what is happening, still become equanimous to that craving or aversion. That will allow me to approach being equanimous with what I originally became aware of.
See how the same solution can be applied to remove the reactions and aversions? It’s the [insert equanimous action] solution. A little more depth: the action isn’t [to remove the reactions and aversion or craving]. Seemingly, this action will not carry the desired result. The desired result is that the reactions and aversion or craving are removed. This is done by applying the equanimous action solution.
Acceptance and tolerance and curiosity are versions of this equanimous action.
What equanimous actions do you use? Please share among the ‘Comments’ below.
May all beings be happy
May all being continue being happy
May all beings dwell in the ‘continuum of happiness’
Deep within the experience of a pro-bono visit to the Shri Shaktidarshan Yogashram, Ganesh Kamath finds a peaceful space. More than ‘finding’ this peaceful space, he is lead there by a guide called upon by the Guruji Devababa. Following several morning rituals and a brief yog(a) session, this woman leads the way forward, and foreshadows the meeting of another woman who ‘does not eat’. Unlike the scare stories perhaps told during your childhood, this woman living in nature is not to be mistaken as one who ‘does not bite’, but instead, the meaning here is that she literally doesn’t eat food.
Nestled within a small prayer room within a small home within a wide and sprawling landscape: this is where she resides. Upon entering and touring the home an observation is made that there is an active kitchen, and our guests are even offered prasad. But let us throw this aside, since whether or not she eats is not actually the crux of this story. Picking it back up for a moment, it is interesting to note what is told by the people and what we each observe while moving through the experience. This points to what is important: the internal experience of those present. Upon entering the house, Ganesh felt an internal call, or a natural inclination to enter into meditation. He closed his eyes and instantly found himself within a state of mental quiet.
After leaving the house, and in discussion with his cousin Sri Ram, Ganesh confirms his belief that it is something about the space and not only himself which accounts for the mental silence. Without any mention on his side, Ganesh is told about Sri Ram’s experience and that he too felt this action or inaction of the “thoughts stopped coming.”
What then could it be about this space? About this woman? About what the woman is doing in the space?
Presumably, she is engaged in rituals and meditation throughout her days. One belief may be that by behaving in such a way she gives off a vibration that tunes the environment to this same ritualistic and meditative energy. Imagine the water turning red with a drop of blood, or your clothes staining yellow with the touch of turmeric. Now take this same image and expand it through time, through the accumulation of years of persistent application; whether red or yellow, the colour surely deepens. … Or you became distracted and forgot what you were doing… hocus focus 😉
Ushering in rationale, with no need for food there would be very little need of activity. With moments few and far between of action or spoken word a very quiet atmosphere would simply exist. What is surprising, regardless of how this atmosphere is created, is the experiential fact that this quiet penetrated into the mental awareness of both cousins.
Then again, have a friend mimic the ‘pssssssss’ sound of waterfalls and you’ll soon find yourself with an urge to pee…
So, there is something special about this place → wonderful!
Will it be special for you? Will you be invited to venture into this home? Who is to say? Who knows?
Perhaps you’d like to know some more about the ashram itself…
The ashram itself…
Far from the expected.
This may be the most appropriate description based on Ganesh’s account of the story, and my recount.
Let us begin with your expectation of an ashram. Think to yourself for a moment, or experience in whatever way is relevant to you, maybe through a feeling, or imagery, maybe a memory, or perhaps a sound, or touch, or taste, or speech, or. What does an ashram mean to you?
..some time passes
Now I’ll continue telling the story.
Our pair of travellers, Ganesh and Sri Ram, arrived at the ashram in the afternoon. Neither of them had access to mobile internet, and without specific knowledge of its location, it was a small journey getting to the site itself. Luckily a mechanic was found on the way who gladly diverted his time and attention to provide some guidance to the pair. He even went as far as leaving his shop to re-join the travellers when they were clearly still lost a short distance down the road at the next shop. As saving grace, the travellers were instructed to go to the next shop, so it was not as though they were completely oblivious, nor terrible with directions.
Once on site, Ganesh and Sri Ram found the Guruji Devababa busily occupied with other visitors and without the need to divert his attention to the newcomers. Further to this, none of the staff made for a hospitable move to include them or show them the way to their own comfort. Left to their own devices, the pair sat idle in waiting. After some time, the program coordinator welcomed them and brought them to the refreshments, thereafter giving a key and access to their own room.
As background to the story, Sri Ram is a university assistant professor and so were many of the participants at this overnight retreat. The retreat was organized by one of these professors who was a regular attendee over the past decade or so. This professor-coordinator and his wife were both present, and it was this wife who was mentioned at the beginning of this story.
In their room
It was heartwarming to hear of how the cousins were able to spend much time with each other during this retreat. Often in the story, Ganesh told of how the two went from one place to their room, from their room to somewhere, and then back to the room. Each time when returning to the room they had something of interest to discuss, or if not something interesting then at least they had something odd to talk about.
What’s up with this food?
What’s up with the 10-minute yoga session?
Should we stay or should we go?
So the food… The first night everyone was gathered for dinner, and all was displayed in front of them. Sitting in a garden dedicated to the Navagraha (9 planets), the Guruji Devababa said ‘before eating let us enjoy some time,’ and he invited whoever was willing to share in song, dance, joke, or other means of celebration. Someone sang a prayer or mantra. Then jokes were shared. Now take a moment to remember the suggestion that this was not an ashram as expected, and indeed the tone was far from a ‘serious and in-tune with the quiet within’ sort of setting.
…and really.. why not? Is it only for the rowdy and reckless people to enjoy musical expressions and humorous stories? I am reminded of the warm summer nights of Canada (where I come from) where people go wild with huge outdoor bonfires.
Want to hear a joke?
A man was owning an Enfield “Bullet” motorbike. When he got married his wife requested that he change in the Bullet for a scooter. He obliged. After a few months, he sold that scooter and again bought a Bullet.
… if you didn’t ‘get’ the joke, as was the case for me, ask a married man and he can explain…
When the food was served…
Following the establishment of a convivial and friendly social atmosphere, the food was served. The food was a combination of what visitors had brought to share and what was provided by the people of the ashram. The dinner itself was by donation (included for the registrants of the retreat) and the style of how to donate was to bring something to share, rather than by contributing with money. Many people bought sweets like ladoo or chocolate cake. These treats made up the first round of food, followed by typical dinner items like rice and curry.
The following day was a light and simple breakfast, and there was fresh juice made throughout the day. So here we see a mix of healthy food and space made for the joys of eating for pleasure.
After dinner came a round of meditation, and the participants were given a simple instruction, though with much depth depending on how it was received. The Guruji Devababa invited others to ‘listen to the sound of nature ambiances and imagine that it is inside you, and meditate’. From Ganesh’s experience, there was nothing more offered. No step-by-step instructions or frequent guidance and directions. A simple invitation to imagine the reality in a different-than-usual way and meditate. One feature of this I’ll personally mention is that it can facilitate the internal guide to come forward. Almost like being invited into a room and being given a puzzle to solve. One might not know immediately how to proceed, but after some time the small steps may become clear, and one might recognize that actually all the skills and ability that they require are available within.
This isn’t exactly what happened to our travelling duo. After a few minutes of silence, Ganesh took a glance around to observe the room, space, and other participants. He was met with the staring eyes of his cousin Sri Ram. A few head nods and it was understood that both were fine with ending the meditation there and returning to their room. “Let’s go?”, “Chalo”.
Back to the room
Again, the opportunity to connect on a personal level presented itself, and indeed they only chose to sleep as the night pressed on because of the need to be up early for the yog(a) session.
What yog session?
The next morning was a mess of mismatched timing. Ganesh and Sri Ram were ready and punctual for the class, but they were the only ones. No yog(a) teacher, no Guruji Devababa, not even any other participants. Some workers were active in their duties within the cowshed, and while walking back to their room the pair noticed a woman preparing for her day. When asked about the yog(a) class she responded curtly saying something like: “the facilities are available, what you know you practice.” In a way this can be seen as a refreshing idea. It removes the onus from the ‘other’ and back to the individual. So even though the participants are here for a yog(a) retreat, they need not rely on the punctuality of instructors and the motivation of someone else telling them what to do. Here is a space, do what you know.
However, and again, this was not what the pair chose to do. It seems they needed this motivation, and so after returning to their room and talking for some time, they were provided with exactly this little push. A different woman came and said the class was starting.
In some ways, timing is everything. Arriving at the class they were greeted by the yog(a) instructor and within the first 10 minutes of practice an interruption came as it was announced that a ritual was starting that needed to be attended. Class dismissed! Yogashram…what yog? My thinking here is: Well, if someone was keen and began practicing at the scheduled time, then when the instructor came there could be significant progress made into deepening the experience in those 10 minutes.
We all have our own style, and we are each rewarded in kind for this.
At a glance
Perhaps the real purpose of this journey was not about learning specific techniques for meditation or yog. Perhaps it was more about experiencing a quiet and peaceful environment, about exploring the journey and about seeing oneself and how they are at this time. It may be worthwhile for each and every one of us to take the time in reflection to notice how we are in various situations. How are you when the instructor is late? What thoughts come to mind? And most of all, how are you when you become aware of these thoughts? What happens in your body? What happens in your mind?
As an aside…
It was a remarkable observation that there was an utter lack of mosquitoes on the property. Not a single one was observed. Yet, there were the typical attractants for mosquitoes. People for one. Also: cow sheds. Furthermore, the practice of spreading cow dung water was taking place on the land, which, I am told, is common place in many village communities and often attracts mosquitoes as well.
Little seedlings of ideas come to mind that perhaps such an energy exists that repels mosquitoes like the light repels darkness.
Moving toward the practical, the pair had observed that several lemon and turmeric plants were living on the property. One could go deep into the research of whether or not these plants do or do not repel mosquitoes, and if they do, how effective they are. For this article, suffice it to say that the mosquitoes were noticeably absent, it was surprising to the guests, and the cause for this convenience was not exactly known.
Incidentally, what do you personally do when meditating and these airborne water-born creatures come to visit? One might call them pests, from a human-nuisance perspective. One might equally call them aids in meditation. For one, they increase one’s personal resolve to stay seated in meditation, invigorating the motivation of winning a challenge. They can also be seen as experts in applying acupuncture, and showing the meditator a sensation on a tiny tiny tiny little spot on the surface of the body. In one instance within my own personal experience, a mosquito found the place on my foot that matched the organ depicted in reflexology where I was experiencing some discomfort in that moment. Who is to say that some higher intelligence is or is not at play?
Mosquitoes, like all living creatures, have an undeniable role in the diversity of this planet. Without them, there would be one less drop in the ocean, so to speak.
Again I’ll pose the question: what do you personally do when meditating and mosquitoes visit your body?
Here’s an invitation to take a moment and contribute to the ‘comments’ section, which is like free advertisement and spreading the story by word of mouth through internet activity. After all, the intention of this article is a way to promote this ashram and a way for Ganesh to give back with what resources he has available: his time and me and my stay as an author through WorkAway.
On the 2nd day there was another meditation session, this time with something more substantial coming from the Guruji Devababa. First was the practice of Kapalbhati breathing as a way to prepare for meditation. No one was encouraged to compete with the Guruji Devababa, nor to follow in exact form as he proceeded to do 100 consecutive breathes, which for anyone who has tried without substantial practice earned over an extended period of time, you’ll know, 100 is a lot. Some guidance was then offered about concentrating on the breathe, and then a musical accompaniment began. The Guruji Devababa played the flute along with a recorded tanpura. Halfway through the meditation the flute ended and the recording continued while participants sat in silence. The whole session was about one and a half hours.
One of the participants attempted to lead the class toward Satsang rather than practicing meditation, claiming that none of them knew how to meditate and that their time might be better utilized receiving discourse. However, in response to this, the Guruji Devababa asserted that “we teach meditation here, this is what we do”. Self-empowerment and standing in one’s power.
After the meditation session the people were offered a break with some fresh juice. Returning to the ashram a lying down Yoga nidra session commenced. It seemed that this was similar to a Vipassana-style scanning of the body, though perhaps with more suggestion of what to experience and feel as sensation, such as: “feel the electric pulse”, or “imagine you are floating on the sea”. In contrast to Vipassana, where the aim is to see things as they are, this guidance offered a way to relax and be at ease following the meditation. Indeed, many participants were lulled into a tranquil sleep for this 30 or 45 minutes of horizontal Yoga Nidra.
A brief questions and answers time. Here the duo were able to share their experience of ‘quiet mind’. The Guruji Devababa’s response was something to the effect that it may be due to a sudden change of environment from the sights and sounds of the outdoors and conversation to a shift within the confined quiet of this small indoor space. It is for each of us to choose what version of reality we wish to see and experience.
For Ganesh, this experience with the woman in the house and the mental quiet was very significant. It has become one of only 3 places where he has felt this kind of mental stillness. The other two were a Saavira Kambada Basadi (Jain temple noted for its 1000 pillars) in Moodabidri, Karnataka which is nearby to his home and the Tulsi Ghat in Varanasi.
The rest of the events of this story are laced with practicing rituals and interacting with the cows, other participants, and taking in the familiar as well as the new experiences.
Let us cap it here, and say that if you are intrigued, consider visiting.
You may receive something quite unlike the expected.
What was it like for Sri Ram and his professor-colleagues? Maybe simply an opportunity to be distant from the ordinary, distant from the usual, from the routine, from deadlines, from pressure. Instead, for them to be close to peace, tranquility, friendliness, close to their self and to others. Perhaps an opportunity to bond as human beings, learn something new from one another and from whatever presented itself.
In 2006, I met Shiva Shankar who’s a software engineer and he’s an amazing photographer too. Later I came to know he’s a good meditator also. On weekends, many people gather in his house and they practice group meditation. We also visited Hariharapura where he meditated around an hour long with some followers and he gave me a book on Sahaj Marg Raja Yoga Meditation. I never tried to read this because that time I was more into cars, bikes, photography. But I wondered how he can meditate for hours long. I even asked him; he said he knows people who meditate for 6 hours or more in one shot!
Later my interest turned more into traveling. While traveling, I met Marius Samartean who’s from Târgu Mureș, Romania. He was also into software coding. He left his job and for 3 years continuously has been traveling like a local, hitchhiking, walking etc. He stayed in the same apartment where I stayed with my wife and kid at Belgaum, Karnataka. Early in the morning around 5 am, I saw him meditating for a long time. I was stunned to see him in that pose because he was 7 feet tall, and looked very peaceful and calm. Later, he shared his unusual travel stories and meditating experience. He introduced me to Vipassana meditation and told me how it changed his life.
After some traveling, I’ve started hosting, meeting people and also started reading books related to spirituality, yoga, meditation etc. Since 10 years or more, I have been practicing yoga to have good health. Later I found that yoga is all about preparing a body for the meditation. Then, as I got more into meditation. But I failed to meditate for more than 5 minutes. I met some yoga teachers from different parts of the world who showed me amazing yoga poses but failed to meditate properly.
Later I’ve started reading books of Osho (Shree Rajneesh) and I found him straightforward and unique. Then, instead of sitting down and trying to meditate, I’ve started observing my thoughts and emotions the whole day and started correcting them. I think that practice changed me a lot on the surface level of the mind.
I have learned some yoga from yoga guru Baba Ramdev using his television shows and also practiced some using some yoga books. Later, Zoe Larigakis from Vancouver, Canada visited us. She did 200 hour yoga teacher training with Trimurti Yoga in Dharamsala, India. On request, Zoe taught me some more yoga steps which I liked and started practicing. Rohini devarajan introduced me to Headspace, which is a guided meditation & mindfulness Android App which I’ve been following for some days.
I had so much interested in learning more about yoga and meditation by attending some courses or retreats. But, my problem was I hate groups, hate commercialization of spirituality, yoga, or meditation. My thinking is like, a truly enlightened person; love all like Jesus, Krishna, Buddha… give away things and knowledge, expecting nothing in return.
Finally, I found it…
The best things in the world are free. Money can’t buy happiness or peace of mind. I found more about a 10-day free guided Vipassana meditation course, but I was not ready for it. Because being a webmaster, internet marketer, freelancer etc, without internet connection for 10 days, was kind of an impossible idea for me.
In January 2017, I met Ranajoy Goho ,Who left his heavy-paying corporate job and started traveling like a local. His life changed after practicing vipassana meditation and now he practices every day. By talking with him I started feeling the effects of his practice. I have met many knowledgeable people; they know the right things but the greatest gap in life is the one between knowing and doing.
Finally joined the 10 days Vipassana intensive meditation Course
After meeting Marius Samartean, Ranajoy, I started feeling like there must be something in this kind of meditation practice. I found that people who are into meditation are less miserable and more peaceful. So I convinced my wife Shraddha to join me in the course. We did this course (number 391) at Dhamma Paphulla Vipassana Meditation Centre, Alur, Bengaluru (Bangalore). We went together, but we stayed away in a different area, without meeting each other for 10 days. (as per rules)
10 days of silence, without television programs, news, movies, music, internet, mobile, food which we like, away from friends, family, kids is not such an easy thing to do. With loads of rules…like no killing, no stealing, not lying, no sexual misconduct, no consumption of any intoxicants, no speaking, no eye to eye contact, no waving, no hand signals, not touching anyone, cleaning our own plates and room, staying inside the compound for 10 days like in a prison, meditating 10 hours a day, without dinner, sleeping early, waking up at 4 am every day are the things out of our comfort zone!
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone
In late March till May 2017, I traveled with my kid Shrida like a local, leaving our comfort zone [ complete Travel story ]. The experience was great, unforgettable. After that, I found this quote is for real.
Most people may think this kind of meditation is to get instant peace of mind. But, here you are kind of fighting with your mind. Vipassana means to see things as they really are! That means you have to be in the present. But, mind like to travel to the past and to future. No one else is doing anything for us. We are practicing, experiencing things and accepting things as they are. By this technique, we are actually purifying the deepest level of our unconscious mind.
Most of the people who come for this course with lots of expectations like quick relief from stress, to be happy, feel peace within, left it within 2 to 6 days because of the tremendous pain on the body and mind due to sitting down, and tired of fighting with the mind. Most people who stay till the end are people who are motivated by the evening discourses of Goenkaji who really seems to understand how this mind dances and what it exactly needs.
After 6 days, the pain goes more intense because of “Addhitthana”: 3 times 1 hour of a group sitting where you are meditating like a Buddha (without moving any part of the body). After 6 days, 60 hours of meditation, it was not a hard thing to do.
Strongest position you can be in is complete surrender
Vipassana is not another commercialized meditation center. There’s no need to take money or anything. Only important thing is, for 10 days we have to surrender…Surrender….surrender to the master/guru who is S. N. Goenka. He lives no more, but he teaches us the technique by audio and video. There are male and female teachers who will answer all doubts and questions, but most of the things are cleared by goenkaji.
What I really benefited from it
It’s too early to say but these are immediate benefits.
Traveling inside me: I have traveled around India and some countries. But by using Vipassana and Metta meditation practice I have learned how to travel inside me and experience new things, day after day!
Learned how to sit for meditation: After meditating for 100 plus hours in 10 days, I exactly learned to meditate properly. Now, meditating 1 to 2 hours a day is a cakewalk for me.
Silence: I practice Ekadashi fasting once in a month. Not to please anyone but to give rest to the machinery of the stomach. One day, I’ve fasted with a full day of silence. The next day I felt very refreshed. I always wanted to practice silence for more than a day and it is almost impossible to practice it with a family and a kid. This was the biggest thing I got from this course and I really felt very refreshed and had the happy ending.
Thank you Howe Rokofsky, Trainer & chai walla at rokofsky.com for proofreading and editing this post.
A Travel story of me and my 6 Years old son Shrida, traveling around India for 48 days long.
“Hey bhaiya!….Kya khaooge?? …..Paan khaoge? ……” This is what my 6 year old son shrida started saying after coming back from a 48 day long trip.
After UKG (Upper Kinder Garten), before going Class 1 (First grade), shrida had a 60 day vacation. So I thought it would be great to take him for an adventurous trip around India. Our main target was to see the Himalayan hill range from a distance. However, our plan was not fixed, we had no list of things to do. My main interest was to meet people, to learn new things, to see different cultures, and, well, my kid likes to ride trains, play with people, musical instruments, bicycles, etc……
How did this plan came out of me….?
Last year in May 2016, one of my cousins got married. The girl was from Gulbarga, on the north side of Karnataka. My wife Shraddha has travel sickness in the bus or plane, but she’s very comfortable in the train. As there was no direct train to Gulbarga, I decided to go slow and visit as many places as possible.
But, we ended up traveling for 40 days long, using sleeper-class train, meeting and staying with amazing people. That experience was amazing and unique for me, much more surprising than I’d expected (yet to pen it down). Thanks to such an amazing experience, I got addicted to meeting people, which I’ve started enjoying more than my old style of traveling. Which was sightseeing major places, taking pictures using DSLR, mirrorless camera and posting them on Flickr. So I thought it’s better to go for another trip and planned for this one.
Why did my wife Shraddha not join us this time?
Where is his mother? Why didn’t she come? How is traveling with you and without a mother? …. These kinds of questions were asked again and again by different people. As my wife, Shraddha was kind of tired during the last trip where she walked a lot (even though she does not like to), going from one place to another in 2 days, staying at strangers’ houses, this is not really her kind of taste. So, instead of joining our crazy trip, she preferred to stay at home and gave us her blessing to go on this journey.
How did I dare to take a 6 year old kid with me?
This was a challenging part for me. As you may know, I’ve hosted more than 100 people at home from different countries. I spent a lot of time with these people and learned many things like how to travel with less bags, how to handle situations and, more than that, I got motivated by my guests who came with 3-year-old kid from France, A couple from London who came with 2 kids around 5 years old were on world tour, a family from England who stayed with us with 2 kids around 5-6 years old and lady was around 5 months pregnant!….and many more.
Before this trip, even though my son was excited and ready for the trip, I never had that much confidence in his ability to adapt. So I decided to test him before this long trip. I took him for 10 km walk around the beach side which he completed with us in around 3 hours. I also took him for a 3 day trip without his mother to Kozhikode (Calicut, Kerala) where we stayed with a stranger, who become our friend, for 3 nights. My boy Shrida was comfortable and relaxed in both cases. So I was very clear that he can travel or stay without his mother, ready to adjust with available food and basic facilities.
What did I pack?
We started on 30th March 2017 and came back home on 17th May 2017. I packed 4 shirts, pants, 2 t-shirts, and shorts, around 5 shorts/pants and t-shirts for shrida, 1 set of winter clothes for both of us, 2 Quechua Arpenaz 25 deg C camping sleeping bag and Ultra compact microfibre bath towel by Decathlon. Other basic things like toothpaste, brush, Pills for fever, cold and for Stomach Pain, small book, pen, torch, laptop, mobile, chargers etc. I took 2 bags. One for me around 40-liter AdventureWorx laptop bag andArpenaz 10 liter Day Hiking Backpack for shrida. I used mobile internet, video and for taking pictures.
How did we travel over these 48 days?
As I’m in process of being a minimalist person, I wanted to keep my travel budget low as possible. So Rs 10,000 was my maximum spending limit for this trip. So, for long distance, we traveled using unreserved train coach (UR / General ) or Passenger Train (Pass).
The advantage was, such trains tickets are very cheap. Just cost us like Rs 80 to Rs 120 for 500 km trip. More than that, there’s no need of advance booking and we will be connected with lots of people in a train, which was a kind of added bonus for me. For short distances, we used local buses, auto rickshaws (tuk-tuk); most of the time we walked up to 3 to 5km in one shot.
where we stayed?
39 days out of 48 days of the trip, we stayed with amazing couchsurfing host all around India. 1 night in the train, 5 nights in my cousin brothers house in Ambernath which is near Mumbai and 1 night each in a hotel and in a guest house. Couchsurfing is a concept of cultural exchange and meeting people, tourist, travelers to exchange things or knowledge. In return, host allows us to stay in his house with his family or whatever accommodation or provide things possible from his side.
Hosting or staying purpose or intention might be different for each person. I’ve seen couchsurfing hosts who hosted us to know our culture, to know more about the things what I do, some hosted us because they are curious on how I travel with such a small kid, some hosted me because I’ve hosted many, some just like to meet us and listen to our travel stories…etc
For me, couchsurfing is kind of life-changing concept. I joined it in 2014, hosted and stayed with many people. I keep on learning new things from the guests I’ve hosted or from hosts with whom I’ve stayed. My lifestyle, thinking, hobbies, habits and all literally changed in past 2-3 years
What are the places we visited?
As I was traveling with 6 years old son, I preferred and tried my best to stay with a host who hosts inside his family, interest matching or with a traveler who really understands the concept very well. So, 3 months before, I started finding perfect hosts for us. Meeting people was the first thing and visiting places or sights was secondary for me.
After selecting hosts, we ended up traveling many places around India. We’ve started by going to Goa, then Hubli, Hospet, Toranagalu, Prodattur, Tirupati, Guntur, Vijayawada, Visakhapatnam, Bhubaneshwar, Kolkata, Mayapur, Siliguri, Guwahati, Varanasi, Lucknow, Bhopal, Surat, Mumbai, Arambol. The places where we stayed with the couchsurfing hosts. we also visited some interesting sights like Colva, Hampi, Ahobhilam, Tirumala, Vipparla Palli, Konduru, Tiruvuru, Marlakunta, Lambadi Tanda, Dhenkanal, Nabadwip Dham, Mirik, and Sanchi…You can read my travel reviews on TripAdvisor.
How much was my total spending?
As I said earlier, I had a maximum budget for this trip of Rs 10,000. But we ended up spending Rs 10,240, including everything. However, one of my couchsurfing guests from London contributed Rs 4,000 for this trip. Which is a very rare case on couchsurfing. So total traveling expenses came to Rs 6,240. More than that, most of my selfless couchsurfing hosts around India helped me to cut down the cost of traveling by hosting us, providing food for us, showing us or guiding us around and did many things as much as possible by them.
Our trip was very challenging but we completed it without any major problems because of incredible blessings from lots of people. I have seen amazing people in the train who provided a seat for me or for shrida. Sometimes they carried him on their lap so he could sleep for a while. All people who hosted us gave so much love and care to me and shrida.
I have learned many things from hosts and also seen some strange things like chakka (Hijra/eunuch) forcing, or even getting naked for money inside the train, a man trying to molest a young woman inside a fully packed train, smoking inside the train even though it’s not allowed, fights everyday in Kolkata streets, felt so much positive vibration around Tulsi Ghat, Varanasi, unbelievable care and love by locals in Arambol, Motherly love by some of the couchsurfing hosts and much more…
Credits: Special thanks to my friend Ranajoy Goho for motivating me to write this post. Thanks to my another good friend Cake Vivek for the title of this article. Thanks a lot for Howe Rokofsky for proofreading this article.