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 itself 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 they expected me to move over to the window. Not a chance. 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 next to me on my right wouldn’t budge. 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 15 minutes they start talking to me, the first question always being “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 friend told me that just that morning he had done headstand AND shoulderstand. These men appeared to be in their 60s, by the way…. They also made sure to tell me that they were Brahmins, the highest caste. I found it interesting, that people, always men I realized, would tell me that.
Then my friend told me that his friend (the one next to the window) 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…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. I googled his name, and to my relief, not much came up, which to me means he’s the real deal. That tells me he’s not a show biz guru or rock ‘n roll yogi. 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. After a while, my friend next to me saw the book and asked to look at it. He showed it to his friend. I never got to read another page because for the next two hours, I was grilled like a school girl before her school masters…