‘It is called Jal neti'. He said. ‘This is a yoga procedure in which your “shwas” (breath) and nasal passage gets cleared, your eyes become brighter and eyesight stronger. It has a cooling effect on the brain and is very helpful for migraine, depression and mental tensions.’
He placed the snout of a brass kettle he was holding to one of his nostrils and tilting the head to one side poured water into it. I watched in fascination the stream of water squirting out from another nostril.
‘I know jal neti. But could never muster enough courage to experiment with it.’ I replied. Next moment he fished out a rubber catheter from his cloth bag and inserted it through one nostril. He kept pushing it (to my horror, I must admit) and then drew it out from his mouth.
‘See this?’ he said proudly. ‘This is ‘Sutra neti’. Extremely beneficial for sore throats, chronic cough, adenoids and tonsillitis and all the eye and ear related disorders. It is also effective in harmonizing emotional behaviour.’
I looked at his green- grey eyes, which had turned slightly red rimmed, due to the “netis”
‘Wonderful. You seem to have mastered these difficult procedures.’ I saw a tiny smear of blood on the catheter as he pulled it out.
‘Still practicing. I pushed it a bit faster this time.’ He pointed at the smear of blood and picking up the neti pot poured water on the catheter. The pink smear disappeared in the muddy ground below our feet.
‘Living in India, it’s a pity you never tried it.’ He said wiping the tube with a tissue.
‘We live too close to these philosophies. It’s the distance that provides the mysterious charm.’ I replied.
We had got up from the large boulder near the river, and were walking on the steep path that led to the tree-lined road ahead.
‘India is such a spiritual country with amazing treasures of ancient medicinal remedies. Yoga has helped me a lot in finding my peaceful centre.’ He spoke dreamily.
‘You are lucky. I am still trying to find my peaceful centre.’ Perhaps I spoke more wistfully than I was feeling, because he looked at me again.
‘Do you believe in spirituality?’ He asked.
‘As long as it doesn't take me away from my hedonistic pursuits… I am shamelessly self indulgent." I said.
His attention was caught by the Langoors occupying the branches of the dense Aadu and Guava trees. He began to click pictures.
The Langoors were quite used to enjoying impartial attentions from foreigners and I actually thought they were preening when the camera flashed. Perhaps a female Langoor twirled her hair lock and tried a coquettish smile at him.
He was one of those thousands of backpackers who flock to India in search of fun, travel, mysticism, spirituality (whatever) Indian culture, bright colours, yoga, gurus and basically just for experiencing this fascinating multicultural country.
It is a common sight to see them roam the dirty by lanes of Rishikesh, McLeod Gunj, and other Uttarakhand/Himachal towns often on bare feet. Eventually they go back to their organized life back home, taking back the pictures of poor kids, emaciated beggars, filthy slums, beautiful garments, historical monuments, and memories of heat, mosquitoes and pestering hawkers.
He was from New Orleans and had come to learn yoga at one of the Ashrams in Rishikesh. To be a yoga teacher was the dominant drive behind his passion for learning.
‘Shall I take a picture of you’ He turned away from clicking the pictures of Langoors.
‘You talk of me in the same breath as that of Langoors. ’ I tried to joke. He guffawed. Roaring American laughter. For brief seconds he was the person back home; shorn of the spirituality, yoga , netis and India hang-up.
‘No. You look very different from these Langoors. That is why.’ He aimed the camera at me.