I was watching a funky looking Indian Santa Clause shake his fake balloon belly on the dance floor when it hit me. It was my weirdest Christmas ever. While all my friends and family were enjoying turkey and opening gifts in America, I was spending my Christmas in Rishikesh, India.
It all started out as a pretty traditional Christmas Eve. My yoga ashram, Rishikesh Yog Peeth, decorated the courtyard with Christmas lights, played classic Christmas music for us and lit a nice bond fire. They even had a small Christmas tree set up. It was a really lovely start to the holiday weekend.
Unexpected visit from a friend
My phone rang and it was Kirti. He surprised me with an unexpected visit and I was delighted to spend Christmas weekend with someone special. I wouldn’t be alone after all! We wasted no time heading out on the town to find some festivities. Someone told me that Anaa’s Café was having a nice Christmas celebration so we climbed into a taxi to go check it out.
Anna’s Café had a nice buffet of Indian food set out for the crowd. Downstairs they had live music playing. One guy was playing a harmonium while the other played a hand drum. A harmonium looks like a little tiny piano with an according style squeeze box on the front. They sounded great and the crowd was really into it. Afterward we headed up to the dance floor where things got weird. A guy with a creepy looking Santa Clause mask entertained us with some rather odd dance moves. He was so funny that I couldn’t stop laughing. When he was done we all took to the dance floor and danced the night away to trance music. It was a great mix of Indians and foreigners and the crowd was a lot fun.
The next day we woke up early and headed to the German Bakery where I had a delicious cappuccino and lemon pancakes. I was already tired of healthy vegetarian food so I was looking forward to a day of indulgence, and indulge I did! As we paid the bill at the register I was entertained by the sad little Christmas tree they had. It looked like they were trying to decorate it with balloons. Apparently balloons are a common Christmas decoration in India. After that I got my hair done. It was the only day off I had from yoga school and I desperately needed it, so Christmas Day or not, it was time for a salon visit.
Next we did a little shopping and Kirti surprised me with the only Christmas gift I received this year. He bought me a yoga mat in a colorful handmade shoulder bag! I love it and I really needed one of my own. After shopping things got weird again. We ended up having Bhang, which is a traditional part of Indian festivities. Basically it’s a marijuana milkshake that is supposed to provide enlightenment. I didn’t receive any messages from a higher power but I certainly enjoyed it anyway!
While we drank our Bhang, and relished in its effects, we met a guy named Chow who had a didgeridoo. A digeridoo is an Australian aboriginal instrument and Chow played it perfectly. I also found a hula hoop and was thrilled to see that now that my abs are getting firmer I can actually hula hoop quite well! While I was doing that I felt something wet on my face and looked up. Dark grey clouds were rolling in and it started to rain! Soon the rain was mixed with thunder and lightning and it was a full on Christmas day monsoon (but out of season). Inches of cold muddy water started rushing through the streets and everybody had to run for cover.
Kirti and I were soaking wet and very cold, so we waited out the storm inside a tattoo parlor. That is when I talked Kirti into letting me buy him his very first tattoo for a Christmas gift! He chose a script on his right wrist that means “The road less traveled.” It turned out beautifully and he only cried a little bit (just kidding). When we were done at the tattoo parlor Kirti had to head for the bus stop for home so we said our goodbyes. I went back to my room at the ashram and called my family. It was so good to hear their voices and wish them a very Merry Christmas. One thing is for sure, it was a Christmas I will never forget.