Day Sixty-Eight: Week of Happy Ganesh
"Among his many titles, Ganesh is called the God of Beginnings, for it is at the beginning of a journey, venture or life change – however great or small – this his guidance and protection is sought."
Ganesh, both in body and spirit, has been a huge theme of this past week. It began with daily letter writing on postcards featuring Ganesh’s body in different postures and environments, and then moved into spending several days at a special little place called Happy Ganesha Hall about a ten-minute walk from the apartment. Remember that women’s workshop I took a few weeks back? My new friend Anouchka who led this workshop owns this hall with her boyfriend, and it just so happened to be my favorite spot this week for reasons I’ll get into later.
In the meantime, you may remember the last few posts I’ve written about trying out different daily rituals and practices as part of this greater experiment in living. Through this process, I’ve become even more curious about how other expats have done the same and made a life for themselves out here. Like the “beginning of a journey, venture or life change” of Ganesh, seekers from faraway places have also tread the creative path of designing a life very different than the one they had before. It’s been a topic very near and dear to my heart as I’m also learning the ropes of how to embrace my inner beginner.
As such, I’ve decided to follow this curiosity further with a new series called “Experiments with Living” featuring expats from around the world designing daily rituals, practices and community in a new place. It seemed both natural and appropriate to ask Anouchka to be my very first subject, as we’ve become good friends in the last week following the women’s workshop.
Armed with super lo fi equipment – two DLSRs, one Tascam and pillows for a tripod – we set out to Happy Ganesh Hall to do our first interview with Anouchka. She just so happened to be a journalist before leaving Canada for this life in Rishikesh, where she now teaches workshops in family constellation, tantra and women’s development. The serendipity in her story mirrored my own experience in a way and left me even more curious than when I first started. The final cut will be mixed with other interviews I do while in Rishikesh, so I’m thinking some time around late February, early March. Some photos from our shoot.
I went back to Happy Ganesh Hall three more times that week for b-roll filming at a women’s workshop free intro, spontaneous get together during sunset, and again for an all-day Tantra Workshop Intensive this past Sunday. The group was a mixed bag of ten beautiful people – singles and couple with a range of tantra experience, from all parts of the world (Sweden, Middle East, Ireland, India, Canada, etc). Our friends Marcy and her husband Yodi came along at the last minute, which made my heart swing right open. The flow from 9am to 6pm had me buzzing with energy, exploring heart opening dynamics and trying out breathing with an open mouth, which unlike the closed mouth breathing of yoga encourages a totally different experience within the body. As suspected, an experience like this can only be known through experience alone – words and drawings can only go so far. I couldn’t help but try though.
In unrelated but very relevant news, the money situation has gotten a whole lot worse. It appears the government is now trying to push out propaganda/fake news about the benefits of what a credit card driven (cashless) economy will look like in the future. In reality, the day to day of this transition has hurt the poor, as they struggle to exchange their money (old currency) for new currency. The American expat who founded the amazing NGO, Ramana’s Orphanage (orphan, school, organic garden and café), had some strong thoughts on the matter and ideas on how we – foreigners included – can fight back on the issue. Not the lightest topic of convo for Saturday movie night, but she sure had the crowd listening:
A NYT article just ran shining light on the ever-worsening startling reality:
· The 500 and 1000 rupee notes ($7.40 and $14.80) made up 86% of the country’s currency before it was banned on November 9th
· Across the country, about 70,000 merchants daily are signing up for Paytm, the country’s most popular mobile payments platform
· The government has tasked banks with installing 1 million machines in stores to process credit and debit card transactions by March 2017, a highly unrealistic goal given the learning curve of switching over to a complex system
· Credit card transactions have skyrocketed to 10 million more daily
· According to a joint study by Google India and the Boston Consulting Group, about 78% of transactions in India were made in cash compared to 20% in the US