I'll say this for Rishikesh - it's really one place in India where a hippy can be a hippy. Every year, thousands of Western kids come to India in search of peace, enlightenment, spirituality and cool clothes, and are so often disappointed in their romantic notions. But here Flower Power is still in full flower with flowing caftans, dingly dangly rings on the fingers and bells on the toes.
Another sign of prolific hippiedom is the availability of brown rice. So far I have found no less than three restaurants that have it available on a regular basis. (My Indian friends may not recognize the significance of this for western vegetarians). So now I go to Mukti's hole-in-the-wall health food shop ("extraterrestrial mashed potatos") for my daily dose. Only yesterday, my brown rice and freshly steamed squash had some kind of flying bug in it. A dead one. I'm not sure if it's better or worse that the bug was dead when I found it.
Mukti just kind of plucked it off and handed the bowl back to me. I had to explain to him (he's been cooking for foreigners for about 20 years) that I didn't want the piece of squash the bug had died on, either. He looked puzzled as he picked out the piece and threw it away. There was no point in explaining that, by Western standards, he was meant to throw out the bug infested dish and offer a new, bug-free one. It just doesn't work that way here (unless you are in a five-star hotel - but even then, you should never ever give them the plate and let them de-bug it. All they will do is take it to the kitchen, and a few minutes later give you the same plate back, minus the bug).
Perhaps in recompense, Mukti invited me to a village wedding some 20 kms from here. A Garhwali village wedding sounded like fun, not to mention the free food. So we will take the local bus up into the hills tomorrow at the ungodly hour of 8am. It won't matter if we're a bit late - Indian weddings are an all day affair. My friend Laurie asked, "but when IS the wedding?" I said, All day. She thought I was kidding.
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