Prudence played half a century ago, crouching out of depression from sister Mia’s hut to stretch out where the gurgling river bent. This is where the hippies of the swinging sixties drew deep breaths from their long chillums and, with it, a deeper breath of an even more addictive substance called India. Rishikesh was a god-crafted destination to present Hindu mysticism in all its flourish and flounder. The flower children discovered the Indian exotica for the rest of the world around mid-century. And their soul-progenies continue to horde this religious town of antiquity where the mighty Ganga is about to reach the plains.
It’s just before the auspicious month of Saawan, the month of Shiva. The monsoon breeze has turned heavy, in spurts it pours down. When the skies open up, it is in brilliant blues. The sun is sharp, it burns exposed skin. But it’s the humidity that chokes you. No sooner, Ganga brings along a huge waft of cool breeze, much-needed relief to sweaty skins. Then, the skies break out torrentially on cue. My neighbour, a bewildered Austrian yoga instructor, who has to reach the ‘ashram’ before the arati, asks me how long the rain could last. We are sitting at the German Bakery Café on the edge of the river along the Tapovan side of town, in front of us, the slightly swingy Lakshman Jhula—about a meter-wide suspension bridge that connects village Jonk to the east. From this vantage view, we see the metaphor for what has become of our republic today unfold.