Graduation today. Great fire ceremony and very personalized, perhaps the best graduation I have ever attended. The female faculty and students dressed in saris and the male faculty in white. But I did not graduate. The head of the school and I made an arrangement that I would continue to take the classes I wanted and skip the rest on the condition I wouldn’t get certified. Initially, I did not want attend the ceremony for the obvious reasons all of you can imagine. However, the head of the school prevailed upon me and I attended to support my fellow students and pay tribute to the faculty. But I won’t lie and say it wasn’t uncomfortable. Each student’s name was called and each who received the certificate was congratulated by each of the faculty. Of course, there was the photo op with the certificate. I didn’t know how my situation was going to be handled. I really hoped for no spectacle. Anyway, they handled it well. They called my name at the end, wreathed me with flowers and we had the photo op. I made light of the situation by holding up an imaginary certificate and that was that. My family promised they’d make a certificate for me when I got home. That will be nice.
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After an early lunch of nachos and banana porridge, I walked to the top of a popular 13-story temple, called Kailesh Niketan. I had admired the temple since I arrived and decided on my last full day in Rishikesh to walk to the top. After removing my shoes at the entrance and making an “as you wish” donation, I ascended. As you go up, there are bells to ring. At plenty of enclaves, you can go clothes and jewelry shopping and stop and visit your favorite god. It is an admirable amalgamation of commerce and religion. I decided to stop in and say hi to my favorite god and was delighted that a gentleman took an interest in me as soon as I entered. He grabbed some flowers and put them in my hair and prayed for me and the only thing I understood was “Shanti” (peace). How nice. He then sprinkled shredded flowers in my hair. How nice. As I turned to leave, he asked for a donation. For the prayer and the shredded up flowers, I thought a few rupees, but I was wrong. After I gave him 10 times as much as originally had and he was still perturbed, I headed for the top and got some outstanding photographs of the Ganges.
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My wife will not allow me back in the house with cow-dunged shoes, so I set off for Rishikesh City to find some new ones. It was hard to find my size, but after going into 5 or 6 shops I succeeded. I’ll pitch the soiled pair in Dubai and come home with pristine shoes.
Rather than take a rickshaw taxi back from the market, I walked and savored the whole experience. Walking is really my meditative practice. I took one last look at the shops and restaurants, the merchants, the street vendors, the beggars, the motorcyclists crossing the bridge, the chanting from the ashrams, the people sleeping in doorways, and lights sprinkled high on a mountaintop. Here, I realized that I had found my mode of meditation and it was called walking. I walked into the hotel just in time to say goodbye to some of my classmates. They’ll be staying a few more days, and tomorrow there off somewhere for a hike. It is always hard saying goodbye to people you’ve spent so much time with.
Tomorrow, Delhi. I’ll spend my final day or so in India with a guy I met at Lifetime Fitness and then it’s back to the states.