Rishikesh is not the road through, nor the town nor its people.
It lies beyond the Ganga a little way upstream of Laxmanjoola a little way beyond Ramjoola and along a well worn sandy path in between, that is where you see the place you came to find, but still that is not it.
What most people come to Rishikesh to discover isn't in the Ashrams, or in the company of Babas or Yoga instructors or in the encyclopaedic tomes in the bookshops or along the folds of the ever-smooth white beaches clothing the Ganga’s sides.
It cannot be found in the occupied gufas, or behind the broad canopy of the summer waterfall in the jungle above Phool Chatti or amidst the company of unseen elephants, or hidden in the whispered stories about the occasional visits of a nocturnal tiger.
It is not to be found in the gasping rush of the Ganga herself, nor on the blue rafts amongst the shouts of frozen Delhi-ites on her surface.
The rising smell of a thousand goats filling the street in the moonlight doesn't contain it and endlessly barking dogs in the darkness leave it entirely undisturbed.
Myriad trees blanketing the slopes of the foothills don’t begin to ensnare it and the various paraphernalia in glass cabinets can’t extract it.
The macaques can’t steal it and the langurs….well, the langurs get very close but even they can’t embody it.
A tidal wave of pilgrims en route to Neelkanth can’t move it and the amulets and gems in all the government shops can’t control it.
What is sought and what is surely there to be found, beyond and yet surrounding and permeating all these facets, is a subtle but unmistakable sense of ease, a gentleness, a calm like that felt in a mother’s embrace that lends itself to introspection, solitude, quiet, contemplation ….that lends itself to silence and potential.
It is not the only place like this, there are others, hard to find and even harder to notice.
Matthew, June 2013