Day 5: Kalna-Matiari
A Happy of our Own
So is it just me or would you expect “Yoga for Beginners” to be a series of gentle stretches and poses? Given the fact that we managed to get ourselves up and ready to join the Sunrise Yoga class at 6:30 a.m., we were not amused (the Royal we of course) when we got there on time, and class was already started.
I thought for sure I must be on the wrong deck when I saw a small group of our fellow travelers gasping for breath as they followed the instructor through a series of vigorous jumping jacks and other calisthenics. We got there just in time for the abdominal crunches, and I made a mental note to never do yoga in India again. The instructor eventually led us through some pretzel-like poses and stretches, but at that point, I was more focused on the aroma of freshly fried bacon wafting up from the dining room below. The instructor ended class with a graceful “Namaste” which I’m thinking roughly translates to “Yoga my ass. This is boot camp.”
After breakfast, we disembarked at the outskirts of the village of Kalna for a short rickshaw ride to see several temples. I scoured the group of drivers hoping to find our trusty Raul, thinking he may have flown here from Delhi just so my happy could be his happy again, but no. Instead we found a much older man who spoke no English. His rickshaw had long seen better days, and it wasn’t even equipped with an Indian seatbelt like Raul’s.
Our driver was first in line, and we were pleased to think we’d get a great view as leaders of the pack, as it were. He struggled a bit with the first incline but so did others, and people from our tour company helped push the rickshaws up the slight hill. I didn’t think anything about it as the first three or four rickshaws passed us by, but I started having my doubts when our driver stopped pedaling completely and got off to walk the bicycle even on a flat surface. The parade of rickshaws continued on, until there we were, dead last and still not at the end point. At that point, he stopped completely and took a little rest break. It was clear that he was struggling, and when he rubbed his knee with a pained look on his face, I knew it wasn’t just that he partied too much the night before. He eventually crossed the finish line without us having to swim back on our own, and we wanted to give him a tip (in addition to what the tour already gave as a gratuity) for his hard efforts and bad knee. John checked his pocket, and in a spasm of generosity, gave him all the Indian change he had. It wasn’t till we checked the currency converter that we realized that we gave him a whopping 8 cents USD to give him a head start toward his inevitable knee surgery.
The temple tour in Kalna actually did knock our temple booties off. The Rajbari complex boasts the largest concentration and variety of temples in the region, all built in the 18th century. Sumil regaled us with stories of deities and religious philosophies, and we were fascinated by the terracotta plaques depicting themes of Hindu deities and daily life.
The stroll through the village of Kalna proved to be another big hit with us. While the sights were not always pleasant, the colors and vibrancy of this village marketplace gave new depth to our understanding of daily life in rural India—fresh fish cut into smaller pieces displayed in pooled blood, freshly skinned goats hanging outdoors on hooks with organs still intact, rainbows of fresh fruits and vegetables spread out on rugs, pungent turmeric, curry powder, and chilis filling the air with intense aroma.
Our Social Hour took a twist this evening and took place outside on the Sun Deck instead of the usual Governor’s Lounge venue. It didn’t take long at all for the high energy Indian music to lure a couple of the guests to the dance floor. The big surprise though was when about ten members of the apparently straight ship crew took to the floor dancing with each other, singing out to Indian lyrics none of us understood, and pointing and thrusting like latter day John Travoltas. Their joy was contagious, and they soon began pulling up guests from the audience to join them like it was the most natural thing in the world for a group of guys to do. Eventually, John, Eileen, Cindy and I gave into the pressure, and it did my heart good to see John finally find kindred spirits with other devotees of the Point In Every Direction School of Dance.
Every day here seems to hold some surprise or mystery, and we’re so grateful to have this opportunity. We smile and wave at children and families on the shores of the Ganges as we float by, basking in our own happy, even without Raul.