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Day 31 of The Candid Odyssey

We are in a spiritual mode now. Our journey has turned into a pilgrimage recently. No wonder why Uttarakhand is called Devbhoomi, the Land of Gods! The Ganges, sages, and the places, all awaken the spirituality within ourselves. Like a transformation that happens within ourselves. Wait, is it self-realization? Hmm, that depends. It's subjective. We can't measure it, we can't confirm it. It's a vague term that can be interpreted any way we want. For me, self-realization is nothing but knowing ourselves deeply. And it happens as incremental improvements over ourselves that result from frequent self-reflections. So, self-realization is a pursuit. A pursuit towards a better character. We can navigate that pursuit by having mindfulness over our actions, words, and intentions, and reflecting on it regularly. That's it. Okay, now it's time to navigate to our next stop, Haridwar. It's just a 1-hour bus ride from Rishikesh. Goodbye, Rishikesh :)

Haridwar is almost similar to Rishikesh. Temples, ashrams, sages, and of course, the mighty Ganges River. All the same. Oh by the way, the colder weather we experienced in the Himalayas is now a thing of the past, because we are back to the hot weather. It actually slows down our engine, I mean legs :). But we must not stop. That grit motivates us to keep exploring. And that leads us to places like Shishmahal Ram Mandir. A mirror palace and temple with lots of statues and idols with mirror pieces all around. It's fantastic because of the artistic detailing that goes into these sculptures and because of the 360-degree reflections. Reflections always add up the beauty, isn't it? Whether it's in water, sound, or even a mirror, it holds true in most cases. So is life. Whether it is the self-reflections or how we reflect ourselves to others, both showcase our elegance and add up our beauty. Similar sculptures and idols can also be seen at the Bharat Mata Temple. But it's very different compared to a normal temple. The building is more like an apartment complex because of the 7-floor vertical structure, it considers freedom fighters and popular figures as idols and serves the purpose of a museum. Interesting combination, huh? Yes, that's why the temple is also filled with many tourists. But when it comes to Ashrams like the Saptrishi Ashram, it's extremely quiet. We can get inside and walk around such ashrams. A lot of things are happening there every time like cleaning, prayer, inventory management, education sessions, and much more. But while all these things are happening, we could even hear the sound of the leaves falling from the tree we are sitting under. That much is the silence in the ashram. Silence is a skill that needs to be developed, not a gap that needs to be filled. Appreciate silence, peace will be ours!

Not all ashrams are the same though. The ambiance at Shantikunj Gayatri Parivar is totally different. Here it's filled up with loud devotional music prayers, crowded guests, and noisy chit chats. It feels so lively. As we get deep inside the ashram, we can see that it's like a complete town built inside. The roads, residential buildings, schools, shops, auditoriums, museums, gardens, farming, water harvesting systems, and all other facilities inside the ashram reflect that. What's more interesting to us is the free food. It's like a religious offering, not like a dinner. There is also an acupressure walkway, with medicinal plants on both sides. It's a walkway with small, raised, surfaces to stimulate the acupressure points on the feet. Walking over that path feels relaxing, tickling, and painful, all at the same time. But it's fun, in a different special way :)

As we get outside the ashram, we come back to our ordinary world. And when we walk alongside the road, we find a small street food stall managed by a very young couple, I guess around 18 or so. It's a small shop with a couple chairs, no specific kitchen, and the entire thing is covered with some sheets! There wasn't anyone else eating there. Safety? Don't even think about it. What leads us to that shop is them. That hard-working couple. They treat us with utmost respect and love. I am sure we won't get that genuine care from any luxurious restaurants. Their cooperation, dedication, empathy, and love are unparalleled. Not just towards us or the work, but towards each other. I wish it stays the same throughout their lives. And I also wish that such lives be an inspiration to many. Where there is empathy, there is love, and where there is love, there is paradise. Lucky you and me, we are in paradise tonight :)

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