Foreigners walking around barefeet, when I’m sure they know deep down that the majority of Indians walking around barefoot are the ones who can’t afford shoes. They seem to glide effortlessly, powered by their own sense of faux-spirituality, their drug induced zen and their heads up their own arses.
It’s not an uncommon sight. Lining up a few people back for a nice cup of chai on the street, every Indian and his dog are wearing a long sleeved button up shirt of some sort and trousers, they’re very conscious of their dress here, related to their status. And there they go, the enlightened foreigner on another plain.. Wearing only underwear and a full body sari, scruffy hair, unkempt beard, the ‘third eye’ red dot on their forehead. You catch the chai man’s eye and participate in a mutual shake of the head. Which I’m sure is English and Hindi for ‘did you catch a load of that dickhead that just walked by?’
Certain cities and states seem to be more popular for seeking enlightenment. I had the opportunity to stay in Rishikesh for a couple of weeks, which is a town famed for the Beatles stay in the late 60s with their guru, the Maharishi. Funnily enough the Ashram they stayed in is now disbanded and isn’t as big a tourist draw as you’d think. But Rishikesh is at the start of the Ganges (Ganga) and the foothills of the Himalayas, anywhere along the Ganga is a spiritual site.
Yoga, reiki, meditation, relaxation, Ayurvedic treatments are all part of the tourist to-do. In the one sentence of a conversation with a guru, a foreigner is asking for a course in meditation and then bargaining the price to ensure they don’t pay more than $8. So I’d like to reach spiritual enlightenment please, but not for more than the price of a coffee and a muffin.
Foreigners here are unable to drink the tap water. I’m sure if you spent enough time here and eased yourself in to it it would be fine, but our bodies can’t handle the micro-bacteria. It’s crystal clear water, but eating peeled fruit or salads washed in the water can also make you quite sick. So with this in mind, you’re walking down the street, which doubles as the toilet for the fifty odd cows that you pass each and everyday, locals washing pots and pans in the street, the men spitting their paan (chewing tobacco) with gun-barrel accuracy wherever they like, smashed clay chai pots anywhere and everywhere, and there they go, the enlightened barefoot foreigner.
The morale of the story? Travel insurance; All hail the Hep A, B and C injections. Also don’t be a smelly enlightened hippy with your head up your backside in India.