Monday March 12
We flew out of the Delhi smog on a very old Air India prop plane, headed north. Spectacular sights of the Himalayan foothills and the peaks beyond. After a week of cloud and rain in Kullu, the skies were clear and we were able to land at the new Bunthar airport, deep in the valley (where pilots can only land visually due to no radar). Clark’s sister Leslie, her daughter Nandi, and our dear friends Ellen and Sneh were there to greet us, waving on the other side of the glass doors as we collected our bags. Sneh and I couldn’t stop the tears given the many years it’s been since we’ve seen each other. Our taxi driver from the town of Kullu was almost blocked from leaving the airport due to protesting local cab drivers whose union prohibits other taxis from picking up passengers there.Eventually we make our way to our hotel, the Apple Valley, a beautiful cluster of cottages in Mohal, right on the banks of the Vyas River. Our room is comfortable and clean with a bed that could sleep six. The last time I was here, I bathed from a bucket after heating water in a strange contraption – and here we have a tub and shower with a big water heater. We settled in quickly and headed for breakfast at a table in the garden just above the river where I was able to indulge in a long-awaited paratha stuffed with potato. Blair had puri with bhaji (veg) and loved it. We are here visiting family and friends who follow a teacher by the name of Swami Shyam who is now 88 and has headed the International Meditation Institute since the early 1970s. Still in good health, he leads “satsang” for two hours every day. To make it in time, as we are expected there for our welcome, we taxied to the village of Kullu to see the new meditation hall with glass walls and ceilings, where I see many faces I recognize from 1988. Swami Shyam arrives and immediately asks Leslie to greet us and invite others of her choice to come up to the front and do the same from a seat beside Swami.. Finally, we are called one by one and Blair comes to the realization that he too will have to say something up there in front of the microphone! He does so confidently and the stress of speaking before 100+ strangers is over. We have a lunch al fresco at Valentino’s, a new Italian (!!) restaurant and later disperse. Ellen guides the three of us on a beautiful 2-hour walk from Kullu, up the quiet road to Badah and beyond through the hills and back to the Apple Vally where we meet up again with waves of jet lag. Leslie prepared 12 of us a delicious dinner and we laughed until we couldn’t stay awake any longer. We slept like babes.