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Circle in a Circle

INDIA | Tuesday, 2 August 2016 | Views [678]

Mount Shiva under rain cloud

Mount Shiva under rain cloud

It is already hot and humid by the time we are welcomed into the thoughtfully designed grounds of The Ashok Tree shortly after 9.30am. Looking round the circular layout to our left we see the small school with three operational classrooms at present, and a fourth nearing completion. Beyond that, two small double story buildings each provide eight ensuite guest rooms. Next comes the yoga suite, followed by a cross-shaped shrine complex and finally the kitchen, large covered patio, medical room and the office. Building work is in progress and work is being completed in proportion to the availability of funds. In the centre of all of this are the well-tended gardens including a medicine garden. Further afield there are trees, many of which are palms, swaying against a backdrop of surrounding hills and mountains. The effect is more or less a small circular enclave situated within a larger circular one. Very pleasant, very remote!

Our upstairs rooms are clean, airy and light and it doesn't take long to unpack the limited luggage I have allowed myself. A good proportion of the items I have brought are to leave here and therefore any shopping will not be limited by space! The front balcony faces the most important mountain here, Mt Shiva and I am told that no matter how hot the climate is all around it, the top is always uncannily cold. The rear balcony overlooks farmland and with hills to the side, appears to channel the welcome wind straight through our door and window screens. 

I love the clean, practical simplicity of my room, more than I had perhaps dared to hope for, and doubtless luxury by some comparison, but in no way an ostentatious segregation. I'm not entirely sure what I expected to find, here or anywhere else. I think I just presumed that it would be as we found it and any adjustments to deal with that would come from within rather than from without. I am reminded of Kenya, of Thailand and of some place still waiting to be discovered. At this point I cannot hear the rhythm of India and until I do, I accept that I may well be dancing out of step.  

We are taken on a tour of the grounds and I'm pleased to recognise papaya, mango and guava trees as well as various herb bushes and lemongrass all growing organically alongside other plants I don't know. Being able to identify a few things does, I have always found, alleviate the strangeness of a totally new place. Pankaj is rather surprised that I'm able to name several herbs, vegetables and dishes in Hindi, thanks to my treasured Indian cookbook.

Sometime after 7pm we go across the gardens to the patio dining area where we are given dosa (not dissimilar to a crepe) served with a pulse soup, coconut chutney and a peanut one too. Thoughtfully, yoghurt is added to ease the foreigners unaccustomed tastebuds! I'm happy that the spiciness is in fact due to meaningful amounts of ginger to help our digestive system. The food is absolutely wonderful and two weeks of Ayurvedic vegetarianism is a happy prospect.  

Dark clouds have been steadily gathering since the afternoon and almost certainly there will be rain tonight. Despite the fatigue, by 1am I am fully awake and listening to a storm in full force. Thunder reverberates around the hills and rain thrashes the dry, end-of-summer land. The night noises I had tried to identify earlier - lizards with their unexpected chirruping, crickets humming, and other sounds I did not recognise, are no longer audible as the storm gives us the benefit of a fairly majestic welcome.

After the storm had subsided but still long before daylight the neighbouring goats start bleating, soon followed by cows lowing, not to be outdone the Indian Miner birds squawking noisily. India is not a quiet place, and sleeping with doors and windows open means you are going to get up close and personal to whatever is going on.

Tags: ashok tree, food, india, medicine garden, retreat, school, yoga


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