North India 2016

Table of Contents

North India: The Enchanting Northern India Landscape.

A road trip exploration of Ladakh, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand

“India is beyond statement, for anything you say, the opposite is also true. It’s rich and poor, spiritual and material, cruel and kind, angry but peaceful, ugly and beautiful, and smart but stupid. It’s all the extremes.” – Sarah Macdonald

In my 20s, after completing three years of service in the Israeli Army, I traveled the world for nearly two years. Thus, when my son Tomer made his world trip after college graduation, I thought it could be a great experience to join him for a couple of months and tour Northern India together. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I would not miss it, as one of my mottos is: Life should be more about accumulating experiences than possessions.

New Delhi and Jama Masjid Mosque

We landed in New Delhi, met Tomer, and visited the Jama Masjid Mosque, the biggest in India, holding 25,000 people. It’s nice to be in a place of worship, especially on a Ramadan day. The high temperature and humidity put additional strain on the Mosque’s fasting worshipers; I felt it energetically, or was I projecting? Yet people were friendly and in very high spirits. Danna was in high demand for group photos and a critique of her drawing skills.

We are flying to Leh in Ladakh early tomorrow to start our Himalayan adventure.


Travel Route: Leh – Thiksey Monastery – Shey Palace – Khardung La Pass – Nubra Valley – Diskit Monastery – Sumur Monastery – Leh

Leh: Meditating on Buddha’s wisdom

When I sat yesterday facing the Buddha sculpture, I was reminded that I had a choice to make. It’s not uncommon to negotiate a deal with an Indian merchant when they tell you what you want to hear but will deliver only what they can.

When it happened, and it did yesterday morning, never mind the small details, I felt annoyed, upset, disappointed, angry – you get the picture. I’m sure many of you have had it, too, and on a side note: similar situations and such feelings are not exclusive to India.

The Buddha reminded me that dwelling in these kinds of emotions is an act of self-inflicted suffering. So, the question is, how does one move on?

First, I need to develop an awareness of the situation; then, I need to formulate a well-planned course of action with a detailed execution; only then do I get back to a place of equanimity.

It might sound simple; the problem is that I only sometimes remember because I am just human. My goal is to improve, which I do. It’s all about progress, not perfection.

Thiksey Monastery

The monastery is renowned for its impressive architecture that resembles the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. It consists of multiple levels and buildings featuring traditional Tibetan-style architecture with vibrant colors, ornate artwork, and prayer flags fluttering in the wind. The main assembly hall houses a large statue of Maitreya Buddha, which is one of the main attractions.

Shey Palace

Shey Palace was built in the 17th century by King Deldan Namgyal as the summer retreat for the royal family of Ladakh. It served as the capital of Ladakh until the royal family moved to Leh. Today, Shey Palace is primarily known for its historical and architectural value.

Khardung La Pass

The Nubra road zigzags up a bare-rock mountain to the highest motorable pass in the world – Khardung La Pass, and down to Nubra Valley. Khardung La Pass’ elevation is 18,380 feet (5,602 m). The scenery of the high desert is awe-inspiring. The road construction has been in progress for the last 20 years and is still in progress, yet its conditions have worsened, said Tashi, our driver. A lot of the deterioration is due to climate change. Fifteen years ago, the snow covering the Khardung La Pass extended, even in the summer, all the way down to Leh, but that’s no longer the case.

I often think about the Buddha’s last words: “Be a light to yourselves, seek no other, and never give up.”

These are the memorable words of Buddha: “Believe not because an old book is produced as an authority. Believe not because your father said [you should] believe the same. Believe not because other people like you believe it. Test everything, try everything, and then believe it, and if you find it for the good of many, give it to all.” And with these words, the Master passed away.

The colors are vivid, dominated by orange, gold, and burgundy. Buddhist art evolved over the centuries, but it’s not evident to a layman’s eye, like mine. It’s a testament to the power of tradition and consistency.

The Nubra River and Sachin Glacier

The Nubra River descends from the heavily disputed area of Sachin Glacier, the world’s highest battleground between India and Pakistan. Thus, seeing many military truck convoys along the roads, checkpoints, and military bases is unsurprising.

Diskit Monastery

Apart from its religious significance, Diskit Monastery offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Nubra Valley, surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Many visitors come to enjoy the scenic beauty and find solace in the tranquil environment.

Sumur Monastery

Buddhist painting scrolls, also known as thangkas, are highly significant and revered art forms. Their display at Sumur Monastery was mesmerizing. These scrolls are painted on fabric or paper and depict various Buddhist deities, scenes from Buddhist scriptures, mandalas, and other sacred symbols.

Thangkas play a vital role in Buddhist practice, offering a visual representation of the enlightened qualities and teachings of Buddhism. They serve as sources of inspiration, objects of devotion and aid in meditation and spiritual contemplation. The intricate artistry and profound symbolism of thangkas make them significant cultural treasures within Buddhist traditions.

Travel Route: Leh – Hemis Monastery – Tso Moriri Lake – Korzok – Pang – Nakila La Pass

Hemis Monastery

We visited Hemis Monastery while monks were rehearsing for an upcoming festival.

Hemis Monastery is highly revered by the local community and Buddhist followers. It serves as the main seat of the Drukpa lineage in Ladakh and houses a large community of monks. The monastery is known for its deep-rooted spiritual traditions and is considered a vital center for the preservation of Tibetan Buddhist culture.

“At times, we will be asked to let go of things that we have always wanted to keep for ourselves, or things that we would never have thought that we would have to let go of, such as the loss of a loved one or the betrayal of a dear friend. A tree never hesitates to shake off her leaves during fall, and so we must take another lesson given to us by nature: let go when it is time. Although such losses can be difficult and painful, rise above this suffering. Focus within your mind, the image of the lotus prospering above the mud. We are the lotus; rise above.” – Forrest Curran, Purple Buddha Project: Purple Book of Self-Love

Indus River – On the road to Tso Moriri Lake

Tso Moriri Lake and Korzok

Tibetan Prayer Flags are hungover mountain passes and rivers to spread the Buddhist mantras by the wind. All beings touched by the wind passing the prayer flags are uplifted and a little happier. We encountered some at this footbridge near Mahe just after saying farewell to the Indus River, heading to Tso Moriri.

If your definition of luxury has nothing to do with worldly comforts and if you don’t fuss about almost anything, Ladakh will welcome you with open arms and offer all the luxuries of nature there are. I could wish for a better company than my beloveds.

Korzok is Tso MoririLake’s only settlement. Staying at a Ladakhi simple homestay-guesthouse was by far the most authentic experience we have had so far. Tomer called it the most badass place he had visited on his journey.

On the road from Korzok to Peng

I love all the variety of nature’s glory, but my favorite is the desert. The endless uninterrupted horizon line makes me feel connected to something much bigger, and I choose to call it God. This landscape’s mix and ever-changing colors conjure abstract paintings, and I get obsessed with capturing them all into my memory bank.

The Lonely Planet description of the route between Leh to Manali is as follows: “Utterly beautiful but exhaustingly spine-jangling, this is a ride you won’t forget. The Upshi-Keylong section crosses four passes over 4900m, and then there’s the infamously unpredictable Rohtang La Pass before Manali.”

“It is better to travel well than to arrive.” – Buddha

“There is no path to happiness: happiness is the path.” – Buddha

Tashi taught Tomer some basic words in both Ladakhi and Hindi. The class never stopped, and the student was making small conversations with mostly everyone he could.

Travel Route: Nakila La Pass – Jispa – Keylong – Rohtang La Pass – Manali – Dharamshala

On the road from Peng to Jispa through Nakila La Pass

Jispa is a small village located in the Lahaul Valley of Himachal Pradesh, India. It is situated along the banks of the Bhaga River, which is a tributary of the Chenab River. Jispa is approximately 20 kilometers north of Keylong, the administrative center of the Lahaul and Spiti districts.

Jispa is a picturesque village surrounded by stunning mountain ranges and offers breathtaking views of the Himalayas. It is a popular stopover for travelers and trekkers who are exploring the region or en route to Leh in Ladakh. The village is known for its serene and tranquil atmosphere, making it an ideal destination for nature lovers and those seeking a peaceful retreat amidst the mountains.

Dancing on top Rohtang La Pass

The roads are always under construction. It’s fascinating to watch the labor-intensive methods. And to note that the traffic never stops due to construction – I can’t see that ever happening in the USA; the road would be closed until it’s all completed.

On top of the Rohtang La Pass, we danced to the end of time.

Indian road signs are playful, catchy, snappy, and pointed. The road from Leh to Manali is 18 hrs of switchbacks over five mountain passes, so most road signs focus on one issue, safe – driving. As we climbed the Rohtang La, the landscape became greener and greener. 

Some of the great post signs:

  • Enemies of the road-liquor, speed & load
  • Drive on horsepower, not on rum power
  • If you speed, your family won’t sleep
  • Make love, not war, but nothing while driving
  • Keep your nerves on sharp curves
  • Don’t gossip; let him drive
  • Driving risky after whisky
  • Alert today, alive tomorrow


Manali is a popular hill station and tourist destination nestled in the lap of the mighty Himalayas.

Old Manali is a restful village, a short distance from the main town. Its laid-back and bohemian atmosphere attracts young travelers, many of whom are Israelis. They are on a rite of passage.

India’s democracy is alive and kicking, take a glimpse at the English language newspaper headlines, and you get the picture.

The Construction Site in Dharamshala

The construction site scene is fascinating in so many ways: first, it’s visually stunning, then I think about: the construction method, the women’s role, the carrying technique, and the cost of labor versus machinery. And if I start feeling sorry for them, I want to remember what Tashi, our driver, said to us in a different but similar context: “It’s a job!” He meant that there is pride and appreciation in having a job – any job.

Journey with Geshe Lhakdor: Exploring Buddhism and Tibetan Culture in Dharamshala

Geshe Lhakdor was my teacher for the last ten days in Dharamshala. He is a top Buddhist scholar whom the Dalai Lama in-trusted with the Tibetan in-exile most critical mission: preserving, disseminating, and continuing their unique culture. The audience was thirty-five university students from all over India; they were intelligent and curious. Seeing and listening to their minds in action is pure joy. Geshe Lhakdor handled us with grace and wisdom. It was a change of pace from the intensive sightseeing phase to a more introspective and scholarly experience. I am grateful for the enrichment and in-depth understanding of Buddhism.

Heavy rainstorms of 30 minutes to an hour are daily occurrences, after which the air feels like it has been cleansed from the smog and pollution. The misty clouds are low and sometimes below our hotel balcony at the top of McLeod Ganj Hill. The temperature is 70 to 80f, and the humidity is high.


Travel Route: Amritsar – Chandigarh – Kalka – Shimla


Amritsar is one of those Indian cities that can challenge all your senses. It is messy, polluted, dirty, and in constant unfinished construction. It is hot and humid, like in a steam bath. The traffic is crazy and unruly. The ocean of people in and around the Golden Temple challenges the notion of ‘personal space.’ Regardless, the border crossing ceremony and the Golden Temple were magnificent.

The Border Crossing Ceremony

Every day around 5 pm, the border between India and Pakistan closes. The border crossing ceremony is elaborate and festive – marching soldiers who look like proud peacocks waving their body parts most theatrically. On both sides, the thousands of people who gather to see it are a scene onto themselves. The Indian side was the best party in town. Some call it the “most ridiculous ceremony,” to which I say: if all conflicts end in this kind of ceremony, I’ll take “ridiculous” every day.

The Golden Temple

The Golden Temple is made of gold, which makes it a visual treat, especially at night. It is magnetizing to be with the thousands of people who made the pilgrimage – an energy of devotion. Sikhism’s main principle is equality for all people, thus contrasting Hinduism’s daunting Caste System.


Designed from the ground up in the 1950s by the Swiss architect Le Corbusier, Chandigarh has spacious streets, public parks, and a lake. The concrete color is dominant. Overall, I found the visual look of the city dull.

Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh design looks like it was imported and plunked down into India; the concrete buildings, wide-lane streets, and parks bore no relationship to the country around them. The city plan discouraged mixed-income neighborhoods and street bazaars, both vital to the character of Indian towns. Chandigarh has streets and open spaces, but it has no life.

The Rock Garden

The Rock Garden is a surreal sculpture complex made to look and feel like a lost fantastical kingdom. The garden was constructed with materials from fifty villages that had to be destroyed to build the modern city. It is one of those crazy art installations that made me think differently about trash.



Shimla is a picturesque, touristy, and former summer capital of British India, filled with pedestrian-only streets.

We arrived at Shimla by train, starting the beautiful ride at Kalka. It’s sometimes referred to as a toy train because of the narrow gauge railway. It opened in 1906, and the technical achievement of constructing this railway is impressive.

The Vice Regal Lodge, the British Viceroy’s residence, is open to visitors. Seeing the room where some partition negotiations took place between Gandhi, Nehru, and Jinnah filled my imagination and historical curiosity.

No trip to India can pass without getting sick at some point. At Shimla, I had my moment. I took it easy and charged my battery for the Kinnaur – Spiti Valley Loop.

Three animals, cows, dogs, and monkeys, are roaming uninterrupted anywhere in India. They always seem to be so content. No one bothers them; they do what they want, and the dogs barely bark. On one of our car rides, we faced a cow strolling unhurriedly on our lane; our driver proclaimed with a good laugh: “I love my India.”

Travel Route: Shimla – Kinnaur District – Rampur – Sangla – Chitkul – Kalpa – Nako – Tabo

Kinnaur District and Rampur

When I look at India’s maps in the Lonely Planet book, I wonder how the landscape looks between our departure and destination points. There are endless strings of human habitation in India along roads and train rails. Remnants of civilization are everywhere, and of course, the occasional obstacle or reminders of the holy – cows. And why should I wonder? This is India, which 1.4 billion people call home. In a few days, we will reach Kinnaur with a higher elevation, 3000m and above, where I expect to see nothing but sky and earth.

Kinnaur lies in the Western Himalayas and the Indian State of Himachal Pradesh. The green scenery is breathtaking. The road is hair-raising, and there are apple orchards all around. Local Kinnauris wear green felt Basheri hats named after their local king. Tibetan proximity is visible in its influence on dress, architecture, and language. It is common to find images of the Buddha and other Buddhist deities side-by-side with Hindu Gods.

We stopped for a quick prayer for a good journey and offered a donation to the goddess Kali. Her skin color is black. She is known for her powers to destroy ego and sin.

A Road Mudslide

Mudslides are everyday events on these roads. When we encountered one, we waited with all the others until a few rocks were pushed aside, and some brave drivers plunged forward. Kuldep, our driver, was one of the first ones. It was a colorful sight; the green-covered mountains were a backdrop to many artistically decorated trucks.

The many dogs that lay around seem relaxed and timid during the daytime. Yet, at night, they bark to no end. I asked our driver if he heard the barking, and he said no. I, on the other hand, wake up a few times every night to their barking sound. It reminded me of long night walks years ago when I was a soldier in the Israeli Army. Why do dogs bark? It might be fear, guarding instincts, or a call of longing.

Sangla, Chitkul and Kalpa

In India, when it comes to colors, more is much better. You can see it in many ways: the colorful women’s saris, the decorative trucks, the bright exterior house colors, and the temples. The colors brighten up everything, including my mood.  

The distance from Chitkul Village to Tibet is 40 km, but no civilians are allowed to cross into China. I wonder how many are doing it without permission? Two elderly gentlemen told us that the road had reached the village in 1966 and electricity only in 1979. The first white person they ever saw was an American hunter who came to the Chitkul with one porter when they were in the 5th grade (1959). They clearly remember this event with great excitement.

Indian people sometimes ask me, “What is your good name?” I wonder about the origin of this expression. Regardless, I think it is a most gracious way to ask someone not only for their name but for their “good name.”

The mountain covered by mist behind Kalpa is regarded as the mythical home of Lord Shiva. It’s called Kinnaur Kailash

Hindustan – Tibet Road

The famous Hindustan – Tibet Road is an unending sequence of plunging landscapes. The Lonely Planet called it ‘one of Asia’s great and most challenging road trips.’ Initially constructed in the 19th century by the British to connect India and Tibet. Yet the road is still unfinished. It’s a challenge for me to stop my head’s critical voice about the road’s unfinished state. I am deeply grateful when my observer-self sees my noisy brain criticizing the road’s incomplete conditions and tells it gently to quiet down. It reminds me to return to the present moment, which will never happen again. Besides, the road’s scenery is fantastic!

Our driver’s name is Kuldep, which sounds like Cool-Deep. He is very protective of us, and I like it. It takes excellent driving skills and a lot of experience to maneuver a car on these Himalayan roads the way Kuldep does. This is a sequence of photos showing how he managed to pass two slow-moving trucks.


A magical place, Nako is a medieval village 3662 meters (12,014 feet) above sea level. The houses are made of stone and mud brick. But I think the traditional-style houses may soon disappear with all the new construction activity.

Near the village is Nako Lake, a crystal-clear blue waters, surrounded by willow and poplar trees.

“Reality as you see it, as most people see it is nothing more than an illusion. There is another reality behind what we see with our eyes. You have to feel your way into that reality with your heart. There is no other way.” From Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Tabo Monastery

The green, moist lush was beautiful, but the emptiness of the high desert is my calling.

Tabo Monastery was founded in 996 CE. It’s the oldest continuously operating monastic complexes in the Himalayas and holds immense historical, cultural, and religious importance.

In recognition of its historical and cultural significance, Tabo Monastery was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010.

Travel Route: Tabo – Dhankar – Kaza – Langza – Hikkim – Komic – Ki Monastery – Kibber – Mudd

Dhankar Monastery 

Dhankar Monastery is perched precariously on a rocky cliff overlooking the confluence of the Spiti and Pin Rivers. The monastery, believed to be over a thousand years old, is a prominent spiritual center of the Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

At the top of the hill, we found a great spot to meditate.

On the road from Dhankar to Kaza

Kaza, the capital of Spiti Valley

The word “Spiti” means the “middle country” – a name given for its location between India and Tibet. Spiti Valley is a high-altitude desert, bare, rugged, and inhospitable. It has been only about 20 years since foreigners were allowed permits to visit Spiti Valley. The government allocates priorities and allows significant subsidies to the Valley. As is often the case, locals are ambivalent about the changes. On the one hand, they desire to advance their life; on the other hand, they want to maintain their environment and old-style way of life. In his novel “Kim,” Rudyard Kipling called Spiti Valley: “A world within a world and a place where the Gods live.”

Langza, Hikkim, and Komic

Three small villages, Langza, Hikkim, and Komic, are situated over 4000m in altitude. It’s an image of a desolated beauty; indeed, the villages have been in practical isolation for centuries. They are a cluster of whitewashed mud-brick homes amid barley and green pea fields. Spiti Valley has had an introverted culture, and life has remained focused around several monasteries.

Ki Monastery

We arrived at Ki Monastery on a special day and had front-row seats at a world-renowned festival performance, to which photographers worldwide make specific plans to attend. The costumes and the festive spirit were fantastic. I admit that next to the heavy-duty cameras, I had a momentary feeling of inadequacy in a crowd of professional photographers since I was using a phone’s camera only, but I let it go.

The repetition of the mantra “om mani padme hum” (translated as “Behold the Jewel is in the Lotus”) is said to bring good fortune and wash away all sins.

With his friendly personality and big giggly smile, Tomer often draws conversations with locals. Their eyes are always delighted when he converses with them in their language – Hindi; he diligently accumulates new words daily. He is often being offered to share a local tobacco smoke – a beedi with chara (weed). Indians are friendly and often ask us for selfies; they enjoy practicing English.

The question is not whether one believes in God or not. All one can do is either to know God or not.


We arrived at a place I call: Shaanti on top of the world.

Mudd is the most remote place we have reached on our Kinnaur/Spiti loop.

Kuldep, our driver, told us a few days ago that last year a landslide blocked the road for a month while he was at Mudd. He had to walk 30 km to pass the landslide sections to reach the main road, where he caught a bus. His car was in the village until the road re-opened a few months later. On the drive, he kept pointing out the sections that were blocked by the landslide. I could sense his concerns, but it took me a few moments to realize the depth of his fears. This was a traumatic experience for him.

Moreover, it turned out this was the first time he had driven on this road since the landslide. I felt a deep admiration for his courage. Upon reaching Mudd and seeing the beauty around, I decided it would be a “crime” not to stay and take in some of the beauty. We agreed that Kuldep would drive back to Kaza and pick us up in a few days. God willing, there won’t be any landslides.

As we walked up Pin Valley from Mudd towards the connecting pass with Parvati Valley, the tilted shape of the rock layers all around us was evident. The Indian sub-continent is pushing towards the bigger part of the earth we call Asia. This Sisyphus push that has been going for millions of years is how the Himalayan mountain range came into being. Over the years, other natural forces, such as wind and water, added their imprint on the scenery.

The Spiti River’s white, gray, and purple ribbon colors run along the road like a companion.

Travel Route: Mudd – Losar – Kunzum La Pass – Chandratal Lake – Lahaul Valley – Manali

On the Road to Losar

The people of Spiti Valley are incredibly hospitable and friendly. We have often been invited to share a cup of tea, a meal, and smoke on our walks. But the most animated conversations we experience are with fellow Israelis, young or not so young. Tomer enjoys practicing his Hebrew. The percentage of Israeli travelers in this region, among the total number of international tourists, is probably 80%. It’s a wonder; how a country of 7-8 million people has so many travelers in one remote Himalayas region.

It is rare to have electricity during the day in Spiti Valley; at most, it’s sporadic. At around 8 pm, the backup generators will kick in, and electricity will be on for a few hours.

Hot water is another tricky issue; if there is no electricity, there is no hot water. Thus, my new criteria for choosing a place to stay are whether a solar panel and a heated water tank are installed.

Wi-Fi is unavailable, but a trench is being dug for a 4G line along the roads. Hence, one hopes that an internet connection will arrive at Spiti Valley soon.

Kunzum La Pass 

At 4580m elevation, Kunzum La Pass connects Spiti Valley with Lahaul Valley. On the pass, vehicles perform a respectful circuit of the stupas.

The name “Kunzum” holds a special meaning derived from the Tibetan language. “Kun” translates to “ten,” while “zum” refers to “gems.” This nomenclature is attributed to the pass being encircled by ten majestic peaks, each considered a gem in its own right.

Another well-known designation for Kunzum Pass is the “Gateway to Spiti.” This is due to its strategic position as the primary entry point into the captivating Spiti Valley.

Hiking to Chandratal Lake

Chandratal Lake is a clear blue glacial body of water at 4270m elevation, surrounded by 6000m and higher snow peaks. We hiked to the lake from Kunzum La Pass. At the beginning of the walk, I was impressed by the landscape and the flowers’ dominant pink color. Later, the unexpected pouring rain shifted my focus on arriving at some cover. We took the liberty to enter a shepherd’s shelter, the host was absent, but we made ourselves comfortable.

On the Road to Manali through Lahaul Valley

Lahaul Valley is a high-altitude desert valley between Rohtang Pass and Baralacha Pass. It is characterized by its barren and arid landscape, with vast stretches of rocky terrain and sparse vegetation. The region experiences frigid winters with heavy snowfall, while summers are relatively mild.

The valley is inhabited by the indigenous people of Lahaul and Spiti, who primarily belong to the Tibetan-Buddhist community.

Lahaul Valley was historically cut off from the rest of the country during winter months due to heavy snowfall and the closure of mountain passes. However, with the construction of the Atal Tunnel, which connects Manali to Lahaul Valley, the region has become accessible year-round.

Travel Route: Manali – Parvati Valley – Tosh – Rishikesh

Parvati Valley – Tosh Village

We parted ways with our driver, Kuldep, after sixteen days together. The plan was to separate our ways in Kasol, but I did not like its vibe. So, we kept driving for another hour to the end of a dirt road and reached Tosh village. We took a short walk up the hill, where we found a guesthouse we liked. Tosh is one of those places with no marking on the map, nor had I heard about it before. We ended up discovering by simply arriving. Saying goodbye to Kuldep, our driver and protector, filled me with anxiety. I had to remind myself to stay in the flow.

A nearby landslide sent tons of debris downstream a canyon the following day, prompting Tomer and his fellow hikers to run away from the gushing water. On the other hand, I was sitting on the guesthouse balcony, watching the day passing by. I looked at the green forest, the white clouds, the progress of the construction site below, the mules going up and down the hill with loads, and the hotel owner, sitting just below my balcony chain-smoking chara (weed) all day long.



It’s early morning, and our room window is merely a few feet from the Ganges River, a fast-moving stream and strong current. Across the river are the towering, famous Rishikesh Temples and Ashrams situated amidst a green jungle. On the riverbank, a few men are bathing in the water.

The Lonely Planet calls Rishikesh “The yoga capital of the world” because of its many yoga studios.   Rishikesh is a spiritual center that became famous when the Beatles first visited in the 60s.

Classical Hatha yoga is the most common style practiced in all 15 classes I attended in different yoga centers. It is the most ancient and traditional form of yoga practice. No usage of props is encouraged. The young and flexible instructors expect everyone to follow. In Los Angeles, yoga practitioners have numerous kinds of yoga styles to choose from. Teachers tend to develop their unique teaching style, often creative and free of old dogmas. I have been blessed to practice with a few of them.

My reading recommendations

The Hungry Tide, by Amitav Ghosh

The Shadow Lines, by Amitav Ghosh

White Tiger, by Arvind Adiga

Between the Assassinations: A Novel in Stories, by Aravind Adiga

Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri

Life of Pi, by Yann Martel

The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy

The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing, by Tarquin Hall

The Case of the Missing Servant, by Tarquin Hall

The Storyteller’s Secret, by Sejal Badani

A History of India, by Michael H. Fisher, The Great Courses

The Story of Indian Business: The East India Company, The World’s Most Powerful Corporation, by Tirthankar Roy

Holy Cow!, An Indian Adventure, by Sarah Macdonald

The Bhagavad Gita, by Eknath Easwaran

The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana, by Vatsyayana

Age of Vice, by Deepti Kapoor

Midnight’s Furies, The Deadly Legacy of India’s Partition, by Nisid Hajari

The Great Derangement, Climate Change and the Unthinkable, by Amitav Ghosh

Honor, by Thirty Umrigar

Inglorious Empire, by Shashi Taroor

Empireland, by  Sathnam Sanghera