Last night I was transported into another dimension by way of a crowded Indian bus & tuk-tuk packed with 11 people en-route to Vrindavan.
When I arrived by foot just outside the ISKCON temple, an unexpected familiar face dressed in a t-shirt (distinct from all the orange-shawle'd Hare Krishna devotees) called to me. L, an old friend I met in Auroville, was staying <1km from the temple. After briefly visiting the temple (full of happy Hare-Krishna chanting & dancing Indians & foreigners) we walked to what would become my home in Vrindavan for the next 2 nights. It was a 2-bedroom apartment shared by 10+ travelers from America, Europe, and India alike. Everyone's funds were tight, so their sustenance was fed by free rice & gravy twice daily by the temple--supplemented by simple white bread and (local) honey. I had no sleeping pad or bag, so I spent my nights sleeping on cardboard, covered with my thin dhoti. My first day in Vrindavan, I had a long conversation with 2 men who moved to India 40 years ago. Both were born in New York, which is also where ISKCON was started by Bhaktivedānta Svāmi.
I was unexpectedly pelted in the back of the head by a fistfull of flowers.
Later that day we took part in a grand procession with hundreds (if not thousands) of Hare Krishna devotees chanting, dancing, throwing flowers petals, and passing out free fruit & water. Many times I was unexpectedly pelted in the back of the head by a fistfull of flowers. Before long, the streets were covered with flowers & plastic bags (from mineral water).
The following day I caught a train with 5 friends to Delhi, then hopped a bus north to Manali, where I greeted the Himalayan mountains for the first time.