With our arms squished and our luggage bags bursting out of the rooftop, we spilled out of our taxi cab into the late afternoon where the road narrowed and then abruptly ended. After gathering our belongings, we walked them down a large flight of stairs, which led out to the Lakshman Jhula bridge, a pedestrian suspension bridge that spans the width of the River Ganga, India’s most sacred river. We toted our belongings across this crowded, one-lane bridge, saddled on its suspension cables with many red-faced macaques just waiting for the opportunity to pounce the occasional inopportune tourist for snatch-able shiny belongings or food. The emerald-turquoise water of the Ganga rushed below, carrying on her back a refreshingly chilly breeze from the river valley above. When we reached the other side of the Lakshman Jhula bridge, we were greeted by the blue-hewed Shiva statue sitting guard in the plaza, and felt a renewed aliveness with our arrival into Rishikesh, one of India’s holy cities.
Rishikesh is composed of the less-visited main city, as well as the much more attractive neighborhoods of Ram Jhula and Lakshman Jhula, respectively named after the two bridges which both cross the Ganga River. In contrast to the fume-filled traffic-ridden streets of Dehradun, where we had just finished an amazing ten day chiropractic service trip, the neighborhood of Lakshman Jhula is more or less a single narrow road with only a handful of small motorbikes and a modest amount of people and cows for the off-season month of January, but don’t be fooled! This one-lane street packs it thick with Ganga view guesthouses, clothing and item stores, dabas (local Indian food restaurants) and street food vendors boasting their scrumptious mouth-watering thali plates, and most prominently, countless yoga ashrams all just waiting to fulfill the fancies of enchanted enlightenment-seeking travelers that gravitate into Rishikesh’s orbit, coined by many as the “Yoga Capital of the World”. With numerous bookstores stacked to the ceiling containing spiritual volumes covering the totality of all religions, practices, and philosophies in all different colors and sizes, as well as a now currently abandoned ashram that the Beatles themselves once inhabited in the late 1960s, Rishikesh easily earns the title of “Spiritual Disneyland”, providing the seeker with multiple options for divine exploration.
Our little slice of Lakshman Jhula had it all, starting with an unparalleled view of the Ganga River from the rooftop of our guesthouse (appropriately named Ganga View Guesthouse). In the mornings, howling winds racing through the densely packed neighborhood buildings roused us from our sleep, which were usually followed by the clankaty-clank of feisty macaques jumping on the rooftops above scavenging for their breakfast. The much calmer black and white langurs, known as Hanuman monkeys to Indians after their monkey god of devotion, quietly perched in trees, nibbling on leaves or catching early rays of sunshine. Morning pujas (prayer rituals) were accentuated by the ringing of bells from Hindu temples, while Yoga students sent their chants of “Om” vibrating into the chilly winter air. The resident cows curiously mulled about on the street below, sticking their heads into local restaurants demanding their own shares of morning grub, while the vendor at the local fruit stand stood behind his cart slowly selling his neatly stacked pile of the biggest and juiciest pomelos this side of India. Sadhus and babas garnered with prayer beads roamed the street in their orange holy outfits or lounged by the banks of the Ganga, while Indians on spiritual pilgrimages bathed in the holy flowing waters nearby to cleanse their past and present karmas. Next door to our guesthouse, we frequented the hip Little Buddha Cafe, bustling with international spiritual seekers sharing philosophical conversations whilst dining on Israeli shakshuka or sipping delicious fruit smoothies to the endless groove of smooth beats playing overhead. Most importantly, on our little strip of Lakshman Jhula stood the best chai walla in all of Rishikesh. Chai is part of the morning ritual in India, and our little section of Lakshman Jhula was no exception. The wafting aroma of masala chai, filling the nostrils with spicy hints of ginger and cardamom, made it nearly impossible to walk by our chai stall without sitting down for multiple cups of this hot and zingy Indian beverage. A small cup of hot chai in the hands equals a reason to have a conversation with anyone about anything, and that’s exactly how we serendipitously met John Siddique and his lovely wife Abha on a fine crisp morning at our local chai stand.
India has a mystical way of manifesting what you are actively or subliminally seeking, and when John overheard us talking amongst ourselves about chiropractic, he turned to us and introduced himself. John lives in England, and is an author, poet, and spiritual teacher, and hosts an impressingly inspiring website, Authentic Living. John informed us that he had been actively looking for someone in the healing arts to help him with pain in his back, and it was as if we chiropractors had just magically appeared out of the ether for him that morning at the chai stand. Coincidentally, we had just been talking fervently about putting our hands to work in Rishikesh, especially after just coming off our last chiropractic service trip in Dehradun. We also experienced the feeling that John Siddique had magically appeared out of the ether that morning at the chai stand, and thus, Ganga View Rooftop Chiropractic Clinic was born, with John as the very first patient, and Abha coming in for care shortly thereafter.
Situated on the roof of our guesthouse, Ganga View Rooftop Chiropractic Clinic offered a sweeping view of the Ganga River, and is a setting that we will never forget. Although we have high hopes and intentions for our future, we don’t expect the permanent location of our practice to be quite so picturesque, but we were so grateful to be able to host a clinic in such a majestic place. In the two weeks that we were in Rishikesh, we served several patients in much the same fashion as we did in Dehradun, in which the patients received chiropractic adjustments multiple times over the time period that we were there. It was equally gratifying to our patients as it was for us chiropractors to see some of the changes and healing that occurred in those two weeks. Patients reported decreased pain, increased range of motion, increased energy, motivation, and emotional clarity and a range of other benefits. On that Ganga View rooftop, we both began to feel like we were beginning to create something that was very much our own recipe.
In our last few days in Rishikesh, John Siddique invited us to the balcony of his hotel, where he interviewed us in a thirty minute podcast, to the backdrop of a magnificent sunset over the Ganga River. John’s inspiring mission in his podcast is to highlight the qualities and attributes in people who are doing unique and organic things with their lives, and to share their stories with the world. We were extremely honored that he chose to interview us, which you can listen to here: An Attitude of Service. Upon leaving Rishikesh, we both felt emboldened in our craft, and what we are working to create. It is a critical time for humanity, a time when we are really being called to cultivate our qualities and talents in a manner that serves each other and not just ourselves. In Rishikesh we were inspired by those we met and served to deepen our own professional practice and it is our intent to amplify that inspiration to all those we serve as our adventure continues.
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” –Mahatma Gandhi