Since I just wrote about how you meet interesting people... Just before leaving Montreal, I made contact with an old friend from my teenage years--the first one, in fact, since I returned to Canada in 1985. She wrote me a few days ago to tell me that a friend of hers from Montreal was coming to Rishikesh, and so we set up a meeting.
This woman, Maila Shanks, first came to India in 1996 and lived in Vrindavan for 7 or 8 years, staying at the Neem Karoli Baba ashram on the Parikrama Marg, not too far from Ananda Dham, where many Narayan Maharaj disciples stay. She learned Brijbhasha, mostly by ear, and did a lot of seva and things. Then a few years ago she got married to a Kashmiri who owns a hotel on the beach in Goa, Meems Arabian Sea. Their season in Goa has finished and they are in Rishikesh for a bit of a spiritual refresher before she goes to Canada for the first visit in a couple of years.
Maila (Neem Baba ki Maya) came by yesterday and we had an interesting talk about life in India and "dealing with the goondas," as she calls it. Try to get anything done in India, whether in Goa, Kashmir or Vrindavan, she said, and sooner or later you are going to have to deal with the "Tony Soprano types." She knows Michael Duffy who used to play an important role in "Friends of Vrindavan," but burned out and left some time back. "The trouble with cleaning up in India," she said, somewhat facetiously I hope, "is that people take garbage to be a sign of prosperity. The bigger the pile of plastic bags and bottles they can burn outside their house, the more they can claim that they are doing well. Look at me! I can afford to drink water out of plastic bottles!"
That's the second hotel owner from Goa that I have met in the past little while. Makes you wonder. Radhika Priya, who as you may gather from the previous post is always looking for opportunities to set up a program, and Maila were quite happy to make each other's acquaintance.