The below travelogue was submitted by our revered colleague and friend, Brice Bowman, pictured in the above photo.
In the summer of 1967, I was leaving an island in the Mediterranean named Ibiza on the boat to Barcelona with Penelope, she and I planned to go to India. I wanted to find my friend Neil, who was already there. As it happened, she did not continue on with me after we arrived on the Spanish mainland, but on the train north to Paris, I found $100 that she had put in my bag. It was a beautiful thought on her part to help me continue on the journey. I gave the money to Elson and Ziska, when I arrived in Paris and later they returned the favor by sending it to me in care of American Express office in New Delhi. Elson and Ziska were going to London. They arranged for me to travel along with their ride. We arrived in Great Britain and later visited Stonehenge to do a photo shoot wearing fashions made from silk fabric they dyed by hand. When I went to the Embassy of India in London for the visa, a force seemed to be pulling me. It was so powerful that I knew I was on the path.
I took a flight to Kabul on the Afghan Airlines, chain smoking black tobacco cigarettes. The same plane departed for the flight to Amritsar, India, after a short lay-over to refuel. Then in the morning I took a train ride to the capital New Delhi. I was wandering in Connaught Circus in the center of the city, but not knowing where to find Neil, when by chance I stopped someone a westerner and introduced myself and that’s how I met Arthur Mandelbaum, who told me where everyone was staying. A few days later Neil and I exchanged clothes like a remake of The Prince and The Pauper and he took a flight back to London using my ticket.
Neil told me to go up north of New Delhi to pilgrimage sites located in the lower elevations of the Himalayan Mountains. I went to Hardwar on the Ganges River and further up to Rishikesh, which is located on the other bank of the river. This is the place that one year later because famous because the BEATLES visited Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who had his ashram there. I was wearing Neil’s clothing, a traditional cotton kurta top with pyjama pants and carrying his straw basket with a leather strap to hold my few possessions. I was a mendicant on the way except with a guitar. I stayed in a pilgrim hostel near the Ganges river. An office worker on vacation from his job in Calcutta named Ganesh Hazra introduced himself and invited me to travel on pilgrimage with him and his wife. We went across the Ganges in an open boat rowed by a few strong guys pulling across the current. I couldn’t help but notice the people who were hanging onto logs floating in the river and hoping they could kick hard enough to float to the other side. We visited secret shrines and made offerings in the holy places, but I incurred the wrath of priests, who realized I did not know the proper forms.
Finally, in Rishikesh, I was taken into a temple by Ganesh, who explained to me about a gathering of Sadhu’s, who wanted to hear me speak about ‘my purpose’. I entered a large room to address the assembly while sitting on a carpeted floor cross legged in the yogi style to express what I imagine sounded like an ecumenical message. Later Ganesh told me that the Sadhu’s had said, I should return to the west to share the experiences I had had in India. I have never forgotten the parting words to me from Ganesh Hazra, when he said, young sir, you should find a wife and then together, we would be like the Hindu gods with multiple arms working to achieve our purpose in this life. And, those words of wisdom are the great teaching that I received in India.
Contributed by Brice Bowman
Brice Bowman has traveled extensively and enjoyed, for the most part, the experience. Currently he is working as a Facility Manager at the national office of Teach For America, a not-for-profit organization in the education reform movement. The story is a personal recollection.