Wednesday, March 31, 2004


My first night back home I dreamt that my neighbor The Firef---er was out in the hall, sitting behind a thick white chalk line and gloating. It turned out he had put boric acid and roach-chalk all over his apartment and now the roach es were leaving in droves -- for my place. I went back in to find it infested with both tablespoon-size Indian roaches and the small thin brown ones typical of the Windy City. They were all getting along really, really well, too.....


Saturday, March 27, 2004


Nothing like getting violently ill the day before you leave India to make it nigh impossible to get out of town.......not to mention not want to ever come back. Tuesday night I had my usual three chappatis for dinner and found myself not sleeping most of the night and having some reflux.... when time for yoga came I was spacey and nauseous and didn't go. I spent the remainder of the morning vomiting (violently) five times (what is *with* the curry leaves remaining intact?) and had The Loose Motions and was generally as miserably ill as I've ever been. On top of that there was the fever and burping and stomach pain and the loud barking dog and the worry that I wouldn't be able to pack let alone travel the following day; the Man in the US was kind enough to call Lufthansa to find out about changing my ticket due to illness -- and they told him it'd cost U$ 2500. So needless to say I ended up following the planned itinerary. Thanks to Jammu I was had everything I needed to get better (including rehydration salts) and the woman across the hall gave me peppermint oil to put on my stomach (which quieted it). I awoke feeling somewhat better Wednesday morning (but very weak and spacy) and changed money and ate a piece of toast and ran errands and packed and paid people off and visited the chemist and packed and somehow managed to make it to the Shadabhi Express to Bangalore (couldn't have done it without Prashanth). In Bangalore I hit the hotel and watched cricket and was much worse for the wear (lightheadedness, 101 temperature, nausea, stomach pain, feelings of doom) and fantasized about flying straight thru to Germany. Tried that at the ticket counter at 11:30PM and it didn't work but they did give me an aisle seat for the loose motions. Somehow I got to Frankfurt and met my friend flying in from Dublin two hours later and we took the train to Nurmburg and our friends who live here met us... and here I am. Can you say culture shock? It's clean and there's good design and the trains are empty and everything works and it actually *snowed* yesterday; we spent some of the day touring Hitler's parade grounds ("the Zeppelin Fields, man") and coleseium thingy they never completed and finally made into a museum and you know what? The Nazis Swastika, which was stolen from the Hindus (who consider it sacred), also goes in a clockwise direction. I guess it's all about intent, isn't it?

Monday, March 22, 2004


I just saw four Hijras
Been looking for 'em since I got here
they and the two female riksha drivers.
The former are not the caste
formerly known as "untouchable"
and now called Dalit
But eunuchs who dress as women
like over-the-top transvestites,
who get to wear saris
jasmine in their hair
tons of eye kohl;
they sashayed down
Deva Raj Urs Road
into the Jain guy's yarn store
I was *so* happy
he opened the cash drawer
handed the biggest one,
(orange sari, red choli, hot pink lipstick)
a couple of coins
and that was that

I interrogated Mr Jain afterwards
(his hair has grown out;
he will break hearts):
There are about 100 Hijras in Mysore
2000 in Bangalore
(not to mention infinite Harijans)
and in each and every place in India
Here they come around each Monday
looking for money
They don't beg for it
They demand it
and you give it
Because if you don't
"they will cast evil on you"

I saw them last time too,
also near the end of my trip
(and one lady r-driver)

They say they include hermaphrodites
some born w/o "stuff"
others kidnapped as babies
by other hijras
and, you know, *initiated*
plus everyday crossdressers;
F-ing INDIA!!!!!!

For more see

Sunday, March 21, 2004


Traffic units here use the left lane (yet another legacy of the British occupation) and roundabouts are a chaotic clockwise free-for-all of horse-drawn carts, giant colorfully-painted trucks, scary war-era steel busses, bicycles, cows, smoke-spewing rikshas and two-wheelers.... yet it somehow usually sorts itself out. Horns are used constantly and if yours is broken you might as well be a dead Indian. Unlike at home laying on the horn is not considered rude or some kind of complaint or a way to start a fight but rather a way of announcing "I'm here." In fact most trucks and rickshas have "Sound Horn Please" written on their bumpers in beautiful colored script (usually yellow). If you are driving along on your Honda Activa four-stroke scooter and hear a horn, you pull over to the left side of the lane and let the vehicle pass. As you already know, passing here is also done in the opposite lane, preferably on an uphill curve (see below for who is most likely to win the many many games of chicken that take place because of this).

For the record, parking is often done on alternate sides of the street, depending on if the date is even or odd (and if you're here doing yoga like me you often have no idea what day it is, let alone the date, and sometimes get busted). Two-wheel parking on the sidewalk is de rigeur, while most pedestrians prefer to walk in the street (where there's cowpoop and lots of sand/dirt that gets into your flip-flops, among other things). Most intersections don't have signals; two-wheelers usually push up to the front of the queue, because they can (you never want to get behind a ricksha because they are slow and spew acrid, lung-blackening smoke). Some bigger intersections feature a white cowboy-hatted police officer in a little go-go cage in the middle; he gracefully waves a white-gloved hand in the direction of the lane that has the right of way (this too is done clockwise and makes more sense than you could imagine; with one lane going at a time it's *no problem* to make a right-hand turn here [similar to doing a left in 'Merica]). At the few intersections where there *are* signals -- they also go clockwise, very auspicious -- they have a big timer that lets you know exactly how many seconds remain until you get the green. This is helpful because, in an effort to save petrol (which is not artificially cheap due to government subsidies, as it is in the US [instead really important things like medical care are cheap]) most ricksha and two-wheeler drivers turn off their engines while they wait. When 15 or 20 seconds remain it's just like someone yelled, "Gentleman, start your engines," and the air fills with the sound of starting engines and the eau of grey exhaust fumes. Then we all jockey to see who wins that small race....

(ie; who wins the chicken fight)

1. Cows
2. Busses
3. Trucks
4. Tata Sumos / Other SUV's
5. Metros, Vans, Cars
6. Motorcycles
7. Scooters
8. Rikshas
9. Tongas
10. Mopeds
11. Bicycles
12. Male Pedestrians
13. Horses
14. Female Pedestrians
15. Swine
16. Dogs
17. Cats
18. Roosters
19. Chickens

Saturday, March 20, 2004


Each time I walk from the Kaveri Lodge to this here Hottest Internet Place in Mysore I pass a group of men in lungis and informal turbans who sit against a wall and sew gunnysacks all day, every day. The stack grows higher as the day wears on. People's forebearance here is unbelievable, whether it's waiting for customers that never come or doing some awful job for an entire lifetime or watching a neverending cricket match or fillum or waiting for parents to arrange a marriage. Or so it seems to an outsider. The sack-sewers sit across from an amazing, ever-growing Wall of Shit (the men sew in the shade, while the poo wall is in the sun). I've not seen anyone actually *work* on the wall but last time 'round there was an older woman who would collect cow-pies in a bucket (there are *a lot* of the cows on the street here -- apparently they all are owned by various families but wander all day eating garbage /getting fed and then return home at know, when it's time for the cows to come home). Anyway she collects the turds in a bucket and then re-forms them into balls with her hands and then plops them against the wall. You can see the imprint of her fingers on the dung cakes -- kind of like peanut butter cookies with the fork marks, only a lot bigger. Also these take a lot longer to bake (many, many days in fact). Once they're dry they fall off the wall and are collected and used as fuel for cooking fires. Cow dung is seen as being antiseptic and sacred here and among other things it's also used to put caste marks on the forehead, make mud walls, and disinfect the home. I've also found that it trips up westerners quite a bit (it's far more slippery than a banana peel, yet you never see it used as a film gag, do you?).

Today Bindi, Jammu (Kasmir is out of town) and I went to another fillum -- a Tamil film called Boys that has been re-released and attracted an audience of about 20 Salwaar Grrls. It focused on five cute ne'er-do-well Chennai college boys and the girl one of them is in love with (occasionally her four friends also join them). After many quintuple dates (only in India) they end up eloping and alienating their families and taking crummy jobs and living in a rat-infested dump and forming a boy band + one girl that wins all the MTV Asia awards -- but only after the poorest of them dies in a really grisly scene in which he's run over by a giant steel bus. The theatre had digital sound and *really* comfortable seats (which cost Rs 40 rather than the usual Rs 33) and we were in the front row of the breezy balcony with our feet up. Such a delight after our last experience..... The girls behind us knew every word to every song and screamed a lot -- a rare thing to see -- and the film itself had amazing effects, sets, dances, costumes, editing, etc. Everything was kick-ass but the music, really (as Bindi likes to point out, they're *really* into the Backstreet Boys here). It was refreshingly original (never saw a fillum before in which a character washed his arse the Indian way) but also had elements of Porky's, Let it Be, Grease, Jailhouse Rock, Pretty in Pink, the Herbie Hancock video "Rock-It" and much, much more....


Me Bindi and Jammu went to the cinema
best one yet
digital sound, *really* comfortable seats
no one was there
Tamil film called Boys
about a boy band plus one girl
sort of
*really* well-done editing, effects,
costumes and choreography
really inventive
it was cool in there
we put our feet up
we were so happy
at half-time Jammu bought us popcorn
Every time they spoke english (which was often),
we drank
that way you don't get dehydrated
I can't find my glasses
Then we went to the Andra place
(food from Andra Pradesh,
next-door state where many people die
every year from heat and drought.
not unlike Chicago
They also have a huge film industry.
They speak Telegu).
I had veggies n rice.
In fact we all did.
*really* fresh, tasty food
and shared;
Then into the
cruel cruel sun.

Friday, March 19, 2004


Yesterday Bindi and I went to a Kannada fillum ("Malla") with Jyothi, the eldest girl in Suddha's coconut family (they own a small store not far from the city center, where they sell cigarettes, coconuts, candy, beedis and bananas). It was her first fillum in six months and there were so many people going to see it that all the balcony seats were sold out by the time we got there (to buy a ticket you walk over and talk to what is basically a small slit in a solid concrete wall). There were even scalpers! Who knows what they were charging for the Rs 30 (65-cent) balcony seats, which are top of the line (and the best place for ladies to sit). Rs 35? We didn't find out, because the next thing we knew, Jyothi had three newsprint tickets in her hand and was leading us up the the main floor.

The place was full of thin Indian guys in Oxford shirts and perfect hair and moustaches with some brightly-colored sari and salwaar-clad women sprinkled among them. Can you say "close?" The only seats left were in the first three rows, and that's where we ended up. The sound was amazing and the fillum started out brilliantly -- first there was a longhaired female Shiva, then a male one; everyone in the village wanted to *get* them but they were so tough no one could. Then something happened and suddenly the music came up and the screen was filled with a grinning fat dhoti guy with a moustache and mushroom-shaped Mac Davis perm-fro, riding a motorcycle covered with flowers and made of sand (no joke). For the rest of the fillum we had to watch this really unattractive man fight off four evil brothers and try to win the favor of the slutty westernized girl, whom he ended up seducing (of course she then became a demure, sari-clad, puja-mad picture of perfect motherhood).

Only at intermission time -- which was a madhouse as crores of men *ran* to the side lobbies to mainline cigarettes and snacks -- did we learn from Jyothi that pretty much THE ENTIRE FILLUM was a flashback. The place was so swarming with (horny) men that we did not dare get up and buy a much-needed chai and instead ended up watching some crooked, overhead-projected PSA's for things like having fewer children and not getting AIDS.

Throughout the second half I could not stop yawning or sweating (for some reason, most of the time one's ass is sweaty here in India -- many westerners have also told me this -- but on that day it was my entire body). We couldn't leave since Jyothi liked it and had treated us. Also just before the film started we noticed that two mystery seats had appeared out of nowhere in the aisle in front of us, effectively blocking it off entirely (and creating a *major* fire hazard). The only thing worth mentioning about the second half is the magical moment when Bindi and I looked at each other, each realizing the other one recognized that the song we were hearing was built around the bass hook from the Violent Femmes' "Blister in the Sun."

No one groped us on the way out. Bindi went to Gokalum and Jyothi and I back to her house -- basically a one-room place behind the store which is half the size of my room at the Kaveri Lodge, and where four people live. More chai, and then we said our goodbyes.

Today is Friday which meant led primary series (and, later on, another cricket match against Pakistan). I went to Sharath's 6:30 class (rather than Guruji's 5:30 one; after last night's bomb-drop -- see yesterday's blog -- and subsequent late-night call of support from the Man in the US, there was no *way* I could get up in time for it. Besides I *love* Sharath's led primary, esp. on Fridays). There are a lot fewer students here than there were last month, because the entire class fit into just three rows (about 30 students). Last month they were selling out both primary classes; there were 120-150 people here, now only about 90. March is the time to come, if you can stand the heat. Anyway it was small and intimate we held Navasana and Urdvha Danurasana for what seemed (to me) like forever -- and *once again* I held Utpluthith for the entire interminable count to ten (more than I can say for certain senior teachers in the class). The other news is that Bick-the-coconut guy has "bhuja nawoo" or shoulder pain from all of the coconuts he cuts each day....

Now we have two days off -- Saturday and Sunday, which is Ugadi or the beginning of the Hindu New Year. It's basically a spring solstice fest not unlike Purim, in which sweet and bitter items are consumed. For me it means two days late sleeping....and getting ready for taking my leave on Wednesday. On the one hand I'm not ready to go at all, and on the other (the left one, I think) I'm *so* ready to go.

Thursday, March 18, 2004


Yesterday I went to the cobbler (yes he was sitting in cobbler's pose) to pick up some sandals he's repaired. It was a lovely evening and we were standing around shooting the breeze in Kannada about whether we'd had our meals and, if not, when we planned to eat. Suddenly a couple of his friends made some strange sounds and pointed towards the road. I turned around and saw a khaki and white-clad cop driving my scooter down the street! Much to the delight of everyone who'd gathered, I ran after him in full Indian dress (including bindi, bangles and ankle bracelets). When he saw me he stopped and said,

"No parking that side of street."

"Oh!" I said, noticing the yellow and black-striped pavement for the first time (yet it *is* OK to park on any sidewalk here at any time). "Parking ela [no]. So sorry! I did not know!"

"You must not park there," he repeated He was tall and stern, and wearing a moustache (of course) and the standard-issue white cowboy hat. He looked me in the eye and added, "No parking. One hundred rupees fine."

I got scared for a second. Then *I* looked *him* in the eye and smiled and said, "Where is your ticket book?"

He gave the tiniest hint of a smile before looking stern again and handed over the scooter. I very carefully wheeled it to the curb on the opposite side of the street and parked. Without looking at him I trotted back to the cobbler -- he and his friends were tre amused -- and finished my business. No fine.

Today I learned that through no fault of my own I am no longer the Reader's calendar girl. Money problems coming, Madam.

However this does not detract from the fact that I came up from backbend *four times* today -- with finesse.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Plus! Shala Protocol

For yoga each day I get up at around 5:30 (if my alarm doesn't go off the call of the mullah wakes me up) and eat an orange and gingerly go into the bathroom, giving the roaches plenty of time to scram. After doing my toilette and dressing I put on my sweater and monkey cap and make my way downstairs, where the nice night watchman lets me out through the back gate and I drive in the dark (tho it's getting lighter now) for some six kilometers, to the shala. There are some people/trucks/busses/two-wheelers out at that hour and some chai stalls are open -- but not many. And the air quality is the best it'll be all day.

If it's a led primary series class (on a Friday or Sunday) there will be people waiting outside for the gate to open, and it'll be dead quiet (Gokalum is a pricey suburb). Oftentimes I'll say hello to the handful of people who are waiting and no one will answer and it'll fall on the ground, thud. Then you'll hear gravel crunching as more people walk towards the shala from the rooms and houses they rent in the neighborhood; others will pull up on two wheelers (and every once in awhile an actual Ambassador automobile drops people off).

When the gate finally opens we swarm in and stake out homesteads in our favorite spots; but Shiva forbid you take a 5:30 practitioner's regular spot (some girls got bawled out by a *very* senior student for unwittingly doing that very thing). For the first class Guruji and Sharath are usually in the office, and at some point they put on some devotional chanting, which is nice. Students put their stuff in the closing room and return to their mats where they do their very strange warmups, talk quietly or simply sit. I usually try to sit and breathe slowly but it never works (it's always kind of quick and shallow at that hour, until the physical practice begins). Then Guruji and Sharath come in and G. yells "Samasthitih!" and we stand at the front of our mats and do the chant......

As I mentioned the shala has marble floors covered with colorful cotton area rugs. There are large-scale photos of Guruji and Amachi (his late wife) and Krishnamacharya (his teacher, who also taught BKS Iyengar and Desikachar) on the walls and the ceilings are high (with high windows that let in lots of light). It's a really pleasant room (although the women at 3 Sisters say with great conviction that Gokalum is haunted -- which is why they moved their juice/meals bar back to the old neighborhood).

After class some people (me included) wait for Guruji to tell him "thank you" and bow to his feet. Some simply touch them, while others wave whatever it is wafting off of them towards their head three times. Some people freak out about "touching his goddamn little feet" as one person put it. The way I see it is this; we're showing respect and thanking him for keeping the ashtanga thing alive. We're *not* worshipping him (at least I'm not). Although I *love* the hug/kiss that follows the foot-touching. That fellow *knows* how to hug.

Then there's the short walk across the street to Bick-the-coconut vendor. He's the same guy with the great hair and dirty plaid shirt (coconut water *stains*, big-time) who was around the corner from the old shala -- only this time there's no chai stall next door and nowhere to sit and nothing to look at (the old one was on a busy street, teaming with vendors and school children starting their day, etc). He can machete a coconut really, really fast and like any good wallah knows which ones are full of water (neeru) and which are full of gunji (meat). Each morning he loads a three-wheel rickshaw-truck with coconuts and drives it to the shala. Next to him stands the flower guy from the old place and Manju-the-tailer. Ragoo from Nagarathna's in the old neighborhood is there, too, trying to drum up business for the old breakfast/lunch/Internet/chauffeur/you-name-it place -- which has dropped off considerably. He even offers free rides there and back but doesn't seem to get a lot of takers. It's kind of hearbreaking (at the same time they did a *really* hard sell at the old place). After coconuts people head to breakfast -- some to Tina's (she's moved to Gokalum) others to Holly and Tony's (two Brits have opened a B&B with the *best French press coffee ever* -- costs more but it's worth it) or other places. Bindi and I usually go to Green Leaf, a really sparkling Indian place with a wonderful staff and great chai and very few westerners.

After breakfast people go their separate ways. A lot of them end up at the Southern Star pool, ,where you can get a monthly membership. Others make endless visits to the tailor, designing their own clothes, or take classes in tabla or singing or Sanskrit (Bindi took the Sanskrit class offered at the shala and was surprised to learn that the majority of the other students either didn't need to work or were lawyers/financiers; for more on the culture here see Rebecca Mead's excellent 2000 New Yorker Piece, The Yoga Bums, at h Unlike last time I don't do much of anything apart from reading or crocheting or blogging or IMing the Man in the US or running errands or visiting people or socializing with the locals or sleeping or seeing the occasional fillum -- and my practice has improved immeasurably.

Mealtimes present some problems. If you eat lunch too early, you want a big dinner and most places don't start serving until 7 -- too late for most yoga students. Last trip I'd eat a pretty big lunch and have some crackers or cookies or muesli for dinner (I was practicing at 4:30 near the end) and came home looking gaunt. This time I've got it down to a science. After consuming two coconuts (one water, one gunji) I head to breakfast, where I dine on Masala Dosa (33 1/3-RPM record-size rice pancake, filled with vegetables) and Kesari Bath (a warm, sweet, firm, wheat-based dish with cashews and raisins and jaggery). I follow that up with two chais. Around 3 I'll have lunch at Aunty's (across the street from the Kaveri Lodge), which is thali or "meals" -- three types of vegetables and rice with sambar (tangy potato stew) and rassam (warm spice water) and chapattis (flat wheat bread) and curd rice. It's usually sweltering so I go back to the Kaveri for a nap, then venture out around 5.

Sometimes I'll check out the sunset from the roof of the lodge; yesterday everything had an pink glow around 6:45PM; it was amazing. Around 7 you can see all of the bats heading west, towards the sunset -- tons and tons of them, like they're on a highway. For dinner I'll get some chapattis (three or four) at another really clean, friendly place, called Hari Prasad, around 8PM. The unleavened bread fills the stomach *and* makes one strong for backbends.



Don't come to class when you're sick

Shut up in the lobby

Shut the door, too

Come at the appointed time (old students first!)

Take the next available spot, even if it's not to your liking

Wash your mat

Wash your feet

Wash your rug once in awhile, too (like when it starts smelling like Fritos)

Use deodorant

Don't eat heavy garlic or onions the night before class (save it for Fridays)

Don't beg for poses (or worse, take them). They'll be given when the time is right. Really.

Do your bizarre warmups at home, BEFORE you come.

You are not a bullfighter (do not wave your mat around before putting it down; it has the same effect on you neighbor as a mid-winter Nor'Easter.

It's called a tongue scraper -- learn how to use it, Mr. Halitosis

Don't spray your neighbor

If you wack someone in the face, apologize

Don't stop and talk to your friend on the way to the closing room

Shut up in the closing room

No backbends in the closing room

No homesteading in the closing room (ie; space is at a premium, so put your mat *close* to the others -- even if this violates your comfort zone)

After buying your coconut, move out of the way

Tuesday, March 16, 2004


Two hours into the game and Pakistan's still at bat... and it's like there's a strike here in India (ie the streets are empty). It's sweltering both in Pakistan and in this here near-empty Internet Cafe -- where the server just went down. Sweat is dripping down the right side of my neck, ugh. Some days you are just *ready* to come home. But nothing can top watching the match at Aunty's cool, mint green living/dining room, while eating oota (meals). Except maybe watching the soaps there. When I left the Kaveri an hour ago the lobby was full of fat dhoti guys leaning back and showing off their bellies, watching the game. India's playing the role of the Cubs today (ie getting its ass kicked -- nearly all of their best bowlers are out, due to injuries). This is indeed the first time they've played Pakistan in 14 years.....

This morning Prashanth came over, asking to use my digital camera for his fill-um class. He came back an hour later; apparently class had been canceled. Then we got into an intricate discussion of cricket vs baseball, complete with drawings and charades . The Hex also filled in a few details on the game. Here's what I learned (Remember -- most of this comes from Prashanth and there's, like, a *huge* language barrier):

-Opening Bowler = Starting Pitcher
-Next Spell Bowler=Relief Pitcher
-Fault = Foul
-Run Out = Go Outside the Baseline
-No Ball = High / Wild Pitch
-Gule or First Slip=Kind of like the Short Stop
-3rd Slip=Sort of Like Short Center
-Scrizd(?)=Batter's Box/Pitcher's Mound
-Half Side Fielder=Right Fielder
-Leg Side Fielder=Left Fielder
-Long Fielder=Outfielder
-LBW=Leg Before Wicket -- in which the batter defends the wicket with his body (hence the gloves and shin guards) and counts as an out.

-The announcers (lisping-Aussies) switch off every half hour
-There are 11 guys on each team
-Pakistan's bowlers are *really* good-looking and their uniforms (green with lime green) are really cool too
-Pakistan is sponsored by Pepsi
-An Over is kind of like an inning but is really confusing; each one has six balls or something; they play 600 (300 each) balls per match
-India star mid-lineup batsman Vangipurappu Laxman (who's recovering from a knee injury) recently married one of his relatives
-There are 10 outs per Over or something
-There's only one bowler for 10 overs
-There are 50 overs for one match for each side (for a total of 100)
-There's only one bowler for 10 overs (there can be five to ten bowlers in an International One Day Match, which can go on for hours and hours)
-Pitches include fastball, spin and legbreaker
-The opening batsman is the best one (and along with the second in line can end up batting, like, the whole game)
-In addition to hitting, the Batsman has to defend the wicket (those three sticks/goal; if the ball hits one of 'em, he's out)
-The batsman wears giant gloves so his fingers don't get broken by the bowler's superfast, one-bounce pitch
-If the batsman hits the ball inside some circle, he scores four runs
-If it goes outside the circle ("outta the park") he scores six
-India's best batsman, Sachin, is just over five feet tall
-In the last game India won by five runs; the score was in the 300's
-Cricket is played primarily in Britain and its former colonies (US excluded)
-If you haven't seen Lagaan, run out and rent it.



Oh yeah so I did finally go to yoga Monday and came up from backbend without a problem -- even after a week off I could still do it, which probably means I haven't been faking it this whole time. I practiced today and came up again with relative ease but did not feel too hot afterwords (dizzy, nauseated) and again spent plenty of time in bed, recuperating....Now I plan to go back to the Kaveri and if there's a seat I'll drink some mango juice, work on the hat I'm crocheting (black on black) and watch the game -- er, match -- with the Dhoti Guys (no TV's in the rooms, just roaches). Coming Soon: Yoga Stupid Pt II, with Shala Protocol (hmmm, maybe *that's* my new Indian name).....

Sunday, March 14, 2004


Can you say *mindnumbingly boring?* That's one way to put a day of enforced bed rest (with brief periods of socializing with Jammu & Kasmir, etc)....In fact I was so lightheaded/weak I didn't go to practice or conference, let alone take out the scooter....

Yesterday I did indeed go to Apollo Hospital (oxblood saris again) where I demanded to see a new doctor and people of all types were clustered around the very few TV's they have, watching the cricket game (it was close but India trounced Pakistan). I saw a new doctor who is thin and did not have any salesmen in his office and did not try to incarcerate me. He agreed with my diagnosis, more or less (mild upper respiratory infection) and prescribed an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory. He also pressed on my swollen right gland, which hurt like hell. The whole thing was under Rs 200 ($4.25) and I felt better just seeing the man -- so I set my alarm clock for 4:15 in order to make Sunday's one and only primary series practice, at 5:15AM. But the crying dog across the way was busy with his scales all night and so was the screaming-bloody-murder baby across the hall, whose parents saw fit to aim its foghorn directly at my door. After fitful sleep I woke up with the alarm feeling like crap and went back down (intermittently) finally waking up at 9 to the nasty buzz of the doorbell. I ambled over and there was Vishwunath (manager) and a just-married Indian couple, offering me a sweet in honor of their union. Now THAT'S the way to wake up. Later when I was putting my chai cup out in the hall I stepped in something wet and thought, "Oh, they must have just washed the floors." Hours later I learned the screamer across the hall (a girl it turns out) had peed there. It was a good day anyway.

Saturday, March 13, 2004


With just 11 days left in Mysore, *now* I'm going to make an effort to be more, shall we say, *tolerant* of others both in print and in life. We'll see how long *that* lasts.

Got up today feeling awful again, did the nose drops, woke up for real, feeling a bit better, and did surya namaskar and the standing poses; then I sat for a little while and took rest -- on the bed. Afterwords I got up to take a bucket-bath and felt very crappy indeed. Bindi came over -- haven't seen her in ages as she's been lying low too -- and we hit Hari Prasad for dosas and iddly. Then we did a few errands around Kaos Circle (I wore my Sachin cricket hat and sunglasses and hip black air filter -- my version of a burka -- and after awhile I lost all my energy and went back to the Lodge where I sat in the lobby and watched cricket (India v. Pakistan; their bowler is *hot*) and mainlined mango juice while Kasmir taught me how to crochet a monkey cap. During which I diagnosed myself with an ear/throat infection (I'm exhausted and lightheaded, my glands are superswollen and painful , the right rear corner of my throat hurts like hell -- I no longer think it's a canker sore -- and the ear on that side is sensitive and pops a lot). Back B.Y. (before yoga) I'd get a throat or ear infection each and every time I got sick, so I'm going to have it looked at, possibly today, probably by Dr. Incarceration (our friend at Apollo Hospital). First though I must practice saying "I'd prefer not to" and "I refuse to be admitted."

I'd been planning to go to yoga tomorrow but it doesn't look likely. This morning I looked at my list of things to do before I go, and thought about what would happen if I didn't get them done and how I'd feel if I didn't make it back to the shala and wound out hanging out in my room. Not too traumatic, really. I already came up from backbend, which I never thought I'd do. AND I learned to drive a scooter..... Once I let it go I experienced a none-too-familiar sensation of peace. I felt calm and had more of this (hopefully not fleeting) so-called tolerance for others. For the moment anyway.

Friday, March 12, 2004

(Yoga outside of the shala)

The last time I was at the shala was Monday. Ladies Holiday morphed into a nasty cold, so I've been staying away from yoga (it's hard to breathe when you can't breathe). Yesterday (Thursday) I made a trip down the street behind the Kaveri Lodge to the Ayurvedic doctor. I told her my symptons (exhaustion, sneezing, sore throat, swollen glands, stomach gurgling, loose motions) and she had me lie down and drummed a tattoo on my stomach ("Taka tika taka tika ta. Ti taka TA. Tata. Ti taka TA"). Fortunately the gurgling was more like a #1 rapid rather than a #4 (BTW The Paramedic says taking an antacid at the first sign of gurgling/loose motions will make the stomach antagonistic to bad bacteria and cure it; here the Pepto Bismol type stuff is *yellow* and just as vile). The good doctor prescribed me a bunch of stuff for Rs 300 (just over $6), one of which is nose drops which are *hell* to take -- nothing wakes a girl up like mentholated liquid going through nasal passages and down the back of the throat -- and which work amazingly well). So after a recordbreaking IM session w/ the Man in the US, I went back to my room and read (Raj by Geetha Mehta) and tried to crochet (looks like a retard did it) and stared at the ceiling fan, which was on #1 (low) so I didn't get too cold. (Can I just say a couple of people know I'm sick and only one [apart from the Man in the US] -- Jammu -- asked if I needed anything?).

I've been told by people who read this thing that it seems like I'm always sick. I'm not -- not really. As I've said before, everything is magnfied in India. When you feel good, you feel really, *really* good and tend to overdo things. The sun shines every day, the weather is perfect and dry so your hair always looks good and it's always warm so you're super-flexible in yoga. But when things are bad, they're *really* bad -- anyone else remember Bindi's three-week cold? Or my vomiting migraine last time around? This happens because the US is so santized our immune systems are weak and can't handle India, which is dirtier (and whose people are tougher). So you learn to take care of yourself early on, instead of waiting til you're so ill you can't walk. After awhile you also learn to rest and not do too much. The lesson here is that sometimes you have to let go of the yoga -- very hard to do -- AND learn how to be alone with yourself. So that's what I've been doing over the past several days (AGAIN). After many episodes of this you start to think, "Why am I here?" and "Why am I always sick?" and "It's almost like I'm not even in India, I'm spending so much time in my room." Just when you start to give up hope of ever going to the shala again, or of ever being surprised or seeing something magical, the distant drums get louder and there's a mind-blowing procession....

Last night I saw the finale of the Festival So the Children Don't Get Sick in the Summer

I'd just gotten home with my chappatis (four)
Had just enough time to drop them off in my room
And grab the tape recorder
I ran out to the street
Head clear from nose drops
The whole 'hood was there with prasad
(food, flowers, etc)
To be blessed by the priests/goddess
First major drumming
All men of course
Big drum circle right in front of the lodge
Orgasmic, frantic, out-of-control
Men in orange, men in no tops
None taller than my shoulder
Beating hard and fast
like in a Tamil film
Saw the same one in '02
Folks had salt and water to pour on the shirtless guy
with the giant piece of wood
(who came after the drummers, with some other drummers)
and represented the goddess
This was to cool her down
First the drummers, then the tube lights
Which preceed any procession
Also a guy with a long pole
Moving away the electrical wires
Then more drums and a floatlike thing
With three images of the deity
Being carried on three priests' heads
Walking in the middle of the "float"
Which has no bottom
The float has its own generator
Last time the lights went out
At the exact moment the brightly-lit deities came
Very dramatic
During the climactic drumming I thought
Oh, now my cold has broken and I'm well
But I was wrong
I sneezed so many times last night.....
Right nostril was like a nozzle, dripping
And itching
"How many times did you sneeze?"
Sneezed so violently
That when I woke up (for the final time)
I saw that I had snotted my mosquito net
No yoga today, either.


Thursday, March 11, 2004

I am having the loose motions, stomach pain *and* a cold today (such a delightful way to cap off Ladies Holiday) and India is poised to play cricket against Pakistan, in Pakistan, for the first time in 13 years (when it rains it pours) -- so a short-but-sweet *meditation* will have to do:


Change is the only predictable thing here but the other kind of change is hard to come by, hoarded once it's found, and given away only grudgingly. "No change!" is a common cry as small coins and notes are hot commodities indeed. There is a neverending game of chicken to see who will back down first -- shopkeeper or customer, ricksha wallah or rider, Internet clerk or browser -- and the winner is the one who can hold out the longest, without giving in to the disgusted, doom-laden downwards look of the wallah, or the exasperated, let's-get-on-with-it irratation of the foreigner.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Part Onedu

It occurred to me that I haven't been writing much about the yoga -- or at least the yoga that takes place inside of the Ashtanga Yoga Niyalam.....

We practice six days a week -- every day but Saturdays and full and new moons (and the occasional holiday). Women also take off three days for "ladies holiday" -- or at least we're supposed to (many don't, and hence defile the shala). Fridays and Sundays are led classes, which means that Guruji or Sharath calls out the poses and we practice together in unison. As in the old days everyone does primary series on Friday but this time it's led: there are two sessions -- at 5:30 and 6:30. The place has superhigh ceilings and marble floors covered with the most colorful rugs you could imagine (except for the last row, which is hard, cold marble); it fits 60-odd students and mat space is at a premium on Fridays. And the 5:30 class actually starts around 5:15 (Guruji's clock is fast). Most people find that out the hard way (I remember Lino and I sitting in the lobby at 5:20 early last month, looking at Guruji leading everyone through sun salutations, looking at our watches, and catching each other's eye and shrugging).

On Sundays there are two led primary classes -- at 5:15 and 6:30 -- and led intermediate series for the more advanced at 7:30-ish, so mat space is at less of a premium (ie you can come at 5 and not get yelled at by a senior practitioner for taking their spot). As on Fridays, Guruji leads the first class and Sharath leads the second (Guruji does the opening and closing chants for both). Sharath's count is a little more leisurely than Guruji's, which is rapidfire, and he busts us on bad habits ("Don't cheat" in Utplutitih, "Don't do halasana before shoulderstand," etc.). I've been going to him on Fridays and Guruji on Sunday's. It's a really nice mix.

The rest of the week is Mysore-style (duh) self-practice. On Monday I arrived a few minutes later than normal and did not recognize a single person waiting in the lobby. When a spot opens up they call "one more" and the next person -- often there's confusion about who's next -- goes in. I had just gotten there and Sharath called "one more" and looked at the person coming in and said, "No. Old student." (We're still not sure if this means someone who's been coming to Mysore for awhile, and they recognize, or someone who's been there a few weeks). Whatever the case I poked my head in and he said, "Cara, you come." I came and practiced and it went well and Sharath helped me in pasansana and then said, almost under his breath, "Kraunchasana" (2nd pose in intermediate series, sitting with one leg beside you and the other straight up, chin to shin). I did it on the right and he said, "Straight leg. Look up" and that was that. (I'm so lopsided -- the other side is a joke -- my leg goes way out to the side and won't straighten and my chin is nowhere near the shin). Then it was time for backbends and dropbacks, and this time around I came up with finesse (as opposed to like a Jack-in-the-Box) a couple of times, and saw the light at the tend of the tunnel.

Afterwards Sharath gave me his usual six-second foward bend adjustment (he doesn't have time for more as he's basically choreographing the whole thing until about 8 or so, when he and Saraswati leave to teach other classes and Guruji has the whole place to himself and, rather impressively for an 89 year old, does dropbacks and other adjustments on student after student....When Guruji does dropbacks, he usually gives you a *huge* -- if you're female -- hug after the final one, and it is a genuine and giving hug (sometimes followed by a nonsexual and somehow reassuring pat on the arse). Then HE says "Good, good" and "Thankyouverymuch" and helps you in the counterpose/forward bend. He puts his whole weight on you, and stays for some time -- wow. And while getting up he thanks you AGAIN).

So the self practice beings at 5:30 (not 4:30, as in the old place) and mats are just a few inches apart ........and can I just say not everyone washes theirs? How many times have I put my chin to the floor in Upavista Konasana (wide legged sitting forward bend) and smelled *some of the worst odors of my life*. Something like used toilet paper crossed with wet yoga clothes left in the back seat of the car all summer and a dirty window screen. HELLO! Wash the thing once in awhile! What else do you have to do all day??? Also you are always hitting or kicking or bumping into this or that person and usually the thing to do is say "Sorry" and/or "Are you OK?" depending on how hard you hit -- but not everyone seems to understand that. Maybe it's a cultural thing.

In any case there are always some guys on the stage, doing their closing sequence. For a couple of weeks I thought, wow, they want everyone to see their practice. Then I learned that there's very little space in the men's finishing/changing room -- a sort of locker-room-cum-bare-bones-yoga studio, where you go to do shoulderstand, headstand and padamasana after finishing your regular practice and the backbending sequence. Apparently the men's mats are rightnexttoeachother in that room. But people seem to think the ladies closing room, which is much bigger, is Montana during the Gold Rush -- everyone is homesteading, staking out the biggest parcel and making sure they get more space than everyone else, which means that not everyone fits. The other day I had to stand there panting and sweating after backbends, looking at the six inches of space between each mat and watching ladies snore in savasana. After about 15 minutes of this I had an idea. I went to the bathroom, opened the door and slammed it shut, hard. It worked. One of the homesteaders awakened from her slumber and oh-so-slowly moved her limbs, rolled onto her side, got up, and, in super slow motion, rolled up her mat into a perfect scroll. Finally, it was my turn to rest.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004


Holiday Celebrate
Holiday Celebrate


If we took a holiday
Took some time to celebrate
Just one day out of life
It would be, it would be so nice

Everybody spread the word
We're gonna have a celebration
All across the world
In every nation
It's time for the good times
Forget about the bad times, oh yeah
One day to come together
To release the pressure
We need a holiday


You can turn this world around
And bring back all of those happy days
Put your troubles down
It's time to celebrate
Let love shine
And we will find
A way to come together
And make things better
We need a holiday


Holiday Celebrate
Holiday Celebrate


Holiday Celebrate
Holiday Celebrate

Holiday, Celebration
Come together in every nation

Monday, March 08, 2004


Titbits From Today's Vijay Times (


HISAR: At a tender age of six months, when most toddlers are breastfed by their mothers, Mohit, instead of turning to his mother when he was hungry, started looking for a stray bitch who had delivered pups somewhere near his home and suckled her milk."

"Mohit, who is now one and a half years old, has been thriving on stray bitches' milk for the past one year. As soon as Mohit calls any of the seven bitches, who roam in the Multani Chowk area, for suckling, they surrender and he suckles milk from them. Though Mohit's parents have been trying to dissuade him, the child refuses to give up the habit. His mother Mausmi says she has tried to wean him away from the habit but has not met with any success so far." [he's probably a first born son -CJ]

"When their neighbours told them about Mohit's peculiar habit, the family did not believe them. However, when they saw a dog suckling the boy, they were convinced."


UK Hindus Up in Arms Against Tina [Turner] Turning Goddess Shakti [in upcoming Merchant-Ivory film, the Goddess]

They Celebrate Holi By Thrashing Each Other with Footwear

10 Holi Revellers Killed, 210 Injured

Two Girls Gang-Raped in Bangalore

Indo-Pak Talks on Bus Service to Start Tuesday

Britain Terms India-Pakistan Talks on Kasmir Difficult & Critical [Hmmm, a new name for J&K]

Sense of Dedication Absent Among Theatre Artistes

Project to Provide Drinking Water to Wild Animals

Fire Rages in Nagarhole and Bhadra Sanctuary [w/ photo of expired tusker]

No Opposition, No Leader: Political Nincompoops

Poll Body Primes for World's Biggest Democratic Event [upcoming Lok Sabha election]

Fat Kid Stuck on a Swing

Smelly Kenyan Gets Scrubdown


Sunday, March 07, 2004

(It's a Man's World, Pt. I)

Today was the day of men, men, men, men, men -- I don't even know where to begin. Bindi and I were stared at nonstop, with that awful mix of lust/disgust, whether it was eating food or waiting for Prashanth or walking down the street or sitting in our seats at the theatre. But that's normal, everyday stuff. First however I'll get the most recent events out of the way. They're mostly gender-neutral but equally amusing (to me at least).........

Tonight I went to see the palace lights (on Sunday evenings they turn on millions of white lights, which cover each and every building on the grounds) and have live music. When we arrived the Indian military band was playing -- are you ready? -- the theme from The Bridge on the River Quai. You know, the one the effete English prisoners whistle while building on the thing, to improve morale / prove how British they are. Another surreal India moment.

Then I popped by Jagan Mohan Palace and there was a show in progress -- a national-level classical dance competition with live classical musicians playing the most beautiful devotional music you could imagine. It made me teary, it was so moving. (BTW I think this is the same annual contest Bob and I saw here two years ago). Just when I thought it couldn't get any better the man (yes it was the man) singer did my favorite thing, where they kind of rap. It's like, "taka taka taka taka taka taka ta. Ta taka ta. Ta. Ta. Taka taka taka taka taka taka ta. Taka ta. Ta. Ta. etc." LOVE it; better than my cat Kirby's clicking when he sees CD's.

In the middle of the performance there was a perfect Mysore moment. Yes, the power went out. The tabla player and percussionist kept going and so did the dancers (the mics were dead and the stage was dark). Within five minutes the generator was fired up, the lights blinked and came on, the fans started twirling and everyone picked up where it they'd left off. The thing is, the *exact same thing* happened last time around. Utterly amazing.

Earlier in the day Prashanth, Bindi, Jammu & Kasmir and I went to see a kick-ass Hindi film called "Proud to be Indian". The plot had elements of "My Beautiful Laundrette" plus some "Quadrophenia" and "Suburbia." In other words, Indian immigrants-in-London vs. the skinheads (the leader of the latter had a thick Austrailian accent for some reason). It was in the worst movie theatre (grungy, with exactly five women in the audience of over 300) and had the best sound system yet.

The direction was good, as was the set design, photography and music (Bollywood and Oi!). The skins even had red Doc Martens and thin red suspenders, just like the real ones in the 80's. The film opened with them killing a Sikh family and getting the Pakistanis to go after the Indians. Then the smouldering hero arrived from Mumbai.

I was the last in our group to leave the theatre and while going down the steps I felt the not-unfamilar sensation of a small, unknown hand fondling my left butt-cheek. I turned around lickey-split, looked down and faced a guilty-looking moustached-and-pompadoured man who was a good foot shorter than I. Without missing a beat, I wagged my finger in his face and said in my Apollo Hospital venom-voice, "DON'T DO THAT!"

His reaction completely disarmed me. Without missing a beat he did that charming South Indian head-tilt that means "Yes" or "OK."

Then we had to walk the Gauntlet of Men from the theatre entrance to the parking lot. They were staring, they crowding us, they wouldn't get out of the way -- ugh. I couldn't get in or out of the lot because the guys (and it was guys, 100 percent) who were going to the next show wanted to get in. I had to threaten to run them over. It worked. Later on in the street two guys walked into my scooter....or did I hit them?


I've been changing money with the black market guy the Kaveri Lodge uses for some time. I've changed *tons* with him on this trip (he comes within five miutes and gives a better rate than the American Express office or the bank) -- not to mention last time 'round. I told the ex (oops, accidentally typed "hex." Hmmmmmmmm) how to get ahold of him and today I ran into them finishing up a transaction for just $200 US. The guy is shaking X's hand, looking at him lovingly and saying, "Thank you very much" NEVER have I gotten such treatment. Just indifference. This whole place is set up for men (well so is the rest of the world -- it's just that here in India everything is out in the open rather than sweetened up and swept under the rug).

A cute little boy is here at the stinky slow internet place; he's about four and checking me out, smiling shyly. I just asked him, "Oota aita" (have you eaten; it's used here like "How are you?"). He just did endearing head-tilt. SOOO cute. But he'll grow up.

Then there was Bindi's run-in with the prix at the stereo store. More details later but she bought a boom box from them and the cassette player broke the first day she had it. Yesterday they said they'd repair it. We came back today and every tape they put in sounded like it had been recorded under water. "That's because they are old," the man said.

"You just took the shrink-wrap off! It's a new tape!"


"It's still broken. Every tape you play sounds bad. I want a refund."

"You broke it."

"No I didn't. It's defective. I want a replacement."

"No. It is made in China. No exchange. You buy Philips, full warranty."


Bindi was amazing -- India is one long lesson in assertiveness training for us lady westerners -- but there was no recourse. They would not budge. And they were *not* nice about it. So on the way out I said, "You all have 3-inch &^%@s, don't you." (These guys were *really* awful). Then Bindi took the boombox and, with great control and precision, dropped it on the ground in front of the store. It flew into a billion pieces. The icky men just stood there, dumbfounded.

I can only imagine what would have happened if we *hadn't* done yoga this morning.....

Saturday, March 06, 2004


The Ex is here, right; I had to go to the train station twice before I found him (I was given many different train timings from live peope and the Internet, all of which were wrong; of course he'd been standing there the whole time). He was waiting with some rickshaw drivers. He told them he was looking for his friend. "What is her name?" "C---" he answered. "Chicago!" the driver replied; apparently he knew *exactly* who I was..... Although I am invisible to westerners (The Eastern Block kirtan dirge guy ate at *my* chappati place in *my* neighborhood the other night and saw me on the way out and looked at me dumbly and said, "You go to Pattabhi?" No duh -- I've seen you there and over coconuts EVERY SINGLE DAY for the past month not to mention at parties -- I even know which is your favorite shirt, for Crissake) yet somehow Indians are able to see me. "I see pale people." All the locals seem to know me / monitor my movements. "Nice scooter," remarked the guy at Nilgiri's the other day, adding, "Prashanthi" Note to self: Limit public tantrums.

So I took The Ex to Aunty's for lunch and while walking down the very long gangway past other people's houses to her kitchen I turned around to find him sprawled on the ground, stars flying around his head (he's very cartoonlike). Apparently he didn't duck under one of the many very low cement doorways and nailed himself hard. Aunty came running, "Put water! Put water!" Did I mention it's a full moon today?

Later I was on my way here, to the scary sneezy stinky slow sweaty unsteady internet place, and saw some kids throwing colors on each other (for Holi; see yesterdays entry). So instead of walking here I got on the scooter and flew past them before anything untoward could happen.....but it ain't really over til the fat lady eats her yogurt, dons her earplugs and goes to sleep, is it.

Friday, March 05, 2004


Today Bindi and I went to the pool at the posh Southern Star Hotel -- my first time there, ever -- and, surprisingly, it wasn't at all like junior high . The Real Hanuman was there to greet us and it was shady and tre laid back (no one stared or clicked their tongues; not sure about wagging) and we didn't have to pay the Rs 150 or whatever the cover is, because we didn't actually swim. We met Jammu & Kasmir (both have black bikinis, the first choice among the tre discerning students of Pattabhi Jois) because the latter graciously volunteered to teach us how to crochet (quick -- phone my stepmother). We're working on winter caps.

Tomorrow is Holi, a spring full (or do you say fool) moon festival in which young people throw colored powder and water on each other - and the colors here are bright. Very, very bright -- and often toxic (according to the paper, people have actually been blinded by the brights). I 've done research and I'm still not sure what it's all about but it's kind of like Hindu Easter or whatever -- an end-of-winter spring solstice fertility letting-off-steam kind of thing that may or may not have something to do with some gods; last time around I was told several different stories about its origin and none made much sense (see below). I remember that my Catholic Indian Man friend from up north (who's AWOL) wouldn't take out his white car on Holi, for fear it'd be splattered by young goondas.....What it all means to us as cats is that we are supposed to wear yucky clothes so it doesn't matter if we get colors thrown on us (men here also use the game as a gateway to Eve-teasing, or groping). I have some outfits from my last trip that I wore every other day -- no wonder I made so few friends! -- and wouldn't mind releasing from my grasp forever (purple top w/ the mirrors, anyone?); Bindi plans on wearing white, to enhance what she already has. Chances are good we'll be ignored but it's India isn't it and you just never know, do you.


SOME AMUSING BACKGROUND INFO ON HOLI (italics and boldface are mine) from the web site

(BTW, I am thinking of legally changing my name to Holi Putana -- not only because it sounds Indian AND like a Russ Meyer antihero, but it has some nasty connotations en espanol as well).

Legends of Holi [the third one is positively pricele$$]:

Holika was an aunt of a boy named Prahlad , who died in the fire arguing against her king brother Hiranyakashipu who had declared himself as God. In her honor, an effigy of Holika is burnt in a bonfire in some parts of India.

Holi was also the day when Kama , the God of Love disturbed Lord Shiva's meditation and was burnt down by Shiva. An effigy of Kama is burnt in some parts of India on the day of the Holi festival.

Holi was also the name of a female demon Putana who tried to kill boy Krishna, by giving him her poisoned nipples to suckle. The miracle boy Krishna is said to have sucked so intensely that he drained the demon of her life. Hence the biggest celebration of Holi takes place at Mathura.


On the day of the Holi, people (men and women) irrespective of caste and creed mingle together and exchange colors. The celebrations can get wild and rowdy -- it is one of the few occasions of the year that the sexes are allowed to mix freely. People use tools and tricks to spray, paint and drown friends and relatives in color.....

Thursday, March 04, 2004

(four blogs for the price of one)


I had a terrific headache this morning and the entire right side of my head throbbed all through practice......yet somehow evaporated during backbend (came up four times and dropped back 3 times with a minimum of finesse -- right in front of Sharath). Here's a blow-by-blow, in IM free verse:

well I rocked a couple of times
hands came off the mat a few inches
and I went back down
this time without putting one hand down and doing a breakdance move
(dangerous for shoulders)
instead w/ hands together, lightly
I went onto my back and thought for a second.
about not having a mental block
about pushing off w/ my hands and pressing down w/ my feet
like sharath said
it worked of course
i popped right up
didn't have time to think about dropping back --
Sharath was right there
just did it
wasn't pretty but it was done
walked my hands in, went back up
and so on
very matter-of-fact
defying gravity=fun
heart pounds faster
you sweat
and you feel *happy*
even if you can't really breathe

I'm still stopping my regular practice after pasasana (first pose in intermediate series); Actually I'm getting stopped.....I tried to get into pasasana on my own last week and Sharath saw me from across the room and said, "Cara! Wait for me!" so I've been doing it each time with assistance. I suspect no more poses are forthcoming on this trip, which is fine with me.


Bindi and I fed some Ambaas (our word for cows), including the ones in the dirt with no shade tied to the cement blocks, and did some power shopping today; we both were feeling the best we have in some time. Then we ate at Aunty's... where we saw in the gangaway a pair of child's sport shoes that had a swoosh on the side and the words, "Hitler 2001" on the back. Aunty, etc. could not understand why I had to take a snap of them. "Hitler bad man! Killed many people! Stole images from Hindus! Started wars! Bad, bad man! not nice!" This started a heated conversation between Aunty and some male customers at her house -- in Kannada. It went something like this: "BlublublublublublubluHitlerblublublubluHitlerblublublubluSwastikablublu."



Cantonment--Military Base
Cover--Plastic Bag
Crore--10 million
Ghee-Clarfied Butter
Bidi--Cheap Cigarette, Rolled in a Leaf
Choli--Top Worn Under a Sari
Prasad-Blessed Food
Baksheesh--Bribe or Tip
Puja--Religious Ritual
Ganga--Ganges River


The Ex just arrived in Mumbai and comes to Mysore on Saturday (24 hour train). It's his first trip to India and his presence should liven up the blog. A teaser, from today's phone conversation:

X-I just ate an apple. Do you think that's OK?
C-The rule of thumb is "Cook it, boil it, peel it or forget it." Did you peel it?
X-I just read that!
C-So did you?
C-Did you peel it?
X-No, I washed it though.
C-Did you use soap?
X-No. But I should be OK right
C-There could be poo and other stuff on it. Why didn't you peel it?
X-I washed it. Surely that should be enough.
C-What part of "cook it, boil it, peel it or forget it" didn't make sense to you??
X-I think I can feel it in my stomach.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

I had a great practice today -- was next to Bindi (who's back!) and came up four times from backbend with very little slapstick -- but a headache and some loose motions* and exhaustion have come and I spent most of the day lounging in my blue and magenta room at the very decent Kaveri Lodge (close to the toilet). So here's a little something I've been working on in my free time over the past few weeks (we're all budding linguists to some extent, aren't we?). BTW these are all things that I've found to be in regular use here -- on signs and in conversation, fillums and the media:


Red Indian --Native American
Batswana--Temple Bull
Panchayat--Village Council
Monkey Cap--Knit Hat
Come--Follow Me
KumKum--Red Powder
Tonga--Animal-Drawn Cart
Tank --Pond
Talkies--Movie Theatre
Dustbin--Garbage Can
Peg--Shot or Swig
Puncher--Flat Tire
For Hire--For Rent
Parcel--To Go
Yaar--Man (Dude)
"I'm Telling"--"And I Sez"


*regarding loose motions, or do you say diarrhea:
My rule of thumb is this: If I have it more than 24-36 hours and especially if there's a temperature or other symptons I take my ass (so to speak) straight to the doctor or ayurvedic hospital, stat. I've learnt (as has Bindi, the hard way) that the sooner you get it taken care of here, the better. This is in direct conflict with the policy of some of my newby fellow travelers, some of whom have had blood in their stool for days and/or diarrarhea for weeks and have done nothing about it. HELLO! You're in India, not at home where you wait til you can't walk to see a doctor. Bacteria is everywhere, you have nothing to do all day, it's Rs 75 ($1.50) for an office visit and if you wait too long you'll suffer not just from dehyrdation but permanent damage to your kidneys. GO!

Tuesday, March 02, 2004


Today Bindi and I went to check out a Rangouli camp (workshop) that I saw advertised in the paper. (Rangouli is powder drawing that's done in front of Hindu doorsteps at dawn, for good luck). I found the place easily and we arrived on-time, at 10AM. Registration started at 10:45; it was Rs 40 and everything written in triplicate......and we were the only westerners there (apparently our yoga cronies don't read the Star of Mysore).

The 30-odd, mostly sari-clad participants included a prize-winning rangouli artist (who wants us to come to her house tomorrow; being invited to someone's house is a blessing but almost invariably produces some misunderstanding when/if we are offered food which is often raw and for me equals a guaranteed parasite) plus a famous novelist and her daughter -- a *Vedic astrologer who speaks excellent English* (I've been looking for one! To find out if the Man in the US and I are as compatible as we think). The thing was open to the public and put on by two women's clubs that do a lot of good works; it was conducted in Kannada but they also explained what they could in English.

First a woman sang a song in front of a Ganash altar. We all sat in two long lines on the floor, facing each other, and introduced ourselves; I tried to tell them my name and profession (patra-kartay) in Kannada and they were delighted and said, "So sweet." (When I hear that it is like winning a prize.... but it makes you wonder why my sad little stabs at Kannada are so well-received -- does no one outside the state bother to learn it? Did the English make them feel like crap about their language? Something else?)... In any case it was a treat to see all of those women (all of that shakti) in one place -- you never really see them much outside of riding sidesaddle on the back of their brother/father/husband's two-wheeler or going to a temple or store or cremation ceremony.

After the introductions a man came around and handed each of us a sheet of (English) newspaper. Then came a small funnel and a container of the heavy white poodi or powder. The woman in charge showed us how to make a bindu or dot with the powder, using the funnel (MUCH easier than pouring it with your fingers, which is traditional and how I learned from Harini in '02), and then we tried it on our newspaper. I was sitting between the prize-winner and a young woman who told us about a cool place (literally, a hill station) to visit four hours away, in Northern Kerala, called Wyanad......there are prehistoric cave etchings done by tribals, but I think the bandit is there, too). When we filled the sheet and had it checked, we folded it and poured the powder back into the cup and started again. Next was straight lines, then half circles and circles and cow-feet (gomupadma) and spirals, etc. My best ones were the question marks.....the rest were quite sad. Just when I started getting *really* tired the man brought around tiny cups of masala chai. It did the trick for awhile, and the drawing was engrossing, but my shapes got worse and worse (hey, I'd been up since 5:20 and had come straight from yoga). Then we learned it didn't end til 4:30 (but they *were* going to serve lunch). Bindi was feeling sick. She made a quick exit and even though I wanted to stay and chat and put all the shapes together into a big, elaborate design that goes in front of the doorstep -- the women were SO nice -- I followed not long after. But I got some phone numbers and the novelist handed me some background info on the club as I left. And the artist offered to show me what I missed -- when I come to her house. LOVE it here.

When I got back to the Kaveri Lodge I was ready for a leak and a bath. Just as I was taking the combination lock off my door I was accosted in the hall by three Tamil business students, who asked me where my home place is and my good name and if I would pose for a "snap." I said Cada!, America and yes, Why not? And then many more beautifully-dressed female (and a few male) students came and then more and more and more and more and more and I posed for many many snaps -- everyone has the same camera -- and I had to urinate but they were so sweet (48 students in all). I knew no Tamil but they knew some English and when I told them I had seen Veramundi with Kamal Hassan they were delighted. "Best Indian film" I said, and again was rewared with "so sweet" and "super dress" (I was wearing the *really* blue one that was stitched to order and is my cheapest one at Rs 210 or $4.50). It was worth holding my water. Then the professors came and more snaps and more girls in every possible combination and finally their bus was leaving (they'd been here for two nights and went to bed late and got up early were actually quite loud, even with earplugs). So I've had a glimpse of what it is like to be Julia Roberts. But I am most defintely *not* America's sweetheart. Or India's, for that matter.....

Monday, March 01, 2004

(you can check out any time you like but you can never leave)

Getting someone discharged from Apollo Hospital is a lot like springing a con from prison -- and costs a whole lot more, too. (Although 'twas worth it, to save Bindi's kidneys). It's also a big con..... To start, the corpulent doctor whom we no longer trust was two hours late and only came after I made two not-so-idle threats at the nurse's station, where a swarm of tiny women in royal blue and white stood around doing nothing ("Discharge! Discharge! Awaiting doctor for discharge! Estu gante coming (What time coming?). He is very late! We must go. Discharge! He said this morning! Function this afternoon! Leaving!").

In the meantime there was a separate *function* at the hospital to launch a new cardiac ward and celebrate the 60 years birthday (a big deal here, where 60 has *always* been the new 40) of the Chief Minister of guarantees -- BTW both state and federal governments were recently dissolved -- plus the head of the wonderful Apollo Hospital chain and some other dhoti luminary. There was a fancy mandala and jasmine and balloons in the lobby and white-hatted cops at the parking lot entrance using their whistles and waving. I thought, "Ha ha, I'm ready for you -- I have my D.L. (driver's license) AND insurance papers" but no, they were motioning me to park in a lot far, far away (have you ever been off-road on a scooter while wearing bangles, flip-flops and a long dress? If not you haven't really lived).....

Over the next several hours Bindi and I divided our attention between watching the cops load scooters onto a tow truck (took forever) and roping off areas (with a too-short rope) and awaiting the dignitaries (who never came), and getting engrossed in An Officer and a Gentleman (edited, with commercials). [Does anyone else think I look like Debra Winger??]... There was also a huge, window-level bee swarm that was fun to look at, kind of like going snorkeling only easier to breathe.

Anyway Bindi was finally sans I.V. and up and about in good spirits and eating iddly and we were SO READY to get out of there but then there was the wait for the doctor ("One half hour he is coming" they told me several times) followed by the even more irksome wait for the bill, which I first inquired about around 1100 hours "It will take one half hour after the doctor comes, madam." Hours later (and an hour after the doctor left) I made another unpleasant trip to the nurse's station -- I was *starving* at this point, since we had expected to be out of there around 10:30, 11) -- only to find out that the bill was coming in a half hour. More waiting for the bill come thru the door (You must wait for it in the room, madam), watching the young Richard Gere get cold feet, etc. and progressively more ugly inquires. I had to be at the crackhead tailor's before 1600 hours in order to pick up my hot pink choli (sari top, which he had tried to get right FOUR TIMES -- HELLO, NO ONE's cans are shaped like THAT) -- for the wedding at the shala that night.

Time kept on slippin' into the future and finally around 15:40 Bindi and I grabbed our bags and tried to walk out (cue Thin Lizzy's "Jailbreak," add video from Stir Crazy). The bevy of nurses started to swarm (like blue-and-white antibodies on tall white germs), told us we could not leave, the be-ill must be paid, etc. "We have waited for the bill. We must leave now. We have things to do and we're sick of this f-ing place." (At some point you stop trying to communicate and commence to venting / making Bindi laugh). "She waits, you pay," they told me. "I'm not paying the f-ing bill -- that's her job. And we are going to billing right now." They put a mini Nurse Ratchett on us and she tailed us down to billing.... which would not let Bindi pay til the pharmacy bill was squared away. So we walked to the pharmacy (Ratchett trailing) where we were told we would have to go upstairs to the nursing station and get the pharmacy bill. "What??? We were just there. They told us to go to billing. Billing told us to come here." "It will just take ten minutes, madam." We don't want to go up there. We have been waiting hours for be-ill. Tell them to send it down. "Just ten minutes, it is coming." Much back-and-forth. Finally, I looked at my watch and said, "I am timing you. If it takes more than ten minutes things will get really, really ugly," (said with real venom, which I'm really ashamed of now). It worked. While he was gone, the diminutive, mustachioed male customer to my left looked at me up and down and up and down and up and down with that oh-so-familiar expression of lust/disgust -- which is amusing the first hundred times you get it. "Yes, those are my t*t's," I told him, pointing. "That's them. T*ts." [which, BTW, is a word I really dislike].

Finally Bindi paid the pharmacy bill, which had many charges for things she did not have (first, though, she had to prove that her MasterCard was, indeed, an "international" card). Then back to billing, where it took some time to move up in line and locate our be-ill and start again from scratch. Just then a fat dhoti guy cut right in front of us, mid-transaction, and we were forgotten while he was taken care of immediately (happens all the time here and is tolerable the first 1,000 times it happens; this time Bindi and I moved in on either side of him and gave him the elbow-squeeze play -- a far better sport than off-road two-wheeling if you ask me). Finally they gave us her release papers (Bindi won our Price is Right pool -- the bill was around Rs 7,000. I was low). The minute it was settled, Nurse Ratchett vanished like the Wicked Witch of the Subcontinent. Of course no one looked at the Get out of Jail for $175 Card on the way out or during our long, hot walk to the scooter. Nonetheless we were giddy. "Free at last!" sang Bindi as we turned onto the road, wind whipping through our hair.

Later Guruji performed a marriage for two students at the shala. I never made it to the tailor and wore the wrong choli with my carelessly-tied sari, while Bindi had on her most outrageous Punjabi dress (lime green plus every other color). (Before the ceremony we drove around looking for a pre-made choli which is impossible to find on a Sunday afternoon BUT all the women on the other two-wheelers, including one draped from head to foot in black, smiled at us in approval of our outfits...'tis not often a woman in a sari pilots a two-wheeler with a blonde, El Moderno woman on back, is it? Little did they know I was also wearing a thong....). At the jasmine-festooned shala all the other students had to comment on how beautifully thin Bindi looked -- even the most Auschwitz-looking of the anorexics. Apparently saying "I can see your cheekbones" means, "I'm so glad you're back -- how do you feel?" In any case the marriage was sweet (and short, unlike the typical Hindu ceremony), flowers were given to the women and everyone got kum-kum powder (or whatever it was) on their foreheads (one of the elder Hindu women wore a choli that didn't match her sari, which was heartening). A few times Guruji said to the couple, "You go there!" or "Right foot first" when the groom was putting on the bride's toe-rings. That got some laughs. (Sharath, who assisted, was wearing dhoti and a tank-top with Guruji's beaming mug on it).

Next there was a dessert and kirtan reception across the street, on the roof of Saraswati's house (where Bindi and Miss Y live(d)). It was Miss Y's last night in Mysore, and she wore a beautiful white sari and led a kirtan before the Eastern Block guy got ahold of the harmonium and put everyone to sleep. Then she did some more songs before leaving while Bindi played the cartels (bells); it was lovely. I was really, really sad to see her go.

But this is India, and that same day Miss Z from NYC (and my last trip here) arrived, lifting my spirits. The mix of people here changes daily, and you adapt accordingly. But I will *really* miss Miss Y (but not that *&^%ing hospital!).


* from

"On January 27, 1967, a cabin fire killed the three Apollo 1 astronauts while they performed system checks on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral. Killed in the fire were Virgil "Gus" Ivan Grissom, the second American to fly in space; Edward Higgins White, II, the first American to walk in space; and Roger Bruce Chaffee."