Saturday, February 28, 2004

But Bindi's OK

Well Bindi is nearly 100 percent and on semisolid food but has to stay another night at Apollo Hospital, which she is not looking forward to. Last night was a nightmare for her, what with the clumsy night staff that didn't speak English, the searching for veins (apparently you cannot stick a needle into a tattoo so most of the time she had the IV in her THUMB; later they took it out and jabbed five or six times on the tops of both hands, blood everywhere), the phone that kept ringing and turned out to be a party line and never for her, the mosquitoes, the ants, etc. But she made it through the night (cue Barry Manilow) and tonight she'll get a sedative and the mosquitoes shouldn't be a problem because we closed the windows and turned on the AC. Her potassium levels are normal, kidneys are fine and the antibiotic is taking out the bronchitis and gastrointestinal thing. BTW the nurses wear white tops and tights with royal blue pinafores and real nurse's caps and the guy who brings the food consistently puts it on the table farthest from Bindi (who can't reach it because of the IV which hangs from a wheel-less stand). When she called him on it, he gave her a disgusted look and put it next to the TV (even more of a reach). Oh yes and then there is all the commenting on the tattoos, which seem to make her some sort of antishiva in their eyes. Don't envy her at all.....

Oh yes today's sari color was back to oxblood -- rather appropriate.

Friday, February 27, 2004


Bindi has had some nasty diarrhea/fever/cramps the past few days not to mention a two-week cold and yesterday she had an ugly vomiting episode. She'd been taking Cipro but it didn't seem to be doing anything. So today I brought her to see my doctor at Apollo Hospital (one of the ten best in India, very western; today the saris were emerald). After asking her how long her tattoos would last ("Until I die" -- you should have seen his face when *that* finally registered) he checked her tongue and skin and BP and determined that she's dehydrated. Then he admitted her so they could give her an IV drip to rehydrate her. This is common procedure and also voluntary. When we found out they had "deluxe" rooms with cable TV we were all over it. Also the guy in charge of billing was named Jagadish.... After a couple of hours Bindi -- who was just weak, not incoherent/faint -- already looks better. We watched an awful Matt Dillon movie (Saint of Ft. Washington) and were completely enthralled. The doctor is also going after whatever it is that took root in her intenstines -- apparently Cipro is in such common use here that most strains are immune to it (someone should tell that to the Travel Center!). Right now I'm going to pick up a couple of things (TP, soap, water, etc) and go back over there to keep her company, keep the staff in line and WATCH MORE CABLE.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

(the magic is still here)

So yes I've been coming up from backbend for just over a week and doing pasasana (first pose in the intermediate series) since Monday. I didn't want to commit it to print because the moment I did (I thought) it would disappear -- seeing as how I spent *four months* trying to do this in 2002. (I was worried it'd be like saying, "Rumplestiltskin"). So let's hope for the best.....A blow-by-blow account follows:

Wed 2/18/04

-Don't think about it
-Have Lino remind you of this in Kovalam
-Also have him tell you that doing kapotasana will teach you how to come up to standing from backbend
-Listen to him say, "Next week you will come up"
-At his playground workshop, listen to him explain for the umpteenth time that the secret of floating back and forth and up and down is to *move with the breath*

-Come to Mysore with zero expectations, other than getting sick and experiencing darshan (viewing) with Guruji, Sharath and Saraswati
-Be ignored the first several days and amuse yourself by doing many many backbends. Try rocking back-and-forth and actually taking your hands off the floor.
-Get your hair cut
-Have Sharath help you in dropbacks and tell you to walk your hands in before he brings you up. (BINGO!)
-Have Gurjuji help you in BB's and tell you not to hold your breath during dropbacks (which you didn't realize you were doing, until you were halfway to the floor).
-Have Sharath help you on the first two dropbacks and on the third one say, "Walk in your hands. Push off with your hands. Come up." (This was 2/11). And you do it, you come straight up, like he's a magnet. You are surprised it took so little effort.

"Tomorrow you come up," he says. "You do next week, you start intermediate." But next day you are sick and sleep through yoga (see dystenery entry below)

The following Monday you practice between Lino and Bettina (who's in yr old room at the Kaveri Lodge) and in front of Kiwi Bill. This is auspicious, you think. It's now or never. You rock a few times in BB and think, What IS holding me back? Nothing. You turn your feet wide and out [sorry, Iyengar folks] and rock and try to come up but push off with only one hand and fall back down. You realize you have to use both hands and go on the inhale. You try again and come up very clumsily and run back like a cartoon or David Byrne in the "Once in the Lifetime" video. You catch your breath, then sit back down and go into BB again. Same thing, you come up AGAIN, only this time Lino notices and nods. Big smile. Then a third time, rocking first to coordinate your breath you come up so askew you run back to catch your balance and almost trample Bill. But he's not annoyed. You cross your arms and stand on the front of the mat, waiting for your closeup (ie help w/ dropbacks). When Sharath comes you tell him you came up three times but admit that you did not drop back from standing -- which you haven't done since 2002, with him, in the old shala. OK, he says. Should I drop back now, you ask. "Tomorrow." After some confusion he helps you go back onto your head, and then rocks you five times back and forth. The last time you go down and walk your hands towards your feet and straighten your arms. Then he has you do it again -- and again -- and it is the most intense backbending you've done since you touched your feet in '02. "Good" he says when he brings you up and steadies you.

That night you get out your mat and see how far down the wall you can drop back. When you're just about a foot from the floor, you realize you'll probably be able to pull it off.

Next day (2/18) you awaken weak and dizzy at 4AM and do Nescafe Nauli Kriya before class. When you arrive the lobby is nearly empty. Sharath says "one more" and before it penetrates he says "Cara! You go there. In front," pointing to a spot by the stage. (He remembers your name!). You go and your practice is OK if a little weak and when backbends come your heart beats faster and you do four (one more than is standard), walking your hands in closer on the last one and rocking. You come up running backwards just a little bit, smacking the girl on your right (who apologizes to you). "No, I'm sorry" you say. You spread your feet wider than the mat, catch your breath, put your palms in prayer and slowly go back with the exhale, in super slow-mo. You finally see the floor and it gets closer and you put your arms out and land, not too hard. You walk your hands in, inhale and come up and barely stumble. You repeat it twice and Sharath comes over and you say, I did it! did you see me? And he says yes. "Muru (three) times" you say. "Next week pasasana," he replies.

Later you get a string of jasmine (Rs 60) for Guruji and tell him you did dropbacks on your own for the first time. "With Sharath?" he asks. "Alone. By myself." Good, good, he says, smiling. "Tomorrow easy practice" (ie, led primary series, no dropbacks). Of course you're sick that day and the day after, etc. and when Monday finally rolls around you do pasasana with help from Guruji and backbends and as the week goes on you find you are able to come up -- most of the time. Although occasionally Guruji catches you fumbling and helps you (The first time you usually fall back down, the second try is successful but full of slapstick comedy, the third one is better and the fourth is like ballet. More or less)....


So today I woke up exhausted and went to yoga and got the worst spot in the house -- the one right in front of the door to the lobby, where everyone waits, staring intently at what we're doing. And who is front and center but me. I chortled when Guruji said, "you go there" because I thought, "no WAY am I going to be able to come up from backbend in front of THAT audience." Plus I had sick people all around me, not to mention an EXHALER. This is a person who thinks ujjai breath -- which should sound like the ebb and flow of the sea / darth vader / steam iron -- is all about the exhale. They have a loud, harsh exhale, like it's a contest to see who can drown out everyone else, and a short, invisible inhale. It sounds like some old-fashioned steam train. This guy was SO LOUD I could not hear my own breathing. Worse yet, I started breathing like him. And then the audience was there to see an unusually clumsy practice. Plus it was breezy and I never broke a sweat. Sharath helped me in pasasana (first pose of intermediate series) and then it was showtime. I did four BB's. My first attempt to come up was aborted (ie, I fell). The second one was all slapstick but successful. Then it was time to drop back. I did a superslowmo in front of all of those faces -- and landed gently. I walked my hands in and came up a second time, with a little less comedy. Dropped back again and again; thelast time was worth an Olympic 8, I think. Beautiful. Then I did dropbacks with Sharath. I figure now that I've done it in front of that many people, I can really do it -- it's not a fluke or an accident. After two frustrating years I AM COMING UP FROM BACKBEND (most of the time). Very exciting.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004


BTW there's another Mysore blog, being updated daily by some Bay Area folks -- and they know how to include pictures. Good luck w/ the link:

MYSORE MEDITATIONS (with apologies to Kafka)

--From the Star of Mysore ( last week, on the eve of Shivaratri (in which the devoted stay up all night, chanting Shiva's name):
"Eve-teasing, trespassing into private property, stealing coconuts from trees, uprooting flower-plants, damaging flower pots, replacing the signboards, breaking bottles on roads, harassing the motorists, two-wheeler riders and pedestrians and other kinds of mischief are likely to occur."

--One day the clerical staff at Apollo Hospital wore oxblood saris; the next day teal. Almost wanted to go back one more time, just to see the color.

Of the 2,000 suicides in Bangalore last year, 70 percent were committed by I-T workers.....and the majority of those were under 35. How many US jobs have gone to India?

--The woman pharmacist kept looking at me and finally asked, "How did you get your skin to stay so fair." Sunblock, I said. I use the highest number. "But how do you stay so fair in this sun." Using a parasol. What? Umbrella! Umbrella! Oh. "But WHY are you so fair?" Because my parents were fair. Smile. South Indian head-nod.

--RETURN TO IYENGARS (restaurant I walked out of the previous week):
One man at the counter is happy to see me, the other is not. Rava dosa, I say. Parcel. He yells it out. Frooty also, I say. While I sit down he tells the waiter to get it. No one is smiling. There is a big search in the cooler, then the waiter slips the juicebox in the bag while I am paying (Rs 25). After crossing the fecal stream and being chased by the rabid dog -- they skulk away as soon as you pick up a rock -- and getting stared at by at least 25 people of all ages and sizes, I get the parcel "home" ... only to find that the Frooty is warm and the straw flattened and dirty. I wonder how much spit is in the dosa, which is wrapped in a bright green banana leaf, before I devour it.

--The cock that hangs out in front of the Browsing Center is stunning -- many colors including blue and a fanned-out, healthy tail. And a hen of course.

--Are all the shave-headed people mouring the loss of a loved one? Or is it just summer?:
-Jain guy at yarn shop
-Mohan (Browsing center owner)
-Security man at Kaveri Lodge

--If families all sleep together in the same room, when do they have sex?

I use my rudimentary Kannada whenever I can and at least once a day someone says to me (in English), "It makes me so happy to hear you speak Kannada."

--There are three or four anorexics at the shala, all protruding cheek- and hipbones, stringy necks and giant heads topped by expensive haircuts, doing intermediate series. (Between them and the westerners who hang out at the pool perfecting their tans all day, the rail-thin and fairness-obsessed locals must think we're out of our minds). Guruji simply tells the walking skeletons to eat.

-Bryan Adams is huge here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004


After class Bindi and I fed some sad cows that are tied by short tethers to cement blocks. They stand in the sun in the dirt every day with nothing to eat and their ropes are so short they can't lift their heads up to normal height. And they keep the calf away from its mother! So last night I bought some bananas and carrots and we fed them to them. They seemed to wake up a bit. Then we went to breakfast and for our first-ever pedicures, just like true members of the leisure class. (BTW, what is the big deal about pedicures? I do just as good a job on my own feet. Puh-lease).

Afterwords I was SO TIRED I could not believe it so I did some laundry and then CRASHED. I ventured out for some food at Aunty's -- the anti-TV people were there. More on them later. Suffice to say they're arrogant, unfriendly beings with cell phones (which for some reason are OK) and posh European accents who won't let Aunty watch her soap while they're there. On the way home I saw the saddest sheep ever, still died, I mean dyed dayglo yellow from last month's festival and on a short tether perfectly motionless with its face in the corner. I thought it was dead. I need to feed it....I came back home and finished (reading) a novel and then ran some horrid errands. Now I'm here, at the airless Browsing center. After signing off I'll get some chappatis and hit the sack. Not a bad day, in all. But the poor animals. And in so many ways the people are worse off, though....Must give to some charity before I go....

For those of you who want to comment on any of this I've set up a request line: Remember -- if you have no expectations, you won't be disappointed.

Monday, February 23, 2004


Bindi and I were on the second floor talking

Miss Y comes in and shows us pix and we're having a straight old time

And then Miss Y asks, who wants to go with me to get a pedicure

We're both, like, f-- that

We don't get pedicures

I started on my "I've never had a pedicure, I'm for the workers" diatribe

And then she said it was only 100 rupees

We went but they didn't have time for us

Really retro place, straight out the 70s

Miss Y told the manager, "But they told me yesterday that we didn't need to make an appointment"

The woman said yes we do, bla bla bla, AND WHO TOLD YOU THIS?

She kept pressing -- who told you

Who was it?

Finally she said

(are you ready)

"If you tell me who it was, I will tackle that fellow."



The delivery was so clear

We were on the floor

short one today because I have to pee...

A Connundrum:

If you drop a 100-rupee note on the floor, do you pick it up with your right hand (because it's money) or your left (because it's been defiled by the floor). Results forthcoming.

Saturday, February 21, 2004


Can I just say how hard it's been to get to sleep what with the bizzarre medication and all and the yelling and calling out and spitting and washing and shuffling and other noises in the hall and the dish-scraping, throat-clearing and puppy-wailing and stereo-listening outside the window and now the weather has changed and it no longer is quite as cool at night and we pittas have a hard time with that. In any case I've had insomnia, like, every night and it's the kind where your arms and legs and mind are restless and all the water (in case of dehydration), herbal tea, reading, visualization, breathing, listening to quiet music and journal-writing in the world won't make it go away. I'll blame it on *doing nothing for four days* because of the dysentery and the medication that is supposed to kill it. I finish it tomorrow, thank Saraswati. And then there's trying to log on to Yahoo. Suffice to say I've been trying to do so for two days and have walked out of more Internet cafes than there are in the whole city of Chicago. No one has been slapped (yet) and I did nothing to dampen the joy of the family of eight sharing the space next to (and on) me today, to see and celebrate the E- picture of some new infant -- even when the youngest boy repeatedly rubbed his ass into my arm and they all stood staring at my (blank) screen. If you need to get ahold of me try the address as this seems to be a Yahoo thang.

Anyway I went to yoga today, it's Sunday which means two led primary classes at 5:30 and 6:30 followed by led intermediate. This time when I said hello to the other two people who got in line too-too early for the 5:30 class they actually responded! I found my spot in back by the wall and the Model put his mat next to mine (he ate something *nasty* last night and needs to wash his shorts). It was a decent practice; it felt good and right and I sweated a lot but like some impotent man I was not able to keep it up during Utplutithi (Uprooting pose) and I know Sharath saw me. Oh, well...... After a long savasana during which my own snoring woke me up three or four times I went out to get a couple of coconuts and stood in line for some time and not being a huge fan of the other people there, and getting ignored by Bick-the-coconut-wallah over and over again I took my mat and scooter and went home..... where I slept for another hour and a half. Blissful -- It was like my button had finally been switched to the "off" position. Then Bindi, Prashanth and I went to see a fillum in Telegu (language of the nearby state of Andra Pradesh). It sucked -- too much dialog, the characters were hateful, the music was mediocre, the bad guy was a dead ringer for Donny Osmond (must admit I *loved* seeing him get beat up), and the hero had that bad five o'clock shadow we keep seeing onscreen -- but Prashanth said it was "very nice" and wants to see it again tomorrow. Also during the filum -- there were many women in the audience for some reason -- I started to feel dizzy and nauseous........After some EmergenC we stayed with the theme and ate some Andra food at Elapur, which is awesome (can I say Really fresh food! AC! Fingerbowls!). I had the thali meal, which was Rs 38 and seems a hell of a lot like the one eaten daily in Karnataka (the state I'm in, in more ways than one).


-The long-shuttered, formerly regal Hotel Metropole reopened today; it's right next door to the Southern Star and also boasts a pool (the place was christened this morning by Karnataka chief minister Krishna, who's on the campaign trail). The question -- What will happen to Westerner pool culture now?

-You can buy a brand new motorcycle here for Rs 28,000 (around $600) -- just Rs 1100 less than it costs for the first month of study with Guruji. The difference in cost could get you a cheap hooker, a week at the Kaveri Lodge or three thali meals plus tax/tip at the tre chi-chi Lalitha Mahal Palace. You make the call....

Friday Night and the Lights are Low

The sad dog starts up
Like it's being beaten
Hits two notes, then
the power goes out (again)
"Load shedding"
A collective sigh through the window
Like for fireworks that don't fire.
Flashlights are found
Candles lit and set down
Generators protest and wail and finally hum
And the conversation improves
The words start to come --
At least for those with the candles.
And the puppy cries Maya
Sinking into his song
Moving up with a bullet
In as heavy rotation
As the call of the Mullah.

Friday, February 20, 2004


Today's entry was up and ready to go - all about the great Tamil film Virumaandi -- and then the f*&^%$g server went down for, like, ever. I kept hitting refresh and when I finally gave up after 45 f*&^%$g minutes, I hit quit and "let it go" (not really) and not one second later the f*&^%$g wallah says, server is connecting. NO F-----G PRAWBLEM. Here's my lamest attempt to include a link, to a review of Virumaandi:

Thursday, February 19, 2004


I was *so sick* after writing that last blog. First there was the washing machine effect in the stomach, the lightheadedness, the sweats and chills and the frothy, superstinky diarrhea. As the night wore on there was more weakness and dizziness and fever and nausea and chills. I set up everything in bed with me, under my mosquito net (much like being in a porous pink tent) -- I had books, earplugs, glasses, water bottle, Advil, and, most important, a big ol bucket. After waking up with loose motions [see last entry] every hour on the hour I broke the pattern and awakened with severe nausea -- and reached for the orange bucket just in time. It was the violent, hellish, sweaty, emotional, why-can't-I-die-now-who-am-I-to-go-to-India type of vomiting but all that came out was a dissolved Advil, some acidic liquid, lots of air and, curiously, a singly curry leaf. After the heaving was over I felt better of course and grabbed the bucket, lifted one end of the tent and headed for the bathroom. I turned on the light and saw something move. It was a serving spoon-size cockroach and when it saw me it started coming towards me! I set down the bucket, grabbed my shoe – remember, I’m weak, dizzy, disoriented, covered in a cold sweat and in stocking feet -- and after several tries killed the thing, peeled it up from the floor and put it in the toilet. Then I heard the telltale crunch-crunch and saw another one coming towards me! They are brazen here! This one was just tablespoon-size and after a couple of tries I killed it, too (why do I hate cockroaches so much? They don’t bite). I peeled it off, dropped it in the toilet next to its mate and filled the big silver bucket with water – because the f-ckers float and won’t go down if you flush ‘em. I emptied both buckets and put poison chalk around the window, drains and bathroom/bedroom threshold. Then I went to wash the stuff off my hands – and what crawled out from under my soapdish but a third cockroach! It was a baby (ie just a couple of sizes larger than the ones we have at home) and I killed it, too. Bad lady. Then I filled the silver bucket again and made it disappear.

Later I woke up and threw up again, just as violently and with the all the negative thoughts, only worse. This time I hallucinated that my cat was there on the bed with me. The next day I was awfully weak and miserable and dizzy etc. plus I had a splitting heacache. I took some Advil, which stayed down, and had some chai and called Prashanth, who came over and took me on the scooter – not fun when yr in that condition -- to Apollo Hospital (voted one of the ten best in India, and where I went in ‘02, to treat my amoeba). In fact I still had my patient card and didn’t have to re-register. I saw a nice doctor (my old one was off duty) who looked at my tongue and pinched my skin and took my BP and heard my symptoms and kept asking if I would consent to being admitted to the hospital, because I might be dehydrated. “I’d prefer not to,” I kept replying, just like Bartlby. The repitition seemed to work and he prescribed some meds and said if I didn’t improve to come back in the morning and he’d admit me. Then he ordered some lab tests and said to return next day with the results – apparently this sort of thing is done manually, by the patient, even though the lab is just down the hall and everything is computerized. In any case they required a stool sample – something that was easy for me to do at the drop of a hat -- and a blood test.

I got the meds, took them and was tired/dizzy/etc but at least I wasn’t vomiting. I read an entire novel – Ladies Coupe, about five women on a train from Bangalore to Kanyakumari -- and slept all night and woke up late and felt a little better as the morning wore on. After chai and a plain dosa I drove Bindi and myself to the hospital – I finally figured out how to get there! And was well enough to drive myself! I learned that there was mucous and blood in my stool but my kidneys are fine – no dehydration after all – and that it was a simple (?) case of dysentery (not amoebic)....... and that if I hadn’t caught it in time I could have become seriously ill (ie kidney damage, etc). Later we went with Prashanth and Jammu & Kasmir to see a movie. Or do you say fil-um.

We have three days in a row off from yoga (Shiva Ratri, new moon, Saturday) so most students have gone out of town. Before getting sick I researched going to the wildlife preserve at Bandipur but it turned out that the bandit who reigns there is back, as his cohorts are about to be executed and they expect him to do more kidnapping (which is why I now call it "Banditpur"). I looked into the adjacent preserve, Nagarahole, and then it caught on fire; they've lost 5,000 acres so far. Then I investigated Kodagu / Coorg, the coffee region of Karnataka, where Sean and I went in ’02. Turns out coffee prices have plummeted and the growers have called for a bandh / strike (in which everything is closed, period). GLAD I stayed home, near the phone and the western toilet and the good hospital...

Tuesday, February 17, 2004


I’m feeling under the weather today (that’s what happens after a tre intense yoga practice -- more on that soon) so there's little to tell........although I did overhear someone in Gokalum telling her friend that she had to pay the police a Rs 500 fine (about $11) for driving aorund without her scooter insurance papers. Later that day she located said proof -- and went to the police station to try to get her money back (and was dumbfounded when it didn't work). Lately I've been doing U-turns / skeedaddling each and every time I see The Man in his white shirt and cowboy hat. So far, so good....

In any case I am having loose motions and a temperature and the beginnings of the washing machine effect, which means I am staying close to the john and you are privy to my latest list:




Loose Motions--Diarrhea



Free Size--One Size


West Asia --Middle East

Nursing Home--Hospital



Military Hotel--Serves Meat

Mess--Cheap Restaurant

Vest--Tank Top



Fast Guy--Bad One

Fresh--Looking Nice






Load Shedding--Power Outage

In Station--At Home


Formals--Dress Clothes








Make a Move-- Let’s Go

Monday, February 16, 2004

from No Full Stops in India, by Mark Tully (1991):

"Swami's vehicle was a Hindustan Ambassador -- still the standard issue for everyone in the government of India who merits a car, from the prime minister downwards. It is a bull-nosed four-door saloon making no concessions to modern aerodynamics -- the late-forties model of the British Morris Oxford. It came to India in the fifties and has dominated the roads ever since. Officially the Ambassador has been through several changes during its long life, but each new 'mark' has meant merely a face-lift for the front grille or a new dashboard. The engine behind the grille has reamined the same, and the chassis and springs carrying it have not altered. The car has two outstanding qualities: there seems to be no limit to the number of people it can carry, or to the length of its life. Mind you, the Ambassador is a demanding car -- it needs plenty of attention to keep it on the road, which is why every Ambassador driver has to be his own mechanic. But despite its stern principles of economic self-reliance, or pulling itself up by its own bootstraps, even India has not been able to withstand the Japanese invasion. The Maruti is now the fashionable car in the bigger cities. Named after the son of the Hindu wind-god, it is in fact a small Suzuki. Hindustan Motors, the manufacturer of the Ambassador, has relpied by putting an Isuzu engine into the body of an outdated Vauxhall and calling it a 'Contessa.' But Hindustan motors has not stopped producing the Ambassador, as it is still in demand. Although the Contessa is more comfortable and has an engine which can power an air-conditioner as well as a car, I still feel safer setting out on a long journey in an Ambassador. Contessas -- and indeed Marutis -- require new skills and spare parts when they fall victim to India's treacherous roads, and those skills and parts have not yet spread into the countryside."

My links *never* work but we'll at least try to do....

I forgot to mention yesterday that I was *kicked in the head* for the first time during yoga practice on Sunday (a common occurance as there are five rows of ten to 15 in close quarters, head to foot). The chick in front of me was jumping back from a sitting pose and I was in caturanga (plank pose), face up as is traditional and she PLANTED HER HEEL RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF MY FOREHEAD -- HARD. It hurt like hell but it was also in that spot right between my eyebrows -- you know, the center of consciousness... It certainly woke me up, probably in ways I have yet to comprehend. I had an immediate headache and the punter didn't seem to be very sorry so I made several "what the hell?" faces at her when she was looking back at me in Downward Dog (she did ask how I was afterwards and I gave her the astronaut's thumbs-up). After many poses the pain receeded and in the end I had a totally enjoyable practice next to The Model (a guy who looks like one -- in a good way -- and has almost the exact same physical practice I do except his feet don't drag when he jumps back and he doesn't use ujjayi breath (like Darth Vader) but sniffs (which is not correct). So of course I slowed and amplified my own breath, to set an example.... which means that in the end it was he who helped my practice). In fact I held my bum off the floor througout Guruji's long, slow count to ten (hitting nine several times) in Utplutith (uprooting pose in which you're in lotus and holding yourself off the floor - kind of an arm balance in which your arms get really tired and can't hold you up and you give up and let your butt touch the floor). It was a first for me, to stay up through Guruji's count. And, knowing India, probably a last. For awhile anyway.

Sunday, February 15, 2004


I just went to Conference, in which Guruji and Sharath sit on the stage and Guruji explains something about yoga. This time it was don't do asana without vinyasa (movement linked with breath) and take only one guru. Also only one doctor, only one wife. Otherwise -- dying. There was also a garlic metaphor that I missed and an edict to study only one type of yoga. Afterwards everyone stood in line to foot-kiss and broke into small groups. We bought the new video from Sharath (I think he doesn't like me) and then Bindi and I took off to this here fast internet place. We are those two antisocial rock n roll *&^%$es with the wild hair -- actually we're just shy -- and we like it, yes we do.

Today Miss Y and I went to meet Maha Deva, the mother of Geetha (whom Y put thru nursing school). She brought us to her daughter's house, where they served us a very tasty rice dish and fruit and put on English TV for us. On the way there Maha D [now *there's* a rap name] rode sidesaddle in a beautiful white sari (with a pink rose pattern) on the back of Miss Y's bike. Maha D's other daughter was also there, many months pregnant but still tiny apart from the basketball in front (Geetha is in Bangalore, working). The grandsons kept showing us their school pictures. The older one is very serious, the younger an imp and both as cute as could be (tho the younger had a fever/headache, which should surface in me in about three days). Lots of smiling and pointing and using the small amount of Kannada we know and slightly greater amount of English they now. It was fabulous....

Then the girls put on their best saris (Y and I were in Indian dress) and we took pictures in back, in every possible group combination. It was good fun esp. as I was using the curs-ed digital camera and were able to enjoy some instant gratification. After chai we took Maha D and the older boy on our scooters to Maha's house, which was another rather long journey to Kali-knows-where. The boy rode behind me and wrapped his thin little arms around my thick waist as we weaved through traffic. I felt like I was in charge of very precious cargo indeed, he being the eldest boy and all (in the entire family as Maha's husband and only son are dead). But we made it there in two pieces. Maha gave us long, emotional goodbye hugs like we were her own daughters,and it made my heart melt. Apparently she cleans students' houses in Gokulam. I think I could learn a lot from her.

Next it was back to the Kaveri and postcard writing and lunch at Auntie's, where the new (to me) Kaveri manager -- who's quite a looker -- also turned up for lunch. As we ate we watched some Kannada movie about an overweight moustacioed rickshaw driver in a dhoti (duh). Auntie's sons seemed impressed that I had braved Lakshmi Talkies to see Dhum ("dumb"). The elder one served me as Auntie was eating -- I've never seen her eat before! as she's always serving. Normally she is in the kitchen working her ass off and customers and family are at the table in the other room, in front of the TV. We sit on plastic stools and occasionally Auntie pours out some water from a bottle and sprinkles it on the table and wipes off the crumbs with her bare hands. She was wearing a stunning magenta and purple silk sari today and I was wanting to clone it. And she said *I* looked nice in my bright blue Rs 200 Indian dress (the Kaveri guy concurred) even tho my hair was pulled up like a tart. Otherwise I was full Indian -- ankle bracelets, 12 silver bangles on each wrist, nosepin, nice necklace, punjabi dress and matching bindi (dot). Uncle was asleep on the floor in front of the TV, as he often is, swaddled in a sheet. (When I say on the floor I mean ON THE HARD, COOL CEMENT FLOOR). From time to time the nice granny
who does the dishes and appreciates a "Namaskar" when you arrive popped her head into the tiny back window and watched, too. The tiny square window fits just one head and is at head height. The sons also do this -- although more often than not one of them comes in, eats hurridly and then stands next to the TV, in front of a small wall mirror, and combs his perfect black hair back over and over a la Fonzie. Flies are everywhere and cows are outside. It's Auntie's and it's the best.

BONUS FACTOID: The Indians are FREAKED OUT about the amount of vitamins I'm taking. (Yeah, and who's twice as big and strong). They say western urine is the most expensive in the world -- because we're peeing out all those vitamins and minerals......BTW it looks *really cool* under a black light. Try it sometime.

Saturday, February 14, 2004


Ack, I am still vibrating from all the scooter-driving [your lewd comment here]. Today I met the girls and The Real Hanuman (who is from Hawaii and looks like / loves the minkey god and uses his western name) for Indian breakfast at Green Leaf. The Bald Tattoed guy from NYC was also there and after some time Lino showed his shaved, beautifully-shaped head. What a storyteller. And an imp to boot.....Afterwards the four of us (Miss Y, Bindi, H and I) headed up Chamundi HIll on scooters (you're sposed to walk up but, um, I'm still recovering). We stopped at the giant Nandi (Shiva's mount, a bull) and did a puja (gave rupees, got holy water and kum-kum powder and walked around the giant stone bull clockwise three times). Then we went to see the Cyber Saddu (renuncient or holy man) in his cave. He had an altar of many gods including of course Shiva (The Destroyer, with the trident and Ganges river flowing from his hair). There was a cushion on the ceiling of the very low doorway where people bump their heads, which seemed to impress most of his visitors. There were also a couple of resident western chicks in another alcove making chai and doing who knows what else. One of them was from San Francisco (of course) and the other was pregnant and I thought, Saddhu's baby. BAD LADY for thinking that. The Saddhu had wonderful long matted beard and hair and great eyes and a pot belly, and offered us chai and prasad (sweets) but no weed, as has been rumored (good thing since I'm a big pot prude). Then he took a cell phone call while we sat on the side -- the cave was a little stinky, underneath the heavy incense -- and watched Indian people come in. It was a treat to be in the audience, instead of the unwilling performance artist. And let me tell you, not all of the natives knew what to do either. He kept handing them what looked like water softener pellets and some knew what to do w/ them, others didn't. (I guess you just eat it -- I heard him tell someone it's sacre, or sugar). At one point a bevy of thin, pint-size girls in matching khaki uniforms and hair piled up the same way came in and they seemed reverent but *really* confused. They didn't stay long.

Afterwards we went up to the top of the hill and instead of going to the temple of Chamundi (an avatar of Parvati or wife of Shiva. who kicked some demon ass) we went to the Godly Musuem, where a woman in a white sari explained the entire exhibition, which was too out-there to describe in mere words. Suffice to say we are all going to hell, and then heaven will come here, and it's all very colorful.

Against my better judgment we eschewed the temple and scooted to Lalith Mahal, the fancy palace / hotel with the pool and restaurant with the Rs 200 ($4) thalis (thalis or meals are usually Rs 15 to Rs 30, at least at the places I frequent). It turned out the only thing they had to eat was an Rs 350 Valentine's Day buffet that included Indian dishes and British leftovers such as shepherd's pie and vegetables au gratin. At least there was live INDIAN music.....Strange experience and the bill was a heartstopper -- my food budget for the week. We checked out the pool and many westerners were there. Not my scene. Or Bindi's, thank Durga....

We scrammed and popped by Prashanth's CD / VCD store, Reggea [sic] n Raga. He was there with two of his buddies, plotting to go to the next showing of Phone Booth. We piggybacked on their trip but when we got to the theater they were missing a reel (surprise! It's INDIA!) and we had no backup plan (a byproduct of living in the moment, every moment). We drove to some other theaters -- me on the scooter trying to follow Prashanth, who had three guys on his really fast motorcycle in heavy traffic, trying to elude the cops (you can only have three on a two wheeler if one member is your kid). After losing them a few times we ended up together at a Kannada film called Dhum (pronounced "dumb") at Lakshmi Talkies [band name alert]. It lived up to its name and featured a tough hero from a small village, with rolled-up sleeves with a score to settle (his gesture was to keep checking the sword he kept down the back of his shirt). The women were overweight, which was awesome, and most of the men wore dhotis, were fat and had moustaches. Love Kannada fil-ums. The dance sequences were unusual and fun (so were the costumes) and the music was great. There was too much talking, however, and the plot was muddled. Lots of death and suicide and fighting, then CUT to dancing at a water park. A great time was had by all but one member (P's friend,who left at halftime because he thought it sucked).

That said, can I just say how many westerners we run into who are afraid to go to the movies here? Their eyes get soooo big when we tell them we're going to the movies. I remember my last trip, it was so hard to find someone to drag along. You don't go alone, that's for sure. But HELLO! It's a movie. TRY IT SOMETIME. It sure beats the tailor for entertainment value. And you might actually learn a thing or two about the local culture.

Friday, February 13, 2004


I must have had five gallons of water yesterday and not much food -- advice from the Man in the US for getting rid of a cold -- but it seems to have worked. The long day was spent in Rm. 13 at the Kaveri Lodge, where I turned off the fan (it fans the cold), talked to the MiUS, read from a great book of essays called No Full Stops in India by India-born British journalist Mark Tully, tried to study Kannada (it's all evaporated), did some napping/drooling and researched going to Bandipur Wildlife Reserve during our days off next week. Apparently some notorious bandit has resurfaced and is kidnapping people at the park again; he's pissed off because four of his cohorts are about to be executed. I read that they are making preparations to hang them -- there hasn't been a hanging in this area in decades -- and they are being very careful because if they don't croak the authorities are not given a second chance to off them. I wonder what George Ryan would think of that (is he in prison yet?)... In any case the park is out...... Back to yesterday..... I did come out of my hole for a late, lite lunch across the street at Auntie's. She was out but Uncle was there in his white dhoti and bare chest and Brahmin thread and clefted chin, and it was easier to tell him "Sakoo" (enough) than it is to tell Auntie, who loves to heap on the food. More on her place in an upcoming blog. Suffice to say, 30 rupees, no wait, EXCELLENT South Indian thali (meals) that seems to get better every day, and eating with Indians in an Indian kitchen while watching Indian soaps.... later in the day Prashanth brought me some *tablets* from the pharmacist, and said "Take two after eating and before sleep." I have no idea what they were -- it's like my own little taste of the 1960's -- but they seem to have worked. I did sleep thru yoga which seems to be a good thing as Bindi says the line was out the door at 4:45 (there were led primary series practices at 5:15 and 6:30). Apparently there were so many people in the later group they were practicing in the foyer!

I woke up with aching teeth -- why do colds do that to me here, but not at home? -- and met Bindi and Miss Y for Indian breakfast at Green Leaf, a sparking clean new "hotel" (cafe) in Gokulam with great service and great food, low prices and very few westerners. It's where we met Manju and Lino for breakfast. Afterwords we went back to the girls' place and talked about whether we were going to join Lino for a scooter excursion / swimming in the Kaveri River. I wasn't gonna go because I was exhausted and what kind of idiot goes swimming while recovering from a cold. But just then Geetha's mom (mother of Amy's nursing student friend) brought over some wonderful homemade iddly, and suddenly I wasn't so tired.

We had four scooters and one motorcycle (ie eight mods and two rockers) and followed Lino to the countryside and some English estate where we met a posh Brit named Rupert (of course) who dissed Pattabhi Jois / ashtanga yoga before launching into the history of the place --- apparently it's a plum by-product of colonialism / the defeat of the Tipu Sultan. Whatever. It was beautiful and out of my league and they let us go out in back where some went swimming while others, wearing all black Indian dress, sat on a rock and hid from the sun and read Debonair magazine (which, as Bindi points out, is both blatantly sexist AND feminist -- and contained a great interview with Marilyn Manson). Afterwords we went to a lovely riverside restaurant, Hotel Mayura or someting, run by the KTRSC, or Karnataka tourism board. Bindi had a UB Export -- try one, I recommend it -- which raised one or two pairs of eyebrows (our new hobby -- to raise eyebrows among anoerexic/holier-than-thou yoga students who have given up sugar/fruit/wheat/TV/eating/cerveza fria/showering/newspapers ["I don't want to know what's going on in the world"]/you-name-it.....HELLO?! It's called *moderation*). Diatribe finished....

After using the bathroom at the place I asked one of the gentleman for a card, as they have guest houses and, like Lino says, it's close to Mysore yet far enough away to seem like a vacation from our very long vacation. The guy seemed confus-ed so I repeated, "card, card" and made a small square with my fingers. "Yes yes," he said, doing that little South Indian head tilt. He disappeared into the kitchen and came out several minutes later smiling and bearing......... a stainless steel dish of.............curd.

Thursday, February 12, 2004


Bad cold today so no yoga for me (can't do ujjayi breath when the nostrils are filled w/ snot, can you?). Slept in til 8, had some peelable fruit (kept in Zip-Loc bags so the bugs don't find out), ordered a chai and then went to Nilgiri's (western-style grocery store) to pick up Kleenex, soymilk, etc. before the air filled with exhaust fumes. I saw a bus so jampacked with people that faces were pressed against the back window and several men were hanging off the side -- common here -- and then another guy got on! BTW The soymilk comes from Thailand, is expensive and has milk products in it. But it goes better with Spiruteen and museli than regular milk, which has turned me into a big fat snot factory.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004


Tell me this thing works
I'm here -- can you hear me now...
logged on to messenger by accident,
thought some creep next to me was trying to IM me...
and it's you --
the opposite...
[no reponse]
this is like masturbating
or doing a radio show on WMXM
bindi and i are
about to murdah
the net wallah
if we don't kill
each other first
we could eat each other
like the German cannibals
discussed at breakfast
Bindi'd be a better writer
and I'd come up from backbend
each and every time
o for a western toilet
at this very moment
and to make r. kelly
stop stop stop
the same song
plays over and over
we cannot log on
it is one hour later
kill, kill, kill
my wallah


Greetings from the slowest Internet place on the subcontinent, the Cabinet (or should I say Crappynet) -- which yesterday was fast and boasted AC, and to which I dragged poor Bindi after a long, slow breakfast today. I've been here for the past half hour sweating and trying to log on to three seperate machines. Now we know the reason we priviledged westerners have so much free time in Mysore (after two hours of yoga there's nothing to do all day) -- so that we have time to go online and wait for food, tailors, browsing, scooter, mobile phone hookup, etc. (Miss Y has been waiting for days to get a scooter that works, from a well-connected local named Shiva. You can also get hooked up with housing and transpo -- for a fee -- by Babu from last time 'round and Krishna-the-rickshaw driver, who's not to be confused w/ Krishna-the-tailor, whose HQ are now in Gokulam. Apparently Neeru from the olde days is out of the loop). Lucky me for having Prashath set me up with a beautiful, fast scooter....he also found some great speakers for the Chinese CD playa, and yesterday I got to listen to Beck!

OK enough complaining... no, wait -- there's more.....Yesterday I got my clean, still-warm laundry off the line and was folding it on my bed when what came out of my yoga shorts (the ones I was folding) but a big, fat, crunchy cockroach. Dead. I yelped anyway. Then I managed to get it to the toilet and used the bucket to get it to go down. Later I found one of its legs in my bed. It fell on the floor and went "crunch." Ick! Bindi says you can hear them walking, crunch, crunch, crunch. But I wear earplugs when I sleep (Thanks to Doug, so can many others) and the only thing that gets thru is the 5'45 call to mosque. After being plagued by roaches Bindi moved to Sharath's old room in Gokulam (Miss Y is there also, right across from the shala in Guruij's old house) and discovered thousands of ants are living in her room. Today's Carrie Bradshaw Setup and Question -- "Mysore, City of Palaces. Seven hundred thirty five thousand people procreating and not dating in the regal hometown of the Wodeyars, where men hold hands, the department store sells DDT and the local paper carries headlines about traffic fatalties and dowry deaths......: Which is greater threat to the tender westerner -- three giant cockroaches or thousands of tiny ants??"

I keep forgetting to mention that Kasmir of Jammu and Kasmir (the two others from Chi-town) got bored -- I mean gored -- by a bull last week. Apparently they've been getting a little too close to the animals (one puppy-petting incident caused PMSsy me to snap, "Have you had rabies shots?") The bovine creature drew blood, and K. went to the hospital for some mysterious injection. Her ass hurts (where she was gored) but is healing quite well. J. was not at yoga today due to sore throat / fever. In addition to power shopping she is taking tabla lessons. In class Miss Y is doing some intermediate poses and she, Bindi and I all practiced alongside each other in the back row today -- who ends up where is completely random, but sometimes things just work out that way. The majority of the shala floor is covered in colorful rugs but the floor in back is cold, beautiful uncovered marble (a few days ago the rug from the old shala, with the counterclockwise swastikas, was there and has since disappeared). I like it back there. In fact Sharath helped me in backbends today and it was divine....

45 minutes later and I've read exactly two e-mails. This is a new record. At least the power's back on. The guy finally admitted there are "problems with connection." No duh. "Wait five minutes."

More westerners arrive every day (two came during breakfast this morning, to the B&B). They practice after us and the shala seem to be going to 9:30, which is probably a new record (we finish around 8:45....Saraswati and Sharath disappear around 8:30 to teach other classes, leaving 89-year-old Guruji to do the honors. He always says "Thank you very much" a la Elvis after helping you with dropbacks and the forward fold that follows). The large western population means scooters are hard to get , there's a wait at Ike n Tina's (B&B with the French press coffee) and whenever you go downtown you run into other westerners. Not that there's anything wrong with that. The good news is that Lino's organizing a scooter trip to the Kaveri river on Friday. Miss Y and I were lucky enough to breakfast with him, Manju (Guruji's son) and another student yesterday. Satsang! ...Next week we have four days off in a row due to a Saturday, a full moon (Friday) and Shiva Ratri (Shiva night, a very important puja in which Shiviites such as Guruji stay up all night fasting and chanting the name of The Destroyer), plus one extra day. Hopefully we'll get it together and go on a road trip.

OK, now they are playing god-awful guitar-solo western music at full volume and my earplugs are back at home w/ the crunchy cockroach leg.

Only I can't, because it's an hour later and the Internet is *still* not working. And now I'm being held hostage by Wordpad (on which I'm typing this). I can't leave the text here and I can't take it with me. It's the eternal connundrum, isn't it? And yet another Lesson from India.....

Monday, February 09, 2004


After breakfast of dosas and chai with Miss Y, Bindi and Lino (the latter two had iddly) I took a wrong turn and was pulled over by The Man. They were motioning tons of people on two-wheelers over to the side of the road. The Man asked for my D.L. (driver's license) and I said, It is not here with me. "DL," He kept saying. It is coming, I said. Sent from US. Mail is late. Of course I was picturing every foreign-prison movie I've ever seen. I thought for sure we'd end up there (Bindi was on back). But then I remembered I was in India. Instead -- of course -- there was a fine of Rs 300 for no DL, and they did not impound the bike (Thank Durga). They wrote me a "Check Report-cum-Receipt," which will look nice in my diary/scrapbook. All for the low-low price of $3.

Someone just let out a loud burp. No excuse me, no thing. Actually it's also OK to spit here, too. So is honking.....I'm at the ghetto internet place w/ the no-lights and the shitty keyboards, chickens, porn pop-ups, pee smell, etc

So it looks like I *will* be moving to the burbs, esp. after last night . The question is whether Bindi or I will be moving first, to the place across the street from the shala (one room is open now; another in a couple of weeks. Miss Y is already there). The rent is less and there's less driving, which can be scary, and less exhaust inhalation (my throat is killing me). Also it's less likely that what happened last night will be repeated. I was*starving* after not really eating all day (usually I have a big breakfast and lunch and eat cereal for dinner) due to feeling icky, going to the movie, conference, etc. So when 7PM rolled around I was starving. This is usually dinnertime here. It was dark and I was coming back from Gokulam via scooter and I stopped at a kind of fancy restaurant, King's Court. I sat and they brought water and I started to order and they're like, that's not ready, we don't have this, either, nor that. It all it will take a long time, etc. and I had nothing to read and was not in the mood so I left. Then I stashed my scooter, got a book and walked to the downscale, fly-friendy Iyengar's near the Kaveri Lodge, dodging mean dogs and creepy guys and curious children and motorcycles and cow pies to get there.

I sat down and pointed to the table next to me, where the men were eating thali or "meals" (many courses on one plate, like at Desparakash). "Meals!" They brought the bottled water and nothing else. I asked another guy for "meals" and he kind of shrugged. I read and waited and nothing came, despite the "meals ready" sign in the middle of the sidewalk. I pointed at the sign and said "Meals Ready!". Shrug. I looked at the kitchen; no one was moving. Then a group of about 15 women walked in. I got up and left and did not pay for the two ounces of water I'd drank. I guess I can't go back THERE again.....On the way home there was another dog chasing me (they have a thing for westerners), plus folks staring, pointing, making comments (I'm in a very nice Indian dress, btw). I get to the Kaveri and I'm ready to lose it (PMS + hunger + exhaustion + loneliness = crying jag) and I tell the desk guy, Send someone to get me two masala dosas, and handed him some money (the daily assertiveness training seems to be working). He talked to an underling and after some conversation did that marvelous little South Indian head wiggle that said, OK.

I went to my room, took off my dress, put on the special t-shirt and a Sigur Ros CD and breathed deeply and recalled how easy everything seemed a short time ago in Gokulam, where people stroll down the street without being chased, the Internet works and you don't have to play a real-life game of Frogger to get to the shala. I thought, why am I stressing myself out when I don't have to? I lived in this part of town for four months, I don't *really* need to do so again. Ten minutes later the dosas came. They went down fast; then I cleaned up and went to bed. It was 8 AM.

Sunday, February 08, 2004


Last night P and I walked around the tank and then drove up Chamundi Hill on the motorcycle but it was cloudy and the moon was nowhere to be found……This AM I got up at 4:30 to do the 5:30 practice (it's led on Sundays, as opposed to self-practice) and halfway to the shala I realized I'd forgotten my mat! So I went back to the lodge, did Nescafe Nauli Kriya (ie; had some really great instant coffee and did enough abdominal exercises to cleanse thoroughly) and then had a rather excellent practice at 6:30. Much sweating, a great standing forward bend adjustment from Saraswati AND I held myself up the whole time in Utplutith (Sharath again led the 6:30 practice). Then Miss Y and I watched the intermediate people, which is a real treat. They float.

I'm about to head out w/ P. to some religious mela or get-together 20K away; he wants to shoot some video and I'm just curious....


After getting *home* I realized I forgot to pay Bick for the tiny coconut I had after practice. Apparently it's one of those days; my throat is sore and I'm not 100 percent (about 70, actually) so we didn't go to the mela after all. Instead I had a nap.... I drempt my stepbrother was lying on top of me (we were fully clothed, thank you) about to kill me but then put the gun into his own mouth and fired. It made a huge mess and he weighed a ton. Then I woke up and went to the bathroom and mended a hole in my bag.

P and I wound up seeing "Angi" (a name for Hanuman, the monkey god from the Ramayana epic; also the name of the moustachioed hero), which P. pointed out was basically Raiders of the Lost Ark with a magical Shiva Lingam in place of the ark. It had everything -- the sound was *amazing* and the not-too-lean, mean hero could dance! The fight sequences weren't overly drawn out, the choregraphy was amazing (lots of phalluses throughout) and, w/ one Fly Girls-with-Blueblockers-meets-Dhoti-Guys exception, the costumes ruled. The kids got some magic powers and beat up the bad guys (who killed an innocent granny and a dog and tried to kill a girl with glasses, after stepping on them). The heroine was a Miss India (again) who wore glasses and piloted a helicopter. Kick *ass*. And it was in Kannada (local language, very vexing but not so much as to ruin the fil-um).

Afterwards there was a conference with Guruji. This consisted of everyone sitting on the floor of the shala -- some 100-odd people, ridiculous -- and listening to Guruji talk about some sutras. (In the old place he would read the paper and about 30 people would watch and sweat -- it was inevitably during a power outage or "load shedding" -- until someone would ask him a question, like the favorite, "During pregnancy yoga OK, Guruji?"). This time Guruji talked quite a bit and Sharath translated. Suffice to say God is in everyone but to realize him (her!) you have to cleanse yourself... by doing yoga. Some people practice in the shala; their bodies are there, but not their minds. Cell phones kept going off, and a garage door kept opening and closing. The overhead fans were still. "You take practice... long time.... after practice, pranayama. The body is the foundation," seemed to be the gist of what Guruji said after that. Sharath translated; You can have money and spend money but life is precious. Pray to see God, to realize God.

We also learned that there's a new AYRI-approved DVD (not sure what but I think it features Guruji and Sharath) on sale for Rs. 1000 (+/- $22.00).

After the half-hour talk, Lino told Miss Y and I that we have four days off mid-month. Not sure where to go /what to do. Last time Sean and I took the scooter to Kodagu (the mountainous coffee district formerly known as Coorg). I do know that I don't want it to be a major expedition w/ a ton of people and all of their competing needs.

Friday, February 06, 2004


A couple of nights ago Bindi and I were buying bananas, etc. at the little storefront down the street. As I was paying I noticed a woman behind me, pressing up against me (ideas about personal space here differ from those in the US). We'd encountered a lot of beggars that day and she was holding out a tin. So as I left I dropped in a coin. It made a huge clinking sound that reverberated down the street, as the thing was empty. The woman looked at it, looked at me and started laughing. So did the shopkeeper. Then I realized she was a middle class lady in line to buy something, probably ghee (clarified butter). Boy, was my face red.

So far this is the most Ugly 'Merican thing I've done since coming here. That I know of, anyway...

Wednesday, February 04, 2004


There were two led primary series yoga practices today, at 5:30 AM and 6:30. The gang decided to go at 5'30. The way I understood it, we were meeting at 5 in the Kaveri lobby to meet the rickshaw, which I'd follow on the scooter with Bindi on back. I got down there at 5:05 and no one was there. Not realizing *I* was guilty of being late, I waited and waited (as I have over the past several days for others) and no one came. I finally went upstairs and saw the locks on two of the doors (the third member was sick and the fourth had moved) and realized they had left without me. So I was on my own to find the shala in pitch dark, predawn Mysore.... and I'd only driven there once before (the previous day), following the rickshaw that P. and I had arranged.

Of course I got hopelessly lost. After stopping several times for directions (Gokulam! Yoga!) I finally found a rickshaw with a westerner in it and followed it to the shala. We arrived at 5'24 and the class was already in the midddle of the second Surya Namaskar (sun saluation B)....So I took out my cassette recorder and taped part of it. Then I waited for 1.5 hours for the next class to start, during which Miss Y came in and invited me to breakfast with her and Manju (Guruji's son). Lino greeted me too, which is always a wonderful thing, and I chatted to a shala owner named Patti.

After class (which Sharath led) Miss Y and I took the scooter to Ike n Tina's (Tony n Holly's) where we met up with another student we both know (Adarsh) plus his galpal and a delightful women from Russia. Then we scooted to breakfast with Manju, who brought Nancy Gilgoff (senior teacher from Hawaii) and others who were equally engaging. So it all ended up for the best, except that I'm overcaffeinated and ate two breakfasts -- and we're about to eat more at a goodbye lunch for Adarsh/Tony....


The thali meals at Desparkash are legendary and now I know why (prior to today I'd only eaten snacks there). It's Rs 28 for all-you-can-eat rice, sambar, rassam, sides, curd, dessert -- all served on a stainless steel plate. It was stupdendous as was the company, which included Jeff and the Chai Newlyweds from NYC, a fascinating woman named Skandia and Annie Pace (being around her is like bathing in a warm glow). Another satsang, thanks to Miss Y, in which the conversation ranged from how to get westerners hooked on chai (get them to try it) to kirtans to the importance of flossing ("You don't have to floss all your teeth. Just the ones you want to keep").

Miss Y and I also changed money ("doo doo" in Kannada), did E-mail ("Browsing") and ran errands. We picked up the dresses we had made and I have to say, despite our differences the tailor is a genius. And black dupatas (scarves) were back in stock at the dress store (Now *there* is a band name). So I feel like I have ten more outfits (when you wear a kurta or western-style shirt it's best to put a scarf over your assets, even if they're minor).....

# posted by C.K. @ 11:07 PM

Here in Mysore there are few stop signs, no speed limits and nobody (except other vehicles) to slow us down. Nonetheless I was able to pilot the scooter to the shala and back again w/o apparent mishap (and w/o asphyxiating myself on the way there, when I was following the rickshaw. BTW there are few pollution controls here).

I had a tired, weak practice but that was OK (except for the part where the woman next to me – who apparently thought she was the only person in the room -- repeatedly and unapologetically dragged her very long fingernails across my face, arms etc) . There is a car that plays the theme from “Love Story” every time it backs up and we were treated to more bars of that song today (cars here have backup songs, as do some water filters). Partway through Sharath announced that since Friday is a full moon (no practice), tomorrow (Thurs) would be considered the end of the week, and we could choose to do led primary series at 5:30 or 6:30 AM. We are leaning towards the former as there will probably be fewer people and Bick will still have coconuts when we come out (he ran out today… just between all of you and me they’re not the nicest coconuts I’ve seen and they’ve gone up from Rs 5 in 2002 to Rs 7 [they’re 6 in the city center; before last night’s Scooter Lesson P and I had a couple of really nice ones from the Coconut Family -- they are friends of Suddha’s and delightful]). Guruji again helped me in backbends -- I only did six – and told me “very good” during that and the forward fold that follows. He has a rather nasty cough which is worrisome. After bowing to his feet later (followed by a hug/kiss) I asked about it and he said it’s getting better, not worse. That’s good news as he’s, like, 88 .

Big-time teachers who are here right now include Lino, Eddie Stern, Annie Pace, some British guy named Alex and Nancy Gilgoff, who arrived yesterday and is also a fan of the color purple. Folks I know from the last trip include Randy-from-the-DC-area, who is sporting short hair / beard and lives here nine months out of the year, Jeff-from-NY plus others I can’ t recall right now as I am experiencing a serious coffee buzz-inspired memory lapse (two cups would be too many, I think).

Afterwards we again had the excellent coffee at Tony n Holly’s interactive B&B, sitting next to some cute Finn girls. A friend of T’s came over and did a fashion show and tell for us; he had some cool Hanuman stuff and explained temple etiquette and showed us the clothes that had been designed by him and sewn by Krishna, who costs a bit more but is worth it (the other tailor everyone uses is Manju; both sew their nametags into their clothes). I’m kind of tailored out after yesterday’s run-in w/ the guy who is putting together our custom-made Punjabi dresses (you choose the unconstructed dress and then they make it to fit you, which is a blessing for overfed Westerners with overdeveloped ashtanga shoulders and ribcage). I found the place on my last day last time around and it is wall-to-ceiling dresses in every color, style and price range – all waiting to be sewn together. I chose a crazy bright blue and green number and a plum-colored cotton one that seemed like a good idea til I went to the tailor (we walked; we were hungry, it was hot and it was far away) and he started telling me it was too thin and would have to be lined. I didn’t like that it’d be 1). Hotter and 2). Three times the quoted price so I got into it w/ him at the same time Miss Y was trying to tell me where the rest of the gang were going to eat (they didn’t want to wait for me; I blame it on low blood sugar) and I snapped a bit. Then I went back to arguing with the tailor. I decided to go w/ the other plum number I’d been looking at, which was an additional Rs 100 (just over $2) and would not need lining. It was a whole thing but I at least won the battle (the outcome of the war will be determined when I see the finished products). If I were Carrie Bradshaw, I’d put on an outfit, pour a drink and type, “Are tailors the new boyfriends?” But I’m not, so I’m wearing unfashionably baggy clothes, thinking about peeing, and typing many, many paragraphs….

Right now I’m sitting next to Bindi, who’s wearing a bindi (sticker placed at the third eye, or center of consciousness). The woman on the other side is yet another teacher from Chicago (“D”) who is dabbling -- I mean studying -- with the very popular Sheshadri, who apparently speaks very good English and gives out lots and lots of adjustments (sorry folks; I’m a devotee of Pattabhi Jois who has been teaching for 60-odd years [most of that time for very little or no money] and if the choice is between him and one of his students, well, I choose to go to the source. If this makes you want to label me as being divisive, go right ahead)………

Tuesday, February 03, 2004


Long time no write. Sunday night we saw the palace lights. The music was Indian; it was cool and everyone was out and in their best outfits. We went to a temple (the palace has several) where the Brahmin priest told us about each and every deity in it. We understood about a quarter of it and I was kicking myself for not having the tape recorder (one of the deities was sitting on a prone Shiva; another had Chamundi (avator of Durga / Parvati and the patron goddess of Mysore) standing on a severed cow's head and the dome of the bearded demon Maysashura (which I've misspelled, and is where Mysore gets its name) ... That same day I had some scooter lessons w/ Prashanth on a new road that rings Mysore; no one was there and no one was hurt……

Yesterday (Mon) began w/ me waking up, wiping my eyes and noticing ANOTHER GIANT ROACH SCURRYING ACROSS MY PILLOW. All I could think was, “Was he here with me all night? What did we DO?” Then I realized I didn’t really want to know. That same day Miss Y game me some “chalk” (a stick of poison that has probably been outlawed by the US FDA) that you use to mark around areas where you don’t want the creatures to go. For some reason they won’t cross it. I drew a Line of Contol (just like the one up in Jammu/Kasmir, on the Pakistan border) around my bed as well as my bathroom drains and the doorway to the bath. It seems to work; this AM I woke up alone.

Also yesterday me, Bindi and P. went to see an action/kung fu/romance/drama at a nearby theater. It starred the son of the most famous Karnataka (the state I'm in) actor ever, Dr. RajKumar. He's 98 or so and has a doctorate in something. Anyway the outfits were awful (disco / 80s is in here, also cowboys), the fighting was stilted and the choreography was bad but it was still awesome. It was about Karnatic pride ("Speak Kannada, not Hindi") and villagers getting browbeaten by the underworld and the evil developers. It even had some political / religious elements that I picked up on.....All the women in these films look to me like Bridgette who teaches at NU (she's subbing my Sunday noon ashtanga class; see < style seems to be small (western) cheeks and noses -- but fabulous little bellies. Thank Kali there’s at least one culture where it’s not a mortal sin to possess a pot belly. On the flipside, the style for men has gone beyond ye olde fat dhoti guy w/ moustache -- they're now thinner and often facial hair-free. Also *they cry* (new thing according to Bindi).

I woke up in the middle of the night last night and decided to stay at the Kaveri (surprise) and keep the scooter for the trip to Gokulam. I'm still a bit unsure about how to get to the place so tomorrow I'm following the rickshaw; Bindi will ride on back. Tonight I practiced going thru some intersections (no traffic signals or signs here), doing more turning and then dealing w/ actual traffic. It seemed OK.

Today was about shopping w/ the girls (don't ask). Also after yoga we found the breakfast joint run by a sweet Brit who was here in 02, Tony, and his equally cool wife, Holly (Tony n Tina's B&B; it's interactive). They had the best coffee ever (French press). We most definitely will return.

So the yoga…… The shala is huge and the family lives in the palatial quarters above (it’s across the street from their previous Gokulam digs; before that they lived in the old shala in Lakshmipuram, near where I’m staying). The marble floor is covered in colorful carpets and there are changing/finishing rooms for men and women (the western bathrooms are a complete 180 from the tiny-stinky manual flush Indian toilet job in the old joint, which only fit 12 students at a time). Here some 50 or 60 practice at once, in close proximity. They say there are 120 people here now – a record, I think – but the wait is short (nothing like the two hours of two years ago). But you don’t see all that many westerners in my hood, which is near the city center. They’re all by the shala, in Gokulam (which, appropriately, is a very upscale, western-looking suburb).

I received zero adjustments on Monday and no help in backbending as Guruji was in his office and Sharath had left to teach his other class (Saraswati also disappeared at some point). I was doing my backbends thinking, “Goddammit, where are they? I’m being ignored.” Then I got over it and amused myself by doing a total of 11 BB’s; during the final few I worked on rocking back and forth and unsticking my hands from the floor. They came up a few millimeters, which is sort of a breakthrough…

I’ve noticed before that they don’t seem to remember me when I wear my hair differently so today (Tues) I quit the pigtails and put it back up into a single fountainhead. There was a bit more wait this AM and as Sharath was calling people in and he saw Lino and one of his teachers and told them to go. Then he looked right at me and said, “You.” (I think this may be my new Indian name -- "You"). So I waited for a spot and went in. Again there were no adjustments for me but it’s a relief in a way, and while not focusing on my breath, bandhas and racing thoughts I noticed that Sharath was keeping track of each and every thing happening in the room, just like Lino does. He came up to a person next to me and said, “You do Marichiasana D? No? Tomorrow. You wait for me.” Then he did the same to a guy regarding backbending. After doing several of the latter and coming up 2mm off the floor, I stood at the front of the mat and Guruji helped me in an abbreviated version of the dropback sequence (he’s not helping people up and down from BB or putting people back on their head like he useta, just doing the rocking five times and walking the hands in, straightening the arms and coming up for a big hug and butt-pat). After a leisurely closing sequence I had a very sleepy savasana…

Sunday, February 01, 2004


Last night we (Bindi, Miss Y and I) donned our best Punjabi dresses and met Joseph (Guruij's right hand man) for dinner at the tre posh Southern Star Hotel (the one where westerners buy a membership and hang out around the pool all day). He is charming and you can listen to him forever (his voice reminds me of Merce Cunningham's). Also he has a kick-ass 500-CC Enfield motorcycle (retro cool, made in India itself).

Later in the evening we were hanging out in Rm 13 (my room) and I felt something moving beneath the collar of The Man in the US's Sun Studio t-shirt and I tried to brush out whatever it was and it seemed to be gone and then a few minutes later it did it again and I screamed and brushed and brushed and it was a TABLESPOON-SIZE COCKROACH -- WITH WINGS (ie, after being brushed off it *flew across the room, scaring my friends*). Ick, ick, ick! I found it this AM legs-up under my bed and promptly ended its suffering. Thank Shiva for pink mosquito netting. But poor Bindi, she got no sleep after the incident as she was thinking about bugs all night. I don't mind them so much, but here they are fearless (turning on the light, waving your hands, hissing, etc have no effect) and like many local species seem to have no qualms about invading one's personal space.

Today we had our first practice at the new shala. Prashanth came at 5:45 to take us (minus one, who's on Ladies Holiday) in his rickshaw. He's not a rickshaw driver but he plays one on TV......Actually he owns one that he leases to others (smart guy) and took four of us in back -- my ass was hanging off the side -- for free. It's about a 20 minute ride, longer if you've too many girls in back (or have too much back). Yoga was really good, led primary series (they call out the poses in Sanskrit, vs. a self practice which is done most days) and I am still feeling the body buzz. The new place is spacious, has big pix of Guruji and Amachi and Krishnamacharya (Guruji's teacher, who also taught BKS Iyengar and Desikachar) and a very good vibe. The family lives above; there's a pic of it being constructed in my 2002 Mysore diary, which can be accessed at Guruji started leading, then Sharath took over. Today I learned that you should not go into Halasana / plow pose (even for half a second) to set up Sarvangasana (shoulderstand). Bindi learned you should not hook your feet ("clipping") in Utplutith (The Uprooting, where your hands are on the floor holding you up in lotus -- kind of like tolasana) which of course Sharath had us hold forever (and which I held the whole time,w/o hitting the floor once!)

After consuming two coconuts (rhey've gone up to Rs 5 to Rs 7 but are sold by the same guy) and paying many rupees to Guruji, Bindi and I headed back to the Kaveri and breakfast at Auntie's. Her place is a few doors down and she cooks for Indians and Westerners; what she has is what you eat. It was some really savory rice dish, I dunno what. Tomorrow it's dosas. Anyway she recognized me -- everyone does, even the Internet girl (who now wears glasses) -- and said, "Why not coming last year?" Love it here.

Tonight: I'll don a sari and head to mass w/ Prashanth (it's such a trip what w/ the bare feet and no hymnbooks and altar boys aiming the fan at the preacher). Then all of us are going to the Mysore Palace, where on Sunday nights they turn on the lights and have live music (usually an armed forces band playing Anglo tunes like Auld Lang Sine -- really bizarre).

If you're in need of comic relief -- and who isn't -- check this out: