Where to begin with the description of Guruji's (first) 90th birthday party?
There were plants and tatami mats with centerpieces of floating candles and flowers and Indian bananas and paypayas and grapes all over the Puck's 7th floor ballroom where we usually practice, there was a tribute slide show of Guruji highlights from over the years, there was a bar with organic juice and natural soda (no chai) and two food lines where you could get exquisite South Indian food. It was done up. The stage was at the other end; no Anoushka but a Karnatic singer and tabla player who've performed for Guruji in Mysore itself. ALmost everyone looked better than usual (ie nice clothes, not sweaty, hair in array). After talking to Z. (in a stunning maroon sari) for some time -- she's going to Mysore June 1 and now I'm itching to join her -- we saw the family come in. Then we sat down on cushions and were eating some food (always a priority) when I saw an apparition: Lino in white. I jumped up and ran over -- he was with the Danish Baldies with the designer yoga shorts -- and I said, "Now both of my teachers are here." How good it was to see him. I miss that man. Of course I took it as a sign that yes, it was indeed a good idea to change my ticket and attend the party. Guruji sat at a front table for some time, and people went to get their picture taken with him and/or kiss the feet or, in the case of many women, to get a hug and a kiss. I did too of course. He looked resplendent. Saraswati was in a beautiful green sari, Sharath in a very cool shirt with a Swastika design and of course the rest of the family was there too (Shruti is looking extra beautiful these days, and their daughter is getting very big!). Sharath made a speech before the ensemble started to play, beginning it with "Yekum, Inhale," which got a good laugh. He said that NYC is their favorite place -- their second home. Take that, coastal towns. Anyway the music was good; they did a special new guru song for Pattabhi Jois and had us chant Om Nama Narayanaya with them (the many children near the stage did the best job) and also did a Ganesha song. Afterwords Guruji gave a brief talk, something about "Do not waste your life. Do not have bad thoughts. Do not waste your life. Yogayogayogayoga. Yesterday is gone. Do not waste your life. Tomorrow do yogayogayogayoga..." It was very inspiring and hopefully I will remember all of this on those days when I practice at home, by myself, in that yoga teacher void where you feel completely disconnected from the rest of the world.... Then Ubbaya (Abaya?) talked about the new Pattabhi Jois Foundation and presented him with a check for $23,000, collected for his birthday (instead of giving chocolate and flowers, etc. this year they asked us to contribute to the foundation which help fund Mysore charities of Guruji's choice, the idea being that the community is so good to us, we should give something back. And besides, Guruji has everything he needs). Then Guruji said a few words, thankyouverymuch. At some point a (vegan chocolate) cake with many candles came out and everyone sang happy birthday. Then we ate some cupcakes and left. It was a lovely end to an amazing week. And now I am fired up to get back to Mysore. In line yesterday Saraswati asked me when I was coming and I said "within the year." So now I must make good on my word. If only I could find a way to go this summer *and* work on that book-thing. Then I could go to the "other" 90th birthday. But how lucky I was to attend this one....
*phrase coined by M., who also wore Indian dress (or do you say Muslimwear) to the fete.