Friday, February 03, 2006


A teacher from my early days at The Empty Shala came to my open class today and I was floored. I used to take his class nine years ago (and took over his Wednesday night class after he left-- and still teach it). That was before the shala was empty, and when I finally felt ready to take my first primary series class my main teacher situated my mat between his and that of my other teacher (the one who told me to be a teacher in the first place, and who went on to teach with Manju Jois). I remember watching both of them floating from arm balance into caturanga dandasana and thinking "no way," but they kept a compassionate eye on me and made sure I twisted the right way in Mari B and D. Seeing him was disconcerting, as was the fact that 12 people showed up to a class that usually has three to five. I'm not complaining -- energy and space-wise, 12 is the ideal class size. 'Twas a mix of newbies and very experienced folk but I led them through a sequence leading to Kapotasana anyway. However I was too freaked out to adjust my old teacher, except in savasana. Maybe next time.


  1. Anonymous11:23 AM

    Fast food greases India's way to fat
    Even though many children under 5 are malnourished, city dwellers are battling obesity, experts say

    By Kim Barker
    Tribune foreign correspondent

    February 5, 2006

    NEW DELHI -- When K.K. Bhagat spotted his one-time classmate, he was not sure it was her. In the past 20 years, she had gained 70 pounds. He had put on 75.

    "Oh, my God, she used to be this beautiful girl. She used to be perfect. I wondered if she was the same girl," Bhagat said as the woman frowned.

    He paused before admitting the obvious: "I'm the same. I gained a lot of weight."

    So have many other Indians. Gaining weight has become common in India as the influx of Western-style fast food and long working hours have led to an increase in obesity.

    Now health experts are raising alarms in the country, saying that India, where millions have gone hungry, is growing fatter. The country also is in danger of becoming the diabetes capital of the world, the World Health Organization has warned.

    About 55 percent of women and 45 percent of men in New Delhi are overweight or obese, according to a recent study by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. About 76 percent of the capital's women are considered to be abdominally obese--a risk factor for diabetes and heart disease.

    "There are clear and hard facts in urban areas that things are as bad as they could be," said Anoop Misra, an obesity expert who worked on the recent study for the institute, the country's top medical school.

    The trend has spawned an industry. In recent years, gyms and "slimming centers" have multiplied in India's cities. New stores sell plus-size clothes and lingerie. Get-thin-quick plans are advertised, complete with dramatic before-and-after pictures. A few doctors have even started performing surgeries to reduce the size of a patient's stomach. Bumper stickers on rickshaws shout "Lose weight--Don't wait."

    Having overweight people in a country still battling famine is yet another contradiction in this land of contradictions, where the rich are very rich and the poor are very poor. As city dwellers fight obesity, almost half of all children younger than 5 in India are malnourished, according to the World Bank.

    Fat spreading to slums too

    In India, unlike in the U.S., obesity has been a problem for the middle class and the newly rich. Not for long, Misra warned. It is spreading to urban slums; fast food is moving to some rural areas.

    "It's only a matter of time until the villages are affected," Misra said.

    Food has always been important here, and India has long had a culture of eating well and eating late. On flights as short as 45 minutes, passengers are given a full meal. Dinner is served at 11 p.m. or midnight. Snacks often are deep-fried. Desserts are drowned in sugary syrup. At buffets, "skim" milk often has the consistency of cream.

    "When you end up at parties, you end up eating anything," said Bhagat, 43, a college professor. "You never say no to your taste buds."

    Until recently, most Indians ate home-cooked food and reasonable portions.

    Then came Domino's, Pizza Hut and McDonald's with its Chicken Maharaja Mac and McAloo Tikki. Indian restaurants increasingly serve fast food as well, french fries and veggie burgers, to compete with the popular Western chains. The country's fast-food industry is growing 40 percent a year, according to the Worldwatch Institute, a research group in Washington.

    At the Eatopia food court in New Delhi recently, Neharika Sharma, 17, ate an enormous chocolate ice cream waffle cone to celebrate finishing a test in computer class. Her classmates also bought food from the Granma's Homemade shop, which sells giant submarine sandwiches, muffins the size of a baby's head and desserts with names such as "double excess chocolate mousse" and "penalty."

    Sharma said people her age would rather eat Western food or McDonald's than Indian food. Her friend pointed out the absence of lines in front of the nearby Indian food stalls.

    Sharma said she tried to exercise, but most of her friends did not.

    "Our country is really, really fat," she said.

    Not nearly as fat as the U.S., but that does not necessarily matter. Asians tend to have a higher percentage of body fat than Caucasians. So Indians with a lower body-mass index than obese Caucasians could face more health problems.

    At the same time that fast food has come to India, growing prosperity has led to a more sedentary lifestyle. Maids clean houses; chauffeurs run errands.

    Passive weight loss?

    Gyms are a new phenomenon and often expensive by Indian standards. And those who can afford a gym often prefer to go to "slimming centers," which usually aim to achieve weight loss through a combination of oils, heat machines and electronic stimulation.

    "The gym culture is just starting to build up," said Sonali Gadhok, who manages a slimming center. "Initially, people didn't want to do anything. They just wanted to lie down, ask for the machine and wait for weight loss to happen."

    But Indians are starting to realize the cold, hard truths that Americans are still struggling to accept--that weight loss comes from fewer calories and more exercise.

    Rajinder Kaur, 25, enrolled in a slimming center to lose 11 pounds.

    "I know what you should do--you should walk and you should diet," she said. "I just haven't. I need to. Because whatever this place does, I don't think it works. I haven't lost anything yet."

  2. Anonymous1:19 PM

    First New York, Then D.C.? Craigslist to Charge Fees.

    By Mike Musgrove
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Saturday, February 4, 2006; D01

    Craigslist, the popular Web site where folks from around the world find used sofas, second jobs, cheap housing and new soul mates, is starting to ask for money for a spot on its busiest pages.

    This week, it's New York City apartment brokers who are being told that a listing fee is on its way. Later this year, Washington area employers may be asked to cough up some money for an ad on the region's job listings page.

    It's an out-of-character move for the site, which is best known for allowing users to post their ads free of charge. But it's the users who begged the site operators to do something about the number of repeat listings on the site.

    Starting March 1, a $10 fee will be imposed for listings in New York with hopes of deterring the brokers who list the same apartment several times in a single day, Craigslist Inc. chief executive Jim Buckmaster said. There are no plans to impose fees for real estate listings in other cities.

    In the highly charged, competitive real estate market of New York, the site has become a victim of its own success. Its simple interface gives the newest listings the most prominent spot, prompting some brokers to re-post the same listings several times a day to ensure that theirs were the first ones that home-seekers encounter.

    As a result, the site gets 600,000 listings for real estate in New York per month; by instituting a fee, Craigslist hopes to cut that number by 90 percent.

    "We've had requests for a long time to make a change like this," Buckmaster said, adding that there are no plans to charge for similar listings in other cities. "New York, and particularly Manhattan, is, in our experience, completely unique."

    Craigslist executives have also had similar concerns about its job listings pages, prompting a fee for postings in select cities. A job ad in New York and Los Angeles is priced at $25, while a user who posts a job in the San Francisco region pays $75.

    In addition to Washington, job listings in San Diego, Boston and Seattle are being considered for a possible fee later this year.

    Craigslist's city-specific Web sites get 3 billion page views and are visited by 10 million viewers every month, the company said. On Craigslist forums debating the issue yesterday, many apartment seekers in New York indicated they were in favor of the fee.

    "Please charge for listings. Please!!" wrote one respondent. "I'm tired of seeing the same apartment listed by the same person four times in the same day."

    In Washington, some real estate agents were unsure if they would continue to use the site if a fee were imposed for local listings.

    "We get a lot of activity from Craigslist," said Washington agent Tom Drury, who puts his listings on the site. "I wouldn't have any problem with" a nominal fee.

    But Tony Hain, a Washington agent who also uses the site, said the bigger problem for Craigslist users is the lack of a good search mechanism.

    Though he posts his listings there now, he might reconsider if there were a charge. "If it's really going down at the bottom of the list, it may be throwing money away," he said.