Friday, June 30, 2006


Today's Vocabulary Review:

Innerwear = underwear

Loose Motions = diarrhea

Make a Move = to leave

Doo-Doo = Kannada slang for money

Gante = Kannada for time

As I write this, yogis from India, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and America are watching the World Cup soccer match between Germany and Argentina at the Southern Star bar.

Some of them left the Metropole Hotel and its many wide-screen TV's before the game started -- and just after they learnt that you cannot watch the game if you don't get the buffet. No one laughed when I said, "You can't have your pudding if you don't eat your meat." Yogis....

The Metropole is getting quite a reputation among westerners for surly service. They seem to have a lot of Indian guests and probably don't need our business. On the other hand, the man at the Southern Star (the other upscale hotel, which is next door) asked today, "Why not coming? For two days you have not come." People keep track of you here. The guy I buy the newspaper from every day said on Monday (after my road trip), "Where have you been? For two days you have not come!"

Which reminds me - yesterday I was driving past Aunty's -- the place across from Kaveri Lodge where I used to eat lunch quite often back in 02 and 04 -- and I saw her husband, and waved. But I haven't eaten there yet this trip because I'm sticking with Three Sisters in order to stay healthy. Now I'm afraid to show my face. But I'm even more afraid not to....

Today senior Australian yoga teacher Dena was getting a coconut after led primary series class when her husband Jack pulled up. He was on a bicycle with their two children perched in front of him, Indian style. Soooo cute.

Yesterday afternoon I managed to make the stonefaced shala guard laugh out loud when I arrived to pay Guruji and said to him, "Doo-doo gante!."

Guruji was resplendent in Brahmin white and smelled lovely when I hugged him. One of the joys of the old shala was waiting while he counted your money. He was meticulous, and it took forever. But this time he put my Rs 17,900 (around $400) into the money-counting machine that David Swenson gave him last year. I talked some Kannada to him but neglected to ask about authorization. Oops. Outside, in the shala, I saw Sharath reading the paper on the stage while some Indian students practiced in the front row. Between them Sharath's wee daughter stood on a pink mat, doing a slooppy version of traingle pose.

Today at lunch Harini of Three Sisters was explaning how to reheat halwah (an Indian sweet). Apparently you put some ghee (clarified butter) in the pan first. Apparently the person she was explaining it to wasn't getting it quickly enough. "You don't have Indian brain!" she finally exclaimed.

Less than an hour later the woman at the sari shop told me I must color my hair. "You must put black. It would look very nice." She said this while her co-worker was braiding Matrika's hair, Indian-style.

And later, the fine-looking Muslim men at a different sari shop concurred that I indeed look remarkably like Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi (who's from Italy) once they got me into a very grand black sari and wrapped the end over my head.

They did not look so happy a half hour later, when Matrika helped me negotiate the sari, choli (top), petticoat, sari webbing and stitching for Rs 1575.

I think that means we got a good price.

Also today: I ate breakfast** next to blogger Joey at Shakti House. He was non-reactive when I told him I've been stalking him.

Maybe I should start dying my hair again.


*"You Are My Sonia" is the title of the hit song from the fillum Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham . I learnt at breakfast that Joey, et al will perform a not dissimilar song, "Maahi Ve," at Guruji's 91st birthday on July 11. I knew it well enough to sing along with him. Maybe that's what scared him. Details of how the performance came about here.

**This was the same breakfast at which Matrika confessed that she'd envisioned him as demure woman from Hong Kong.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Today’s Vocabulary Words:

Tube Light = fluorescent light (used widely here because it does not emit heat)
Mess = cheap restaurant
Military Hotel – cheap non-veg restaurant

On Tuesday the film crew was in class shooting the documentary about Guruji. Every single light was turned up high in the shala (usually it’s rather dimly lit). I got a spot in the back row and never once felt the camera on me – which is good, since I had yet another mediocre practice.

During practice my dristi (gaze) was all over the place. I noticed Flatsie doing Virasana (a warmup) before starting her practice. I don't even know what series the pose is in, if any. I think we all know it's verboten to add poses to what we do in the shala; any warm-ups should be done at home, before class. We do a set program and that's that. Then I saw The Japanese Hairdresser going into pidgeon (another warmup) before starting her practice. I also saw Sharath tell her to stop. Both women are well into Intermediate Series. Both also have the bodies of borderline Anas. It makes one consider going on a crash diet and stop playing by the rules.

I struggled for some time with pasasana – long enough for my calves to start to hurt – before Sharath appeared. “Too many chappatis,” I said, explaining why the deep twist was a problem for me. After giving me an expert adjustment, he smiled and said, “Now chappatis digesting.”

Dropbacks sucked. I could drop back, but not come up. Saraswati saved me from myself. I work on backbends every day after practice and still it’s not working. My back is still tight and it still hurts. I think I am living in fear of throwing it out again. I don’t think this fear is unhealthy or unfounded but here I am in Mysore, where for some reason moving forward hinges on standing up from backbends. What am I thinking?

Near the end of practice Sharath’s daughter appeared wearing a pink John Lennon t-shirt; she was waving around the Amma doll that Miss Y sent as a gift for Guruji. A short time later we were treated to The Parade of Blondes, in which of two perky adult women trailed by a bevy of preteens – one of whom was carrying Sharda like a favorite doll -- marched across the shala to the changing room. After a few minutes the parade reversed its route, until its members put down their mats in the first few rows. It was quite a show. I’d never seen these Blondes before. The puberteens all had bright pink mats; one had written “Dottie” on hers.

After practice I stood around waiting to talk to Sharath. I’m about to start my eighth month in Mysore and am still working on Kraunchasana (the pose after Pasasansa, or the second pose in the intermediate series. Think of it like this: Primary Series is Teaching Little Fingers to Play, and Intermediate is the First Grade Book). But I recently learnt that someone’s who’s been here less than one month and has stood up from backbend exactly once has been given Pasasana. So I decided that it was finally time to talk to Sharath.

It was after 7:30 AM – when Sharath and Guruji are usually gone and Saraswati is holding fort – but they were still in the shala. So were the cameras. Guruji was in his seat on the stage saying goodbye to people and nodding off, while Sharath was tending to The Blondes; this one needed help in Mari D, that one needed to be stopped and told to do backbends; this one could go all the way to baddhakosana but her feet were too far away from her; she could also drop back on her own, like it was nothing. Many adjustments were there -- and the cameras caught it all.

It made me think about the three dogs that hang out in front of the shala, waiting for food. I felt a bit like the one f-cked up one with the sores that watches the others get the bulk of the treats.

Maybe The Blondes are the film’s producers. Yeah, that's it.

Finally Sharath had a spare moment. I told him I’d thrown out my back and was having trouble standing up from backbends, which I USED to be able to do. He asked if I had pain. I said yes but that I was afraid that there would be more and I would throw out my back and what did he suggest. He thought for a moment, and then said I should take an extra breath in each BB and try to relax the back. I laughed.

Then I asked about where in the series should stop my practice, since last time in Mysore he had me stopping in Kraunchasana and in NYC he said to stop at Kapotasana. He said Kraunchasana, since, apparently, the Mysore practice in Mysore, India is “different.” Then he said, “Tomorrow, Salabasana,” which is a shallow backbend and the third pose in Intermediate Series. I said that doing the smaller backbends before Urdvha Danurasana (the one I’m trying to stand up from) makes it easier. He nodded. Then I asked if he had back problems, and he said yes.

I did not feel good begging for the pose. It made me feel like one of the three dogs that hangs out in front of the shala....

But I will keep begging if necessary.

Prior to this, and after backbending humiliation, I skulked off to the women’s changing room to do my closing sequence. This is the freezing room and upstairs loft where we change clothes, use the bathroom and do our finishing sequence of shoulderstand, headstand, sitting and savasana. It was going well until Flatsie appeared, plopped down her mat near me and began doing the Intermediate Series headstand sequence. When she was finished with that – her breathing is all exhale, no inhale, like a choo-choo train – she proceeded to do the middle part of Intermediate Series – in other words, the poses that come after the point where she’s stopped in the shala. Without vinyasa (the sequence that links the poses together)! All of this is strictly forbidden – to practice at the AYRI we must sign a form that says we’ll stop our practice where they tell us to stop. Yet there she was, breathing loudly and ruining the energy of the room. The rest of us were helpless to stop it. Only later did I realize what a vindictive person could do; get Saraswati and point out what was going on. I wonder what she would do….

Over coconuts I talked a bit to a nice gent from Colorado and then ambushed poor Michael Halsband. He’s the photographer with the studio near NYC’s Midtown Lofts, where we sat on the floor and ate a divine $7 Indian breakfast every day after Guruji’s workshop in March. I thanked him for loaning out his place and asked about the Guruji documentary – which he’s making. He said it’s a feature film and will require over a year of shooting, including several more short trips to Mysore.

The previous day, the long-time student who was staying in the room next to me banged on my door and accused me of stealing her “neekkas-uh.” I couldn’t understand what the hell she was saying, what with the accent and all. After some time I figured out that she thought I had stolen her knickers. The following morning I gave her a ride to the shala. She didn’t wait for me so we could go in together. No, the minute the vehicle stopped moving, she jumped off and ran inside and secured her spot in line.

But she got busted and was told to come later from now on.

BTW I just learned that the requirements for getting official authorization to teach ashtanga vinyasa yoga have changed. I was under the impression that one must study in Mysore three times, for three months each time. But I heard today that it’s FOUR times, for as little as one month.

Plus you have to pay Rs 10,000 on the spot and every 1.5 years thereafter to maintain authorized status.

No word yet on whether losing one’s job due to too many trips to Mysore wins any kind of consolation prize.

Or whether in a few months it will change to five or six or seven or eight times.

Woman plans, Mysore laughs.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Today's Vocabulary Words:

UPS = backup battery used to fuel Interweb cafes, etc. during power cuts

Snap = photo

I'd half-composed a rather vitriolic post, but I'm visiting Prashanth's new browsing center. It has all new equipment, a USB port or two, and brand new everything -- which means I should be able to post pictures. But it just knocked me off Blogger and it's late and the bedroom beckons. In any case the vitriol will have time to fester a bit.

The obligatory cow photo. Here in Karnataka state, the cows say "Ambaa" -- not "Moo." They are unpaid the members the city's Streets and Sanitation division, for which they mow grass and clean up trash. The end result is a cleaner city and of course cow pies -- which are dried and used as cooking fuel. Unfortunately they're not unionized.

When Caca goes to see a fillum she buys a ticket by talking to a hole in the wall. Literally. There is a man on the other side who may or may not be a prisoner of some sort. Either way, you gets your ticket. The sound system at this talkies, The Rajkamal, is chennai g'day.

The famous clinic near the fabulous albeit habitually late tailor Sachin and Bharath Labs, where Caca plans to get a mammogram -- her first -- for Rs 600 (around $13).

When I told Prashanth that we'd ridden scooters to the jungle he was aghast. Apparently it's not uncommon for tuskers to attack people on two-wheelers In fact, not long ago one went after a yoga student on a motorcycle, and put a big divot in his seat. In fact, Matrika knew this and did not tell me until long after we'd arrived at the jungle lodge.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Today's Vocabulary Word:

Browsing = internet cafe


The place will be full when you arrive.

If it's not full, there will be one remaining computer -- the one with the keyboard where the space bar sticks.

The browsing center doubles as the unofficial headquarters of the city's mosquito population.

The sole computer with a USB port will be the one using Windows 98 --and incapable of uploading photos onto your blog.

The computer that can upload photos won't have a USB port for your thumb drive -- where all the photos are.

Once you sit down, five friends of the person next to you will arrive, pull up plastic stools, and read every page you look at and every word you type. One may pick his nose.

Once your blog is composed -- just as you're about to hit "PUBLISH" -- the power will go out.

At least one computer will be playing the soundtrack from "Fanaa" at full volume.

Service will be slower than dialup.

The speed problem is always with "server in Bangalore" -- the cyber-center of India -- and never with the browsing center.

Once you're finally able to get to your e-mail, you will have to urinate.

Monday, June 26, 2006


Phrases and Vocabulary Words of the Day:

Litter (of pigs) = three or more baby pigs
Double road = four-lane highway
Pass and come = Urinate and return
Bun-EE = Kannada for “come” or “follow me”
Chennai G’day = Kannada for “very good”
Aitoo = Kannada for “I have finished”
Nimdoo = Kannada for “And you?”

Fact of the day:

Many animals roam the streets of Mysore: cows, horses, pigs, burros, and dogs. It’s not clear to whom these animals belong, if anyone; it seems they’ve been left on their own to forage for food and return home, wherever that is, at the end of the day. Many wind up feasting on the garbage and plastic bags they find in the cement garbage pits; others keep the grassy roadside nicely mowed while still others go begging. Many of the cows wear halters made of rope and a few of the dogs have collars (no nametag), but ownership is something of a mystery – to me anyway.


This morning at the 5AM led primary series class I did not see any cameras. All of that primping for nothing….

Actually I forgot my yoga shorts again, and wound up practicing in what Doug-from-Brighton calls my kung-fu pants. They're red and feature a big embroidered dragon on the right leg and are so hot (in the literal sense) they were dripping by the time class ended. Even poor Guruji recoiled from my enbrace.

Sharath led the class, which meant that the pace was slow and at least my breathing was good. I arrived late with a Mysore veteran ("15 years coming") from Greece, who’s staying next to me, on the back of my scooter; the only reason I found a spot was because I parted two mats that already had a wide gap between them and made space for myself – further alienating my yogic brethren.

My accelerator-side shoulder and wrist hurt throughout practice, as did my lower right back, and to top it off I was weak and fell to the floor after Sharath hit “9” in utpluthith (the pose where we sit in lotus and balance on our hands for 10 breaths or an eternity, whichever comes first).

Overtired and crabby, I talked to no one afterwards at the coconut stand…. Although when Beck’s packet of bright yellow straws took a death-leap onto a particularly cesspool-ish bit of asphalt and he put the filthy things back into their bag, I said to no one in particular, “Something to look forward to tomorrow.”


Then I realized that the Second Series Students (hereafter referred to as “The SS”) were still in class, being filmed, and would have to suffer through the dirty straws when they came out. And I did not stick around to warn them.

Nope, I did something far, far worse.

Something that makes me cringe and will keep me feeling guilty and driving like an old lady for a very long time indeed.

At about 7AM, on the drive back to the hotel, I saw a litter and sow step off the curb and into the four-lane road. I honked (surprisingly, most animals respond to vigorous honking and get out of the way) but they ran very quickly into the middle of the road -- right in front of my scooter. I slammed on the brakes. I swerved. I held my breath. But it was too late.


I looked back and saw an adolescent piglet on its side, squealing and moving its legs like it was running. I thought, “Oh no, I’ve seriously injured it. Now I’m going to have to kill it to put it out of its misery. But how? With what?”** I turned the scooter around and got a closer look. The pig was still on its side, but was thrashing its way towards the side of the road. I made a gesture as if to help it to the easement, and one of the men who was watching shook his head and made a gesture that said, “If you help it you’ll be bitten (and get rabies and die, since we all know there’s a shortage of rabies vaccine here in Mysore.)” So I stood there dumbly, watching out for oncoming traffic and willing the pig to the side of the road and wondering if I could catch it and take it to some vet-- and beating myself up for causing unnecessary suffering and praying that it wasn’t in too much pain and would somehow be OK.

In the meantime a bigger crowd had gathered. All men. But no one did a thing except look back and forth between the pig and me and back at me again. Their expression said it all: Bad lady. Bad guest in our India. Yankee going home now.

But somehow the pig made it to the curb and onto the grassy area beside the road. It stood up, wobbled, fell over onto its side, and thrashed a bit more. Then it got up again – and ran off. It ran fast, with hardly a limp.

The crowd dispersed. After watching it go I stood there for some time, thinking about all of my negative thoughts and lust for speed and “progress” in yoga and felt quite awful indeed.

I’m not sure how this is related but after another laconic breakfast I went to Apollo Hospital to inquire about an exam, Pap smear and mammogram. (For those of you not keeping score I have catastrophe-only insurance back in America and cannot afford regular checkups AND trips to India; hence the many visits to the dentist here to clean my teeth, deal with new cavities and replace old fillings).

I’d left my registration card at home – Apollo is my hospital of choice when ill in India – but my name was in the computer and they issued me a new one and sent me to their head OB-GYN. I waited 45 minutes to have my BP and weight recorded, then was told to come back after 12:15. I showed up at 12:30 and the waiting room was packed with women in saris with jasmine in their black braids. All of the chairs faced the same direction – the doctor’s office – and it looked like some weird audience. I took my place and hunkered down with Lucy Edge’s exasperating “Yoga School Dropout” (about her Indian yoga quest) and tried not to fall asleep. After a half hour or so I heard “Miss Caca” and looked up and was waved towards the door we’d all been staring at.

”Pass and come,” said the pretty woman in the green sari (the administrative staff was all wearing green saris today. Tomorrow they’ll be wearing oxblood or some other color).

”What?” I said.

“Pass and come,” she said, pointing to the door.

“WHAT?” I said, following her gaze. “What should I pass? Should I pass through the door? Why?”

“Come,” she said, and brought me inside.

The doctor sat behind a desk and greeted me warmly and offered me a chair. I sat next to a young woman who was discussing the results of her exam. After learning that I just needed a simple checkup, she asked where I was from and told me all of the places in the Midwest where she had family members (Michigan, Ohio, Chicago). Then she said that I needed to “Pass and come back.”


“When did you last urinate?”

Uh, an hour ago.

“Then you must pass urine and come back, so that the bladder is empty and we can do the exam.”


So I passed and came back and had a seat. The first patient was still there. Then a young Muslim woman came in from the examining room, and the doctor started asking her questions. Apparently she was feverish and quite sick. Apparently this had something to do with the fact that she had just gotten married.

I’ve heard time and again that there’s no word for “privacy” in India. But I’ve always suspected that it’s an old traveler’s tale….

In any case I was moved into the miniscule exam room behind the curtain and told to “remove panties and pants.” Part of the brilliance of the salwaar kameeze outfit – apart from the fact that it’s cool and comfortable and hides bulges and dries quickly and comes in great colors – is that the top also serves as a hospital gown. I got on the table and was told to scoot down. And down. And down – just like back at home.

But in India there are no stirrups with hand-knitted covers. Instead there are cold thin metal bars that you wedge against your shins as you keep lowering your ass towards the assistant. It seems there’s an assumption here that everyone uses a squat toilet and has open Achilles tendons and calves and can do Pasasana (a deep squatting twist that I find impossible). It took us some time to get me into place. There were no cute butterfly mobiles or affirming posters affixed to the ceiling. The exam was quick and to the point and took about five minutes.

During it I learnt that the doctor’s husband is also a journalist, for the excellent south Indian newspaper, where he was a Bangalore Metro reporter. But he’d had to retire because she was “too busy” and someone (he) had to take care of the family.

After dressing I sat back down in front of the doctor. The other two women were still in the office. The Muslim woman, in a black hijab, put her head on the desk and closed her eyes.

I looked around. There was a poster of a cherubic, light-skinned boy using a cell phone and the words, “Please Keep Your Mobile Off. We Wish You all the Best in Fulfilling Your Dream.” It was signed by the doctor. On the other wall there was a poster of a beautiful beaming light-skinned woman: “Diane 35. The Contraceptive Choice for Clearer and More Beautiful Skin.”

“That is for the woman who has an irregular cycle,” the doctor explained to me. “Also for the unmarrieds.”

“And for good skin!” I chimed in.

She said that I should take the specimen in the dirty plastic case to the billing department and then to the lab, where I could pick it up after 5:30 and then bring it back to her for the results – which she thought would be normal. Then I asked about a mammogram; she gave me a scrip to get one at the lab near the Piles & Fistula Clinic. Maybe I could make a day of it.

The exam was Rs 100 and the pap Rs 330. The mammogram will cost Rs 600. The grand total: less than $25.

Take that, Northwestern University Physicians Group!

After lunch I got a much-needed nap and dreamed of suffering pigs and specimens of swine blood. Bad men were breaking into the Kaveri Lodge when I got home, and I had a mouth full of pig’s blood and all of my right-side molars were falling out and I was trying to spit the lot of it into the pig blood specimen case so I could get it to the lab on time.

But I suspect that even that could not put Humpty Dumpty back together again….

At the appointed time I returned to Apollo Hospital for the pap smear results; the lab doctor who handed them to me told me they were negative and not to worry. Then I went to the doctor’s office, where a nearly full house sat in the chairs and stared at her door. After some time my name was called and I stood by the assistant’s office with some other women – all but one wearing saris. The assistant, by the way, wore a white lab coat over a white salwaar kameez.

She grabbed a pile of medical records and told us to “Bun-EE” or follow her. She led us down the hall and up the stairs, where she was stopped with inquiries at regular intervals. She led us to a large room that was filled with people in chairs and sitting on the floor with bags of food and thermoses of milky chai and coffee. I looked up: “Labour Room.” After awhile the doctor emerged and talked to the white-clad assistant, who told me to remove my flip-flops and come in. The doctor was wearing a green surgical cap above her red bindi. She apologized for the delay and told me she was about to perform a C-section. I apologized for bothering her with such a small thing, especially since the results were negative. When she confirmed this I said “Chennai g’day,” which made her smile and shake hands. After inviting me to come back for another exam if I was in Mysore in one year’s time, we said goodbye and I passed the expectant families and went down the stairs and out the door and through the cool evening air to the scooter, where a wee lad hit me up for the Rs 2 parking fee.

“Two rupees for 12 hours,” I said. “I paid.”

“Yes but it is after 6PM.”

“Oh. OK,” I said, and handed him Rs. 2.

“Coffee, madam?” he asked, after tearing a newsprint chit and handing it to me.

“Coffee aitoo,” I replied. “Nimdoo?”

“Aitoo,” he said, smiling and doing the South Indian head bob that looks like “no” but means “yes,” and walked off.

And with that I put on the helmet, started the scooter and drove very slowly the whole way here.


*When I was young we (ie; my father) raised Hampshire pigs and showed them at the county fair – where mine won Reserve Champion Litter and Grand Champion Gilt (guilt).

**I had to put an animal out of its misery when I was 12. Long story. Suffice to say it's why when I get back I’m going to donate to Spay and Stay.

In the meantime today I gave some biscuits to the stray dogs behind the Kaveri Lodge and some bananas to a woman asking for food and dropped a measly Rs 100 into a box designated for “blind and poor patients” and stopped many negative thoughts; I also plan to donate something significant somewhere before I leave.

Still the guilt does not ebb.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


Today's Vocabulary Words:

Lungi or dhoti = A lungi is a long sarong worn by men and often paired with a button-down shirt. A dhoti is a lungi that's pulled up between the legs.

Salwaar Kameez = long dress worn with a matching shawl over baggy pants.

Hair Dresses = barbershop

Gaur ("gore") = Wild bovine creature that resembles a fat, muscular buffalo

Sambar = large, muscular deer (not to be confused with the lentil sambar that's eaten wtih iddly)

Ha-NAY = Kannada for elephant

Tusker = male elephant

Ma-LAY = Kannda for rain

Chandon = sandalwood

Madame = crazy lady wearing a poncho and driving a scooter in the rain


Since 2002, I've spent eight months in India.

Lucky me!

But it wasn't until this weekend that I actually *relaxed* in India.

For a moment, anyway.

I'm far too wrecked to write much now, but the 80 km trip to and from the jungle was on scooters over newly-paved roads that wove through villages and very green countryside dotted with fields where cotton and goats are grown.

Many goats.

And where men in dhotis and turbans hang out at the chai stalls and talk.

While not tending to the goats.

While the women carry things to and fro on their heads.

And tend to goats.

And to the men.

The last bit of the trip to the lodge was bit dodgy, over a muddy and pockmarked track that required some serious two-wheeling skills. But Matrika on her Scooty Hog and I on my more powerful Honda Activa made it in two pieces.

We both drove in salwaar kameezes, plus I wore a lovely filigree necklace and bangles -- with my helmet and bright-orange poncho.

Of course it rained during the trip. Monsoon is here, Madame.

Apparently Sharath has spent some time at the Water Woods resort on the Kabini River, where we stayed. It's actually a home, but the owners were out of town. Rumor had it that some Second Series Students (these would be the seniors and AP students, if the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute were a high school) were going there with him this weekend. These students were also privy to the puja at Guruji's village last weekend. But they didn't show, which meant more food for us....

We were greeted by a lovely staff and sweet, milky South Indian coffee and an airy, exquisite home -- where we were the weekend's only visitors.

After a nap and chai we were taken on a jeep safari through the Rajiv Gandhi National Park (aka Nagrahole) with two spotters and the cook's new wife and brother. Apparently the couple married last month. No word on dowry.

We saw birds, sandalwood, bamboo, rosewood, teak, several types of deer, guar, other jeeploads of (all Indian) tourists and of course ELEPHANTS. Plenty of elephants. As we drove we all scanned the forest for signs of wildlife but the two spotters -- one of whom was driving -- did all the work. Suffice to say they found a group of elephants -- three cows and a calf that stuck close to its mother -- that we sat and watched some time. These were Indian elephants, big and dark gray with the small ears. As with fishing, we had to be very quiet (I was actually shusshed at one point, much to my embarassment). Other jeeps (all Indians, no westerners) came and went. It got darker. Mosquitoes started coming. But the waiting paid off when the quartet ran out of whatever it was they were eating and crossed the road right in front of us. If technology ever becomes my friend -- and I sense it will, soon -- I'll post the video I took. Amazing. Real live elephants, in the wild.

And they didn't even attack us.

PART II of Caca's Safari Adventure tomorrow....

Pictures are also coming.

In five minutes only....

....Or at least after tomorrow's led primary series class, where the documentary crew will be a-filming our yoga practice.

I'm off now to wardrobe, and then the stylist.

Because you never can look too fat or too haggard at 5AM Indian Standard Time.

Friday, June 23, 2006


Today's Vocabulary Review:

Make a Move = to leave
STD = phone booth
Fast: promiscuous

....Tomorrow I'm going for the jungle with Matrika. On scooters. Bad lady me for bailing on the anatomy workshop, but the call of the elephants, tigers, poisonous snakes etc. is strong, and the prospect of not one but two safaris cannot be ignored.

Today I was named a "regular customer" at the Southern Star restaurant and given a 20 percent discount on the bill. How this happened is beyond me, but like getting an unexpected yoga posture one does not question. I signed my name on the chit in Kannada, which elicited smiles all around.

Recently Overheard:

"They just give them to us."

--Male yoga student marveling at how easy it is for westerners here to obtain very dangerous four-stroke weapons (ie, scooters).

"Are you going to Regaalis?"

--Male yoga student asking a peer if they plan to swim at the Southern Star, which recently changed hands and was renamed (and now has a new favourite customer).

"What's Regaalis?"

--Female yoga student

"I Just can't get enough of their chicken sausage."

-Male yoga student, referring to the Southern Star's infamous East-meets-West buffet.

"She got Lasic surgery in Bangalore and can see perfectly now. It cost her $850 US"

-Male yoga student.

"What's Guantanamo?

--A fellow yoga student. From America. Asking Satya C. what the hell she was talking about when she read aloud from an article about US Senators calling for an end to the unconstitutional detainment and torture of suspected (but never charged) terrorists at the US detention camp in Cuba.

Deafening distorted helium-y Bollywood-y temple music amplified to a painful decibel level that breaks local laws as well as the 1949 Geneva Conventions accords regarding torture.

--heard at this very moment up and down the street and inside every building along the way. Yet no one has taken up arms.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

(“You are looking very old today, Madame”)**

Today's Vocabulary Words:

Doomee = Kannda for "fat lady"

Madame = Dried-up sharp-tongued dummy operated by Wayland Flowers who became a popular guest on American TV talk shows in the 1970's and eventually got her own show, called Madame's Place.

Today in the middle of class Sharath’s wee daughter ran in, yelping. She was naked, and carried her pyjamas under her arm like a football as she charged between the mats.

The giggles began near the door and soon flooded the room.

Yesterday I practiced next to Flatsie, the bendy, fully-posable, impossibly cute tall tan woman who wears miniscule yoga togs and makes me feel short, stiff, stocky, stodgy -- and like my size-10 feet are normal. Apparently she has a cold because at regular intervals she would blow her nose into a chalk-white towel -- which she would then throw onto my mat. Which I would shove back over to her mat. Which she would use again, fully emptying her nose, and then throw onto my mat. Which I would then push back over to her mat. Which she finally noticed, and moved it to the other side. I wanted to say, "I don't hate you. I just don't want to catch your cold. YOU'RE PUTTING ALL OF US AT RISK BY COMING HERE AND BREATHING ON THE REST OF US -- LET ALONE TARGETING ME BY PUTTING YOUR SNOT AND GERMS ALL OVER MY MAT." Because the thing we fear most here, other than not getting noticed/adjusted, being overcharged by the rickshaw driver, having the maid steal our stuff, etc. is getting sick.

Later, she put this same white towel over her knees so that her arms wouldn't slip off her legs in Pasasana (an intense twist). As if snot saturation would somehow create some friction.

Yesterday during dropbacks Guruji dropped my friend’s husband and he fell onto his back. Ouch.

Today in backbends G. nearly fell on top of my friend, and she asked him to please stop.

His 91st birthday is July 11.

Yesterday I managed to clasp hands without help in Pasasana (noose pose, that intense twist), but with my heels off the floor. Saraswati came over and said, “You did?” Yes, I replied, but with heels up. "American heels," I said, pointing. So she helped me do it again, with my heels down. Then I did Kraunchasana and proceeded to backbends.

After some trial and error I stood up sloppily from backbend and dropped back twice on my own. As I jerkily stood up from the second one, Guruji, who was helping someone nearby, looked at me and said, “Eh! Slowly!” As I stood on the front of my mat trying to catch my breath so I could do a third (who says ashtanga doesn’t attract masochists?), he came over, held my waist and said, “You go back” and expertly assisted me in three dropbacks. It was so nice to have his support. Then I rocked back four times and brought my hands to the floor. He had me walk my hands in, said “Breathe!” and counted to five. After bringing me up to standing he gave me a hug – again counting to five, in coordination with my breathing –and then said “Thank you” before adjusting me in the counterpose.

Sharath was nowhere in the vicinity, but I’m sure he saw the whole thing.

Today I was on my way to class, thinking, “Man, it’s been awhile since I’ve forgotten something stupid, like my helmet or my key or the lock to my room.” Then I realized I didn’t have my sticky mat. Oops. But it was too late to turn back and get it. Besides, I had my top-mat, and decided I could practice on that.

I alienated even more fellow students (and probably my teacher) when Sharath said “One more” and looked at me – and I refused to take the newly-vacated spot in the back row -- the only place on the shala’s marble floor that’s not covered by cotton rugs (which would have been a nightmare for my thin top mat). After waiting a minute I found another spot on the shala rug and proceeded to do a lackluster practice, thinking, “Will I ever get to do other poses again?” and “I’m exactly where I was 2.5 years ago.” And “Oh god, backbend is coming – will my back hurt? Will I be able to do it? Will it be harder without my mat? Will Sharath give me any other poses today?”

The answers were Yes, Barely, No and No.

Sharath helped me in Pasasana, and watched me do Kraunchasana out of the corner of his eye. (If he were going to give me another pose – a backbend called salabasana -- it would have been at this point). Redfaced, ashamed and on the verge of tears, I began doing backbends.

Just as I was getting ready to struggle with standing up, I saw a pair of feet amble from the office towards my mat. Guruji! He pulled me up to standing and again helped me drop back three times before doing the usual sequence. I don’t know why he came -- maybe he’s seen me struggling, maybe I’m just at the right place at the right time, maybe I’m not as heavy as I think I am – but I was so relieved. As I wrote in my 2002 Mysore diary about the times he’d help me instead of Sharath, “Guruji doesn’t seem to care whether I’m standing up or not, and I don’t feel like I’m letting him down if I don’t.

But Sharath is the one who did and does make me work the hardest.

After breakfast I went back to my room and worked on backbends. I dropped back three times easily but could only stand up once before tweaking my shoulder, which made things even bleaker. I felt like a fuckup and a loser and was on the verge of tears for the remainder of the day.

And I couldn’t help but think, “The backbending nightmare would be so much easier if I could do it after Kapotasana (a very intense intermediate series, and the point at which Sharath told me to conclude my pre-backbend practice in 2005).

And I also thought, “I’ve been so good, doing backbending homework in my room and not going on excursions and being disciplined and going to bed early – and for what??

“Maybe I should start trying to have fun again.”

So what do I have planned for the two-day weekend?

Not a trip to the jungle to see tigers.

Not an shopping trip to Bangalore.

Not a weekend at a spa.

Not even a brunch at the Southern Star or a trip up Chamundi Hill.

So what do I plan to do?

Attend a two-day workshop on anatomy.


Perhaps Madame should just chug a gallon of tap water, and end it all right now.


*This was the headline for a story about ageing footballers in today’s New Indian Express newspaper.

**While on a fruitless salwaar shopping quest with Dr. Disco near KR Circle today, a young boy tugged at my arm and pointed to my gray hair while delivering the message that Madame looked quite old. “Madame IS old today,” I replied. “Madame is old EVERY day.”

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Today’s Vocabulary Words:

Hello! = excuse me
Tank = lake
Specs = glasses
Tariff = rate

It seems the only time I get to do much reading is when I come to Mysore, where I average about a book a week (so now you know why my fake Indian name is not Evelyn-anda Wood-eyar*). On previous trips I’ve focused on Indian authors, starting with the oeuvre of Mysore-based author RK Narayan; this time around I’m focusing on memoirs by western authors who’ve lived in India. I've also brought the current darling of the yoga community, Shantaram, but can't seem to get past the first few pages -- which recall a firangi Million Little Pieces. Unfortunately I somehow forgot the one book that straddles both camps: Suketu Mehta’s brilliant Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, in which the author grows up in Bombay, leaves at 15, and returns as an adult to uncover why it’s changed. Oops… Maybe they have it at Geetha Bookhouse.

First off the shelf was Rumer Godden’s “A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep.” (Godden is the author of “The River,” a novella about growing up in India that was made into an utterly engaging film by Jean Renoir). This book is about growing up in India and returning later as a young adult. It’s a bit disappointing – she gives very little of herself – until the end, where she spends a large chunk of World War II, including winter, living in a house in rural Kashmir with three children and no electricity or other amenities. In a section about her reading material, she discusses “The Secret of India,” which, she writes,

“’…leaves me cold, and I have come to the conclusion that, if you want to do Yoga properly – not dabble in it, how I hate dabblers – you would have no time left in which to live and, more and more, it seems to me the most important thing is to live.”

Elizabeth Gilbert’s recent “Eat Pray Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia,” is quite popular among Chicago yoginis, and follows Ms. Gilbert’s year off after a messy divorce. I at first found the blonde Ms. Gilbert annoyingly unctuous – she tends to go for the easy joke; plus the first thing she did upon arrival in Rome was ditch her “serious” and “long-time” yoga practice. Dabbler! But she started to grow on me during her extended stay at an ashram outside of Bombay. Early in the book she picks up where Godden left off:

“What was more important? The part of me that wanted to eat veal in Venice? Or the part of me that wanted to be waking up long before dawn in the austerity of an Ashram to begin a long day of meditation and prayer? The great Sufi poet and philosopher Rumi once advised his students to write down three things they most wanted in life. If any item on the list clashes with any other item, Rumi warned, you are destined for unhappiness. Better to live a life of single-pointed focus, he taught. But what about the benefits of living harmoniously between extremes? What if you could somehow create an expansive enough life that you could synchronize seemingly incongruous opposites into a worldview that excludes nothing? My truth was exactly what I’d said to the medicine man in Bali – I wanted to experience BOTH. I wanted worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence – the dual glories of a human life. I wanted what the Greeks called Kalos Kai Agathos, the singular balance of the good and the beautiful. I’d been missing both during these last hard years [ie; her divorce and breakup of the rebound relationship], because both pleasure and devotion require a stress-free place in which to flourish and I’d been living in a giant trash compactor of nonstop anxiety. As for how to balance the urge for pleasure against the longing for devotion…well, surely there was a way to learn that trick.”

I didn’t realize how annoyingly American her thinking is – wanting it all, at any cost, as if it’s all somehow deserved because of a couple of rough years – nor how refreshing her humor could be until I got to Elizabeth Kadetksy’s “First There is a Mountain: A Yoga Romance.” It’s a rather dry but comprehensive account of her two trips to India to study with BKS Iyengar in Pune. In it, Kadetsky alludes to a research trip to the Asthanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore (where I’m currently studying). There she ran into a fellow Iyengar student taking classes; apparently the student panicked and begged Kadetsky not to tell Iyengar that she was mixing styles. Dabbler!

[Note: In Iyengar yoga the focuses is on alignment and poses are held for a long period of time. The use of props – blocks, bolsters, straps, furniture and hanging harnesses – is encouraged. In ashtanga yoga poses are held for short periods of time and linked together with sun salutations to create heat; there’s a very specific type of breathing, and the use of props is discouraged].

The anorexic Kadetsky uncovers a financial link between Iyengar and the very scary Hindu fundamentalist politicians that Mehta investigates in Maximum City. But more relevant here is Iyengar’s relationship to Pattabhi Jois (both were students of the legendary Mysore-based teacher T. Krisnamacharya; from what I understand Jois was with him for over 20 years while the sickly Iyengar, a relative, stayed for just a few).

[WARNING: If you’re not into yoga, you may want to stop right here and go back to work].

At one point the author and her guru are discussing a book; from the context it seems to be “The Yoga Tradition of the Mysore Palace,” edited by Norman Sjoman. Suddenly Iyengar becomes agitated and begins ranting:

“’This book. Full of lies….

“‘Why would he lie? He says I am his student when I am not his student at all. Now what can I do? Tell me.’

“I blinked. ‘I don’t know, Guruji. What man? Teaching what?’

“‘Pattabhi, that man!’

“Pattabhi. Of course. Iyengar was referring to a brief reference in thebook to Pattabhi Jois. Jois was a contemporary of Iyengar’s who, like Iyengar, had studied with Krishnamacharya in the Mysore Palace. He now taught what he called ‘Astanga Yoga’ to a fashionable [ha!] and primarily American [not true] clientele at a school not far from the one-time yoga headquarters in Mysore. Along with Desikachar in Madras and Iyengar in Pune, Jois had been responsible for bringing Krishnamacharya’s teachings to America. The embrace of Jois by such celebrities as Madonna and Gwynneth Paltrow had recently thrust Jois into an international spotlight that Iyengar was once accustomed to occupying alone. Jois was quoted in the book as saying that he and Iyengar studied with Krishnamacharya at the same time. Jois, being Iyengars senior by three years, had been Iyengar’s guru, the interloper held.

“I believed Iyengar’s protest that Jois’s statement was false – I eventually spoke with several people who hung around Krishnamacharya’s studio in those same years who all remembered Jois studying with the master only briefly and primarily for Sanskrit, not yoga [Huh? Who?]. And Jois’s memory was famously unreliable [Huh?]. He once claimed that he and Krisnamacharya traveled to Calcutta together in 1934 and retrieved a lost yoga text written on palm fronds called The Yoga Korunta. In that document, he said, they discovered a lost ancient form – the sun salutation. The Korunta, however, was still lost, and many cast doubts on this story. In any case, sun salutations appeared in the Aundh mahajara’s treatise, Surya Namaskars, which predated this supposed excavation by six years.

“But Iyengar’s disgruntlement seemed out of proportion to the misrepresentation, and I wondered if it didn’t have something to do with other, deeper-seated rivalries with Jois. “

Here she goes into a description of their differing Brahmin lineage; according to her Pattabhi Jois is a Tamil Brahamin of the Shiva/ Shakara tree and Iyengar a tamil Brahmin of Vishnu/Ramanuja lineage.

“Even that explanation failed to satisfy me, however. Both teachings expoused ‘embodied’ yoga, after all. And in the following weeks, Iyengar’s concern for the matter of Pattabhi’s falsehoods reached a pitch of obsession. Iyengar stopped me regularly after class to complain about the book. In practice one day, he was demonstrating on a student in sirsasana [headstand] but drifted to the topic of Pattabhi. ‘He says he went to Calcutta for this, this Yoga Korunta,’ Iyengar said, his hand sweeping the air emphatically so he nearly toppled the student. The others seemed mystified by his non sequitur. ‘Krishnamacharya and Pattabhi never went to Calcutta. First of all, that you should know….You mean I did not know where my Guruji went? I am a student of my Guruji since 1934 [NOTE: Iyengar opened his Pune shala in 1938. You do the math, since Kadetsky did not]. Guruji went somewhere in 1934 and I did not know? I don’t want to say the name of Pattabhi even. He is copying my book. Even. Let him at least be honest.’

“Pattabhi, Pattabhi, Pattabhi. The word became a mantra, uttered in practice, snorted from the back of the room, groused about with Geeta and Pandu and Gloria….

“I couldn’t help thinking that somehow at the root of Iyengar’s irritation lay the history of his painful rupture with that patriarch. In this world where loyalty was as central a marker of spiritual character as one’s daily performance of ritual, Krisnamacharya had gone to his death in 1989 believing that Iyengar had been a guru drohi – a guru betrayer….

“…Although Krisnamacharya eventually submitted to appear at the dedication of the institute in Pune and wrote a prologue to Iyengar’s Light on Pranayama, what was memorable about their relationship today was that Krishnamacharya nursed a lifelong grudge against Iyengar for what he did.

”What Iyengar did was grow increasingly estranged from his guru while simultaneously winning fame, connections, and intimacy with others – new patrons, a wider foundation of clients and, ultimately, the West.”

Despite all that, Mr. Iyengar put aside is differences and came down to Mysore last July to wish Pattabhi Jois a happy 90th birthday. It was a momentous occasion and many photos were taken; one of them appears on the cover of Namarupa magazine. I found Guruji looking at the magazine after class the other day, when I went into his office to pay my respects. I pointed to his picture on the cover and said, “Nice picture of you! Tumba Santosha!” (Much happiness). He laughed and said, “Yes, Yes! Thank you!”

In the photo, Pattabhi Jois is smiling -- and BKS Iyengar, standing next to him, is scowling.

Near the end of the book, Kadetsky goes off to “a small community by the ocean near Sril. Aurobindo’s ashram” to write and winds up taking classes with senior ashtanga teacher Karen Haberman – with whom I did a week-long Mysore-style intensive (my first) back in 1998.

She writes, “Karen had been with Jois in India for several years and then left his school in Mysore because she didn’t trust him any longer….She’d felt betrayed when she understood that her guru was not infallible, not immune from cultural chauvinisms, not a role model or a stand-in for father or family – and in this way she was like me too.

“Karen still revered the practice if not the messenger, though, and she taught it to me…Sometimes when I couldn’t do a pose, I’d assume I still couldn’t do it the next day, and then I’d surprise myself when I found I could…..I learned new poses, ones I’d lonely read about in sequences that I’d never reached in “Light on Yoga.”

Which of course she got in trouble for from Iyengar when she told him; as a form of public shaming he made her demonstrate Pattabhi Jois’s “jumpings” in front of the whole class.

One can’t help but wonder what style of yoga she’s doing nowadays.


*Evelyn Wood is the name of a speed-reading course that advertised heavily on American television in the 1970’s. Wodeyar is the surname of the Mysore royal family. Ananda means bliss.


Monday, June 19, 2006


Today's Vocabulary Words:

West Asia = The Middle East
Windies = The West Indies
SoMA = South of Montrose on Ashland*

Last Tuesday after backbends, Sharath asked if I'd done Pasasana (the first pose in the intermediate series, which students in Mysore are not allowed to do unless they can stand up from backbend). I said no, and he said, "Tomorrow." So on Wednesday I tried doing the pose (a deep squatting twist) but failed; I am currently too fat. Fortunately Saraswati saw my struggle and put me into the pose in no time. Sharath was nowhere to be found, so I continued to the next pose, Kraunchasana -- which I'd been "given" in 2004 -- and that was it for intermediate.**

Then it was time to stand up from backbends. It's definitely harder when Sharath's not around. But making it a thousand times more difficult was the baldie-sour guy behind me. He had flipped his body around to do Savasana (corpse pose) so that his head was at the head of my mat. -- WHO IS TEACHING THIS? PLEASE TELL THEM THEY MUST STOP -- I noticed his head where his feet should be while I was in backbend and thought, "If I start to fall while standing up and catch myself, I'll wind up stomping on his head and killing him." I had a hell of a time standing up with that thought in my head; I finally did it but had to run *sideways* to catch myself. I even managed to do it two more times, very badly, but without injuring the guy.

Class was cancelled on Friday for some puja at Guruji's village -- which many students (not this one) knew about and attended. Anyway the impromptu day off meant that my next crack at intermediate series poses would have been today.

But it was not to be. Ladies Holiday came to visit Sunday, just after led primary class. (When a woman menstruates she's considered dirty [at least by certain Brahmins] and is supposed to stay away from the shala for three days of "Ladies Holiday," lest she defile it. As a feminist I have a lot of problems with this, but it's their shala and they make the rules. However, many female students in Mysore "skip" their periods when they're here). Believe-you-me I thought about ignoring it This is the first week in ages in which we have four self-practice classes, in which new poses are awarded. And after these few weeks of struggling with backbends, which I'd previously "mastered," I'm more than ready to move forward. But I stayed away. It helped that my stomach hurt and that there was an early morning thunderstorm. But man, it was hard to do the right thing.

Later I went to see the popular, long-running Kannada (local language) film My Autograph. It's been playing for over 100 days, which is huge. But it's a ripoff of a Tamil film. Which reminds me -- the films I've been seeing are not subtitled,and you have to fill in the blanks. This one was about a guy who revisits the three (two?) loves of his life in flashback, while handing out invitations to his wedding. One woman is from school times, one is veena player from his college days in Kerala (the lush state south of here that abuts the Arabian Sea), and the third is a friend from work who's a dead ringer for Chicago yoga teacher Bridgett Piacenti. It was quite sweet and had me thinking about all of my exes. But that would be a movie that never ends....In other words, a sit-com.

My movie companion was J.-the-tough-coconut-girl. Her family runs a little store / coconut stand; they're friends with my teacher, Suddha. Last time I was here J. told me she was never going to get married and "be some man's slave" and I was, like, "Right on, sister." But now she's engaged and will be married in October. I think I met the man before leaving today; he has a good vibe and according to her he has either five houses or a five-room house, I'm not sure which. In any case the coconut family is still living in the single room behind their store. They have a new cabinet emblazoned with the word Videotron that takes up much of their sleeping space. It seems to be a refrigerator-cum-TV stand; whenever I come over they usher me into this back room (even if the father is asleep on the floor), and the younger sister gets me a chair and flips through the TV channels. Usually there's a film featuring the beloved Kannada actor Raj Kumar. When he died earlier this year there were riots in the streets of Bangalore. In the meantime outside with the machete, hacking the tops off green coconuts, putting in a straw and serving them up to walk-up customers. If technology ever becomes my friend, I'll make a video of this and post a link to it.

Which reminds me. Yesterday all of Beck-the-shala-coconut-guy's straws fell into the filthy ground. After students picked them up, Beck returned them to their plastic bag... and then popped a particularly dirty one into my coconut!

Anyways....I missed lunch today because of the movie and felt like crap all day -- it's weird and alienating not going to the shala, and it didn't help that a couple of fun things I'd been planning (like going to the jungle) have fallen through. But I've been revived somewhat by consuming a fluffy omelet, fresh lime soda and chocolate cake at the upscale and air-conditioned Southern Star hotel.

Now, on to the foot-wash (I can't put into words how good cold water on dirty feet feels after a long, sweaty day in India) and the final episode of Deadwood.


*Ha! Trick vocabulary word: SoMA is not really used in India but, rather, in Chicago, where it denotes a sleepy north side neighborhood that's home to an inordinate number of scribes -- ie; our version of Park Slope (where, to quote Suketu Mehta, "You cannot throw a rock without hitting another writer").

**There's some confusion about where I should stop in the intermediate series. It's a long story that has to do with Sharath telling me a couple of years ago to stop at Kapotasana (a deep backbend several poses after Kraunchasana) in my home practice.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Today's Vocabulary Words:

Five Minutes = never / in several weeks
Parwageela = Kannada for "No problem"

After not one, not two, but THREE trips to his out-of-the-way shop near the Piles and Fistula Clinic, the genious rock star tailor Sachin STILL has not finished stitching my dresses, which were to be completed by Friday. In fact, I found them sitting on the counter today -- in the same (unmade) condition they were a week ago. When, o when will I learn?

I spend a good part of the afternoon putting off my backbending homework and penning a long post about all of the fabulous books I've been reading and putting it onto the portable thumb-drive. Lucky for you (and much to my chagrin), the only interweb place with (a single) ISB port is closed this evening.

The writing took place after the chai came -- an hour after I'd asked for it.

Did I mention that it took 30 hours to get water last week? Five minutes my ass....

I've been ordering 20-litre bottles of the supersafe triple-sterilized H20; usually I call in the morning and it arrives in the afternoon. But last time it never came -- despite repeated calls, including a couple to the boss. By hour 28 I'd finished my four backup litres and was parched. Yet I was loathe to purchase another small bottle or two to tide me over -- too wasteful. But I was dying of thirst and becoming livid over the unkept promises of "five minutes coming Madam, no problem." So at 8PM I got on the scooter and rode over to the Lakshmipuram Nilgiris -- the formerly fancy supermarket that has become quite dirty (and the employees quite surly) in recent years. The cool air felt good, and I picked up two five-litre returnable bottles of Bisleri, one of the best brands. While checking out I came out of my funk long enough to notice that 8PM seems to be prime shopping time for the city's tall hot young male Bollywood types, which further improved my mood.

The water finally came long after my bedtime -- at 10PM.

Today Sharath led the 5AM primary series class (usually Guruji leads on Sunday), which was a treat because his counting (ie, how many breaths we take in each pose) is slower and links up nicely with my breathing. Guruji was in Bangalore, so Sharath also led the intermediate class that followed. One cannot help but wonder if that came as a surprise to the film (not video) crew that was there to shoot it for their doc about Guruji.

Later there was a long breakfast at the Green Hotel, which hosts an organic market every Sunday at 10AM. Westerners filled every seat at the outdoor restaurant, and everyone was chattering. At one point we starting talking about Questions People Would Like to Ask at Conference But Don't Dare. I won't list them here -- too dangerous -- but feel free to add your own in the "comments" section. Suffice to say there are many rumors that are itching to be cleared up: Is Guruji building a shala in Bangalore for (granddaughter) Sharmila? Will he teach there a couple of days each week? Is Sharath building another shala in Mysore? What happens if a lady on holiday (ie; menstruating) defiles the shala? And of course there's the Pandora's Box of questions about Guruji and asana (doing the poses) and if / when / why he gave up that part of the practice....

That said, there was no conference today.

It also came up this morning that according to both Pattabhi Jois's Yoga Mala and BKS Iyengar's Light on Yoga, just about all of the poses in the ashtanga primary series -- which I've been doing almost daily for the past nine years -- help get rid of piles.

At least there's that....

Friday, June 16, 2006


Today’s Vocabulary Words:

Bathing Costume = swimsuit
Chai = tea
Chikadoo = small
Sulpa = just a little
Sacre = sugar
Tusker = elephant
Chat = snack
Bandh = strike
Goonda = gangster or goon

I’m in Room 19 of the Kaveri Lodge as I write this on the laptop – I’ll transfer it at the internet place later, using the thumb drive – and it’s pouring like crazy outside. The rain is actually horizontal, and it’s quite dark. Apparently the monsoon has returned. The power is out and it’s too dark to read but the computer battery is working and so is the transistor radio, which is pumping out Bollywood hits and Kannada gobbledygook. I’m being good by typing rather than watching Episode 11 of Deadwood.

I’ve tried calling Matrika, who last I heard was wearing her unusual new Indian bathing costume (long bottoms, baggy waist, festive pattern) at the Southern Star pool, but she doesn’t answer. I want to know if she’s headed indoors for tea and chocolate cake…. If so, I’d like to join her. Guruji gave us the day off because he had to go to a special puja three hours away (by train), and even though I did some intermediate series poses in my room this morning, I’m keen to be bad. And chocolate cake is just about as bad as it gets here.

I also had a caster oil bath /massage at 3 Sisters today and am feeling its effects: exhaustion and slightly cold. Castor oil is meant to be cooling and toxin-releasing and help your yoga by making you more flexible, but it can also make you tired. I can’t possibly have a third nap. But you’re not supposed to get caught in the rain and I’m not up for a trip in the rickshaw, no matter how fabulous the cake. I think I’ll just call down for a chikadoo chai, sulpa sacre.

Harini said, after my bath/massage: “I thought people from New York were the most tight. But they are not.” Does Chicago win? I asked. “Yes!”

I heard today that senior NYC teacher Eddie Stern is here with a video crew that’s doing a documentary on Guruji. Since “Guru”* is taken, I wonder what they’ll call it.

Now the thunder and lightening have kicked in. Definitely no chocolate cake for me.

Some more background on Ayodhya, mentioned in yesterday’s post, and Hindu-Muslim violence in Gujarat. Ayodhya is said to be the birthplace of Lord Rama (from The Ramayana) and is a pilgrimage site for Hindus. It’s also a pilgrimage site for Muslims, because until 1992 there was a centuries-old mosque on the site. But in 1992, 10,000 Hindu fundamentalists, under the auspices of a group called the RSS**, stoned the mosque to the ground (don’t ask me how they did this; but do keep in mind this is a country where people commit suicide over love or bad test scores, start themselves on fire to protest a movie, torch their wives over dowry issues, attack busses that run over two-wheelers -- and where villagers live in fear of wayward tuskers).

The stoning caused Hindu-Muslim violence that led to some 1200 deaths – most of them Muslim. It flared up again in 2002, when fundamentalist Hindus made a train pilgrimage to the site. The train stopped in a Muslim-dominated village, and words were exchanged between the Muslim chai and chat wallahs who got on the train to ply their wares; apparently the hard-line Hindu pilgrims wouldn’t pay them. Apparently these fundamentalist Hindus also started to build a temple on the site once they got there – which they were forbidden to do (they claim there was a Rama temple on the site and it was destroyed by the Muslims who built the mosque there). On the return trip, the Muslims torched the train and passengers (including women and children) were burnt alive.

Violence again erupted, and thousands of Muslims were killed (usually by being locked in their houses and burned alive), while the Hindu nationalist BJP, the party in power at the time, did little to stop it. At the same time, these Hindus called for the nationwide bandh or strike to honor the train victims; anyone caught not closing up shop was attacked by goondas. Hence, Mysore was dead that day (except for some reason we all went to conference at the old shala). Here’s an excerpt from my 2002 diary (NOTE: IT's long but it does include references to Mike D and the old shala):

2 MARCH 2002

11:30AM Kaveri Lodge

Drumbeats from the makeshift festival site down the street. Streets
strangely empty on my way back from telling the nice people with the new house "Thanks-but-no-thanks bla bla too expensive...very sorry, etc." Amy's friend M. Geetha not at her nursing school; they are on break. No traffic cops at their posts at the big intersections - no traffic. Me on the too-small blue Lady Bird bicycle zipping around, la-la-la, like everything is fine, just easier today. Then I ran into Craig outside of the Mandala, and he told me that there is a demonstration today at KR Circle, and to stay away. It's related to the train-burning two days ago in Gujarat. It's hard to piece it together from the bizarre and biased Indian newspapers [which in fact are no more bizarre and biased than their American counterparts], but from what I can piece together the victims were Hindu pilgrims to a holy site where they (hard-line Hindus)had razed a mosque a decade ago. They are starting to build a temple there - both Hindus and Muslims think the site is holy -- over the (half-assed) objections of the government. The pilgrims were on their way to put things into motion and passed thru the primarily -Muslim town of Godhra on the way up, and reportedly traded insults with them and stiffed the food vendors. On the way back the train stopped for 3 minutes and there was a mob and doors were locked from the outside and after it started to leave someone pulled the "stop" chain. Gas and burning things were thrown in through the open windows and 58 people (mostly women and children, of course) were incinerated. The police had to shoot up the mob to break it up (a detail carried by Reuter's but omitted by the Indian press). So today, against gov. orders, fundamentalist-led Hindus are staging a protest along with a massive bandh (strike) which is supposedly in honor of the victims.

After talking to Craig I tried to stop at the tailor-who-hates-me and they were closed, as was everything up and down the street. I was going to visit the Internet place and email my brother and tell him what was up but drove right past; it too is closed. So I thought I'd call Michael, since he always gets the phone. But the STD/ISD place across the street is also closed. And so is the one a few doors down. And the drums are going and I pulled up to the Kaveri and the grate/gate in front is pulled closed - not padlocked (yet) and there are no bikes in front. I walked in and said, "Why is everyting closed?" to the manager who looks like Mr. Slate from the Flintstones, even though I knew. Of course he smiled and was, like, "No problem, Madam. Plumber is coming." And the small ponytailed guy of unknown ethnic origin who works at Mandala was there handing out flyers for tonight's performance (2 musicians named Kumar). He said he was in Bombay in '93 during the original riots over the mosque-razing, and it was intense, and the riot were everywhere and some people here in Mysore remember them, too, and he said it was politically motivated because it's election time and some people think the militant Hindus staged the train-torching and that there would have to be one or two more "incidents" for things to get out of hand all over India like they did back then, and that it won't this time…).

But it is like the Twilight Zone outside - the episode where a thriving place becomes a ghost-town, or the one where everyone's hiding behind their shutters - and I'd like my brother to know what's up and that I'm OK at this time. Craig and I were just discussing how this violence goes back to Partition and did you see the movie "Earth" and I can't believe this is still going on, why torch people over a stupid building? …

A guy did ride up to me on his moped today (all evildoers ride mopeds) and with all seriousness said, "I want to suck you." And waited for my reaction. I almost started laughing; it was such a refreshing departure from "Suck my d---!" - more like an offering than a command - but instead I said, "That's not a very nice thing to say" and yelled "Naughty boy!" as he sped off."

A few minutes ago the amplified off-key call to mosque went off as usual.

I cannot believe World Events are happening here and now and I cannot go online or make a phone call or, most important, cannot obsessively flip back and forth between CNN and the others. As I was leaving the lobby Mr. Slate turned on the TV and it was the news but alas, it was in Kannada.

I am thinking that I want to go to KR circle and see what's going on. I have my press pass but as we know from the Daniel Pearl case it offers no immunity and might as well be an invitation to whatever group to make a point. So I won't go. It's probably all men in slacks and dress shirts with rolled-up sleeves and moustaches shouting and sweating. Maybe I'll go downstairs to see what's on TV at least, and read the newspapers (even though the large, wild-haired men who hang out in the lobby can be quite intimidating). It's funny - yesterday at this time I was emailing and looking forward to seenig a movie in Kannada (it featured not one but two wacky buffoon-fools and dance numbers including one with rickshaw drivers and it made no sense whatsoever and was hilarious. About an hour into it I asked George, "Is this a different movie?" Fifteen minutes later we realized it we were watching a flashback) and today at this time I finally comprehend why all the houses and businesses and buildings have shutters that shut and grates over the windows and gates that lock. In a way it's a (weak) echo of the days of the WTC attack (it all comes back to that, doesn't it?).


The paper says there was more violence yesterday in Gujarat (up north, near Pakistan) - mobs torching businesses, stabbings, etc. - and that the state cannot handle it and they're calling out the army. Someone at 3 Sisters said all the restaurants are closed - no wonder the place filled up with loud people all talking about their petty party tonight. Apparently there is some sort of competition to have the Best Party, and there are many pounds of marigolds in Mike D's backpack

On the way to the 3 Sisters I ran into one of the Portuguese girls, who only has Rs 100 to her name and was trying to find a rickshaw to take her to an ATM.

The Hindu newspaper also says that 30 people from the minority (Muslim)community were burned alive and that "the response to the bandh (strike) call was total. Hooligans forced the closure of most state and central government offices in Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar and other cities. All schools and colleges, cinema theatres and other establishments remained closed. Even cable television operators - "under instructions from the VHA [Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which called the bandh, which is in turn supported by the ruling BJP] - were forced to suspend the telecast of entertainment and sports channels; only news channels were broadcast during the day."

3:30 and I'm still in the lobby. We did convince Mr. Slate to turn on the BBC but they were airing boring magazine-style feature stories about the Middle East. Turns out Caroline works for them (the BBC) but I did not get a chance to learn what she does. She says it reminds her a bit of September 11, too, and that in the newsroom there are TV's everywhere and they saw it all, and no one talked to each other.


I paid Guruji. "Caca." He says it so nicely. I asked him about coming up from backbends and he said one more week of primary and he would help me with intermediate. We'll see. One woman told me that he's been telling her "next week" for years.

No busses today, either, and no petrol. One loud guy who seems to know Guruji told him, "Rickshaw drivers charging double today." And then, "You're the only one making money today." Big laughter. Then someone asked (it's a conference, and when he's done w/ the mail we can ask questions about yoga, which is a rare opportunity, and he is a great scholar)"Why strike today, Guruji?"

After awhile Sharath notices Mike D. sitting on the floor (like the rest of us) and greets him. Then he points to his pants and says something to Guruji in Kannada, ending with with "own company" and inclining his head towards Mike D. Guruji nods, smiles, looks at Mike D. and says, "You working there?" Big laughter (from me only).

(Beastie Boy Mike D. is one of the forces behind Xtra Large, a hip hip-hop clothing line).
Mike D: "No time for working there. I just give ideas and pay bills."
Guruji: "Prana?" [this is the hip new company for overpriced yoga togs] "Prana is my friend."

Mike D: "Yes. Encinitas."

The conference wears on. Bob pokes his head in and asks what they think of passive stretching and sitting in supta baddhakonasana for 15 minutes at a stretch. "Does it help?" After much discussion and clarification - Bob has mispronounced the name of the asana, which even when pronounced correctly does not exist in astanga vinyasa yoga, where poses are held for 25 breaths max, but rather is from a different school)-Sharath says, "We don't know about this stretch. We've never done."

Guruji fields questions about teacher qualifications (they must have his blessing and adhere to his methods or it becomes "very dangerous on both spiritual and physical level") and we learn that pregnant women should not practice during the first trimester and the minimum age to start primary series is 15. Someone asked why he decided to start teaching westerners back in 1973. "They came." Near the end of course he reminded us that astanga is "99 percent practice and one percent theory."


After the conference there were busses on the street, and people. The gas stations were open and so were the restaurants (but not the tailors). After a long dinner at 3 Sisters (followed up by a frozen pineapple lassi) Craig and Madeline and I went over to the party. We sat in front for a long time looking at the pink light from the windows before venturing halfway to the door (the path was lit by votives). We stood for awhile and finally I was, like, "We're here. We should just go." (They want to see the place because they know Maya is leaving next week and they may want to move in. There's a shoe-pile at the top of the stairs - not as big as the one at the shala each morning, but impressive nonetheless - and Beck-the-coconut-guy is in the kitchen with (allegedly) 70 coconuts (this is instead of beer)and some traditional Indian dancer is doing her thing and everyone is rapt and it's impossible to see because the doorway is completely blocked. Madeline and I give up and go back to the street, where the moon is still almost full, and orange, and the Hortario from Sutra House is out there looking at it and the rickshaw driver has had it with us, so finally we leave. Of course he tries to squeeze extra rupees out of us "because of the bandh" and "no petrol."

Next day I learned that several people I know and like went "for five minutes" and hightailed it home. "It was a NYC-style party with a great DJ [apparently not one Tina Trash], and they even had video projection." And I thought about the English, and how they used to bring their furniture and china and ugly clothes to India back when they ran things here, and I wondered if anything had really changed.


*Guru is the title of the short documentary made last year by students who attended Pattabhi Jois’ 90th birthday celebration. This year it takes place on July 11; his daughter Saraswati is hosting a function, and many female students are planning to buy their first saris. Pity the locals who must dress them.

**According to Elizabeth Kadetsky’s memoir/biography “First There is a Mountain,” famous Pune-based yoga teacher BKS Iyengar has a relationship with Hindu fundamentalist groups such as the RSS and BJP and even authored some of their school curriculum!

Thursday, June 15, 2006


Today's Vocabulary Review:

Bandh = strike
Fillum = movie
Talkies = cinema
Interval = intermission
Frooty = addictive mango drink

Today I and P and a packed house sweated through three hours of Fanaa, the Hindi fillum that was banned in Gujarat (this would be the state on the middle left of the map where many bad things like earthquakes, riots, etc. seem to happen). Apparently male lead Aamir (Lagaan) Khan offended people's sensibilities by saying something to the effect that the poor people being displaced by a massive Narmada dam project should receive compensation from the government. The other day someone seeing the fillum at a Gujarat talkies started himself on fire during the interval -- thus closing the filllum.

Anyways...... It only occurred to me today, halfway through the fillum, that Mr. Khan is a Muslim -- a fact which may in fact have added fuel to the fire (Gujarat is the state where there were massive riots and killings (Hindu v. Muslim) over a dispute in Ayodhya, a spot that some fundamentalist Hindus say was / should be the site of a Ram temple because it's his birthplace, but which also happened to be the site of a mosque. Long story but it led to thousands of (mostly Muslim) deaths and the nationwide bandh that I experienced in Mysore itself back in March 2002 -- when everything was closed the city was a ghost town). It probably didn't help that he played a Muslim Kashmiri separatist terrorist in the fillum, which kicked ass; it took place in Kashmir (probably shot in Switzerland) and the women did all of the important killing.

Unfortunately Aamir Khan is starting to take on the craggy countenance of a latter-day Tom Hanks. Not a good look, by the way. But his character did kill guys while driving a snowmobile and ate chicken with his left hand -- which sure trumps talking to a volleyball.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Only a Couple of Which are Vocabulary Words:

Make a Move -- to leave

Roam -- to gallivant

Caca has become so tired and despondent after looking through and being sorely disappointed by her 2002 Mysore Missives -- which some have said should be turned into a book -- that she has taken to using a nom de plume and writing in the third person.

Perhaps that means it's time to post some photos -- a laborious project when one is using technology that makes her vintage iMac seem cutting edge in comparison.

Mysore sunrise, as seem from the loo in Room 17 of the infamous Kaveri Lodge

Coconuts after class; some use the right hand, others the left -- and there's nowhere to sit. This is where most of Caca's social faux pas take place.

Droopy poster for the Hindi fillum Gangster, which was easy to follow even without subtitles.

The real reason Caca is so popular among the locals.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Today’s Vocabulary Words:

D.L. = driver’s license
Sakoo = Kannada for “enough.”
Sulpa-Sulpa = Kannada for “just a little.”
Baksheesh = bribe

Many of the women at the shala unwittingly bare their shoulders and ankles / legs in public. Apparently this is seen as obscene by the locals and it makes them, well, stick out like a sore thumb. (I once ate with a friend at Indian restaurant on a sweltering Chicago day, during which every Indian man in the place glared at us the entire time. Years later I realized they were upset by our brazen display of flesh via shorts and tank-tops. I’ve dressed carefully at Indian restaurants ever since).

So…The other day a not inappropriately dressed Western woman was asked why she doesn’t wear Indian clothes.

“It’s not me,” she said. “It’s not me.”

If they had asked *this* Western woman why she *does* wear Indian clothes, she might have responded,

”It’s not *about* me.”

For one, it makes it easier to move about in the world here.

Especially if one is also wearing a motorcycle helmet and dust mask.

It also earns one almost as many smiles as one’s feeble attempts to speak Kannada.


Today at the shala:

After I’d dropped back two times on my own, Sharath, who’d been standing in front of me the whole time, indicated he was ready to help me do a final dropback (ie, the last backbend of the practice, which is always assisted). But I was ready to do one more.

”Sakoo?” I asked, surprised.

He lauged; "Sakoo? Yes, enough."

Apparently nowadays students only have to drop back twice – not thrice. This was news to me.

In other words, I’ve been killing myself for nothing these past few weeks.


Later, at the non-anesthetized tooth-drilling:

Lady Dentist: What a lovely dress you’re wearing


Even later, driving home via scooter:

I was waved to the side of the road by a policeman standing in the middle of Kalidasa Road. I was too close to ignore him. Like all of his ilk he was wearing khaki pants, white shirt, white gloves, moustache and a rather jaunty white cowboy hat flipped up on one side.

Apparently Kalidasa Road is a one-way street, and I was going the wrong direction.


Another officer, sitting in the shade, said the fine was Rs. 400. He began writing a ticket in Kannada and asked to see my D.L., which I produced. Then he asked to see my insurance papers. Those of you who’ve been following along know that I was pulled over in 2002 and fined Rs 300 or 500, I can’t remember which, for not having my DL. Others have been fined Rs. 500 for no papers. But this time I was prepared, and produced the insurance papers – which had taken days and days to procure from Prashanth’s Aunty. After squinting at them for some time the officer handed the papers back to me and said. “100 rupees fine.”

Which was fine with me.

When I handed him the bill (slightly over $2), he put it in his pants pocket.

Then he asked me to sign the ticket – which was written in Kannada (which I cannot read).

I signed. And then I signed my name again -- in Kannada. The Kannada alphabet is whimsical, to say the least, and my name looks like a snowman with a rolling “o” next to it.

Seeing my signature, the officer gasped in surprise, and smiled. “Kannada!” Then he called over the other officer and the nearby woman shopkeeper, and showed it to them.

”Kannada?” they asked, seeming pleased and surprised.

”Kannada sulpa sulpa,” I replied.

"Ah, 'Kannada sulpa sulpa,'" they repeated, laughing.

“Even she cannot write Kannada,” the arresting officer said, gesturing towards the woman (who was wearing a beautiful blue sari).

“I cannot either,” I said. “It is difficult. Fifty-two letters, and many sounds are there. Too much learning."

“Yes,” the arresting officer agreed. “It is very difficult.”

Then he showed me the route to take back to my hotel, and sent me on my way.


Most days:

One is not quite such a hit with her fellow westerners.

Monday, June 12, 2006


Today's Vocabulary Words:

Bayda = Kannada for "don't want"
Japa Mala = Hindu or Buddhist meditation beads, usually 108

And now, excerpts of Vinita Rashinkar's Times of India interview with Sharath -- co-director of the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute and grandson of its founder, Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois. This was transcribed by Satya "Bartelby" Cacananda the old-fashioned way -- in a dark room sans reading glasses. So please uh, bear with me. (Unless, of course, you prefer not to).


When I started teaching yoga, I was just trying to help my grandfather. But as time went by, I realised that I had found my purpose in life and now this is my passion. Today, yoga is an integral part of my life and it takes up 85 percent of my time. I love every moment of it and feel blessed because not everyone finds their vocation in life and not everyone is privileged enough to make their passion their primary activity in life.


Everyone knows that Madonna, Gwynneth Paltrow, Sting and his wife Trudy, Welham [sic] Dafoe and many other famous names in the West are all dedicated practitioners of Ashtanga Yoga. They are all connected to Mysore because they are students of Guruji and they are generous hosts who go out of their way to make us feel comfortable. However, to us as teachers, there is no difference between a celebrity and a common man. We do not offer private teaching lessons to anyone. The only time I made an exception was when Madonna was very late for class in LA and she requested me for a private lesson. She insisted on driving me in her car to her home and I told her that I was terrified of her driving. The only reason I made that exception was because she offered me 100 t-shirts of her tour and I could use them later to raise money for the charity I have started.


I travel around the globe for around four months every year to spread the message of yoga. This is the time I met many students who are such gracious hosts. When we are in London we stay at Sting's home. In the US, Mike Dee [sic] of the Beasty [sic] Boys insists that we stay with him. There are times when I feel that our simple life in Mysore is so far removed from the luxuries that we are offered overseas. Our students charter jets for us and put us up in palatial mansions wherever we go. Guruji's 90th birthday celebration at New York, hosted by a very wealthy student, was the talk of the town for many months. Guruji is so revered wherever we go and we are given so much affection by students that sometimes it is a humbling experience.


First of all, we have to thank Sri Krishnamacharya (Guruji's teacher) who chose to make Mysore his home. Guruji also received several lucrative offers to settle abroad but he preferred to be here because he feels that this is home and he can spread the yogic message best by staying here. I have visited many places in the world but I feel there is no place like Mysore and many of our students endorse this view. Our students come to Mysore not only to study yoga but also to learn about the Indian way of life. You could attend classes in Melbourne or Singapore but it is not the same experience as coming to India to study with Guruji.


It is our endeavour to get as many students as possible to come to Mysore because they will then go out into the world and spread the word about yoga. I intend to build a yoga retreat in the near future. I have also started a charitable trust in the name of my grandfather and we are invovled in assisting the local community in various cuases such as providing artificial limbs to handicapped and helping mentally-challenged children. I feel that Mysore has given us so mucht hat we ahve to give back something in return. I know for sure that I will always remain in Mysore and it is my hope that the city is further recognized as the yoga centre of the world.


*I visited the Mysore Silk Factory and the Jagamohan Art Gallery for the first time ever today. While leaving the latter, various shopkeepers tried to sell us sandalwood incense, sandalwood japa malas, sandalwood Jesuses and sandalwood Buddhas with wide-open mouths. When the last was offered I said "Buddha Beda!" (pronounced BAY-duh) and all of us -- including the shopkeeper -- had a very good laugh indeed. Puns and wordplay tend to go over well here; irony does not.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


Today's Vocabulary Words:

Hotel - restaurant
Lodge - hotel
Mess - low-end restaurant
Petrol Bunk - gas station

After seeing The Barbarian Invasions at the Raj Kamal (decrepit-looking theater with great sound) and doing some serious shopping and a little tailor-combat (never, ever trust someone who says, "I will bring you to my brother. He will stitch your dress, no problem."), Matrika and I dined on the roof of the very touristy Shipastri hotel in the city center. The last time I was there was with Bob on our first night in Mysore back in 2002; at that time every table was occupied and had a copy of Lonely Planet: South India on it. Many languages were repesented (the guides belonged to the people eating, not to the restaurant).

Maybe it's no longer listed because it was quite quiet. It was also quite dark but for the light of the full moon. The sun had amost set and the air was cool and millions of bats were flying west. Very pleasing. Afterwords we bought stickers on the street (Rs 4 each). My favorites were the Kannada actors (who tend to be portly and fair with moustaches and rather big hair) and Hanuman, Ganesh, Jesues, Sai Baba, et al superimposed over piles of rupees.

Today on the way to an island near KRS Dam I saw three female petrol bunk attendants. They wore red and blue salwaar kameez uniforms and matching baseball caps and stood like soldiers next to the pumps. They looked but would not smile back at me, so I didn't bother asking for a picture. So far though I have not seen the two female rickshaw drivers. I did, however, see one of the transvestite guys with overdone makeup and over-the-top sari, and steered clear. More on them later. And the interview with Sharath.