OLDIES STRUGGLE TO EXTEND SELL-BY DATE*
(“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.”