Thursday, July 13, 2006


Today’s vocabulary word:

Gube = the Kannada word for owl, which is also used as a derogatory slang term for “lazy”

I just got off the phone with United Airlines, and I STILL don’t have a seat on the last legs of my journey home (Frankfurt-Amsterdam and Amsterdam-Chicago). The second flight is overbooked but they can’t do anything for me because seating is controlled “by the airport.” Huh? Even though I’d called the US 800 number, I’m certain the woman on the other end was in a Bangalore call center. F-ing America. So it may take me as long to get home as it did to get here (I left on a Tuesday, arrived on a Friday). I’ll just make sure the carry-on bags have toiletries, yoga mat, DVD’s, my new prison throw and plenty of those amazing pink over-the-counter Indian migraine meds that are so cheap here they're practically free....

Much of the past two weeks has been spent searching for Sachin, the formerly amazing tailor who stopped turning on his cell phone and now takes weeks to make a single dress. Once upon a time he did everything perfectly, the first time. But now you have to beg him several times -- in person -- before he’ll even START making your clothes. If you can catch him, that is. Hours and hours are wasted waiting "fifteen minutes" for him to show up to work. Like poor Matrika yesterday, standing up there waiting for them to finish her clothes an hour before she leaves for the airport – just like me in 2004, and just like Jammu last year. Only it’s far, far worse now that Sachin has married. I think the plentiful food and whatnot has made him quite gube. And now he’s also taken to copying the mistakes of every bad tailor I’ve ever visited (and I’ve been to plenty). Tonight I’m hoping to pick up a raw silk top that they’re reassembling a THIRD TIME for me. Apparently these ashtanga arms and lats are quite the challenge; they love to make the arm-holes too small and the chest too tight, flattening my cans. Yet they take measurements. So what’s the problem? Apparently it's with me.

Speaking of Jammu and I got mammograms (pictures to come) for Rs 600 or around $13. Many Muslim women waited with us in the “lounge" at Bharath diagnostics, which is not far from jewelry row and the mosque and St. Philomena's Church and the tiny Army and Police Surplus shop we discovered last night while crossing the street at Nehru Square..... A sign on the door to the mammo room said:

"Conduct of the Sex Determination Tests or Disclosures of the Sex of the Fetus is Prohibited"

(Every sign here has at least one grammatical error, which I find quite endearing. Yet I fantasize about making a living going around with a thick red pen and correcting signs and menus and visiting cards so that I can afford to stay here year round). Female infanticide and foeticide are widespread here -- after a woman marries, people wish her well by saying, "May you be the mother of a hundred sons" -- and like dowry also quite illegal. But like with fireworks back home, people still do it.

Like every other medical experience I’ve had here, everything was very matter-of-fact. No robes, no waiting. You go in and take off your top and stand there in front of the machine called Bucky. They stick your can in the machine and flatten it between two pieces of glass like so much Playdough and tilt your head to the side and put your finger on the free breast and make you push it away. No lead vests, no radiation suits -- and one of the technicians wore the lightest blue silk sari possible. And like with yoga they do the right one first. This was my first mammo and it didn’t hurt as much as I thought (ie, nothing exploded). Afterwards they give you an analysis and your films; the images recall the surface of the moon. It's one souvenir I'm definitely taking home with me.

Recently, during lunch at Three Sisters, some yoginis (including Reena) from a handful of countries had an animated discussion about mammos. Apparently they don’t start mammo-ing in the UK until you’re 55, and they’re also far less keen to irradiate their women in Canada. I think it's every few years. They also do fewer Pap smears. Is it because of socialized medicine? Is it such a priority in the US because of our culture of fear? Or are our cancer rates simply higher? The doctor here was loath to give me a ‘scrip for the mammo, since there were no warning signs. "Why do you want it?" Same with the pap smear. Here, such tests are a luxury. So are we practicing preventative medicine in the US? Or are we lining the pockets of the insurance company? Discuss.

I do know that it's highly unlikely they'd let you take pictures of your friend getting a mammo back home in America (these are coming, I promise).

After the mammos we went to the prison, which is off Ashoka Road, just past the Muslim Girls' Orphange. Here the inmates wear all white short-sleeve, 3/4 pant outfits with conical white Night-Before-Christmas caps. White! People here in mourning also wear white, as do the widows in the fabulous fillum Water (god forbid you wear WHITE to a function. Oh, wait, all the Brahmins and western Brahmin wannabes wore white to Guruji’s birthday party. And Amma-the-hugging-saint’s followers all wear white. Hmmm…..Now I am confus-ed). Anyway we went because they have a tiny store that sells handloom fabrics made right there on the premises – throws, towels, sheets, and rugs. That's what they make, instead of license plates. And apparently the prison was once the only place yoga students could get Mysore rugs (the cotton mat that ashtangis put over their sticky mats so they don’t slip and slide when they sweat). Each prison has a signature rug design, and here in Mysore it’s French blue with a white stripe in the middle (Rs 150, or under $4). The blue and purple throw I picked up (Rs 350 or under $8) made this afternoon’s post-Three Sisters thali-and-saffron-lassi nap so delightful I didn’t even hear the mournful keening of the cat I cannot see, but which broadcasts from directly below my window. It kept me up all night, though, and apparently it showed; when I ran into Prashanth after class today he said, “I think you are looking dull.”

I'll be sure add that one to my list of Mysore Caca-slams 06.

Yet just two hours later the receptionist at the clinic seemed surprised by our ages, and said, "Not looking more than 25."

I guess it depends on who you're talking to....


  1. Lining the pockets of the medical billing community.
    The dreaded dastardly HMO.
    Doctors not wanting to go into general practice because they can't pay off their medical school tuitions!
    We are soon to be a country of specialists, not treating a whole, just the bits Madam.

  2. Regarding your discuss topic, Americans have been sold a culture of fear from the Madison Avenue people on just about everything.

    It is a ridiculous situation.

    Now, as to your United problem, they suck! Simple, they suck!