Friday, August 31, 2007


My last day at the shala was a primary series class led by Sharath.

It was a full house. I was in the front row; Lino and a couple of others were on the stage.

Guruji led the chant and Sharath led us through the sequence.

When it came time for Garba Pindasana, in which you go into lotus and roll around on your back in a clockwise circle, I did my usual - I rocked back and forth so I didn't collide with my neighbors, whose mats were a mere two inches from mine.

Partyway through the rocking, the lights went out. Then they came back on, only brighter.

Then the fans started going.

I looked up at the stage.

Lino was on his side, still in lotus, his knee next to the shala's many (low-placed) light switches. He had an amused/chagrined look on his face as he frantically fiddled with the switches, trying to put them back the way they were.

Sharath finally noticed, and smiled as he started to walk towards him.

"No need for fan," he said.

The crowd cracked up.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


On Friday my editor took me to lunch in Little India.

Afterwards I went to Priva Jewelers to have them replace a missing pearl on my Navratna Ring.

The ring has nine gems that represent the nine cosmic forces in Vedic astrology, and is meant to bring good luck to the wearer:

The nine cosmic forces are associated with the Sun (ruby), Moon (natural pearl), Mars (red coral), Mercury (emerald), Jupiter (yellow sapphire), Venus (diamond), Saturn (blue sapphire), North Node (hessonite garnet), and South Node (chrysoberyl cat's eye). The various astrological patterns found in a person’s birthchart (Janma Kundali) which indicate affliction, disease, and other troubles can, to a certain extent, be neutralized by the proper, therapeutic use of gemstones.

The last time I had a missing stone -- and they fall out often -- the jeweler asked me if the ring had indeed brought me good luck.

"Well," I said, "Let me think about that....

"I bought the ring in India, in 2004.

"Shortly after I bought it I lost my primary source of income.

"Then my boyfriend left me.

"And then I had a bike accident that broke a tooth and required a trip to the emergency room to stitch up a hole in my chin."

The jeweler looked at me and shook his head in sympathy.

"On the other hand...." I continued.

"The job was really stressful...

"The boyfriend wasn't right for me....

"And the bicycle accident could have been a whole lot worse.

"So in a sense, yes -- it has indeed brought me luck."

It's all a matter of perspective, I guess.


I can't help but wonder, though, if the ring has an opposite effect when one of its stones is missing. Or - worse yet - when the jeweler replaces the wrong stone. This happened once when I took the ring to a non-Hindu shop. Actually, that could explain a lot of things.....

Saturday, August 25, 2007


I was never a fan of American palm trees; they always seemed so useless and fake (especially in places like LA) - a sorry excuse for a tree.

But now I get it.

They have that long weird trunk and puff on top so that they can move with hurricane force winds, instead of falling over and smashing people's cars and houses the first time a heavy wind comes along.

Yesterday I took some snaps around Wrigleyville -- Greenview Avenue was particularly hard-hit -- and last night Bobeiseennow and I surveyed the damage in Roscoe Village.

There was not one, not two, but THREE downed trees blocking Hoyne Avenue just south of Roscoe.


Of course we had our pictures taken with them.

The neighbor said someone from the City had been out in the morning. According to her, they surveyed the damage and left - and were never heard from again.

By 8PM there were still no roadblocks and no signs telling people the road was closed.

Ah, America.

Friday, August 24, 2007


Yesterday afternoon I was on the computer, doing some (rare) journalism work when all at once it got dark outside and started raining.

Even though I'd seen the colorful storm on the computer radar a few minutes earlier (and had decided not to ride the bike to my 5:30 class after all), I thought nothing of it until the winds whipped the rain past my window so fast it looked like I was in a carwash.

I ran to the kitchen and looked outside; the trees were horizontal, like the ones they always show in the hurricane videos.

The wind was blowing so fast, and the rain was coming down so hard, it seemed like the windows would blow in.

It was a little late to brave the unsheltered back stairs and go to the basement (which was likely to flood anyway).

So I did what any sentient adult would do; I ran and hid in the walk-in closet.

But it was full of unsorted India stuff, and I could only go in a few feet.

The cat sat outside, waiting his turn to get in to his usual hiding place.

He didn't have to wait long; the violent portion of the storm soon ended and it commenced to rain. And rain. And rain.

I went back to work.

Then I got in the car to drive downtown.

Ashland Avenue was backed up.

There were uprooted trees outside of Graceland Cemetary.

There were uprooted and split trees along Irving Park Road.

There were many uprooted and split-in-half trees in Lincoln Park and along the lakefront.

I called TJ and Dreyfus; all were OK.

After class, I learned that some companies had made their employees go to inner hallways or the basement, while others had ignored the warnings altogether.

Bobeiseennow said that even the Lincoln-Belmont YMCA evacuated its members to the basement.

After class, it was still raining -- hard -- and Lakeshore Drive was a parking lot.

This did not stop people from driving like idiots.

There were fallen trees in the right lane just before the Irving Park exit, where I sat for at least a half an hour.

The signals at the ramp were out, and a stalled car and bus blocked two of the lanes in the flooded underpass below Lakeshore Drive.

I hydroplaned through.

Most of the signals on Irving Park Road were out -- which is exactly what happens in India after a hard monsoon rain.

But in India 1) they know how to deal with this, and 2) most major intersections are manned (and I mean manned) by tall policemen in white hats anyway.

The lights along Ashland Avenue were also dark.

Yet the power in my house was working.

Lucky me.

But they're predicting more rain/storms today.


In India whenever it started to rain I'd point to the sky like a child and say to whomever was nearby, "Malay! Malay!" -- which means "rain" -- or "Mungaru malay!" which means monsoon rain.

The day before I left, I learned that I'd been mispronouncing "Malay."

Apparently, instead of "mah-lay" I'd been saying "muh-lay," which means "breast."


Monday, August 20, 2007


Since arriving home Monday night I have.....

-Updated my weblog once

-Worn Indian dresses twice

-Taught 14 classes - including assisting a 3.5 hour workshop given by longtime Dharma Mittra student Mittra Om.

-Awakened countless times thinking I'm still in India - and becoming quite vexed after realizing I'm not

-Started selling off my (vinyl) record collection

-Tried to cook an Indian meal (which turned out to be utterly vile)

-Tried to prepare a western meal (which was passable)

-Met Dreyfus for lunch (which was overpriced)

-Uploaded my photos to Flickr (you must e-mail me and pass a sobriety test if you'd like to see them)

-Became so completely and utterly exhausted that I could not even take a nap.

-So I decided to update the blog again.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


When I arrive at O'Hare, one of the first things I usually notice is that it smells like perfume and flowers.

This was true again yesterday.

When I arrive home, one of the first things I usually notice is that the air smells of vegetation and flowers.

Not this time.

Instead, the air filled with the scent of burning meat and cooking fish.

Maybe it's not such a good idea to arrive home at dinnertime.


I didn't leave Mysore until Sunday night at 9:30, which meant I had plenty of time on our day off (Saturday) and Sunday to wrap up loose ends -- which included bringing some things to Rashinkar's to ship.

In fact I had so much time to get things together that I actually enjoyed my last day in Mysore, and engaged in a lot of the local equivalent of porch-sitting. I hung out at the Green Hotel with La Profesora in the morning (and even talked to Elena about getting lazik surgery in Bangalore next summer, provided the dollar rallies) and the Coconut Family and Three Sisters in the afternoon.

The sisters told me that Guruji was to resume teaching his local students at the old shala on Tuesday.

It was nice to leave on such a good note.

On the other hand, it wasn't all that nice to leave - especially after one short month.

Sure, the towels here are incredibly thick and the pillows unbelievably soft and the raw food so much easier to eat -- but Mysore somehow feels more like home to me, and the heart is a little bit broken....

Ah, India!

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Ammu and I were again invited to eat at the home of his delightful neighbors from Rajasthan.

This time, I fasted ahead of time.

This time, they gave us baby corn parotha, a typical Rajasthani winter dish that's like a round, corn-based flat bread -- kind of like a dense, fried polenta.

It was awesome.

But you don't just eat it as-is.

First, you pull some of it off and mix it with jaggery.

The father told me: "Mix it! Mix it!"

So I put some jaggery on top and prepared to shove it into my mouth.

"Mix it! Mix it!" he repeated making motions with his fingers.

So tried to smash up the bread.

Apparently it wasn't working.

"Mix it! Mix it!"

Finally he gave up, and did it himself.

Using his right hand, he vigorously mashed until the bread was a thick paste.

Then he added the jaggery, and mixed it some more.

He pushed the plate towards me.

I tried it; it was amazing.

Then I mixed it with lentil curry.

And later, with curd.

By then I felt like I had a bowling ball in my stomach.

That's because I'd also eaten a whole wheat ball of dough called something like "Bodie," which I had mixed with curry.

Finally, we ate green pieces topped with tasty black salt, which is also from their home place.

A good time was had by all.

But boy, did my dropbacks suck the next morning.


The following night, Jammu and I were invited to dine at Ammu's home.

When I arrived, the two youngest neighbor kids were at the dining room table, playing a game that's a cross between checkers and bumper pool that may or may not be called Cannonball.

The girl, who is 15, is meant to be quite the bhangra dancer, and we asked her to show us her moves before dinner.

But first, they wanted Jammu and I to sing some American film songs.

We could not think of any; I knew Grease but she didn't, she knew Hello Dolly and Mary Poppins and I didn't.

Finally we settled on "Do-Re-Mi" from The Sound of Music.

It wasn't as bad as it could have been, if I do say so myself. And it elicted plenty of laughter.

Then, we asked them to sing a song in Hindi.

Ammu, his friend, and the two kids consulted on the couch.

Finally, they launched into the theme song from Kal Ho Na Ho (although I didn't realize that's what they were singing until the final measure).

Then, the older girl danced to the breakout hit from Dhoom.

She was amazing.

Jammu and I have stills and video to prove it.

Finally, it was time to eat.

Ammu's mother stuffed us with a South Indian thali (meal) that included special rice and the most amazing mixed raita I've ever had.

It didn't matter that practice the next day sucked, since it was led primary series and my last day at the shala and (if I do say so myself), I can usually hold utpluthitih til the cows come home no matter how much I weigh.

Later in the day I went back to thank Sharath and get a receipt.

Guruji was in his office, and from afar I gave him my thanks.

And that was that.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


Last Saturday Ammu and I took a car to Coorg or Kodagu, a hill station in Southwest Karanataka where it rains seven months out of the year and they grow coffee and other items.

Very few city roads have stop lights, and in the country there are no stop lights, no speed limits and nobody to slow you down -- except for cows.

Instead, there are speed bumps. Not humps, but nasty, flat-inducing bumps.

And once you get outside of Mysore district, the roads really suck.

So it took us forever to get to Coorg. But at least we weren't on a scooter (like the last time around).

It also rained most of the way.

We stopped just inside Kodagu to get something to eat. Instead of the usual dosas and iddlies, the Muslim-run place (which had a poster on the wall that said, "God - Give us this day our daily bread") had roti and channa (chickpea) curry that came in a steaming bowl. It was the best curry I'd ever had in my life. The driver treated himself to chicken and eggs. Yuck!

First we visited Cauvery Nisagadhama, a peaceful forest along the Kaveri River, where there was a statue of the goddess Cauvery, and you could feed green pieces to the deer.

Next was Abby Falls, which Sean and I visited during the very dry (Indian) summer of 2002. Back then we could go all the way to the bottom. This time the falls were much were powerful, and the path down was blocked.

It began to rain when we were on our way to The Raja's Seat, which has a lovely view of the city of Madikeiri.

Then it started getting foggy.

It continued getting foggy, as we drove towards Talkauvery, or the mouth of hte Kavery River.

In fact it became so foggy you could see absolutely nothing; even the driver seemed to be having a rough time of it.

And still it continued to rain.

Yet we finally found our way to Talkauvery, where there is, of course, a temple.

Below it are steps to a large tank (pool), which you walk around three times before visiting the priest.

It was frigid, but one woman immersed herself in the water, and the Brahmin priest threw even more on her head.

The priests do the actual puja over a little square of water next to the tank (instead of inside a temple). Flowers float on top of this holy square of water, and coins line the bottom.

Ammu told the priest our names, and he repeated them and did pujas for us.

And this time, staring down at the water and listening to him chanting in Sanskrit, I actually felt something.




On Monday the stiff guy next to me was given Ustrasana and Laghuvajrasana.
I was given Laghuvajrasana.

Monday evening I ate that ton of food at the Rajasthani house, which made Tuesday's practice difficult.

So I ate much less than usual on Tuesday.

On Wednesday I'd just popped up from Laghuvarjasana when I heard, from across the rooom, "Kapotasana!" I looked at Sharath, and then looked behind and beside me. Then I turned back to Sharath, who was still looking at me. I pointed to myself. "Me?" Yes, me. I tried it on my own and came nowhere near my feet. When I saw Sharath again I showed him the estimated distance, and he helped me try it again. NOt only did he get my hands on my feet(my feet, not just my toes) -- but they stayed there once he'd let go.

I floated again in dropbacks.

But last night was more food at the Rajasthani house -- baby corn parotha, a whole wheat ball whose name eludes me, curry and curd and homemade ragi pappad -- and today pasasana and dropbacks were a joke. But Sharath helped me in Kapotasana got my elbows on the floor -- for the first time ever, and with no pain. He really knows what he's doing (even if I don't always agree with it).


green pieces = cucumber slices

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


I can't seem to access the thumb drive, so no pictures from Coorg today.

Instead, a story.

Today, my second day of Laghuvajrasana, my dropbacks started out nicely and then went to hell.

In fact the whole practice was rather difficult.

Perhaps it's because I weigh least five more pounds more than I did when I arrived.

I think I will be the first person to return fatter, rather than thinner, after a trip to India.

Even a local friend recently remarked, "When you arrived, you looked patient." Not Buddha-patient, but hospital-patient. "Now, you have belly. Now, you look health."

When Sharath came to my mat today I had one dropback left to do.

I did it, sloppily, with a few comical back-steps.

"Sorry -- I ate too much last night," I said. "I was guest and could not say no."


Last week Ammu asked me if I had any foreign coins, because his young neighbor is a collector.

I gave him a few Euros, and the next day he told me the boy was verrrrry excited -- and that I was invited to dinner at his house.

That dinner was last night.

The family is from Rajasthan Rajistan, and showed us videos of their traditional dance. The men wear turbans.... The 15 y.o. daughter - who was in jeans - is rumored to be an excellent dancer, and there were hopes that she'd teach me some bhangra moves before I left.

They all spoke Rajistani and Hindi; everyone but the mother spoke Kannada, so I used the few Hindi words I know with her ("bus" = enough, "toda" = a little, "nihay" = no you get my drift).

They were also Jains, so of course we all knew the word "ahimsa." Although I of course mispronounced it.

Apparently there are three Jain sects....

The son showed us his coin and bill collection. If you hold the old Indian bills up to the light, you can see an image (see above) having to do with Ashoka the Great.

They plied us with excellent masala chai, fresh aloo parotha (potato bread) and carrot halwa.

It was so good -- and unlike anything I'd ever had before. The bread was moist-but-flaky and served hot off the grill. The Halwa was milky, not too sweet, and lighter in color than I'm used to. It too had just come off the stove.

I lost count of how many parothas I ate; I just know that it's rude to refuse more food (it is, isn't it?).

When we were finished I could barely walk.

And then they served us their traditional delightful milk drink (possibly Thandai) made with fennell, rose and something else I didn't catch (apparently it's sometimes even made with bhaang, or ganja).

The mother kept saying, "rose, rose,"

And I said "gulab, gulab."

It was a very nice night indeed.

But boy, did I pay for it today....

Sunday, August 05, 2007


On Friday Guruji presided over the first led primary series class. I knew this because when I showed up at the shala for the second class the first was almost over and you could hear Guruji's quick count and unique way of saying "SIX!!!" like he's catching it before it flies away, and, of course, "YEIGHT" and "LEBBEN."

The other thing I noticed when I pulled up was C-stands everywhere.

Inside, it was hot, stinky and unusually bright; they were doing another movie shoot.

There was no announcement or form to sign.

Guruji led the chant for our class and brought us through most of the standing poses before losing his energy. Then Sharath took over.

This, plus a total lack of sleep the previous night, me very sad indeed.

After breakfast and a bucket bath I was in quite a mood -- plus I had a deadline to meet, which only made things worse.

I was heading out the back gate -- funny how the guys at the hotel always open it for male guests, but rarely for me -- which I had opened myself when my foot got smashed between the gate and kickstand.

It (my foot) hurt stung like hell, and it looked kind of dented.

But I had a deadline to meet.

So I went down the street, did my writing, and got on with my day.

Everything was fine until evening.

Then the foot swelled up and began to throb with pain.

I started to limp like an old humplimpett, and began to bid adieu to the next day's planned excursion to Kodagu - which would have entailed a lot of walking.

On the way to dinner, I stopped at the pharmacist and told him what had happened.

He gave me two tablets and told me they were anti-inflammatory and pain killer-in-one. He said to take one in the evening and one in the morning.

"And after that?" I asked.

"You will not need anything."

I took the tablets as prescribed, and iced my foot before going to sleep.

The next day it was like it had never happened, and the trip to Coorg -- and Abbi Falls and the mouth of the Kaveri River -- was on.

Many photos were taken and will be posted... as soon as I download them and find an open USB port.

Although I did hear today that the Mysore Mandala in (nearby) Lakshmipuram now has Wifi.

Ah, India.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


Today I practiced sandwiched between Vance-from-Berkeley and Guy-from-NYC; behind me was Peter-from-New Zealand and in front of me was Rolf-from-who-knows-where -- all fairly well-known yoga teachers. Even Lino, whom I adore, was nearby.

The energy was good.

My breathing was excellent.

My dristi (gazing point/s) was also fairly focused -- although I did notice that Saraswati was wearing a white kurta (top) featuring tiny clowns dancing on elephants.

But my dropbacks were more like swimming frantically towards shore than floating.


This morning on the way to class I noticed that the dupatta (long scarf) worn by a woman on the back of a scooter was lopsided, and that the long end could easily get tangled in the rear wheel.

I pulled up beside her and honked and pointed wildly towards my neck and drew my hand back towards my rear wheel, and then gestured towards her neck. Then I hit the gas and pulled ahead.

A few seconds later I saw her in the sideview mirror, rearranging her dupatta.

It seems to me that people here tend to look after each other in certain ways; they are always telling me when I forget to turn off my headlight (which is often). Last year the boys at the Kaveri Lodge would notice that I left the key in the lock for the scooter's trunk and bring it to me. One time, they even re-locked the door to my room when my own padlock fell off. The Three Sisters always had advice when something went wrong, the coconut and flower sellers made sure I parked and locked my scooter properly; even the newspaper seller noticed when I didn't show up for a few days.

Having been raised by wolves, I was not used to being looked after like that.

Last year, in many ways, I felt like I got re-parented here.

This year, I feel like I can bring some of what I've learned back home with me.

Now that's yoga.

Photo = online image of a woman holding a dupatta. Because her top is short, it's almost more of a kurta than a kameez.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


It rained like crazy yesterday; since there was no official practice I slept late, did a (criminal) home practice, had my bath, did my sitting and some work and didn't leave the lodge until heading to Three Sisters at 2PM.

After lunch La Profesora and I made our way through the rain to Joy House, which is meant to have the best chai in the city and was a destination for students when the old shala was open. The chai took forever and was so-so.

The rain was still pounding when I donned the orange poncho and drove La Profesora over to the old shala. Afterwards I picked up a few things at Nilgiri's grocery store, where the woman in front of me looked at my small boxes of soymilk and asked if it tasted good. "No," I said. "Not really."

It was still pouring when I rode home. I was supposed to go to the browsing center but was chilled and tired. So I changed clothes and went under the covers for half an hour.

I awakened refreshed but it was still raining. So I put on my jerkin, grabbed my umbrella, and walked to the internet place. On the way I passed Harini from Three Sisters. She gestured towards the rain and said, "No one will go out in this."

It was still raining in the evening, when Ammu and I went to see the Kannada film Mungaru Malay (Monsoon Rain). It's been running for over 200 days, which means it's a big hit.

I thought it moved rather slowly, but it was shot entirely in beautiful, hilly Kodagu (aka Coorg, 110km southwest of Mysore) during the monsoon and was visually stunning. Lots of rain and waterfalls. Again the hero (again played by Ganesh, who has lovely teeth by the way) did not get the girl -- but only because he did the right thing.

He also got the villian to do the right thing, too -- by convincing him to let the heroine marry the tall, very fair-skinned man her parents had arranged for her.

The heroine of course began the film wearing jeans and tops that exposed her shoulders (still somewhat risque, from what I understand). As is often the case wtih Kannada films, by the end she was in Indian dress (which if you ask me looks a whole hell of a lot better on 90 percent of the population, whatever their ethnicity).

Most interesting to me was the fact that the villian was never seen without his black Chicago Bulls monkey cap.


Today I was dining on scrambled tofu, ragi toast and masala chai and chatting with Deepak at Chakra house when a trio of women walked in.

They were speaking a language I could not identify.

And one of them was wearing a Chicago Cubs jacket.

I pointed to her top, and told her the Cubs are in first place and that I live near their baseball field.

"What is it?" she asked, in accented English.

She had no idea what "Cubs" means.

I told her that they're a baseball team that is (was?) in first place but they would choke -- that they're perennial losers but everyone loves them anyway.

Turns out she and her friends were from Denmark. I told them my last name is Danish but they didn't seem too impressed by that, either.



Today I was working on my backbends when Sharath, who was adjusting someone nearby, asked, "Caca! What you did today?" I told him I'd gone up to Ustrasana (Camel Pose, which is a few poses into intermediate series) and he nodded in an approving way.

Lino was also practicing in the front row, a few spots away.

Before doing my testing-the-waters bouncing, I looked over at Rama and left it in his hands (ie; I prepared myself mentally by leaving it up to the gods whether or not I stood up from backbend)

After a few bounces, I stood without much fuss.

I was in the midst of my first dramatic (ie, slow, so that my hands land reallyclose to my feet) dropback from standing into backbend when the woman to my left went into Prasarita Padottanasana C, and (lightly) hit me as she placed her clasped hands and arms on my mat.

I realized that if I tried to stand up again, one of us would wind up in the hospital.

So I laughed, collapsed, rolled onto my side, clumsily stood up, and waited for her to come out of the pose and extricate herself from my mat.

Then I did three of the best dropbacks I've ever executed, with no extra breaths and no pauses in between.

In other words, with no fear.

It felt like I was floating.

Yes, my feet were splayed, but it was almost effortless -- like how I'd always dreamed it could be.

The third time I stood up, I found myself face-to-face with Saraswati.

Her timing is impeccable.


After class I said hello to Lino, who was sitting in the waiting area and saying something about "fresh air." He pointed towards the front door.

There was Guruji, with his cane, taking the air.



The other day Ammu and I saw the police pulling over two-wheel drivers who were not wearing helmets.

Which reminds me....

I think I figured out why so many (male) two-wheel drivers keep their helmet on the crook of their elbow while driving, rather than on their head where it belongs.

It's not because they need an elbow protector.

It's not because the helmet looks stupid.

I think it's because the helmet will ruin their hair.

(There seems to be no stigma here for men about taking care of their hair. Salons are often called Hair Dresses, and in general the men here do seem to go there regularly. The result is really great, beautifully-styled hair wherever you look. Not like Germany, where it is one hair disaster after another [although their cutting-edge eyeglasses almost made up for it. Almost]).



Something has finally knocked Mohammed Haneef off the cover of the Bangalore Mirror.

It's not the Indo-US nuke pact.

It's not the country's first female president.

It's not yesterday's cricket victory over England.

It's not even actor Sanjay Dutt's six year sentence for his invovelment in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts, which resulted in over 250 civilian fatalities and 700 injuries.


It's a story about hijaras (eunuchs in saris) harassing Kannada film star Darshan for money (this is how hijaras make a living; if you refuse to give them money, they can curse you. Or something like that). Darshan did not have his wallet, so he asked his producer to give them some money. They looked at the Rs 100 note and demanded 400 more, saying, "Give us more money for our good wishes." Apparently all of this was said in Telugu (language of nearby Andhra Pradesh). Not only are there pictures, but a sidebar tells readers what to do if accosted (don't get scared, don't run away, don't pay them what they demand, stay cool; worst case = file a complaint at nearest police station). Ah, India!