I guess K and i won't be going to the Balaji temple over the next moon day weekend after all. After doing some research last night, we learned that all of the train tickets are sold out. I'm not one for spending 12 hours on a bus, so we'll wait until the upcoming Ganesh festival. "No one will travel at that time," Harini says. No one except crazy westerners, that is. In the middle of my conversation with Harini, there was some load shedding (ie the power went out) and the discussion took place over candlelight. That's what I came to India for.
Afterwards Ammu drove us in his car - which is really difficult to maneuver in Mysore and makes no sense to drive unless it's pouring rain (which it wasn't) to Shipilstri, the rooftop restaurant in the city center. The corrugated metal steps are more rickety than ever.
Notice the handy dung-guard on the flip-flops. This also makes it difficult for locals to discern whether the wearer is single, married, or a working girl by camouflaging the second toe, where rings are worn. Zero toe rings = single, One on each second toe = married, One on one second toe = prostitute. Apparently there are several prostitutes practicing at the shala.
But now they have a new elevated area above the old rooftop (where Bob and I dined on our first night in Mysore in January, 2002 - and noticed that every group of diners had a copy of Lonely Planet: India with them). The steps were concrete, and the air was cool. We haven't had much rain this week, and the cool, sunny weather makes it feel like January. Which reminds me - if you're planning to come to Mysore this winter, send your application NOW. Word is that they're already full-up.
Practice this morning was sweaty. When it came time for Kapotasana, Sharath was right on me. Again I tried to straighten the arms, as again he tried to put the hands closer to the heels. This time I realized that i can use the fingers to get a better grip on the foot, so the hand doesn't slip. Afterwards I did three backbends and stood up, did three dropbacks and then mopped off some of the sweat so I didn't drench the teacher during the assisted finale. First Saraswati was there.
Sharath arrived one second later and shooed her away. I was glad. I adore Saraswati, but it's Sharath who's been on me about backbends (and everything else) since the old shala, when over four months he got me to drop back on my own (couldn't come up yet, much to our great disappointment) and touch my left heel during the "walk! walk!" segment of backbending. I stood up from backbend for the first time in the new shala, in 2004 (granted it was after three weeks in Kovalam, and LIno was practicing right next to me when I did it. But it was Sharath whom I was doing it for).
After two coconuts Krista (Ashtanga Yogini blog) rode up on her bike, and we went to Tina's new place. Kimberly is right; it's exactly like the old place - same layout, only bigger - and it's like being in a dream. The coconut dosa and masala chai were also quite dreamlike. I also met Elisa (Mysore Musings blog) and ran into J and S, who leave on Sunday (much to my great disappointment).
Mysore bloggers CK, Krista and Elise
Mysore bloggers Ursula and CK at Green Leaf (where we were both still suffering from jet-lag)
Afterwards it was time for a sit at the Ramakrishna Ashram, which is a stone's throw from Gokulam. I was about to leave, when a man said, "Wait five minutes. You take prasad." Thirty seconds later a priest or sanyassi appeared with a bowl of fruit. People pulled out plastic covers (bags) and lined up. I simply held out my hands, right palm over left, and he shoveled bananas and some jackruit into it. I found a bag, and put it away for later.
Then it was on to the railway station to inquire about taking the train to Bangalore to see Queen E. on Friday. I didn't feel like filling out a form for a reserved seat, so I'll come back tomorrow and buy a general admission one. This can be iffy -I've been one of a dozen sweaty people in seats for six - but it'll be an adventure if nothing else.
Later I went to see Sachin, the greatest maker of woman's dresses in South India. I wanted him to stitch the two-top, one-bottom, one-duppata ensemble I found at the Andra Exhibition-cum-Sale yesterday. As he was taking my measurements he said, "You have lost some several kilos since last year." Now that's what I came to India for.
The plan was to meet A. for lunch. He's the old-old night manager from the hotel. My second night in Mysore, after Bob moved out of the hotel, I became so ill I could barely make it down the stairs. I was in pajamas and socks slipped into flip-flops. When I made it to the ground floor, I nearly fainted. They sat me down and brought a bucket. I put my head between my kees. A. got on the phone and started calling down for a "Lady doctor who speaks English." All of them required rickshaw rides. "No rickshaw!" I said, lifting up my head for a few horrible seconds. A man from Texas said there was an ayurvedic doctor in his room at that very moment, treating his wife. "Go in," he said. So, holding the wall, I made my way down the hall to the room and knocked. The wife was not at all happy to see me, and would not let me in. "I don't want to get what you have," she barked. So the doctor came out. He took one look at my eyes and said, "You need western doctor."
Finally A. found one that didn't require a rickshaw ride. "Just five minutes walking," he said. "Yeah right," I replied. But it really was just five minutes walking - with him on one side, making sure I didn't fall down, and another man on the other. I didn't have any money, so they paid for me. Then it was across the street to the pharmacy, where there was a problem with the prescription. A. ran back to the doctor to find out about a substitution, and then returned to pay for the prescription and help me back to the lodge. It felt wonderful to be so well taken care of. Which is why I still stay at the Kaveri Lodge.
Anyway A. now has a car and a moustache and a wife and a son. He and I caught up over thali meals at Shiva Prasad, where we ran into his Swami - who pointed at my neck and said, "Krishna." I thought he was referring to my pendant, and said, "Om." Later I realized he was referring to my tulsi (sacred basil leaf) mala, which is worn by followers of Krishna.
Afterwards A said "Where do you want to go?" and drove to the bird sanctuary, which is incredibly peaceful.
But the water level is so high you cannot take boats out on the lake. He said he will pray for a suitable partner for me. Everyone here seems to be concerned about either my weight or martial status or both. It's almost like having parents again - parents who care.
After resting and chai and laundry I visited the Vankateshwara temple behind the hotel ("backside"). It was nearly empty; just a few ladies and the sound of some girls learning bhajans. The priest served me along with everyone else, and I was grateful; light, holy water, and then, finally, flowers and prasad (a banana). Afterwards I sat for a bit, and noticed him trying to replace a tube light in back.
Later I had all of the prasad for dinner. I'm not sure if it's RC (religiously correct), but it was exactly the right thing at the right time.