Wednesday, August 13, 2008


As I write this on Tuesday evening, it is dark, cold and rainy outside. I'm inside room 19, watching the music video station Channel V - which is showing a clip from Om Shanti Om (which was on TV again the other night). It is such a luxury to have a TV in the room that I rarely turn it on.

For dinner on Sunday night I had the green (spinach) dosa at Nalpak. Ursula had the other special, channa batura, or chick pea curry and a giant puri, or puffy wheat bread. On the way home I got caught in the final rainstorm of the day and was thoroughly chilled when I finally got to the browsing center (internet cafe). Sadly, the server was down. Hence no post on Sunday.

On Monday, as suspected, I was unable to touch the feet in Kapotasana - not without help anyway. It's much, much easier to do after three days of prep (vs after a day off sandwiched between two days of primary series, which is almost entirely forward bends). Plus the body is far bendier at 8AM than this week's start time of 6AM. But S. said "Very good" at the end, which was very good to hear.

The dropbacks from standing into backbend and back up have been sucking, though. After Kapotasana, the heart beats fast, and I try to slow the breath to slow the heart so I can do backbends. But it never seems to slow down enough.

Plus the body is covered from head-to-foot in sweat. And this week, both arms have a lack of feeling. The left one is on needles and pins until after Savasana (today I even felt it hours later, in cooking class). It seems to be coming from the neck. So tomorrow I will have a massage with Krista. Perhaps she can help Sharath loosen what is stuck.

S. is also having me straighten the arms in backbend and walk the hands in. It seems he thinks they can touch the heels at some point (the left one touched back at the old shala in 2002).

This week I've noticed a demure middle-aged Indian couple practicing alongside all of the sweaty, scantily-clad westerners. They arrive just after 6, practice in unison through most of the standing poses, do their sitting meditation and "take rest" - and then leave. They seem to know Sharath and Saraswati. For some reason, it makes me feel very happy to see them.

Some things here make the heart melt. Such as sitting at the Ramakrishna ashram. Such as seeing regular displays of patience and forebearance. Such as constantly being reminded of the divine via endless temples, roadside shrines, idols on auto dashboards, stickers on bumpers, the muzzah calling worshippers to prayer five times a day, the tilak marks on people's foreheads, the Hari Om on Shaila’s apron, the shrines in every store, the palms folded in “Namaste” on the side of the train, the massive sandalwood Saraswati in the Kaveri Lodge lobby, my own little hotel room shrine (each room has a little indented area for this).

Then there is the constant re-parenting that happens here. Today I was buying pineapple and watermelon after cooking class when it began to rain. "There goes the wash," I thought. I'd done laundry (by hand) in the morning - including jeans - and it would have been dry by then. "Oh, well." But when I got back to the Kaveri Lodge, I found my laundry folded - FOLDED - on a chair outside of my door. Later, when I asked who'd done it, the young boy who works here (and often brings chai) said, with a big smile and the South Indian head bobble, that it was him. Tears welled up, and the cold hard shell that surrounds the heart began to dissolve.

On Monday night K and I went to Sachin-the-artist-cum-tailor to see if he'd finished my dresses. He hadn't. "Tomorrow," he said. I know better. But I have to keep going back to nudge him - otherwise they'll never get done. Fortunately - or unfortunately - Sachin is a stone's throw from Mansoor the fabric wallah (or what Matrika calls "the opium den."). You cannot believe how many fabrics he has; room after room of fabric, stacked and folded and waiting to be expertly pulled out and ooh'd and aaah'd over.

I wanted to have some shirts made for Dreyfus and Gridlife and needed to choose fabric. But of course I became distracted and walked away with far more than I needed - which is why I need to stay out of these places altogether. But Mansoor and I made up after last year's tailoring debacle. And now I have to keep going back, after he said I seem different, and look younger (it's the bangs, I think. And the visits to the Ramakrishna asharm). This was far nicer to hear than "You look fat" or "Looking very old today, madame."

One of the big news items here - apart from the rain and the BJP money-for-votes scandal and the riots in Jammu and Kasmir and the Olympic victory of ace Punjabi shooter Abhinav Bindra (who won the first individual Indian gold medal EVER!) - is the buzzkill in hip Bangalore. There's a new state ordinance that says night clubs must close at 11:30PM. There can be no loud music, and there's no singing or dancing allowed at venues where alcohol are served. (Lest you think this is an example of subcontinental madness, keep in mind that in Chicago you cannot have alcoholic beverages and completely nude women in the same venue. Hence the pasties on strippers at places that serve liquor, and juice bar strip clubs with totally naked women). There was a very western-style demonstration on Sunday, complete with local artists drumming and chanting.

Today was the cooking class with Shaila, who makes wonderful South Indian lunch for students in her Gokulam kitchen. On the menu were some favorites, including Kara Bath or Upma (a savory semolina or cream of wheat), Kesari Bath (a sweet semolina) and three salads (spinach, beet and potato), plus a simple banana dessert. All six things required very few ingredients and were so easy to make that I may actually do it back home. Shaila gives you a printout of the recipes and a clipboard, so you can take notes while you watch. I was lucky in that I got to stir the Kesari Bath (surprisingly there's no kesari, or saffron, in the dish. Instead, it gets its name from the color. We made ours orange).

I also got to shave the coconut using a special, rather ancient contraption. We learned a lot; each ingredient has some healing property or is good for digestion or makes you strong. For example, she puts mint in her very original potato salad in order to neutralize the effects of gas caused by the spuds. Afterwards we all got to eat the results.

In fact, someone ate so much she had to eat fruit for dinner later on. Pineapples and oranges, followed by tangy local mini-bananas. Wonderful!


*I really am contemplating extending my stay. The second month is far more reasonable than the first- just Rs 17,420. Plus I am experiencing pure torture in Kapotasana - so why stop now? And if the shala really will be closed for two years, starting in April, well, there's no time like the present.


  1. stay.
    you know 1 month is just a tease.

  2. Yeah, stay another month. :)

  3. Anonymous1:17 PM

    cara, i love your blog. since you are there, i would say, nice that would be. could you tell me, why would they close the shala two years? will they not teach at all?