Saturday, August 30, 2008

AC RANI

This picture was taken in a grocery store; it's a promotion for the big Ganesh festival next week. If you look closely, you'll see shoppers in the background.


Ammu and I took the train to Bangalore on Thursday.

At my insistence, we shelled out for the AC chair car.

We were picked up by Suresh, in an AC Toyota Innova.

He brought us to QE's air-conditioned villa in a tony Bangalore suburb.

Which caused Ammu to dub me the AC Rani.






* * *

QE fed us wonderful food, and later we went to the corner with the baby and got ice cream. Before bed, QE and I watched the first half of the lush costume drama Jodhaa Akbar. Now that's the life....


Yesterday QE, the baby and I had a leisurely morning (well, nothing is leisurely when you're the mother of a 17-month-old). We did our practices, and later went again to Bangalore's fancy mall The Oasis, where I finally found curtains for home (not too expensive, no too heavy) and bought too many new tops - one of which crosses a traditional Indian kurta (long top) with early American Pilgrimwear and some checkered thing one used to wear during the heady days of ska.

Surreal example of east-meets-west at the big scary mall. Notice that the most western mannequins have the worst posture.


Today, Saturday, I got up at 4 (QE got up at 3 in order to do her practice; for her, all is coming) and did a brief sit before heading out to Cubbon Park for an early morning constitutional. The drive that usually takes 90 minutes took just 30 at 5AM. The air was clean and all kinds of people were out and about: Muslim ladies, old people, young people, groups of friendly older gentlemen, middle-aged women with short hair and western dress, a single woman my age (graying hair, no toe rings) walking her dog. Most of the dogs on leashes are purebred, and the owners requires carry big sticks to scare off the homeless park dogs, who seem only to be looking for biscuits/love. QE noticed that some dog owners use a sawed-off golf club for this purpose. The park is akin to NYC's Central Park (except that here the playground doesn't open til 10AM, which we found out the hard way - by opening the gate and walking right in). There was a large group of men doing yoga, led by a man with a microphone; when we walked out they were all in the resting pose.

Later we enjoyed a poolside breakfast at the club - if one goes to any more of these buffets she will have to eat watermelon every day when she gets home, not just on Mondays - and had a rest. They're shooting a car commercial in the neighborhood, and we had to wait a bit when we went back later for some swimming. It was wonderful, since it's been so hot here. We were picking up some things at the grocery store when the monsoon struck again; everyone stood under the awning and watched and waited until the heavy heavy rain tapered off. The monsoon has been strong over the past week, and there's been a lot of flooding in the neighboring villages (also in the news; attacks on Catholics in Orissa, up north).


Tomorrow hopefully we will go to satsang with QE's guru before I catch the train for Tirupati.




BONUS PHOTOS




This monument is across the street from the green dosa restaurant. Within spitting distance are ganga smokers; some are sleeping, some are intently watching with red hazy eyes and do not notice my poor form.



Rani getting the ears re-punched. Ouch!



You can buy a mosquito net for your crib. They come in three sizes. Not only does it keep the mosquitoes from getting in, but it also keeps the baby from getting out.



Who doesn't love Aamir Khan - India's answer to Tom Hanks?

Friday, August 29, 2008

TUMBA SANTOSH




I am writing this in Bangalore, on QE's computer. She's next to me, and the cat (Missy, not Sissy) is rubbing its face on the corner of the machine........

And now. to catch up.....



Wednesday was an unusually social day.

After practice I met Ammu for breakfast at the place with the spinach dosas - which, it turns out, they only have at night. We took some test photos of me in various photos at a nearby monument (photos to come) and then headed to jewelry row for nosepins and earrings. Then it was on to lunch with K at 3 Sisters; afterwards we went to Devaraj Urs Road, where I returned some contact lenses that didn't fit and bought some whole bean coffee for QE. They roast it on the premises, and she says it's out of this world. Can't get that in Bangalore.

Then it was on to Mysore Mandala to meet Urusla and show her the old shala, where just 12 people practiced at one time. Oh, how I miss the olden days....


I stopped by the pharmacy to pick up some big-size plasters (Band-Aids) for my scooter wounds and to get some iron pills. I'd brought the bottle with me, so there'd be no confusion. The pharmacist was capitivated by the child-proof lid. After I explained how it worked, and why it's there ("so the children do not open it and take the pills"), he handed it to his wife and told her to open it. She did it on the first try, and he was surprised.

"I did not say it was wife-proof," I explained. "I said it was child-proof." And we all had good laugh.

Then Ammu and I went on a twilight walk around the tank (lake). Afterwards I met The Ladies to talk about our upcoming trip to Tirupati, then walked across the street to meet my Kannada teacher from 2002. She's an educator from a family of strict Brahmins. I'e not seen her since then, and think of her often.

I was thinking about her the other day, when I heard my name; at first I thought it was someone wanting to sue me about the scooter accident, and feigned ignorance. But it was her. Turns out she married three years ago, and lives in Bellur. She's home to have her baby (due next month), which is the traditional thing to do. We spoke of many things. Back in 2002 she taught my friend Shawn and I not just Kannada but also about Indian culture (such as the fact that cows here say "Ambaa" rather than "Mooo.").

I told her that I am still not married, and that everyone here tells me that I should marry and have at least one child so that I'd have someone to take care of me when I get old.

"There's no guarantee that person will take care of you," she said, explaining that her aunt, who is 42, has never married and is very happy. "Even here it is changing."

And I remembered again how much I enjoyed learning from her.



* * *

During our conversation the skies opened and the monsoon came down hard, for a long time. The cool clean air swept through her house, and it was wonderful. It was still coming down like crazy when I left, and despite the umbrella I got doused during the quick walk across the street to the hotel. And I felt very content indeed. Or tumba santosh, as they say here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

ENGLISH GRANNY




Today Ammu pointed out that I didn't know for sure that the day manager was scamming me, and that it might be a good idea to try to corroborate his story at the post office before blogging him a bad name. He even offered to accompany me to the PO, which is next to Shantala Talkies (a movie theater).

We waited 45 minutes before the post master appeared.

He produced the paperwork.

He explained what happened; in Mumbai the customs officials sometimes look inside large boxes and charge a tarriff. The correct amount was Rs 192, not Rs 350 as the day manager told me.

It turns out that he did indeed tip the mail carrier Rs 20, as he said.

So when I saw the manager after lunch I handed him Rs e12. I made a profuse apology, and asked him to refuse any more packages that came for me.

The mind felt a lot better after that.


* * *

Earlier Ammu and I were coming home from the jewelry section of town, where the nose-punch doctor re-installed my screw-type earrings (which have a wide post that can hurt and even cause infection if you're not used to it. Last year's new earrings weren't installed properly, and ever since the right one has been prone to infections whenever wear earrings). After months of no earrings, I'm all blinged out with the shiny local gold.

Afterwards, as we were driving on his motorcycle, we passed some Hijaras (eunuchs or men dressed as women who are generally reviled, and spend their days hitting up shopkeepers for money.).

One of them looked at me, and said something that sounded like "English Granny."

Ammu smiled.

"He called you English Rani," he said.

"English Granny?" I asked. "Do I look that old today?"

"No, no - Rani," he said. "It is compliment.

"It means queen."

For a day, anyway.....

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

RUNNING IN CIRCLES




Practice was good today.

I did five kapotasanas before S. came to help me. Five.

He put the hands on the arches and called it a day. I thought I could have gone a little further..... but perhaps not. So much for big breakthroughs on the last day of class.

After class S. finally gave me an answer: yes, I can stay one more month. But it turns out I simply cannot do it. I will stay here one extra week, and hopefully study with his mother for that week (Rs 6000, or $150). Part of this is an attempt to be less rigid and less addicted to previous patterns, and to listen to the inner intuition. More on that in a future post.


Over the next week I will go to Bangalore to visit QE (whose husband is in the US at the moment) and take the train to Tirupati with the Three Sisters and K. There's a famous Balaji temple there, and it should be fairly empty during next week's Ganesh puja.



* * *


Today, after breakfast with Krista at Tina's, I went home for a wash and a nap.

The nap was interrupted by the shrill sound of the door buzzer.

I ignored it.

It started up again.

It was the day manager, with the receipt for Rs 292 from the post office. It had official stamps on it. It looked official. But I had my doubts.

"Friends have paid US $30 to send this, or 1500 rupees,"I told him, showing him MY receipt. "No more money is due."

"Customs duty," he explained, pointing to the numbers. It looked like someone - him? the mail carrier? an actual customs official? - had picked a number out of the sky and written it in.

"Not paying," I said, explaining again that I have received many packages here and never once paid customs duty.

We went back and forth.

He would not take no for an answer.

I would not give in, either.


Finally, I handed him the lavendar yoga mat and the US Post Office receipt. "You send it back. I don't want. Beda. They can have. It is only worth Rs 200, and they want Rs 350. I will not pay."

He seemed taken aback that the promising package had contained just one cheap yoga mat.

"That is all that came?"

Yes, I said, and began closing the door.

I haven't seen him since.

Monday, August 25, 2008

CONFERENCE + NUGGETS




I did primary series today, in the front row of the shala. I did it like an old lady because of the wounds and bandages. It was hell at first, but the longer I did it the better I felt. Yoga Chikitsa (primary series) really IS yoga therapy. Somehow even standing up from backbend was possible. During dropbacks Saraswati inquired about what happened and asked, "How many bandages?" She reminds me of her father/Guruji... Tomorrow I'll do my regular practice (primary + a handful of intermediate poses) and then my month here will be finished.

I spent much of the today in doctor's offices, waiting for an ultrasound mammogram (nothing detected. Cost: Rs 600 or under $15) and an exam/pap smear (still awaiting results. Cost: Rs 500 or around $12).

I also spent some time arguing with the hotel manager, who said that I owe the post office Rs 350 for postage for a yoga mat my friend sent to me from the US (to replace the one that was doused in gasoline by the petrol bunk attendant). It arrived today. The postage on it was $30. A few hours later the day manager told me I owed Rs 350, and waited for me to hand it to him. "No." I said. "I want to see the receipt." Then I thought about it. "No," I said. "No postage due. No. That is not correct. I have had many packages delivered in Mysore, and never have had to pay. I will not pay." His response: "Tomorrow madam receipt coming." My response: "I will not pay it." At some point the conversation started sounding like one of the less popular Dr. Seuss books.

CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS:

Sharath stressed again that we should read yoga philosophy, that asana is just one aspect of yoga. He specifically mentioned the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads, which talk about how to control the mind. The goal of yoga is self-realization He also talked again about how the mind and body must be pure. If the mind is not pure, the body is not pure and vice-versa.

He spoke at length about Parampara, or lineage. Krishnamacharya (Guruji's teacher) learned from Brahmachari for 8 or 9 years. Krishnamacharya was a Sansrkit scholar and had read all of the yoga books, but wanted to learn it practically. Someone told him to go to Ramana Brahmachari, who lived on an island. He went, and Brahmachari's son told him to go away. After two years the guru finally came - and gave him two chapattis and said "Eat this and go away." Krishnamacharya did not leave. He started talking to Brahmachari in Sanskrit. The guru was impressed and thought, "This is not an ordinary man. He will learn what I teach." (That was the olden days, Sharath said. "Now you send an application and a nice photo." )

After 8 or 9 years of study, it was time for Krishnamacharya to leave. First he had to give Gurudakshina , and asked the guru how he could pay him back. Brahmachari said to go around and teach this method of yoga. If Krishnamacharya had not done this, we would not have this practice. That is parampara: respect for the teacher....the bond between the teacher and student used to be so strong...

In the past you had to struggle to study with them. Nowadays teachers are trying to attract students.

(NOTE: I am merely reporting this, not condoning it. I recently realized that for me, compassion crushes the ego more quickly and cleanly than tough love or indifference. Perhaps this is because the ego was so forcibly crushed by Xmas Judy at such a tender age).

We also saw a presentation about a local SKPJ Fund recipient called Pratham, which educates slum children by teaching their mothers to be educators.

More conference notes here.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

WOUND UP (WEEKEND UPDATE)





I had a scooter accident the other day, while driving down NS Road.

It's a very busy road. It was nighttime, and I was being cautious.

Suddenly a man on a motorcycle, who WAS going too fast, sideswiped me on the right side. Next thing I knew, I was skidding down the street on my side, while he skidded into two other vehicles and knocked them down, too. A woman screamed as a two-wheeler skidded into her bicycle.

I got up right away, and picked my right ankle bracelet up off the street. The man driving the motorcycle too fast got up, too. The other two vehicles took longer.

Some men standing nearby righted my scooter and turned it off. They made gestures asking if I was OK.

"OK," I said, looking at my bloody ankle, feeling my elbow throb and watching the blood seep through the knee of my baggy salwaar pants.

I didn't know what to do, so I stood there and waited.

At some point, everyone got up and drove off. I got on the scooter and tried to push its side view mirror into place. Then I turned the key; it started. The right brake was half broken, but it seemed to work. Since everyone else was gone, I left too.

After driving a block I pulled over and considered my options. A woman pulled up next to me and asked if I was OK. She told me she'd been in two accidents in the past week, and pointed towards her broken left brake. I showed her my wounds, and she told me to go to a hospital.


First, I stopped at Shiva Prasad and got some set dosas to go - a half set (ie; two) for dinner in my room, and a full set (four) for the next day's train ride to Bangalore. As I waited, I watched the ankle bleed and turn blue and purple. No one asked about the bloody pants or the red jacket, half of which was black with dirt.

Afterwards I headed to the hospital behind the Kaveri Lodge (where I was treated for a major gastronomic problem and had the nose pierced in 2002). No one was at the reception desk. By now the wounds had begun to sting, and the head didn't feel all that great, either. So I sat down. I waited. I called Ammu, who was in Bangalore, and asked him what to do. He offered to send a car to take me to Apollo, the big fancy western-style hospital. I said I'd wait, and asked him to ask his brothers to round up some ice for me.

Finally I got tired of waiting and walked out. An older gentleman who was waiting outside gestured that I should go back in. He rounded someone up, who told me "just five minutes."

After some waiting, I was on the same examining table I'd been on back in 2002. A grubby white curtain decorated with illustrations of Tom chasing Jerry with a hatchet separated the examining room from the office.

I told the nurse nothing was broken. Suddenly, four women surrounded me. They wanted to know what happened. When I said "scooter accident," they all became very concerned. One of them wanted to know if I had any country coins (it never fails).

"Where is other ankle bracelet?" one of the asked with concern as she pointed towards the wounded ankle.

"In pocket," I replied. She seemed relieved.

The youngest woman began to clean the wounds, using what looked like used cotton balls at the end of some tongs; the cotton balls were shriveled and grayish.

"Are those new?" I kept asking, pointing towards the cotton balls. "Not us-ed?"
"Yes Madam," she kept answering.

First she applied rubbing alcohol (?), then iodine to the three main wounds (ankle, elbow and knee). Then she put gauze on top and secured it with tape.

"Injection," said an older woman, raising a needle.

"What?" I asked.

"Injection, injection."

"Where?" I asked. "Backside?"

Sure enough, they wanted me to turn over onto my stomach.

"What for?" I asked.

"So not septic. Infection"

OK. I turned over, and got stabbed in the backside.

I was so out-of-it I didn't even notice (or ask) if the needle was new.

When I'd put my pants back on, I reached for my bag and asked "Estu?" or how much.

"Give me 60 rupees," said the older woman. I handed her the equivalent of $1.50, and she gave me a prescription for ointment and some pills.

When I was leaving the hospital I was met by Dungar (Ammu's employee; his name means "hill") in the waiting room. He was holding a bag of ice.

He accompanied me across the street the the pharmacy, where Vinod's wife filled the prescription. Turns out the pills were for pain. They gave me 10. Total: rs 98, or just over $2.

Dungar inspected the scooter, saw that it was drivable, and told me that "Ammu's mommy wants to see you."

So I drove over to their place.

He led me up the stairs.

Ammu's mother asked me if I wanted anything and made me lay down on the couch. Another couple was there, possibly because a relative recently expired.



I lay on the couch, icing my leg. One by one, people came in and asked me what happened. Between my limited Kannada and their limited English (and many, many gestures), we pieced together the story.

After some time, Ammu's mother brought out some food and insisted that I eat. I ate. It was wonderful.

And the heart melted, as I missed my own long-gone mother and how she used to tend to me after my many bicycle crashes. And I thought about how everyone here always asks me if I'm married and tells me I should marry and have at least one child so that there is someone to take care of me when I get old.

And I thought about the ideas of "I, me and mine" that we're trying to get away from in yoga, and how at that moment Ammu's mother was not just his mother but my mother and everyone's mother, and I was beyond grateful. She was so welcoming and kind.... To be taken care of that sweetly, without reservation, so far from home... it is the greatest gift (and example of yoga in action). In some ways I felt like I learned more from her in 90 minutes than in a month at the shala.

Everyone told me to take rest the following day. When I got back to the hotel, they told me the same thing; take rest for one or two days. I gave up on the idea of yoga at 4:45 AM, but still hoped to make the 6:45 train to Bangalore. I awakened at 5 with a throbbing head and said "No way" and texted my friends and fell back to sleep.

I awakened just after 8 with a throbbing head, and called down for chai. The buzzer rang and it was Ammu, who'd driven all the way from Bangalore and was bearing flowers. "I'm OK," I kept saying. He sent the boy out to get some dosas for breakfast, and we made a plan to take the AC bus to Bangalore. The head hurt and I was exhausted BUT I was still under the impression that all was well.... Then QE called from Bangalore and said to stay put; they would come to Mysore the next day. What a relief.

I spent the day in bed, watching TV, catching up with Jammu in Delhi (her baby's visa finally came through! Now she just has to find a flight home). Early in the day Dungar came by to pick up the scooter and drop it by the repair shop. He went to the tailor and picked up my clothes. He brought ice and homemade lunch from Ammu's mother. And he even brought a DVD of the hit Bollywood film "Dhoom," and offered to bring anything else I needed.

Also in the morning the hotel's day manager appeared at the door and asked what happened. He too was very concerned.

I called Dreyfus to tell him what happened, and asked him to research tetanus shots since my last one was probably in 2002. We decided it was wise to get another one, considering the severity of the wounds, the dirt in the street, and the fact that it had been over five years ago. So I walked back to the hospital and asked for a tetanus shot. "Last night you had," they told me. I asked several people and they all said the same thing: "You had." I gave the woman who'd asked some country coins, visited the pharmacy, and went back to bed.

As the day wore on, the headache got worse. It was on the right side of the head, same as the wounds (the injection spot on the buttock also began to throb, although it was on the left side).





When I awakened on Saturday morning, the headache had moved to the left side of the head and was just as severe. Since friends were coming from Bangalore, I took a sinus pill (after doing the neti pot of course). After chai and a bath, I took the newly-repaired scooter to the hospital. It was 9:30. One employee was there, and it took some time for the sweeper to dig her up.

"Wound dressing," I explained, pointing.

Slowly she dressed the wound, using the same tongs and small grey cotton balls, and securing the gauze with white tape.

"How much?" I asked, after putting on my pants, waiting in the lobby for awhile and then finally having the sweeper dig her up.

She thought for a minute.

"Fifty rupees," she said.

"No," I said.

She looked at me.

"No," I said more strongly. "Ela!" I added, using the Kannada word for no.

She looked at me.

"Dressing on Thursday plus injection was 60 rupees only. Fifty for dressing is too much."

She thought for a minute.

"Forty," she said, with finality. "Injection was 20 rupees."

I argued a bit more: How can a tetanus shot cost twice as much as some gauze? And then I thought, Who cares?

I gave her the Rs 40 (about $1). She put it right into her pocket.

I love my (your, our, everyone's) India.





Feeling revived by Chow Chow Bath at Shiva Prasad, I met my friends at the tony Hotel Metropole.

We had chai on the porch. Despite the headache and my poor directions, we ate lunch at the Lalitha Mahal palace and shopped at KR Circle. We had fresh lime soda on their balcony, where we also had dosas in parcel (ie to go) from Shiva Prasad.

By the time I got home, each and every wound was throbbing at full volume.

As I put the scooter away, I noticed that one of the hotel employees was limping.

"What happened?" I asked.

"Accident," he said.

Apparently he too had a two wheeler accident. His happened on Friday, and he had huge gouge in his shin - far more serious than my scrapes and bruises. He too had been give painkillers and a shot in the backside. When I said "Backside nawoo!" (pain) he laughed.

When I finally fell into bed, I felt like I was falling ill.


I had a fever (although I'm not sure how bad it was because it's a Centigrade thermometer). Each wound stung and throbbed more and more. The knee joint hurt. The pain kept increasing. I could not sleep.

So I took a pain killer and some Acetemenophin. I texted K: I wouldn't be at led primary series class in the morning; there was no way I could do lotus, let alone drag the poor feverish body through a full class without distracting everyone in it.

And I thought, "Maybe this is a sign not to extend my trip." There was despondence. There was disillusion. And there was a fervent desire to see one's kind compassionate teachers back in the states.



Next day the pain in the head was gone. In fact nothing throbbed, and one felt high as a kite despite black circles under the eyes.

One felt so good in fact that she picked up a jasmine garland at the market before heading to the Metropole for breakfast with the dear friends from Bangalore. QE and I put the jasmine in our hair, and after a wonderful breakfast drank lime soda on the balcony while the baby slept. Then we went to the palace, where we were swarmed by touts, vendors and beggars and I said, over and over, "Beda!" (Don't want), "Du Dee La ("No money!") and "Wo Ga Pa / Ma" (Go away!) - the last two are compliments of Krista.

Afterwards we had lunch at the Southern Star - which has one of the few "baby chairs" (high chairs) in Mysore.

Then they began the long drive back to Bangalore while I went to conference - where Sharath talked about the yamas and niyamas (ethical roots of yoga), told some stories about TVS Krishnamacharya and revealed that he's read some of the Internet commentary about the new authorization rules.

More details tomorrow.

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The accident photos are not very impressive, but they're all I could get before the camera battery ran out.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

ANOTHER BRUSH WITH DEATH

I was in a scooter accident on Thursday night.
The injuries are minor (cuts and bruises), but I've been taking rest.
The scooter is worse off than I am.
Details to follow.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

THE WEEK IN REVIEW



The Goddess Chamundi, used in an ad.

Some highlights and lowlights, starting with the lowest of the latter:


Yesterday during practice one accidentally kicked a woman in the head - hard - while coming up from Supta Konasana. Unbeknownst to me, she was in Parsvakonasana, her head next to my right foot. And afterwards she seemed to be in some pain. I apologized twice. But it did not seem to help. Anyway, I am very sorry for kicking you, and will be much more careful in the future (as I was today).


Many Indian people are staying at the hotel this week. The other day, some children from Hyderabad (in the neighboring state of Andra Pradesh) were on the roof while I was hanging laundry. The young girl was full of questions. "Are you married?" she asked. "No," I replied. "Are you?" Then I asked her a few, such as why her family is visiting Mysore. "Marriage is there," she explained, meaning they're here to go to a wedding.

The other day I was walking on Sri Rampet (a commercial street parallel to Devaraj Urs Rd) when I came across the tiny shop of the man who sells Indian prints and frames - and whom I visit every year (my teacher Suddha first sent me to him in 2002). He recognized me, and invited me across the street for coffee. The main floor of the restaurant was full - I mean FULL - of men, so we went upstairs. The coffee (which is more common in this part of South India than chai or tea) was steaming hot, and we poured it from the stainless steel cup into the matching saucer and back again to cool it off. You leave a bit in the saucer and slurp it up. Wonderful.


It turns out that yesterday's demonstrations were part of a nationwide labor strike protesting government policies, such as the privatization of banks and the new airports in Bangalore and Hyderabad. According to today's paper, the strike was most successful (ie it more or less shut down) in areas where the communists are in power, such as Chennai and Kerala.




Indian Sushil Kumar, from Maharashtra, won the bronze metal for wresting. This is India's SECOND individual Olympic gold medal EVER. Go India! There have been many editorials bemoaning India's lack of athletic prowess off the cricket field. Most writers say that there isn't much a sports culture here, and that children are pulled indoors and pushed towards academic excellence. I see another problem. It is NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE to catch the Olympics on TV here - which is how we got hooked as kids. Sure, you get the highlights from time to time, and a match here or there (Jammu, who is in Delhi, was ecstatic about yesterday's women's hammer throwing competition, won by Belarus) but there's no round-the-clock coverage. It's a shame, now that one has an actual TV in one's room.




Cattle Xing


SOME HEADLINES FROM YESTERDAY'S DECCAN HERALD:

"3 Cows Killed"

"Leopard on Prowl Again: Cattle Attacked in A'gud"

"Classical Status to Kannada [the local language]: Samara Sene Stage Protest"

"Person Kills Self as Wife Stays Aloof"


"A Guru's Role is to Awaken You"


"Mush Fate Hangs in Balance"

The weather report, by the way, tells you what happened yesterday. The "outlook for subsequent two days" says, every single day I've seen it: "No significant change is expected over the state."

BONUS STORY:

"Housewife Succumbs

"A homemaker who had to face the wrath of her husband allegedly under the influence of liquor for objecting to his desire for second marriage at Kavalande near Nanjangud on August 13, succumbed to the burn injuries on Monday night.

"Gulnaz wife of Riyaz alias Chan of Kavalande was allegedly set afire by her husband after dousing her with kerosene at their house, when the quarrel between them reached heights. Soon after the incident, he went elusive for a while and later surrendered himself before the local Police.

"Riyaz, a cattle vendor was seeing another girl in Kerala during his weekend visit to the neighboring State on business purpose.

"Whenever, Riyaz proposed to marry that girl, Gulnaz allegedly used to pick up a quarrel. Moreover, the couple had four children. Javed, the younger brother of Gulnaz had rushed his sister to KR Hospital. Postmortem was conducted at KR Hospital Mortuary. A case has been registered."



Hoarding (billboard) for the latest blockbuster with Kannada film star Ganesh



.......And now, this week's dilemma: should one stay or should one go? What is one learning here? Kapotasana is getting worse, and seems to hurt the back and neck - even with visits to K for deep tissue massage. Is there an opening in the offing? Or is one about to do some damage? The body rarely lies....One must have faith, yes, but one also has doubts. As for the latter.... One is far more likely to be cast in a Big B Bollywood blockbuster than to receive The Big A - but the new new rules are rather interesting. One could be wrong, but the old days, it seems that Guruji gave his blessing, the teacher taught, and that was that.* Speaking of which, one has not seen Guruji in over two weeks. Now that really is a shame.





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Ramakrishna says, in The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, "It is God alone who blesses."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

THE BAD NEWS:




I was trying to get to the travel agent this morning to find out about changing my return ticket. But I could not make it there because of a street demonstration.

Every time I turned down a street, I saw protesters.

Being a (semi) smart westerner, I turned tail and went home.






THE GOOD NEWS:

I saw the eye doctor this morning (before the protest began).

For the third year in a row, the eyesight has improved.

I highly recommend coming to India, for that reason alone.


* * *


As the eye exam ended and I was preparing to leave, the doctor said, "Just five minutes" and the assistant pulled down the metal shutter that covers the front window and door. "Street demonstration," he explained. "We must close for five minutes."

Bandh (strike)? I asked. Street protesters often demand that merchants close their shops - or else.

His answer was noncommittal.

Turns out he's a Jain, and was very pleased that I'm pure veg (no eggs).

Total bill for eye exam: Rs 150 (under $4).





THE UGLY NEWS:

The hands came nowhere near the feet today in Kapotasna, and one considered leaving the plane ticket as-is and exiting India as planned.


* * *



MORE GOOD NEWS:

Shahrukh Khan and I use the same bank.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

LADIES HOLIDAY*




Caca's giant knickers. Rather than putting them on the clothesline, which seems a bit unseemly, I let them dry in my room - where just a few eyes can pry.



There's something about a ladies holiday coinciding with a full moon that makes it pure hell.

The. body. was. so. tired. on. Monday. it. could. not. have. practiced. if. it. had. wanted. to.

There. were. cramps.

There. was. exhaustion.

There. was. full. apana. or downward-moving energy.

One felt like the heavy girls who used to sit on the bleachers during gym class, too beaten down by hormones to participate.

I did rouse myself long enough to take a bath, do some laundry (this means hand-washing clothes in the same bucket you use for the bath) and some writing. Most important, I managed to have a sitting practice. Sometimes, one is so tired while sitting that it feels like ecstasy. But one suspects it's just what happens when you're on the brink of falling asleep.

Then I went to see Krista for a massage. This time, she worked on the lower, middle and upper back and neck. The neck in particular was a mess from carrying heavy bags all weekend.

Afterwards I felt human enough to meet K for lunch at Veg Park. For dinner, Ammu and I went to Saptagiri.

But the sensation of exhaustion never really left the body and continues today (Tuesday).

One can recite "I'm not my body, I'm not my mind, Om Om Om Om" as much as one wants, but when the body does not feel right, it can begin to feel like one really IS the body, and nothing else.

But not for enlightened people. I'm near the end of the book The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. It's near the end of his life, where he goes into samadhi time and time again while enduring a painful battle with cancer. Despite the pain and discomfort, he has been imparting everything he has to his students.

Now that really IS transcending the body.

And it makes one feel a little lame for complaining about a little ladies holiday.



_____________________________________________________________________________

*In Mysore we are asked not to practice yoga during the first three days of Ladies Holiday. Traditionally, ladies in India do not cook or appear in the normal part of the house during this time, but stay in a separate place and rest. The reason seems to be that they are considered to be polluted, and should not defile the household. Similarly, women are not allowed in temples and holy places during that time. At home, I don't practice on the first day of ladies holiday because the body is simply too tired. In India, regardless of my personal opinion, I try to respect the local customs.










ONE MORE


An e-mail recently went out to authorized teachers (ie; not me). Apparently changes are afoot regarding regulations. Read more here.

Monday, August 18, 2008

"COOLIE, MADAM ?"



Again during Friday's led primary series class I nearly fell asleep in some poses. Sthira sukham asanam indeed.

I got in a 20 minute nap before the trip to Bangalore. It was not long enough.

Because it was a double holiday (Indian Independence Day plus a puja day for Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth), it was not easy to find a rickshaw to take me to the railway station. I walked some time with the heavy bags before I finding one. Along the way I saw this in the middle of the street:



Also there was special rangouli or kollam (sand drawings) in front of most doors.

It turns out that the seats in second class have more in common with those of third class.

In other words, it's the same as riding in the cattle car on a hard bench that seats three and faces another bench of three - except that you have a reserved seat and there will only be two people next to you, three across (vs a dozen or more in the unreserved carriage).

Nonetheless there was an older gentleman in my window seat.

He grudgingly moved to the window seat next to his wife and proceeded to read Reader's Digest and ignore me for the next 2.5 hours.

Across from me were some lively AYRI students, also on their way to Bangalore.

I'd been hoping for a nap. It did not happen. Not in that uncomfortable seat. Not with all of that noise. I resolved to switch to the AC chair car for the long ride home on Sunday. That car is relatively quiet and empty - and one can tilt back the chair.

The saving grace of second class was the open window, which provided fresh air and a stunning view of the countryside.



At Majestic station in Bangalore I inquired at the "Current Reservation / Cancellation" window about changing classes for the ride home. I figured it would be as simple as showing the current ticket and paying a fee.

I was wrong.

It meant finding the reservation counter in the next building while carrying the heavy bags.

It meant waiting in the line at the Ladies / Credit Card" counter.

It meant pushing a man aside and saying "Ladies" and shoving my way past him.

Finally, at the front of the line, the clerk in the sari told me to fill out two forms: one for the cancellation. One for the reservation.

I filled them out. I got back into the line. Some Tibetan girls were in front of me.

Suddenly, the clerk in the sari thrust a sign in the window: CLOSED.
What? I asked.

"15 minutes closing."

It was 2PM.

The mind considered leaving. I looked around and saw a sign: break from 2-2:15. I turned back around and saw the clerk in the sari complete a transaction with the Tibetan girls.

I stuck my head in. "Train is leaving. Can you do one more?"


"15 minutes closing."

It seems that the words "Bangalore sucks" came out of the mouth.

I decided to wait it out. Maybe 15 minutes really would be 15 minutes.

I barricaded the body at the front of the line, putting the heavy bags on either side of me on counter and thrusting out the elbows. The I had some chikki (peanuts and jaggery) and drank some water. Perhaps that'll improve the mood, I thought.


At 2:15 the clerk in the sari returned. But she did not remove the "CLOSED" sign.

Instead, she proceeded to talk to her coworkers. To take a call on her cell phone. To play with the dot matrix ticket printer. To check her text messages. To grab some forms off a co-worker's desk. To make a personal phone call.

Finally, the "CLOSED" sign was removed. Others still tried to cut in front of me. Their efforts were fruitless.

Twice the clerk in the sari thrust the forms back to me, demanding I fill in the date in yet another section.

I asked for a window seat. She gave me an aisle seat. But I only found that out later.

Finally, there was a new ticket. The difference in price was Rs 150, or about $3.50.

I grabbed the heavy bags (full of tofu, tahini and Special Mysore Pak, a wonderfully decadent ghee and jaggery-based fudgelike sweet) and made my way to Platform 5, for the commuter train to my friend's suburb.

But the sign where it should have said which train was on the platform was covered in cardboard. I looked down at the bottom of the steps, and could not see how to get to Platform 5, which looked deserted. I asked a man which platform for my train: 5.

I went down and finally find my way to Platform 5 (which required walking behind what seemed to be a police office). The train was not yet there. And it was break-time (between 2 and 4PM), which mean that the Coffee Day Express kiosk was closed. Too bad: the senses could have used a caffeine boost.



The ancient train finally pulled up. I followed a woman on board. We took seats next to each other. The floor was covered in peanut shells. A sweeper woman came through and cleaned up most of them.

The train took off. The doors remained open, slamming into each other. Some boys sat down at the entrance, their feet dangling over the edge.

At each stop, more people got on. One or two got off.

Finally, we got to White Field.




Some people pointed me towards the exit. On the way out I bought Sunday's commuter ticket from White Field to Bangalore, for Rs 5 or 7 cents.

I did not see Suresh and the gang in the parking lot, and figured they were on the street. I saw a bakery and ordered a chai. E. called and said they were on the other side, and would send the driver to fetch me.

My stay with them was wonderful. Very quiet and relaxing, eating at The Club and what not. On Saturday Suresh drove me to Banaswadi to see Jammu, who has spent 8 of the past 10 months in Bangalore and Mysore, trying to adopt a baby girl. She was leaving to Delhi the next day for the final phase of paperwork. It was wonderful to see her and meet the sisters at the orphanage that's been helping her out and vice-versa. She also gave me some wonderful gifts (including the premiere issue of TimeOut Bengalru). I hope her days in Delhi are short and fruitful, and she finally gets to take Sachi home soon. (There's actually a special are with a little roof in front of the orphanage where people leave babies, by the way).


On Saturday night H went to see Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (who has an ashram in Bangalore) while QE, the baby and I walked to the corner for ice cream. This was the first time I've eaten ice cream in India - I've avoided it because of the melting-during-load-shedding-and-then-re-freezing-problem, but figured it was OK on these posh premises, plus it was a Baskin Robbins. We spent the rest of the evening talking.

The body slept like a log in their quiet home with the comfortable bed and lovely cats. In the morning we had French Toast and chai on the veranda (one of Jammu's parting gifts was a nearly-full bottle of Trader Joe's maple syrup, which found a new home in QE's fridge), watching the baby and reading the Sunday Times of India. What a wonderful experience .

Later we went to the club, where the husband and baby had a swim and then we all played some badminton (which is fun, but can be rough on the lower back). Then we ate at the club trough, er, buffet, which had everything from avocado salad and a pasta bar to Pav Bhaji and Jal Jeera, or cumin water, which is good for digestion.

Then it was back to reality on the commuter train from White Field to Bangalore.

The train was late. And when it finally pulled in, there were men spilling out of the doors, hanging off the sides.

Ut-oh.

I followed another woman onto the full carriage (when traveling here, one always attaches oneself to a family or woman or elderly couple, for safety). We had to wait as some people (mostly men; it is mostly men everywhere here) were spat out. Then, somehow, we squeezed in. This time, I had three bags (one from Jammu). We were squeezed in like sardines. But, just like in Chicago, the people in the middle of the train, not near the doors, could move about freely. Just like in Chicago, no one moved into those areas to make more space near the doors, where we sardines were standing. Unlike Chicago, there was a man in a mustache trying to work his way upstream, selling samosas.

The goal was to keep ahold of the bags and wallet, and to remember to breathe.

Partway through the looooooong (one hour) ride, I realized that the crotch of the man behind me was jammed into my backside. At least he wasn’t thrusting. But there was definitely some unnatural pressure.

I turned the head and looked at him. "Sir! Sir! Please do not jam your crotch into my ass."

It worked. He stopped. For awhile.

Then it started again.

Again, I turned my head and looked at him and said, rather loudly.

"No dry humping."

He stopped. For good this time.

Later, when some people got out, another man pointed towards the back of the car. "Go to that side," he said. I did - and spent the rest of the journey squatting next to the window with a couple of families. After that, the trip was a breeze (more or less).



* * *








This time, on the platform in Bangalore, the Cafe Coffee Day Express was open.

This time, the senses had some coffee (not good like the one in the store) and cardamom tea (surprisingly good despite being instant).

When I was carrying my many bags to the Chamundi Express to Mysore (AC chair car), a young boy touched my arm and said,

"Coolie, madam?"

He was about 10. My arms were twice as thick of his.

"No, thank you," I said.



* * *


When I finally made it home, around 10PM, the body itched all over and I had to take a cold bath.


Then I blew the nose. What came out was black.

And then I realized I'd gotten ladies holiday, and rejoiced in the fact that I wouldn't have to get up at 3AM and practice....

until I realized that if I'd known about LH ahead of time, I could have stayed in Bangalore and spent the next two days resting with friends, where it was quiet, near the pool.

Ah, India.

Friday, August 15, 2008

HELL AND HEAVEN







The former:

is slogging the exhausted body through Friday's 4:45AM led primary series practice and its endless Navasanas, Setu Bandasana, backbend and Utplutith and then hearing, after a few seconds of respite, "You go home take rest."

The latter:

Taking rest in the women's closing room. Pure sattva.





* * *


Post is short because of today's trip to Bangalore.

Happy Indian Independence Day and Vara Mahalakshmi!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

GLAD THAT’S OVER




“That” refers to practice of course.

I rarely feel like this.


But today it was a struggle to get through it.

The body was weak, stiff and tired. The mind was not focused.

Part of the reason was lack of sleep due to the loud yelling and banging that went on all last night - until 11:45, when I called the manager and asked him to tell the people below me to shut it. He did, and they (students from Kerala) did. But by then it was too late. You see, the goal is to be in bed by 9 and up at 4. Yogi hours. 11:45 does not play into it.


It didn't help that I was in the back of the room today, which makes it easy for the driste (gaze) to wander. I was behind a. Dristi person whose constant gazing around the room actually interrupts his practice. It seemed to rub off on me.

Beside me was a Sleestack - a loud, hissy breather whose inhale is nonexistent, and whose exhale sounds not unlike he reptilian humanoids from the 1970s TV Saturday morning show “Land of the Lost." The Sleestack's breathing was so harsh and loud one could not hear her own breath.


I dreaded Kapotasana.



I dreaded my running-backwards dropbacks.

I had good reason.


I did two Kapos on my own, and managed to barely catch the toes. The numbness in the arm began during the first one.

Then S. helped me. The hands did not want to stay on the feet, although eventually they more or less clasped the arches. There was no "That's good" from S. today. One suspects that he too was glad it was over.

The heart and breath took forever to slow down afterwards. Finally, it was backbend time.

The dropbacks were better today. Slowly, slowly was the key. At least there's that.

I did the closing sequence in the dressing room. Sadly, the Sleestack was in there, too. The large marble room made the hiss even louder; it actually interrupted the "take rest" pose.

This was irritating until one realized that the poor was struggling through the whole practice, and could not help breathing that way.

It was irritating until one realized that her own breathing is quite similar at Kapotasana time.

We really are all the same....



* * *



Later, at Green Leaf, I had my favorite new (to me) cold weather dish - idly and wada swimming in sambar (a soupy tamarind curry). I thought this dish had a special name, so I asked around. I found out today that it has a very special name indeed. It’s called “Iddy-Wada-Sambar in Bowl.”

Then it was on to the railway station to get a ticket to Bangalore this weekend. This time I got a seat on a reserved non-AC chair car – which costs just a third of last week's AC ticket.







I also learned that when you go at 9AM in the cold cold rain, the line is short – very short indeed.



Wednesday, August 13, 2008

TWO-FER TUESDAY (8/12)






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.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

RAIN, RAIN GO AWAY*






Saturday night's train got in late - around 9:45 - and then there was the queue for the prepaid rickshaw; for a single rupee they give you a fair fare (rs 21 to the Kaveri Lodge after dark - which is time-and-a-half and quite a good deal for the naive westerner, who on Friday morning, during daytime hours, paid Rs 20 to get to the railway station).

Then it was up at 3 for the 4:45 led primary series practice. It was raining on the way to the shala. The early group is quiet as they wait at the gate, in the wet darkness. Inside there was plenty of mat space, since the early group tends to have more advanced students, who do the led intermediate series class at 8. There was no "resting pose" at the end; Sharath just told us to go home and do it. And I couldn't help but think, no wonder there are so many unbalanced people here in Mysore (I'm a big believer in the idea that a long "Take rest" cures a variety of ills).

I met J for the last time this trip; since it was raining we avoided the unsheltered coconut stand and went for chai at Stand-Up Chats (Chats=Snacks), where they make fresh, wonderful snack and breakfast food that you order and pick up from the kitchen yourself, and then eat at a stand-up table. We chatted over chai at Chats for some time; I will miss her. J was here on my first trip in 2002 (it was her second) and she was the first westerner in Mysore to be kind to Bob and I - when she and Tony met us at the Kaveri Lodge and invited us to accompany them for chats at Krisna Prasad. This time, I had wada and iddly swimming in hot sambar (a watery, tamarind-tinged South Indian curry soup). Amazing.

After a bath and a nap (the daily ritual), I missed the alarm clock and drove through the rain to an 11AM concert at the shala. It was a flautist named Ravi Shankar, accompanied by an amazing tablas player and two female drone instrument players (tamboura? sitar?). It was a benefit for the Sri K Pattabhi Jois foundation (tickets were rs 200, or just over $2.25) and was utterly divine. They played a morning raga and an evening raga. I listened with eyes closed, and saw colors.

Next I exchanged some clothes at Loyal World. Apparently you are no longer allowed to return "undergarments" here - which includes bras and tank tops ("vests") - unless you dig in and make a fuss. A fuss was made, and then the exchange. I have been reading the book "The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna" and afterwards thought, "Is that how he would have acted?" Next time this must be kept in mind as the situation is happening, not after.





Feeling run-down, I ordered chana masala (chick pea curry) and jeera (cumin) rice at Veg Park, where I met K for lunch. She's smarter, and had the South Indian thali (meal) which was half the price and twice as good. But it felt like rice and beans were needed. Afterwards we went to her place (in Saraswati's house, across the street from the shala), where she deciphered the South Western Railway schedule. Despite asking at two counters at the Mysore railway station and twice again in Bangalore, everyone Suresh-the-driver and I spoke to said there was no train from Mysore to Whitefield or KR Nagar, which are close to QE's strange gated community in suburban Bangalore. After some study, K figured out that one could indeed get there rather easily by changing trains in Bangalore - thus saving over three hours of mini-van diesel fuel emission each way. Of course there will be some waiting at the station (which is still a novelty), but once the second train is boarded it will only take 30 minutes (vs 90) to get to QE's station.

After doing some writing at home, it was time for conference. It was raining again, rather hard, throughout the 20--minute ride to the shala, and again there was the thought, "Perhaps one should move closer to the shala" in strange suburban Gokulam. Sharath was on form despite having a bad cold.

He began with a prayer and went on to discuss everything from the goal of yoga (enlightenment) to correct posture (like Dharma, he says that a yogi should have a straight spine; have you ever seen Pattabhi Jois hunching his back, or pictures of Krishnamacharya like that? That is because they have correct bandhas, which you should do all the time, not just in class. Most people do not have correct bandhas. Karandavasana is easy if the bandhas are correct)

Some other highlights:

INSPIRATION
On days when the student is uninspired (or back home, after being in Mysore) and would prefer not to do asana practice, they should think that Guruji, Sharath and Saraswati are in the room with them. They should get used to doing it every day, like how we brush our teeth as soon as we get up. Without brushing the teeth, we cannot go out and talk to anyone. It is difficult to do this. Eighteen years ago, he got up and did not want to practice after just three hours of sleep. On that day you should push a little harder. That day will be the best practice of your life.

DAYS OFF AND FAITH
You should rest one day each week. You should not even stretch. In general, noother exercise should be done. Period. Because your body becomes very stiff if you do other exercise (funny, I was telling someone just last week that I rode a bicycle my first year here in Mysore, and it did not help my lower back and hamstrings - which is why I wouldn't do it again). Yoga is the opposite of other types of exercise. He got into the jogging craze when he was 17, and Eka Pada Sirsasana (a leg behind the head pose) and Kapotasana (the intense backbend I'm working on) were a struggle. He has struggled the whole time with his practice, especially since he had Rheumatic fever as a child - which affected his joints. "You have to keep struggling, because once you get [it], there is nothing like this." You should have dedication and faith in the practice. The guru can only do so much. It depends on the students' dedication to the practice, and faith.


ALIGNMENT
You do not need props. If you use them, you will be your whole lifetime using props. Guruji said you do an asana 1,000 times, then it becomes perfect. Life-long we have to do it, and it will come correctly. There are 100's and 100's of asanas.. In ashtanga we do 400-500. "I think that is enough for us to work on, in this lifetime."


WHAT IS YOGA
Even if you do all the asanas, it doesn't mean you're an important yogi. Asana is just one aspect of it. Yoga means to get enlightenment, to control the mind and sense organs. If someone pokes you with a pen, if you are controlled, you will not scream.....Enlightened men only think about God. They don't have any other thoughts or feelings or anything. It is easier to do this if one is not a householder (ie does not have a family).

Yoga means not just asana. It is the foundation. If you do asana, you will get good thoughts. But it is not just practice BUT READING BOOKS. PAST ENLIGHTENED PERSONS HAVE LEFT KNOWLEDGE. YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE LIKE THEM, BUT FIND YOUR OWN WAY (emphasis here is mine, since I'm a huge fan of the book-reading, and this is the first time I've heard the AYRI recommending more than doing asana, thinking good thoughts and thinking god / being god).

Yoga is a lifetime study. It doesn't come at once. First the body and mind should get pure. IF the mind is not healthy, the body becomes healthy... try to think good. The main thing about yoga is to get purification to realize who we are.

The Inquisitor asked if a student could have a social life and become enlightened. "No. that is why yogis go to the Himalayas to meditate." That contained her - until she asked about Utpluthith (an arm balance that requires abdominal strength), and he suggested she may have some fat, which is why it can be difficult to access Uddyana Bandha (lower abdominal muscles). She was quite quiet after that.










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*One doesn't really want the rain to go away. The rain is important and necessary for crops and electricity. But now the dams are full; there have been landslides and people in Kodagu are flooded out and the farmers are beginning to lose their crops.

Monday, August 11, 2008

VISITING FRIENDS IN THE LAND OF RAJAS





Due to my new start time I was up at 3AM for Friday's 4:45AM led primary series practice. I was the seventh person to arrive at just after 4. It was dark. This group is much quieter than the 6:15AM group. I got a spot front and center. I did indeed feel that it was Day Six of practice. In fact I was so tired I nearly fell asleep in some poses - which could mean that I"m doing them correctly, since the definition of asana is "stira sukam asanam: - a steady, comfortable seat. I did not fall asleep during Utplithith. Afterwards S. gave each of us a form to fill out, telling us to bring it back on Sunday.

After coconuts with J, who leaves on Sunday, I went to chanting at the ashram and then to breakfast down the street at Nalpak. Chow-chow bath again. I also got a lentil and wada to go ("parcel") for the train trip. While waiting for the food I studied the menu; they open at 7 (quite early compared to other places), start serving lunch at 12 (the usual time is 1:30) and dinner at 4:30PM (most places make you wait til 7), which was very good news indeed. I also read the paper; the headlines refer to Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, as "Mush."

After the bath and morning nap I found a riksha (and argued for some time over fare) and went to the railway station. The train to Bangalore, the Tipu Express, was waiting on Track 1. There were only eight people in the AC chair car.



During the 2.75-hour trip, vendors for coffee, chai ("choy!"), dosas, wada and badam (almond) milk came through the car. Chai is rs 5 (12 cents). Other highlights; the stainless steel squat toilet drains directly onto the tracks and is spotlessly clean.







Rural women toil alongside the men in the rice paddies. LIke Ginger Rogers doing everything Fred Astaire did, only backwards and in high heels, these women do it all while wearing saris and flowers in their hair (and the go home and take care of the house / children while hubby has a beedie)...




Suresh-the-driver was there to meet me at the Bangalore railway station, which is just as busy as I remember it. After a 1.5 hour drive across town - which is way WAY WAAAAY more contested than it was just six years ago - we were in QE's disconcerting gated community, where they were checking the unknown cars with a metal detector. The community has Indian-style houses and native foliage, but reminds me of an upper middle class British suburb. Very strange. QE and baby Sanbate (by far the cutest toddler in the world) were in the window waiting for me. Their furniture is still in Dubai and is slated to arrive any day now - as is their internet service. QE fed me and I drank all their (filtered and boiled) water before we headed to The Club, which has countless swimming pools and restaurants and a health club and even a special room just for toddlers. It seems most of the people who live in this place are German, English and Indian. Many blonde children were there.

After H came home from his IT job, we hung out on the terrace before walking to The Club for a posh North Indian dinner, complete with live musical accompaniment. It was wonderful. Then back home for some special Mysore Pak and sleep.

Next day I awakened to friends and soy-chai and real sourdough toast with real butter, which was consumed on the terrace, while watching the baby and the cats and chatting and keeping an eye on the street below (the cats are 14 years old and survived the 24-plus hour plan trip from Ohio, sans drugs, in coach except for the last leg of the trip). It was heaven.

Then Suresh drove us 1.5 hours to a massive Bangalore mall, where they wand you before you can enter. As I held up my arms,I remembered that Bangalore had been hit with a dozen bomb blasts just two weeks ago (they were delivered by terrorists on bicycles, and detonated with cell phones). After being waved through we started at the food court, where the grub was good but you could not find a cup of local chai to save your life (yet there was a Gloria Jean’s coffee shop). Then it was time for shopping (QE and H arrived last week, but all their worldly possessions are in Dubai and they need some things to tide them over). The lights, the colors, the sounds, the frenzy – the mall was the land of Rajas, or activity (BTW, the dressing rooms are called "trial rooms" - and the queue to get in was loooooooooong). It was all very draining, and by the time we left we were all quite happy to go; how nice it is to have a driver. Then we spent the next hour or so crossing Bangalore again, to get to the railway station where we said a sad goodbye. Hopefully the next visit will be a bit longer.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

THE MYSORE MAGIC




I went again today to hear the chanting at the ashram before class.

When I arrived at the shala, Saraswati was on the steps, taking a breather. "Five minutes rest," she explained. "Only five minutes?" I asked. She works too hard - especially when you consider that she is nearly 67.

There were even fewer students in the waiting area, which means that people are leaving Mysore in droves, and those that remain are being given earlier starting times.

A guy who arrived on the same day and I were told to start coming at 6AM for self-practice, and at 4:45 for tomorrow's led primary series class.

There goes my social life.

There goes the chanting (although I can go after led practice days).

Actually I'm pleased. I prefer to practice early, eat, wash my clothes and take a morning nap before lunch.

I'm just generally pleased. While waiting to go into the shala, I caught of glimpse of Sharath's young son - who is too sweet. I was in the back of the lobby, waiting for the mat-space politics to play themselves out, when S told me to move closer to the door and go next. "No hiding," he said, and we all laughed.

During practice I worked hard in upward-facing dog, to open the middle back, and Warrior 1 and Prasarita C and Marichyasana A and C (hands off the back, arms straight) to open the shoulders. I also tried to use downward-facing dog to loosen the upper back, by moving the head towards the floor.

I held the backbends that come before Kapotasana a little longer than usual, and worked hard and each of them.

It paid off. On my second solo attempt at Kapotasana, my right fingertips touched something soft and strange. Then the left fingertips experienced a similar sensation. I was touching my toes! Without help. For the first time ever.

Then I heard Sharath: "Straight arms." And I did it, and he got the hands almost to the heels. Almost.

After coming up, I smiled broadly and told him "First time catching toes." There was no sensation in either arm.

S. said something like, "You take feet."

Coming, I said.

Because here, sometimes, anything seems possible.




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There probably won't be any post for a couple of days, since I'll be at QE's villa in India's IT capital, Bangalore - which, strangely, is not yet wired for the internet