Saturday, June 26, 2004

Function week 

My neighbors refer to any social event, be it a concert or a lunch or a puja, as a “function”. This week, many functions are there as we gear up for Guruji’s big birthday bash next Friday and celebrate a whole bunch of birthdays this weekend and send off several people leaving over the next few days and a whole bunch immediately following the big celebration. Very reminiscent of the end of March, in that the heat and sun are here, together with conflicting same-day/time functions- except I feel so very-very different from those first few days, weeks. And so very-very blessed to have been here for three waves of yoga students, two seasons.

My humble littleplace will be hosting a function itself, tomorrow, with a talented kirtan-wallah from the US roping in flute and tabla from local musicians followed by a potluck dinner. Emptying out modest living room to make space for straw mats and clearing out second bedroom/“boudoir” to fit fridge and coffee table and diwan couch base that will serve as buffet area. Diwan itelf will rest on floor. Practicing packing, as more clothes than I’ve known what to do with and more cosmetics than I’ve succumbed to using hide in suitcase and rucksack and diwan couch base. Handy, that diwan couch. Playing scullery maid as steps are swept and floors mopped and counters scrubbed for my guests tomorrow. So excited to be finally having more than a couple of other people over at one time- something my euphemism for a studio apartment in NY does not allow for. Little neighborhood will not know what hits it tomorrow as bare-shouldered and –legged Westerners start arriving in droves and sweet bhajans start pouring out open doors and windows. So happy to be opening up my home and heart to everyone who comes.

Postscript- speaking of open hearts, Richard, my very first teacher whose teachings I spent much gold pursuing around the US, is here for just over a week with his family. Was thrilled to run into them a few days earlier than expected, last night, and spend some stolen moments catching up and getting caught up. Much love is there, still.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

All passing 

Where do all the butterflies go when it is rainy? Do they hide and protect their shiny wings behind rocks and under leaves in anticipation of the rain to come? I thought the zillions of powdery light airborne kamikazis had reached the end of their fragile lives. Then we had a day that let the sun shine for a couple of hours and they appeared out of nowhere, knocking into my head and flitting about as if there was never a cloud or raindrop to impede their flight. Since then, we have had a string of spectacular warmer sunny pooldays- has the monsoon passed, already?

The seed of the idea of the passing nature of everything has been planted; I have found myself less, nay hardly, affected by a "bad" practiceday or cloudyday or disappointment since the landscape around and inside is teaching me it all passes, anyway. The butterflies go and come back, anyway.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Cloudy Sunday 

I love Sundays here. Just like in NY, there’s a luxuriously leisurely pace to everything I do (ie just short from comatose, being that stuff gets done pretty slowly here as it is), with everyone starting together for 5am Primary Series practice (led by Sharath), then a chance to watch the big boys and girls play as they go about Intermediate Series (led by Guruji). Home for a freshen- and tidy-upper, then off to the organic market at the Green Hotel, which is like the NY Stock Exchange with a bell that is rung with pomp right at 10 and a crowd eagerly awaiting to start buying from the vendor of choice. It is hectic, again by Mysore standards, with Indian ladies polyphonously directing their servants at one booth as they haggle at another, and yoga students not-aggressively poised to pounce on stall of choice. Usually buy my wholegrain bread and crunchy peanut butter from the Western lady who’s been here for my lifetime and run for the cover of the patio, where full breakfast is served and I enjoy a mammoth fruit platter of bananas and papaya and apple and tangerines and pineapple with small bucket of curd.

In the afternoon, we have conference with Guruji, which is a formalized weekly version of back when he used to sit at the old shala and read the paper and yogastudents would go and sit with him and sometimes ask questions. Now we all get together and see each other in non-sweaty clothing and catch up and sit around the low stage where Guruji’s chair is, Sharath seated to one side. Guruji waits for questions and usually speaks on one or two topics that invariably lead him to at some point include “you take practice, practice, practice…”. The neighborhood noise and his unique command on English ensure that one can get every other word, but since he tends to speak on some of the same subjects, between a few sessions you end up with a more or less complete picture. Today he spoke a little of the three gunas and ended with “99% and a half practice, only half percent theory”, ending with “you take practice, practice, practice”… It feels sweet and special, having the chance to be here and hear him speak and see him smile and say to him, “Thank you, Guruji”. And, “Thank you, Sharath”. Thank you.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Not me 

Many whose accounts of India and their Mysore experience I have read of or heard about consist largely of complaints- how sick I am feeling and how I am sick of the leering, and feeling weak and lonely, and being homesick and ache-y. When this trip is the flower of years of wishing and dreaming and something many spend a lifetime hoping for- as I thought I would.

Monday, June 07, 2004

One more! 

Today was the first day Guruji and Sharath got to call out "one more!!" as they sent someone who finished practice off to do finishing, and a spot in the practice room was made available for the next person waiting in the hall. Maybe a dozen new arrivals over the weekend, as the momentum of people arriving in higher numbers, here for Guruji's birthday and beyond, starts to build a little. I welcome it, and am relishing practicing in a room alive with bodies in motion, mat to mat.

As I was happily driving along yesterday, what felt like a shard of glass dropped from the fifth floor embedded itself right over my right eye. Chanting owowowOWOWOW! I pull over and have a look in the rearview mirror and pull out a bee or hornet stinger, replete with little bug-guts. I now have a sizable bump over my right eyebrow, so the scab of a mosquito bite half an inch away need not feel lonely anymore. So much for a coupla months in India transforming the exterior; still waiting for the skinny bendy tanned Tina that would emerge, enlightened. OK and happy with the Tina that still is, though, mosquito bumps and all.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Night horses 

Haven't watched the sun rise as the moon sets in too many years. Had the chance to this morning, as doorsteps were swept and dirty bits cleaned and puppies played in the soft greyblue light that washed over everything and I let hot coffee warm my chilled insides. Have felt cold quite a bit, these last few days; temperatures drop as night falls and I find myself seeking the comfort of a soft sweatshirt or bright shawl to envelop and warm me.

Guess this is it, the home stretch. The seven or so weeks I have left don’t seem like very much at all anymore, and paying for my last month’s tuition at the shala very soon will surely bring it all home: my time in India is on the wane.

Have missed: good cheese. Decent wine. The option of short skirts and higher heels and pretty dresses. Old friends. Singing on the quiet subways en route to practice. Neighbor’s cat greeting me on the landing as I come home. Swimming in a salty clear sea. Hot sun on bare shoulders. $5 slices of pizza. Unabashedly guzzling cold clean water straight from the tap. Having a trough-full of mixed greens followed by not-too-sweet ice-cream. Decent chocolate. Meals at City Diner. AA batteries for my Discman that last beyond half an hour. Just-made bagels and cream cheese. Post-practice early Sunday brunch. Not being scrutinized wherever I go.

Much easier, what I know I’ll miss: saying “thank you” to Guruji every morning. Driving through dark fields under skies bright with stars en route to practice. Neighbors’ dogs and kids greeting me as I come home. Chettanah’s sweet voice ringing out Goodnight from across the street when I call it a night. Spicy thali meals and dinky laddoos loaded with nuts and fruit and ghee and syrup. Shots of chai and coffee available for two or three roops everywhere. Roadside coconuts. Fun signs and sayings everywhere. Saturday sunrise. Sunday led class. New friends. Temple music riding the morning breeze. Women in the brightest of colors balancing the most improbable objects on their heads. Choosing which temple I am “feeling” today- there are Kali/Durga, fancy Ganesha, low-key Ganesha, Siva and Narasimha all within minutes form home. Enjoying a lungful of sandalwood incense- sometimes immediately followed by a blast of fresh cow dung. Flower wallah’s cry of “Ouaiiii” and sadhu’s woeful cries in the mornings. Dodging dancing butterflies as I chase clouds on Scooty. Playing Frogger as I weave in and out of traffic in town, each venture an adrenalin-filled surprise replete with new images and vistas. Taking rest after practice in the quiet of the dim loft of the ladies’ dressing room. The anticipation building in the minutes pre-practice as we quietly await the guard to let us file into the shala. Two-dollar hair oil massage. Glass bangles at twenty cents per dozen. Garlands of sweet jasmine at five roops per meter for my hair or flower floating pot or strung over my entrance or wrapped around Scooty or placed in a crystal bowl on coffee table, filing my place with the smell of Greece. Having neighbor-now-friend Ellie a name-call away across the street. Troops of black- and brown-bristled pigs with their four or six or nine offspring trotting across the street, tails wagging. Pastel walls and soft light. Altars and temples everywhere. Hot afternoons subdued by sudden cooling downpours. Just-made peanut-butter and toast at breakfast. Having time to and for myself. Having legions of clouds within view. Scrawny roosters importantly announcing dawn’s arrival- two hours early. Smiling neighbors. Being called madam or aunty. Letting the bright breeze or jugfull of hot water wash away everything. Lunches at Gita’s and dinners at Tina’s. Smiling dark eyes and choruses of “HiYEE!” and “Whatsyername” wherever I go.

Even though I will take it all with me, even though I know I will come back, leaving will be hard.

O lente, lente, currite noctis equi. From Ovid: Run slowly, slowly, horses of the night. Said horses pull Time’s chariot, and he wants the night to stretch out so he can spend more time with his mistress.

India is my mistress, since New York has my heart and Greece is my soul.

O lente, lente, currite noctis equi.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Midweek moonday 

Sun rising a little after six amidst candyfloss clouds in skies of liquid honey. Last night’s rains left the ground moist, leaves shiny, breeze cool in the morning light. Have been allowing for more time by myself, to myself. The me that had to speak to thirty people before lunch is starting to slowly accept and relish that it’s OK to be quiet, alone, for a while. To drive around in the general direction but not the direct road to where I am going. To spend half an hour, an hour even, “just” reading (currently sinking teeth into Margaret Atwood’s “The Blind Assassin” as I work on Alexander Frater’s “Chasing the Monsoon” and finishing Chapter I of the Baghavad Gita and attempting to memorize, or at least chant somewhat correctly, Chapter I of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras). To go up to my roof, just to see what shapes the clouds are taking at the moment. To take a moment to see how many stars I can catch at moonset as I leave for practice a little after 4:30. To be a serial monotasker, where it’s fine to just be tackling one errand, task, person, project at a time rather than attempt to tidy up as I brush my teeth and plan my day.

Was happy and excited for the two groups leaving town for the moonday at breakfast yesterday, while sharing little desire to be joining them. One batch is visiting Hampi about eight hours away and missing two days of classes, the other off to Bylakuppe, a Tibetan settlement a couple of hours away. We daytripped out that way last Saturday. Two vans, fifteen people plus drivers, one afternoon of changing scenery and new imagery as we joined the Indian tourists visiting the Golden Temple, a vast hall with three massive (gilt?) Buddhas reflecting light and attracting sparrows. We stayed for a puja, had a fancy (South Indian, since we were gravely informed by our driver Nataraj that all Tibetan food is prepared in meat-fat) meal, visited a second temple, got caught in a dramatic downpour, holed up in a shop where many thousands of Rupees changed hands, gabbed the entire way back to Mysore. I think, the first time I’ve left the city since I arrived two and a half months ago. Felt really good.

Want to plan a nice trip for next weekend moonday; either a trip to the southernmost state of Kerala (Amachi’s?) or to the lush coffee plantationland in Coorg (any recommendations?). Today, happy taking it easy in observance of the full moon, just resting up and going to chanting classes. Sanskrit is on hiatus for a couple of weeks, but I have also started attending Jai Shree’s classes in Laxmipuram. Lady in question is a magnificent professor and fabulous singer who lets a handful of yogastudents crash her library as she leads us through chanting the first fifty or so Yoga Sutras over a couple of hours. Ready to take it and run with it and have a little structure to my mornings, three times a week. So nice to have a bunch of fellow-students, as the class at the shala has dwindled down to just a couple of us, where there were about thirty-something back in February.

Find myself wanting to take a picture of every cloud I catch, as they put on a spectacular show at all hours of the day, under an azure or charcoal or burnt butter sky.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Dodging butterflies 

Yesterday saw an orgy of black and white and yellow and white Monarch butterflies appearing all over town by the hundreds, banging into my hair and smashing into Scooty and flying into my face as I drove around the neighboring suburbs and filling the blue-blue skies and Simpsons clouds with movement and life.

Last week was an interesting week, one that I am happy to see off in the distance as I forge ahead. One friend ended up very sick in hospital, another a complete stranger after all. Capped by my collapsing with the first upset stomach since coming here: alien of an amoeba hatching in my guts, generating two days of diarrhea and sulphur burps and weakness shocking in both intensity and relentlessness. Had it continued for a third day I would’ve sought out a doc and meds, but the whole ordeal slunk away as swiftly and unexpectedly as it surfaced. Perhaps my body was just purging itself of unpleasantness and sadness absorbed in the preceding days.

Have been exceedingly excited to be embarking on my third of four months at the shala. And immensely grateful to have one more to go after this one. Last week’s last day of Mysore (self-) practice saw me firmly holding both ankles in urdhva dhanurasana. This is a bridge posture where you push up with palms and feet into an upside-down “U” shape, then walk your hands in towards feet to slowly intensify the backbend, eventually making more of an “O” shape- thus the heel and ankle-grabbing (and someday, maybe, calf or higher as the back, and maybe heart, open). Slowly opening up to these teachers, this practice (which is different-but-the-same from the one I enjoy back home), this space. Growing to love some of the people, here, and finally practice is finally the joy-full and sparkling highlight of my days as it is in New York. Most days, at least.

This is definitely going somewhere, with these small seeds and these new starts for the taking, most everywhere. Monsoon, (derived from the Arabic word for "season": mausim) is viewed as a period of rejuvenation and reaffirmation of life, a time when body an dmind heal best. This wedding season is also a time prime for spiritual cleansing, as nature and crops and people blossom and grow. So grateful and happy to be here, now. Still.

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