Saturday, July 31, 2004

These days 

Day before yesterday, sat at a cafe with the sea on three sides with my dad and his sister and watched the moon get bright on the water. I drank Perrier and stole a good few spoonfulls of aunt Maro's ice-cream, while Zym enjoyed a gin and tonic. On the way back, we stopped for souvlakis- mine was without the souvlaki- tomato and tzatziki and onion and french fries in a grilled pita.

Yesterday, visited my cousin's home in a village a little outside of town. She and her husband had their meal while I held their as-yet-unnamed four month old son. I took a walk in their fields of gold and ventured into the henhouse, an elaborate affair about seven thousand times the size of my studio in New York, squatted and watched the chickens and bunny rabbits scampering about around me.

Today, donned a blue jean mini skirt under a pale pink strappy top and went to the beach with the parental unit. We lounged on crimson beach chairs while the waves sang to us and children ran by. We ate at a taverna that's been around since the 1930s and lapped at our ice creams in the soft afternoon sun.

Beginning to enjoy moments here more and mourn for what was, less. It's all still here, anyway.

Friday, July 30, 2004


Sad, I am; soft, I am pensive, quiet I am.  Never imagined the adjustment period and process would be as protracted or as dramatic as they have been.  Guess I must be clinging a little, changing, some. 

Here is a magnificent island, one of the largest in Greece, in the northeastern Aegean; you can see the trees on Turkey's west coast on a clear day, and pretend to try to swim to it on an ambitious one, until the cool deep waters get a little too dark, too unknown, and you retreat to the safety of the hot-pebbled shore, vowing to go a little further, a little deeper next time.  But then you don’t come back for many years and the unfathomable depths seem a little deeper, a little darker and the shore a little brighter, a little safer each time.  So maybe you don’t venture out to the deep, or can’t swim as far or as fast as you once did, by the time you do. 

Staying with my father’s sister, Aunt Maro, about five minutes from the house my dad shares with my stepmother and her mother, next door to another aunt who dotes on me and cries at me almost every time she sees me- which is about three times a day.  They are all feeding me like I have not eaten in years.  Actually, many of the things I am being fed, I have not eaten in years.  Sometimes it feels like I have not eaten in years.  Yesterday, I shouted a gleeful “Hiyee!” to a sightseeing red and yellow choochoo train-full of kids and parents.  No-one responded or waved back.

Mysore as I knew it:
Wake up at 3:30 a.m., 3:50 if Angrydrunkman across the way kept the neighborhood up last night with his ranting [“chlaamaa pariyallla pushtramalva- PHTOOO!!”, most frequently with trousers floating somewhere around his ankles].  Have coffee while water in bucket heats; take bath, dress, enjoy ride to shala for 4:45 practice (shalaclock is fifteen minutes late).  After practice, if Sharath and Guruji are still teaching, hang out outside and watch and absorb and learn.  Then coconut, or not, and shower/change/do housework, or not.  Breakfast around 8, 9, for half an hour or two hours.  Nap or housework Sutras class at 11 with Jai Shree in town.  Big lunch, typically a thali meal with a little bit of everything- flatbreads and rice and two or three kinds of veggie stews or curries and a couple of veggie/lentil broths.  Nap or homework or reading or driving around, until 4:45 when I have class at the shala three days a week for chanting and Sanskrit.  Otherwise I will “do” email or hang out at home or drive around or visit with friends or watch the sky.  Dinner is usually a light meal, rava idli with a lot of lemon juice and a mango lassi if I am hungry and it is early, or some fruit and milk or biscuits or nuts and dates.  Tina’s is not serving dinners anymore until further notice, so it is usually Green Leaf or Gokul Chats or home. Neighborhood noise levels allowing, bedtime is sometime between 8 and 10. 

Chios as I once knew it:
Wake-up is around 11- give or take, usually give, a couple of hours.  Coffee either at home or at one of the dozens of cafes dotting the port, a few minutes down the hill.  Usually home, since it is one of the few occasions to actually spend time with the family.  Breakfast is usually not much, maybe a cheesepie or some cookies.  Beach time is shortly thereafter, or whenever I’ve sufficiently recovered to face the daylight.  At the beach, sit at one of several cafes dotting the shore or get to know my beach towel really well as I sink my face in it.  Slowly, friends join in, and by 3 or 4 we have enough for a game of beach volleyball.  By 4 or 5, we also have enough to head up to the café and start on the beers.  Until twilight, which nowadays is after 8.  Dinner follows, either with the crew at a taverna- usually a little bit of everything— bread, fish, meat, cheese, spreads, salads, more bread.  And booze; ouzo or beer are the players now.  Home for a nap and maybe some time with the family, and then I will meet up with the gang after midnight.  We will drink and shout over music and go from café to bar to outdoor club until 3 or 4 in the morning.  Often, after all that drinking, a heavy meal is called for before bedtime, so we go to “Bel Air” on the port for soups and pasta.  Once in a while, we will take off in a few cars and go swimming instead, coming home still damp at 5 or 6 or later. 

I cannot partake, at the moment.  Want to, but am biding my time a little, shifting my hours a lot.  Getting used to doing stuff after 6pm- yesterday I went to a beach at 5, and wondered that so many people were just getting started.  Here, women spill out of  unimaginably tight and short and sheer clothes and straddle motorbikes in minis and swear and drape their limbs over their men and smoke ostentatiously and drink feverishly.  Here, I can have salads and cheese and fruit and wine [and cheese!] and wear tanktops and short skirts as I wean myself of covering up shoulders and legs, bit by bit.  Here, I can go to beach and talk to daddyZym and kiss my aunt and watch the light dancing on the water. 

Here, too, the fattened moon and dazzling Venus play their elaborate flirting games in skies of shades without names and stars without number.  Here, too, the household’s eldest women do the morning prayers and tend to the household deity.    Here, too, the popular boys have big bikes and many get things done on their colorful Scooties.  Here, too, people are big of heart and warm of spirit, short in word and long in gesture and hospitable and endlessly concerned with whether you ate and further fascinated to hear what you ate and greet you with “had your lunch/breakfast/dinner?”- every day.  Here, too, most traditional households boast at least one Afro’d basil (“vassilikos”, in India: “tulsi”).  Like the jasmine that also grows here in abundance, it smells very much the same although it looks quite different.  So many things are fundamentally the same, here, even though they appear a little different.  I am just looking for those similarities and trying to find where the bridges are hidden.  


Sunday, July 18, 2004

Moonless night 

Last night the new moon was hidden, unmanifest and quiet in the stillness of dark skies. Last night the Ram temple on KRS Road saw a huge to-do for this special no-moon night, with hundreds praying and receiving blessings. Last night, for the first Saturday night since I’ve been here, Angry Drunk Man stayed sober (or in any case, quiet), with only a dog bark or gentle murmur stirring the soft silence of my little neighborhood. Last night, two boys gave me a tiny plastic bell-shaped pendant with Shiva depicted on one side, Vishnu as Narasimha on the other and I cried for the first time since I’ve been here. Thanked them, went up to my roof, sat down under black sky and just let it go.

Kiran and Ragu live in a small coconut tree branch thatch-roofed shack next door with their older sister and mother and cat and dog. They have a fire on the floor and do their washing-up in the front, just off the street. Don’t know where their father is. I do know their mom’s face is disfigured by severe burn marks, that she cleans and does laundry for my landlady for 30 Rupees a day. I know the boys ventured upstairs, the night I had people over, asking for money and food. I was angry. Rules had been broken, boundaries tested, planned lecture and scolding. Said lecture died a violent death when the boys scuttled over to the garbage dump as soon as the party’s aftermath was dumped the next morning, triumphantly running home to show off the trophies of plastic cups and spoons and large water container we’d used for ghee popcorn. I know the boys broke my heart, that day.

I’ve grown to love those boys. Kiran is a little monkey of six or eight with stick-out ears and buck teeth and clothes that are always three sizes too big. He helps his mom with errands and carrying stuff and plays spinning top with thread-needle-eggplant and flying kite with captured butterfly-tethered-to-thread. Kiran helps bring my groceries or laundry upstairs and I give him chocolate or crazy-ball or pop-rocks. Ragu is a tall ten or twelve, very distinguished looking and painfully, Bollywood superstar handsome. He hangs out with his friends and helps his mom. One morning, when he saw me plucking pink flowers from a nearby shrub, Ragu surprised me with two fiery crimson hibiscus blossoms to add to the clay flower-floating pot on my landing. The boys don’t go to school. Even though education is free, books and the mandatory uniforms cost money the family does not have. I’ve talked to Tina. She has sent seven such kids to school, with the help of better-off well-meaning yoga students from abroad. She can talk to their mom, see if there can be a commitment from them to start and stay in school. The money would go directly to the school. But they’d have to want to. And we’d have to go through with this. Because I am not here. Cannot be here. I can’t be here, anymore.

In my mind, I’ve already gone. Lists to do and ask and see and say and I find myself grasping and buying and grabbing and being sad. Even though I said I wouldn’t. Of course I am sad. Even though most of the students I got close to have left already, with only a couple left leaving this week and next and then it will be all “new students”. Even though I will be with my cherished much-missed family in a paradise of hot sun and cool seas and fresh fruit and veggies (Uncooked! Unscrubbed! Unpeeled!) and more sunrises and sunsets and love, so much love. Even though I am working on viewing all this as a beginning, not an ending, as my beloved Sutras teacher Jai Shree said. Of course I am sad. These rooms, these people, this place have been my world, my rituals, since March. While I’ve been here, puppies who would not survive have grown into skinny tenacious dogs. The lot next door transformed into a two-storey building. My hair got longer, then real short. Tina’s kids have gotten bigger, almost too big to play airplane with. Are we ever too big to play airplane? I sure hope not.

So completely comfortable, happy, at ease here- at the shala and the green market and in town and at Tina’s and at home and on Scoooty and in conference and at temple. Of course I am.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Guruji's birthday 

So good, this being here business. Enjoying what I've discovered must be the ultimate in luxuries: to follow one’s whims and listen to what needs to be done for you- eat when you are hungry, rest when tired, explore when adventurous, retreat when contemplative, socialize when outgoing and stay quiet when not. In real life (or, in any case, most people’s realities), so much time is spent stifling desires and needs and working when tired or going out when you just want to stay home and spreading yourself thin, so thin. Many do that here, also. It is very easy to do, going from post-practice coconuts to breakfast to shopping to massage to lunch to emailing to coffee to dinner to sleep without a moment’s pause and quiet. Easier. But there is space and time for other, also. Start to still and listen and make time and space for whatever may come or wash away from these weather-weary shores. These waters are crystal clear and cool and deep.

As I embark on my twilight days of my time here, at just over two weeks to go, it’s all bonus time from hereon out. Pretty much said my farewells, counted blessings, accepted what is a while ago. Slate is cleaned and there for anything else still coming, these last days. What has been coming is deepening relationships and open heart and happy eyes. Can’t hope for too much more than that. Actually, exactly what, if anything, I’d hoped to attain while here: enough strength and heart to spill over and share with others and sustain that state until I can come back and replenish. When I was leaving New York, I worried much about the returning. How I will have less than no money and no job awaiting me. Less worried, now. I can weather this, and that, too. Hopefully score a waitressing gig or three and work my butt off and see how I can do this all over again. All of this. And that, too.

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