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.

That post made me cry...like I said in my last email, India gets under your skin, in your bones, in your heart.

Safe journey,
Hi Tina,

I came upon your blog whilst reading up some about yoga and thouroughly enjoyed reading the posts about your time in Mysore. Split my sides reading/hearing sounds that are uniquely Indian ( I am Indian so I know believe me ) Chhhhhlaaack-FwahTOOO sounds so familiar , it took me back home for an instant.
Glad to know you enjoyed being there.

Hi George, and thank you for your note. It is incredibly gratifying to hear that an image or a phrase resonated. Am hoping to discover more of India in the next couple of years.

With blessings, Tina Z
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