chitta chatter

day 8

Posted in being human, India, photos, simple pleasures, things that make you say "whaaa?", yoga by Nancy on January 9, 2010

We’ve just started our second week in Mysore yet it seems like we’ve been here much longer. I’m starting to feel like I have some sort of handle on this town and our yoga asana classes with BNS Iyengar add an element of routine to our time here. We’ve done full primary series* every day for the last 7. The class goes by fast, so we’re back home by 7am, but it’s pretty exhausting. Not unlike dealing with the locals.

There’s some ridiculous number of languages spoken in India but I’d bet not one of them has a word for “subtle”. With all the yoga pilgrimages made by westerners to Mysore, you’d think they’d be used to us. But they literally stop what they’re doing and stare, mouths agape (no matter how modestly we’re dressed, behaving, etc.), and little kids will follow us down the street just saying “hi” over and over until they get a response.  Of course, to them, all westerners are Donald Trump (which, relatively speaking, isn’t entirely off-base), so we’re forever having to haggle for a fair deal… which I kind of enjoy, but only up to a point. Sure, we could probably afford to pay 100 rupees for what should be a 20 rupee rickshaw ride. But it adds up. And D and I are among the few here who have rent to pay back home.

But just like anywhere else, there are gems among the locals, too. Like Aunty, who serves the best food in town at the most ridiculously low prices ($1 for dinner with chai) with genuine, aunty-like hospitality. And Shanthala, who found us our apartment and wrote me a letter of reference for the cell phone company  that I’ll never put to use (more on that later). Even random strangers, like the guy who stopped us on our way home from class to ask where we were from and, when we told him, said, “Welcome to Mysore.” And meant it.

There’s a lot of filth and grime, but there’s a lot of almost otherworldly beauty here, too. The colors and patterns of the saris the women wear (even to herd sheep in). The Muslim call to prayer that we hear 4 or 5 times a day, every day, even during our walk to the yoga shala in the pre-dawn hours. The choir and organ music that accompany the mass at a nearby Catholic church, which I can hear as I type this. The vibrance of the Devaraja Market, where flowers, fruits, veggies, ceremonial paints, incense and essential oils bombard the senses. The graphics and package design of the beedies (hand-rolled cigarettes) you can buy on the streets.

Fine College, Ghaffar, and Ganesh brand beedis:

And then there are the flowers.

They have a thing for flowers here. Mainly a religious thing, I think, but a definite “thing” nonetheless. Every morning, the landlord of the bungalows where we’re staying sets a fresh flower on each windowsill. And flower wallahs with their giant, saucer-like baskets of blossoms already strung into garlands roam the neighborhoods at daybreak like some kind of trippy-hippy door-to-door salesmen. One of them greeted us as we came home from class the other morning and handed me a rose… which I set on the windowsill next to the narcissus(?) that was already there. Even BNS Iyengar hopped on his scooter after class that same morning cradling a rose (or was it a peony?) in his hand.

windowsill flowers:

crazy heart-shaped flower blooming from the banana tree that grows between our apartment and the Mandala:

Back to the cell phone… I thought it would be handy to have one here. I already had the unlocked GSM phone so all I needed to get was the Indian SIM card. Easier said than done. We went to the Airtel store last week and they told me I needed to bring them a copy of my passport and a letter of reference (Shanthala told me this was because of terrorism…???). Anyway, we went to see “3 Idiots” the other day and since the theatre was next door to Airtel, I figured I’d stop in and get the cell taken care of. Gave them the photocopy and the letter Shanthala wrote for me and they gave me a stack of SIM cards to choose my number from. Then they asked me for a passport sized photo. The copy wasn’t enough. And eventually, they would ask me to fill out a mile-long form, probably in triplicate. I gave up. We left and Daniel was laughing on the way out, muttering, “Bring me the broom of the Wicked Witch of the West!” Which pretty much sums up trying to get anything productive done here. Lesson learned. I shall remain unproductive for the duration of my stay.

Except for the “movie-making”. As promised, here are a few videos we put together over the past week… enjoy:

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* There are around 60 or 70 poses plus vinyasas—the transitions between the poses—in the ashtanga primary series. Then you can go on to the intermediate and advanced series if you’re a serious masochist. Here are the seated and finishing poses of primary series (sun salutations and standing poses not shown):

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