chitta chatter

more dharma gypsys

Posted in film, India, LA, meditation, music, yoga by Nancy on April 11, 2010

Some vids for you:

We shot the footage for Krishna Govinda in Mysore (and by “we” I mean mostly D), then Tommy Stewart (percussion) stitched it all together:

Check out the guy that wanders into my frame and sits down next to D around 2:22… dude didn’t even ask for “currency!” He was probably just curious as to what this white boy was doing playing guitar on the street in his pajamas.

Tommy shot this one himself during recording sessions at the Karma Kitchen in Hollywood:

Dharma Gypsys are:
Katrina Chester (TSO, Luxx, Janis Joplin in “Love, Janis”) – vocals
Tommy Stewart (Godsmack, Fuel, LoPro, Everclear) – percussion
Robert Gamboa (The Deep Eynde) – bass: tracks 1, 3, 4, 9 & 10
Scotland Stephenson (ALSO) – percussion: tracks 8 & 11
Danielle Mays (VAST, Watts Ensemble, Trulio Disgracias) – flute, bassoon: tracks 1 & 5
DJ Soul Junkie – turntables: tracks 6 & 8
Daniel Overberger (The Deep Eynde) – guitar, vocals, bass, shruti box, Rhodes

Dharma Gypsys’ Volume One: Music for Yoga, Meditation and General House Cleaning is available on iTunes, CDBaby, Amazon and pretty much anywhere you download music.

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Well, two of them are anyway. Read Nancy Alder’s review on Elephant Journal here and Brian’s review on Daily Cup of Yoga here.


dharma gypsys

Posted in apple, India, LA, meditation, music, simple pleasures, yoga by Nancy on March 12, 2010

Shameless plug alert:

Daniel’s new album just went up on CDBaby and iTunes* today!  It’s like Zeppelin and Floyd had a baby whose nanny was Krishna Das. Bit of a departure from the death rock of days of yore. Check it:

* Oh, and P.S. — WTF is with the Apple overlords forcing Safari down our throats by making it the only way to access the iTunes store? Well, guess who just lost a sale to CDBaby. Even if I didn’t mind using Safari (which I do), I’d have to upgrade my system software for another $50 or more.

Don’t even act like it’s the first time you’ve pulled this shit, Apple. I’m getting a little tired of all the extortion. I’ve been happily loyal to you for over 12 years, but you’re losing me. Fast.


Posted in India, photos by Nancy on February 10, 2010

Mysore, India

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firsts and lasts

Posted in food, India, photos, yoga by Nancy on February 1, 2010

Last night was our last dinner at Aunty’s. Her uncle is sick so she has to go to Bangalore today and we won’t get to see her again before we leave. I was really glad we brought the sweets we got her last night instead of waiting until our last night here.

Turned out everyone else we had invited to “the last supper” decided to show up last night instead, as well. Almost everyone in our yoga class was there. Aunty was running around like the proverbial headless chicken trying to get us all served, but was clearly delighted to have all these new customers. We’ll both sorely miss Aunty and her fine south Indian food.

Earlier in the day, we had one last lunch with Elisa who’s just back from leading a photo tour through south India. The driver she hired for the tour started off by taking them to shiny, sanitized, touristy spots until she explained to him that, since this was a photo tour, they were after something with a bit more character. “Oh, you want old and broken!” he said. It was a request he had no problem accommodating.

We also batted around ideas with her for the upcoming ‘round-the-world Odanadi event (called “Yoga Stops Traffick”… wish I’d thought of the name) as D will be heading up the LA contingent. Then we were off to Devaraja Market for some last-minute shopping and to pick up the sweets for Aunty from Bombay Indra Bhavan… a shop she turned us onto. “They use ghee in everything!” she gushed. “Sold,” said I.

This morning’s was our last class with Iyengar.  We’re now sitting down to our last breakfast at the Mandala. We’ll also probably take our last rickshaw ride today. One last bucket bath. Have our last regularly scheduled power outage for a while. And hopefully it’s the last time for a very long time that I’ll have to get up at 4:30 in the morning. So many lasts.

But it was also my very first trip to India. And I have a brand spankin’ new appreciation for LA because of it. Looking forward to getting back to real life. In the Land of Make Believe.

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Scenes from our last morning in Mysore:


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“i see white people”

Posted in being human, film, India, photos by Nancy on January 31, 2010

In case anyone was still wondering if the movie gig would ever pan out, it finally did yesterday. For me, anyway. D couldn’t go because he had already confirmed with his meditation teacher for his final class. Plus, he’s done some extra work before (in Hollywood, not Bollywood) and found it mind-numbingly boring. 1000 rupees wasn’t going to persuade him otherwise. So off I went—along with our friend, Yishai, from the Mandala—to make my film debut.

We were essentially playing ourselves… white tourists. The shoot was at the Mysore Palace (not Lalitha Mahal) and we just had to walk around in the background of the star’s scenes. Whether we stay off the cutting room floor remains to be seen, but there’s a good chance at least one of our scenes will end up in the film.

Being the only white folks on set in a country where white skin is so prized that they openly sell and use skin whitening creams, we got special treatment. It got to be a little weird at times. (Yishai summed it up thusly: “We’re like the dwarf in the dream sequence.”) But we did get to meet and talk with the writer/director (who said his last film won 3 awards at some indie film fest in the US), the cinematographer, the script writer, the producer’s wife, the assistant director and many more… all of whom seemed very aware of our presence and concerned that we were having a good time.

On that front, I wouldn’t say it was mindnumbingly boring… it was cool to see the process and all the detail that goes into getting the shot. And I must say this crew rocked it out. They seemed to be having a great time yet they were clearly working their asses off. And they actually got everything done on schedule. We wrapped at 4:30, as promised. Never would’ve happened in Hollywood. Not the efficiency. Not me being hired as an extra. None of it.

Anyway, the film is called Mani Manjari (no one could translate that for us, but the closest we got was that “mani” means pearl and “manjari” is an affectionate slang term for a woman or for femininity). It’s a family drama, so—to our great dismay—there were no splashy Bollywood dance numbers to look forward to. But the writer/director seemed like a serious dude, so maybe it has some depth to it. And the shots I saw on the monitor looked really cool… a few even Amelie-esque.

No word on the release date, but until then, here are some shots of what went on behind the scenes:

the star in her freak-out moment:

star and director discuss the next scene:

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fear and loathing in Mysore

Posted in India, photos, things that make you say "whaaa?" by Nancy on January 28, 2010

First, the fear. It didn’t spring from any death-defying rickshaw ride or parasitic infection. Not even the Indian retail experience could bring it on.  No, this fear was 100% made in America.

I had the hair-brained idea today that I ought to check my credit card balance online to make sure everything was copascetic. I had used the card to get some cash several days ago at an HSBC Bank ATM and I wanted to see if I had been charged any kind of international bullshit fee. Having heard certain people who pass themselves off as Mysore travel experts say that it’s not safe to use ATMs in India—and doubting that line almost entirely, but not quite—I figured I’d be plenty safe using an ATM at a major international bank like HSBC. So I was none too pleased when I saw that the “recent activity” report listed not one but two 7000-rupee cash advances (one a slightly higher amount in US dollars than the other due to the different conversion rates at the times they posted).

Since we don’t have a cellie (thanks, Airtel), D and I scurried off to find a landline phone. Mysore’s yellow public phones are everywhere—even hanging from tree trunks—outnumbered only by yellow cows. So it didn’t seem like a big hairy deal. But even the most insignificant task becomes a major undertaking here. We soon learned that the yellow phones are for local calls only. For anything else, you have to use the ISD phones. Which are harder to find and, of course, require electricity… in a city with round-the-clock power outages.

So after trudging around under the hot midday sun and slicing my foot open on a sharp rock sticking out of the busted up sidewalk, we finally found an ISD phone at the Apollo Pharmacy (where they speak great English and you can get some serious antibiotics—or most any prescription drug you want—without a prescription, and at a sixteenth of the price we pay in the US). But time was not on our side: “No power,” they told us.

We headed home, comforted by the fact that we at least knew where we could make the call once the power came back on. When we got back, our neighbor Dennis offered us the use of his Skype account and I was finally able to contact the bank. They told me that “pending” charges still appear on the recent activity report even after they’ve posted (and are no longer pending). They only purge them once a week, so it only LOOKS like a duplicate charge. But it isn’t.

So it wasn’t a rogue Indian bank employee that caused all this injury and upheaval. Just good old American incompetence.

I am relieved now, though, and about to fill my belly with Aunty’s food. The loathing will have to wait for another post.

In the meantime, here’s a gratuitous monkey pic:

“Let’s get down to brass tacks… how much for the ape?”

the foreign legion

Posted in being human, India, yoga by Nancy on January 26, 2010

It’s taken about a week and a half (since my back injury), but Monday morning I got my chakrasana back! The first one I did in slow motion, but by the third, it was clean and relatively strong. I was also able to do the 9 rolls in Garba Pindasana without pain. Now if I could just get my jump-throughs back…

After practice, I pretty much slept the day away, apart from eating and hanging out at the Mandala café. There’s usually an interesting crowd over there, though… people from all over the world converging on little ol’ Mysore just to be yoga bums for a while. Aside from me and D, there are a few other Americans here right now (from Berkeley, Wisconsin and Seattle). Also several Aussies. A few Brits. An Italian. A couple of Swiss folks (who are not a couple). An Iranian girl who came to India to study yoga at university but dropped out and has been creating her own “curriculum” ever since. There’s an Israeli guy who’s been part of our morning coffee klatch, along with the hysterically funny Spaniard who desperately needs his own sitcom. Then there are 2 Icelandic guys who just showed up a few days ago (they’ve been traveling around India for 6 weeks and have covered a lot of ground in that short time) and are studying with Iyengar in the 7am time slot.

When we were planning this trip and trying to decide where we wanted to look for housing, D really wanted to be near the Mandala. I can see why. I mean, it’s great to live amongst the locals and all, but in India—or at least in Mysore—you’ll never really be an insider. Certainly not in a matter of months. So sometimes you just need to be with people you understand, who understand you. Who know what it’s like being a stranger in an even stranger land. And those are the people you’ll meet at the Mandala. The few, the proud, the fehringes.

We could have chosen to live in Gokulam, but it’s a very different scene up there (Gokulam is a Mysore suburb that grew up around Pattabhi Jois’ shala). It doesn’t appear to be flooded with white people, but it’s definitely set up for us. You can get a real latte there, French toast and sushi (not together), live in a clean flat with all the western conveniences, including A/C… and the locals—knowing full well which side their bread is buttered on—seem a bit more accepting of the white interlopers. I can see why so many western yogis enjoy it so much. It’s quite the little holiday up there. But then, that’s not really India, is it?

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the weekend that was

Posted in India, simple pleasures, yoga by Nancy on January 25, 2010

Friday 4:30am: Still sleeping. For a change. Iyengar added another time slot (7am) a few days ago to accommodate the influx of students, so we decided to try the later class thinking it wouldn’t be as crowded since most people didn’t seem to know about it yet. (It was only a slightly smaller group, but D and I were the most advanced practitioners in the room. I prefer to practice with people more experienced than I am… then I feel like I can slack if I want to.)

Friday 5:30pm: Aunty had mentioned today was a holiday (but a minor one, apparently, since no one was closing up shop). So when we arrived for dinner, the first thing she brought out was not piping hot chapatis, but a jasmine garland which she pinned in my hair (the customary holiday hair accessory).

Saturday 10am: Off to Gokulam and a going-away brunch at Anohki Gardens for our neighbors, Viola and Anna. Viola has been a constant source of entertainment and a veritable font of information—Shanthala calls her the BBC—during our stay. Good people.

Saturday noonish – Headed over to the Devaraja Market to pick up D’s pants at the tailor, shoot some more video and do some more shopping. D wanted to pick up some incense at a shop he’d been to back in 2006 that was run by a bunch of kids/teens. The same “kids” are still running the joint today:

left: April 2006 / right: January 2010

I bought some essential oils from them and we had a leisurely afternoon sipping chai and sniff-testing all the different scents they sell. Imran (the oldest) said their oils last all day because they’re not diluted with alcohol. He was being modest. Even after Sunday morning’s class, I still smelled like a perfume counter.

Sunday – Lazy. Like this (but with Gandhis instead of Hamiltons… and Laddu standing in for cupcakes).

best, worst and definitions

Posted in India, simple pleasures, yoga by Nancy on January 24, 2010

Well, our movie career has been postponed until further notice. Seems some dignitary decided to roll up to the Lalitha Mahal the morning of the shoot, so the film crew was forced to cancel. If they can reschedule during the week before we leave, we may yet get our big Bollywood break. Otherwise, it’s back to toiling in obscurity.

In the meantime, I’m compiling a list of the best and worst of Mysore, as well as an Iyengar-to-English dictionary. Here’s what I have so far:

Best Sweets — Varalakshmi Sweets & Tiffanys. Mom-n-pop (with son, Sunil) joint near JSS Hospital in swingin’, downtown Lakshmipuram. They always offer me samples, even of the things I’m already buying. Sugar pushers. Love ’em.

Best Meal — Dinner at Aunty’s. You get 2 or 3 vegetable dishes plus 3 chapatis for 50 rupees. And she keeps piling the veggies on your plate until you tell her to stop. Aunty rules.

Best Wildlife — Monkeys roaming—and thieving—freely through the city

Worst Wildlife — Mosquitos; there’s even a new mosquito-borne disease that resembles Dengue fever but isn’t… takes months to get over it.

Worst Inconveniences — Power outages all day long (though they’re at fairly regular intervals); parasites in the tap water; no washing machines (‘twould interfere with the dhobi wallahs’ gig)

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Iyengar dictionary:

“see the top” = look at the ceiling

“surround it” = bind the pose

“tie it back” = bind marichyasana A or B

“introduce the hands” = put your hands under your feet in padahastasana

“come to the position” = samasthiti

“roll on” = do chakrasana

“reverse the leg” = fold your leg out to the side for triyang mukha eka pada paschimottanasana

“get up!” = into utkatasana; or from garba pindasana into kukkutasana

“fold the knee” = bend your leg for utthita parshvakonasana

“arrange your head” = tilt your head back and put the crown on the ground for setu bandhasana, matsyasana, uttana padasana, etc.

“Right leg! Right leg!!” = could be any number of things he wants you to do with your right leg (or left) but isn’t telling you.

let your freak flag fly

Posted in being human, India, photos, things that make you say "whaaa?" by Nancy on January 22, 2010

Ran into our first hijras today.  Hijras are Indian drag queens (sometimes actual trannies) who beg for change and, to those who pony up, dispense good luck. Which—according to Anthony Bourdain—is really just the absence of the bad luck they would otherwise curse you with for holding out on them. But our hijras seemed more concerned with being fabulous than dishing out curses. They could totally hold their own in West Hollywood. Two snaps up!

4 out of 5 trannies agree downtown Lakshmipuram is where it’s at. The place is positively teeming with freaks. It’s also where we saw the monkey boy a week or so ago. He looked like a feral Edward Scissorhands and had monkeys on leashes climbing all over him… trained pickpockets, no doubt, with the manual dexterity of fuzzy little surgeons.

And so it goes in Mysore. Acrobatics (yoga asana) at dawn. Drag queens in the morning. Monkey boys in the afternoon. This must be what it’s like to run away with the circus.

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These are some free range monkeys that live in a vacant lot on our way to Iyengar’s and Aunty’s. We saw a few of them popping in and out of an apparently occupied second floor apartment window yesterday… probably stealing anything not nailed down that they could get their opposible thumbs and prehensile tails around. Best. Second-story men. Ever.