chitta chatter

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:

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/DharmaGypsys

* 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.

boulevard bodhisattva

Posted in being human, LA, simple pleasures by Nancy on March 6, 2010

Sunset and Hollywood must be the noisiest intersection in town on Friday afternoons. But at least it’s for a good cause:

Kudos to Steve, the peace and love guy.  Curing road rage, one beep at a time.

sidewalk sage

Posted in LA, pearls, photos by Nancy on February 14, 2010

Los Angeles, California

live life

Posted in pearls by Nancy on February 12, 2010

Live life
Like you are not
See
Like you just happen to be there
Watch hate
Like a trip to the zoo
Create
Like you breathe

For this
You deserve no credit
For this
You deserve no blame
But for this
The shell you thought was you will crack
And the control you gave up
Will be returned to you
But by then, you will not care

– Charlie Krishna

signs

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

Mysore, India

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silver lake, sweet silver lake

Posted in food, LA, photos, yoga by Nancy on February 4, 2010

Ah, it’s good to be home.

We arrived at LAX yesterday afternoon and Mayra was there to greet us, giant bouquet of flowers in hand. After a stop to pick up my car at her house, we were soon cruising the old familiar 101 again, windows cracked to let the recently rain-washed wind blow through our hair.

Within the first 24 hours back I:

– Took a long, hot, glorious shower.

– Slept. Late. On a real mattress, with springs and everything.

– Watched It Might Get Loud for the hundredth time. Jimmy Page still outrocks them all… even Jack White.

– Walked to Trader Joe’s to restock my fridge. Looking forward to fresh broccoli sautéed in soy sauce, honey and ginger.

– Did primary series. On my Manduka (which, of course, I did not haul to Mysore, though the shala’s tile floor made me wish I had). The 9 rolls of garba pindasana never felt so good. Actually, after 22 hours on a plane, a 3-hour ride to the Bangalore airport, the drive from LAX/picking up the car in Long Beach, and god-knows-how-many hours in bed, the whole series felt good.

– Saw that the dosa truck is still parked on the corner every Wednesday. Don’t imagine I’ll have a hankerin’ for a while, though.

– Tried on my favorite jeans (which I also did not take to India, being my favorites and all) and discovered that, contrary to my usual travel MO, I actually put on a pound or two this trip. Damn you, India, with your ghee and sweets… and sweets made with ghee!!!  [ shakes fist at sky ]

– Noticed a new mural splashed across Circus of Books… Anthony Bourdain was here???

Still on the to-do list for this week:

– Start a flickr account and post the rest of my photos from India. Will post a notice here once it’s up.

– Laundry. Courtesy of Maytag. My clothes will finally be clean. Really clean. And my poor, dry, wrung-out hands will be conspicuously—and gratefully—absent from the process.

– Friday morning yoga at Runyon Canyon. Can. Not. Wait! Fingers, toes and eyes crossed that it doesn’t rain.

– The veggie taco and potato/cheese flautas at Pinche’s Tacos. It ain’t just the name that’s fresh!

– Meeting with my agency for a web gig for one of my favorite clients. I had a check waiting for me when I got back and work still coming in. Life is good.

– Pizza at the Rainbow. To be chased with a $5 shake that tastes like a $5 shake.

– Farmer’s market. Either Silver Lake’s on Saturday or Hollywood’s on Sunday. Probably the latter as I’m in need of more o’ that tasty, cold-packed honey they sell there.

India Sweets & Spices. And not for the spices.

Huh… even in LA, it’s all about the food for me. I guess it’s true that “wherever you go, there you are.” In any event, I’m glad to be back.

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.

* * * * * * * *

Scenes from our last morning in Mysore:

home:

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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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