Good byes

The past couple of days have been given over to good byes. We are being picked up at 7:30 PM for our wild ride down the Mysore Highway to Bangalore airport.

But first, some “see you later, and probably back here when I do” partings.

We had lunch at Sandhya’s with Susan. Sandhya wins the best cook in Mysore title, as far as Anna and I are concerned. I ordered her cookbook and it should be waiting for me at home when we get back.

On Sandhya’s wall, there’s the image that Anna fondly calls “Buff Hanuman.”

We demolished our lunch. YUM! The curried tomatoes will be the food I miss most.

Susan and the curd pot in romantic lighting. 🙂

Anna and I also spent some time hanging out (okay, drinking evening cocktails!) in the garden at Anokhi Garden.

And of course I have to include a picture of Juanita. She joined us each evening as we sat outside.

We had lunch with Tova and Angie at The Green Hotel.

And we said good bye to Appu.

If you’re in Mysore and need a ride somewhere, give him a call at 9900302645. He’s a knowledgeable guide and a really nice guy.

In the evening, Anna and I took a walk over to Edelweiss, the Austrian cafe run by Indians. I looked at, but did not purchase, a piece of chocolate cake. I had a piece of cake while we were here (at the Italian cafe run by Indians) and it was undoubtedly the oldest cake I have ever eaten.

When we were at Sandhya’s, she had a couple of fellows who were starting a new company and sharing samples of baked goods. YUMMY baked goods. We tried some and purchased a brownie and a piece of rum cake. Terrific stuff. They also gave us a flyer about their wares. This is the part that explains something about Indian baked goods:

Our entire line of home made desserts are baked fresh with 100% all natural ingredients and no preservatives, so eat them quickly! Our brownies will stay fresh unrefrigerated for 30 days, refrigerated for 3 months.

Say what? And I suppose it’s also worth noting here that I haven’t seen any Saran Wrap in the past month. So I have no idea how this works.

On our way home from Edelweiss, the streets were very busy with traffic (no stop signs or lights in any of the intersections we crossed). Yes, we’ve sussed out how the driving works around here, but the crossing the street thing is very complicated and daunting. But we have a solution: we wait for an Indian person to cross the road and just follow along. I almost feel like I could drive here, but being a street-crossing pedestrian is still too great a challenge.

So here we are: our last day. Everyone keeps asking me if I’m sad, or if I’m okay, and I just feel fine.

This morning was my last class — a led class — and I wondered if I’d feel emotional. Nope. Just happy: to be here and to be going home.

And then I walked back up the street toward home and met up with my favorite street dog. He lives down the block from where we’re staying, and he joins me each morning for a few blocks as I walk to and from the shala. He stands up on his hind legs for a pat on the head and then trots along beside me for a while.

Here he is, in bad pictures, because I was balancing my yoga mat and blanket in one hand and trying to take a picture with the other.

As he was jumping up and I was patting him and taking his picture, one of the rather tattered old men who walk on the street in the morning chuckled as he came toward us. He said something that I couldn’t quite make out, and then I realized that what he was saying was, “He’s good.”

I looked up and the man was beaming at me and nodding. “He’s good. He’s good.”

“Yes,” I said. “He’s good.”

And that’s when I teared up.


Anna, Angie, Kitty and I decided to visit Bandipur National Park. It’s a couple of hours south of Mysore, and our hope was to see a tiger.

There are all kinds of resorts around the national park — so I spent a little time researching and then asked for referrals on Facebook, and we ended up deciding to stay at Bandipur Safari Lodge.

Here’s the itinerary:

Day 1
12.00 Noon Check-in
01.30 pm Lunch
04.00 pm Safari briefing with tea / coffee
04.30 pm Drive into Bandipur National park
07.30 pm Wildlife film
08.30 pm Bonfire
09.30 pm Dinner

Day 2
06.00 am Wake-up call, tea / coffee
06.30 am Trekking / Drive into park
09.30 am Breakfast
11.00 am Check out

We planned the trip so that we could do led practice at the shala on Sunday morning, then head out for the park. Monday was a moon day (day off from practice) — so we didn’t have to miss any yoga in order to go looking for tigers.

The drive to Bandipur. Honestly, I don’t know how to explain Indian driving. I actually understand how it works, after watching for a month — but I don’t know that I can really explain it without a chalkboard and video clips.

I guess the important part to understand is that lanes are very fluid. And a two lane road can accommodate four or five lanes of traffic, provided some of them are small enough (pedestrians, animals, motorcycles). Basically, you can pass any vehicle ahead of you however you want (driving the wrong way down the opposite lane is fine) provided you are back on your side of the highway before the oncoming vehicle(s) collide with you.

So: ahead of you is a truck passing an oxen cart. Coming toward you in the opposite lane is a motorcycle that is passing a pedestrian and a herd of goats on the other side of the road. Should you gun it and pass the truck that is passing the cart, by swerving into the oncoming motorcyle’s lane?

Heck, yeah! This is an easy one: those are all pretty small obstacles — you can totally maneuver to miss all of them and be back in your lane before there’s more oncoming traffic. Just don’t forget to beep so everyone knows you’re going for it!

Okay: there are two buses ahead of you that you want to pass. Coming at you is a huge truck, which is passing a car. Should you swerve in front of the oncoming truck even if you can’t make it past both buses and will need to beep like crazy and then swerve in to wedge yourself between the two buses?

Why not? The other drivers will accommodate your vehicle!

Don’t be afraid. There are seatbelts in the front seat of the car. And the passengers in the back are probably going to be just fine. They knew there were no seat belts when they agreed to get in the car!

Anna at the resort.

The scene between Anna and my hut (Red Munia) and Angie and Kitty’s hut (King Fisher).

Cute, right?

Again, Anna reads and I invade her privacy.

View from the porch.

Angie and Kitty on the huge cross-between-a-Jeep-and-a-bus vehicle. Sorry about the poor lighting — I am using the iPhone for pictures. The iPhone was highly suspect — we were not supposed to have cell phones (bad to get a call when stalking tigers, I imagine) but I had it turned to airplane mode, so it wasn’t going to ring. I had to keep holding it up and saying, “No phone! No phone! Camera! Camera!” when the guides pointed at it and said, accusatorily, “Phone! Phone!”

We saw SO many deer. I love this picture because the deer in the middle looks like just his head is sticking out of the ground.

And elephants! This was our first outing, on Sunday afternoon. Three hours in the big vehicle over CRAZY bumpy dirt roads. Beautiful land, though — and tons of peacocks, sambar deer (which are ginormous, muscular deer), monkeys, and two kinds of mongooses.

We heard some distress calls out in the jungle, which made the guide think there might be a tiger close by. We stopped and waited for a while, but no luck. Regardless, it was beautiful to sit and listen to the birds and other animals.

The next morning, we went out bright and early for another drive. This time we were in a smaller Jeep. We drove out into an area that was covered in tiger poop, then stopped by a few watering holes.

At one spot we heard a tiger roar. We sat and waited for a while, scanning the brush and kind of holding our breaths. But in the end, the tigers of Bandipur were elusive. We didn’t see any.

On the way back, though, we came upon this fellow, who was remarkably close to the truck, and not at all disturbed by it.

It was a terrific trip, despite not seeing any tigers. Better luck next time!

And then it was time for another drive on the Indian highway. Buckle up! Oh, wait — never mind…

I took these two pictures because we’d been hurtling along for an hour, when suddenly we were slowed to a crawl in a little village along the highway.

This is looking out the front window of the car. What’s going on up there? Hard to tell…

People gathered on the side of the road and everyone was looking at something up ahead of us.

“What’s this?” we asked our driver. “What’s going on?”

“Celebration,” he said.

Well, there you go. e” alt=”” width=”275″ height=”206″>

Anna at the resort.

The scene between Anna and my hut (Red Munia) and Angie and Kitty’s hut (King Fisher).

Cute, right?

Again, Anna reads and I invade her privacy.

View from the porch.

Angie and Kitty on the huge cross-between-a-Jeep-and-a-bus vehicle. Sorry about the poor lighting — I am using the iPhone for pictures. The iPhone was highly suspect — we were not supposed to have cell phones (bad to get a call when stalking tigers, I imagine) but I had it turned to airplane mode, so it wasn’t going to ring. I had to keep holding it up and saying, “No phone! No phone! Camera! Camera!” when the guides pointed at it and said, accusatorily, “Phone! Phone!”

We saw SO many deer. I love this picture because the deer in the middle looks like just his head is sticking out of the ground.

And elephants! This was our first outing, on Sunday afternoon. Three hours in the big vehicle over CRAZY bumpy dirt roads. Beautiful land, though — and tons of peacocks, sambar deer (which are ginormous, muscular deer), monkeys, and two kinds of mongooses.

We heard some distress calls out in the jungle, which made the guide think there might be a tiger close by. We stopped and waited for a while, but no luck. Regardless, it was beautiful to sit and listen to the birds and other animals.

The next morning, we went out bright and early for another drive. This time we were in a smaller Jeep. We drove out into an area that was covered in tiger poop, then stopped by a few watering holes.

At one spot we heard a tiger roar. We sat and waited for a while, scanning the brush and kind of holding our breaths. But in the end, the tigers of Bandipur were elusive. We didn’t see any.

On the way back, though, we came upon this fellow, who was remarkably close to the truck, and not at all disturbed by it.

It was a terrific trip, despite not seeing any tigers. Better luck next time!

And then it was time for another drive on the Indian highway. Buckle up! Oh, wait — never mind…

I took these two pictures because we’d been hurtling along for an hour, when suddenly we were slowed to a crawl in a little village along the highway.

This is looking out the front window of the car. What’s going on up there? Hard to tell…

People gathered on the side of the road and everyone was looking at something up ahead of us.

“What’s this?” we asked our driver. “What’s going on?”

“Celebration,” he said.

Well, there you go.


Everything around here isn’t thrilling and exotic. Sometimes things are pretty mundane. Like how on Thursday night I slept badly because I’d practiced next to people with colds for a couple of days and seemed to catch whatever it was that made them hack away next to me for 90 minutes.

Instead of getting up at 4 AM on Friday for led practice, I slept in and decided to practice in the stairwell here at Anokhi Garden. I couldn’t use the room, because Anna is madly in love with the ceiling fans and likes to keep the room as cool as possible. No worries, though, there was room in the stairwell.

The ant trail that formed on the left edge of my mat kept me moving along at a good clip.

And then, of course, we had more exoticism, in the form of a visit to the Mysore Palace. Here’s a link to info on the palace.

Some cows outside the palace, still dyed from the New Year festivities. It’s pretty fun to see all the cows still going around in their blue and yellow and green and pink dye jobs.

And, um, the link above notes that you can’t take pictures inside the palace. Which makes me feel a little abashed about posting the following images.

Unbelievably beautiful architecture. There were all kinds of beautiful objects like carved boxes and exquisite paintings and carved glass chairs and silver doors.

The Palace is in downtown Mysore, which is always incredibly busy with people and loud with car horns and general city hubbub. The only city in America that even remotely rivals the energy of downtown Mysore is New York City, and I’ll bet even the most enthusiastic New Yorker can be hard-pressed to deal with Mysore’s energetic intensity.

In order to recover a bit from our visit, we decided to have an early dinner at the Metropole Hotel.

The courtyard of the Metropole. Calm and relaxed.

A quiet haven for those of us who have had our fill of adventure.

But wait. What about this painting from inside the Metropole?

It hints at our next adventure.

Stay tuned.

Cow jumping

As we drove home from our visit to the bazaar, Appu told us about something taking place the next day as part of the New Year festival.

“Cows jumping! Jumping!” he said, moving his hands to simulate a jumping motion.

He told us he could pick us up in the afternoon and then we’d go see cows. Jumping. Jumping. Cows jumping (hand motions). And fire.

“Did he just say ‘fire’?” I asked Anna. She nodded.

The fire part made me a little nervous.

“Fire, Appu?” I said. “Do the cows mind the fire?”


“The cows aren’t afraid of the fire?”

“Oh, no, no,” he said. “Cows jump! Cows jump!”

“It can’t be too bad,” Anna reasoned. “They’re really nice to the cows here.”

“Where is it?” I asked Appu.

“Far away. Thirty minutes.”

Well, so there you have it. We were set to go see cows jump the next afternoon somewhere thirty minutes away from Mysore. And fire would be involved.

One of our friends, Kitty, is always up for an adventure, and she agreed to come along for cow jumping, despite the fact that we were clueless about what was going to happen.

So off we went in Appu’s rickshaw, tooling out of Mysore and down the Mysore highway toward parts unknown.

After about half an hour, we pulled up on the side of the road, and Appu got out and told us to wait a minute.

A couple of kids came running right over to chat with us, and just outside we saw a couple of dolled up bulls who were lying around enjoying a big pile of hay.

Appu came back and told us the festivities would start in about an hour and that we could have a look around.

One thing we noticed was people bringing out their cows and goats and sheep. Appu told us they were taking them to “get ready.”

While we were waiting, Appu took us to look at the village’s Shiva temple. The priest met us at the door and showed us around inside. (I didn’t take pictures, because I wasn’t sure if that would be okay.)

Once inside, the priest put bindi marks on our foreheads with red powder. Then he lit incense which he waved in front of the different statues. The statues, decked out in fancy clothing, were in little alcoves in the temple. But best of all was when he dramatically flicked a switch to turn on the psychedelic neon signs that hung over each deity.

“Arjuna and Krishna,” I said as he turned on the first bright light. He nodded and smiled and seemed very pleased that I could identify a scene from the Bhagavad Gita.

He turned on all of the lights, basked in our oohs and ahhhhs, and then got a container of water and a ladle out of one of the alcoves. He poured some into Appu’s hand and his own hand and they drank the water. Then he gestured to us to put out our hands. Appu looked stricken — he started shaking his head but didn’t want to be rude to the priest.

“No water, no water,” he said under his breath.

“Yes,” I said, as Anna, Kitty and I pretended to drink the water.

“Just drink coconuts,” Appu verified. Yes, yogis just drink coconut water, not the local water.

The priest wasn’t convinced by our fake drinking, so he initiated a second round of water hands. Again we fake drank. I don’t know if we were more convincing or if he just figured we were hopelessly clumsy and not worth trying to get holy water into, but that was the end of that ritual.

As we left the temple, we were besieged by kids. Kids who love to have their pictures taken!

I have a million pictures of the kids of this village. They were so excited to pose, then look at the camera screen to see the results.

We had to encourage the girls to agree to pose, and it was hard to keep the boys from barging in on the pictures.

“Take a picture of my brother!”

The most interesting interaction was with the woman above. She asked to see one of the photos I’d taken of the kids, then asked — via gestures — if I’d take one of her and her son. When she saw the results, she said, “You give me one.”

Uh oh, I didn’t know how to explain that I couldn’t give her a copy — that the camera wasn’t a Polaroid. At first she looked very angry, but then she understood that I wasn’t saying that I *wouldn’t* give her a copy; I was saying that I *couldn’t.* She smiled and just asked to look at the camera screen again.

The crowd was really building during all of this picture taking. Hilariously, the old ladies were fascinated with Anna. They were very curious about her monroe piercing and her gauged ears, and because of the way her shawl fell, one of the ladies saw her back tattoo. This led to a crowd of old ladies looking at her upper back and shoulders and patting her and nodding and being generally quite pleased with her body art. When Anna stood to let an old lady take her seat, the deal was sealed — Anna was a-okay with the female elders.

During all of this socializing, people were bringing more and more animals to “get ready.”

And here’re the result of “getting ready.” Apparently this is “the best bull of the village,” so he got the fanciest outfit and also got to go first after being paraded around for everyone to admire.

Note the Best Bull’s crown of finger bananas. And he had blue painted hooves.

The bull was walked into the crowd, and a few minutes later, we heard an excited cheer.

Yup, that’s a column of fire on the left.

There were lines of hay on the street, which were lit on fire, and then the cows and other animals were prodded to jump over the fire as the crowd watched and cheered.

A bull emerging from the fire-and-people gauntlet.

Mission accomplished.

Here you can see the hay on the street. I wasn’t keen on this whole idea until I saw men and boys running through it, too, barefoot or in flip flops. I guess it couldn’t have been too bad for the animals.

Everyone was really happy and excited by the show.

Appu enjoying the festivities.

Kitty watching Cows! Jumping! Fire!

As we were watching the fire-jumping, I felt like embers were falling on my feet. When I looked down, though, I saw that my feet were being swarmed and bitten by ants (who were probably fleeing the fire). Anna and Kitty were also swarmed. We swatted off the ants as bet we could and headed for the rickshaw.

On the way home, I noticed that Anna’s face had red splotches. She said that her face and ears were very itchy. Egads. An allergic reaction — in the middle of nowhere. Not good.

Needless to say, I was freaking out inside. But all of us remained calm as we drove back to Mysore, despite the fact that Anna’s face was swelling up. Appu brought us to a chemist in Mysore, where I purchased some Benedryl, then home to Anokhi Garden.

I took a few pictures of Anna after she’d gulped down some Benedryl, in hopes that we would see the swelling going down. Nope. It was only getting worse. (Not surprisingly, Anna would not give clearance for me to share her swelled-face photos on this blog.)

Alrighty, well, time for a visit to an Indian emergency room. With help from my friend, Angie, we headed to Vikram hospital. As it turns out, Indian emergency rooms are not at all like Western ones. When you stop and think about it, there’s really no need for the receiving areas of hospitals to be gleaming clean and sterile-looking, but I’m accustomed to that. To stroll into a dingy emergency room, where you kick off your shoes and walk around barefoot, seemed pretty shocking.

The emergency room itself was in fact just one room. In it, two older men were lying on gurneys being attended to by doctors. One doctor motioned for Anna to sit in an office chair crammed between the two gurneys, and we explained what was happening.

She wrote a prescription for epinephrine, cortisone, and two syringes and handed the sheet to me, telling me I had to go get it filled in the pharmacy down the hall. Um, okay. A little laid back, in terms of emergency response, but whatever. I got the drugs and the syringes and returned to the doctor, who administered the drugs, then gave me another prescription for antihistamines to be taken over the next few days. By the time I’d filled that prescription, Anna’s swelling was starting to go down.

I wanted a prescription for Xanax, at that point. Moral of the story: always travel with Benedryl and an Epi-pen.

By mid-day the next day, Anna was back to normal.

Okay, that’s it for now. Next up: Mysore Palace.

Bizarre (pun intended)

Over the weekend, Anna and I went to Devaraja market. The bazaar!

A photo from our drive over.

As we drove over, Appu told us about how we should NOT try or purchase oils from the market. He said they were inferior quality, contained chemicals, would melt our skin, etc.

“Say no!” he said, then turned to us so we could repeat it.

“No!” we said.

“No, no!” he said, nodding.

It was clear that he was humoring us by bringing us to see the market, and he told us he would take us some place better afterwards. He pulled up to the gate of the market and told us to go ahead — he would wait for us.

Three seconds of video from the entrance to the market (click on it to play). It gives you a sense of the energy there.

A man selling vegetables.

“What is your country? Would you like to see me make incense?”

Of course, we would, charming boy.

And that’s how we found ourselves sitting in a bazaar stall with the boy and his family, as he made incense and the others showed us bottles of oils (“This one is like America. CK One! Calvin Klein!”) and put some of the oil our wrists.

“This is what Appu was talking about!” I said to Anna, who nodded.

Our wrists were anointed with many kinds of oils, as we were quizzed about America and showed a guest book that the owner kept of all of his customers and their countries. We wrote “Karen and Anna, USA” in the book.

Two women sat in the stall with us, with their heads covered. Apparently this is a Muslim family. They were fascinated by Anna’s monroe facial piercing and her ear gauges. India is a great place to travel with body art — people are really into it.

So yes, we bought some oils and then made our escape, smelling quite fragrant. Appu was totally gonna know we didn’t say, “No! No!”

“Inside” the market — actually it’s outdoors but covered with blue tarps.

The crush of people was pretty astonishing. We ducked into the doorway of a statue store and spoke with the owner for a moment. He explained that the next day was the Hindu New Year festival — Sankranti. He told us how to say “Happy Sankranti,” which I failed at miserably because my language skills are atrocious, but he was kind about my attempt.

Anyhow, what it meant was that our visit to the market was on one of the busiest days of the year. Everyone was shopping for their Sankranti celebrations the next day. We made a loop around the market and bought a few vegetables — tomatoes, garlic and peas. It was kind of hilarious, because as I put a few vegetables into the vendors’ scales, they would hold it up for the others to see so they could all laugh at how little we were buying. Obviously, small families are not the norm. Then they would gesture for me to open my bag, so they could dump the vegetables into my purse. No one asks “Paper or plastic?” at the market. You’re on your own, bag wise.

So now I had a purse full of ripe tomatoes and had to squeeze between a million people to get out of the marketplace.

Same picture of colorful powder dyes that everyone takes when they go to a market in India. As it turns out, though, there was an interesting use for these powders on Sankranti. The cows are dyed! More on that in a later post.

Goat hanging out in a quiet part of the market.

Looking back over our shoulders as we made our escape. Note the poles that you have to weave through to get into the market. Not sure what they’re for — to discourage bicycles or big dogs or skateboarders or something.

Next stop was a store with silick. 🙂 Actually, the owner was saying “silk,” but his accent made it sound like “silick.” It was quite charming. He had one of the employees bring us tea (with saucers — fancy!) that we enjoyed as he showed us his wares. Our favorite part was that he would say, “I have two kinds of silick pants. There is this kind of 100 percent silick (he’d take an example out to show us and spread them out dramatically), and there is *this* kind of silick and cotton (another pair dramatically displayed). And *this* kind that are *embroidered* — look at that handiwork! And *this* kind that is handwoven!”

He showed us pants and skirts and tops and pillow covers and scarves — and each of them had “two kinds,” which inevitably ended up being a whole bunch of different kinds.

Ganesh statue. Anna’s birthday present.

This really was a good store — great stuff and good prices. Appu was right. He sat and waited as we looked at everything, then packed us back into the rickshaw and dropped us off at the Green Hotel, where we were eager to have a quiet dinner and decompress from the crazy market day.

I know this is blurry, but I’m posting it because it’s crazy. We are in the rickshaw, people drive on the left, which means this cow is walking up the street in the “fast lane.” No one minded.

Some shots from the rickshaw to show you how crowded the streets were downtown. Also how everyone rides on motorbikes, with many women riding sidesaddle.

Another rickshaw coming from the other direction.

By the time we were close to the Green Hotel, it was dusk. It was also time to fill up the tank. Appu asked if we minded if we stopped for petrol. Not at all. I’d been kind of curious about how much it cost to fill up the tank and where people bought gas.

Turns out, we were really in need of fuel. The engine was off and Appu dragged us into the gas station line. It was all rickshaws, so perhaps this was a station just for them? Not sure.

“Do you want us to get out?” I asked as Appu pulled us over a speed bump.

“No, no!” he said. Then he looked up and said, “Rickshaw yoga!” and laughed.

Here are the rickshaw drivers waiting in the fuel line. Interestingly, the gas is dispensed by girls in navy blue saris.

Next time: Cows! Jumping! Fire!

Random tidbits of randomness

A few pictures from a walk in the neighborhood around the shala.

Beautiful house. The architecture in Gokulam is quite… well, random, really. There are beautiful, luxurious houses, and there are more modest houses, and there are slums. The neighborhood around the shala is quite luxe.

Cheerfully painted tree trunk. Random, right? It’s up near the Chocolate Man’s stand. This time I got dark chocolate with hazelnut, dark chocolate with ginger, dark chocolate with coffee, and milk chocolate with butterscotch. This tree feels like my mood when I’ve just purchased all of that chocolate.

Cheerful Anna with cheerful tree.

Marvelously plum-colored house. My favorite.

Balaji. This is a fabric sculpture in the house of a woman who sells scarves and bags and other clothing. It’s a good four feet tall and is exquisite.

Here’s some info from Wikipedia:

Venkateswara (Telugu: వేంకటేశ్వర, వెంకన్న) (Devanagari: वेंकटेश्वर ) also known as Srinivasa, Balaji and Venkatachalapati (Tamil: வெங்கடாசலபதி), is a form of the Hindu god Vishnu. Venkateswara means the Lord who destroys the sins of the people. According to the Hindu scriptures, Vishnu, out of love towards his devotees, incarnated as Venkateswara and appeared for the salvation and upliftment of humanity in this Kali Yuga age. It is considered the supreme form of Vishnu in this age.

Okay, and since we’re talking about gods and sages, I want to share a story that is strikingly appropriate in relation to my experience of the shala.

Sage Bhrugu, according to Vedas, is believed to have an extra eye in the sole of his foot.

Sage Bhrigu went to Satyaloka, the abode of Lord Brahma. At Satyaloka, he found Lord Brahma reciting the four Vedas in praise of Lord Narayana with each of his four heads, and attended upon by Saraswati. Lord Brahma did not take notice of Bhrigu offering obeisance. Concluding that Lord Brahma was unfit for worship, Bhrigu left Satyaloka for Kailasa, the abode of Lord Shiva.

At Kailasa, Bhrigu found Lord Shiva with Parvati and not noticing his presence left for Vaikunta, the abode of Lord Vishnu.

At Vaikunta, Lord Vishnu was reposing on Adisesha with Sri Mahalakshmi in service at his feet. Finding that Lord Vishnu also did not notice him, the sage was infuriated and kicked the Lord on His chest, the place where Mahalakshmi resides.

Vishnu, in an attempt to pacify the sage, got hold of legs of the sage and started to press them gently in a way that was comforting to the sage. During this act, he squeezed the extra eye that was present in the sole of Bhrigu’s foot.

The extra eye is believed to represent the sage’s egotism. The sage then realised his grave mistake and apologized to Vishnu.

I vow not to kick anyone regardless how unseen I might feel. After all, it’s all in my own head! Please disregard how baggy pants make my waist look thick. See how much vanity I’ve managed to sustain against all odds?

Here are some photos of our digs. Anna trying to read and ignore me while I invade her privacy.

Foot of the bed, shelving unit, bathroom.

Bathroom, shelf with filtered water, corner of low table. See? I’m panning so you get the full effect of the room.

Low table with laptop and iPad. But that’s just a smidgen of our device-y-ness. You can’t see the other iPad and the two iPhones and the Indian phone. I wonder if the cleaning lady judges us when she witnesses our addiction to the Internet.

Scene as I walked over to visit Angie. It’s fun to have her just down the street. Same with Susan and Tova. People I usually only get to see if I travel to their cities for work. But now here we all are.

Tales are being told of a woman who was head butted by a cow, who then stepped on her foot. I haven’t tried to pat any of them. Like the dogs — and the cats and the goats and the chickens — the cows seem pretty independent.

View from our roof. The cows like to hang out near the huge haystack on the right. On the other side of it, there’s an old phone booth.

Laundry on the roof. Yesterday I washed my yoga mat and rug and hung them out there. I kept a close watch on them as they dried, since I heard about a mat being nicked by a monkey. I was ready to fight a monkey for my mat.

Some things I don’t have pictures of:

People waiting on the steps of the shala before led class. I conducted a random survey of the age of people sitting on the steps. My results:

21 people
3 in their 60s
3 in their 50s
4 in their 40s
8 in their 30s
3 in their 20s

Also undocumented: Yesterday afternoon, Anna, Susan and I were hanging out in the front room when we heard a drum and some ruckus that sounded like a parade with a very small marching band. We ran to the front gate and saw a parade of men, and then a flower-covered platform being carried by another group of men. On the platform was a chair, and on the chair was the fancily-dressed body of a man who was being brought to the crematorium.

Also: Last night Anna and I returned to the Italian cafe because we are jonesing for pasta in the worst way. Almost everyone in the cafe was a Westerner, but two young Indian men came in and ordered a pizza. When they got it, they asked the waiter for the condiment tray, which includes hot sauces, curry sauce stuff, hot peppers, and other things that melt the flesh in your mouth. They then DOUSED the pizza with tons of this stuff. After each bite, they stopped to add more spice. I felt like my pasta was hot enough since it contained jalapeños — which is a new twist on Italian, no?

I think that’s it for now. This afternoon we’re heading to the bazaar to have a look around, then maybe a quiet dinner at the Green Hotel. And I’m starting to put together plans for an overnight trip, which’ll include a Jeep safari and maybe an elephant ride!

The afternoon, illustrated

Morning means practice at the shala for me, and a sleep-in for Anna. Practice is going well — the heat and humidity makes movement very easy, and I am still giddy and thrilled to be in that room with Sharath. That being said, I noticed that today, my sixth practice, felt like the third day of a zen retreat. Everything slows down in your head and you can follow your thoughts and perceptions — layers of thoughts and perceptions! — quite well. The catch is to not judge them, because as it turns out, the thoughts are crude instruments, and the perceptions are clouded by the thoughts. I won’t belabor this because it’s too abstract, but let’s just say that for the moment the equation seems to be that 9 hours of Ashtanga practice equals 48 hours of zazen retreat.

Before the month is out I will be deep into uncharted practice intensity territory.

But in the meantime, a lunch adventure! Illustrated!

Here’s me taking pictures right outside the door at Anokhi Garden as I wait for Anna to finish up a Skype call to friends back home, and for Susan to walk over from her apartment to join us on a rickshaw ride to Sandhya’s for lunch.

This is looking down the drive toward the Anohki front gate. Five days a week, yogis come through that gate after practice, heading to the Anokhi cafe for breakfast or lunch.

The cafe is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so it seemed like a good idea to check out Sandhya’s. Sandhya is said to be the best cook in Mysore. She cooked for Guruji, and now she welcomes people into her house for lunch. You just call the night before and she tells you what time to come. Anna, Susan, Angie, Kitty and I arranged to meet up over there at 1:15.

Though we did meet up a little early. Anna, Susan and I were in Appu’s rickshaw, tooling along toward Lakshmipuram, when we heard Angie’s voice! Sure enough, on the scooter just ahead, we saw Angie and Kitty. Appu recognized her right away and pulled up so we could all wave and distract… um, I mean, greet her. Is it wise to have reunions while driving around Mysore traffic circles? Probably not, but as seems to be the case here, it all worked out.

Here are Appu and Sandhya, along with Sandhya’s kitten, who amused us during our (incredible!) meal. Sandhya has a cookbook called “Mysore Style Cooking,” and I’m going to get a copy as soon as I get home, so I can make the curried tomato recipe. It was SO good.

After a leisurely lunch, we headed back to Gokulam. Susan treated me and Anna to coffee at Amruth.

Susan ordering coffee.

I don’t know how to describe the coffee, beyond YUM! I don’t sweeten my coffee at home, but this coffee was VERY sugary and also very strong and very hot — served in a little glass. Delicious.

The Ganesha temple across the street.

The rickshaw drivers, pulled up at Amruth for afternoon coffee breaks.

The coconut stand on the corner, which we passed on our way home.

Moon Day

Moon days happen twice a month — full moon and new moon — and they mean a day off from practice.

Horses I saw yesterday morning!

Every Sunday Sharath does a conference. Everyone goes and sits together in the shala and it’s really the only time you see all of the yogis together at the same time. I think the current estimate is that there are 300 students. Word is that this is the largest number ever.

Other yogis have published synopses of Sharath’s talk, so I won’t — well, I’ll mention two things.

1) He reminisced about practicing yoga with his grandfather, Guruji, and it was so heartfelt that it made me tear up. He mentioned how much he misses Guruji’s help in backbends. For some reason, that really got to me. Then he talked about how Indian families are very, very close — and said he felt sorry for us Westerners, because as we reach adulthood, we have to “go out and find our lives.”

2) He asked that we stop feeding the street dogs. Apparently the dogs have been running up to children, probably looking for hand outs, and it is scaring people. Sharath mentioned People for Animals (a local animal shelter) and suggested we support them. He also said if we want to help the dogs, we could take them home with us. (I’m thinking that would get a swift thumbs down from Daisy.) I’m fine with not feeding the dogs — the last thing I’d want would be for them to start harassing locals or frightening the kids.

Today we saw a young woman walking a black dog on a leash — he had the characteristic shape of a street dog — so hopefully more and more people will start inviting these dogs into their homes as pets. Best we not screw that up by creating a situation where the locals grow irritated or angry with them.

Here’s a picture of Juanita, who lives at Anokhi Garden, where we’re staying. She is a pretty typical example of a street dog — she is the standard size and build, and the majority are this color, though there are a good number of black and white dogs. They’re lively and intelligent and independent. Yesterday morning, as I walked to practice at 5 AM, there were four or five of them playing a lively round of king of the mountain on a big hill of dirt next to the coconut stand. Very fun to watch.

Okay, so other photos:

Anna on the porch. We like our little ritual of drinks at 5 PM.

This is from yesterday afternoon. Following drinks, we went out to find Pascucci’s, an Italian cafe. Yes, you read that right.

I did a little research and read some hilarious reviews of the place. People seemed to like it pretty well, though they did note that Italian food is an “acquired taste.” I guess if you’ve eaten Indian food all of your life, Italian must seem very strange. Still, that review cracked me and Anna up, since we were raised on Italian food and it seems like the most agreeable and innocuous cuisine in the world.

Susan agreed to join us in our quest for Italian, even though she knows I have a reverse superpower that makes rickshaw drivers confused and unable to understand where I want to go. She’s seen it happen every time we’ve tried to go somewhere.

And no different last night. We had a lengthy conversation with three drivers about where we were trying to go, until finally one of them declared he knew where it was and that he would take us there. A short ride later, we were in front of a Chinese restaurant that the driver insisted was the right place.

Alrighty then. We paid him and set out on foot, with our map and good intentions. There were three of us, but, sadly, only one of us has any sense of direction (that would be Susan). We were a bit turned around, so we had a tour of the neighborhood, including the picture below.

Eventually we found Pascucci’s, which is trying to be an upscale place in a not-upscale neighborhood. There were a couple of Indian customers, but the rest of the customers were Western, including a table of Italians.

Anna ordered a strawberry soda, which arrived looking delicious, except for the ice cubes in it. Maybe I’m unnecessarily paranoid, but I’m highly suspicious of ice cubes. The likelihood that they were made with filtered water seems low to me. Poor Anna! She wanted her soda, but I wrecked it by telling her tales of (potential) illness requiring IV rehydration. She decided to just share my bottled water.

The pizza was good, though. A really nice change after a week of all Indian food, all the time. Oh, and the music at Pascucci’s was late 90s pop music: Jennifer Lopez, 98 Degrees, that sort of thing. “I’m reliving a seventh grade dance,” Anna said.

Our rickshaw ride home was a trip — I wish I had a video of it. Miraculously, the driver knew where to go, but it was like something from Extreme Rickshaw Games — mad driving, weaving, dodging, motor gunning. Bat out of hell stuff. Hilarious!


This morning I tried to figure out how to get to some different places around town and pretty much drove myself insane in my own head. Then I remembered a rickshaw driver we’d met by the coconut stand. Appu. Anna and I decided to go back to the Green Hotel (this time for lunch), so I called Appu, told her we were at Anokhi Garden, and asked him if he would drive us. He said he’d be there in 5 minutes, but showed up in 3.
As we got into the rickshaw, I asked him how much it would cost to go the Green Hotel, and he said “you choose,” meaning I could pay him what I thought reasonable. Okay. When we arrived, I handed I’m a hundred rupee note ($2) and said, “Thank you.”

“No, no,” he said, and gave me 50 back.

“When you want to go to the market, go shopping, go somewhere, you call me,” he said. And indeed, I will. I really struggle with direction and getting around in new places — and I’ve been kind of distressed by the hit or miss rickshaw rides. In western cities, I can do enough research to sort out undergrounds and cabs. But here in Mysore, addresses can be mysterious and drivers don’t always seem to know where things are. So I’m really relieved to know there’s a driver who can help us out and is willing to be on call.

So here are some pictures from the Green Hotel. We had a lovely, leisurely, quiet lunch. Anna had mutton and I had curried vegetables. And naan! Yum! I love Indian breads. I already know that’s the food I’m most going to miss when I leave.

I didn’t realize how stressed I’d been feeling from the busy-ness and noise until we sat there for a couple of hours and decompressed. Just what I needed.

Inside the menu of the Green Hotel, there’s this explanation:

The Green Hotel has been set up as a model of sustainable tourism:
– To preserve a historic building and grounds.
– To incorporate, as practicable, energy saving devices, such as solar heating, solar lighting and environmentally aware practices.
– To use Indian craft made items in furnishing, equipment and restoration.
– To be a good employer, offering equal and fair opportunities.
– To train and develop staff potential.
– To provide visitors with the opportunity to enjoy traditional hospitality rather than modern day uniformity.
All profits from The Green Hotel are distributed in charitable and environmental projects in India.

(Thanks to Anna for pointing this page out to me. It gives me ample justification for going back to The Green Hotel a bunch of times while we’re here.)

This evening, we had cocktails in the garden & Susan joined us. Lovely sitting out and chatting. We moved inside when the mosquitos started in on us.

What a peaceful moon day.

Now it’s leftover pizza and a little reading. Tomorrow starts a new week of practice. I’m so happy to be here.

Day off, Errands

Saturday is the weekly day off from practice. Tova, just arrived from the US, came over to the guest house where we are staying and we had breakfast downstairs on the outdoor patio. Susan and Angie came over, along with some of Tova’s friends. So a nice, leisurely breakfast.

Then Anna, Susan and I ran some errands. First off, a phone for me. Everyone around here has Indian phones so they can text each other. I’d held off on getting one because I have my irrational desire to do everything via the iPad — but really, a phone will make things easier. The phone store is across the street from the coconut stand — a tiny place with phones and other technology on display — and you need to bring paperwork in order to get a phone; namely a copy of your passport and visa, as well as a passport photo. I’m not sure why these are required, but there you have it. At the place where Susan got her phone, they took her fingerprints. Mysterious.

The phone man asked me how long I’d be in India and whether I was learning yoga at the shala. He collected my paperwork, asked me to write down my US address and sign a couple of papers. He told me that service and texting are free for the first month, and that I can use the phone again when I come back to India. He set up the phone, told me that it’d take an hour for it to go online, and collected 1500 rupees from me ($28). MUCH faster and more pleasant than a trip to the Verizon store in Scottsdale.

After the phone store, we went looking for booze. When Dion and I were skyping, he challenged me to find tequila. Um, no. No luck at all. We did, however, find a shop with other spirits. I saw vodka brands I recognized (Smirnoff, Absolut) but we were shopping for whiskey. No luck, in terms of bourbon (what, no Jack Daniels?!) but there was scotch. I asked the man behind the counter which whiskey was best and he took a box off the shelf, opened it to show us the bottle, then repackaged it. Okay — sold. Along with a couple of liter bottles of 7Up.

Whee! We can have happy hour in the garden!

After booze-buying, we stopped in a little shoe store so Susan could pick up a pair of shoes suitable for her lengthy exploratory walks. Then off we went to the Silver Nest, where Meena brought us into her house and showed us tray after tray of silver jewelry. Pendants, chains, bracelets, earrings, toe rings. Anna found a Ganesh pendant and toe rings, I found an Om necklace and chain, and Susan found some earrings and a Ganesh bracelet.

As Meena was showing us her wares, she had to keep leaving the room to tell the kids to quiet down. She explained that today is a holiday, so the kids aren’t in school. Then she noted that hers is the house where all of the neighborhood kids come to play.

Speaking of children, it’s very cute the way kids around here want to say “hello” and “how are you?” and interact with us as we walk down the street. I’m shy about taking people’s pictures, but I hope I can get over it a bit before we leave. I’d love to get some photos — the kids around here are just beautiful.

After jewelry was purchased, we walked up the hill to visit the Chocolate Man’s stand. Yes, he has chocolate in beautiful wrappers, but he also sells all kinds of other (kinda random, but very appealing) items: vanilla soy milk, juices, corn flakes, Cocoa Puffs, jams. Here’s this tiny stall and you look inside and there are all these familiar looking items from home.

Here’s a dark chocolate/coffee bar, a milk chocolate butterscotch, and a dark chocolate/cashew. Decadent!

Booze, silver and chocolate. What more do you need?

Well, some lunch would be nice.

Today we walked over to Tina’s Cafe for lunch. Tina’s serves both vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals.

Susan and I got dahl (beans) and Anna tried the chicken curry. We had rice and raita (a yogurt condiment) and aloo paratha (a delicious bread stuffed with potatoes).

After lunch, Susan went off to continue her marathon walk-all-over-India project, and Anna and I headed back home for some down time.

We’ve seen a lot of beautiful houses today.

And more modest homes.

And here’s a gateway — I’m not sure of its significance. We were just walking down a dirt road and there it was.

Okay. Now it’s rest time, following which we’ll do the civilized thing and have cocktails in the garden. Tomorrow it’s back to practice, starting at 6 AM. But for today it’s rest and socializing.

First led class

Most days, Ashtangis do a self practice. We all do the same sequences, but everyone is at their individual place in the sequences — so when I go to the shala, I wait for Sharath or Saraswati to call, “One more!” — meaning next person in line in the foyer can come in and take the mat space of a person who has just finished their practice. When it’s my turn and the “one more” is me, I enter the room and launch into my personal practice.

On Fridays and Sundays, though, we do led class. What that means is that everyone starts together and we are synchronized by Sharath counting the primary series. He calls out the name of the pose in Sanskrit, then counts — each count has an inhale or exhale associated with it, and each count has a movement associated with it. Kind of like tai chi in terms of movement, and like synchronized swimming in terms of everyone trying to stay together.

So today was my first led class. I start at 6 AM, but walked to the shala around 5:15. The shala clock is (famously) 15 minutes early, and you are supposed to arrive 15 minutes earlier than that. On my way, I had a nice time feeding the street dogs a few of the dog biscuits I bought yesterday at Nilgiri market.

At the shala, a bunch of people were already sitting on the steps, waiting for the 4:30 AM led class to end and the 6 AM class to begin. It was really nice to sit in the early morning darkness with everyone — all of us practicing the same practice. Sure, many people have different things they’re good at or that they struggle with, but in the end, we’re all working together at the same thing.

Then the door opens and everyone files in. It’s kind of hilarious, because there are just too many people to funnel into the small doorway. So we crept inch by inch. A tall fellow to my left started chuckling at how impossible it seemed to get us all through the doorway. No one pushed, though — I didn’t even feel anyone bump me. It’s an interesting practice: how do you deal with your eagerness when you are part of a larger group?

Once inside, I found myself a comfy spot up on the stage. I was one of the last people to snag a spot, so I gather no one wants the stage. I have no idea why that would be, though — you can only fit four people up there, so you end up with a good bit of space, and I prefer the marble tile to the blanketed floor below the stage. Of course, Sharath’s chair is also on the stage, and he did sit there a good bit of the time as he counted. I mostly just felt happy to be close to him, even though I had a bit of a scared moment when I realized he was stopping some people from going on (if he thinks you are not ready for additional poses in the series, he’ll tell you to stop. I heard him say, “Time for a coconut,” to one fellow yesterday — suggesting he should wrap it up and go have a drink at the coconut stand). So I wondered if perhaps I had put myself in harm’s way by unrolling my mat right next to his chair.

But the scared feeling passed — I think I was having a high from listening to dogs happily crunch biscuits and those moments of communing silently with the other stair-waiting Ashtangis while we listened to Sharath counting the earlier class as prayers from the mosque down the street drifted by and the scent of jasmine flowers filled the air. If he’d told me to knock off and go get a coconut, I don’t know that it would have bothered me. Oh, sure — after I had some time to realize what had happened it would have crushed my ego to bits, but in the moment, I think I was really just present to whatever was happening. Ekam means hands up in the air, dve means hands to the ground. This really is zen.