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:
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!