Sharath has assistants at the shala. These are people who he’s authorized to teach — practitioners with many years of experience. This morning one of the assistants helped me with my final backbends. She took my lead, when it came to walking in to my feet; if I had walked in a little and stopped, she would have left it at that. But I wanted to get to my heels, so I kept going, and when she saw that was my game, she went for it: instead of just letting me get my fingers touching my heels, she grabbed my wrists and made sure I was grasping my ankles. Wheee! I’m still a little disoriented in that position, so I wasn’t fully present in the moment, but it’s getting there.
I brought a water-heating device with me to India. Purchased from Amazon, it was a metal heating coil that hung on the side of a cup and plugged into the wall. Sadly, as a few Amazon reviewers complained, the darn thing stopped working after a week.
So off I went to Easy Day, which is a department store (and which, I recently learned, is owned by Walmart). I did a stealth shop (no wandering around looking at other random items, just a locate-and-buy-the-one-thing-you-want kind of deal) and came away with an electric water heater. Easy.
But alas, not so easy. When I opened the package, ready to heat some water for tea, I discovered that the electrical base that the pitcher fits into was not in the box. So back to the store for an item exchange experience.
All I had to do was pull the receipt out of the bag as I went in the door. “Exchange, Madam?” the greeter said, and pointed me to a Customer Service desk.
At the Customer Service desk I was immediately surrounded by half a dozen employees who wanted to hear about my issue. The receipt was inspected, the box was opened, the water pitcher was taken out, turned upside down, passed around, and people looked into the box to make sure nothing else was in there.
“No one checked, Madam?” one girl asked me.
I understood what she meant because when I’d told my story of the incomplete appliance at breakfast, one of the Mysore veterans had asked, “They didn’t open the box and check it at the register? They always do that!”
I told the girl that no, no one had checked, and that I hadn’t realized they were supposed to check. She nodded and told me to wait where I was. Then she and several of the other Customer Service reps marched away. [Time lapse.] After a good long while, she came back with a replacement for me. Her manager came over and the three of us opened the box and inspected the contents. Check; there was a heating base and cord.
“Would you like us to heat some water with it, Madam, to make sure it works?” the manager asked me.
Uh, no. Interesting idea, though.
Turns out it works just fine.
Okay, so now we’re onto heartbreak. A couple of nights ago, as Susan and I were walking to the Green Hotel for dinner, we saw a street dog hit by a car. We were on the crematorium road, up near where people throw garbage. It was actually a kind of idyllic scenario: a cow and two dogs and a bunch of birds up by the garbage, peacefully scavenging as the sun was setting. The dogs got rambunctious and were playing around, and one was hit in the street.
The sound was awful and I was horrified. I looked up to see the hurt dog running toward us, trying to get away from the car, and at first I was heartened; he could run. But then I saw that his lower left front leg was totally broken and just swinging loosely as he ran. He scrambled off toward where some people keep sheep, and I just stared in dismay.
Of course it started driving me crazy, so I got online and contacted some people here in Mysore to see if there was anything I could do. There is an animal rescue on the edge of town — overwhelmed and underfunded, of course — and I called the woman who runs it. She sent her men out the next morning, and I met them at the crematorium to tell them what had happened and where, in hopes that they could speak to some of the residents and perhaps find the dog. It felt pretty hopeless, since the dog was likely off hiding somewhere and in great pain, but there was nothing else we could do but look.
He did not turn up, though. The area is pretty open, with lots of nooks and crannies for a dog to hide; an abandoned park strewn with trash, the shepherd area, the woods behind the crematorium, a little town of shacks in a gully.
I’ve been going back in the mornings, in hopes that he might get hungry enough to scavenge. I’ve tried talking to some of the people who live on the road, but no one speaks English. It finally occurred to me last night that I should ask one of the yoga people who’s moved to Mysore permanently & learned some of the language to help me be able to say a few words in Kannada: “dog,” “broken leg,” and “where?” I’ll try that tomorrow morning.
This morning, after breakfast, a friend was talking with me when suddenly she teared up. She said she didn’t understand why, and that it didn’t make sense. I told her that I understood, and that there really is something here that can scrape your emotions raw. I told her that I am feeling it too — and that I think of it as heartbrokenness. Everything is busy and loud and exotic around here — an endless hustle and bustle — but at the core there is an inescapable vulnerability.
There’s a chant we do at the shala that I love:
lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu
May all beings everywhere be happy and free.