Hair, homework, hanging out

When you register at the shala, you are given a time to come to practice. You are supposed to show up 10 minutes early, and then everyone in that time block sits in the foyer on the floor and slowly smooshes in toward the door as Sharath calls, “One more!” As the students in the shala finish their practices, they are helped with final backbends, then given a squish, and sent to the back to do their final poses. Then someone from the foyer takes their place.

So everyone has an assigned time (mine was 9:30), but Sharath tends to change people’s times as numbers for the earlier time blocks decrease (this happens when students finish their time at the shala and go back home). Like Indian driving, shala time assignment is a system that is mysterious and impossible to understand.

Yesterday Susan and I were sitting on the shala steps, waiting for our time to go into the foyer, when Sharath appeared at the door and said, waving his arm at I’m not exactly sure what, “Your time is 9:00.”

Um, okay. Did he mean everyone on the stairs? Was he looking at someone specifically? Who knows.

So this morning, we went over and took our place in the 9:00 time block, feeling a little nervous and wondering if he was going to look into the foyer and demand to know what we were doing there so early.

Sure enough, he came to the doorway and looked at me.

“What time?” he asked.

“9:00?” I replied, uncertainly.

“You?” he said to Susan.

“9:00?” she replied.

He stood there for a moment, then said, “Your hair is different.”

Uh, yeah. Last year it was lighter. And the humidity this year seems to be making it especially, um, big.

“Curly,” he said, and walked away.

So I guess 9:00 is okay.

kacie b


Last year, I left my visit to the shala with very clear homework. I had to gain confidence in my drop backs and coming to standing. And I had to learn to grasp my feet in backbends.

So I worked on the drop backs and coming back to standing until my form was better and — most importantly — my anxiety about doing them went away. The toughest part of practice last year in the shala was how freaked out I’d feel as I tried to do a good drop back, and then come back up to standing without over- or undershooting the movement. Undershoot and you don’t get back up to standing; overshoot and you propel yourself into a crash with Sharath, who is standing there at the front of your mat.

Today, as soon as I got to backbends, he came over. I’d heard that he has an uncanny memory for what people are working on in their individual practices, and it seems to be more than a rumor. I did my drop backs and stand-ups, and then he helped me with walking in to my heels. And yay! today I managed to grab them. The homework that got started at this time last year came to fruition. “Good,” he said, with a warm smile.


Today we went over to Sandhya’s for lunch. Sandhya is regarded as the best cook in Mysore — and I certainly wouldn’t argue the point. Appu was happy to drive us over to Sandhya’s house, where we had lunch with a bunch of people we’d never met before. It was a pretty diverse group: Australian, New Yorker, Italian, Swiss, Mexican, French, Canadian, American.

The best dish is still the curried tomatoes. But she’s also added a pumpkin dish that is awesome. We topped it all off with some chai.

On the way home, Appu mentioned Sankranti, which is coming up on the 14th or 15th.

“Cows and fire,” he said. “Jumping.”

“Oh, is that the thing you went to last year?” Susan asked.

Indeed. Sankranti. Or, as I think of it, that time I wondered if I’d have to give my daughter an emergency tracheotomy with a nearby tree branch. I’m thinking I’ll take a pass this year.


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.

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.

Vegan in India

At Edelweiss Cafe, there are two veggie burgers on the menu. A plain one, and a deluxe, with cheese and tomato and onion. I ordered a veggie burger and assumed that since I hadn’t said “deluxe,” I’d get the plain one.

But I got the deluxe. It’s easy to be vegetarian in Mysore (hence our somewhat lengthy journey to find some chicken for Anna), but there is lots of ghee (clarified butter) and cheese on offer. Veganism is catered to at some of the local yogi-centric restaurants, but it doesn’t appear to be the norm. Anyhow, I know I have been getting some dairy in my food, though I try to select items that won’t have any.

Still, at Edelweiss my burger was delivered with a slice of cheese on it. I paused for a moment, and then I ate it. We’d just come through some streets where women crouched outside by spigots, washing their dishes in the street, and the people clearly had much rougher lives than the occupants of Gokulam (the area of Mysore where we’re staying). The cafe we were in was tiny and very modest, and I assume the two workers were the owners. People were really scratching out a living all around us. There was no way I could reject the slice of cheese.

Anna and I tend not to be big eaters, and India is actually a good place for people with smaller appetites. No supersized meals. Still, we can’t always finish what’s in front of us, and every time we walk away from a restaurant table here, I hope that whatever we haven’t managed to eat finds its way to a person or an animal.

I can’t imagine it not happening: one thing I see is animals (cows, dogs, and goats) grabbing small bags of trash and shaking them until they open and spew their contents. It accounts for all of the trash on the sidewalks and medians. There does not to seem to be any trash collecting — I see housewives putting small knotted bags of trash in the culverts in front of their houses, and I guess it’s then just a case of it being picked up by any creature that has a use for it.